Tuesday, 31 January 2017

More ice

King Winter is already going away again it seems, but the past weeks it has been very cold indeed in the Netherlands. Some days the temperature stayed under the freezing point.
It was good for making beautiful photographs!

Don't you just get cold looking at it? I made these during a very short walk (10 minutes), but that was all I needed!

Friday, 27 January 2017

The other Swanlake

Last weekend I went to see a ballet for the first time in my life. I have always liked ballet, but for some reason I never saw one before.
I picked Swanlake as my first ballet, since I wanted to start with a classical one and it does not get more classical than this.

The ballet as we know it now, was first danced in St. Petersburg in 1895.

I saw the version by the Ballet of the State Opera of Tatarstan, a company that is known for performing classical ballets beautifully.

The story is well known, I think.
Prince Siegfried attends a ball and needs to pick a bride. Instead he goes into the woods and finds a lake with swans. He wants to shoot one, but before he can do that, the swan turns into Odette.

She tells him a sourcerer, von Rothbart, put a spell on her and the others. Siegfried swears his loyalty and love to Odette and goes back into the castle.

Von Rothbart and his daughter Odille are also guests and Odille tricks the prince into thinking she is Odette. He swears his loyalty to Odille, but then realizes his mistake.

Back at the lake, Siegfried and von Rothbart battle, Siegfried wins and the lovers live happily ever after.
There are other versions of the end where the lovers kill themselves or where Siegfried is left alone, but I liked the happy version very much.

We saw a magical performance, it was so very very beautiful. The music was amazing. I knew parts of it, but never heard it in one piece and I loved it.

The dancers had so much expression, even if I did not know the story, I would have understood it all the same. Their technical skills were very good (I sound like an expert now, don't I? But I liked what I saw very much) and we were in awe of what we saw on stage.

In short, it was enchanting and I know I will go to the ballet more often in future.
Of course I did not take photographs during the performance, these are taken from the Dutch booklet that I bought.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017


I photographed this swan when he was upside down in the lake, looking for food.

It seemed he would never come up for air again, and stayed like this for a very long time (or he was camera-shy, that is also a possibility)

Finally, he came up and looked around like nothing had happened.

Some of his friends were by the side of the lake, looking for something to eat in the frozen grass.

Others were swimming together with the smaller black birds (I have no idea what their English name is, sorry).

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Based on a true story, Delphine de Vigan

Delphine de Vigan’s last book Nothing holds back the night has been a huge success. This was a highly personal tale of her mother and although the success is good, it does have its price. Not all family members are happy with the way their personal history ended up in the book, and there is the whole circus of booksignings and lectures.

Delphine finds that she becomes more and more tired and cannot cope with all of it very well.

Then she meets L. at a party and the two women immediately like eachother. They become friends and every day there is some form of contact, a textmessage, a phonecall or they go out for a drink.

Delphine wants to get started on a new book, and wants to do research and note down ideas. Only she finds she cannot do it, no idea feels right and somehow she lacks the concentration. She talks about this with L. who tells her she should not hide behind fiction anymore, because people want to know what they read is real.

For Delphine the situation gets worse, she cannot write at all, and even jotting down a grocery list becomes too much. Lucky for her, L is there to help. She answers emails, does the paperwork and even helps her with writing-assignments. When L needs a place to stay for a couple of nights, it is logical she will stay at Delphine’s house.

For a few weeks, this works perfectly, but then Delphine begins to notice things. L is writing with a different hand than she did before, she buys the same jeans Delphine has and wears the same kind of shoes. And why is she telling Delphine what kind of writer she ought to be?

L moves out again and there is not much contact between the two, until Delphine gets an accident and needs L help to move around. At the same time she finds the inspiration for her new book, she wants to write about L’s life. 

But is this something L wants, or does she want to control the situation as she has controlled Delphine?

Delphine tries to analyse how the relationship between her and L developed and where it went wrong. She looks back and analyses how things got out of hand.

She can point at the reasons why L became such a good friend so fast. Delphine was vulnerable at that time, struggling with the success of her book and the fact that her children left home to go to university. Delphine also admired L and saw her as more sophisticated than herself. (in most friendships you admire your friend for things she is better at than you yourself are)

It is only later that Delphine questions certain situations she took for granted when they happened and asks herself if perhaps some situations were staged by L.

Based on a true story is a book that will get your attention from page one and will not let go. I read it in one go over a weekend, I just could not put it down.

Delphine de Vigan is a master at writing about difficult situations, sometimes in such a way you can hardly read on, since it becomes so uncomfortable. She gets so close, you as the reader have no place left to hide.

All of us recognize a friendship that has gone wrong, the friend who was not a good friend at all. Or perhaps you knew that all along, only you never dared to confess that to yourself.

Based on a true story is however more than a story about an obsession gone wrong. She also adds a few twists and leaves you asking what is true and what is fiction, what is reality and what is fantasy? 

Each writer can make up a story and present it as real, but even an autobiography has elements that are made up. In literature this kind of deception is nothing new.

When you have finished the book, you are left with the question if Delphine was indeed an innocent victim of an obsessed woman, or that perhaps the situation is a bit different.

For me, Delphine de Vigan is one of the best French authors today and this book proves that. I can only say that I am looking forward to her next book.

The book won in France the Prix Renaudot.

Original French title: D’après une histoire vraie
Published in 2015
An English translation will be available from April 6th 2017

Friday, 13 January 2017

Exhibition: Rodin, genius at work

Last week I went to Groningen to see an exhibition with the work of 19th century sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840-1917).

He is one of the most well-known sculptors and his work can easily be identified. Although he first struggled, he soon became succesful and received official commissions.

He was not a lonely artist in a small attick, he had a huge workshop with dozens of people working for him who all did different aspects of the sculpting process.

The exhibition was very large, with over 120 sculptings, but also drawings and photographs. Rodin used photographs to improve his work. He would draw on the photographs and adjust his sculptings accordingly.
I liked the photographs, they were artworks in themselves and I would hang those on my wall without a problem!

There were sculptings in marble, plaster, clay, ceramics and bronze. There were many not well known sculptings, which made it very interesting.
In plaster he made several limbs and he later used them in his sculptings, taking whichever one he needed for that particular work.

I loved the huge bronze statues from The citizens of Calais, I do not know how you can get such a facial expression in bronze, but these were beautiful.

The exhibition is in the Groninger museum and it can be visited until April 30th 2017.
More information can be found here

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

New plants

I love plants in my house. Books and plants, those are key ingredients for me to make my house warm and cozy. I did not have a lot of plants when I was younger, but in the past years somehow I began to put more plants in my house. And they thrive!

A few weeks ago I bought a few new plants, since plants do not have eternal life and despite my good care some die. My mum and I had a great morning in the gardencentre, picking out new plants and giving them a good place when we were back in my house.

As you can see, I do not have huge windowsills, but I do have a lot of bookshelves. No reason why you cannot put plants on those as well!

Monday, 9 January 2017

Victoria (2016)

Jenna Coleman
Last Saturday the first episode of the new series Victoria aired on Dutch television. Since I love history and good British costume-drama's, I naturally watched it. And I liked it very much.

Of course, I have only seen the first episode so far and it may go downhill after that, but in this first episode there was much to like.

I have only seen Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in Dr. Who, but I already liked her in that and I thought she did really well as Victoria.

She made it very clear how difficult it must have been for such a young and sheltered girl to suddenly become the Monarch. Victoria made mistakes and was not the easiest to work with, but her mother did not prepare her for this job at all.

I do think Jenna Coleman is much prettier than the real Victoria though!

Rufus Sewell is one of my favorite actors, he is amazing in almost everything he plays in. To see him here as Lord Melbourse, the kind prime-minister who helped Victoria during her first difficult years of her reign is really good. I believed the chemistry between them.
Jenna Coleman and Rufus Sewell
The costumes are beautiful to look at and I did enjoy the side stories of the servants. They did not take up too much room, but enough to show there is more going on in a palace than you might think.

I saw there is a second series in the make, so this first series will not cover her whole reign. I am looking forward to the other episodes. It has the possibility to become a bit 'soapy' but based on the first episode I think this is a series I will enjoy very much!
Jenna Coleman

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Hercule Poirot (old style)

I love Agatha Christie and of course, I love the films and series made of her books. For me, there is no better Hercule Poirot than David Suchet and I am very happy I have the whole series on DVD.

But David Suchet was not the first to portray the Belgian detective and he was not the first I saw in this role.

When I was young two films were often braodcasted on Dutch television, and I must have watched them several times. These were Evil under the sun (1982) and Death on the Nile (1978), both films after a book by Agatha Christie and with Peter Ustinov as Hercule Poirot.

Peter Ustinov is of course an iconic actor, but to be honest he plays a better Peter Ustinov than he plays Hercule Poirot. Still, the films are absolutely great fun to watch. I have them on DVD as well and during Christmas day, I had a quiet afternoon and I watched both of them.

Death on the Nile (1978)
Linnet is a rich young woman, who marries the fiancé of her best friend. They go to Egypt on their honeymoon, but are constantly stalked by the ex-best friend. During a cruise on the Nile Linnet gets murdered, but everybody seems to have an alibi. Luckily, Poirot is also on board and he can unravel all the clues and find the real murderer.

The plot of this book is very good and luckily they did not alter much. Of course not all characters from the book are in the film, but that is not a bad thing.
Great filmstars are in this film, David Niven, Bette Davis, Maggie Smith, Mia Farrow and Angela Lansbury are a few of the well-known names who participated.

The murder itself is ingenuous and is filmed very well, with all the different possibilities of who might have done it.

Yes, they messed up the different monuments along the Nile, but I could not be bothered about that.
It has a great cast, beautiful costumes and the scenery is magnificent.
Everybody arrives at the boat for the cruise along the Nile. 

David Niven (love him), Peter Ustinov and Angela Lansbury

Mia Farrow is amazing in this film
Evil under the sun (1982)
Arlena Stuart is an actress who now married an English gentleman. With her new family she goes on vacation to an island, only there Arlena is murdered. Arlena did not take her weddingvows very serious and her new lover is also in the hotel, but he has an alibi. It takes Hercule Poirot all his wits to unravel the clues of what happened when exactly.

For this film they moved the hotel from the English coast to somewhere in the south, near Mallorca or something. A good choice! They changed a lot of the characters as well and also left out a side-plot that actually makes the story a bit better. (I do not say this often, but in this case it is true).

The mrder itself is a really clever one, and until the last moment, I never guessed who the real murderer was.

Again, so many great names play in this film. Diana Rigg (one of my all-time favorites) plays Arlena, Maggie Smith is the owner of the hotel and Jane Birkin is sublime in her role.

The costumes are outrageous, it is set in the thirties, but the costume-designers went a bit wild. It does not matter, because it all adds to the fun.

And there is a lot of fun, I love the banter between Arlena and Daphne (Diana Rigg and Maggie Smith), especially in the duet 'You're the top', from Cole Porter.

Peter Ustinov will never be my favorite Hercule Poirot, but I hugely enjoyed seeing this films again and I am glad I have them on DVD, since I know I will be watching them again, every time I need something to cheer me up.
Diana Rigg

Jane Birkin and Nicolas Clay

Maggie Smith and Peter Ustinov

Diana Rigg and Maggie Smith during the Cole Porter duet.
One of the funniest moviescenes ever. 
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