Five days ago a man came up to me here – at the benches in front of the house – I was waiting for Kate. She was late. It was the coldest day of the year so far and ice had formed on the canals and the dew on the fish and heron fence had frozen covering the chain in a glimmering dust. I’d rushed from the station to get a fire on before Kate arrived and was now waiting for her sitting on the bench. I don’t normally sit here, in front of the house because for some reason it makes me feel uncomfortable almost unwelcome.
I was listening to a musician I’d coincidently reacquainted myself with earlier in the week. He’s from the part of Scotland I grew up in and played regularly in one of the bars where we used to hang out. We shared friends but didn’t really know each other. It must have been over 15 years since I’d heard him play. Back then it didn’t really interest me but now I was obsessed, I’d had him on repeat all week and the simple pop songs seemed to reverberate in me with a new emotional resonance. Perhaps I was just being nostalgic. Kate still hadn’t arrived so I waited some more.
The man approached me and asked how many people can the house accommodate? ‘Can it fit 60 or 70 people?’ he asked. He’d come over from the De Nieuwe Ooster cemetery and was looking for somewhere to have coffee and tea with the group. A wake I assume though he didn’t specify. I told him the coach house is the biggest space in the building but he’d better talk to the people inside and pointed it out. Between the house and us was an A-frame chalkboard sign with the name Annie written on it. He asked which Annie? He’d been trying to contact an Annie for the last couple of weeks without success and though maybe it was she. Like me had he’d obviously just seen the hearse crossing the bridge with the funereal procession behind. I told him I didn’t know Annie but that Annie was a common name so it probably wasn’t her. He explained that giving what he’d been going though he couldn’t help but jump to conclusions. He left to ask inside about the space and I got up to walk towards the entrance bridge.
As I passed in front of the house I began to think about just how many funerals and weddings I’d seen in the last months here at the Frankendael. Its not like it’s the only thing that happens in the house but its certainly a weekly occurrence. What is it that we look for in a place when we chose where to marry or where to commemorate the death of those close to us? Indeed the Frankendael seems an obvious choice, but why?
The man passed on his way out wishing me a good day and I walked back to the bench trying to record my thoughts about the relevance of a place’s history and its aesthetic value in relation to ceremonies. The microphone was pointing down so listening back to this recording all you hear is the sound of footsteps on gravel.