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

Archive for June, 2015

Tea Break

Categories: British Consular
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Tea Break is the British Consular Newsletter | June 2015 edition

Tea Break provides regular news crumbs, tips and snippets from the British Consulate-General Amsterdam.

It’s distributed amongst the consular staff and British expats in the Netherlands.

Tea Break Newsletter
Download the British Consul Newsletter here

Content for Tea Break is  collected by John Cameron-Webb (and his staff), British Consul for the Netherlands.

The newsletter is produced every quarter by John Richardson, owner of the English language writing service John the Copywriter.

John also writes, edits and designs newsletters for CADS and The British Society of Amsterdam.


83-year-old man dances man at Dutch electronic dance festival

Categories: Music and Theatre
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This 83-year-old man dances like he isn’t a day older than 30 in footage from an electronic dance festival in Holland.

A video has emerged of an 83-year-old man dancing energetically to music at an electronic dance festival in the Netherlands.

In the footage, captured by a bystander at Edit Festival in Haarlem, Johan de Vries can be seen dancing in front of crowds of young revellers.

Known locally as the ‘Grandfather of House’, Johan has been showcasing his dance skills at festivals for several years and, according to local news reports, used to be a ballroom dancer.

“No wonder Holland is the number one country when it comes to electronic dance-music,” the filmer later wrote online.

“Dance is in the genes of the Dutch. At Edit Festival in Haarlem, where international DJ’s like Sasha, Danny Howels and the guys from Slam performed, this 83-year old man knew the moves.

“Oh Yeah! Upon asking what he thought of the festival he said: ‘It’s still early. I am waiting for the DJ’s who play harder music”.


By Leon Siciliano, video source Newsflare

Expat Poetry |Ebbing

Categories: Expat Poetry
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Tuesday afternoon

in this sleepy outpost of Scunny

village shop closed      and both pubs too



only the church provides refuge

paint peeling, Mothers’ Union banner fading

altar vestments unchanged in thirty years



Grandma’s house is so toshed up

we scarcely recognise it

barking garden dog prevents a peek inside



so we walk along the ebbing river

and leave

through poppy-strewn fields


© Dave Thomas 2015

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Benjamin Arthur | The British Photographer in Amsterdam – Britsoc Sponsor

Categories: Britsoc Sponsor/Advertiser, Photography
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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.

Chairman’s Message | June 2015

Categories: Britsoc Chairman, Britsoc Magazine
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By Ian Cherington


Dear members,

Regretfully it seems that we will not be holding our popular “Mass Blind Date” event this year, as we have no volunteers stepping up to organise it.

I sincerely hope that this will change and that we can maintain the level of dedication to our Society.

Our events cannot happen without the efforts of our members and we are very grateful for all the time and energy spent by our teams.

We have been in close contact with the organisers of the recent Rugby 7’s tournament, held in Amsterdam over 3 days, where we featured the event here in the Britsoc Magazine and had a special offer for tickets for our members. I was happy to see some of you who took advantage of the deal and enjoyed the  sunshine, great sport, and maybe a beer or two. Hopefully you recognised my voice, enjoying my role as stadium announcer – a fun way to spend 3 days! My proudest moment was managing to get all 2000+ spectators to clap the intro to “We will rock you”.

If I can manage just a fraction of the participation from our members, our events and purpose as British Society will be assured. Let’s work together on this.

I wish you all a great spring/summer and hope to see you at our outdoor activities such as tennis, golf, squash and sailing.

As always, check the Britsoc Events Calendar for details.


Best regards,

Ian Cherington


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Expat Poetry | Feral Nuns

Categories: Poetry
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By John Richardson, copywriter

Feral Nuns





unvirgin Mary and her 20 dogs of war

running towards me

convent hens out for a bit of prenuptial yoke

piercing blackened eyes with unreligious intent


a black boy collapses to his knees

“Save me sister” he cries

“Fuck off you cunt” howls the pregnant sister

wedding veil on top go her habit

fag in mouth

fags in all their mouths






their unrestrained joy leaves a boiling wake

it tosses me like an ungovernable emotion on to the wall

it’s depth crushes my lizard loins






they pass

I never recover


© John Richardson 2015

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Expat Poetry | Hardknott pass

Categories: Poetry
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Hardknott pass

Audis, Minis, battered Fords,

snake toward me

as their male occupants

invariably succumb to my allure


gears grind

frustration bites

adrenlin flows full  throttle

and  expletives  hit  the  dust

as brash egos in steel stallions

stare failure in the eye


let them revel in their achievement

on soft summer days

as when winter comes   and I

glisten in my prime

none dare caress me


© Dave Thomas 2015


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Nick’s Nosh | June 2015

Categories: Nick's Nosh
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Cooking Class with Mik the Chef

By Nick Nugent

I arrived on a beautiful sunny day in a location that is not far from the middle of nowhere – an old army barracks that had been taken over by a number of arty types and eco warriors.  To set the scene, here is an excerpt from Mikael’s rather impressive CV, which I have shamelessly lifted from his website :

Born 1959 in Gävle, Mikael lived in Sweden for 12 years, then moved to Lausanne Switzerland, where he started his career as a chef with an apprenticeship at the Lausanne Beau-Rivage Palace Hotel *****. Having worked in different hotels and countries, Mikael came back to Lausanne and, after some years, started his own catering / party service (1988). In August ‘96 he sold the catering business and moved to The Netherlands where he worked for  KLM in-flight catering. After that he worked as product developer in the gastronomy industry.

Since it was in the middle of nowhere, most of the people coming got hopelessly lost and were quite a few minutes late.  Luckily, I met one of the other participants getting off the bus, and so between us we worked out how to get there.


Mikael is a bit eccentric to say the least.
We started off with a glass of prosecco with some frozen berries and peas(!) in the sunshine outside while we waited for all to arrive and he explained the menu to us.

In summary this is what we were going to cook:

  • Home baked bread
  • Asparagus soup
  • Home smoked mackerel on a purple potato salad with salted capers and a mustard dill sauce.
  • Wild goose, stewed and roasted with an “ontbijtkoek“ sauce, green cabbage in a garlic cream sauce and roasted ‘forgotten’ vegetables
  • White and dark chocolate mousse millefeuille with fresh fruits and raspberry coulis with Nepalese pepper

I think the price was discounted at €48 per person, and we could have a limited amount of wine during the preparation time plus as much free tea or coffee as we wanted.  We could also buy additional wine for what he called a “reasonable” price.

Before we started any cooking, we were treated to his life story over an amuse of shavings of celeriac with truffle oil and black Hawaiian salt.  This was another funky idea, which he explained comes from his training all over the world. In his words: “I apply all my experience to give it my own twist. Fusion-confusion cooking!”


The schedule was roughly the following:

4pm-7pm  glass of bubbles/ pick plants outside/ cooking  (mise en place) ·
7pm- 10 o’clock (approximately), finish cooking and begin eating.

During the introduction he explained about his philosophy of food. He likes using wild animals such as “Schiphol” geese, which are considered a pest, and to use local, honest “eco-correct” products.  He also began to explain how he does not like to waste anything, and in a stock pot was all sorts of vegetable shavings and bits and pieces of animals.

Nick Cooking4
outside 2
Nick Cooking3
Nick Cooking5
kitchen view
Nick Cooking6

There were five of us and there was work for ten, as he normally only accepts a minimum of ten people.   His method for dishing out the jobs mostly consisted of walking around and giving the nearest person the next role.  I ended up with the goose, which had to be cooked two ways.  I had to brown off the confit legs and wings, then make a stew of them with aromat’s like star anise, cloves etc. Onions and carrots were added, followed by stock and red wine.  After this had reduced considerably, some chopped up ontbijtkoek were added, which were used for the final thickening.  For those of you who are not familiar with it, this is a type of light gingerbread.  Again confusion cooking!  In the meantime I had also begun to brown off two crowns of goose in a wok.  This was quite physical work due to the size and awkwardness of the two birds in the pan.  The goose kept spitting hot fat at me as well so dodging this was also a job.  The goose got to a very dark brown before being put at 70⁰C in a portable oven.  Then I was released for other duties which mostly involved filling my wine glass up, but I did manage to help with smoking the mackerel, cooking the cabbage and a few other bits and pieces.  We were a good team however and  I think he was surprised how fast we were working as we had a lot of time to talk and get to know one another.

After most of the cooking was done, the preparation for service and laying of the table took place.  Everyone chipped in plating up and there was a great feeling of camaraderie. Then finally we got to eat.

So, a very brief overview of the food:

Asparagus Soup – had some seared asparagus in the bottom for extra flavour.  I am not a big fan of asparagus at the best of times but this was pretty tasty

Smoked Mackerel Salad – This was very good and very summary.  I enjoyed this one a lot.

Goose 2 ways – Well the stew turned out to be ok, even with ginger bread in it and the roasted goose was like duck and still pink even after 2 hours in the portable oven!  Good dish – check out the pictures.

Mousse millefeuille – I think we had a problem with measurements on the dark chocolate one as I think it had split somewhat, but still tasty.  The white chocolate mousse was great.

I really like this sort of social event and,  if you want to try one yourself, then look no further than these pages and our Cooking Coach, Karen Vivers!



Cooking Class-Private functions only
with Mik the Chef
Oude Haagseweg 75
1066 DC Amsterdam

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Britsoc Photo Lesson #11

Categories: Photography
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Let children, above all, be themselves


By Benjamin Authur, Photographer

BritPhotShot of the Month

I was lucky enough to shoot a client event in Los Angeles last month. After two days stuck in a hotel conference room, I was glad to land in sunny, windswept Malibu where I caught up with an old school friend who is busily making his fortune in LA.

He has a wonderful 7-year-old daughter and she’s is a real natural in front of the camera. The trick in this case was just to let her do her thing and simply be there to capture it. So the lesson today is simply this; when shooting children let them be themselves. Don’t try to control them. Don’t try to pose them too much. Just let them do their thing and let the magic happen.

Clearly you also have to know the right settings, which, in this case, were all about shutter speed; keep that high, the ISO low and work the aperture setting accordingly. With this relatively new 50mm 1.4 lens from Nikon I’m finding I can be ready for almost anything!

Technical details; Nikon D700. AF-S Nikkor 50mm (1.4) @ f/2.8, ISO 200 @ 1/3200s

Benjamin Arthur
The British Photographer in Amsterdam

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


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Beth’s Book Blog June 2015

Categories: Books
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By Beth Johnson,  Boekhandel Van Rossum

flood_of_fire2Flood of Fire, the long-awaited third book in the Ibis Trilogy of Amitav Ghosh, has just been released and I am eagerly devouring it – while trying to savour every word of this impeccably researched tale.  The characters we first met in Sea of Poppies and River of Smoke recur in this saga of the opium trade between India and China. The third book opens in 1839 with the British Foreign Secretary ordering a colonial expeditionary force in India to descend upon China and reinstate the trade which the upright Commissioner Chin has banned. The plot is rich in characters and immensely complex so I will not share the details here but the threads of action from the two previous novels are cannily drawn together in this culmination. Ghosh is a craftsman and a master storyteller. Each volume can be read separately as the reader is cleverly reminded of past events – but I do recommend spending your summer enjoying the complete series.  An absolutely terrific read!

During a lightning visit to London last week, I picked up several books recommended by my favourite booksellers Daunts and John Sandoe Books.  Daunt Books publishes their own selection of “beautiful new editions of lost classics” and Ann Bridge’s Peking Picnic of 1932 gives a charming and somewhat alarming picture of British Embassy life in the early part of the lastpeking-picnic century. Of particular interest to those of us who live transplanted lives is the reflection upon living in two different worlds at the same time which runs through this book. This is a thoroughly enjoyable book with humour, wisdom and adventure.  See also the recent re-issue of Illyrian Spring by the same author.

Arabella at John Sandoe’s thrust a number of books into my hands during our discussion of literature and children’s books.  The result is that I have now discovered the Italian author, Antonio Tabucchi, whose life was deeply influenced by the work of Fernando Pessoa.  Time Ages in a Hurry (Il Tempo Invecchia in Fretta), first published in 2009, is an astoundingly beautiful, idiosyncratic collection of short TimeAgesinaHurry_cvr_7-e1424200509323stories about memory, the filter through which we regard the period in which we live, and the passage of time.  Characters meet and converse – seemingly at cross purposes and without understanding each other – but the effect of the seeming non-communication yields a deeply-layered perception of each person.  Warm, often humorous, the stories confront the ghosts of the past and the mysteries of our own identities and help us as readers to experience “liberation, as when finally we understand something we’d known all along and didn’t want to know.”

I cannot recommend these “retro” books highly enough.  A publisher just called to let me know that the latest Shades of Grey book is coming out.  Think I’ll take a miss! There are so many books more worth your while.

A light and lovely translation from the French of La Femme au carnet rouge will provide you with the perfect beach book for the summer. In The Red Notebook, bookseller Laurent Letellier, discovers a beautiful handbag in a bin on the street and he begins to23129712 search for the owner based on her jottings in the red notebook.  A whimsical plot line with a touch of 71GXQFa+RRLromance.  One reviewed called it “a little like finding a gem among the bric-a-brac in a local brocante.”

The Young Adult scene is booming at the moment and the age bracket now extends from 15 to 35 years of age.  Tahereh Mafi, married to Ransom Riggs, author of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, is lauded for her dystopian series with its romantic overtones.  While the first book, Shatter Me,  is quite exciting, it takes time to adjust to the author’s particular writing style. It is pitched to teen girls – and I’m a bit past that stage!





Beth Johnson is the owner of Boekhandel Van Rossum (Beethovenstraat 32 in Amsterdam) which sells a wide range of Dutch and English books.

Beth's Bookstore | Boekhandel Van Rossum
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