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

Archive for December, 2015

Chairman’s Corner Dec 2015

Categories: Britsoc Chairman
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Dear Britsoc Members,

It was terrible to see the events in Paris recently and on behalf of the British Society our thoughts are with all our French friends.

So winter has finally arrived, and with it comes another one of our biggest events: the Iconic Charity Ball (Sold Out. Waiting List here). This year’s event promises once again to be the social event of the year, and our organisers are busy putting the finishing touches to it.

Two pieces of big news:

  • The society is now free to join, yes you read it correctly completely free to join. To sign up you can register here:
FREE Membership Here
  • We now have a Meetup page for organising our smaller events:
Britsoc MeetUp Page

We have already had a comedy evening, pub quiz, business networking event, and we have started a monthly Curry Club.

Tickets for Burn’s Night on 30th Jan 2016 continue to sell well. At the time of writing there are only 20 tickets left. If you want to go, click below.


Burns’ Night Tickets

We have also been given an exceptional good offer on the Badhius theatre play Sean O Casey’s, The Plough and the Stars.  Members have 25% off the ticket price throughout the 17-20th December run.


Badhius Theatre Tickets

Finally, I will be organising a get together for new volunteers and organisers in January.  If you would be interested to lead, or help run one of our big events, or help set up some new events, I would be delighted to hear from you.

Best Wishes for holiday season and hope you all have a safe and happy Christmas.


Nick Nugent


Email me here

By John Richardson

Great quotes help you fail with hope and dignity, they inspire you to get back on your feet, launch ideas, companies, write books, raise children, keep positive, and lift you up when you most need it.  Self motivation is easy. Acting on it is another story. Great quotes take you to the water, but only you can walk the talk and step up and drink. Fear of failure is your first hurdle. Use it like tarmac to pave the way.



The following quotes were collected by the great Kevin Kruse from Forbes Magazine

1.  Life is about making an impact, not making an income. –Kevin Kruse

2. Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve. –Napoleon Hill

3. Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value. –Albert Einstein

4. Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.  –Robert Frost

5. I attribute my success to this: I never gave or took any excuse. –Florence Nightingale

6. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. –Wayne Gretzky

7. I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed. –Michael Jordan

8. The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. –Amelia Earhart

9. Every strike brings me closer to the next home run. –Babe Ruth

10. Definiteness of purpose is the starting point of all achievement. –W. Clement Stone

11. Life isn’t about getting and having, it’s about giving and being. –Kevin Kruse

12. Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans. –John Lennon

13. We become what we think about. –Earl Nightingale

14.Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore, Dream, Discover. –Mark Twain

15.Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. –Charles Swindoll

16. The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any. –Alice Walker

17. The mind is everything. What you think you become.  –Buddha

18. The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now. –Chinese Proverb

19. An unexamined life is not worth living. –Socrates

20. Eighty percent of success is showing up. –Woody Allen

21. Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. –Steve Jobs

22. Winning isn’t everything, but wanting to win is. –Vince Lombardi

23. I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions. –Stephen Covey

24. Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up. –Pablo Picasso

25. You can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore. –Christopher Columbus

26. I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. –Maya Angelou

27. Either you run the day, or the day runs you. –Jim Rohn

28. Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right. –Henry Ford

29. The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why. –Mark Twain

30. Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.  Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. –Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

31. The best revenge is massive success. –Frank Sinatra

32. People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing.  That’s why we recommend it daily. –Zig Ziglar

33. Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage. –Anais Nin



By Alison Smith


A schoolfriend recently turned 50 and, having commiserated with me when I hit the half century, she called in the return favour and asked me to go with her to Iceland to see the Aurora Borealis to fulfil the number 1 item on her freshly written bucket list.  I thought 50 was still a bit young to be writing a bucket list, but, apparently in her case, it’s a long list, so better get cracking.  Before I could say “ I’ll see if I can get time away from the office”  she’d booked it and we were off.

I was totally in the dark as to what to expect, which was a fitting expectation as so are the Icelanders for most of the winter days.  I’d never ventured further North than Scotland, preferring sunny climes, so Iceland was to be a new experience and I approached it with no pre-formed ideas except a few Google images of snowy landscapes, colourful wooden boarded houses and grey skies.   I also have nothing whatsoever in the way of Icelandic weather gear so had to invest in a pair of the ugliest, but sturdiest, boots I’ve ever seen, lots of grungy looking layers from Bever outdoor shop (why is everything grey, black and beige?!) and a fleece-lined anorak! My application to Country File is in the post.

My friend Denise had it all sorted.  She’d booked an organised holiday with flights, Hotel B&B, airport transfers and a trip to the Northern Lights included.  Iceland is expensive and I heard from other travellers that this is the best way to go.  We added one other organised guided tour to our itinerary as we were staying for 4 days but didn’t want to hire a car.  All the trips and transfers were booked through Gray Line, who I would recommend as they were on time, efficient and the guides were great.

We stayed downtown in the Hotel Centre Plaza which was nicely situated for the bars, restaurants and shops. The main part of Reykjavik is quite small and easy to wander about and was perfectly safe.  There are many good restaurants but it’s quite pricey. To give you an idea, we went to a restaurant called Laekjarbrekka (don’t ask me to pronounce it!) which was really good and offered some Icelandic specialities.  We had the house cocktail,  starters, mains, a bottle of red and a coffee for Kr. 26,540 which is about € 85 a head.

Reykjavic-2tiltshiftOne tip. Avoid the Fermented Shark!  On some menus it’s called “rotten shark” and that’s exactly what it is!  Our tour guide warned us off it, telling us that part of the processing involved peeing over the salt in which it’s preserved.  I have no idea if this was a wind up but we saw some in the market and it smelled of ammonia.  Glad we didn’t choose that then!  On one of the evenings we had a seafood buffet and I did try a bite of smoked Minky Whale, but it wasn’t my thing.  There is plenty of seafood, fish and lamb on the menus, which we really enjoyed but there are also the usual burger places, pizzerias and steakhouses, so something to suit all tastes.


The main event for us was our trip to the middle of nowhere to try to get a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis.  Best time to see it is between 21.00 and 02.00 and you need to be in the middle of nowhere to get a good view.  It has been seen from Reykjavik town centre but you have to be lucky.  Last year was the best it’s been in years with clear sightings right in town and they say they expect the same this winter.  We didn’t get dramatic green skies but we did see it and Denise left a happy girl. If you go to see the Aurora Borealis, which I recommend, I would take a flask of something warming, (hot tea, chocolate, whisky, vodka). You need it as you stand outside and watch the sky for an hour or so and it’s bitter cold at that time of night.

The main tourist trips are the Northern lights (nighttime excursion)  The Golden Circle (all day) and The Blue Lagoon, but you can also walk/climb the glaciers, do a Jeep ice safari, or go whale watching. We didn’t get to the Blue Lagoon, but it’s down on my list for next time.  We did a Golden Circle trip including two hours at the Fontana Spa.  These are naturally heated pools and Icelandic steam saunas (one of which was too hot to sit in!) and the plunge pool to cool off is the lake! (…and yes, I went in!)  The Golden circle tour also includes  a trip into the Pingvellir National Park, where the Icelandic parliament Alpingi was established in 930 AD and where the tectonic plates of Europe and North America meet.

GullfossYou also get to view the wonderful Gullfoss waterfall, if you make it in one piece walking on the sheet ice to the viewing platform, then on to see the Strokkur Geyser at Geysir (yes that’s where we get the word from).  It splurts hot air about 15 metres into the air about every 8 minutes.  The surrounding area is full of bubbling hot springs and geothermal activity which makes you very aware of the volcanic nature of Iceland.  Ice and fire.  Our tour guide on the Golden Circle told us of Iceland’s rather brutal history with most stories ending in a bloody execution.  He also regaled us with Troll stories and described the colourful folklore.  There are 13 Christmas Trolls with great names such as Sausage Stealer, Door Slammer and Spoon Licker, who cause mischief in the run up to Christmas.  The Christmas tradition sounds a bit like the Dutch Sint with kids putting out their shoe hoping for a gift if they have been good but getting a raw potato if they have been naughty.

Strokkur-GeyserIceland is stunningly, breathtakingly beautiful and feels very pure and unspoilt. It’s a great place for a long weekend, very calm and relaxed with really wonderful people.  We had great weather with clear blue skies and crisp icy air.  All the energy for heating and water is provided by the underground hot springs.  This sometimes means the shower water smells a bit sulphurous and the air outside of Reykjavic has a bit of a “country”  smell giving Denise and I a couple of “ was that you?”  moments, but it’s not unpleasant, just different.

I’ll certainly go back and explore some more.


Hints and Tips

If you go in a more independent way and hire a car we were given some useful tips. The roads are good and well maintained but they are icy.  Make sure you get a car with winter tyres with the little spikes on, which is allowed and necessary during the winter months.  Black ice is not unusual but we didn’t slip at all during our travels, which makes me think that the locals have it sorted.

the-icelandic-yule-ladsIf you are travelling independently of an organised tour and are venturing into the wide unknown, there is a service available where you check in and tell where you are going and what time you expect to be back and when you return you log out.  If you get stuck (car breakdown etc) and need help but find yourself stranded with no phone signal, the service will report you as missing when you don’t logout on time and send out a search party to the area where you said you’d be.  Maybe good to know. I don’t know the name of it but I’m sure it’ll come up on Google.

There’s an iPhone app which allows you to make fab pictures of the Aurora Borealis.  Apparently it sets the right aperture etc.  I wish I’d have known about it before I went.  The photos turn out better than the view from the naked eye!

Final tip. Take lots of layers and strong shoes with rubber or textured soles as it’s icy underfoot, even in Reykjavik.  Bobble hats and anoraks are de rigueur in Iceland and I was grateful for my new gear.

Beth’s Book Blog Nov 2015

Categories: Beth's Books, Books
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Beth in her bamboo garden

By Beth Johnson,  Boekhandel Van Rossum



City on Fire, Garth Risk Hallberg

Garth Risk Hallberg has produced the most hyped, latest attempt at the great New York City novel – and although I have yet to finish its 900 pages, the book offers the reader an ambitious and impressive picture of the bleak yet vibrant 1970s city. With Dickensian detail and terrific story lines for each of its many characters, we are reminded of the cycles of poverty contrasted with the fin-de-siecle glamour and glitz of the super wealthy of the Big Apple.  Reviewers have criticized the length of the book but if you are looking for a good holiday read by an author who is already being compared to Don de Lillo and Tom Wolfe (and I would add Ayn Rand), this is the book for you.  An author who is already making good on his $ 2 million advance.

Trigger Mortis, Anthony Horowitz

51mI9KcsUhL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Several authors have taken a stab at re-creating Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels, but none is better suited for that job than Anthony Horowitz whose Alex Rider series for teens portrays the young Bond who is rocketed into work as a spy.  Trigger Mortis makes use of original Ian Fleming material from a never-produced TV series in a wild chase scene at the Nürburgring racetrack which rectifies the somewhat slow start to this adventure. A satisfying episode which feature the return of Pussy Galore, Miss Moneypenny and Bond’s old adversary Smersh, all known from early Fleming films.

Dictator, Robert Harris

The long-awaited third book in the Cicero trilogy is a resounding tribute to the ability of Robert Harris to bring the famous lawyer and orator of ancient 9780091752101Rome alive, based on meticulous research and a lively pen.  Although at the bookshop we shelve all of Harris’ books in the thriller section, his oeuvre is actually an animation or  reconstruction of history –  as in The Officer and the Spy where the banning of Dreyfuss to Devil’s Island is examined with an eye to determining who the real culprit may have been. If you haven’t read the Roman series, start with Pompeii, where Pliny the Elder recounts the build-up to the eruption of the great volcano Vesuvius – not a whodunit but a whenwillit as one reviewer calls this jewel of a recreation.

The three books on Marcus Tullius Cicero date from 2003 when Imperium was published to great acclaim. The first book recounts, through the eyes of Cicero’s slave and assistant Tiro, the rise of the young orator and lawyer to consul of Rome in the period 79 to 64 B.C. Published in 2009, Lustrum is a fast-paced depiction of the power struggles among the elite of Rome as Cicero manoeuvres between Julius Caesar, Gnaeus Pompey, the scheming Catalina and others to save his beloved Rome. The culminating book, Dictator, just out, starts soberly with Cicero’s banishment from Rome, his volatile return and ends with a rocketing climax as this honourable consul strives to salvage his republic from the threats of Marcus Antonius.  Read all three during your holidays!

The Rest of Us Just Live Here, Patrick Ness

Patrick Ness continues to prove himself a young adult author with a creative pen and a varied register. His Chaos Walking Trilogy won the Guardian Fiction Children’s Prize, de Da Costa Award and the Carnegie Medal. More Than This is apocalyptic science fiction at its darkest. His most recent book, The Rest of Us Just Live Here is peopled with radioactive deer, super teens in the margins fighting the mysterious Immortals, and ordinary, flawed teens struggling with OCD, anorexia, growing up in general but who have tremendous loyalty for each other. This is one of the funniest and most tender books Ness has written, with a message about getting on with life despite its adversities. For adults, I recommend his novel The Crane Wife.




Kingdom by the Sea, Mark Zegeling

The blue and white Delft houses and Dutch national monuments produced for KLM since the 1950s (one a year on the date that KLM was founded in 1919) Little_kingdom_by_the_sea_mark_zegeling-188x300have become a status symbol in the international travel world. Mark Zegeling brings us the stories behind these houses several versions of  The Kindgom by the Sea.  The first is a small format walking guide (€ 18,95) with a map of the famous houses of Amsterdam, Delft and Leiden with the locations of more than one hundred monuments which have been the inspiration for the KLM houses.  There is also a list of the 15 oldest cafes of Amsterdam, (dating from 1550 to 1786) should you wish to undertake an historical pub crawl!

Cover porseleinTwo other versions have since been produced, a luxury coffee table book for € 69,95 with stories about the original owners of the houses such as Rembrandt, Anne Frank, the Dutch Marco Polo and other pioneers of Dutch history. A splendid limited edition of this book with a thin porcelain cover of infinite beauty (€ 240 with a certificate of authenticity)MarkPersfoto has recently been produced and can be seen at Boekhandel van Rossum along with a video of the production process.  Perfect for someone leaving  the Netherlands after many years – but I snapped one up for my Dutch husband and we are both delighted!




The Holiday Season!

Boekhandel van Rossum newsletter available next week
With extensive list of reading suggestions for the holiday period. If you do not receive our emails, please sign up to receive this helpful checklist. If you mail us an order, we will wrap and label each gift and have it ready for you in a box. This will give you a chance to visit the shop as well


Beth Johnson is the owner of Boekhandel Van Rossum (Beethovenstraat 32 in Amsterdam). Beth writes about and sells a wide range of Dutch and English books for children, young adults and mature readers.

Beth would also be delighted to receive feedback about her book recommendations.
Send Beth a Feedback Email
Beth would love to hear feedback from you.



Spectre Review

Categories: Film and Entertainment
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By…my name is Andy…Andy Symmonds

Film reviews are not a regular staple of Zine, so we thought we would start with a British classic packed with British elements and head for Spectre, the latest James Bond movies. It might be relevant to point out at this stage that I am a life long fan of the Bond series from Dr. No onwards, but it is only in recent years that the on screen iteration has matched the character originally penned by Ian Fleming. Daniel Craig has brought a much harder and arguably even more cynical edge to this perennial British secret agent with the 00 license to kill and is now viewed by many as matching Sean Connery when the ‘who is the best Bond’ discussion starts.

There are the faintest echoes of Live and Let Die with the scenes from the Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations in Mexico City, but this is where the similarities end. The new James Bond is low on gadgets and even lower in terms of the louche behaviour portrayed by Roger Moore, but the action is relentless even if you can pretty much predict the outcome from the start. Live and Let Die certainly had an opening song with a lot more drama than the Sam Smith tune that opens Spectre but at least the opening credits are almost worth watching for a change.

I’m happy to report that some of the Bond regulars continue to appear with the shaken, not stirred Martini, and the achingly delicious Aston Martin DB10 that more than held its own against the Roman backdrop. The use of the prototypes built during the ill-fated development of the Jaguar C-X75 as the chase car was inspired, so we have two British beauties going head to head (or nose to tail if you prefer serious accuracy) through the centre of Rome in one of the better Bond chases.

As with any James Bond release, there are fights and glorious women galore all set against the backdrop of incredible locations and with the inevitable high octane plot that leaves very few moments for introspection. Daniel Craig manages to combine effortless cool with the ever lurking threat of violence, a blend that effectively underpins the entire Bond franchise. If you’re looking for real plot surprises or the chance to reflect upon the deeper issues of today then maybe the Bond genre is not for you, but if you find yourself looking for a good old fashioned action movie with chases, thrills and spills then book your cinema tickets now.

Iconic food for an iconic ball

Categories: Christmas Ball, Food and drink
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By Kate Murphy

“Don’t throw the past away
You might need it some rainy day
Dreams can come true again
When everything old is new again”

Everything Old is New Again, by Peter Allen and Carole Bayer-Sager

Michelin stardust over the three course menu

ChrisNaylorBanner5On a recent rainy day, I met the man who has been charged with making culinary dreams come true again at next month’s Iconic Britain Ball. Chris Naylor, Head Chef at Restaurant Vermeer in the NH Barbizon Palace in Amsterdam, has strewn a little of his Michelin stardust over the three course menu he has developed for the British Society’s charity ball on December 12.

Making 1960s food new again


The 1960s: cool food; cool women

At first glance, the 1960s doesn’t exactly stand out as the most exciting basis for a memorable meal in 2015. To my mind, the most interesting aspect of the food from the decade of my birth was the Bunnykins plate that I ate it off. How, I wondered, did Chris find inspiration for making 1960s food new again?

“The biggest issue I have is overcoming people’s perceptions,” he explained, pausing to check that I had understood his subtle reference to my own closed-mindedness. “I have identified some really interesting dishes from the time, but I won’t just reproduce them. I’ve tried to make them more modern by adding some surprising ingredients and building up the flavours. We also use different techniques these days for preparing food, and that changes each dish too.”

“The 60s was a time of massive social change and experimentation, including with food. The middle class really developed very quickly during the decade, and people were open to new ideas. They were freer to travel and so were exposed to different ingredients. It was a pretty exciting time I think. The first supermarkets opened in the 1960s too, which gave people even more food choice.”


1625_chris_naylorNostalgia with creativity

Chris Naylor’s menu for the Iconic Britain Ball combines nostalgia with creativity in a way that will surprise you and make you smile. In a different decade we might have even called it a psychedelic experience.

The world on a plate

steamThe prosperity that Britain enjoyed in the decades after the Second World War encouraged us to experiment widely, and not only with hallucinogenic substances and free love. We started going out to restaurants where we learned how to pronounce and eat unfamiliar meals like chop suey and chicken tikka masala. We went on package holidays to Europe and brought wild and crazy kitchen ideas back to Britain – spaghetti bolognaise, cheese fondues, beef bourguignon, black forest gateaux. We began inviting friends into our homes for dinner parties. The more sophisticated among us provided bottled wine for our guests – chianti and Liebfraumilch were a testament to our elegance and worldliness. It was a time of optimism, freedom, fun and discovery.

The immigrants that set up corner stores and restaurants in Britain during this time increased our access to a new and exciting culinary world. One of the most notable and enduring of those restaurants is Le Gavroche in London, opened by Albert and Michel Roux in 1967 after they emigrated from France. It’s fair to say that the Roux brothers, having introduced haute cuisine to our nation, and having kept it there for five decades, are themselves British icons.

Full circle

Somewhat ironically, Chris Naylor did an internship with Albert Roux at Le Gavroche. So, the man who has been influencing Britain’s eating habits since 1967 trained the man who is overseeing our 1960s meal at the Iconic Britain Ball in 2015.

And just like that, everything old is new again.

Chris Naylor, making 1960s food new again.

Chris Naylor, making 1960s food new again.

Are you coming to the Iconic Britain Ball on Dec 12?
If you are joining us for Chris Naylor’s delicious reinterpretation of some iconic British fare, please make sure you have submitted your menu choice


By Andy Symmonds

Readers may have spotted the fact that the regular author of Nicks Nosh is currently distracted by the fact that he is the new Chair of the British Society. Rather than lose this regular slot in Zine editions, we are inviting guest contributors to submit their restaurant reviews for consideration. There is no fee for being published, just the joy of seeing yourself published in Zine.

Send your suggestions to Nick's Nosh
We cannot guarantee publication, but we will give all entries full consideration.


Our first guest review takes us to the increasingly fashionable Pijp area in pursuit of Indian food (a popular theme at the British Society – you may have noticed that the Curry Club is now dining on a regular basis), although the Balti House has been serving great food on the Albert Cuypstraat for many years. As a past advertiser and sponsor of BritSoc events we felt that it was time for a revisit to see if the standards were still at the same high level.


Andy clearly enjoying his Balti night out

We visited on a Saturday evening, and were relieved that we had booked as the restaurant was in full swing when we arrived. We had to wait a couple of minutes to be seated as the previous diners were very relaxed about their speed of payment, but we were able to get drinks by the bar before being seated, and (most welcome) papadums swiftly arrived with some sauces to keep us going once we were seated and preparing to read the menu.

To begin we combined three starters to make our own mixed starter, each of us choosing one element. The final combination was sheek kabab with hot wings and some onion bhaji’s (an old favourite for all of us). The mixture of flavours and textures worked well, the drinks flowed and we relaxed into a gezellig evening.

The other diners in the restaurant were the usual mix of British expatriates seeking a fix of Indian food with other expatriates and Dutch customers. Some guests clearly knew their way around the menu whilst others sought advice from the waiting staff. Everyone seemed happy with the outcome, and we joined the happy bunch when our main courses arrived.

menuThe three main dishes we chose were the lamb saag, chicken bhuna and lamb dansak. These dishes are all from the section titled medium curries, so they would have been ideal for Goldilocks as they were not to hot and not too cold in spice terms. At special request, the dansak was made with madras strength spice levels and this turned out to be my highlight of the evening. The dishes were all well prepared and the lamb in both dishes was succulent and very flavoured. The dansak won points for having lentils that were clearly lentils – so many restaurants serve dansak that is closer to soup in texture that I have almost given in trying to get a good one. Saag is another favourite of mine and the combination of the lamb with the spinach was very good. The bhuna was also consumed with gusto but this dish is a little creamy for my taste, although clearly my companions had no such concern as all three dishes were consumed to a point that left the bowls remarkably clean. The dishes came served with rice and vegetable curry and we all ordered naan breads to help mop up the sauces. Having had starters the side dishes were sensibly restricted to one mushroom bhaji, as there have been more adventurous occasions when we over ordered in the excitement of the moment and left mounds of food behind.

Feeling pleasantly stuffed, the lack of dessert options was almost a relief, even for sweeter toothed members of the party. The lassi was tempting but even that looked like a mission too far, so I rounded the meal off with a tasty bottle of Kingfisher in lieu of something sweeter. As I gently quaffed my beer some later arrivals were served and the smell of the sizzling Royal Tandoori Mixed Grill gently drifted over to our table – a scent so delicious that it was almost tempting to start again. Common sense prevailed but I know what will be high on my list the next time that I visit the Balti House. This was a great way to end a very good evening. The food, service and atmosphere (and company, natch) were all to a high standard yet the cost per person was most reasonable, if slightly inflated by the volume of soothing beers that were quaffed throughout the evening. Recommended!

Texel Island Discs | Nov 2015

Categories: Music
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Marooned for eternity on Texel Island in the North of Holland, Leigh Ann Arthur chooses her favourite 10 discs to take with her to keep sane.

Top Ten Tunes for Texel   

By Leigh Ann Arthur

Marooned on Texel and the songs that I have at my disposal are but ten! Goodness me, what a situation to think on…I feel blessed however that throughout my life I’ve had great opportunity to sing, play and listen to many different types and forms of music. However, that makes the selection process really difficult!

1 I’ll start with a contemporary pop song that is just fun to listen AND dance to and not knowing for how long I’ll be on Texel – dance and happiness will be necessary:

Happy, by Pharrell Williams

2Which makes me think of one of my more memorable Thanksgiving preparations…I had read in Martha Stewart’s “Living” magazine that if you cover your turkey with a mesh cloth and continuously baste it, the breast will stay nice and juicy…well, yes, but it also means that you have to open the oven door OFTEN, which also means that all that heat leaves the oven and causes the turkey roasting time to elongate…of course I didn’t know this until the day – but THANKFULLY, I had my family with me and ABBA and well, a glass of wine, roasting turkey and ABBA, you HAVE to dance!

Dancing Queen, by ABBA

3I can’t say exactly why, but Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” has been a piece of work that sticks with me throughout my life. I saw a ballet in Salzburg based on it – and I have to say it was truly amazing…But, since I look at that as a total piece of work, I’m going with something else;

Marooned, from their Division Bell album

4As a Christian, I also feel blessed to have the honour of leading our congregation in song worship. There are just so many great contemporary Christian songs, it’s really hard to decide on which ones are my personal favourite, so I list here a few that our congregation really loves, cuz if I’m marooned on an island, I’ll want to remember lots of people; family, friends, and my church family too…

Mighty to Save, a Hillsong Worship song

5 Our God, Chris Tomlin


6 Speak o Lord, by Keith and Kristyn Getty and Stuart Townend


7 And of COURSE I have to have one of the songs we had sung at Benjamin (Benjie) and my wedding in 2011:


Praise My Soul the King of Heaven, composed by John Goss as Lauda Anima, and text by Henry Francis Lyte, based on Psalm 103, sung by St. Paul’s Cathedral Choir

8Another song that Benjie and I had sung (solo) at our wedding is “Song to the Moon” from the opera Rusalka, one of my favourite operas;

Song to the Moon, Antonín Dvořak, sung by Lucia Popp, images by Benjamin Arthur

Supermoon from Benjamin Arthur Photography on Vimeo.

9I’ll move on further with classical music, something that has always been very important in my life. So much excellent classical music has been written, yet there are still pieces that I come across that I’ve never heard, here is a recent piece I purchased;

The Firebird, composed by Igor Stravinsky

10My last selection is one that causes me to weep several times through the piece. It’s also one that tells an amazing story…


Messiah, by George Frideric Handel

I’m missing some jazz (Dave Brubeck), a bit of negro spiritual (Jester Hairston pieces come to mind) and all the musicals I grew up with (West Side Story, The Sound of Music, The King and I, My Fair Lady) but again, there are so many to choose from. I hope you enjoy one or many of the songs which are dear to me.

Leigh Ann

Joke of the Month | Nov 2015

Categories: Fun
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By Alison Smith

Three blondes


Three blondes were all applying for the last available position on the Texas Highway Patrol.
The instructor conducting the interview looked at the three of them, and said, “So y’all want to be cops, huh?”
The three blondes all nodded.
The instructor got up, opened a file drawer, and pulled out a folder. Sitting back down, he opened it, pulled out a picture, and said, “To be a detective, you have to be able to detect. You must be able to notice things such as distinguishing features and oddities, like scars and so forth.”
So saying, he stuck the photo in the face of the first blonde and withdrew it after about two seconds.
“Now,” he said, “did you notice any distinguishing features about this man?”
The blonde immediately said, “Yes, I did. He has only one eye!”
The detective shook his head and said, “Of course he has only one eye in this picture! It’s a side profile of his face! You’re dismissed!”
The first blonde hung her head and walked out of the office.
The detective then turned to the second blonde, stuck the photo in her face for two seconds, pulled it back, and said, “What about you? Notice anything unusual or outstanding about this man?”
“Yes! He only has one ear!”
The detective put his head in his hands and exclaimed, “Didn’t you hear what I just told the other lady? This is a side profile of the man’s face! Of course you can only see one ear! You’re excused too!”
The second blonde sheepishly walked out of the office.
The detective turned his attention to the third and last blonde and said, “This is probably a waste of time, but….” He flashed the photo in her face for a couple of seconds and withdrew it, saying, “All right, did you notice anything distinguishing or unusual about this man?”
The blonde said, “I sure did. This man wears contact lenses. ”
The detective frowned, took another look at the picture, and began looking at some of the papers in the folder. He looked up at the blonde with a puzzled expression and said, “You’re absolutely right! His bio says he wears contacts! How in the world could you tell that by looking at his picture?”
The blonde rolled her eyes and said, “Well, Hellooooooooooooo! With only one eye and one ear, he certainly can’t wear glasses.”


The lawyer

The lawyer says to the wealthy art collector tycoon: “I have some good
news and, I have some bad news….”
The tycoon replies: “I’ve had an awful day, let’s hear the good news first.”
The lawyer says: “Well your wife invested €50,000 in two pictures this
week that she figures are worth a minimum of €20 to €30 million.”
The tycoon replies enthusiastically: “Well done…very good news indeed!
You’ve just made my day; now what’s the bad news?”
The lawyer answers: “The pictures are of you with your secretary.”



An Engineer or a Doctor?

An Engineer was unemployed for long time. He could not find a job
so he opened a medical clinic and puts a sign up outside: “Get your
treatment for €500, if not treated get back €1,000.”

One Doctor thinks this is a good opportunity to earn €1,000 and goes
to his clinic.

Doctor: “I have lost taste in my mouth.”

Engineer: “Nurse, please bring medicine from box 22 and put 3 drops
in the patient’s mouth.”

Doctor: “This is Gasoline!”

Engineer: “Congratulations! You’ve got your taste back. That will be €500.”

The Doctor gets annoyed and goes back after a couple of days later
to recover his money.

Doctor: “I have lost my memory, I cannot remember anything.”

Engineer: “Nurse, please bring medicine from box 22 and put 3 drops
in the patient’s mouth.”

Doctor: “But that is Gasoline!”

Engineer: “Congratulations! You’ve got your memory back. That will
be €500.”

The Doctor leaves angrily and comes back after several more days.

Doctor: “My eyesight has become weak.”

Engineer: “Well, I don’t have any medicine for this. Take
this €1,000.”

Doctor: “But this is €500…”

Engineer: “Congratulations! You got your vision back!

That will be €500.”


By Alison Smith


I was looking forward to the Edvard Munch exhibition, currently showing at the van Gogh Museum until 17th January 2016, as his work was being compared to that of van Gogh and I wasn’t aware of the similarities.  I booked an early slot to avoid the queues and signed up for the audio tour.  I had been to an earlier exhibition at the same museum which showed the influences of Jean Francois Millet on van Gogh. Van Gogh reproduced Millet’s scenes almost exactly, but used his own technique and palette (think of The Gleaners, The Sower and Noonday Rest)  but I always thought that Munch was more influenced by German expressionism and I wasn’t really aware of similar subject matter, so I went  prepared to be convinced.

The two self portraits, which are presented as an introduction to the exhibition, show Munch and van Gogh in a similar pose, the artist at work, staring out of the canvas, palette and brushes in their right hand.  If you Google “self portrait with palette” you will find that many famous artists painted self portraits in this very pose; Edouard Manet, Paul Cézanne, Rembrandt van Rijn. So why was I still looking at these two paintings and privately nodding my head? Stylistically, these two portraits are not obviously similar.  Munch’s loose style and thin paint versus van Gogh’s meticulous layering of paint and build up of colour.  It is something in their eyes. A similar expression. Both van Gogh and Munch frown at you with a look of pain and confusion in their eyes.  But more of that later.

The basement floor of the exhibition takes you through the “How” of the link between these two artists.  How did they hone their skills?  What were their influences in common? One answer which looms large is PARIS.

Detail of Edvard Munch’s The Scream, left, compared with Vincent Van Gogh’s The Bridge at Trinquetaille. The artists’ work is being shown in a joint exhibition in Amsterdam. Photograph: Reuters

Detail of Edvard Munch’s The Scream, left, compared with Vincent Van Gogh’s The Bridge at Trinquetaille. The artists’ work is being shown in a joint exhibition in Amsterdam. Photograph: Reuters

Both painters went to Paris to learn new techniques and soak up the bohemian life. In fact they were in Paris at the same time for a short while, though they never met.  Here we see not only similarities of subject matter but also style and technique as they both dabbled in the new techniques of realism, impressionism, pointillism and portraiture, following painters like Manet, Seurat and Gaugin.  Both painters were clearly influenced by Gaugin’s use of colour to express emotion through paint.

As you progress through the exhibition more similarities in subject matter and use of colour emerge, though their techniques and style diverge. Van Gogh’s ‘Yellow House and Edvard Munch’s ‘Red Virginia Creeper could be compared for their use of vibrant colour. Munch’s ‘Kissing Couples in the Park is very similar to van Gogh’s ‘Garden with Courting Couples and it’s clear that Munch felt an affinity with van Gogh’s work. Their techniques remained worlds apart though as Munch adapted a much looser, expressionistic style, using thin paint and vague shapes to depict human forms next to Van Gogh with his meticulous layering of paint to create texture and his more precise brush strokes, loading the canvas with thick dabs of colour.  Van Gogh believed that practice made perfect and often made many versions of a painting before he was satisfied.  Munch, on the other hand, sometimes didn’t paint the whole canvas, leaving parts of it “unfinished”.

Vincent van Gogh’s The Yellow House (1888); and Red Virginia Creeper (1898-1900), by Edvard Munch Photograph: Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam/ Munch-Museet, Oslo

Vincent van Gogh’s The Yellow House (1888); and Red Virginia Creeper (1898-1900), by Edvard Munch Photograph: Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam/ Munch-Museet, Oslo

I thought as the exhibition went on that the comparisons became less visually obvious. Munch’s paintings become more abstract and his themes darker and more nightmarish.  A recurring feature of Munch’s work is a figure in the foreground which seems to pop up from nowhere and peer out of the front of the canvas.  It appears already in his ‘Red Virginia Creeper painting but in later work the figure looms nearer the front of the canvas until it is not even fully in view, just the top of a head, and the form becomes less defined.  His human forms in general become more metaphorical and slightly macabre. His famous picture ‘The Screamis a good example of this.  Originally called ‘The Scream of Nature’, Munch painted it after an experience he had while walking on a hot sultry night with a friend by a lake.

 “I was walking down the road with two friends when the sun set; suddenly, the sky turned as red as blood. I stopped and leaned against the fence, feeling unspeakably tired. Tongues of fire and blood stretched over the bluish black fjord. My friends went on walking, while I lagged behind, shivering with fear. Then I heard the enormous, infinite scream of nature.”    The dehumanised figure in the painting holds his hands to his face in torment.  Munch later described the personal anguish behind the painting, “for several years I was almost mad… You know my picture, ‘The Scream?’ I was stretched to the limit—nature was screaming in my blood… After that I gave up hope ever of being able to love again.”

‘The Dance of Life, painted in 1900 is another example of this. The figures dancing represent the stages of life; youth and innocence, love and passion and the sadness of bereavement. The women are clearly painted but their dancing partners are relatively faceless and the dance is a slow sad affair devoid of gaiety.

Van Gogh very famously went mad and spent much time in mental asylums struggling with his mind. In 1888, van Gogh travelled to Saint-Rémy-de-Provence where he committed himself to an asylum. Here  the style of his work changes dramatically and his brush strokes became a torrent of energy. Although he could not draw and paint for long periods of time without suffering from an attack, he managed to create The Starry Night, one of his most popular works. The swirling lines of the sky are a possible representation of his mental state. This same shaken style is visible in all of his work during his time in the asylum. ‘Wheat Field with Crows’ is another example of an extremely dramatic piece, conveying intense feelings, and is one of his most haunting works. The dark cloudy sky filled with crows and the cut off path seem to ominously point to the artist’s imminent death.

Self-Portrait as a Painter (1887-88) by Vincent van Gogh; and Self-Portrait with Palette (1926) by Edvard Munch. Photograph: Reuters

Self-Portrait as a Painter (1887-88) by Vincent van Gogh; and Self-Portrait with Palette (1926) by Edvard Munch. Photograph: Reuters

For me this is what ultimately emerged as the link between these two artists. They both used their work as a cathartic release, to externalise their feelings and express their angst. Colour is used to symbolise emotions, and vigorous brush strokes to exemplify energy and passion. The subject matter is often a clear metaphor of their state of mind.  Munch was unlucky in love, suffered bouts of deep depression and felt alone and victimised for much of his life. Van Gogh’s decline into madness and eventual suicide attempt, which led to his death, is well documented in the history books. The look of pain and confusion is what I saw on their faces in the two introductory portraits and that sums up to me what these two artists had most common. Both were troubled souls who used art and colour as a way to express emotion.