I am sitting on the mustard yellow couch in the living room, it is nearly noon and the sky that has been bright blue since forever is now growing speckled with white and grey clouds. The temperature dropped about two degrees centigrade today and I wonder will the rain finally come? As I make my way doing day to day business around Charlois and its neighbouring areas, I notice the brown, dried up grasses. The trees however remain of a radiant green and I tell myself this is because they extend their roots deeper, dipping their toes into the Dutch surface waters, the surface water that rests in the soils most shallow regions to begin with. In Latvia, way further in the north-east, when the winter’s snow melted, I noticed the brown-yellow tints of the various grasses, appearing burned underneath where once laid snow.
I hear machinery and building tools outside. I suspect these sounds find their way inside our apartment through the poorly installed double glass windows: a series of thin, long pieces of plywood, browned due to exposure to UV-light, presses the glass into plastic frames. The sounds stem from a renovation project of an apartment block along our streets opposing side. It is one of the few buildings I consciously look at when I walk down the street to dispose of our recycling: not only do the ochre bricks give it a sense of robustness, the front doors alternate from protruding from, to being placed flush against their facade, a playfulness that I feel is strangely at odds with sixties functional aesthetics that marks large expanses of this side of the city.
The renovating started at the block’s northern most side, which is the side farthest away from our apartment, but the builders slowly renovated their way southwards. When I lean outside the living room’s window, I can see their scaffolding covered in magenta safety nets. It sounds as if piles are being driven into the earth now, onto the ever churning layers of clay, clay that perhaps was once part of the Rhine’s hinterlands before being pried loose by molten snow or heavy rain, then carried on streams and currents through Switzerland, Germany, France until finally they silted up the harbour’s floor, but I can’t be sure; the pulsating sounds originate from the apartment block’s rear gardens that are kept outside the public view by the building itself.
Google grants the Rhine a generous 4,5 stars: an average out of 752 individual reviews that mostly appreciate the beauty of it’s reflections, the spectacularity of it’s importance without specifying what that importance exactly is, and the uncanny floating castle of Pfalzgrafenstein. Driving north-west wards along the Rhine’s banks in Rheinland-Pfalz, the castle emerges just after one of the river’s many elbows. It is known as a floating castle, but rhetorically speaking it does not float, not really anyway. Although the castle resembles a ship somewhat - it has a pink bow onto which the Rhine’s waves break rhythmically - it still sits firmly and clearly stationary on Falkenau island’s bedrock.
My memory of this odd coalescence of forms 389 kilometers south east of our apartment brings me back to the here and now: back to a mustard-yellow couch in a small apartment that begins to display the first signs of dilapidation as it looks out on Europe’s harbour, in a country where the dichotomy of water is perpetually rearticulating itself, where layers of mud and clay churn not that far underneath me while the renovation site across the street continues to produce pulsating sound waves that crash onto the crumbling, discoloured shores of our apartment, conveniently forgotten by the social housing organisation.