In this edition
Save the dates: 8 November 2019 and 7 March and 29 August 2020
Diever 2020 plans
Messages from the board
Review: Downton Abbey
Unforgettable books: Full Tilt
Starting school: learning to teach
Maat voor Maat in Diever
Save the dates: 8 November 2019, 7 March & 29 August 2020
Please jot down these dates in your diary, your smartphone or on a post-it on your fridge! We are planning a number of activities, starting with informal drinks on Friday 8 November 2019, a regular get-together on Saturday 7 March 2020 and another Diever outing on Saturday 29 August 2020.
Since we think it would be nice to see each other more often in Groningen, we are going to host drinks every 8 weeks, starting on Friday 8 November 2019. The first round of drinks is on us. So, if you are in the neighbourhood and you feel like having a chat and a drink with us, please join us in Café de Wolthoorn, Turftorenstraat 6, 9712 BP Groningen on Friday 8 November 2019 around five in the afternoon.
On Saturday 7 March 2020 it is time for our regular get-togehter. We are planning a great afternoon with an interesting speaker (yet to be found) and a sizzling pub quiz. More information about the location and the programme will follow soon.
Finally, we are also planning on visiting Diever again next year, on Saturday the 29 August. More information will follow below!
Diever 2020 plans
by Reinou Anker-Sollie
Our trips to the Diever Theatre are a great success and we would like to continue this tradition. We have selected the following date for 2020: 28 August. In 2020, Shakespeare in Diever will celebrate its 75th anniversary and they will treat their visitors to 2 plays: MacBeth and the Comedy of Errors!
Since we had a few tickets left this summer that we weren’t able to sell on, we have decided to ask our members to register well in advance, before we actually buy the tickets. Ticket sales start in December, therefore you can register up to and including 30 November via this Google form. Tickets are €26 for the play + introduction.
In addition, the board also liked the idea of having dinner together before the show. This would be an early dinner since the introduction by Hans Jansen starts at 18.45. We have added a question to the above mentioned Google form with which you can indicate whether you would like to join us. More details will follow based on how many of you are interested.
We hope to see your reactions soon!
Message from the board
Last July, we took our leave from Aurora Sayers, our treasurer, whose place was taken over by Charlotte Korten. And only a month ago, during the ALV, Monique Swennenhuis, who has been our chairperson for many years, also said goodbye. Having thanked both for their hard work, our new board consists of:
Reinou Anker-Sollie, chair
Marjan Brouwers, secretary
Charlotte Korten, treasurer
Nienke Castelein, general member
We would like to add another member to our board, so if you would like to join our merry bunch, please drop us a line by e-mailing us: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Downton Abbey: “We’ve been expecting you”
by Elke Maasbommel
Review of Downton Abbey, the film
Director: Michael Engler
Screenplay by: Julian Fellowes
Starring: Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville, Michelle Dockery, Jim Carter
Downton Abbey’s tagline can work both ways. Not only are we cordially invited to return to the Crawley’s glorious establishment, but also, since it seems to be the norm for every successful franchise nowadays, are we the ones who have been eagerly awaiting our favourite 1920s family’s film debut. Only four years after the critically acclaimed BBC hit series concluded, we are treated to more adventures by all the characters we held so dear in our hearts, this time on the big screen. With the same writer, cast, and setting, as well as an estimated budget of twenty million dollars, the film is bound to feel just like the original show, but will it be the same as the tv series, and did the screen writer successfully translate an entire season’s worth of story lines into a feature-length film
Not much has changed since the tv series’ final episode; the creators made absolutely sure that every character was given the happy ending they deserved, and upon its return, Downton Abbey is blissful as ever. Careful not to interfere with any type of closure given during the series’ swan song, the main plot – the King and Queen are coming to Downton! – instead allows each character to deal with minor problems which have little to no consequence to the way things were left in 2016.
While it is entertaining to watch everyone putting their best foot forward to make the event a grand success (including a shop owner whose crowning achievement has been selling food to be eaten by the King and Queen, and the appearance of a handsome new plumber), only a handful of story lines truly breathe the spirit of the Downton Abbey show we have come to love so much. For instance, when they find out the King and Queen are bringing their own butler, footmen, and cooks, rendering them essentially useless, the downstairs department of the estate decide that this is something which they refuse to accept. Or Mary’s battle with the changing times and her lack of faith in the continuing success of Downton Abbey, Violet’s mysterious travels to London, or a new family feud over the heritage of another estate. But the most important and uplifting story is without a doubt Thomas’s, who might finally find some happiness in his otherwise quite bleak existence – especially when he’s been kindly asked to temporarily give up his position as a butler so Mr Carson can take up this role once again.
While some of these story lines do have real potential, it is a pity that they are restricted to the two-hour time frame of the movie; since all characters are given approximately the same amount of screen time, some of their stories feel a bit rushed and lack a certain feeling of urgency. Furthermore, the creators seem to think that the series’ final episode showed all the characters’ true ending, and made sure that no events truly influenced this conclusion, while some of the characters, including Lord Grantham and Mr Bates, seem to have drawn the short straw and are of no importance to the plot at all.
Thankfully, the tv series was always more than its story lines; it was the dialogues that really set them apart from other period dramas. In the film, they are of the same high quality and never fail to entertain or tug at the audience’s heartstrings. The script is filled to the brim with witty and instantly classic one-liners, including those by Violet (“I never argue, I explain”), hysterical comments by a royalty-stricken Mosely, and brisk opinions by Mrs Hughes. The film relies heavily on its interaction between the characters, all delivered perfectly and with unmistakable enjoyment, since the actors seem to inhabit their roles just as much as they did four years ago. If only they had been given a little more substance in the plot department, this might have been a great film.
Because that’s the main issue with this sequel of Downton Abbey: while it is highly entertaining to see all those characters once again, you do leave the cinema wondering whether anything of importance has happened in these two hours. The film is an absolute treat to all fans of the original tv show, especially regarding the excellent dialogue and the beautiful ambience, but the plot feels superficial and rushed. One of the best aspects about the tv series was its slow pace which allowed to viewer to slowly immerge themselves into the story. It is exactly this, by trying to give each character their moment to shine, what the film lacks.
Unforgettable books: Full Tilt
by Henk Dragstra
My memories of Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle start in 1968, when I spent a year at Sheffield University under the Harting scheme. To explore the country I usually hitch-hiked, which often went surprisingly well, and got me into interesting conversations with people from various walks of British life. Trucks were especially enjoyable; the view from their high seats was wide and commanding, and most truck drivers expressed appropriate working-class views, in matching working-class accents. The British transport minister at the time was a lady named Barbara Castle; truck drivers generally hated her plans for union reform and explained with relish what they would like to do to her to make her see reason.
Mick was a truck driver who, though both he and his vehicle were big enough, did not conform to this stereotype. Besides airing his views and telling me his stories like all his colleagues, he actually wanted to hear what I had to say. So we talked for hours, all the way to London, mainly about travel: his interest in the world beyond his own was what made him so unusual. The previous summer, he told me, he and his wife had been to Tenerife. In those early days Tenerife, if ever I gave it a thought, was to me a place as remote and illusory as Shangri-La, but Mick assured me you could get there from here, and it was a wonderful holiday resort. The next place he wanted to visit, he said, was Afghanistan. That stunned me even more: who on earth would want to risk his life in that wild and hostile land?
Mick took a much rosier view of the country: he had recently read a book by an Irishwoman who had traversed it on a bicycle, without incurring any harm. If she could do that, why could not he visit the country as a tourist on four wheels? Seeing my interest, Mick made a detour to his house in a London suburb, to get the book for me before dropping me off near the city centre. I could keep it, he said.
So I kept Full Tilt and read it; I must have re-read it half a dozen times by now. True to the sub-title, Dervla Murphy cycled all the way from Ireland to India in 1963, with the emphasis of her journals being on the Islamic countries. Afghanistan takes pride of place, impressing the author with its primitiveness and its beauty, which to her were one and the same thing. Of course not every mile of the trajectory could be negotiated in the saddle: ferries had to be boarded where waters were to be crossed, and on uncyclable terrain she had to resort to trucks and buses. But most of those interludes were more harrowing experiences than the toughest bike ride; her worst ordeal was in a clunky helicopter that seemed to be falling apart as it flew.
Dervla’s feat testifies to physical strength and endurance as well as cunning in dealing with all the perils, but her tone is mercifully unboastful and light-hearted. Her style could perhaps be characterised as stiff-upper-lip, and her enterprise itself would now be termed typically British post-colonial Orientalism. But it can’t have been a British public school that taught her that: her upbringing in a convent in county Waterford was about as Irish, as Catholic, and as provincial as can be imagined.
My guess is that her pluck was a natural gift: as early as her tenth birthday, when she was trying out her new bike in Lismore, she had said to herself: “If I went on doing this for long enough I could get to India.” Her being born a girl, and an Irish girl at that, never got in her way; indeed on her journey she managed to look so much like a man that some people she met en route took her for one and treated her accordingly. Never holding her unwomanly appearance against her, even fierce-looking tribesmen welcomed her as an equal. In only very few cases did she have to defend her honour, or property. But then, unlike British ministers of transport, she never presumed to lay down the law to any man.
Her story is full of fetching descriptions of the countries she travelled, which she found almost uniformly delightful whatever the discomforts. Afghanistan particularly charmed her with its vast barrenness, dignified inhabitants, and unhurried lifestyle:
In these parts no bus will start until double the number of passengers that it was designed to hold have been crammed into and onto it. If there’s room for just one more, it’ll wait hours for that one to turn up, with the bacha standing out in the middle of the road hoarsely yelling the bus’s destination to attract the necessary extra passenger. As Afghans are so indifferent to time (the vast majority have no idea how old they are) it follows that every passenger comes when it suits him, so that it can take up to six hours to fill a bus. Afghans are equally vague about distance: a truck-driver who goes from Kabul to Mazar once a week won’t have the remotest idea how far it is; he just knows that if he keeps driving long enough, and if Allah is willing, he’ll get there some day. Personally I find all this most endearing after a lifetime of being tyrannized by the clock.
For Dervla this must have been like coming home: the Afghan truck driver considered distance along quite the same lines as she had done at age ten, and still did at heart. The book contained a few pictures, just enough to arouse my wonder, and just few enough to leave it unsatisfied. Like Mick, I vaguely promised myself to follow in Dervla’s tyre-tracks some day.
I never did—though I did get an eyeful of Tenerife one Christmas vacation. But a few years after I received the book, Roelof Horreüs de Haas, my former high-school biology teacher, decided to drive solo to the Karakoram mountains, to collect rare plant specimens. His enterprise was in its way as daring as was Dervla’s bike ride: he was in his mid-sixties at the time, having retired recently, and his car was a flimsy Citroën 2cv—basically a canvas-roofed four-wheeled motorbike. Some of the places he planned to visit sounded familiar to me when he mentioned them, so I lent him Full Tilt for whatever useful information he might find in it.
What he found was the name and approximate address of a raja in northern Pakistan who had hospitably entertained Dervla during a stopover. Roelof wrote to him, and, receiving a friendly answer assuring him of his welcome, did indeed visit him. Like Dervla, he was equally struck by the hospitality, the beauty, and the un-European ideas about hygiene he encountered on his travels in the area. There were times when like her, he subsisted mainly on grimy dried apricots: “Ik loop leeg gelijk een koe”, he wrote in one of his newsletters.
After that, Full Tilt sat on my shelf for a while until I passed it to someone who did not return it, and whose name I forgot. But the book refused to be forgotten. Several years later in a British charity shop I found another copy, which I immediately bought and re-read. By then the Middle East had become a totally different place. Persia, ruled by a Shah, had become Iran of the ayatollahs. Iraq, under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, was at odds with most of its neighbours and the US. East Pakistan, now named Bangladesh, had separated itself from West Pakistan, where old conflicts with India were flaring up again. Afghanistan was invaded by the Russians. It was still a land of dreams, but by then the dreams were fuelled by opium, while reality was turning into a nightmare. Even Dervla Murphy would not get very far on such dangerous terrain.
In the years that followed, US-headed forces attacked Saddam in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan, and place names that in Dervla’s diaries evoked such an unhurried world suddenly acquired distressing military associations. Dutch helicopters—to stay close to home—were shot down, Dutch tanks were bombed, near Kandahar and Mazar-el-Sharif, and among the soldiers who survived many came home with post-traumatic stress syndrome.
I fear Western military intrusions in Full Tilt country have wrecked more than they established. They certainly have unleashed much animosity towards Western ways, which goes towards explaining the success of the Islamic State that raged there until recently. The immemorial world Dervla described is gone, probably forever; revisiting her book is like reading the Arabian Nights. But once upon a time, it existed for Dervla Murphy, and Full Tilt helps to make it unforgettable. Thanks again, Mick!
Full Tilt has been republished several times; the latest issue I have found is of 2010, so if you’d like to follow her journey in black and white you should have no problem getting a copy on any second-hand book website.
Charlotte’s blog: Learning to teach for real
By Charlotte Korten
If you had asked me 18 months ago whether I would ever become a teacher, I would have smiled broadly, shaking my head. No way, not for me, I like kids, but I don’t think I have anything in common with adolescents. Still, after completing my one-year master, I didn’t feel ready to face the job market (and to stop studying and enjoying student life). So, in May 2018, I decided to apply for the one-year LVHO master, thinking “I will probably have no use for it at all, but it is nice to have.”
18 Months later, I must admit that after two weeks as an intern I was completely hooked. All of a sudden after just a number of years as a student, I was back in the hustle and bustle of secondary school, but now at the other side. In April and May I started sending application letters and within a few months I had a job to look forward to. Only at the end of the Summer this prospect became really real for me. Before I knew it, I was preparing my packed lunch for the ‘big break.’
Schools have started and by now I am able to find (almost) all schoolrooms and I recognize nearly all my peoples (collogues are quite another matter). Teaching takes some getting used to, of course: every day, when I get home I am more than happy to fall into bed in time. But the next morning I get back into my car full of good spirit. Maybe this is also because of one the pupils who told me after one of my first lessons: “Miss, I think you are a chill teacher.” This is something the Charlotte of 18 months would have loved to hear.
Maat voor Maat in Diever
By Annie van der Veen and Con Diender
And…. a last check : garden chair cushions, garbage bags ( you never know. ..), fleece blankets, fleece vest, rain coat. Something nice to eat and drink, good mood! And we are off! Our annual trip to Diever to get a delightful dose of Shakespeare.
This year we are in even better company than usual since we decided to join the Alumni Club. An added bonus, since now we get to see some of our fellow Alumni. And of course, we get to see Hans Jansen again, who was in the same year as Con. Always a great pleasure!
We are early, but the enthusiasts have already gathered around the Alumni Umbrella. Drinks and snacks are distributed, and we are invited to join Hans Jansen in the Globe Theatre. Of course, I had read up extensively on the play, but boy, how Hans manages to capture our attention, to explain to us in very clear terms the meaning and importance of the play: A mirror to the king, a #metoo play. A truly splendid performance again on his part. I do hope people appreciate the work that he puts into this seemingly effortless introduction: they most certainly should!
While it is raining during the introduction, the sky is clear, and it is dry when we leave the Globe to find our seats in the theatre. We have found out in the course of the years that for Con to have a comfortable couple of hours in this theatre, we need a seat at the front so he can stretch these long legs of his. Fokke de Jong joins us there. Good seats, with an excellent view on the stage.
Each year I am surprised to find that they have found yet a new way to keep the audience occupied while they are waiting for the play to start. Putting on make-up and wigs, changing from ‘normal people’ like us into the characters that they are going to play right in front of our eyes on stage. I recognise some of the actors, two colleagues (from Quintus and from Beilen) and of course Vera Bonder, a former student of the Dr. Nassau College.
Hans did warn us that some of the actors would be in the audience, and of course one of the ‘loose women’ finds my husband to cling on to …! Yes, he is still very attractive.
We try not to feed the elephant, the bridge is lowered and the play begins. From where we are, we have a great view of every expression on the players’ faces. What a fantastic translation again! Wouldn’t Shakespeare have been proud of Isabella’s lines … and of her attitude: ‘DAH’ and the shrug of the shoulders… Loved it. Straight from real life, I hear the expression and intonation daily at school!
Once again, the costume people have shown how creative they are. The form of the stage also works very well again. I take it people on the other side of the stage had the same good view of the actors as we did. And … it doesn’t rain!
Hans Jansen’s introduction works. We notice the moments he pointed out to us, we appreciate even more now what Shakespeare was doing there and then. What always surprises me and most certainly this time, is how topical these Shakespeare plays are. Let’s hope Boris Johnson knows his Shakespeare!
During the interval a short chat with Vera Bonder, who plays Marianna. One of the perks of teaching, seeing your students find their aim in life: she is studying to become a drama-teacher/director and enjoying every minute of it. Makes my day!
The rest of the Alumni are higher up in the audience but seem to be having a great time too, judging by the noise and the happy faces. All the snacks and drinks get finished pretty quickly. We decide not to go for the ‘rookworst’, although the smell is very tempting. (smoked sausage is not really an apt translation for this phenomenon, is it?)
A quick rain check shows that we might be lucky! The play unfolds itself, the Undercover Boss scenario works, and yes… the ending! Brilliant. Let’s hope this ending resonates for a long time in the heads of the spectators. The #metoo movement should claim this play for their own!
Unfortunately, during the goodbye/thank you- dance it starts to rain. And pretty seriously too. So, no after-party! Everybody hurries towards their means of transport. Aren’t we lucky that we were early, so just a short sprint to our car and we are away again? Home, James!
A very enjoyable evening. Had a great time. Again, good intentions to go and watch Midzomernachtdroom and Zalige Vrouwtjes in the Globe Theatre this year. And considering going to Stratford again…. Wow! Of the inspiration by Shakespeare there is no end!
Until we meet again!