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

Archive for January, 2016

Happy 257th Birthday Robbie

Categories: Burns Night
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Robbie Burns was born on the 25th January 1759, which would make him 257 years old.

 

Video by Eric Windhorst

Being of Scottish decent, I would like to share some happy and blurred digital memories of an unforgettably brilliant Britsoc Burns’ Night 2016— the annual celebratory tribute to the life, works and spirit of the great Scottish poet  at the British School of Amsterdam on Saturday 30th January 2016.

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Tonight’s celebration, like past Burn’s Nights,  had a unique group character, which distinguishes the Britsoc celebration from every other. The gathering has plenty of haggis, neeps and tatties to go around, and some have their favourite Scotch tipple to keep them warm.

I know I did…

The Britsoc Burns Supper is littered with individual talents within our mists who have their own special flavour of captivating storytelling, singing and poetry.

I have to say that John Cameron-Webb  is slowly turning into a pop star.  His band ‘The McVities’ were tighter than my aunt  Meg’s Scottish purse. Anika was in splendid voice, and combined with their violinist  took it to a level of musicality that I haven’t felt since seeing Fairport  Convention live—one of the most innovative and influential British bands of the late 1960’s and are still recording and touring today. The lead singer during their greatest period was Sandy Denny who was in my opinion the greatest female vocalist of that or any era.

John Richardson (with some memory help from Dee Bodle)

Expat Poetry | Impoverished conversation by Dave Thomas

Categories: Poetry
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Impoverished conversation

spaghetti letters tumble

jumble in Tetris

Letris falling

appalling, bereft of emotion

commotion, passing through the motions

of oceans

of scalding verboseness

closeness, sentiments starched

parched, tapioca still talking

hawking in a

ratcheted rut

 

© Dave Thomas

Short Story | The girl without a face

Categories: Short Stories, Words
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Dave

By Dave Thomas

Another evening, same meal. I stand dutifully at the table corseted in my Sunday dress. Ma and pa stab at the lacklustre potato chunks on the large communal plate. Pa’s worn face has a doleful gaze. Ma’s is harder to read.

Our oil lamp shines like a Christmas star above the table. As if the nooks and crannies of our hovel have anything to hide! Just a few ladles and a painting adorn its dank walls.

We all wear the same drab earthen blue, the ladies’ flaccid bonnets doing their best to look white and not grey. My aunts have skin like the bark of knotted willows. Mine is still the bark of a silver birch sapling struggling to survive.

The clock strikes seven. Ma and pa continue to eat without exchanging a word while my two aunts natter incessantly about all and sundry but nothing in particular, their speech punctuated solely by sips of insipid coffee.

Caught between babble and silence I look beyond ma and pa to the painting on the wall, a present from a would-be-preacher, a newcomer to these parts.

Pa pushes the plate towards me. I listlessly pop the starchy lumps into my mouth gulping coffee to wash the blandness away.

Full but not satiated I gaze out of the window into a night darker than my hair is black. My eyelids fall and I dream inside our painting. I’m the blond-haired girl in turquoise-azure dress laughing outside with the boy in crimson red.

Mangled English from a Round World

Categories: Fun, Language, Words, ZINE Magazine
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In an Amsterdam hotel:

GUESTS ARE REQUESTED NOT TO SMOKE, OR DO OTHER DISGUSTING BEHAVIOURS IN BED.           
           
On the menu of a Swiss Restaurant:           
OUR WINES LEAVE YOU NOTHING TO HOPE FOR.         
 
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In a Tokyo Bar:          
SPECIAL COCKTAILS FOR THE LADIES WITH NUTS.      
 
Hotel, Yugoslavia:     
THE FLATTENING OF UNDERWEAR WITH PLEASURE, IS THE JOB OF THE CHAMBERMAID.      
 
Hotel, Japan: 
YOU ARE INVITED TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE CHAMBERMAID.       
 
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In the lobby of a Moscow Hotel, across from a Russian Orthodox Monastery:
YOU ARE WELCOME TO VISIT THE CEMETERY, WHERE FAMOUS RUSSIAN AND SOVIET COMPOSERS, ARTISTS AND WRITERS ARE BURIED DAILY, EXCEPT THURSDAY.          
 
A sign posted in Germany’s Black Forest:  
IT IS STRICTLY FORBIDDEN ON OUR BLACK FOREST CAMPING SITE, THAT PEOPLE OF DIFFERENT SEX, FOR INSTANCE, MEN AND WOMEN, LIVE TOGETHER IN ONE TENT, UNLESS THEY ARE MARRIED WITH EACH OTHER FOR THIS PURPOSE.
 
Hotel, Zurich: 
BECAUSE OF THE IMPROPRIETY OF ENTERTAINING GUESTS OF THE OPPOSITE SEX IN THE BEDROOM, IT IS SUGGESTED THAT THE LOBBY BE USED FOR THIS PURPOSE.           
 
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Advertisement for donkey rides, Thailand:            
WOULD YOU LIKE TO RIDE ON YOUR OWN ASS?          
 
Airline ticket office, Copenhagen:   
WE TAKE YOUR BAGS AND SEND THEM IN ALL DIRECTIONS.  (Just Like British Airways!)      
 
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A Laundry in Rome:  
LADIES, LEAVE YOUR CLOTHES HERE AND THEN SPEND THE AFTERNOON HAVING A GOOD TIME. 
 
And finally the all time classic:
Seen in an Abu Dhabi Souk shop window: 
IF THE FRONT IS CLOSED, PLEASE ENTER THROUGH MY BACKSIDE…

Texel Island Discs | Feb 2016

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

Top Ten Tunes for Texel   

By Dee Bodle

I never realised how extremely difficult it was going to be to pick my 10 tracks, but it did get me thinking back to the tracks that have got me to where I am today, so I started with my first ever purchase…

1 I bought this with my pocket money and I had to save for a while before I could buy it and I remember playing it over and over again in my bedroom to the extreme of knowing all the words and giving my parents a singing rendition whenever it was played.  I also found that the B side – One Fine Day was a real bonus so two for the price of one. I suppose this record rings true when you are young, but it still has a place in my heart.

Sweet Talking Guy – The Chiffons

2 Another contender for my affections is this one as it captures in essence my youth and it was played that much that I am surprised that I did not wear it out!

Build me up buttercup – The Foundations

3 When I was looking for a record to play on my wedding day this was my first choice as it can be played with or without the words and I just love the way it takes you away to another place when you listen to it.

A Whiter Shade of Pale – Procol Harum

4 When my children were little I went on to love Motown and it became part of my life buying so records and LPs to play whenever I had a minute to spare and it has been so difficult to pick just one from this era but after seeing the Four Tops in Concert I went on to play this over and over again.

Reach out and I’ll be there – The Four Tops

5 Cherish and the lyrics of the song have stayed with me for a long time and whenever it is played it takes me back to those days when I needed transporting to a beach to forget about everything.

Cherish – Kool and the gang

6 As my children grew older my daughter started to sing this and I just melted and fell in love with it, and it holds a real place in my heart and reminds me that your children grow up very quickly.

The Rose – Bette Midler

 

7 I do not mind telling you that I had a crush on Michael Ball when I saw him in Les Miserables which I have now seen many times in English and in Dutch. This record however has been sung by so many as I remember watching the Toppers in Concert in 2011 sing it and I was watching The Voice UK when a vicar sang it so it just goes to show that it can be a favourite of many.

This is the moment – Michael Ball

 

8 They first sang this on a show called Soldier Soldier back in the 80s and I know it was originally by the Righteous Brothers but I prefer the Robson and Jeroen rendition as they just capture the moment when they sing it and of course Simon Cowell did not do too badly out of it either.

Unchained Melody – Robson and Jeroen

 

 

9 If I had to choose a female singer that I could listen to all the time it would have to be Whitney as she could in my opinion sing anything and I loved whatever she sang but when this was featured on The Bodyguard it brought her to life and now after her death she has left such a great legacy.

I will always love you – Whitney Houston

10 I thought I would finish back in the present day as my granddaughter was performing in a dance concert recently and this was the tune that she had to dance to, so it has grown on me to a point that whenever I hear it I think of her and the fantastic performance she did on the show.

Uptown Funk – Bruno Mars

 

The Hateful Eight | Film Review

Categories: Film and Entertainment
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AndyBy Andy Symmonds

Star Wars: The Force (Un)Awakens

I will have to start this review with the confession that I was not particularly impressed with the recently released Star Wars: The Force Awakens. As a long-term fan of the original Star Wars (IV) I had high hopes, but came away both disappointed and distinctly underwhelmed. The plot and some of the stars (of the acting variety) left me feeling like I had just bungee jumped back to the 1970’s movie. Despite  seriously better special effects it came with with the negatives of an even bigger death star and plot holes. I am also aware that this view leaves me slightly in the minority, but I remain unrepentant.

Hateful Eight gets Ten out of Ten

As a long-term fan of the output of Quentin Tarantino, I also had high hopes for the Hateful Eight, but this time I came away from the cinema once again confident that parts of Hollywood are still capable of producing original, smart and thought-provoking movies that entertain the adult as well as the inner child. The cast is a well constructed mix of Tarantino favourites (Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Madsen and Tim Roth after an extended break) with some new blood. In fact, a lot of blood. As the movie is a Western by Tarantino, blood was always going to be a feature, along with various other body parts.

The movie takes place for the most part in a roadhouse in a very snowy Wyoming, and could almost have be scripted for the theatre as pretty much everything happens in this claustrophobic, simmering environment. The general direction is more serious than previous Tarantino works, but there are still moments of humour, some of them subtle and some not. The characters are all that little bit larger than life, featuring bounty hunters (one of them black – a recurring theme?), a lawman, a female prisoner, retired army officers from both sides of the American Civil War, a mysterious stranger, some guns and the token Mexican and Englishman. The combination of characters, and the quickly evident tensions between them, create a pervading sense of uneasiness throughout, and the plot is by no means easy to predict as it unfolds.

From lefty, Tim Roth, Quentin Tarantino and Kurt Russell pose for photographers upon arrival at the premiere of the film 'The Hateful Eight' in London, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015. (Photo by Joel Ryan/Invision/AP)

From lefty, Tim Roth, Quentin Tarantino and Kurt Russell pose for photographers upon arrival at the premiere of the film ‘The Hateful Eight’ in London, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015. (Photo by Joel Ryan/Invision/AP)

The dialogue crackles from the start, and it quickly becomes apparent that everyone has some sort of secret to hide, and that very little should be taken at face value. For an American director, Tarantino has become the master of extended scenes that deliver, for the audience, through dialogue and camera angles rather than throwing in more and more CGI pyrotechnics. Characters are given the chance to develop as the story unfolds, and there are some flashbacks that assist this process. Characters also die as the story unfolds; this in itself will be of little surprise, but there is one sudden death that was more entertaining (judging by the audience reaction) as a potentially large name morphed neatly into a bit part, which I felt was a lovely piece of subtlety.

If you’re looking for a movie with a smart script and a memorable cast that really do it justice, then this is going to be an excellent way to spend three hours. That might sound like a long time, but it flew past in the dark. There is also the danger that it might provoke some thought at certain points, although this may not be the case for all. If, however, you enjoy lots of explosions in space, and don’t worry too much about plot integrity or continuity then Star Wars may just be the way to awaken the force within yourself. There is even the danger that you will enjoy both…

Britsoc Chairman’s Report | Feb 2016

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Dear Britsoc members and friends,

You’ll be pleased to know that our Christmas Charity Ball raised over €3,000 for the VUmc: VU university medical enter. Our next big event is the unmissable Burns’ Night on 30th Jan 2016.  Like the Christmas Ball, this popular event sold out straight away.

You’re all probably looking to keep your new year’s resolutions, so I have some options for you.  If  you’re looking  to get a bit fitter, then you are welcome to join our Badminton, Squash and Scottish Dancing clubs—they are all looking for new members.

Please also take a look at our Events Calendar or Meetup page for details:

I have some exciting events on the horizon that include:

  • An exclusive G&T and whisky tasting which I hope to announce very soon.
  • This year we celebrate Shakespeares 400th anniversary (and St David’s day!) on the 23rd April. Tickets will go on sale soon for that event.
  • In June we have the Queens 90th Birthday.  I hope to arrange a High Tea Garden party to coinside with this event.
  • For Rugby fans, we’re really looking to organising an event around the Six Nations this year, which promises to be more competitive than ever.

Our social media is going strong with over 1,100 people on our Facebook page and 300 people on our Meetup site.  With an ever growing list of interesting events we can hopefully attract more people.

And don’t forget that becoming a Britsoc member is now free. Simply sign up here to get advance notice of events—which sell out really fast— and get on the reading list of our free monthly Britsoc Magazine. Written by our tireless expat reporters and bloggers.

We are always looking to get some more volunteers and organisers.  In the very near future, I will announce an event that will hopefully attract people who are willing to help us organise events.

I’m looking forward to seeing you soon at one or more of our events.

Nick Nugent

Chair

Email me here

The Spanish Masters | Hermitage, Amsterdam

Categories: Art and Culture
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AlisonBy Alison Smith

 

5f8b2e9ad29af152e7a15c3ede46430bI love the sense of calm I always get when I enter the courtyard of  The Hermitage in Amsterdam.  It’s as though the bustle and rush of the canals outside suddenly switch off and you can hear the birds sing.  The same sense of calm pervades the Hermitage building.  I was there last Saturday, too early for tourism to ruin the peace, and just in time for an early lunch with my Zine colleague, Dave Thomas, followed by a leisurely wander around the exhibition of  The Spanish Masters, which is currently showing until 29th May 2016.

There was a choral concert going on somewhere in the building as we kept getting a waft of sweet voices as we ate lunch.  The Hermitage has a lovely café where even the self-service section serves decent food.  Despite most tables being full, there was an air of calm and the low buzz of polite conversation, which makes you feel like you should also chat in hushed, civilised tones.  Not the place for a raucous, boozy lunch, but that wasn’t what we had in mind, so we tucked into freshly made sandwiches and tried not to slurp our soup too loudly.

Onwards to the exhibition, and I was curious to see how it would be presented as the information booklet mentioned Spanish artists mostly from The Golden Age, with a smattering of Picasso via Goya.  Quite a span of time to cover then.

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The introductory rooms build up the picture of a Spain moving away from Moorish influences in a religious sense but shows how art continued to reflect the highly elaborate and intricate patterns seen on Moorish architecture and interior design. There is a lovely painting, typical of El Greco, of two long-faced apostles, which is worth a look.

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Onward to the Great Hall and the main part of the exhibition concentrates on the Golden Age and the period in Spanish art history where to be noticed by the royal court you had to paint religious themes and the more pain, suffering and piety shown on the faces of the saints, the better.  This part of the  exhibition hall is divided into the four major schools that emerged at that time, each with at least one  Master at the helm; Murillo and Zurbaràn in Seville, Ribalta in Valencia, Pereda in Madrid, and Giordano and Ribera in Naples (Yes, these were the days when Naples was considered to be part of Spain)

Compared to the paintings in the introductory section, it was interesting to see how art moved away from the static, frieze-like depictions of religious morality to more realistic, rounded portrayals of human anatomy, albeit still fixed in religious fervour.  Then along came Velàzquez, whose paintings and influence makes up the fifth part of the main hall exhibition.  Velàzquez is shown to be the maverick painter, the rebel who chose to paint real people in their everyday lives and break away from the religious themes.  He paints the guys at the local bar, wrinkles and all.  I love a good maverick story and the art world is full of them.  Painters who refused to conform to the order of the day.  Velàzquez’s faces aren’t marble-like creations of impossible beauty but careworn workers faces with lines on their skin and blemishes and imperfections.

WOA_IMAGE_1Upstairs and the time moves on quickly.  We cut to Goya, albeit briefly, and the exhibition has some of his interesting and best political etchings. He is known for his depiction of violent scenes and the etchings on show “Los desastres de la guerra” (The disasters of war) record the horrors of the Napoleonic War and leave you under no illusions as to his opinion of the savage cruelty which took place. There is one Goya painting, a rather sad but beautiful portrait of an actress who died shortly after he finished the painting.  Being a big fan of Goya, I was a bit disappointed not to find more examples of his work.

From Goya we pass on to more romantic paintings with traditional Spanish subject matter. Matadors in elaborate, brightly coloured costumes and Spanish ladies in traditional lace. Not much flow here but an interesting introduction of colour and light techniques and obvious influences from other artists such as Ingres and Toulouse Lautrec.  It points out that the artists were international travellers who were influenced by what was developing in the art world of foreign salons.  Brush strokes become bolder and the style more abstract.

The exhibition ends with Picasso, a true Spanish Master, though the collection on show isn’t his best work.  It gives a taste, which is how I would describe the exhibition.  It’s a taste of Spanish art through the ages.  For more detail, I’d have to direct you to Madrid…or the Hermitage in St Petersburg, which apparently has more Spanish art outside of Spain than any other country.

Entrance is € 17,50 for adults and € 2,50 with a Museumkaart.  Your ticket also gives you a free audio tour, an optional music tour and entrance to the Portrait Gallery of the Dutch Golden Age which is running concurrently.  Not bad value for money and The Hermitage is always a joy to visit.

Hermitage Exhibition Website
Spanish Masters from the Hermitage. The World of El Greco, Ribera, Zurbarán, Velázquez, Murillo & Goya

The exhibition features masterpieces such as The Apostles Peter and Paul (1587–92) by El Greco, Velázquez’s Portrait of the Count Duke of Olivares (c. 1638), Murillo’s Immaculate Conception (c. 1680) and Goya’s Portrait of the Actress Antonia Zárate (1810–11), in addition to paintings by their pupils and later painters, up and including Picasso. Together they tell the story of the rise and glory of Spanish art in the Golden Age, which would continue to influence art into modern times.

Leek and Bacon Quiche | Cooking Coach | Feb 2015

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By Karen Vivers

Leek and Bacon Quiche

I have this thing about ‘Having Something In’.  Sounds vague I know, but what I mean is I get nervous at the thought of having visitors and nothing to feed them.  I’m sure it’s about how I grew up.  I heard the words ‘Oh, I’ll need to make sure I’ve got something in’ so many times it has stuck in my brain.  It could be said when we knew people were coming, then it was with purpose, or it could be more of a mused thought of the knowledge that people always seemed to be popping in and out as mum scribbled down her shopping list.  It has left me with a slight panic if I have ‘nothing in’ and a feeling of contentment when I know I have ‘something in’.

Then there’s what you should have in.  It could be something you buy, biscuits, snacks etc.  But, that really is a cop out.  In our house the rules were that there had to be a pot of soup on the go, or at least soup that could be heated up (home made broth of course).  Then there had to be enough things like tins of salmon, cold meats and cheese, chutneys and pickles  to make up sandwiches.  And most important of all, baked goods.  This would normally come in the form of a of some kind of sweet tea loaf.  I carry on this tradition to some extent, although I must confess, I don’t always have ‘something in’ but I do my best.  And as my mum did, it is very often a tea loaf, but sometimes I like to have other options, and one of my favourites is quiche.  Great to eat fresh from the oven or to have as a bit of lunch when somebody pops by

Preparation Time:  40 minutes

Cooking Time: 1 hour

For this recipe I use a springform cake tin that has a diameter of 28cm / 11 in.  and is 6cm / 2.5 in.  in height.

Ingredients for 6 to 8 Servings

For the Pastry
A little unsalted butter, a couple of tsps should do it, just to grease the tin.
400gr / 14 oz.  ready made puff pastry.

For the Filling
1 x tsp olive oil
2 x medium sized leeks, cleaned thoroughly and chopped finely
2 x large garlic cloves chopped finely
250gr / 0.5 lb smoked bacon chopped into small cubes
8 x large eggs
200ml / 6.5 fl. oz. crème fraîche
2 x tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
¼ tsp nutmeg
200gr / 7 oz.  grated mature cheese like cheddar, gouda or gruyere
2 x medium tomatoes, sliced thinly
Some salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Not too much salt as the bacon can be quite salty.

 

Method

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 200°C/400°F.
  2. Roll out the pastry until it more than fits your cake tin. Grease the tin with the butter.  I find the easiest way is to take a bit of the paper in which the butter is wrapped and use this to wipe around the inside of the tin.
  3. Lay the pastry into the tin gently, and still being gentle but firm make sure it fits neatly into the edges. Make sure you have enough pastry to hang over the top of your tin a little.  Don’t press it over the rim, just let it hang loosely.  This gives a rustic finish and allows for shrinkage of the pastry during cooking.
  4. Blind bake the pastry for about 20 minutes. I do this by placing some baking paper on top of the pastry and then pouring over dried beans to weigh it down.
  5. Whilst the pastry is having its first bake you can make the filling. Add the oil to a frying pan and heat it on a medium high heat.  Fry off the bacon for a couple of minutes until crisp.  Add the leeks and garlic with a little salt and pepper, stir through, set to a medium low heat, cover with a close fitting lid and cook until soft.  This should take about 15 to 20 minutes.  Stir from time to time just to check that the mix is not sticking – if the heat is not set too hot, it should be ok.  Check for seasoning and adjust if need be.  The amount of salt you need will depend on how salty the bacon is.
  6. Mix the eggs, crème fraîche, nutmeg and thyme, salt and pepper in a bowl – I use a metal whisk for this.
  7. Once the pastry has been blind baked, remove the beans spread the leek mix gently and evenly over the pastry base. Sprinkle over the cheese, also evenly.   Hold back about a little of the cheese to sprinkle over the top of the quiche.  Pour over the egg mix carefully – you don’t want to splash it in as it will disperse your leeks and cheese making some areas a little sparse on the tasty filling.
  8. Lay the sliced tomatoes carefully over the top and sprinkle the remainder of the cheese.
  9. Cover the quiche with tin foil and put it back in the oven to back for about 45 minutes or until it is almost set.
  10. Remove the foil and bake for a further 10 to 15 minutes to brown the top and completely set the filling.

Tips and Variations

  • If you want to avoid the pastry shrinking, once you have lined the tin, place it in the fridge for about half an hour. As I go for a rustic look with this quiche I don’t bother with this step.
  • You can use this method with almost any sort of vegetables. Some need a bit of cooking, others for example spinach (works really well with goats’ cheese) you can just add raw.  It’s a great way to use up left over vegetables.
  • When cooking or sweating down the leeks, try not to get too much colour on them, ie. don’t turn them brown. It doesn’t matter that much if you do, but it is nice to keep the pale green colour.

Karen Vivers, originally from Scotland, has lived here in Amsterdam since 1997, and has set up the Cooking Coach to help inspire people to get back into the kitchen.  The basis of the cooking lessons are easy, tasty, healthy recipes.  Each course starts with a free introduction session, to make sure that you only cook what you like to eat.

As well as cooking lessons, Karen offers Culinary Tasting Tours in Amsterdam, is a passionate food blogger, writer, author of “Love Food, Live Healthy”  and works freelance as a Business Consultant, specialising in small and medium food businesses, helping them get started, grow and deal with commercial challenges.

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Love Food, Live Healthy is ideal for those of us who really enjoy our food, but want to eat consciously without compromising on flavour. Packed with over 100 recipes, this book has lots of practical cooking and healthy eating tips. Designed for cooks of all skill levels, whether you love cooking or just love eating! 

The Cooking Coach 

Love Food, Live Healthy

www.thecookingcoach.eu

Mobile : 06 1424 0009

Email:     karen@thecookingcoach.eu

Beth’s Book Blog Feb 2016

Categories: Beth's Books, Books
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By Beth Johnson,  Boekhandel Van Rossum

 

When compared to the complexity and size of Bone Clocks, David Mitchell’s new book Slade House is a slim and accessible ghost story. This makes it an excellent introduction to the work of this skilled and many-facetted British author – one of the best of our day.  There is something mysterious about the beautiful garden and home concealed between a high wall in a dilapidated town outside of London.  Every nine years someone disappears at the end of October in the vicinity of this house.  Don’t be surprised if you recognize characters from other works and other worlds of Mitchell.  The master spins his web of storytelling craftily and draws us into his spheres of good and evil.  Another masterpiece!  A fan writes that is feels like  “a board-game designed by M C Escher on a bender and Stephen King in a fever.”

 

strangler-vineThe Strangler Vine was recommended to me by a bookseller from Daunt Books, a shop I haunt when I am in London.  Miranda Carter, author of an award-winning biography of Anthony Blunt and wife of the economic  journalist and fiction writer John Lanchester, has launched herself into literary thriller writing with an adventure in colonial India in the 19th century.  The hapless young Ensign William Avery, always British, ever in uniform, is paired with the intelligence agent gone native, Jeremiah Blake, and sent off to track down a British author who has gone missing in a jungle where Kali-worshipping Thugs are undermining British rule. This is a romp of a read which includes a tiger hunt and high adventure. The sequel, Infidel Stain, reunites the detectives in Victorian London where a series of murders in Drury Lane requires investigation.

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Many authors explore memory but Debra Dean’s The Madonnas of Leningrad is a brilliantly told story of an aging Russian woman now living in America who cannot hold on to the events of her present, such as the approaching wedding of a grandchild, but who relives her experiences working in The Hermitage Museum in Leningrad during the gruelling, three year long siege of that city in World War II.  As the artworks are packed up and removed for safekeeping, Marina creates a memory palace of each painting as she wanders, starving, through the rooms of the museum, gazing at the empty frames left hanging on the walls.  A lovely, moving work first published in 2006.

 

Euphoria by Lily King coverLily King’s book Euphoria was one of the New York Times’ top ten for 2014. It is the feverish, scintillating tale of three anthropologists  striving to come to grips with the culture and societies of various tribes in the bush of New Guinea. Loosely based on a 1933 field trip to the Sepik River made by Margaret Mead, her then husband, and her future husband, it is a taut tale of new ideas in understanding other cultures – and a love triangle.  Mead was a highly emancipated thinker with a personalized approach to studying groups of people and King has written a brilliant novel about a part of her life.18089902

 

The Hotel on Place Vendome is popular history at its best, impeccably researched and full of  anecdotes about the people who colour our views of the past.  Written by Tilar Mazzeo, a professor at Colby College in Maine, this is the history come to life of The Hotel Ritz in Paris. From its establishment in 1898 through the risqué 1920s to the war years when Joseph Goebbels declared that The Ritz would be the only luxury hotel in occupied France, it became the watering hole of royalty, glamorous film stars, the writers of the Lost Generation.  French ministers, English leaders, Nazi officers, the crème de la crème of French fashion in the form of Coco Chanel who seems to have played on both sides of the war, spies and double spies, Ernest Hemingway who took over “his” hotel and in boorish fashion hauled the best wines out of the cellars to celebrate the Allied victory….. this is larger than life history, drawing on international sources.

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.
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