Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Still life by Giorgio Morandi

When I was in Bologna, I noticed in a museum the beautiful works of Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964).

He was an artist who lived and died in Bologna. He did not travel or move away, he always lived in Bologna. Most of his works are still-life's like these, with the pots and the bottles he found in his own kitchen.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Hydrangea first-aid

This morning I bought some new plants for my balcony (more on that later this week), and I had a lovely time making a beautiful arrangement of lovely combinations.

It has been very warm here today, over 25 degrees Centigrade (over 77 degrees Fahrenheit). And when I looked outside in the afternoon, I saw that my hydrangea's were not feeling very well. They looked like they were dead already.

I immediately took them inside, put them in the sink and watered them.
Sad looking hydrangea's
But soon it was clear that this was not enough, my beautiful hydrangea's needed more. So I took two buckets, filled those with water and placed the hydrangea's inside. They have been soking up water for a good two hours and I am pleased to see they look their normal healthy self again.
On their way to recovery
Tomorrow it will be even warmer, so I know I will keep a close eye on these two plants and indeed on all my plants to make sure they do not get dehydrated. I want my plants to last the whole Summer, not just two days!!
Restored health

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

A long-term reading project

Together with my mum I have a little readinggroup. The only members are the two of us and we meet every six weeks, One of us picks the book and it is really good fun to discuss a book with just my mother, but in the way like it is a real book-club (we even prepare questions etc). 

Well, my mum got a little ambitious when she had to pick our next book and she came with The brothers Karamazov by Russian writer Dostojevski. In my version there are 1005 pages.

So how do I tackle this huge task? Because I have to finish it on time ánd at school we are really busy with the final exams etc. Not the best time in the schoolyear to get lost in a story like this. I needed a system!!

Well, I have worked out I need to read 25 pages a day. And I came up with a system with two postcards. One postcard shows the page I am on, and the second postcard shows me to which page I need to read. 

Whenever I am not able to read my daily quotum, the last postcard gets moved another 25 pages, so I keep track of where I need to be in the book to finish on time. 

So far, I am enjoying the story very much. It is rich and has lots of people and even more details, but that is typical for 19th century Russian novels, it seems (you need to do something during those long winters) 

Friday, 19 May 2017

Botanical gardens in Bologna

Whenever I can, I try do visit something elses besides churches and museums when I am on vacation, and Botanical gardens are high in my list.

Usually these are little oases in the middle of a busy city and a perfect spot to sit down and enjoy the silence.

Bologna has one of the oldest botanical gardens in Europe, it was founded in 1568. There was already a Chair of Herbs,  (a botanical professor) at the Bologna university, and this was mostly for the medical students who needed to know which herbs could be used as cures.

When the garden was founded, it was not in the same location as it is now, it has moved a couple of times.
Nowadays, it is still part of the university and admission is free.

There are a couple of greenhouses with tropical plants, but there are also different kinds of gardens, like a rock-garden.

Recently they have tried to re-create the old herb-garden with medicinal plants (garden of simples), using the same divisions with plants for the digestive system, the plants for the nervous system etc.

I really enjoyed walking here and admired the beautiful plants and the many trees. It is a lovely garden and well worth a visit.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Commonwealth, Ann Patchett

This book is about memories, about family and about who owns your history. Everybody has their own version of the things that happened, especially in families. Is an author allowed to use your memories for their own story and more specifically, if these are not just your own memories, but the memories of all the people involved?

Commonwealth starts somewhere in the sixties when Beverly and Fix have their daughters christening party. Albert Cousins is not invited, but shows up anyway and at the end of the party he kisses Beverly and this is the moment when everything changes.

Sometime later Albert and Beverly live in Virginia with Beverly’s daughters, who long to be with their dad in LA and Cousins’ children live in LA, but want to be in Virginia. During the long Summer holidays the children have to look after themselves and this has some far-reaching consequences.

It is daughter Frannie who tells this story to a writer she has an affair with and he turns it into a book and this is the next layer in this beautifully written story.

I have read State of wonder by Ann Patchett before and utterly disliked it, but I wanted to give her another change with this book.

The way the story moved in time and through time is beautiful. It is done in a very natural way, like you talk to different people and somewhere in a conversation you get another little piece of the puzzle. It is not forced, like the author wants to show her readers how clever she is, but is really flows.

I also loved how much layers the characters have and how the teenagers grow up into adults. You do recognize the teenager in the adult, but you can also see how much they have changed and how they see the things that happened when they were young in a different light.

The big dramatic moment was in the end something different than I thought, but that made it even more painful, since it was something that could have happened to anyone.

I bought this book in Bologna because I had already read the books I brought with me, and I finished it in 1 ½ days. I think Commonwealth will end up in my top 5 of this year.

Published in 2016

Friday, 12 May 2017

Exhibition, In the heart of the Renaissance

Bellini 1470-1475
Maria in adoration for Christ
Titian, Tintoretto, Bellini and Rafael are big names in arthistory. I know there works from churches and museums in Florence and Venice. But at the moment there is a beautiful exhibition with works from Nothern-Italy during the Renaissance in The Netherlands.

The Renaissance spread from Florence to the nothern part of the country and the painters here embraced the new way of looking at things and the new way of painting.

Using perspective, a more realistic way to portray people and using bright colours, they influenced their colleagues in the rest of the country, but also the painters who came after them, like Caravaggio.

Some of the artists in this exhibition are not seen in Dutch museums, so it was really a treat to see them all here together. The museum that houses most of these works, the Pinacoteca Tosio Martinengo in Brescia, is closed at the moment due to renovations, so they lend parts of their collection to several museums in Europe.

I am very happy we took the time to visit this museum, because it was worth the long trip!

Sofonisba Anguissola 1556
Portrait of a Lateran Canon

Anonymous, 1500-1510
Portrait of Saint Hieronymus

Giovan Battista Moroni 1560
Portrait of Gian Gerolamo Grumelli
More information can be found HERE: the exhibition can be seen until June 17th 2017 at the Rijkmuseum Twenthe in Enschede

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

The flight of the falcon, Daphne du Maurier

Armino Fabbia grew up in the little town of Ruffiano, where his father was the custodian of the old Ducal palace. Armino and his older brother Aldo knew every part of the palace. 

When WWII broke out, everything went wrong. Aldo was shot down in his plane and died, their father was arrested and died in a prisoner of war camp en Armino and his mother fled. He never returned to Ruffiano.

Now he is a guide at a touring company, that organises tours around Italy. It is his job to make sure all the people are happy, the reservations are made and all problems are solved.

During a stop in Rome, a beggarwoman is murdered, a woman Armino helped just moments before. He finds out she was the servant who took care of him when he was a child. His revelation makes him burn all his bridges: he leaves the touringcompany and goes back to Ruffiano.

Here he finds a little town where time stood still and that has changed in other respects. At the university there is a rivalry between the new faculty of commerce and economics and the old faculties like arts and education. 

But the ducal palace is still there and even the old history of the dukes of Ruffiano is not forgotten. There is somebody at the university that wants to bring this old history back to life and is prepared to do many things to make this happen. This will have a huge impact on Armino, when he finds out his own personal history is also tied up with this.

The flight of the falcon is one of the historical novels Daphne du Maurier wrote. In general it is not seen as one of her best novels, but I must say I really enjoyed it. Perhaps because I read it while I was in Bologna and although this is not the city Ruffiano is based on, it is still a medieval Italian city with a university. So that made the story very alive for me, I could easily not only imagine the students running around the city, but also the duke on his horse, so many centuries ago.

I really enjoyed how she managed to link together the present (sixties Italy), WWII and the history of the bad duke. Because history is always linked, and events are never on their own. I also loved the parallels with the present day and WWII. With Armino you begin to question the events when you learn more and you realize that something is not right. Because there is a difference between standing in a tradition and misusing history for your own benefit.

Although I agree this was not her best novel, there was a lot I enjoyed in The flight of the falcon.

Published in 1965

Friday, 5 May 2017

Impressions of Bologna

Last week I was lucky enough to visit the Italian city of Bologna. It is an old city and houses the oldest university in the world (1088), but at the same time it is young and vibrant. For me a good vacation combines culture, leisure, shopping and good food. This vacation had it all!

Here is a little impression of Bologna.
Most of the streets have these galleries (porticos) that provide protection against sun or rain. 

Bologna has a lot of old courtyards, This is in the monastery of Santo Stefano. 

The very impressive memorial for the brave partizans who lost their lives during WWII

In the Middle Ages Bologna had more than 100 of these towers. Now only these two remain. 

Everywhere you look, you can see an amazing little surprise like this balcony.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

An impression of Texel

A few weeks ago I was on Texel, on of the Dutch Wadden Islands.There are five islands in the Waddensea, and Texel is the one on the left. It has been ages ago since I was on Texel (actually 30 years) and it was nice to be back, even if it was for just one day.

Texel and the other islands (Vlieland, Terschelling, Ameland and Schiermonnikoog) are very popular with the tourists and during the Summer the population more than doubles. But when we were here, it was still reasonably quiet. You can bring your car on the ferry (it is only a 20 minute trip) or you can rent a bicycle on the island.

Texel has a beautiful landscape, dunes and sand lovely little towns.
Here are a few impressions of the island.

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