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

50 Shades of Brown


50 Shades of Brown


By Andy Symmonds


Before you ask, this is not the more colourful sequel to Fifty Shades of Grey. It’s an introduction to the seasonal specials that are produced every spring and autumn by the brewers in the Netherlands. Also to a lesser extent by the Belgian and other brewers around the world. I have to confess that the original plan was to visit the Bokbierfestival in Amsterdam. This plan went astray at the hands of the Rugby World Cup semi-finals. Drinking bokbier whilst supporting South Africa seemed so appropriate. With a dose of hindsight, this was not the ideal platform while planning to attend a beer festival.

Bock beer is a strong lager originating in Germany way back in the 14th century. It was originally a dark, malty and lightly hopped ale brewed in the Hanseatic town of Einbeck. This style was then adopted by the Bavarian brewers of Munich in the 17th century, who adapted the style to the new lager style of brewing to make the new beer an early hybrid. Einbeck was pronounced ‘Ein bock’ by the Bavarian locals (a billy goat in German), and the beer ended up being called simply a bock.

To this day, bok beers are produced around the world, usually linked to the season or religious festivals such as Easter and Xmas. This is again linked to tradition. Bavarian monks drank bok beers as a source of nutrition during periods of fasting. Knowing this does open up the possibilities of  (yet another) new diet for people to try if they tire of eating what a caveman would have eaten, or avoiding carbohydrates at all costs. Our focus is naturally on the beers brewed in the Netherlands, as they are relatively easy to find.

Every autumn, the bars and shops start to feature these delicious brown beers that vary in strength (% alcohol) from an almost refreshing 6% to a slightly worrying 11.5% (Imperial Dubbelbok from Brouwerij Emelisse). The supermarkets seem to stock an increasingly broad selection of beers these days, so you can find a rich selection of bokbiers in your local Albert Hein. All the big players are represented this year (even Heineken join the party with their Tarwebok), but the refreshing news is that more and more of the smaller breweries are now getting supermarket shelf space.

The highlights of 2015 to date have been the beers from Brouwerij ‘tIJ (IJbok), the Bok from the Jopen Brouwerij, and the Brand Bok. Brand are making a good range at the moment, which also includes a tasty IPA. This leaves me to declare that the Best of the Boks so far in 2015 has been the La Chouffe Bok 6666. This is well worth looking for and an excellent beer, as could be expected from the team at Brasserie D’Achouffe. It has a fresh, fruity nose with a lovely roundness, and it’s not so strong (6.666% alcohol) by the usual standards of the brewers.


British Society Christmas Ball Theme

Iconic Britain?
by Alison Smith

The theme of this year’s British Society Christmas Ball (Sold Out) is “Iconic Britain”. When I Googled this and looked at the images, I was unsurprised to find pictures of Union Jacks, Red telephone boxes, Black Cabs and Red double decker buses.

It got me thinking about what makes something truly iconic? According to Webster an icon is something which is:
a :  widely recognized and well-established <an iconic brand name>
b :  widely known and acknowledged especially for distinctive excellence <an iconic writer><a region’s iconic wines>

This gives leave to thinking that an icon can be an object or a person. To adhere to the definition “widely recognized” though we have to assume that a true icon is globally recognisable, not just in the country of origin, and what about being well established?

Iconic-Britain-shutterstock_110201744_webHas longevity got anything to do with becoming an icon? How else can an icon-in-waiting become well established?

As far as the British Icons found in Google images are concerned, red double deckers and black cabs etc. tick all the boxes. Instantly recognisable, tick! Been around for years, tick!

But what about people?
The Queen and  Sir Winston Churchill could be described as iconic, each for their own reasons, as they are instantly recognisable in image, word and deed, and they are established symbols of Britishness beyond the UK.

But what about Princess Diana? Or Twiggy?

I think they are also considered to be British icons but their longevity is not to do with length of life or time in the spotlight. In this case I think  it’s also to do with a lasting association. Princess Diana died young but made a deep impression on the country’s psyche and is instantly recognisable around the world. Twiggy represented an era of the swinging sixties, when Great Britain was at the centre of a fashion and music revolution, and her mini skirted, gamine image became a symbol of her age, an icon.
It’s funny, but a lot of what we might consider to be iconically British comes from the 1960’s.

Think of the music, The Beatles, The Stones, The Who  and The Kinks. The fashion, Mary Quant and mini skirts, hippy chic, Kings Road and Biba, not forgetting the cars, the E-Type Jaguar and of course the Mini.
I’m sure each decade has its own icons, Punk Rock in the 70’s, Margaret Thatcher and the power dressing 80’s, but I think the 60’s icons seem to be the first to spring to mind when British icons are mentioned.
The Christmas Ball this year has been called the Iconic Britain Ball and the first thing that came to my mind was all things Austin Powers, the swinging sixties and all that great music. It’s a black tie affair, so I don’t expect to see many mini skirts, but I’m curious to find out what’s in store.


Sent from my Mary Quant iPad


The Xpat Files | The Untruth Is Out There

It’s A Conspiracy!!

By Andy Symmonds (we think)

You do not have to spend much time browsing the internet to find a rich assortment of conspiracy theories covering an equally rich assortment of subject areas. We thought that it would be interesting to look at a few of these to see if any might have some truth behind them.

Bilderberg Group – this was a natural starting point, as this originates in the Netherlands. The first meeting was held in the Bilderberg Hotel in Oosterbeek in 1954. The original idea was to bring together leaders from European countries and the USA to stimulate cooperation on political, economic and defence issues. This group still meets annually, with participants being mainly bankers, politicians, directors of large businesses, board members from large publicly traded corporations and the occasional head of state.  Conspiracy theorists from both ends of the political spectrum claim that these meetings have the goal of imposing capitalist domination with the long term goal of a world government.  In reality, the main problem appears to be a lack of transparency and accountability which is ironic as the high levels of privacy are what attract most of the participants. The economic forum held in Davos is probably not dissimilar but attracts zero fuss, so the bad reputation is possibly due to a lack of communication.

Mars Bar found on Mars – quite where this story originates from is unknown, but this story has about as much credibility as other (relatively) famous Mars Bar story linked to Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull in the late 1960’s.

Everything is deep fried in Scotland – this is a widespread theory that may have some origins in reality, and may possibly be linked to our previous conspiracy theory as there were rumours of deep fried Mars Bars. Tests were recently carried out where a range of different foods were deep fried assess how good there were to eat once battered and fried. The winners were deep fried dry-roasted peanuts and shortbread. The losers were deep fried pickled eggs (anyone really surprised?) and a sausage roll. Whilst this theory seems to have gone past the conspiracy stage, we have to admire the dedication of the volunteers that tasted the deep fried products in pursuit of the truth.

Elvis has not left the building – rumours of sightings of the King continue to flourish from various parts of the world, but the only one that came even close to formal verification was that he was spotted working in a chip shop by Kirsty MacColl.

Moon landings were faked – the latest conspiracy doing the rounds is that adding a something extra terrestrial such as and alien life form or planetary body to the conspiracy really increases its credence. The counterpoint to this is that keeping such an event secret with many people involved is in reality, impossible. The days of killing all of the participants are long gone, and even this may be a conspiracy theory in itself (such as the Egyptian tomb builders that were slaughtered to keep the location / contents safe).

VW Diesel engines are clean – this conspiracy theory has recently been laid to rest, but just as nature abhors a vacuum, this was replaced by the theory that VW engineers had deliberately used software to disguise the real level of emissions under test conditions. This clearly would never be allowed to happen at a large, responsible manufacturer…..

FaceBook and Google want to destroy the concepts of personal privacy and data protection – this is clearly the most ridiculous conspiracy advanced yet but it does seem to be gaining some traction in certain EU government circles.

The European Parliament is the last bastion of democracy – this theory has to be debunked as MEP’s appear to be so far removed from the real world that they may soon also qualify under the extra terrestrial rule previously mentioned. The EU government can also be linked to the recent VW theories as the vehicle testing standards in the EU are about as rigorous as the FaceBook privacy settings.

The internet is awash with a bewildering array of conspiracy theories so this perusal of just a few will hopefully give an indication of the variety of ideas that are generated. If you look hard enough you may be able to find a conspiracy theory to cover most topics, so happy hunting!


Paraprosdokians of the Month


By Alison Smith


Paraprosdokians (Winston Churchill loved them) are figures of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected. 


  1. Where there’s a will, I want to be in it.
  2. The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it’s still on my list.
  3. Since light travels faster than sound, some people appear bright until you hear them speak.
  4. If I agreed with you, we’d both be wrong.
  5. We never really grow up, we only learn how to act in public.
  6. War does not determine who is right – only who is left.
  7. Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit . . . Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  8. To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism.  To steal from many is research.
  9. I didn’t say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.
  10. In filling out an application, where it says, ‘In case of emergency, Notify:’ I put  ‘DOCTOR’.nobodycare
  11. Women will never be equal to men until they can walk down the street with a bald head and abeer gut, and still think they are sexy .
  12. You do not need a parachute to skydive.  You only need a parachute to skydive twice.
  13. I used to be indecisive. Now I’m not so sure.
  14. To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target.
  15. Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.
  16. You’re never too old to learn something stupid.
  17. I’m supposed to respect my elders, but it’s getting harder and harder for me to find one now.


Screenshot 2015-10-25 14.54.52

Giggle of the month

Er! U avin a giggle m8?


By Alison Smith


Our Ali digs up the funniest bones of the month




Texel Island Discs | Oct 2015

Texel Island discs

Marooned for eternity on Texel Island in the North of Holland, Nick Nugent, the new chairman of Britsoc, chooses his favourite 10 discs to take with him to keep sane.

By Nick Nugent

I guess there are a many ways to pick the top 10 songs you’d take to Texel.   They are songs I like, but maybe not my favourite songs, but each has a personal significance to me.  They are ordered in sort of a chronological order how I came across them.  As with a lot of people, the music from my youth sticks with me the most and so not many modern songs make it to the list.


  1. Van Halen – Why can’t this be Love

You may know that in the late 80’s early 90’s Van Halen went through a hiatus with “Diamond Dave” lee Roth leaving the band to pursue a short solo career.  They brought in the “Red Rocker” Sammy Hagar for a few pretty successful albums.  Although my first ever 7 inch I bought was Jump, this is the song that sticks with me the most.


  1. ELO – Turn to Stone

With their orchestral rock music, I have always been a fan of ELO.  I guess this is my favourite track, as I remember constantly selecting this on the jukebox in the pub where I played pool with my friends during my sixth form.


  1. The Wedding Present – My Favourite Dress

This was my sister’s favourite band of the late 80’s.  They are known for their angst ridden lyrics, and 1000 mile per hour guitar playing.  I had never been to a gig before and I had booked tickets for Level 42, my favourite band at the time and I decided I needed to know what is was like.  My sister was going to this gig at Liverpool University student Uni and decided to tag along to get the feel of it.  The gig also featured the La’s who had just released “there she goes” and were arguably a bigger band.  Nevertheless, it was these guys who stuck and this is my favourite track from their album Tommy.


  1. Stone Roses – Made of Stone

Growing up near Liverpool there was a tradition of music, but during the late 80’s it was Manchester, particularly madchester bands making the biggest impact.  I saw all of the major Madchester bands just as they were starting except the Happy Mondays.  My memory is a bit sketchy on this one, but I seem to remember during a shopping trip to St Helens, the nearest major shopping town, I went into HMV and heard this track.  I’m pretty sure I only had my bus fare left, but I was so taken by this track I decided to buy it and walk the nearly 4 miles home (in the rain!)

  1. Whitesnake – The still of the night

Although I was into rock music from a very early age, this song was the one that got me into the heavier side of things.  This was the last album that Adrian van den Berg the Dutch master guitarist could play on as he injured his wrist while writing the next album.  Adrian was known for his epic riffs and driving guitar sound.  He lives back in the Netherlands, I believe somewhere near Enschede, and released a new album last year.


  1. Level 42 – Heaven in my Hands

I had seen Level 42 on their Running in the Family tour, their most highly successful album of all time when I was at sixth form.  The song which is my favourite from that album was “to be with you again.”  However, during my university period they had released “staring at the sun” which contained this track.  At the time, I had starting competing for the university at lifesaving competitions.  Somewhat like modern athletes, I would listen to this track on my walkman before swimming to boost my performance.


  1. Metallica – Enter Sandman

After playing their guitars at hypersonic speeds for most of the previous albums the Metallica guys wanted to slow it down, but still sound has heavy.  Bob Rock, most famous for producing much softer rock bands, was brought in to try to make this sound.  By all accounts it was a fractious relationship, but the result is their most successful album.  Enter Sandman, who epitomizes this slow, but heavy sound they were looking for.  I did consider Creeping Death, but I think this is the one for that most reminds of all the dingy rock pubs I ended up in the 80s and 90s.


  1. Megadeth – Holy Wars

Meanwhile, Metallica reject Dave Mustanes crew were still at it will hypersonic riffs with their album Rust in Peace.  To be honest I could have picked 4 or 5 off this album but Holy Wars with the intro riff which captures the spirit of the whole album in the first 30 secs is the one for me.

  1. Felix – Don’t you want me

This is probably the song I most remember as exited my Metal phase and went on to my clubbing phase.  This is the one I think most got me hooked on electronic music, which is what I listen most these days.  This has recently had an update by the newly crowned #1 DJ’s in the world Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike which I think shows what impact it has had over the years.


  1. Ferry Corsten – Back to Paradise (Flashover Mix)

I had to include one of the many Dutch DJ/producers in my list.  They have had such a massive influence on the whole electronic music scene.  In the end it was a toss up between Armin van Buuren and Ferry.  However, I still remember my Radio one Essential selection mixes from the early 90’s mixed by Ferry.  This is my absolute favourite from the recent three-part Hello World EP.


A postcard from… Cape Verde.

By Dee Bodle

Well firstly, for those of you who do not know anything about Cape Verde it’s situated off the northwest coast of Africa, floating 500 kilometres off the coast of Senegal. The Atlantic isles (there are 10 of them) are known as the African Caribbean.

My experience of Cape Verde in September this year was that the beaches are out-of this world. Waves can be heard crashing on the beach all the time. We visited the island of ‘Boa Vista’, which means ‘beautiful view’. The golden sandy beaches hold the coastline for some 55 kilometres, and in my eyes the beaches easily rival those of the Caribbean.

When I mentioned going to Cape Verde to my son I got a blank response. He rang me to say he had found it, but then asked “Which island?” There are several of them. Boa Vista is the eastern most island of Cape Verde. We were going for an All Inclusive chill out time, and that’s just what we got. There is not much to see on Boa Vista, but it’s known for its marine turtles and traditional music.


Cape Verde is an up and coming destination, and I didn’t know what to expect. I had read lots of reports on the internet before booking with Arke (now TUI). Firstly, I must say we had a fantastic, relaxing holiday. When we arrived at the airport, however, I didn’t know what to expect. It was very basic, and the bus ride to the hotel did not fill me with confidence. Until we got nearer to the complex. There we saw tarmac roads, and a view of our complex that was spectacular. It looked like sand castles and, of course, that gorgeous beach.

Boa Vista has a very warm and consistent climate nearly all year round. The staff at the RIU Touareg (Hotel) were very welcoming and friendly. There was a full day of entertainment, with really enjoyable live shows in the evening. Our room was spotless, and we had a fabulous choice of food from several restaurants around the complex. We had such an amazing time, that we are going to do it all again next year. This time we are going to try out the Island of Sal.


Sent from my iPad next to the gorgeous beach




No Sex in the City

Contributed by Carol Moore

So, after living for a number of years in Amsterdam, predominantly being single, I thought it high time to conquer the fears and go forth and meet the eligible bachelors of Amsterdam.  First step was to look at the ever-changing world of internet dating. What a minefield it can be out there! However, if you are fairly specific about what you do, and do not like, this helps greatly! Several winks, nods and likes later, I was pleased to see that I had received some equally in return. But do you spend time reading someone’s text or just plump for someone who “looks” nice to you with nothing written about themselves? I went for both, based on gut feeling. 75% I would say are a complete waste of time, but the remaining 25% – well there is something there!

Next step – date night! With the promise of a fun and interesting evening, I donned my (any) day best, which in Amsterdam basically consists of a “top and jeans” being your capsule wardrobe from weddings to workwear, and set off to meet the suitor! Tip. Always be clear on when and where you are meeting, as whilst sat waiting at the platform of the impending date’s incoming train, do not get distracted by looking at the latest tacky Facebook update and missing the call asking where are you at?!  Strolling down to (re)meet the guy in question filled me with a touch of hesitancy, the kind when you walk in the gym in your baggy ass clothes and see the general clientele consists of 18-year-old Baywatch candidates in super tight, sexy clothing and wanna walk straight back out. You feel as attractive as a wet dish cloth!

The greeting (of course 3 kisses, affectionately planted by an almost complete stranger) goes well and we move onto where to venture for a liquid refreshment. Said date asks if we should have a coffee first…are you absolutely out of your mind!!? I’m itching to get that first alcoholic beverage down my neck to calm the nerves – it’s not called Dutch courage for nothing!  After strolling past many watering holes that look “a bit too busy”, which in reality means I’m not overly familiar with them and seem way out of my comfort zone, we find a bar. Thankfully, the atmosphere is pretty good, it’s reasonably full, although there’s still some seats and tables vacant, and there’s a good level and type of music. So I go forth and conquer – well at least the seating arrangement…. Conversation flows a little like the fluitjes (also a first!) being consumed: steady, civilized and compact. Not sure if the date gets my humour, or whether there is a major lost in translation moment, but my mind starts to drift on what I’m having for dinner the following evening. A couple of hours pass and I decide it’s a reasonable time to finish the date off.

Conclusion: four fluitjes consumed, two and a bit hours spent quite pleasantly – i.e. didn’t feel the will to throw myself down the bar stairs, and hit the tequila! But unsure if I should to go for a second…                                      

RAF Vulcan bomber last flight 1

Last of…flying Vulcan bomber

THE LAST OF…The Flying Vulcan Bomber

By Dee Bodle

The last flying Vulcan bomber is causing quite a stir in the UK as it will take to the skies for the final time this month. The Vulcan is best known for its efforts during the Falklands war in 1982, where it carried out the longest ever raid. It has since then been popular at airshows, but experts have now said that it has to stop flying.

The Vulcan bomber has a very unique shape and it has a very distinctive earth shaking roar when it takes off. It was built in the 60’s in a factory in Greater Manchester but now resides at Robin Hood (Doncaster Sheffield) Airport. As part of its farewell tour it flew over an aircraft manufacturer in Brough, East Yorkshire and it was recently the ‘star of the show’ at several Airshows all around the UK but now it is due to end its final flying season.

The ‘Vulcan to the sky trust’ had raised over 2 million annually to service and operate the aircraft, but after major engineering backers withdrew their support it has now been grounded. Robin Hood Airport will now host ‘The Vulcan Experience’ a chance to get ‘up close and personal’ to the Vulcan, were you can meet some of the aircrew, engineers and view personal recollections, which are on display in the hangar with the aircraft.


A Brief History. British Club of The Hague

By John Richardson. Zine editor (at night), and marketing copywriter (by day)

Welcome to a new series for the Zine called ‘A Brief History’.

We expats are usually only here in the Netherlands for a short period, and some of us make this our home, but nonetheless we all leave a brief footprint in the sands of time.

It was my very great pleasure to meet Sue Macfarlane, Chairman of British Club of The Hague, at the Reception last week at the British Ambassador’s Residence in the Hague.  Her friend, Jenny van Hengel, who wrote “Our Dutch Launching Place” last year, recently sent Sue an article on the Club – not very long – which Sue hopes we will be able to add to our magazine. Of course Sue, here it is…

The British Women’s Club was founded in 1928 when thirty women decided to form a club for British women living in The Netherlands. Before the Second World War the British Women’s Club was primarily a luncheon club, meeting at monthly luncheons held at venues such as Restaurant Royal and Hotel Twee Steden in The Hague. The library was started in 1939 in a room on the fourth floor of the Damesleesmuseum on Lange Voorhout, but this had to be closed when the German occupation began in May 1940. The committee decided to close the club for the duration of the war; in 1946 the club was revived by members of the original committee and soon had over 200 members.

97803a0580af767184023c220d35ce9dFrom its inception the BWC raised money for good causes – the earliest beneficiaries were the two British Seamen’s Missions in Rotterdam. Since then the club has raised money for more than 110 charities, both in The Netherlands and abroad, and continues to do so to this day.

In 1951 the library and regular luncheon venue was moved to the Park Hotel on the Molenstraat, where the club met until 1960. Lunches were also held in other restaurants including the Kurhaus, Hotel des Indes and Restaurant Royal. Club activities included: excursions; talks and demonstrations; courses; children’s parties; teas; coffee mornings; charity sales; fashion shows; balls and other evening events; choir; bridge drives; play-readings; and (children’s) sports activities. Some

club activities have ‘spread their wings’ – such as the Cecilia International Choir, which started life in 1976 as the British Women’s Club Choir.

The BWC had a number of different meeting places over the years; in 1960 the club rented one room for the library above the ‘Arbeid Adelt’ shop on Noordeinde 92. However, with a membership of 699 and a limit of 25 persons in the clubroom at any one time, a move was made in 1975 to a suite of rooms above the Bruna bookshop at Passage 61, the site of the present Novotel. The club then moved to four rooms on the top floor of Sociëteit de Witte, Plein 24, its home from 1986 to 2008.

Screenshot 2015-10-24 14.15.26In 2006 the British Women’s Club became the British Club of The Hague and now admitted men as members. In 2008 the BCH decided to leave De Witte and, for the next three years, found a welcoming home with the American Women’s Club in Scheveningen. But, in 2011, when the AWC decided to sell their clubhouse, the BCH moved to its present meeting place – the Pastoral Centre of the English Speaking International Roman Catholic Church in Bezuidenhout.

Our Dutch Launching Place: a History of the British (Women’s) Club of the Hague from 1928, is available for €25 from the club.