Tuesday, 20 March 2018

A church with a view

Upon a hill overlooking Florence there is a beautiful and old church, the San Miniato al Monte, Saint Miniato on the mountain.

It is a steep climb, but I love walking there, taking the long route along the windy roads and enjoying the views over Florence while I walk.
You feel like you are outside Florence, walking along vineyards and gardens. 

Not the touristic route
The church was built in 1050 for an Armenian merchant who was beheaded by emperor Decius in the third century and who became a martyr.

The front of the church is in the characteristc marble in white and green and black. The inside it also very old and beautiful and has for example a mosaic that dates from the 13th century.
Looking over Florence

Friday, 16 March 2018

White teeth, Zadie Smith

An immigrant has a lot of baggage, the roots of his culture, the expectations of the new culture and everything in between. The immigrant is torn between expectations and hope and frustrations and bitterness.

In White teeth we see the lives of three families against the background of Britain in the seventies, eighties and nineties. Racism, the riots in Brixton, the Fatwah against Salmon Rushdie and much more all influence the lives of the characters.

Archie Jones and Samad Iqbal have been friends since they met during WWII. Archie is now 49 and married to the Jamaican Clara Bowen. Togehter they have a daughter called Irie.
Samad and his wife Alsana have twins, two boys. Samad has high hopes for his sons, and decides to send one back to Bengalen so Magid can grow up a good Muslim and a man his father can proud of.

The other son Millat will have to create a life in Britain, but he is certainly not a man his father can be proud of.

When they are in Secondary School, Irie and Millat get to know the Middleclass family Chalfen. They were once also (Jewish) immigrants, but are now so English they have forgotten this themselves.

Zadie Smith writes in a very hilarious style, that makes even the most painful situations funny. But do not worry, it is not an intentional funny book in the sense that the funnyness is forced. I loved how in the end all the crazy things and even crazier people came together in an ending with a few amazing twists.

White teeth is the debut novel of Zadie Smith. She called her own book good but not great. In my mind, good is pretty great in this case.

Published in 2000

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

At the Abbey

Part of the Abbey,
the church is at the left, but almost not visible
In the last week of February I was in the Abbey of Egmond for a couple of days. It is possible to stay as a guest in many convents and abbeys, since hospitality is something monasteries and convents take very seriously.
I wanted a few days to rest, and regain some energy.

The St AdelbertAbbey in Egmond is one of the oldest monasteries in The Netherlands. There was a monastery here already in the 10th century. Only it was burned down in 1573 when the protestants were fighting with Spain over control over The Netherlands.

For centuries all that was left of the monastery were ruins. But in the 20th century the monastery was rebuilt and in 1935 there were once again monks in Egmond. The monastery became an Abbey in 1950.

If you are a guest at the Abbey you have to respect the rules, like being silent in the halls and during mealtimes. But this is not difficult, I can assure you.

Also you have to follow the Liturgy of the Hours, the scheduled prayer times the monks keep during the days. This practise is almost as old as the Church, although there have been some changes during the centuries.

In Egmond the first prayermoment is at 6.00 am, and I can tell you it is wonderful to sit in that beautiful and sober church when it is still dark outside and the monks sing the psalms.

I loved being there and I am sure I will be back there again!
Cute little monk

Part of the Abbey grounds

Friday, 9 March 2018

What am I reading?

February has been a weird month for me, reading-wise. It was very hectic at school and I also had a severe cold, so for the first part of the month I did not read a lot. I just watched all seasons of The Americans on Netflix in 1 1/2 weeks! (loved that series and I cannot wait for season 5!) (By the way, I love Keri Russell!!)

But the last week of February I had a week vacation, and that first weekend I read a lot of my favorite books from my childhood. In 2 days I read ten books of one of my favorite authors Cissy van Marxveldt, who wrote books in the twenties and thirties. Every time when I need a book to give me some energy, I pick up one of her books.

I finally saw a chance to read Seven Storey mountain by Thomas Merton. I have an old Dutch translation, but I prefered this to the original English since I found it better to understand. When it comes to books about theology, I prefer them in Dutch!
My modern English version

My Dutch version is from 1949
I also read The ministery of utmost happiness by Arundhati Roy. This is a very beautiful book and I am wrestling with writing a good review at the moment. I will also post a review over here, but right now I can already say that I absolutely loved this book.
My Dutch version
And I read a Dutch biografy of Edith Piaf. I became interested in her when I saw the beautiful movie La vie en rose, and I wanted to know more about her life. Very interesting.

What am I reading now? 
For my little reading group I have with my mum I am reading For a god unknown by John Steinbeck. Also quite beautiful, but not what I expected.

On the bus to school I am reading A daughter's a daughter by Mary Westmacott. This is the pseudonym of Agatha Christie and it is a good book. Review will follow!

My plans
I am not sure what I will be reading next. Coming week I will be away on a schooltrip, so I do not think I will have a lot of time to read. So it is all open and quite a surprise!

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Impressions of Egmond

Last week I spent a couple of days in the little village of Egmond, near the Dutch coast. It was bitter cold so walking in the dunes was out of the question, but I did mange to make a few photographs of some old houses etc. As you can see, it was not a sunny day, but there are a few lovely images anyway.

I have no idea what this lovely little building is, but it looks very cute!


A very beautiful front door

This says these houses were built in 1919,
for the Roman Catholic housing society St Joseph. 

The small protestant church in Egmond

Friday, 2 March 2018

Lost in translation?

When English is your first language, you have an enormous amount of books from all genres to read, without a problem.

For me, English is not my first language, but Dutch is and the bookfield in Dutch is relatively small. I do read Dutch books, although I must admit I am not a huge fan of Dutch literature, but I also read a lot of books from other countries.

And that makes that I read a lot of books in translation. Not all my books, but quite a lot.
When it comes to books in English,  I can read that almost as well as Dutch, but there are certain authors I prefer to read in Dutch. John Irving or Ernest Hemingway for example are authors whose books I read in Dutch translation.

As for other languages, I always read a translation. I read books from Russian, Italian, French and Spanish authors, and I am afraid I am not fluent enough in any of these languages to read a novel. (I wish I was, but learning languages is not one of my strong points).

Most translations are done very well and even word-jokes can be translated and still be funny. It often helps if you have a modern translation, since older ones have a tendency to be less fluent and a bit more 'stiff'. I have a new translation (2016) of Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak and it reads much easier than the earlier translation I had that was from 1980.

Other reasons to read English books in translation are: I find the Dutch version in the bookshop and not the English one, I think my mum would also like to read it and she does not read English, it is a certain non-fiction topic that I find difficult and I want to make sure I understand everything.

But my main reason to read books in translation is that I would not have a lot of books to read if I had to stick to Dutch books only!

Tuesday, 27 February 2018


This year I want to do more with photography. I have plans to buy a new camera and at the moment I am trying different things with the camera I use at the moment. I especially like to get a bit more creative and last week I went out to see what I could find. I saw these reflections in the water and liked these very much. 

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