HOME /// 400 Day LETS Odyssey - CONTENTS

400 Day LETS Odyssey
Copyright � James Taris

JAMES TARIS around the World- (2003-4)

My Demosthenes character is one of the most expressive in my play. In this photo
I have my mouth full of marbles!

HOLLAND - Amsterdam (Wk.2 of 2 weeks)
Week 18 of World Tour

1. Theatre Ribeau

Christiaan is the owner of the Theatre Ribeau, a small 45-seat ‘shoebox’ theatre which has been set-up in an old church in Amsterdam. It is there that my 2 biggest Amsterdam events were to take place, and both were booked for the same day.

680 emails had been sent out to Noppes LETS members, promoting both events. And 20 A4 posters, which I’d designed, had been posted up in cafes and notice boards around Amsterdam.

The first event was a public interview by Lisette Thooft from The Simple Living magazine (in Dutch). Even though I’d been interviewed many times before, this was a little different because it was the first time I’d been interviewed in front of a live audience. In fact, it felt very much like being on The Oprah Show.

Being interviewed in Amsterdam ... Oprah-style.

Lisette is a very well known journalist who is also a TV personality. So she was very professional with her approach. She audio-taped the entire interview (over 2 hours) and I was given the opportunity to address the audience with my answers. So it almost felt like I was giving my usual LETS Favours presentation, but with Lisette steering me in the direction she wanted to go. She even had photos taken with me to use for the magazine cover.

Then after the interview, the audience kept me back to answer their own set of questions.

Time had been set aside for dinner, so I joined a few of the audience members and went to a local Indian restaurant for a meal.

My play was due to start at 8.30pm, so I got back to the theatre at about 7pm to prepare my stage props and go through a short rehearsal. After all, this was to be my first theatre performance of The Glory Of Athens, and I wanted it to go as smoothly as possible.

It was good to see some of my earlier audience return to see me performing my play, and so it turned out to be a very long day for them (and myself) as the play finished around 10.30pm.

Archimedes' dreaded table scene which was eliminated after this show.

Et, a Noppes member and good friend of Nico’s, took lots of photos of me while I was performing on stage, so I ended up with quite a good collection of photographs (my first acting photos).

The Glory Of Athens is a comedy, but it is also a very emotional play. And at certain points it demands some pretty convincing acting when the leading character gets all choked up inside. So I was very pleased that it all came together for me and the tears welled up in my eyes, and the voice quivered at just the right moment near the end (the climax) of the play.

Confirmation of my success was given when almost the entire audience stayed back after the play to congratulate me and have a short chat. I even had photos taken with them, just like a real celebrity.

As you can imagine, I was so tired by the end of the day that I slept like a log right through till the morning. And it was such a good experience that I’m sure it is something I can get used to quite easily.

Watching the Bell-ringers "ringing Dom bells"!

2. Bell Ringers Of The Dom

The Dom is Holland’s tallest church cathedral at a height of 112 metres (about 365 feet). In fact, each new cathedral being built in Holland must get special approval if it wants to build a higher cathedral, and obviously none of them have been successful as yet.

The Dom isn’t in Amsterdam, it’s in Utrecht, which is the third largest city in Holland, situated between the 2 larger cities of Amsterdam and Rotterdam. My first impressions of Utrecht were very pleasing. It had a village atmosphere, yet had all the facilities of the larger cities.

I was only in Utrecht for 3 days, but I had my most interesting experience on the last day.

It was Sunday morning and I’d agreed to climb to the top of the Dom (about 500 steps!) which would give me the best panoramic view of the city of Utrecht. But the instructions were very specific.

“Be at the Dom at 9.45 am, because one of our LETS members is a Bell-Ringer and he’ll be able to get you in for free.”

Luuk, one of Utrecht LETS’ most enthusiastic members, picked me up bright and early on Sunday morning and we left together with his wife and young daughter getting to the Dom with plenty of time to spare. But as we watched the other Bell-Ringers entering the Dom, our own LETS Bell-Ringer was nowhere to be seen. Then at 9.55am the doors were about to be closed on us.

Thankfully, Luuk was able to persuade the door attendant to let us in, so our trip continued unhindered.

The normal Dom tours which are offered to paying tourists include the climb and also a view of the bells. But they don’t get to see the Bell-Ringers in action. Today, we were going to see the lot. The normal tour AND the Bell-Ringers!

About 20 people made their way to the Bell-Ringers level. This was only about one third of the way up the Dom, up what seemed to be an endless spiral of bluestone steps along brick and mortar walls. And my legs were like jelly by the time I got there. I’m sure I exercised muscles that I never even knew existed.

And the first thing that caught my attention were the ropes. Dangling from the solid timber ceiling were 17 thick ropes, each attached to a bell a couple of floors higher up. They were all numbered and neatly coiled at the base so they looked like coiled-up cobras. At 10am, after the Dom’s automatic bells struck 10, the first Bell-Ringer was put into position and began pulling on the long rope. It took about three yanks (not Americans) to finally get it ringing, and kept it ringing while another Bell-Ringer joined in with another bell. And so they continued until about 6 bells were ringing out of rhythm and rather chaotically, but were kept ringing for several minutes. Then one by one they stopped until just one bell was left ringing. It too stopped before 10.15am. This was repeated once again a few minutes later with another set of Bell-Ringers, so that all the Bell-Ringers rostered on for the day’s shift had the joyful experience of ‘ringing Dom bells’ (sorry, but I couldn’t resist).

But while the second round of Bell-Ringers were doing their stuff, Luuk and I were taken up to see the bells. I had noticed that on the Bell-Ringers level the noise was muted by the thick wooden ceiling which must’ve been a great insulator, but now that I was in amongst the bells, it still didn’t sound that loud. Maybe it was because we were slightly higher than the bells and the sound was traveling downwards (just a guess).

But I did notice a big difference in the size of the bells. A couple were taller than me (about 2 metres or 7 feet), then the others got smaller down to about 2 feet (0.6 m) in height. These bells were built in 1972, but the original bells which we were about to see were built in 1663 (440 years old).

So after the Bell-Ringers had finished, we all climbed up the narrow spiraling staircase for another one third of its height and saw a beautiful set of 33 bells, perfectly set in layers with the largest bells at the bottom and the smaller ones at the top. These are the bells that are rung hourly, half hourly and quarter hourly, but the largest bells are only used for special occasions like Christmas.

Oh, I almost forgot to tell you about the view. It was beautiful. But nothing compared to the Bell-Ringers experience.

This article is taken from the ebook,
400-Day LETS Odyssey

About the book

James Taris web sites