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02-08-2018

Just wanted to view something on the television and when I switched it on I saw a large group of people among whom some dignitaries all dressed on black with a very sad song being sung by a lady supported by a large choir. As quite a few disasters have been happening lately I though: “What has happened now?”, thinking to hear about another earth quake, tsunami, terrorist plot or forest fire. But no it was the Memorial of the surrender of the Japanese, which factually ended World War II. They were remembering the thousands of people who died in the Japanese camps. It was 73 years ago this happened. The Indonesian earth quake in Lombok which happened not even 10 days ago is almost forgotten in the news and the death toll stands now at 450 people, thousands of injured and the rest robbed of their livelihoods. Look at this list of ongoing wars still being fought as I speak : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ongoing_armed_conflicts
Some started before the start of World War II!! 
So what do all these Remembrance days of the fights in the past mean? When I asked some people they say to make sure it never happens again. Well that did not quite work out did it? Or some say to thank the people who died for our freedom. One would think the best thing to do for freedom is not to go to war for it. 
And it is getting easier not to feel guilty when your country kills thousands of people in the name of religion, safety or some other trumped up  (no pun intended) reason. Because drones and other remotely activated killing machines make sure we don’t have to look the people we kill in the eye. Instead of attending these memorials with a sad face and quietly listening to speeches of our leaders and clergy we should attend with placards with slogans telling these selfsame leaders how disappointed we are in them. The dead won’t mind as they are dead, but maybe some people would listen. I would definitely make the news. Will it make a difference? As we are all killing our climate with full abandon it might not really matter as earth will do her best to make us, terrible virus that we are, extinct. She is already heating up the pot. 

 

 

 

Suddenly various books are  being published about ancient Greek times through the eyes of one of the bystanders of the story. Circe, Silence of the girls, The song of Achilles and there could be more. It is a sort of condoned plagiarism which can be very enjoyable to read. But it often puts 21st century thought in ancient minds. And that is where I get a bit bored. Where they try to catch the historical mindset as in Pillars of the Earth, or all of Dorothy Dunnett’s books it can be beautiful. Probably because we have written evidence of what people were thinking in those eras. 
Science fiction is the same where we try to describe how people will think and act in the future. Is that easier? I don’t think so as we will still be writing from the perspective of our own times. I like it best when old tales are reworked to modern times. Shakespeare was excellent at this. According to one of my creative writing teachers only two story lines were invented by himself. Often I read thrillers or detectives that remind me of one of Shakespeare’s plays. As the same teacher said: “There is only one story line and that is The Quest.” We have all those trilogies, which end up as quartets or more such as the famous Lord of the Rings or much later the Game of Thrones. He also pointed out that there is or are always orphans who have to find their way to happiness and often a Jesus Christ figure who is the good side of the powerful main character and helps him to be a better person. In Pinocchio it was Jimini Cricket, even with the same initials. these sidekicks often to great sadness of the readers dies sacrificing him or herself to the main character. 
But most of the time I don’t want to analyse my books. Just dive in and forget the world around me. A passion for books is the best gift you can give another person, be it your child or someone else. My father gave me mine and I always try to pass it on. There is nothing more wonderful than sometimes meeting a person with whom you can share your thoughts about the books you read. Though book clubs are not my thing, because I am too selfish to spend time reading books other people liked. I am more talking about meeting someone on a party or somewhere and finding out you have practically the same taste in books. Strangely enough it were always men. Though I would not like to be married to one because nothing would get done. I have failed exams, forgotten appointments and had to do a lot of last minute work because I was engrossed in a book and found it impossible to stop reading until the end. Finally I am now in the stage of my life I can spend as much of my time as I want in the worlds of my books. Luckily my husband does not care what he eats as long as it is warm. And those spider webs will be there tomorrow still….

My washing machine broke down and I had to do one load by hand as it was stuck inside half washed inside.It made me think of my mother and how she had to do her washing. In her early marriage she had to boil a large tin tub on the stove to have hot water.In went the sheets and other very soiled clothes She would then use a wooden broom handle to lift it on the ground to cool off enough to be able to put her hands in it. The latter once was almost fatal to me. My brother who liked to tease me had put on some large gloves and was trying to get me and I backed away from him in the garden en fell backwards in this boiling hot cauldron. I was about 2 at the time. Luckily my mother saw it happening as apparently I was in shock and did not even scream. She rushed outside held me under the ice cold tap and rubbed my body in with butter. The problem was that they only had a bike and my dad was in school. So she ran to the neighbor whose husband was a taxi driver and at home because of some strike! They brought me to the university hospital a good 10 kilometers away, where as luck would have  it a professor from the United States was visiting who was an expert in burns. He used the novel method on me by wrapping me up in plastic and putting me in an oxygen tent. And that is how I kept the skin on my back and did not have to go through life with terrible burns. As was lucky even then.
But back to my mum. Later when she had moved to Curacao she became the proud owner of a washing machine, which we filled from the tap and the good old tin bucket, for hot water. The only thing the machine did was swishing the clothes to and fro. When they were done they still had to be put through the wringer, which was later made slightly more advanced by my dad by putting a motor on it so the rolls would run by themselves and we only had to feed the washing through. The latter was my job with the only warning: “Do not put your fingers between the rolls”. As the sun is hot in the Antilles the drying was easy. You had to check pockets and lining afterwards to make sure no creepy crawlies such as big brown grasshoppers had holed up in them.Nothing more scream worthy than putting your hands in your pocket to feel one of those there. You could hear me 10 blocks away. Still I remember it as great fun to mess around with all that water when it was hot and sunny. Only when we finally moved back to the Netherlands in 69 my mum got one of the modern ones, which did your wash and spun it more or less not so wet. She still put it in centrifuge to get it as near to dry as possible so it would not take so long to dry in the colder Dutch climate. But she felt like a queen. The machines of today do it all, which is great as it gives me more reading time.

 

 

 

21-07-2018

My last post was interrupted before I could finish. We now all know the whole group of Thai children were saved.

#metoo… caption reads :I don’t think she is up for it Theo!” Love Dutch humor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Western Europe is suffering from a real drought not seen apparently since 1976. Not being a farmer and retired I must say it is nice to live in a Mediterranean climate without having to travel for it. Because we have a subterranean sprinkler system the garden still looks quite green. As this happens once every half century we should not complain. Naturally the climate change people immediately start shouting global warming, though I agree with them a lot of times, I don’t think it is affecting us in that way. We were having extremely wet summers and tepid winters and elsewhere there were more quakes, typhoons and super monsoons. Truth to be told this summer feels more like the ones we used to have when I was young. Plus there were more hot summers before and after 1976. 1990 the year my youngest was born it was over 30 degrees already in Spring and that August broke many records. The little thing only wore nappies the first 6 months of his life. The summer news after the Worldcup, Wimbledon and the Tour is a slow time for the papers. So lets get panicky about a bit of nice weather. As for the farmers you would think they would put some money aside for a bad year between all the good ones. For all the thousands of years of agriculture there cannot be many surprises anymore. 

 

 

 

 

 

For all the discomfort it may cause for some, I love not to have to wear layers of clothes just to keep warm and the temperatures remind me of my youth in Curacao, in the West Indies. The big difference is that people here do not adjust their pace and priorities. Everything still has to be done yesterday. I remember my teacher telling me, after we just moved back from Curacao to the Netherlands : “Sylvia you are so slow, you even blink your eyes slowly”. I feel that I am getting that way again slowly, but surely. A wonderful (and comfortable) feeling. Can recommend it to all those people having burnouts and other psychological ailments because the pace of life nowadays is crazy. Maybe I should give a  how- to-relax course with the help of our dog Bonita , who is practically catatonic with this weather. When she goes outside she takes care to lie only in the shade and wear protective gear. Still wonder why I see so many balding white men without wearing a hat outside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The heat seems to have affected our friend President Trump as well. He has gone even more crazy than before. During his last meeting with his buddy Putin he told the whole world he believed Putin above all his security services over the accusation that Russia is meddling with global politics making use of media hacking. To not upset his mate Trump he omitted to mention the poisoning of two Russian defectors in Britain,  unlawfully taking possession of the Crimea and shooting down a passenger plane killing all of them. Nor Putin’s support for the regime in Syria. The strange thing was that even though even his own party was furious, later they claimed to understand that he had misread his speech and did not mean to say what he said. Putin is laughing his head off. He probably has solid proof of a request from the Trump campaign to help them to the presidency and can make his puppet say anything. How else could such a nonentity become president from one of the mightiest countries in the world? Notice the warning look Putin is giving Trump in this picture.

 

One of hot summers’ best pleasures is reading. It is too hot for most things but quietly reading a book or e-reader is always possible. I am buying far too many books as most of the good ones come out before people go on holiday where they can catch up with reading. I read the recommendations in newspapers and Waterstone’s website and send myself samples on Amazon. So far so good. But then I start reading the samples and want to read the whole story. With the hot weather I stick to thrillers and sci-fi with some comedy thrown in. Enough to keep the heat unnoticed. You can see in my Goodreads list what I have been immersing myself in. May the weather continue this way a bit longer. It will be cold soon enough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

10-07-2018

This is a depiction of the rescue operation that has the whole world watching: 12 children trapped 6 kilometers in a cave with their football coach. Up till now I have not heard what on earth this coach was thinking off to go in to subterranean caves in the monsoon season. Anyway in the mean time a ferry boat capsized killing over 50 people in the same country and over 100 people died in Japan because of floods. In both cases there are still many people missing too. But somehow it did not catch the imagination and philosophers and other learned people try to explain to us why this is. One answer was that the press managed to make the cave incident more accessible to the people because we saw the faces of the victims and letters they wrote to their parents. And it was a limited amount of trouble. Personally I think we are suckers for a good ending and as 8 have been rescued and there is good hope for the rest everyone is waiting for that feelgood moment of a successful endeavor. While with the other disasters it is all too anonymous and too much. We hear about deaths at sea practically every day because of the constant influx of people who are fleeing war or famine from Africa or other countries. Horrible as it sounds, we have become a bit indifferent to it. With climate change throwing more and more typhoons, fires, storms and volcano eruptions at us with a lot of human suffering in its wake, it has become a bit too much. Politicians think by throwing up walls and making it as difficult as possible for people to seek a better life in the more affluent countries this whole influx can be stopped. Too late! That is what the Romans thought when the so called barbarians were encroaching on their borders. At least they did not also have to cope with the devastating effects of climate change. The reason the Eastern Roman Empire lasted 1000 years longer

27-06-2018

Streets are empty. Quiet in many cities. Did somebody die? Has the Apocalypse struck? Did aliens land? No the World Cup of soccer/football is upon us again. To explain to the aliens: Football is a game whereby two groups of 11 men during about 90 minutes try to put a football in each others goals. Whole nations weep or go mad of happiness depending if their countries’ team scored the most goals. As a child and young woman my life was blighted by football. All my three brothers and my dad played. Which took care of Wednesdays and the weekend. Then when they came home they hogged our only television and watched the game as well. So I soon developed a great dislike for the sport. I vowed never to marry a football fan and to steer my sons ,if I had any, away from the sport. I succeeded in both much to the disgust of my brothers who found it tantamount to child abuse.
My husband does watch the World cup now and then and is always amazed at my knowledge of the game. Well what did you expect?

Strangely enough it is played in Russia a country not exactly known for its football prowess nor for its sportsmanship. They have state sponsored doping going on. Wonder how much money changed hands? Tomorrow my English husband who is a Belgian national now will have a difficult time as the Belgians will play the English. Whoever wins he can party for both sides. A tiny annoyance this year that at the endless rehashing of the games afterwards by well known sports figures they now also have a woman on board to show everyone that they support the feminist cause and do not discriminate. So sad! I love to watch the faces of the male panel members when she gives her very short opinion of the game. A little bit like : How cute, aren’t we modern men to allow a woman to have an opinion of our sport? I know women football does exist, but as long as the money is not being spend there as in men’s football it will stay a bit on the side line. Look at tennis. Women still get a smaller trophy and have been granted the same prize money only 10 years ago. And that for a sport that has been played by both sexes from the very beginning.

 

 

On my way back from a very nice 60th birthday celebration I heard an interview with a few people about the subject of fathers getting the same paternity leave as the mothers and that the length should not be 4 days but as long as a year! The interviewees were some young woman and an older guy who both thought it a splendid idea. You could tell by what they were saying they had never worked in a small company or owned one. As usual they give Sweden where the maternity arrangements are very royal as an example. Parents there can share the leave and get about 80% of the 3 months maternity leave per person paid for every child. The great difference is of course that the State pays and not the company. They have one of the highest tax rates in the world. 
In the Netherlands and Belgium and I think most countries the parents have to take a parenting break paid for by themselves. I took one myself lasting 6 years until my youngest went to school. As my husband and I had talked about what would happen about childcare before we even had kids I never felt hard done by. Maybe because I could quite easily join the workforce again. Be it part time. And I was an older mother as the doctors used to call me and quite happy to enjoy being with my babies without other demands on my time. Boredom was kept at bay by doing evening classes. The rest of my part time was filled with tennis and DIY. What was not to like about it? My husband was happy to be able to follow is career path knowing at home all was well in hand. Though I think I had the best of both worlds and as a result a great bond with my sons. But I can understand if you want to keep working and have children, man or woman, you will have to let your child be brought up by other people. Be they family or institutions. Lets look at the Swedes again. They seem mainly nice and balanced people albeit missing the gene for humor. We always come to the same conclusion. Do what is best for the parents and the children. As long as you as a couple decide these things before you have the little darlings and even then you may change your mind. They are rather adorable when small. The confirmation that mine was a good choice for me is that my eldest son always said he could not wait to become a house husband as that seemed like a great way to live. I see that as a compliment.

 

 

Have just finished a good old fashioned historical novel called “The summer Queen” about the first part of Eleanor of Aquitaine’s life. She has always intrigued me as in those days most women died young of disease or childbirth but she lived until the ripe age of 82 and gave birth to 7 children all of whom became kings and queens in their own right. She was tough and smart. And she did not get old sitting in the comfort of home but travelled extensively even to the Middle East on a crusade. One of the toughest trials for men in those days.

Also finished an intriguing novel “The Party” superbly written and hard to stop reading when you started it. I cannot find too many of those anymore.

I can recommend Strike the televised version of J.K.Rowling’s books about a private detective written under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. Even though I have read all three books, the series is played so well by such sympathetic actors it is a joy to watch. Is there anything better than lounging in the sunshine reading piles of books?