In 1986 at the local flea market I found an old ledger. I bought it because of the empty pages. Only the first three pages were used. Two pages were an autobiography and one page was a hand-drawn map of the author's neighbourhood.
The autobiography started like this: "Life began for me in 1922, but I don't remember much before 1930." The author, it is unknown whether it is a man or a woman, gives us a brief history of the newly built neighbourhood 'Afrikaanderbuurt'. People from rural parts of the Netherlands settled there to work in the booming harbourtown Rotterdam. During elections you could see the political preference of its inhabitants. Lots of posters of political parties showed up in the windows. Some streets were completely catholic, others were mixed, and one street was totally red. There the socialists and the communists lived. This street, the 'Tweeboschstraat', was known for its radical population. During the Great Depression, plenty of strikes and riots started here. Men threw tiles from the roofs and women emptied pisspots on the heads of policemen. At certain times it was a real no-go area for the Rotterdam police. "It was an exciting time," wrote the unknown author.
In the neighbourhood 'Afrikaanderbuurt' street names referenced the Boer War in South Africa. The Anglo-Boer War ended in 1902. The main street on the map, 'Bloemfonteinstraat', owed its name to the remembrance of the concentration camp in Bloemfontein. Lots of people died there from starvation. Other streets honored Boer-generals like Joubert and Cronjé.
On the map you see houses of families the maker knew. In the middle of the map on the left side, next to 'Haven Thompson' you see the text:'zw kousenkerk'. It stands for 'Zwarte Kousenkerk'. In translation: Black Stockingschurch. In the Netherlands, it's the nickname for the church of fundamentalist protestants. Reading between the lines you can be pretty sure that the author is not a fundamentalist protestant, nor a catholic of a socialist. The autobiography ends abruptly, the following pages were left blank. It is difficult to say why this ledger appeared at the flea market. Did the author die?
I give it a little chance to find out who the person was.
Kees, an artist from Rotterdam, sent us this drawing of Western Europe. The work shows only waterways (rivers, canals, harbours, locks) as seen from the air. Through his drawings, Kees reconstructs his nomadic childhood on the waterways of Europe. Throughout his childhood, his parents ran the cargoship, "Attacus," sailing the rivers and canals of Belgium, France, Germany, and the Netherlands. Kees tells us that during the first eight years of his life he visited his homeport only three times.