Now that it's been re-opened , beautifully refurbished and reorganised , I decided to go down to Amsterdam and have a day in the Rijks Museum .
And loved it all , of course . No , not the queues or the crowds ... it's apparently best to go early on Monday mornings , difficult unless you live round the corner ... but the excellence and variety of the collections is stunning .
And therein lies the problem . Even after a pause for lunch , by Floor 2 and the Seventeenth century I was slightly overwhelmed . Bewigged gentlemen , tapestries and silver , Renaissance angels and Greek gods , pomegranates , hunting scenes and men-of-war had become indistinguishable ....
Then I turned a corner and , under a large painting of another stormtossed boat , I found a small cabinet of wooly hats .
In 1980 , while excavating the graves of 185 Dutch whalers who had died while working in Spitsbergen in the seventeenth century , archaologists found that the bodies were still wearing their woolen caps . In the bitter cold of an Artic winter , the caps , all different , had been the only way to distinguish one sailor from another , muffled up as they all were to the eyes .
And , for me , nothing made the past more real than this little group of wooly hats , stocking-stitch stll clear and colours fresh . You could picture them all : lanky Piet with his stripey stovepipe , pompous Hendrijk in his brimmed hat and little Jan in his beige bunnet . And the wives and mothers who'd knitted each cap and waited for the boat's return .