Friday, 13 July 2018

Hogweed



In Dutch, this plant is called Berenklauw, or Bears claw. A much nicer name than Hogweed, I think! We have a lot of them in my province and in the city I live in and they are actually considered a pest, since they overgrow all other plants and it is not an original plant for this area.

I do like them, and I think they are excellent on photographs!

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

2x The Kennedys (tv series)

I am very interested in the Kennedys, and I know I am not alone. There are many books and films and series about this fascinating family.

A while ago I discussed three series about the Kennedys (here) and recently I saw two other series.

These are The Kennedys (2011) and The Kennedys, after Camelot (2017). These were made after the books by Randy J. Taborrelli. The books (I am reading them at the moment) are quite good.

I really liked the first series, made in 2011. I know some historical mistakes were made, but on the whole I really enjoyed watching it.

It has eight episodes and I like how there are flash-backs to the past, the dealing of old Joe Kennedy and the first steps on the political field by John F. Kennedy. It gives you a better understanding of the history of the family and how the boys were raised.

I also like most of the actors very much. The problem is that for me Martin Sheen is the best Kennedy (I think I even prefer him to the real JFK!), and every other actor who plays JFK must at least be in the vicinity of Martin Sheen.
Well, Greg Kinnear does a very good job. He has the accent and the way of speaking, and looks enough like JFK to make it very watchable.

Barry Pepper plays Bobby Kennedy and Tom Wilkinson plays Joe Kennedy and I think they both do an excellent job as well.

There is the problem of Jackie Kennedy, who is played by Katie Holmes. But more on that in a moment.
So on the whole, series one is good and decent and if you are willing to overlook a few historical mistakes, you can really enjoy this.

In 2017 there was the second series and I recently watched it.

It picks up at 1968, at the moment when Bobby gets shot. After that, we have three storylines. First there is Jackie who marries Ari Onasis and who must try to find a life for herself and her children. Then there is Ted Kennedy who must come out of his brothers's shadows and in the end there is John, Jackie's son, who also needs to find his own way.

And oh my god, it is very, very, very bad.

The first problem is Katie Holmes. She is in my mind not a good actress. There were some later scenes where she was not horrible, but that is the kindest I can say.

I feel that in the first series she only got the job because she has a pretty face, but not because she can deliver a good Jackie. In the second series she has a lot more screentime, and it is very clear she is not good enough for this job.

Her accent and  the way she speaks are nothing like the real Jackie, and her hair is an even bigger mess.

The second problem was Matthew Perry as Ted Kennedy. If possible, Matthew Perry is an even worse actor than Katie Holmes is. He is terrible in every scene he plays.

A good actor, even when he does not look like the person he or she is playing, can make your forget that. Jonathan Rhys Meyers looks nothing like Henry VIII, but I believed him in The Tudors (we will not go into the historical mistakes in that series at this moment). My point is that Matthew Perry did not make me forget he was Matthew Perry, not even for a second.

The final problem was that the storylines were not interesting at all. Jackie and her marriage to Onasis was done badly, the death of Mary Jo Koppechne was dreadful to watch, the ending was weird and in the end I did not care for all of them at all.

So frankly, this second series is not really worth watching.

Friday, 6 July 2018

Classic beauties in Amsterdam

There is a new exhibition in the Hermitage museum in Amsterdam. It is called Classic beauties and it is all about the neoclassicism in the 18th century.

They were digging in Pompei and Herculaneum since 1738 and the beautiful sculptures and artwork that were found inspired a new fashion, people in the 18th century were interested in all things Classical.

Rich people made grand tours through Europe and especially to Italy, to admire the ancient monuments and artwork.

Artists like Canova made new statues, inspired by the Greek and Roman statues, but tried to improve them, making them true perfection.

I am not really fond of the 18th century and this is not my favorite part of history, but despite that I enjoyed this exhibition more than I thought I would. It is not a big exhibition, but the statues, especially those by Canova, are very impressive and beautiful.
The exhibition Classic beauties can be seen in Amsterdam until January 2019

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

A sunny morning

This weekend I went out on my bicycle, the weather was amazing and I really enjoyed my little bikeride. The sun was shining, the lake was blue and there are also plenty of quiet lanes to walk or ride.





Friday, 29 June 2018

Small country, Gael Faye

Gabriel lives with his family in Burundi. His father Michel is French and his mother Yvonne is a Tutsi from Rwanda. The family is well off and lives in a good neighbourhood in the capital, surrounded by other expats.

Gabriel, or Gabe as he is known, enjoys his childhood. He is ten years old and liked to play football with his friends, or visit family friends in Zaire. He has a penpall in France and he writes her that he would like to become a mechanic someday, so he can repair things.

But not everything is a good as it seems at first. The marriage between Michel and Yvonne is getting worse and they seperate, and Gabe and his sister Anna stay with their father.

The difference between their relatively rich situation and the poverty that surrounds them also becomes very clear in some situations. And of course the political situation is not very stable. When a political party wins the elections, but does not have the backing of the militairy, Michel knows something will happen.

And soon after there is a militairy coup and the racial tensions between different groups, like the Hutu's and the Tutsi's grow, just like in the neighbouring country of Rwanda. Old scores are settled with a machete and the government does nothing to prevent it.

Gabriel now sees things no child should see and does things no person should do.

Small country is written by Gael Faye, who is both French and Rwandese. He grew up in Burundi and then in France and after working in the financial sector, changed to making music and now writing. He lives with his wife and children in the capital of Rwanda.

I really enjoyed this book. I read it a couple of weeks ago in Dutch, but there is now also an English translation.

It is well written and I like how Gael Faye wrote Gabe. It is very authentic, as a ten year old boy who is intelligent and sees a lot, but also does not understand everything that happens. Sometimes he crumbles under peer-pressure and makes bad mistakes. But he is very lucky with his neighbour mrs Economopoulos who gives him boosk to read and teaches him how literature can be a solace and a place of refuge.

Despite the horrible events this is not a sombre or depressing book, nor is it gruwesome for the sake of being gruwesome.
The humour makes it light and very readable, as does the heartwarming main character.

A great book.

Original French title: Petit pays (2016)

Friday, 22 June 2018

Jan Altink, an artist I love

In 1918 a group of artists in the nothern city of Groningen came together. They wanted to paint in a modern way and not follow in the footsteps of the 19th century painters. This group called themself De Ploeg, meaning The Plough. They wanted to plough the country to make it fertile for a new beginning. Their inspiration came from Vincent van Gogh, but also from German expressionists like Ludwig Kirchner.

Since it has been a hundred years ago De ploeg started, there is a huge exhibition in Groningen. I visited this a couple of weeks ago and I really loved it. It was very divers and huge, over 250 works could be seen.

I really like De Ploeg and how they painted portraits, the landscape of Groningen (I was born there), and citylife.

My favorite painter is Jan Altink (1885-1971). He was one of the founding members of the group.

In the exhibition, I always liked his paintings the most.
Here are a few examples to show you his work.







Friday, 15 June 2018

Daphne du Maurier by Margaret Forster

Daphne du Maurier is one of my favorite authors. I first Rebecca and for a long time this was all I read, but in the past years I read more of her books and I enjoy them very much.

I wanted to know more about her and although I read the book Manderly forever by Tatiana de Rosnay, but this is of course a fictionalized biography.

So I wanted a real biography! Margaret Forster had access to the letters Daphne du Maurier wrote and interviewd people who knew her and her children.

The result is an excellent biography, well written and interesting and it really gives an insight into Daphne du Maurier.

Daphne was not always an easy person to live with. On one hand she could be charming and funny, but she had a deep need to be alone and to write.

She married Frederick Browning and together they had three children. But for Daphne, motherhood was never as important as her writing, and although she loved her children, taking care of them and making sandwiches or other mundane tasks were not for her. Fortunately she was in the position to hire nannies.

Daphne hired Menabilly, the house in Cornwall she desperately loved. She was never able to buy it and when the owner died, his heir wanted to live there himself. Although she put up a fight, she lost and in the end Daphne had to move to another house.

After the war her marriage to Frederick was in trouble, but divorce was never an option. He lived in London and worked at the royal palace, and Daphne was in Cornwall, and was writing her books. Her marriage was also not helped by the fact that they were both very private persons who did not know how to talk about their feelings and Daphne was terribly conflicted about her feelings. A couple of times in her life she fell in love with a woman, but she refused to consider herself a lesbian (being bisexual did not exsist in those days I imagine) and thought she was completely unique in her feelings.

She was always afraid that one day her books would not sell anymore, or worse, that she could not write anymore.

Margaret Forster has written a very good biography which has both the details to make it a rich story and the perspective it needs. It has dept and loads of interesting facts, but it is still very compact and readable, you do not drown in details. It gives pychological insight in her personality, but also in her books.

If you want to know more about the woman who wrote Rebecca, My cousin Rachel and haunting stories like The birds and Don't look now, read this biography. It is the only one you need.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Beach cat

A cat on the beach, what does he want?
Why does he risk getting sand between his toes? 

He is looking at some birds, sitting near the seaside. 

The birds do not know the cat is there, but the moment he starts running towards them, they all fly up

The cat walks back, trying to look like this is what he has been planning all along. 

The other cats are not fooled, and learn their lesson. Stay off the beach. 

Friday, 8 June 2018

Jane Seymour, Alison Weir

When king Henry VIII of England divorced his first wife and beheaded his second, he needed a new wife. He still needed a son to succeed him.

His third wife was Jane Seymour, and she gave him the son he so despirately wanted, the later king Edward VI. Unfortunately, Henry and Jane did not create a huge dynasty, since she died a couple of days after the birth.

We do not know much about Jane Seymour, ans somehow she always seems a bit forgotten when we talk about the wives of Henry VIII, there are others with so much more drama.

We do know Jane was not a religious reformer like her brothers were. For example she asked Henry to leave the monasteries alone. She had an ambitious family and had a lot of respect and love for Queen Katherine. Also she tried very hard to reconcile princess Mary with her father.

Alison Weir used these facts to built a story about a young woman who becomes queen because she loves the man who is king. In her story, the third of the books about the Tudor Queens, Jane is no longer a mousy girl in the background of history, but Alison Weir brings her to life.

Jane grew up in Wiltshire, and became maid of honour to queen Katherine. Even after Henry divorced Katherine, she stayed in her service, until her family told her to come to court and serve the new queen. After all, there was no gain in serving a queen who was pushed aside.
Reluctantly Jane served queen Anne.

Jane's kindness and quietness were like a balm for king Henry after all the drama Anne put him through, but initially Jane refused the king. Especially when queen Katherine was still alive. Only when she died and the proof of Anne Boleyn's infidelities became clear, Jane felt free to say yes to Henry.

After she became queen, she tried to model herself on queen Katherine, but it was hard for a modest woman who never thought she would become queen.

Alison Weir is a great historian who knows her subject very well. And again she has managed to write a very interesting story about the wives of king Henry. As usual she tells what facts she used and how she took some liberties with some things that are not clear. Very interesting is that she asked people from the medical profession what Jane's cause of death could be and it sounds very plausible.

I love this new book in the series about the Tudor queens, and I am already looking forward to the fourth book!

Published in 2018

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Inspirational art, The port of Saint Tropez

Charles Camoin, The port of Saint Tropez (1925)
I do not know how things are in the rest of the world, but the weather over here has been very warm: tropical temperatures even! (above 30 degrees centigrade). So when I saw this painting, I thought it fit perfectly. It is the port of Saint Tropez in the south of France and you can see the difference between the cool room (with gorgeous red shutters) and the sunfilled port outside. I love this.

Friday, 1 June 2018

Roses at the Santa Chiara



 I saw these beautiful roses in the garden at the Santa Chiara convent in Napels.

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

The eight mountains, Paolo Cognetti

According to a Nepalese legend there is a high mountain, Sumeru. Surrounding it are eight seas and eight mountains. Some people travel to all eight mountains, others only reach the top of Sumeru.

Pietro's parents live in the city, but they really love the mountains. So each Summer they rent a cabin in the mountains. Here his mother finds a simpler life and his father, who is not a happy man, can walk around in his beloved mountains, the only place he feels well.

Pietro becomes friends with Bruno, a boy from the village and although their lives will differ when they grow up, their friendship is still there.
For Pietro's father Bruno is the son he never had, because Pietro and he are so different they end up not talking to eachother for years.

When his father dies, alone in his car on the highway, Pietro must find a way to deal with this, and the friendship he has with Bruno helps him.

For Bruno life in the mountains is the beginning and the end, for Pietro it is something to come home to every now and then. But of course, the mountains also shaped his life.

The eight mountains is a beautiful story about family, friendship and dealing with loss. You get a sense of the mountains and how these will always be there, when we people will have gone. Our problems seem very small compared to those huge blocks of rock.

I read this book in Oktober of last year in Dutch translation, and there is now also an English translation. Paolo Cognetti makes documentaries, and this was his first novel. I hope it will not be his last.

Italian title: Le otte montagne (2016)

Friday, 25 May 2018

Caravaggio, third work in Napels

On the third day I went to see to the last painting of Caravaggio in Napels. This was also the last painting he did before he died in 1610, under mysterious circumstances on his way back to Rome.

Third day, third painting

The martyrdom of Saint Ursula (1610)

Saint Ursula was said to be on her way to Cologne in Germany with 11.000 virgins, but the Huns caught them and slaughtered all the virgins. The king of the Huns wanted to marry Ursula, but she refused, so he killed her with an arrow.

Caravaggio painted the moment she is hit by the arrow, and the people around her are in shock. Ursula herself is also not believing what just happened to her.

This painting was commissioned by a nobleman Marcantonio Doria, but it ended up in the hands of the Duke Zervellos, a Spanish nobleman who had a palazzo in Napels. This palazzo and the art collection were finally bought by an Italian bank, but you are still allowed to see the artcollection.

The painting is not preserved in a great condition, perhaps something went wrong with the varnish, but it is also possible a restoration attempt went a bit wrong.

But still it is a powerful and wonderful painting to see. Especially since Caravaggio painted himself as one of the soldiers behind St. Ursula, shocked by the events. This somehow seems to forbode his own death just a short time after he finished this painting.

Palazzo Zavallos Stigliano, Via Toledo 185, Admission 5 euro's (May 2018)

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Caravaggio, second work in Napels

On the same day I visited the first Caravaggio, I went to the museum where the second painting is hanging. This is in the museum Capodimonte which is in the north of Napels. There is a bus going, I believe, but I took a taxi there and walked back.

Second day, second painting.

The flagellation of Christ (1607)

This work was commissioned by the di Franco Family, for their chapel in the San Domenico Maggiore. Since 1972 it hangs in the museum.

Caravaggio painted the moment Christ is bound to a pillar and he is tortured. A man grabs him by the hair and another kicks him in the knee, making Christ fall over.

This painting is very moving. It hangs in the museum at the end of a corridor, so you can see it from the other side of the building. And the moment you see it, even from that far, you know this is the painting you need to see. It is that powerful and that beautiful.

I actually had tears in my eyes when I finally stood in front of this painting.

Museo Capodimonte, Admission 12 euro's (May 2018)

Monday, 21 May 2018

Caravaggio: first work in Napels

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio is for me one of the greatest painters who ever lived. He lived in Rome, but in 1606 he had to leave and went to Napels. Here he was asked to paint new works, and three of these paintings are still in Napels.
When I was in Napels a couple of weeks ago, I knew I wanted to see all three of them. So this week I will show you which paintings I saw.

Day 2, first painting
On my second day in Napels I first set out to find this painting, which was not far from my hotel.

The seven works of mercy (1606-1607)

The charity foundation Pio Monte della Misericordia commissioned this painting. The first idea was of seven different paintings, but Caravaggio combined all the works of mercy in one painting.
The seven works of mercy are:

  • To feed the hunry
  • To give water to the thirsty
  • To clothe the naked
  • To shelter the homeless
  • To care for the sick
  • To visit the imprisoned
  • To bury the dead.

A lot is happening in this painting. On the right you see a woman who breatfeeds a man in prison. This may seem a bit strange, but it is based on a story of a young woman who helped her imprisoned father in this way and saved him from starvation. On the right you also see a dead man being caried away. On the left you see Saint Martin of Tour cutting his coat in half to help a naked man on the street, Samson who gives water to a man and a stranger asking for shelter, combining all the works of mercy.

The angel above inspires all the mercy and good works.

The work is absolutely magnificent. Caravaggio is a master of scenery and light. I love how this work is still hanging in the same place as it was commissioned for; the chapel of the foundation.

There is also a lovely museum with other artwork and the best part here is a view from the balcony above on the painting in the chapel.

Pio Monte della Misericordia, Via dei Tribunali 253, Napels. Admission 7 euro's (May 2018)

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

My father's war, Adriaan van Dis


Adriaan van Dis is one of my favorite Dutch authors.
His family came from Indonesia, which is a former Dutch colony. It was called Dutch Indie (Nederlands-Indie) in those days. During the Second World War Indie was occupied by the Japanese, who imprisoned all Dutch people in camps.

In this story, Adriaan van Dis tells the story about his childhood and the difficult relationship he had with his father.

His mother had been married before and had three daughters with her first huband, who was half Indonesian. During the war she and her three little girls were in a Japanese camp and they suffered very much. Her husband was killed by the Japanese.

Shortly after the war she met another man, and left for The Netherlands with him. This man was Adriaan's father.

Indonesia declared independance and there was no place left for the Dutch. The people from Indie came back to The Netherlands, but were not given a warm welcome. The Netherlands had suffered under the nazi's and did not want to hear the trauma's the people suffered under the Japanese. There was also a shortage in houses and these new people needed homes, so there was a lot of friction.

For people like Adriaans father it was very difficult. There was no sympathy for what he endured, he was not considered a warhero and on the whole his health was in such bad condition he could not work.

Adriaan grew up in a household where he was the only one who did not have memories of Indie, or the war. His sisters resent him because what does he know of hunger or pain and he resents them for their unity he has no part in.

His father wanted to make sure his son is prepared for the next war and did this with strict discipline.

Later, when his father has died, the family never talks. The war is never talked about, the camp is never talked about and the harsh beatings by their father are also never talked about. Only when one of his sisters dies, Adriaan finds the courage to look into the family history and find out what happend to his father and how this influenced them all.

This is of course a novel, but a very autobiographical one. Adriaan van Dis knows how to make heavy situations lighter without mocking them, he does not spare himself and it is the mixture of bitterness and humour, detesting your famiy and knowing you are stuck with them that makes this book so very beautiful.

Published in 1994

Friday, 11 May 2018

Impressions of Napels

In the last few days I was in Napels and I absolutely loved it. The city is vibrant and loud, has crazy traffic, beautiful churches, friendly people and layers and layers of history and art. I will definately come back here one day, but first, a few impressions of Napels!.

Mount Vesuvius. Nobody knows when it will burst out again, but one thing is sure,
when it happens, Napels is doomed. 

These red 'peppers' give protection against the evil eye and help with fertility. 

The convent of Santa Chiara had the most amazing garden.

Laundry

View of Napels

Friday, 4 May 2018

Sing, unburied, sing, Jesmyn Ward

Not a lot has changed for the poor black people in Mississippi, it seems. In Sing, unburied, sing, we learn the story of Jojo and his family.

Jojo is 13 years old and lives with his little sister with their grandparents. His grandfather is Jojo's rolemodel and one day he hopes to become just like Pop.

A big problem is their mother, Leonie, who is not around much, spends her time getting high and when she is around it is clear the children do not mean much to her.

When her white boyfriend and the father of the children, Michael, gets out of prison, Leonie wants to pick him up. She is determined the children should come with her and so they begin on a terrible roadtrip that we all know will not bring any comfort.

A large role in this book is set apart for the Parchman prison in Mississippi. This was founded in 1901 and often black people were sentenced to go there and live and work in harsh and terrible circumstances.

Pop was sentenced to go there in the forties, and now Michael also spend time here.

Another large role is for the ghosts in this story. It took me a while to get used to the very active role these ghosts play, but on the other hand if there is so much injustice, it is no wonder the dead are restless and demand answers from the living.

Jojo has seen more than he should have, but he has his grandfather and we know he has a good chance in life. For Leonie and Michael there are no chances left and although we do understand Leonie has her demons, it is hard to find any sympathy for them.

Sing, unburied, sing is a beautiful book that tells you a little more about the life of black people in Mississippi and also a fascinating part of history. I also have Jesmyn Wards other novel, Salvage the bones on my shelves and I think I will read it very soon.

Published in 2017

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Visiting Ecomare

On Texel you can visit the visitationcentre of the foundation Ecomare. This foundation educates people about sealife, specially the seas of the Waddenzee and the Noordzee. There are some great exhibitions and a large sea-aquarium.

But they also have programmes to help seals and other animals from the sea, they nurse sick animals back to health and if nesessary they shelter young animals who lost their mothers and who cannot return to the wild for the rest of their lives.
You can visit the seals and see them really upclose.
Snoozing seal

This little one was in quarantine

Swimming around

There are also two little whales at Ecomare, porpoises. These two lost their mothers when they were only a few weeks old, and this means they do not have the survivalskills to get back into the wild.

At Ecomare they take good care of these porpoises, called Dennis and Michael. Each day there is a public feeding and the public gets information about them. The training is not for the benefit of the public, although it is very cute to watch, but to provide Dennis and Michael with stimulation and entertainment.

It is difficult to get a good photograph of them, because they swim very quickly and they only come up for a moment to take a breath!


One important warning, if you see a whale or a porpoise on the beach, do not push it back to the sea. It is probably hurt or ill and it will not have the strength anymore to swim, so it will probably drown. Better to phone the emergency services and aks for their help.

More about Ecomare can be found HERE
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