Friday, 20 April 2018

Impressions from Texel

This year in April the Portuguese students and their teachers arrived for their visit in Amsterdam. Two weeks before we had visited Porto and of course they also came to us.
We had a great programme, and on the last day we visited the island of Texel and the village of Den Burg. Here are a few impressions of this lovely place.

The lighthouse

Den Burg

Lovely cat, posing for the photographers.

The sea


Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Biographies I want to read this year

I love to read biographies. A good biography does not only give you new insights in the life of a person you admire or find interesting, but also tells you more about the time that person lived in.

I tend to read mostly biographies about historical people I admire, but also about writers and artists I love.
For this coming year I have selected a few biographies I really want tot read.
The first one is: Marilyn Monroe by Michelle Morgan. I read several other good biographies about Marilyn Monroe, but I love to read another one and I hope this is a good one as well.

Then Evelyn Waugh, a life revisited by Philip Eade. Brideshead revisited is my alltime favorite book and I also really enjoyed the other books by him I read, so I would like to know more about his life. I always have the impression he was not the nicest of men, but hopefully this biography will help me understand this fascinating man better.

The same goes for Daphne du Maurier by Margaret Forster. I really enjoy most books I read by Daphne du Maurier and I just want to know more about herself. I have read the book by Tatiano de Rosnay, but that was not really a biography but more of a novel in some respects.

Sergei Diaghilev by Dutch writer Sjeng Scheijen is about the founder of the Ballet Russes and all the interesting history surrounding that, Russia and ballet and France and people like Vaslav Njinski and others. I cannot wait!

Diane Arbus, Portrait of a photographer by Arthur Lubow is about the photographer Diane Arbus who was well known for her photographs of people on the edge of society, like circus people. I am interested in photography and I would like to know more about her. I have seen the movie Fur with Nicole Kidman and I liked it very much, but I do realize this is not a factional biography. So, that is why I want to read this book.

Friday, 13 April 2018

Miniatures from the Middle Ages

Did you know:

  • that a Medieval copyist could finish 4-6 pages in one day?
  • that real gold was used to decorate the pages? 
  • that paint could be made from plants or by grinding up precious stones?
  • that red ink was used for initials and titles, to help the reader navigate the text? 
  • that at Court a worldy story like that of King Arthur was read aloud to a group of listeners? 
  • that this is the reason some of the books are so large, all listeners had to be able to see the illustrations. 
  • that books were meant to last years, if not generations? 

These are all little fun facts I learned when I was at the exhibition of Magical Miniatures in Utrecht. Here many medieval text could be seen, each one beautifully decorated. The colours were fresh, just like the drawings were made yesterday, instead of 600 years ago!

There were religious books like psalmbooks and Bibles and wordly books like the tales of King Arthur or historical stories, and most of them were decorated beautifully. There are of course the illustrations to complete the story, but also little drawings and fun little things next to the texts. Flowers, but also animals like birds or even monkeys decorated the pages!
The illustrations give us a little insight into the Middle Ages, they show us the farmers at work, the siege of a town or the nobelmen hunting.

I absolutely loved the exhibition and I knew again why I studied Medieval History in the first place!
Of course I did not photograph at the exhibition, all the manuscripts had to be shielded from light, but these are the postcards I bought there.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018


Art cannot be found only in museums and galleries, but also on the street. Graffiti and paintings form some pretty interesting images sometimes. Not always beautiful, but often funny or interesting.

Sometimes I feel streetart is commenting on (political) issues in that city, but often I do not know the background of the image. And some of them may not have such a background and it is just an image without a deeper meaning.

I just know that I often see streetart and most of the time I really enjoy it.
Porto, March 2018. It was in an alley, so I could not get a very clear photo. 

Bologna, May 2017

Porto, March 2018

Florence, May 2015
Paris, October 2017

Friday, 6 April 2018

Confession of the lioness, Mia Coutho

In a small village of Kulumani people disappear. The lions that live around the village kill them and eat them. The last victim was the sister of Mariamar Mpepe. A hunter is called from the city, to kill the lions and stop the murders.

I never read a book from Mozambique, but after this book I immediately looked up more information about this country. It became independent from Portugal in 1975, and almost immediately a civil war broke out that lasted until 1992.

This war changed things and the results are still visible. The lions for example learned during the war that people were an easy source of food. Many people are traumatized by what they experienced and some of them cling to old traditions that give them some form of security in uncertain times, and others cannot get over the cruelty they witnessed or endured.

And others? Well, let's say that lions do not commit rape and do not kill for revenge. That is the work of men who use the lions as a disguise for their own actions.

The story is told by two people, Mariamar and the hunter from the city, Arcanjo Baleiro who both have their own demons from the past they have to deal with.

Antonio Emilio (Mia) Coutho was born in 1955 as the son of Portuguese colonists who moved to Mozambique in fifties. He worked as a journalist, but has also studied biology and now works at one of the national parks in Mozambique.
He is considered one of the best writers in Africa, and he has won several literary prizes for his books.

I really liked Confession of the Lioness, apart from a little bit in the ending for Arcanjo that I found too convenient. But it is well written and slowly it reveals the story, and this is very well done. And I loved getting a glimpse into a world I did not know before and I am sure to look for more books by this author.

Original Portuguese title: A Confissão da Leoa (2012)

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Inspirational art: Joaquin Mir Trinxet

Joaquin Mir Trinxet (1873-1940)
Camino de la casa Guell (1918)

This painting was in the exhibition Impressionism and beyond I saw a couple of weeks ago. I immediately was drawn towards this beautiful painting of the woods. The only thing you want to do is walk under those trees and enjoy the sun through the leaves.

Friday, 30 March 2018

The park of the Serralves museum in Porto

In Porto you have one of the best modern art museums in Europe, the Serralves museum. This is set along the boulevard leading towards the ocean. In the 19th century the Cabral family bought an estate here, and put a beautiful house on it. They also designed an amazing garden.

In 1987 the Porguguese state bought the estate and decided to turn it into a modern art museum. The Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza (from Porto) built a completely new museum on the estate in 1991. The old Art Deco villa is used for temperary exhibitions. Inside the park you can also see some modern art, although most of it can be found inside the museum.

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

A daughter's a daughter, Mary Westmacott

Ann Prentice is a widow, who is very close to her only daughter. While her daughter is away for a holiday in Switserland, Ann falls in love with Richard Caulfield. Yes, he is perhaps a bit stuffy and can be a bit pompous, but he is also kind and considerate and Ann knows the two of them will be happy together. So she agrees to marry him.

Only, when her daughter Sheila comes back from her holiday, she makes very clear to her mother she is not going to accept this new man. She fights it in every way she can and she wins, her mother will not marry Richard.

But the tight bond between mother and daughter is no longer loving, although on the surface it looks like Ann has created a cheerful life full of friends and diversions for herself and her daughter.

Years later when Sheila finds herself in a terrible situation, will Ann and Sheila be able to overcome their differences? In short, will Sheila be, despite everything, still be her mothers daughter?

A daughter is a daughter is the second novel by Mary Westmacott (Agatha Christie) that I read, and although when I began reading I thought it might be sentimental, it was everything but. I should have known, Agatha Christie is not a sentimental writer.

A daughter is a daughter is a very subtle  portrait of the bond between a mother and a daughter and how can come close to be destroyed. Agatha Christie is as always a clever writer who knows how to set a scene or a character in just a few sentences.

My favorite character was Dame Laura, who was able to see through people and tell them the truth, even truths they did not like to admit. I loved her down to earth wisdom and kindness. Not one for empty gestures, but a great friend.

For us modern readers it may be a bit hard to believe that Ann is only in her forties and does nothing all day, only a bit of charitywork, and Sheila does a little thing with flowers, but the book was written in 1952!

Again, this book was a great example that Agatha Christie was also very good at writing novels, and I am looking forward to her other ones.

Published in 1952

Friday, 23 March 2018

Impressions of Porto (version 2018)

Last week I was in Porto on an exchange for school, with a colleague and 24 students. All went well, although I was very tired afterwards. Unfortunately the weather was not as good as it was last year, a lot more rain and not as warm. But still, there was plenty of time when it was dry and during the weekend it even got warm!

So here are a few impressions of Porto.
Love those magnolia's

Walking in Porto is hard, you have to climb a lot. 

The Atlantic Ocean is beautiful!

Colurful houses at the Ribeira near the river Douro. 

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
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