Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Details of the Notre Dame in Paris

The Notre Dame is a beautiful church in the heart of Paris, on the Île de la Cité. I love the church interior, but the outside has also many lovely details. I can never really get a good sight of the gargoiles, but perhaps I should climb the tower for that. I do not think I will, though, not even for a good picture of a gargoile!





Friday, 16 November 2018

Happiness, Aminatta Forna

Two very unlikely people meet eachother in London. Atilla is a phsychiatrist from Ghana who is in London for a couple of things. He is there to speak on a conference, but also to find the son of his niece and help a former lover.

At first sight he is a happy man, who loves to eat and who dances in his hotelroom, but he had to deal with loss.

Jean is from the US and is in London to study foxes. She left her bad marriage and her grown-up son behind, but if she is honest, she knows that for example the coyotes she studied were always a bit more important than her family.

The first time they meet, they bump into eachother at Waterloo bridge, but in the days to come, they meet a couple of times. And despite their differences, there is also a strong connection.
Both of them are people who do not really need a home, who wander and feel best when they are travelling.

At the same time there is a shared bond and a willingness to help among all the people who are wanderers and immigrants, as Atilla and Jean find out when all kinds of people help with finding Atilla's young cousin.

This is a complex and rich novel that is about family, love, feeling at home and the way we intereact with the nature that surrounds us. But it is mostly a novel about happiness.

We sometimes think that we have a right to be happy, especially here in the West, while in other parts of the world people know that bad things happen and that you have to deal with that. Often, we do not recognize the feelings anymore that come with grief and trauma, and call it something psychiatric.

We shy away from those negative feelings, instead of dealing with them. Just like we do not know how to deal with the wildlife that has come into our cities like foxes.

But as Atilla says in his speech at the conference, trauma means suffering and that means changing. But in order to be happy, we need to acknowledge the pain and the loss and the unhappiness.

Aminatta Forna is a formidable writer who knows how to write about complex themes and make them into a very good story. I absolutely loved this book.

Published in 2018

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Castle Groeneveld

Not far from where I live (about 30 minutes by car) is a small 18th century castle, called Groeneveld (Greenfield). It was built as a house for a wealthy family to spend the Summer in the country, rather than in a hot and stinking city.

Nowadays you can have lunch there and walk in the park, that is absolutely lovely. You can also visit the castle itself, but we did not do that this time. We were very lucky with the weather. It was sunny and that made the autumn colours of the leaves in the trees even more beautiful.








Tuesday, 6 November 2018

A few days in Paris

I was lucky enough to be able to spend a few days in Paris in the last week of October.

Wednesday
I went there on a Wednesday and arrived at Gare du Nord at 11.35 am (I left from Amsterdam at 8.17 am, it is an excellent connection with the Thalys).

I always make sure I have a hotel at walking distance from Gare du Nord, and I only had to walk 10 minutes. My room was not ready yet because I was quite early, and I left my suitcase at the hotel and decided to walk along the Canal St. Martin. This is one of my favorite spots in Paris and I love the atmosphere here. At some points I can imagine being in Paris in 1880!
Canal St, Martin
Then after about 1 1/2 hours I went back to the hotel, and after a few moments in my room I went back out again. I walked to Montmartre and climbed the stairs to the Sacré Coeur. It is quite a long climb (it is always a bit higher than I think!), and I decided to treat myself to a hot chocolate from the little kiosk. So I drank hot chocolate while I sat at the steps of the Sacré Coeur, not a bad way to spend time there!.
Sacré Coeur as seen from somewhere in Montmartre
Afterwards I walked around Montmartre and made a lot of photographs. I love my new camera!!
After dinner I went back to the hotel and had an early night. I walked almost 13 kilometres that afternoon!

Thursday
The following morning I had breakfast with hot chocolate and a croissant (I felt very French) and then walked towards the Seine to the Île de la Cité. I wanted to visit the Sainte Chapelle, because I never visited it before. When I go to a city I have been before, I like to see things I know and enjoy, and to discover new things.
Early in the morning

The Sainte Chapelle was built in 1243-1248 by King Louis IX of France, who had purchased the most important relic in the whole of Christendom, namely the Crown of Thorns.
So this church was built as a fitting house for that relic.
Inside the Sainte Chapelle
The church is beautiful. There is a chapel underneath and a church on top of it. The lower chapel was for the King's household and the Church was for the King and his family. Here are 15 stained glass windows of 15 metres high, with over 1100 scenes from the Old and New Testament. It is amazing!!

Of course I also visited the Notre Dame, but it was a bit too crowded for me.
Detail from the Notre Dame
I walked towards the Jardin des Plants, sat on a bench for a while and enjoyed the sun.
Jardin des Plantes
Later that afternoon I returned to the other side of the Seine and went to the Place des Vosges. I love this square, it is so lovely. Here is also the musee Victor Hugo, which celebrates the life of one of the most famous writers in the history of France.
Place des Vosges
Then I walked along the Marais, went to Les Halles and after dinner I walked back to my hotel. I walked almost 18 kilometres that day and I really felt my feet. :-(
The roof of Les Halles
Friday
The following morning my train went at 10.25 am from Gare du Nord, and I was too tired to do much. I took my time at the hotel, and walked towards the station, stopping for a very good coffee on the way. And at 3 pm I was back home again.

It was not a long visit, but sometimes all you need is a few days to get some energy and reload. I am up for the long stretch of term until Christmas.

Friday, 2 November 2018

After the party, Cressida Connolly

Phyllis, her husband Hugh and their three children arrive in England after a few years in South America. Phyllis is happy to be with her sisters again. For the moment and until they have their own home, they will stay at Patricia's house.

And Nina has the perfect solution for keeping the children busy during the long Summer, she is involved with the organisation of Summer camps along the South coast of England and Phyllis can help out, and the children as well.

These Summer camps are filled with sports and games, good food and political gatherings. Because these are not just any Summer-camp, it is 1938 and these camps are organized by the BUF, the British Union of Fascists. Sometimes the leader, Sir Oswald Mosley also comes to pay a visit.

Phyllis and her husband join the movement, just as her sisters and their husbands did. They are all convinced they are real patriots and Sir Oswald is the best thing that could ever happen to England.

But when the war breaks out, the government does not want a lot of nazi-sympathizers roaming about, and Phyllis and Hugh are put into prison, just like a lot of other members of the BUF. The question is if Phyllis will ever be able to go back to her old life.

After the party is a very good book. It is well written and gives an excellent impression of the the time-period. Often a book gives characters very modern way of looking at things, but in this book the way Phyllis and Hugh have views completely in character with the times and their class.

I love how the book switched from the events in the years 1938-1943, and 1979 when and old Phyllis tells about her life to an interviewer. She has become bitter and angry and is not a very nice woman. And that is well done, since you do like her when the book begins, but you also understand how Phyllis turned out like this. (not that you agree with her).

Phyllis is not alone in still being a great supporter of the BUF and Mosley, even long after the war. Of course, they have to admit that the concentration camps were bad, but Mosley would never had something like that happen in Engeland. And they are still bitter about the fact they were imprisoned and that there was no support for them.

Cressida Connolly has written an excellent and good novel, that is engaging and interesting and historically well done.

Published in 2018

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Wrapping up October

The month is almost over and it is time to look back. What did I do?

Exhibition
I went to an exhibition in the van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, about Paul Gaugain and Charles Laval at Martinique. I do not have any sympathy for Gaugain because I think he treated Van Gogh horribly, but I must admit I really liked his paintings from the tropical island of Martinique.

It was not a big exhibition, but I have a museumcard that gives me free admission and the museum is close to my school, so it is easy to pop in for a quick visit.

Books
I had a good reading month! In September I only read six books, which is not a lot for me, but this month it was good again.
I read four french novels, two were very good, one was quite good and one was very, very (very!) bad!

I read a couple of recent novels that I really enjoyed, like Happiness  by Arminatta Forna, Warlight by Michael Ondaatje and After  the party by Cressida Connolly.

I also finished the Russian classic Anna Karenina. There is a new Dutch translation and it is very good. It is more modern and that makes reading 1000 pages a little more easy!

For the rest I read a book about the Kennedy's and enjoyed myself one saturday with the Tanith Lee classic The blood of roses. She was amazing at building a world and making it very, very creepy. I read the book a couple of times before and I once I begin, I cannot put it down.

Paris
Last week it was the autumn vacation and I went to Paris for a couple of days. I had a lovely time and I will share some photo's coming week.

I am so happy with my camera and I often just walk outside to make photographs and to get more familiair with using the manual mode.

Hamster
And this weekend I got a new little Russian Hamster. I had little hamsters before (more than 10 years ago), but nowadays there is a lot more information on how to make sure you take proper care of your pet. I love these cute animals, but I took a long time to read up on things and decide what kind of cage etc I should get. I am quite pleased with the cage I finally bought, although it took me almost an hour to assemble the thing! There are a few things I want to change in the coming week, but overal it is a good cage for such a little animal.

Silvia is a bit interested, but she is mainly curious. To be safe, I do put her in my study at night and on days I am working. There is a Dutch saying you should not bind a cat to the speck, or in this case: the hamster.

Her name is Vera, by the way.

So, October was a good month for me, and I cannot wait what November will bring!

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

NDSM wharf in Amsterdam

In the north of Amsterdam you have something called the NDSM island. Here you had the Dutch Dokking and Shipbuilding Firm, which was once the largest wharf in Europe. But in the eighties it went bankrupt, so no ships are built here anymore.

Nowadays this is a hip spot for festivals, all kinds of creative initiatives, restaurants etc. The industrial background is perfect for this. And it is just 10 minutes with the ferry from Amsterdam Central Station!

I had to be there a couple of weeks ago because I had an appointment there. I did not know the place, but I loved it. I did not feel like going to the studyday anymore, I wanted to roam around with my photocamera!

I will come back there soon, but for now I had to be content with just a few snap shots with my phone.






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