In my daily life, I travel a lot by bike and by means of public transportation. Most of the time, travelling like this goes very smoothly – only lately, it seems like there are a few complications adding up simultaneously. For one, as another year is coming to an end, the days are continuing to get even shorter. It seems reasonable to expect people to see this coming, but this year I have once again been disappointed. There are still a lot of bikes without proper lighting, which creates complex situations. Besides that, Dutch train stations seem to be in a constant state of renovation, meaning that the normal, safe bicycle tracks are nonexistent. Bikers are forced to navigate their way on the pavement or on bus lanes. Also, the renovations cause quite some extra noise, and as a result muffle the relevant sounds of bicycle bells and approaching cars. Finally, an additional aspect of the changing seasons: because of the rain, indications on the road are less clear and travelers lose their peripheral vision because they are wearing ponchos and using unstable umbrellas.
I think all of this can be handled quite cheerfully if only we remember to take a deep breath and think about some comforting aspects of life. One thing which always manages to give me comfort, is tea. Apparently the artist Lily van der Stokker shares my feelings, as a few years ago she placed an enormous teapot on a very visible building near the central station in Utrecht. From what I heard, her goal was to create an intimate feeling of homeliness in the middle of all the renovation chaos. As I really appreciated this gesture, I was quite disappointed to find out last year that it had been moved to a much less visible location (due to renovations). Therefore, I’d like to make a plea for an increase of comforting art in public places. The Association for Public Art mentions the following on its website: ‘Public art can express community values, enhance our environment, transform a landscape, heighten our awareness, or question our assumptions.’ While all these things are significant, I would like to name an additional goal of public art. It can bring joy. If the most chaotic parts of life (which would definitely be a central station in winter) could be brightened by objects which can give universal comfort, we might be able to survive yet another slippery season. I look forward to all the cups of tea, cakes, starry skies and cats.