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.






Tuesday, 16 October 2018

M.C. Escher

Maurits Escher (1898-1972) is I think one of the best known and most loved Dutch artists of all time.

Many people know his intricate drawings of imaginary worlds, where the persepective is not what it seems to be and when you look close, you see all kinds of things that should not be possible. But of course they are possible in a drawing by Escher.

He was born in 1898 and he was not very good at school, he only excelled at drawing. He went to a technical university to study architecture, but switched to art, which he liked much more.

As he said himself 'I had no interest in building houses, only if I could have built very weird houses'.

He loved travelling from a young age and spend a lot of time in Italy. He even lived there for a long time, with his wife and three sons.
Landscape
He walked around the countryside to draw the landscap, and the little Italian town on the mountains. In Rome he went outside during the night to draw the empty squares, the belltowers and the courtyards. And then he began combining elements into a new fantasy-landscape and later he added the funny play on perspective. And that is how he made his famous drawings.

Very funny anecdote, apparently the Rolling Stones wanted his work on an album cover, and Mick Jagger began his letter with 'Dear Maurits'.  Escher declined the commission and said in his letter; 'Please tell Mr. Jagger I am not 'Maurits' to him.'

I saw a beautiful exhibition of the work by Escher in Leeuwarden (his birthplace) and I loved how it showed how his work evolved and changed.
And I like how you can still see the elements of the Italian landscape in all his work, even in his later drawings.
An amazing artist.

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

New Bonsais

In September last year I told you about the new Bonsais I bought and how I hoped to keep them alive by replanting them into a new pot. (whole story here)

Well, I can tell you those two Bonsais are doing great, and I felt like I could handle more Bonsais.  Last month, my friend and I visited a Bonsai-nursery. This was absolutely amazing.

First of all the Bonsais there were beautiful. Such high quality and they all looked very, very beautiful. Immediately you could see the amount of attention that went into each little tree. Secondly, the people were very friendly and so incredibly helpful, it was a joy to visit them. We could walk around in the greenhouses and pick out a tree we liked.


There were very expensive Bonsais (everything between 100-3000 euro's), but they also had Bonsais fit for my budget! (around 50 euro's)

It was hard to find, since there was so much to look at and they had so many beautiful Bonsais, but finally, when I saw this one, I knew it was the one for me.

I took it home and it looked wonderful next to my other ones. The next day I was at the garden-centre and there I spotted a very small Bonsai, for just 15 euro's. I feel a bit more secure now in my ability to keep it alive, so I bought it.


At home, I created a place for all the Bonsais on the wicker chest that is next to my sofa.


Now I can see all the Bonsais and enjoy what they look like. I really like how there all different plants and I think they are all beuutiful in their own right. And it is a great feature in my living room! (and there is even room for one more, in the future).

Friday, 5 October 2018

Eva sleeps, Francesca Melandri

After World War I the region of South Tirol was taken from Austria and given to Italy. The people who lived in this mountain region were not asked, but suddenly they were considered Italians.

When Mussolini came into power, there was a strong emphasis on Italy and Italian language. South Tirol was now called Alto Adige, the names of the places were changed to be more Italian and speaking German was forbidden.

When Italy and Germany became allies just before WWII, many inhabitants wanted to leave the region and move to Germany. And when the war ended, some of them came back, but nobody ever talked about why people left or what the reasons were for staying behind.

During the fifties and sixties, the region of Alto Adige felt discriminated and wanted more rights. They felt the Italian state should acknowledge the German language and their different culture. Just like in many other regions in Europe at that time, there were groups who thought that violence was the way to accomplish this. Of course the state responded with violence and this lasted several years.

It is against this background that Francesca Melandri's book is set. This is her debut novel and she wrote two other books since then. She is very good at using a piece of Italian history that is not that well known, and use it for her story.

In this story, Eva is the daughter of Gerda. Gerda's family is firmly rooted in the Alto Adige region and has experienced many of the situations first hand. Gerda was a beautiful young lady when she became a kitchenmaid in one of the large hotels and she works herself up to being a chef. This was not easy, since she was also pregnant without being married. (this was in the sixties)

Later she gets into a relationship with Vito, a police officer from the south who is stationed in Alto Adige, but the political situation is not right for this kind of match and Gerda breaks it off.

Now, Eva is a grown woman, and she gets a message from Vito, who is now an old man on his deathbed. Eva takes the train and journeys through the whole of Italy to Calabria, to see the man who was closest to a father than any other man.

The book alternates the story of Eva in the train and the story of her family and everything that happened.

I like how Francesca Melandri always puts her characters first, and although there is a lot of explaination about the (political) situation and the historical background, this is necessary for the understanding of the story.

It is fascinating to see what happened, and I must confess I did not know much about this. Eva sleeps is a well written book with a beautiful story about a fascinating part of Italian history. The only thing I did not like as much was the ending, as it felt a bit rushed. And I would have liked to know more about Vito, since he was by far the most sympathetic character in the book!

Original Italian title: Eva dorme
Published in 2016

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Summer turns into Atumn





I saw all this beauty when I went for a walk last week (one of the days with sunshine, not when it was pouring with rain!). Lovely to see the last remains of Summer, but already some traces of Autumn.
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