Monday, 25 December 2017

Merry Christmas

I know, it is not a white Christmas, but it is a little bit when you look at these photographs.
Merry Christmas for all of you!

Tuesday, 19 December 2017


In a warm Italian city it is sometimes difficult to keep out of the sun. In Bologna in Italy they have this solution, since the middle ages. Most pavements have these sort of galleries, making sure you can always walk in the shade.  Also very nice when it rains!

Friday, 15 December 2017

The crown (2016-)

Queen Elizabeth giving her husband a new title.
He is now Prince Philip
Last Summer I finally got Netflix and I immediately watched the first season of The Crown, the series about the reign of Queen Elizabeth II of England.

I loved this series more than I ever thought I would. I loved the attention to detail and the slow pace it took. This was not a rushed series, but a careful and beautiful showing of a very interesting part of 20th century history.

Of course, they made some mistakes, but on the whole I think it is very well done.

On december 8th, the second season was released and I watched every episode in one weekend. And I also loved this new season.

I also like how this show gives you a little bit more insight on why certain things were done in certain ways. I now have more sympathy for prince Philip for example, now I know more about his background.

I also began to like Lord Mountbatten very much when I saw how much he supported a very young prince Charles who miserably failed to please his father.

And the background story of princess Margaret is also very interesting, I did not know much about her, and although she is not a nice or very kind woman, I do feel for her.

The episode about the past of abdicated king Edward VIII was very interesting, and also a little bit heartbreaking. You can fully understand how empty his life is and how much he wanted to play another important role. Or at least have something useful to do. And of course, when his past became known, this could never happen.
Abdicated king Edward VIII and Queen Elizabeth. 
Very well done is how they show how Britain changed and how the royal family also had to change.

Where there bad things? Yes, the episode with the Kennedys was in itself a good episode, I just hated the actors who played John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy. They were terrible.

I understand that in season three the role of Queen Elizabeth will be taken over from Claire Foy by Olivia Coleman. It is not certain yet who will take on the role of and older prince Philip. I am curious to see who will take on the role!

The only problem is with a series like this is that I want biographies about almost all the characters. Last series left me with the biographies of Edward VIII, Wallis Simpson and Princess Margaret, right now I have books about Anthony Armstrong-Jones and Lord Mountbatten in my shopping basket. A series like this is bad for my wallet!
Queen Elizabeth often finds refuge in the country. 

Tuesday, 12 December 2017


These past few days it has been Winter in The Netherlands. On Sunday, the first snow fell, and that already caused some problems, but the real trouble began on Monday.

Many schools skipped classes, my school also closed at 12.30pm, so students and teachers had a chance of getting home safely. I was very happy with that, since I had classes until 16.10 pm and was actually wondering if I would make it home that evening.

Somehow when it begins to snow, the trains and busses do not function properly anymore and the whole country comes to a standstill.

Today not much new snow is expected (I hope so, since we have parent-teachers night tonight and I do want to get home!), and on Wednesday we probably only have a few patches of snow left.
But yesterday, my balcony looked like this.
And later that evening

Friday, 8 December 2017

Exhibition: Dutch modernists

Anton Mauve, winterlandscape 1885-1887
Everybody knows the painings from the Dutch 17th century, the Golden Age. But it is safe to say Dutch art had a second golden age in between 1870-1940. In these days the Dutch painters were inspired by Impressionism and Fauvism, but also came up with their own styles.

Last week I saw an exhibition which showed the best Dutch modernist painters and it was very beautiful and divers. There was a little overlap sometimes with the other exhibition I just saw about the Dutch painters in Paris, but the focus was of course different.

This exhibition began with painters like Anton Mauve, who went outside to paint nature, just like the French painters from Barbizon.

The Dutch painters went to Paris and were inspired by Impressionism. Painters like George Breitner and Isaac Israels were knows as the Amsterdam Impressionists, since they painted scenes from the big city.
Willem Witsen, Oosterpark in Amsterdam 1900

Georges Breitner, Dam in Amsterdam 1891
Dutch painters put their own spin on Fauvism and expressionism, and I loved seeing how a painter could begin in a certain kind of style, but could end up painting in a different style.
Jan Sluijters, Spanish dancer, 1906
In the years between the two world wars, there were groups of painters all around The Netherlands who helped eachother and who inspired eachother. I loved seeing a couple of paintings from my favorite Dutch school, The ploeg (the plough) from Groningen (where I was born). I love their work and I am glad these paintings were also shown as an example of amazing Dutch art.
Jan Altink, Rooster at Blauwborgje , 1927-1928

Hendrik Werkman, A walk during an autumnmorning 1922
The Dutch modernists can be seen at the Singer Museum in Laren until January 7th, 2018.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Notes from an exhibition, Patrick Gale

Families can have a lot of influence on people, the traits you inherit from your parents, the way you and your siblings interact, all have an impact on the rest of your life.

This is also the case for the children of Rachel and Anthony. Rachel was a  painter and she and Anthony lived in Cornwall.

Rachel was also bipolar, and often the household centrered around her moodswings. But the quiet religous beliefs of Anthony's quakerism also had its impact on the family, it was not an easy thing to live up to.

When Rachel dies, all remaining familymembers must come to terms with their memories and their grief. And slowly we learn about Rachel's past and the things that happened during these past years.

I discovered Patrick Gale a couple of months ago and read A place called Winter, which I loved, and I am glad to say this second book I read did not dissapoint. I really admore how Patrick Gale manages to write different people at different ages, each with their own voice. He is especially spot-on when he writes from the perspective of a child.

I also like how things are never black and white with him. It would be easy to condemn Rachel as a bad mother, but she was also a great mum, and although her being bipolar has a profound impact, it is never used as an excuse for her behaviour.

Families can be complicated, but Patrick Gale has a wunderful insight in them and this makes Notes from an exhibition a beautiful book.

Published in 2008

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Impressions from Nice (part I)

I loved spending a few days in Nice in the last week of October and now the weather is so cold and nasty over here, I am glad I have the photographs so I can enjoy the memories. Sitting at the seadise at the Promenade des Anglais and looking at the Mediterranean Sea, which is as blue as they always say.

So here a few sea-side impressions.
At sunrise

Characteristic blue chairs

A view from the top

Luxury at the sea-side

Yes, there are people swiming, even if it is almost November

The harbour of Nice. 

The most amazing shades of blue

Friday, 24 November 2017

New books

Last week I had a couple of hours to spare at school and I decided to go into the centre of Amsterdam. This is just 20 minutes by tram, so it is not far from my school. I ended up with the two English bookstores in the Kalverstraat, The English bookstore which has many books for discountprices and Waterstones, one of my favorites.

I finally went home with these books:

For just five euro's per book I bought these two books at The English bookstore. It is a biography about the Queen-Mother, very interesting I think. The other book, The temptress by Paul Spicer is a book about a notorious murder case in 1941 in Kenya.

At Waterstones I bought these fours books. First two non-fiction books. I love the books by Evelyn Waugh and I think he must have had an interesting life. I want to know more about him and I am very happy I saw this biography.

The other book is The riviera set by Mary S. Lovell (who also wrote a biography about the Mitford-sisters). It is about the French south-coast during the years 1920-1960. Very interesting and fun, I think!

And also two books with a Russian theme! One is the novel A gentleman in Moskow which I heard about and it is very high on my list to read.

The last book I picked up is written by Nobel prize winner Svetlana Alexievich and it is about the Russian war in Afghanistan.

A great pile of books and I am very happy with it. Although I must not go too often into town and visit these bookshops, I do not think my wallet would enjoy that!

Tuesday, 21 November 2017


The weather has changed very quikcly to cold and rainy with a lot of wind. The mornings are dark and cold and the evenings are dark and cold as well. I am just so grateful I have a warm house to come home to every day.

But I do enjoy the amazing autumn colours like I do every year. These are two trees near my house. I love these gorgeous reds and golds and oranges. It would have been a better photograph with a little sun, but you cannot have it all!

Friday, 17 November 2017

Exhibition: The Dutch in Paris

Paris has always been the centre of the artworld and many artists from outside France came to Paris to learn new techniques or be inspired by new ideas. In Paris you had the Academies and the Salon, thé place to get noticed and to sell your work.

Already in the 18th century, Dutch artists came to Paris. Some of them became very succesful, like Ary Scheffer, who came to Paris when he was only sixteen years old, but who never left. He was even succesful at the French court of king Louis Philippe!

And in later years many others came, like Johan Jongkind, Vincent van Gogh and Kees van Dongen and Piet Mondriaan
The exhibition The Dutch in Paris 1789-1914, that is shown now in the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam, shows their work.
Notre Dame de Paris, vue de quai de la Tournelle, Johan Jongkind 1852
It shows how the Dutch artists were inspired by Paris and the busy life in the city, but it also shows how the influence worked both ways.

Johan Jongkind became a friend of Claude Monet and Monet saw how Jongkind painted his skies in loose and swirling paintstrokes, using light colours. This inspired Monet in his Impressionism. And Vincent van Gogh on his turn was influenced by Monet.

Another great example is George Breitner who saw the dansers Edgar Degas painted, and introduced this subject in The Netherlands.
Ballerina, George Breitner, 1884
It is beautiful to see in the exhibition who these painters took their inspiration from eachother, in subjects, technique and use of colour.

Not all of the Dutch artists lived in Paris long, but even if they only stayed a short while, their work was very much influenced by the capital of art, Paris.
Boulevard de Clichy, Vincent van Gogh 1887
The exhibition can be seen until January 7th, 2018 at the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Before the fall, Noah Hawley

Sometimes something happens and a lot of people are involved in that situation. Their lives came to the point where they met, coming towards point zero. The interesting question is how they all came to that point and could it have been avoided?

In Before the fall a little private plane crashes. Two people survive, the others, passengers and crew, are all dead.

Scott is a painter who never had a lot of success, but now fate is smiling at him. His agent wants to talk to him and there is a chance of an exhibition.

A friend of his, Maggie Bateman, invites him on the plane with her family, because they are also leaving for New York.

But just a few minutes after take-off, the plane crashes into the sea. Scott and the little Bateman son survive and Scott manages to swim miles to the shore with the little boy on his back. He saved the boy and is a hero.

Only people want to know what happened and why the plane crashed. Was it something one of the crew-members did, or was it a terrorist act? David Bateman owned a right-winged news-channel and his prime anchorman is looking everywhere to put the blame, and he focusses his attention on Scott.

But it could also be the fault of the other family on bord, the Kiplings. Because Ben Kipling was a millionaire who made his money by never letting moral stand in the way of a good deal and whose trading with enemy countries was under investigation.

Before the fall explores the different lives, up to the point of all of them meeting in the airplane. But it is not a thriller and the why of the crash is never the point of this novel. All the different lives and their different points of view are the really important thing. 

I loved the character of Scott, who is an artist who makes very interesting paintings and the descriptions of some of this paintings add another layer to the story. I think you can say that greed and having no moral and no heart is put against a person who tries to be a decent man, even after he finds himself in a situation he can almost not control.

I read this book on my way to Nice, (not the best thing to read while you are in an airplane), but despite that little thing I really enjoyed this book. I thought the different lives were well written and it was very interesting to see all those choices that made them reach point zero.

Published in 2016

Saturday, 4 November 2017

The flowers of Nice

The climate in Nice is very mild. When I was there during the last week of October, it was still warm enough to walk outside without a coat. I loved to see so many beautiful plants and flowers in Nice, it made the place even more magical!

I do not know the names of all these plants, since I am sure some of them do not even grow in The Netherlands.
But their bright colours made a huge impact. Amazing!

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Wrapping up October

It is hard to believe we are already at the end of October. Somehow this month raced past me, and I can almost not believe we only have two more month in 2017.
But here are a few things from this month!

What did I read?
I read a lot of good books this month. I will not list all of them here, just a few to give an impression. I read two very good Italian novels. One by Paolo Cognetti and one by Sandro Veronesi. Both books have not been translated into English. But the book by Paolo Cognetti had a great cover in the Dutch version. I love a book with a good cover.
Italian title and Dutch title: The eight mountains
I also read a book with the letters of the artist Camille Claudel. She was the apprentice and later lover of the sculpture Rodin. She had a very sad life and her letters reflect that. Very powerful.

As you know I read the new novel by John Boyne in one day. Really good. I reviewd it last week: HERE
And on holiday I read a thriller by Robert Goddard which was alright and good fun, but which also turned out to be the first of a trilogy, and I am not sure I liked it enough to read part two and three as well.

The last book I reads this month was Before the fall by Noah Hawley and I liked it very much. Perhaps I will write a review here, but if that happens it will be next week.

What did I see?
I discovered the series Penny Dreadful on Netflix and loved it so much, I decided to buy the DVD set, so I can watch it whenever I want to. The series falls into the horror genre, and usually this is not my cup of tea. But in this case I loved the strong acting, the way the different horrorstories were mixed together very cleverly and I really enjoyed how it is not about guts and gore, but abour character development. It is probably not a series for everyone, but if you can get past the horrorlabel, there is much to enjoy here. With Eva Green, Timothy Dalton and Josh Hartnett and many others.
Josh Hartnett and Eva Green in Penny Dreadful
What did I do?
Completely unexpectedly I was asked to join a schooltrip to Paris, as an extra teacher. I loved being in Paris again, although I was exhausted with the care of 72 students on just a few hours of sleep each night. But still, it all went well and that is always a good thing.
Paris (oktober 2017)
And just a week later, I travelled again. I went on a holiday to Nice, in the south of France. I had never been there before and I was curious to see how I would like it. It turned out, I loved it!! Nice had lovely sunny weather (I could walk outside without my coat), it was not too busy and it was the perfect mix of France and Italy, with a strong Russian connection.
I wish I lived in the 19th century and was rich enough to spend an entire Winter there!
But I had a lovely couple of days and it won't be the last time I visited.
Nice (oktober 2017)
Looking forward to in November
November will prove to be a good month as well, I hope. I have some amazing books lined up. I am still reading The years by Virginia Woolf (somehow I never manage to read a Woolf book very fast!).
My Dutch version
I am also reading Notes from an exhibition by Patrick Gale. I became a fan after I read A place called Winter, and this book is just as engaging. I also love the blues on the cover of this book.

I have a few exhibitions I would like to visit this month. I had planned to visit at least two in October, but somehow there was no time for that. Coming Saturday I will be in Rotterdam to see an exhibition that is devoted to the role of the cat in the arts! (yes, I know, wonderful).

For the dark winter evenings I have the DVD with the new series of Maigret. I must admit I never really cared for the old series of Maigret, but somehow this new version with Rowan Atkinson as the Parisian police inspector Maigret ticks all the boxes for me. So I will be enjoying this I think!
Rowan Atkinson as Maigret
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