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

Archive for May, 2016

Beth’s Book Blog | May 2016

Categories: Beth's Books, Books
Comments Off on Beth’s Book Blog | May 2016

On Wednesday, May 11th at 3 p.m. Meg will visit Boekhandel van Rossum, Amsterdam

All-books-leftBook-rightMeg Rosoff, the highly esteemed author of Young Adult novels such as How I Live Now, Just in Case, and The Bride’s Farewell, has just been awarded the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, the most prestigious oeuvre prize for Children’s and Young Adult Literature.  On Wednesday, May 11th at 3 p.m. Meg will visit Boekhandel van Rossum to discuss  her newly translated teen book, Picture Me Gone (Mij niet gezien), as well as her first adult novel Jonathan Unleashed, a hugely funny look at a quirky young man struggling to make it in his first job in New York City. In her work questions of body, identity, and gender, the confusions of falling in love, and the desire and sexuality of the young are addressed with clever humor.

Meg is an inspirational speaker who encourages young people to seek  a path in life which is not necessarily the one laid out for them by the adult world.

If you plan to attend the event on May 11th, please email us at winkel@boekhandelvanrossum or call 020 4707077.

Another very special event is the visit of holocaust survivor Eva Schloss to The Netherlands where she has been invited to meet the Dutch King in Amsterdam for the May 4th memorial day celebrations. Eva Schloss is a step-daughter of Otto Frank, the father of Anne Frank. She has written about her experiences during World War II in a book for children called The Promise and for adults in After Auschwitz.  She will speak at international schools in early May. 

In The Secret Chord, the latest book by Pulitizer Prize winner Geraldine Brooks (People of the Book), King David, the shepherd boy who slew the giant Goliath and became the unifier of the 12 tribes, is the central figure. The Secret Chord is a passionate reinterpretation of the Books of Samuel, where David is God’s anointed, warlord, minstrel, sensualist, trickster, covenanted friend. The prophet and scribe, Natan, reviews David’s life with a view to bequeathing to posterity a full record: “Not just the deeds. The man.”

Growing older is no one’s cup of tea but Cathleen Schine (The Three Weissmans) has taken a wry look at intergenerational views on an aging mother in They may not mean to but they do. Joy Bergman is not slipping into old age with the quiet grace her adult children would prefer. She won’t take their advice, and she won’t take an
antidepressant. This is a new type of coming-of-age book about the intrusion of old age into three generations of family life. Warm and very funny!

The International Man Booker Prize has now been combined with The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and the winner of the 2016 award will be announced on 16 May.  One of the candidates is the Indonesian author Eka Kurniawan, whose novel Man Tiger has been widely praised for its colourful and richly textured depiction of village life.  Anwar Sadat, a charming womanizer and failed artist, has been murdered by the young Margio, a skilled hunter whose sweet personality belies the fact that he has “something inside him”.  That something is a white tiger. A lyrical and arresting book with an innovative structure. Another tip from the International Man Booker Prize is the lovely novella by  Robert Seethaler,  A Whole Life.

The Singapore based thriller author Shamini Flint is visiting international schools in the Low Lands in April to talk about her Inspector Singh series.  So I picked up her most recent book, Inspector Singh Investigates: A Frightfully English Execution, a tale tackling religion, terrorism, and a number of strands straight out of today’s headlines. Singh and his wife are terrific characters and the books are a delight to read if you are looking for a new twist on the traditional genre.





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.

Holland’s New Herring

Categories: Food and drink
Comments Off on Holland’s New Herring

Sue Godsave

You can find tender and tasty Dutch soused herring in every fish stall or fish shop in the Netherlands. This Dutch speciality is not cooked and it’s not exactly raw, and if you want to have it at its very best you should eat it as soon as the fishmonger hands it over.

When Dutch soused herring is prepared in the traditional way and sold in the year the fish are caught, it can be called Hollandse Nieuwe (Holland’s New). These days soused herring is frozen after processing and is available all year round, but it used to be stored in salt, and it would get saltier and less ‘fresh’ the longer it was kept. The start of the new herring fishing season each year was seen as a symbol of better times to come, and to mark this the boats of the fishing fleet would be decorated with flags the day before they left the harbour. Nowadays, Flag Day (Vlaggetjesdag) celebrates the arrival of the new season’s soused herring, in Scheveningen. This year it will be on 18th June and it will herald the appearance of Hollandse Nieuwe stalls in many supermarkets and workplace canteens.

Herring lose weight during the winter months and then start to fatten up as the food supply increases. To qualify as Hollandse Nieuwe, the herring have to have a fat content of 16% or higher. The fish should be at least three years old, but should not have started to produce any sperm or eggs yet that year. This is why they are also called ‘maatjesharing’, a corrupted form of ‘maagdenharing’ or virgin herring. Generally they are caught between mid-May and July.

After the fish have been caught, the gills are removed and the fish are gutted, but the pancreas is left in, so its enzymes can contribute to the ripening process. The fish are kept in dry salt or brine for a period of up to four days, depending on the size, weight and fat content of the fish. The herrings are then frozen for at least 24 hours to ensure that any parasites are killed, and they can be kept frozen for a long time without any loss of quality. After thawing, they are filleted and skinned for eating, and should taste ‘creamy, lightly salty and tender’, but the ripening process will restart, which is why it’s best to eat the fish as soon as possible.

The preservation method for Hollandse Nieuwe herring has been used since at least the 14th century. In 1384 access to local curing and packing services was withdrawn from Dutch fishers in the principal centre of herring fishing, the region of Schonen in Denmark. They were not welcome in England either, so they started to process the fish on board ship and worked to perfect this manner of preserving herring. Since the fish could then be kept for longer, fishers could stay longer at sea and use bigger fishing boats. Welfare also increased, and feeding Dutch sailors with herring may have played a role in helping the Netherlands to gain its dominant position on the world stage in the seventeenth century.

Hollandse Nieuwe is important to the Dutch, and in October 2015 it gained the EU’s ‘Traditional Speciality Guaranteed’ status. The herring doesn’t have to be prepared in the Netherlands, though. At the end of the 1970s, fish stocks were down and fishing was not allowed in the North Sea, so Dutch fish processing firms moved to Denmark, and herrings were processed in the Dutch way in Jutland. Although the North Sea was opened up to herring fishing again in 1983 the Dutch continued to buy and process Danish herring. These days Norwegian, and to a lesser extent Scottish, herring are also prepared for the Dutch market and a lot of the processing is automated.

There are local traditions about the best way to eat Dutch soused herring. Inland regions favoured saltier herring than coastal areas as it took longer to reach them, and they needed to be kept for longer. In Brabant and in Rotterdam they traditionally eat smaller herring, sometimes dipped in diced raw onion, and then held up by the tail and eaten whole! Originally the onion was added to counteract some of the saltiness, but the tradition has remained even though the fish are less salty these days (1.1 %). In Amsterdam, herrings tend to be larger, cut into sections and, again, often with chopped onions on top or a gherkin, though they are also available served in a soft white bread roll. In any case, they’re a great source of omega 3- fatty acids, protein and vitamin D, and they taste good.


Chairman’s Corner May 2016

Categories: Britsoc Chairman
Comments Off on Chairman’s Corner May 2016

Hi everyone,

After a false start to spring in April, it seems like we have been plunged into winter again. And now May is here and we are back with the sun and thoughts of arranging picnics and BBQs on the beach!

I feel I have to comment on what seems to be becoming a tragic year for celebrity losses.  Maybe this is just a consequence of the media age.  All the fond memories of all these great artists who have graced our stage and screen for many years will still live on.  Nevertheless, we are only ¼ of the way into the year and the grim reaper seems to have quite a haul already.  It seems we will have to wrap up the rest of our childhood heroes in cotton wool for the rest of the year.

I have two requests for help from our members:

  1. Hervormd Lyceum Zuid (HLZ) in Amsterdam-Zuid is looking for approximately 15-20 native speakers who would be willing to have a chat with their students on June 9th (9am-3pm)

On that day, students (14-15-year-olds) will have to show us how well they can keep a conversation going in English (with a native speaker).

They will receive a couple of situations, such as: ‘The police office’ or ‘Host family’.

The only thing you would need to do is have a short conversation with the students and give them a mark out of 10. The school offers a lunch, snacks, and they will also give a gift card to those who are participating.

Please contact Stephanie:

  1. A student is looking for some help with her thesis and is asking people to complete an online survey about English landscapes.

If you have some time please help here out by filling in this survey.

May activities will include another Curry visit this time to our first Indonesian, Jun.  Please keep an eye on our Meetup page for details.

British Society of Amsterdam

Amsterdam, NL
416 Britsoc Friends

The British Society organises events with a British flavour. A very social club, we’re open to people of every nationality who are looking to meet new friends, play sports and…

Next Meetup

Extra Players for Britsoc Tuesday Evening Squash

Tuesday, May 10, 2016, 7:00 PM
1 Attending

Check out this Meetup Group →

Sailing starts also on Saturday May 7, 2016 so please look at our events page for details:



I hope to have some news about some theatre and comedy trips shortly as well.  The Ball committee will begin to start organising shortly as well so if you would like to be part of please contact me.



Shakespeare’s 400 Anniversary

Categories: Uncategorized
Comments Off on Shakespeare’s 400 Anniversary

By Jane Walmsley

“All the world’s a stage and the men and women merely players” quoth the Bard.  And never was it more true, than when the British Society decided to celebrate his life and works at Greenwoods English Restaurant on Saturday 23rd April.

400 years to the day since his death and “we few, we happy few” (30 of us actually) came together to declaim, recite, jabber and generally hold forth about his various works.  Not so much the Globe theatre, more like Shakespeare Karoake….. and a lot of fun it was too !

_SHK2772Our host for the evening, an ebullient Paul Huxley, organised an eclectic mix of verses, sonnets and ditties including a ribald recitation by Alison and ??? Smith, on the efforts of Otto Titslinger to patent the first bra.  In other words, a ditty about t…….!  Moving swiftly onward, perhaps now is the moment to mention the culinary contribution of Greenwoods.  Having been encouraged by Leigh Ann (Arthur?), Anna Markay and Liz Gamlin, by their recitation of the Witches Speech from Macbeth, to think of eye of newt and tongue of dog, what we instead got was a delicious plate of fresh seasonable asparagus and poached eggs cooked to perfection.  Bit of a relief really but as leg of lizard wasn’t featured on the menu we were probably going to be alright.

What followed by a slightly weird but rather wonderful collection of recitals;  Stephen Huyton’s  Henry V partnered with a French Katherine sounding as if she were fresh from ‘Allo ‘Allo;  a politically incorrect interview with ancient Shakespearean thesp – Sir Edwin – as imagined by Ray Goodsir;  To be or not to be – that most famous of soliloquies, which somehow mutated into a discourse on marriage!  From King Lear, through Harry’s translation of Macbeth into Zulu, Hamlet to the tune of “American Pie”, to Rob and Ray’s homage to “Laurel and Hardy does Macbeth”, it was an inventive and amusing night.

A quiet spot was found in the middle of the evening for Dave Thomas to share, in poem form, remembrances of his father and his grandparents; they were sparsely worded but wonderfully evocative images of his childhood memories.  More wonderful food followed, the jokes came thick and fast, and as a final tribute to one of Britain’s funniest and best-loved comediennes, Victoria Wood, sadly lost to us recently, Duncan Peacock and the “Sisters Smith”, rounded off the evening with their rendition of the ‘Ballad of Barry and Freda’, with Duncan’s increasingly pitiful refrain of “I can’t do it” being rebutted by Alison’s forceful insistence that she wanted him to melt the buttons on her flame proof nightie!  It was certainly a high to finish on and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house – though that was mostly due to much laughter and moderate alcohol.

Thank you Paul for organising such a splendid evening, and my apologies to those whose names and efforts I have neglected to mention.   I blame the wine and the thought of Duncan trying to bend Alison backwards over her hostess trolley!!


Photography by Benjamin Arthur

Cheap flights to Doncaster

Categories: Travel and holidays
Comments Off on Cheap flights to Doncaster

By Dee Bodle

Doncaster-viewThe historic market town of Doncaster was put on the map thanks to its affiliation with both horse racing and railways. Whilst both of these things still play a large part in the

racecourse-informationeconomy, the town has grown into a buzzing metropolitan destination where open green spaces sit alongside hip boutiques, artisan cafes and a thriving after-dark scene. Much of the city’s ancient heritage has been preserved and as a result there are a plethora of sights and places of interest to visit, making it a real jewel in Yorkshire’s crown. So why not discover the town for yourself and book your cheap flights to Doncaster today?



Fly to Doncaster Sheffield Robin Hood Airport from:

Amsterdam Doncaster from €35


Lemon Drizzle Cake | Cooking Coach | May 2016

Categories: Cooking Coach
Comments Off on Lemon Drizzle Cake | Cooking Coach | May 2016


By Karen Vivers


Lemon Drizzle Cake

I really try not to eat too much cake.  Given the choice and the opportunity I’d eat it at least once a day, but not just any cake.  I’m actually not into those huge elaborate creations.  For me, it’s about:

  1. A good chocolate cake, quality ingredients (well of course, but even more important with chocolate.) Preferably flourless.
  2. A really flavoursome tea loaf.  You know something with some spice or juicy dates or figs.
  3. The perfect carrot cake.  Has to be rich and moist and the icing has to be decadent.
  4. The ultimate lemon drizzle cake.

Having found or created a recipe for the first three, I still needed my lemon drizzle.  A lot of the recipes read just didn’t have the right balance, and that is what the perfect lemon drizzle is about for me.  So the search has taken me years.  You might think that’s a bit over the top when you see the simplicity of this recipe, but that’s exactly the point.  It has to be simple, but perfect.  I was looking for the exact taste ratio of sweetness to sharpness not only in the cake but in the drizzle too.  I wanted to get the right consistency of cake so that it would soak up all that delicious drizzly topping and leave a little crunch on the crust of the cake.  And this is it for me:

Preparation Time:  10 minutes

Baking Time:  45 to 50 minutes


For the Cake

225gr / 8 oz. unsalted, softened butter cut into small cubes

225gr / 8 oz. caster sugar

225gr  / 8 oz. of self-raising flour

4 large eggs

Finely grated zest of 2 ripe lemons

For the Lemon Drizzle

Juice of 2 lemons

85gr / 3 oz. caster sugar


  1. Pre-heat your oven to 180°C / 360°F  and line a loaf tin with baking paper.  I find the easiest way to do this is to first scrunch the paper and run it under the tap.  This makes it easier to work with.
  2. Beat the butter and caster sugar together with an electric whisk until it becomes a pale yellow colour.
  3. Add the eggs, mixing them in one at a time. You can do this by hand with a wooden spoon or with the electric mixer.
  4. Add the flour and the lemon zest, bring everything together into a smooth batter by mixing with a wooden spoon.
  5. Place in the oven and bake for about 45 to 50 minutes. Check after 40 minutes just to be sure.  The cake is ready when you can insert a skewer and it comes out clean.
  6. When the cake is ready set it aside in its tin.
  7. Mix the lemon juice and caster sugar together. Prick the cake all over with a skewer or fork and almost right to the bottom of it – do this whilst it is still in the tin.  Pour the lemon drizzle over the cake evenly whilst it is still warm.
  8. When completely cool, remove the cake from the tin and serve.

Tips and Variations

  • Store in an air-tight container – it’ll keep fresh for 3 or 4 days like this.
  • To get the most juice from your lemons, roll them on a hard surface to loosen the insides before cutting them open.



Here is the link to my recipe on the website:


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.


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

Mobile : 06 1424 0009


The next step

Categories: Amsterdam, Journalism
Comments Off on The next step

Written by Adam Kohut


When I left Texas for China — and, two years later, departing China for Bangkok — I boarded a plane and sat crammed into an economy seat, knowing that when I landed I would be confused, that everything — or, at least, that most things — would be alien, wholly new. There was galvanism in that. And it was where a lot of joy came from: that prospect of adventure, the idea that each day was inevitably bound for oddity. This held true for a good while. But, as always and of course, the new didn’t stay new. No, it became old. And the old, as it often and unfairly does, became boring. At which point I, a member by birthright of The Pessimistic Society of the Eternally Grumpy, began to search for fault lines and cracks and irregularities in Thai society with which to occupy myself. There has, after all, never been a better tool with which to farm interest than self-righteous rage.

“Would you look at that!” I might once have thought, upon observing a man sponge-bathing a rooster on the front steps of one of Bangkok’s many business-district skyscrapers. “Now that’s something you don’t see every day.” And then I’d smile inwardly and feel that prickled charge of excitement and carry on with my walk to work. But by the ninth, or the forty-second, or the ninety-third occurrence, that initial wonder had curdled. I’d realized that this bizarre ritual was, indeed, something I saw every day, and that said rooster, was, in fact, disgusting, dirty, and fairly terrifying, at least as far as birds go. It wasn’t long before I’d become mired in urban contempt toward live poultry.

A petty complaint, sure, but these things add up — the little frustrations and annoyances that prod and poke and rankle. You get sick of the crowds, or the noise, or the traffic, or the seemingly illogical hivemind of group culture, or this weird cultural practice of drinking beer with ice, and you begin to struggle. Or you don’t, and you find yourself adapting and willingly changing to better suit your environment. If this happens, you often opt to stay, to attempt to create a new life for yourself in a landscape so recently uncharted. If it does not, you often take the easiest — and the most effective — course of action: you flee.

So I did, gladly leaving behind Bangkok’s confusion, its chaos, its feckless society. And here I’ve arrived, in Amsterdam, the City That Sensibly Sleeps. Just the prospect of heading cardinally west, even to a place with which I was entirely unfamiliar, was enough to propagate this idea of returning, inciting a strange — and ever falser — sense of homecoming. After a month in The Netherlands, that feeling hasn’t entirely dissipated, although it would be untruthful to say I haven’t yet begun to slip, with more and more frequency, on icy patches that serve as furtively slippery differentiations between US and EU.

As an American, beginning to live in Europe presents a special kind of culture shock, one that creeps onto your shoulder, where it sits, invisibly perched, blanketing your senses in disorienting fog.

Photos by Tessa Dekker

Photo by Tessa Dekker

So far it’s been a bit like returning from a vacation, only during your absence someone has entered your home and rearranged your furniture. Everything is the same, but different: it’s your end table, but it used to stand by the bed, not wedged into the entryway. And that’s your television, yes, but wasn’t it once mounted on the wall and not sat on the floor? Food portions, the shape of toilets, the maniacal placidity of habitual, universal bicycling, that overall feeling of European put-togetherness — all perceived eccentricities come together to create a form that, at the outset, appears human, but upon closer inspection reveals itself to be merely humanoid, a great pretender. While I haven’t yet seen an entire pig, skinned and hanging from a metal hook — a common sight on the roiling streets of Bangkok — the idea that great wax-sheathed wheels of cheese, the circumference and thickness of a car’s tire, or pyramidal piles of freshly baked baguettes, can be found on essentially every corner is, for now, equally wondrous. As is the air, which, while cold, is crisp and clean. And the streets: quiet, orderly, but just lively enough. It’s easy to see where that very pastiche, very American, romanticized notion of Europe is born.

Surely, though, I will wake up one morning in my apartment, which currently makes me feel as though I am living inside a foreign film, and the sheen will have dulled. The wooden floors, their creakiness, their propensity for doling out splinters, will have lost their character, warped seemingly overnight into hazards, grievances. Surely Amsterdam’s Escher-like architecture — the city seems as though it could be folded into itself — its flat line layout, so dizzying in its varied sameness — centuries-old buildings and their rectangular-plane windows, sharp corners and ninety-degree angles, their slender heights — will begin to make me feel as though I am locked in some sort of dystopian dream. Perhaps that orderliness, at the moment perfect antidote to the whirling mayhem in which I have lived for four long years will suddenly feel oppressing.

Perhaps I will want out.

But perhaps I will not.

There is beauty in that honeymoon’s ending. Of realizing that no place is perfect, and, beginning to recognize flaws for what they are — and then learning to love them. A move — to a new house, town, country — is the beginning of a new relationship — fresh, delicate, precious — and you have to realize, unless you are ignorant or crazy, how onerous, how fraught with risk, how difficult, how unlikely it is to succeed. But as with love, you move forward, caution be damned, and you breathe deep and you take that step and you once more put your toe, your foot, your leg, your body, into the great, international waters of the unknown.

And you see what happens next.



Jokes of the Month—May 2016

Categories: Fun, Humour and Comedy
Comments Off on Jokes of the Month—May 2016

By Alison  Smith


An Englishman, an Irishman, and Scottish man are drinking in a bar.
A fly lands in the Englishman’s pint.  The Englishman is incensed, and pushes his beer away and orders another.
A fly lands in the Scottish man’s pint.  The Scottish man looks at the fly, shrugs,  and just drinks the fly down.
A fly lands in the Irishman’s pint.  The Irishman is furious.  He picks out the fly, and violently shakes the fly over his pint glass while screaming, “Spit it out ya wee bugger!”



A man is getting into the shower just as his wife is finishing up her shower, when the doorbell rings. The wife quickly wraps herself in a towel and runs downstairs. When she opens the door, there stands Bob, the next-door neighbor. Before she says a word, Bob says, “I’ll give you $800 to drop that towel.” After thinking for a moment, the woman drops her towel and stands naked in front of Bob. After a few seconds, Bob hands her $800 and leaves. The woman wraps back up in the towel and goes back upstairs. When she gets to the bathroom, her husband asks, “Who was that?” “It was Bob the next door neighbor,” she replies. “Great,” the husband says, “did he say anything about the $800 he owes me?”


A man in Scotland calls his son in London the day before Christmas Eve and says,“I hate to ruin your day but I have to tell you that your mother and I are divorcing; forty-five years of misery is enough.”

 ‘Dad, what are you talking about?’ the son screams.

“We can’t stand the sight of each other any longer” the father says. “We’re sick of each other and I’m sick of talking about this, so you call your sister in Leeds and tell her.”

Frantically, the son calls his sister, who explodes on the phone. “Like hell they’re getting divorced!” she shouts, “I’ll take care of this!” She calls Scotland immediately and screams at her father “You are NOT getting divorced. Don’t do a single thing until I get there. I’m calling my brother back, and we’ll both be there tomorrow. Until then, don’t do a thing, DO YOU HEAR ME?” and hangs up.

The old man hangs up his phone and turns to his wife. ‘Sorted! They’re coming for Christmas – and they’re paying their own way.’

Interview with Kieran Earley

Categories: Britsoc Interview, Education
Comments Off on Interview with Kieran Earley

By Alison Smith


Interview with Kieran Earley, CEO & Principal of The British School in the Netherlands


PHOTO-KIERAN-EARLEY_webKieran has been leading the BSN since September last year so, 8 months on, I was interested to know how he and his family were getting on and how he was taking to life in The Netherlands.  Here is his take on all things NL. 


What were your first thoughts when you heard you would be moving to the Netherlands?

Excitement and anticipation – personally and professionally. The International outlook and culture in the Netherlands will be enriching for our family (we have three teenage boys) and I belong to an amazing organisation with some innovative and exciting plans.


In what ways do you think life in NL is very different to life in the UK?

We’ve only been here 8 months so we’re still adapting but first impressions are that the Dutch are even more outdoor oriented than the British. Everyone gets out – in all weathers; the infrastructure and local planning help.


The Dutch say they are direct, the Brits may consider them rude…..what is your feeling about the famous Dutch directness?  Any first-hand experiences?

My wife is Dutch – so I have to be careful here! It’s fair to say that whilst being incredibly supportive, she’s kept my feet on the ground for many years. I have plenty of Dutch colleagues and find the direct approach refreshing and purposeful. Not quite sure what they make of me though!


Kieran 2Any good cycling anecdotes so far?

We bought five bikes on our first day in Voorschoten last August – we knew what to expect! Our most exciting ride as a family was coming back from New Year celebrations in Voorschoten. We’d heard that it would be a little crazy with fireworks in the street but weren’t expecting a whole new level of crazy. Unforgettable.


If you could sum up the Dutch in 5 words, what would they be?

No-nonsense, principled, friendly, discerning, determined. They are all really serious words! I think there is also a highly developed but subtle sense of mischief. This leads to special Dutch fun and a dark sense of humour.


Dutch cuisine……a contradiction in terms or a down-to-earth delight?  What are your favourite Dutch specialities and which ones would you secretly feed to the dog under the table?

I’m actually addicted to Croquetten and Bitterballen. I can’t believe they’re not a huge thing in the UK. I once put a bitterball in my mouth in one. Once.


The best day yet and why?

There have been many but last summer we rode to Leiden and had a family day in the sun. The history and architecture are different but subtly interwoven with the British experience and approach to life. I guess this is why we get on so well. It was so exciting to think that the canals, culture and castles would all be within striking distance.


Have you found a favourite restaurant? When you have visitors, where do you always take them?

We love going to La Casita in Voorschoten. Situated on old Voorstraat it is great for hapjes and has a super atmosphere. The host is most friendly and convivial! In the Hague we’ve been to De Basiliek a few times and have had some good nights there. Great food and a casually brilliant service.


Has being in The Netherlands changed you or your attitudes or opinions in any way?

Coming on to mainland Europe has been so refreshing. Everything feels closer. We’ve been on more trips in these 8 months than we would ever have contemplated in the UK. We’re driving through France to Barcelona this summer. We’re less than 30 mins from Schiphol too.


Sometimes, living abroad makes us realise how indoctrinated we are in our National habits. Which parts of the Dutch culture would you say you have embraced wholeheartedly?…and which parts of you will remain truly British?

No major culture shocks. The only thing the Dutch get wrong is tea.


Is there anything you have particularly struggled with since arriving in NL?

De taal is nog een drempel! I wrote about learning Dutch on my blog here. I got a load of hits so I can’t be alone in feeling this. I think it’s incredibly important to learn the language and to insist on speaking it when you hear perfect English in return. Fortunately, we have the capacity in our Language Centre to help me make progress with my Dutch.


How would you translate the word “gezellig” ?

Ha ha! That lovely happy feeling at the cusp of an evening among family and friends when you know that nothing could be better.


If you would like to know more, you can read Kieran’s blog at or follow his Twitter feed @kieran_earley.


Victoria Wood

Categories: Art and Culture
Comments Off on Victoria Wood

Fond girly giggles by Alison Smith


If God had meant them to be lifted and separated, He would have put one on each shoulder.


We’d like to apologise to our viewers in the north…………it must be awful for them.


A man is designed to walk three miles in the rain to phone for help when the car breaks down, and a woman is designed to say, “You took your time” when he comes back dripping wet.


A minor operation is one performed on somebody else.


Sexual harassment at work… is it a problem for the self-employed?


People think I hate sex. I don’t. I just don’t like things that stop you seeing the television properly.


All my friends started getting boyfriends, but I didn’t want a boyfriend, I wanted a thirteen-colour biro.


I once went to one of those parties where everyone throws their car keys into the middle of the room. I don’t know who got my moped but I’ve been driving that Peugeot for years.


The first day I met my producer, she said, “I’m a radical feminist lesbian.” I thought what would the Queen Mum do? So I just smiled and said, “We shall have fog by tea-time.”


I thought Coq au Vin was love in a lorry.


I’ve got a degree, does that mean I have to spend my life with intellectuals? I’ve also got a life-saving certificate, but I don’t spend my evenings diving for a rubber brick with my pyjamas on.


My boyfriend had a sex manual but he was dyslexic. I was lying there and he was looking for my vinegar.


It will be a traditional Christmas, with presents, crackers, door slamming and people bursting into tears, but without the dead thing in the middle. We’re vegetarians.


Life’s not fair, is it? Some of us drink champagne in the fast lane, and some of us eat our sandwiches by the loose chippings on the A597.


My children won’t even eat chips because some know-all bastard at school told them a potato was a vegetable.


When I told jokes about cystitis, people would write in and say, “I’ve got cystitis and it isn’t funny,” so I would reply, “Well, send it back and ask for one that is.”