Britsoc: The British Society of Amsterdam and the Netherlands. Serving the British Expat community since 1920.

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Postcard from The Netherlands

Explorers Awheel

Cycling through the Netherlands with my kids


By Dave Thomas


Almost forty years ago I read Explorers Awheel (Garry Hogg , 1938) a classic pre-war children’s story about exploring the Southwest of England by bike. It had belonged to my father and was written in the year he was born. As my children (Luc aged 12 and Nienke aged 10) have grown up here in the Netherlands I’ve been waiting until they were old enough to undertake a similar adventure with them. And this summer, in a glorious almost rain-free slot of two weeks, we realised my dream.

Dutch-Belgian-Border-at-AchelWe took a modern approach to exploring awheel. No one-man tents and braving the elements each night. Instead, we made use of Vrienden op de Fiets a network of several hundred addresses in the Netherlands and beyond where cyclists can enjoy bed and breakfast in private homes. It is cheap (20 euro per night for adults and 10 euros per night for kids), hassle-free and gives a sense of adventure (where are we staying tonight, papa?).

Just like all good adventures the planning is half the fun. First choosing the addresses to stay each night and then using the 1:50,000 scale cycle maps from Falk  to plan the route using the cycle node network. The more detailed 1:50,000 maps are vital for finding addresses out in the sticks, and for double checking where you are when the cycle node network fails— like it did in the Betuwe region.

BronkhorstMaps in hand and cycle bags full we hit the road early on a Saturday morning. We ticked off our nodes much faster than we expected and arrived at our lunch spot two hours earlier than planned. Daughter Nienke decided that three beers a day for papa was a sensible limit. Needless to say such rules did not apply to ice cream of course. Our meandering route to Belgium over five days took us from Dronten over the Veluwe to Zutphen, through the Achterhoek and behind Bronkhorster-beerP1000293Nijmegen to North Limburg and then through Brabant to Achel (my first homage to trappist beer). After a week with friends camping near Turnhout (they took our camping stuff) we sped back home in 2.5 days so that the kids could start school again.

We opted to stay in outhouses and barns to enjoy more privacy. In Doesburg we stayed in the owners private museum sleeping among a collection of books, toys and other paraphernalia. In Brabant we spent a night in a sumptuous converted barn fit for a king only to be served a breakfast next morning that MacDonald’s would be ashamed of. And in Zeist we had a two-floor small house with all mod cons to ourselves. Our favourite place by far though was our first night at Coby’s. We stayed in a simple outhouse surrounded by an idyllic cottage garden and our hostess was the epitome of warm Dutch hospitality.

All that pedalling is good for the appetite and as our journey unfolded we ate ourselves around the world: Greek, Mexican, Chinese, Italian, French and Flemish but also good old pancakes and ‘patat’. The pièce de résistance? A superb lunchtime salad at a French restaurant  in Harderwijk with ingredients so good that a dressing was superfluous.

Cycle-meadowCycling through the Netherlands is like a narrowboat journey along Britain’s canals. Off the beaten track, seeing things at a slower pace and from a different perspective. We stumbled across the smallest town in the Netherlands (Bronkhorst). Blink and you would almost miss it! In the Achterhoek we passed vast caravan parks reminiscent of those on North Kent coast between Reculver and Herne Bay. The farm we stopped at for lunch in North Limburg had a parking area for horses and a grazing meadow for bikes. In Brabant I discovered you can eat ‘patat’ with piccalilli (wonderful) but finding any cafes open for lunch can be tough. Behind Nijmegen we zigzagged across the Dutch-German border glad that the only long steep hill we encountered was down and not up. And in Baarle-Nassau we savoured our last morsels of Belgian hospitality looking across the street at our bikes parked in the Netherlands.

Coby's-placeYou don’t have to go far or even encounter hills to get a sense of adventure, show some grit and feel elation when you’ve pulled it off. Working with my children, pushing their limits, and seeing them rise to the challenge. All thanks to a long-forgotten tale that my father handed down to me when I was roughly my daughter’s age.


Nick Queens Day

New Chairman’s Corner Oct 2015


Muddy Nick


Hello Everyone,

After Ian’s announcement in the last issue, I decided at the recent AGM to step forward and I was duly elected Chairman of the British society of Amsterdam.  It is a very proud moment for me to be leading this great institution, and I give a warm thanks to Ian for his hard work over the past three years.  One of our regular contributors, Dave Thomas, has interviewed me. If you want to get to know me better, you can read his interview here.

We are about to enter our busiest period of the year with two of our biggest events

November 8th is our Guy Fawkes night.

December 12th  Gala Christmas Charity Ball.

As I write, we have already sold around 450 tickets for the Bonfire Night, and we have one table of ten left for the Ball. Selling tickets this quickly is unprecedented.  I know that organisers for both events would love to have some volunteers to help out. If you are a willing volunteer, then please let me know at:

I don’t want to write a teaser for Dave’s interview with me.  But I do want to summarise some of the things I said to him about the future direction of the society.  Initially,  I would like to talk to as many people as I can to get input about where we want go in the future, and what we do next.  

I would like to organise many smaller events. This will keep us visible alongside the many other social activities in Amsterdam. To help get this up and running, I’m  going to initiate a few things that will make it easier to organise smaller events.  If you have smaller event ideas, I would be delighted to hear about them.  

I will host a “meet the new Chairman” social event sometime in November.  Details to follow soon.  I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible and hearing your point of view.

Somewhat like the President of the US, I have decided to join the twitter world with the handle @COTBSA.  I’m quite new to this, but if you want to follow my tweet then I will tweet you back.

Of course, please also check out the  Britsoc tweet account and the Britsoc facebook account.

Hope to meet you all soon

Nick Nugent

Muddy Nick

Britsoc has a new chairman


Interview by Dave Thomas

Please welcome Britsoc’s new chairman Nick Nugent

 1) Where did you grow up and what is your most vivid school memory?

I’m the son of two proper Scousers. I was born in Rainhill, which is famous for two things:

  1. The largest mental hospital in Europe (now closed)
  2. Where the first steam locomotive trials took place (

My most vivid school memory is from a school rugby match. For my first three years at secondary school, I  played second row in the school team. I was large, quick, but not very skilful. On entering the fourth year, I discovered to my horror that my classmates had all become giants. The opposition has also grown, too. The match I remember was on a cold, windy, raining day. I got bashed around, and didn’t touch the ball all game. Afterwards, I somehow plucked up the courage to tell my Welsh sports teacher Mr Thomas that I no longer wanted to be selected. I’m glad I did because I ‘m much better at swimming than rugby.

2) How did you land up in the Netherlands?

My background is chemistry. I started a Unilever, working as a research chemist at Port Sunlight. Bench chemistry was not my thing, so I switched to sales and landed a job at Philips Analytical. Their headquarters is in Almelo, in the east of the Netherlands. I was a road warrior in the UK for 10 years with regular visits to Almelo for meetings and customer demonstrations. In 2004 I persuaded them to let me do a part-time MBA. When I graduated in 2008 I was offered a position as the Export Business Manager in Almelo. I eventually ended up in Amsterdam in 2011 after getting a new job in a similar area with Agilent Technologies. I now work for a small Canadian software company and I live in Amsterdam West.


3) Which beer should Zine’s Beer Hunter try next?

When it comes to beer I’m really British. I’ve given Belgian and Dutch beers a try, but simply don’t like their sweet, hugely alcoholic, hoppy nature. I prefer British ale. You can get bottles of things like London Pride at Delerium on Piet Heinkade, Café Soundgarden the grungy bar on Marnixstraat and Bar Brouw near the FoodHallen. For draft ale there are only two places: Coco’s has Hobgoblin (but they don’t keep it properly) and Hoopman on Leidseplein has Old Spec, which is kept much better.


4) What’s your Britsoc history in 30 words?

Mike Carn (OBE), Wildshut pub night, Beer, friends, Expatica Fair, 1st Ball – Koppelkerk, Social Fridays, 2nd & 3rd Ball Hilton, Murder mystery dinner, 4th Ball St Olafs, Chair of my 5th Ball, Committee Member, Chairman.

Sorry a little over 30 words.

5) You’re known to Zine readers for your regular Nick’s Nosh column. Where does your passion for food and dining out come from?

I ended up at Birmingham university, which was my second choice,  in a self-catering hall out in the sticks. My uni friends included a few chemists who fancied doing Sunday roast like our mums did. So every Sunday, when there was enough of us, we did a big roast dinner. Birmingham is also where I acquired my taste for curry. During my master’s degree, Ready, Steady, Cook made its TV debut. It opened my eyes to the wider world of food. And the odd posh dinner in a fancy restaurant or hotel as a student is where I learned to appreciate fine dining. Since graduating, I ‘ve  travelled a lot. I always ask for the local dish where possible, ranging from kumis (fermented horse milk, awful) in Kazakhstan, to gesiers (chicken gizzards, sublime) in France.

6) What should the outgoing Britsoc Chairman, Ian Cherington, be remembered for in the Britsoc roll of honour?

Ian did a great job. At the start of his tenure, several tough decisions had to be taken like scrapping the paper version of Zine, and digitising the society. This has made our large events much easier to organise, although it has alienated some people who are less digitally inclined. I’d like to thank him for his hard work.

7) Which book would you like to see Beth review in her book blog?

I used to read science fiction, and I had a real soft spot for Terry Pratchett. Now I tend to read more non-fiction, mostly business-related stuff. I ‘m about to go on holiday and my “light” reading consists of Six Simple Rules by Peter Tollman, and Simple by Alan Siegel. I’m not sure Beth wants to review those though.

8) Full steam ahead or all change? What do you want to see happen with Britsoc over the next year?

The society has always asked itself “what are we here for?” Ian focused on making sure we are known for our large events. Consequently some of the smaller things have fallen by the wayside due to a lack of organisers and interest. I think this is partly responsible for our dip in membership. People’s first contact with Britsoc is now through a big event such as the Ball or Bonfire night, which mostly non-members attend. We have never been able to convert this attendance into membership. We have argued that it makes sense to join the society financially, as you then pay less for various events. However, people seem happy to pay more to avoid the “hassle” of membership. Non-members also attend many of our regular sports and social activities. So the whole membership issue is one of the first big questions I face, and I want to consult the committee about this.

Socially, things have changed a lot in Amsterdam. There are so many expat events and activities people can attend each week. So what makes ours different? How can we capitalise on our Britishness, and create something that it is really worth being a part of?

I think our relationship with English language schools and organisations needs to improve. I would like to talk with them and find out what they’re looking for. I think this would provide a good source of ideas for events, especially for families.

So initially there will be a lot of talking. I want to collect the thoughts and viewpoints from all corners of Britsoc, and from the English-speaking community. All of our major events are well under way in terms of organisation, so nothing will happen there in the short term. But I think you will see small things starting to happen, towards the end of this year.

If you would like to share your views with me then please do get in touch:

9) We have not got you to do a Texel Island Discs yet. So in the mean time, can you tell us what your favourite piece of classical music is?

Rachmaninoff ‘s Piano Concerto No.2 in Cm Op.18 – I. Moderato. Most people would recognise the more famous South Bank show tune Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. This concerto is, however, my favourite. Mostly for the dramatic dark introduction, and then how the theme expands to a more romantic melody. Reprising the introduction with a stronger melody towards the end.

10) In this 24/7 age of social media and instant gratification how do you plan to get people involved in and committed to Britsoc?

As I said above, I think competing for people’s time has become a real challenge in this day and age. Unless you offer something completely different, or dazzlingly interesting, then how can you hope to compete as an organisation? Social media now allows you to find exactly the tribe you are looking for, whether you are into extreme ironing, or guerrilla knitting. Handling such diversity is a challenge for Britsoc, as a more general group. However, we have a healthy 1000 plus followers on Facebook, and over 800 on Twitter. Together with the 4000 odd readers of our web publication Zine/Fish and Chips for the Soul, and around 30,000 unique hits per year on our website. So we are reaching a substantial audience. These platforms serve as a way to get some of our message across. But for smaller events, I will explore using Meetup as well. This is a well-established tool and I think it could help bring some new and different faces to Britsoc. I think visibility is the key, being relevant and interesting. We’ll need to do some experimenting and stick with what works.

11) We’re a pretty cultured bunch at Zine. Which venue in Amsterdam would you like Britsoc’s photographer, Benjamin Arthur, to capture for you?

One of my passions is modern architecture, and I’m a great fan of the Rogers partnership. Their designs incorporate so much energy efficiency and sustainability. So my choice is “The Rock” at Amsterdam Zuid/ WTC.

12) Finally, back to food. What’s your favourite recipe from Karen Vivers, Zine’s resident cooking coach?

Now that autumn’s started it would have to be the slow-braised beer oxtail (British beer though).


Britsoc Chairman’s Blog Sept 2015

Dear members,

Welcome back from your summer rest –I hope that you all enjoyed some down time and did something you always wanted to!

We approach our busiest time of the year and preparations are in full swing. Our website has all details, but you will need to note some dates to be sure not to miss the action.

September 24th is our Annual General Meeting.

November 8th is our Guy Fawkes night.

December 12th sees the return of our Gala Xmas Ball.

We would love to see you and your friends at these events, so please spread the word.


On a personal note, I have decided to pass on the baton of Chairman of this Society.

After a few years at the helm, I am happy with what we have achieved, but feel that new blood is needed to take us on to the next stage.

I believe that we should be taking stock of our status and what it is that we do, why, and for whom.

The new leader should have or make some new plans to revise our position.

The quest to find the right person need not be rushed – I am happy to stay on in name for a maximum of a year or until, in the eyes of the committee and members, a suitable successor is found.

Check the website for ticketing details for the events and see you soon.



Ian Cherington


Inspecting the boat before departure. We had the pinkest boat of Pride 2015!

Gay Pride Amsterdam 2015


By Photographer Benjamin Arthur


The party in full swing

The party in full swing

Showing the love. Pride 2015

Showing the love. Pride 2015

‘Fish n Chips for the Soul’ magazine wanted an inside look at what really goes on during Amsterdam’s Legendary Gay Pride Boat Parade. That’s why we sent our intrepid photographer, Benjamin Arthur, onto one of the boats to find out.

I have to admit to feeling a bit nervous about joining one of the Pride boats for this year’s Boat Parade. Firstly, I’m not gay though have many gay friends. Secondly, I didn’t know what to wear. A worry that is in itself quite gay I suppose!

Our boat is packed full of plastic fantastic pink people

Our boat is packed full of plastic fantastic pink people

Thirdly, hi-spec cameras and boats don’t normally mix well – especially when you throw in the inevitable alcohol that accompanies any big Amsterdam party.

Close up of the boat’s footwear. Can you spot a theme here?

Close up of the boat’s footwear. Can you spot a theme here?

In the end, I needn’t have worried about a thing. My friends – old & new – were incredibly welcoming and delighted to have some proper photos of their big day out. They dressed me up all in pink! And, in spite of the flowing booze and the hot day, everything went off perfectly and nothing got lost in any of the canals. It was an extraordinary day.

All those hours in the gym have to be good for something right guys?!

All those hours in the gym have to be good for something right guys?!

Prinsengracht. Packed, sunny and happy

Prinsengracht. Packed, sunny and happy

Riding ON the boat gives one a completely different perspective both on the actual parade itself but also just on how much this day means for Amsterdam’s large and growing LGBT community. When one is on the canals looking onto the parade there’s a lot of people and it just feels great to be in among such a festive atmosphere. On the actual boat one passes through all those people quite serenely and its pretty overwhelming how packed is the Prinsengracht and the Amstel. I hope the photos capture that.

One of another boat’s Transgender representatives

One of another boat’s Transgender representatives

It just goes to show what a spectacle this is and how Amsterdammers have taken the LGBT community into their hearts. All in all huge props to all concerned and thanks for putting up with the straight guy for one day boys!

Passing through the canals one is overwhelmed by all the people everywhere.

Passing through the canals one is overwhelmed by all the people everywhere.

Benjamin AD sept 2015

Benjamin Arthur | The British Photographer in Amsterdam – Britsoc Sponsor

The British Photographer in Amsterdam



About Benjamin Arthur
I’m a leading independent freelance photographer, working with corporate & individual clients in the Netherlands, Czech Republic, UK and elsewhere. Capturing the spirit of you or your event is my first priority.

Passion, creativity and professionalism
The areas I focus on can be seen in my galleries and I love each individual commission with the challenges they bring and the fun we have together. Passion, creativity and professionalism are the three things above all that I bring to my work. I love it all … from the dreaming and planning through to the execution & delivery. My approach throughout is 1000% focused on you – placing you and your needs at the centre of everything.

Reportage photographer
Successful outcomes are the result of strong relationships. In terms of style, I describe myself as a reportage photographer. I like to work as far as possible with natural light and that applies as much to my portraiture work as it does weddings, events and parties.

I try to blend in rather than stand out
I quietly observe what’s going on around me. Then, when I need to step up for a large group photo, I’m lucky to have a strong voice that can marshal everyone into shot.

Well travelled
Based in the stunning city of Amsterdam, I also regularly work in Prague and will happily travel across continental Europe and the world on assignment. I’m blessed to be married to Leigh Ann who helps me in a thousand ways and is a true partner. When not behind my lens, you’ll find my nose in a book or a saucepan or, too rarely, tramping around England’s stunning landscapes.

I look forward to working with you
So, whatever your photographic needs please do contact me using the details below. I look forward to hearing what we can do together!

Contact Photographer Benjamin Arthur
I try to respond to all enquiries within 24 hours and, during the working week, am available for one on one appointments.


Britsoc Photo Lesson #13

Work with diagonals to create striking pictures


By Benjamin Authur, Photographer

BritPhotShot of the Month

There is an abundance of beauty in Amsterdam, but using it as a photographer to create striking images with people can be a challenge. Couple of tips here from this recent walkabout I did in town.

As we were walking around, I noticed this line of olde worlde shop signs and thought they looked nice. So work with what’s in front of you to bring out the beauty.
Then I placed my client in the middle of the row.
And, lo and behold, the diagonal comes to the fore.
The reason this shot works aesthetically is precisely because of that diagonal, which creates the pleasing line from bottom left to middle of the lower right-hand third.

If you are interested in having you, your family or a friend photographed in Amsterdam why not give me a call?

Technical details: Nikon D700. AF-S Nikkor 50mm (1.4) @ f/2, ISO 800 @ 1/320s

Benjamin Arthur
The British Photographer in Amsterdam

Benjamin Arthur's email
Email Benjamin here with your questions, requests and ideas


Annual CADS boat Trip

Are you a CAD?



CADS is a friendly Anglo-Dutch club in Amsterdam that promotes goodwill and understanding through commercial contacts.



CADS Christmas DinnerFounded over 40 years ago by the British Consul-General and Anglophile business people, the Commercial Anglo Dutch Society provides an informal meeting point for Dutch and English speaking professionals, to help members improve commercial and cultural contacts and promote good practice.

How to join – If you are a Dutch, British or Commonwealth citizen, then you are eligible to apply for membership, subject to acceptance by the Society’s board of members.


Fill in the ‘contact me’ form on our website or email



Beth’s Book Blog Sept 2015



by Beth Johnson, owner of Boekhandel Van Rossum, Amsterdam


51MHqt44whL._SX320_BO1,204,203,200_Elena Ferrante, the mysterious Italian author whose identity remains closely guarded, has been gaining increasing attention in the book world – and her popularity is certainly justified.  Her novel, The Days of Abandonment written in 2002, is the hard-hitting, detailed account of the period after Olga’s husband announces he is leaving her.  It is a raw, unsentimental depiction of loss of family and loss of self, written with a searing touch.  The four Neapolitan novels:  My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and The Story of the Lost Child are all being re-issued this September. Ferrante’s work is quite astonishing!my brilliant friend ferrante Those_who_leave The-Story-of-the-lost-child

T.C. Boyle, the California author who has been forcing me to face confrontational literature since my early 20s, recently spoke to members of the John Adams Institute during an evening at my home.  His latest novel, The Harder They Come, focuses on the paranoid, addicted Adam who fancies himself as soldiering mountain man, HarderTheyCome hc cindependent of modern society.  His idol, the 18th century trapper John Colter who outstripped the Blackfeet Indian pursuing him on foot, is a real-life mountain hero whose statue I encountered across Wyoming and Montana this summer. This 15th novel explores the modern relationship of guns and violence and can be chilling, shocking, and disturbingly revealing about our society today.  Boyle himself is cultured, amusing  and charming with a touch of the Davy Crockett mountain man about him. This is a many-layered, masterful piece of work – if often hard to accept.

wolf-border-coverWolves are popular in literature at the moment.  Rachel Caine, a zoologist working with wolves in Idaho, returns to her native Cumbria to assist a local lord in re-introducing wolves to the wilds of the Lake District.  The story is an ode to natural beauty and the freedom of animals to live in untamed areas; it  touches on the turmoil of human lives, on love, politics and the general public’s fear, outrage and simultaneous delight in blurring the borders between civilization and wildness. Sarah Hall, author of The Wolf Border, has produced a passionate, topical and compelling novel which thoroughly delighted me.

Deborah Moggach, author of  Tulip Fever and These Foolish Things which was made into the hit movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, has just produced a complex but accessible story of four women desperate to protect their secrets but also get their lives back on track. Something to Hide moves across continents, linking the characters in unexpected turns of fortune.  A delightful book, primarily for the ladies.

23270216For ten to thirteen year olds, Penguin has just published the first in a new series of historical thrillers which has left me most impatient for the next instalment! Young Christopher Rowe is apprenticed to a respected apothecary in London just after the restoration of Charles II to the English throne in the 1660s. A rash of grisly murders leads to whispers that a Cult of the Archangel is trying to wipe out the apothecaries in the city.  Full of chemical potions, explosions, wild chase scenes, secret codes and deep mystery, The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands is guaranteed to get your children reading!!