In this edition
A Dutch literary walk, by Irene Maathuis
In memoriam: Bert Wedema, by Geart van der Meer
The Things We Leave Behind, by Elke Maasbommel
Memories from 1969-1974, by Jan Hink
Message from the board
By Reinou Anker-Sollie
In a world where the news is no longer dominated by the Covid pandemic but by war and other misery, we wish to entertain you with more positive thoughts and share some good memories – some old, some new – and short stories from our alumni-to-be! Enjoy!
By the way: if you like reading the Anglophile, perhaps you would also like to write for us. We are looking for more regular and irregular writers. The same goes for the board: now that there are only three of us left, we would like to extend the board with some new members. So, if you are interested, drop us a line!
A Dutch literary walk
By Irene Maathuis
On Saturday 5th March, after a long period of online activities only due to covid, we met up physically again in the city. Hurrah! First of all, there was tea or coffee with (very yummy cheese-)cake at the Kosterij, where a long table had been reserved for us on the terrace. As for age, we were a mixed group, totalling thirteen alumni.
When our city guide, Roos Custers, arrived we walked to the Forum to start our literary walk there. It was a tour that lasted two hours all through the city centre. Roos is co-author of the literary walk guidebook with Nick ter Wal.
Roos led us past a poem by J.P. Rawie, which has been carved into stone opposite the long gone Wristers Bookshop. Since the writer did not wish people to foul the poem, it has ended up fairly high on the wall, so you have to look up to see and read it. Later on, we passed by the home of this same Jean Pierre Rawie in the Visserstraat. He is in the habit of always having a light on, or a lit candle on the table, but does not like people to look into his drawing room, so we stopped at some distance from his place to hear about his peculiarities.
Another interesting site was in the Noorderhaven where Nanne Tepper undertook an attempt at suicide by driving his expensive car at full speed in between two houseboats into the canal. His attempt failed as witnesses rescued him from the water. On a later occasion, he killed himself anyway.
Other writers that were mentioned included for instance Driek van Wissen, who was a national poet for some time – as well as a colleague of Dineke and myself at Dr. Aletta Jacobscollege in Hoogezand – and W.F. Hermans whose house is situated on the corner of Spilsluizen and Ossenmarkt. Hermans is notorious for having been a grumpy person and apparently, he especially detested the annual fair on Ossenmarkt.
The tour could have lasted much longer as Roos proved to be a very enthusiastic and passionate speaker, full of juicy bits of information about our Groningen writers. She also added a few quotes of interesting works of literature by the same writers.
But the wind had meanwhile chilled us to the bone, so we were happy to thaw in the Feithhuis with a drink and a variety of snacks. Eventually, eight of us stayed for dinner at the Feithhuis and had a delicious dinner together, reminiscing about our student days mostly.
All in all, it was an entertaining activity full of surprises and among friendly (new) faces. Thank you on behalf of all of us for organising this event, Reinou, Marjan, Nienke and any others I may have overlooked.
Kind regards, Irene.
In memoriam Bert Wedema (25-8- 1936 – 7-4-2022)
By Geart van der Meer
Veel studenten Engels zo ongeveer tussen 1970 en eind vorige eeuw zullen zich de onlangs overleden Bert Wedema goed herinneren. Bert was jarenlang een van de bepalende gezichten van de afdeling Engels aan de RUG. Hij was een echte noorderling, nuchter, degelijk, praktisch, met een mild gevoel voor humor, betrouwbaar en plezierig om mee samen te werken: er ging altijd een zekere rust van hem uit. Ik heb zelf geen college bij hem gelopen: ik ben afgestudeerd in 1970, en toen ik in dat jaar aantrad bij de Afdeling Engels was hij er al een paar jaar. Bert moet een vriendelijk, toegankelijk en gedreven docent zijn geweest, serieus maar ook goedlachs, met veel gevoel en begrip voor zijn studenten, en liefde voor zijn vak. Als studieadviseur jarenlang moeten deze eigenschappen hem ook behulpzaam zijn geweest.
Bert heeft in Groningen gestudeerd, onder de toenmalige professor Zandvoort (die van het bekende A Handbook of English Grammar), die een hoge dunk van hem had. Na enkele jaren les gegeven te hebben aan het Dalton Lyceum solliciteerde hij naar een baan bij de afdeling Engels bij de RUG, en daar is hij tot zijn pensioen mee verbonden gebleven. Bert heeft vele jaren mede de inrichting van het taalverwervingsonderwijs bij ons vormgegeven.
Zijn leven als collega en docent is een uitvloeisel van de meer algemene kanten van zijn karakter: Bert was om het zo uit te drukken een mensenmens, die van gezelligheid hield. Een echte familieman, die van zijn kinderen en kleinkinderen genoot, graag mocht zeilen met zijn eigen jacht, later graag kampeerde met de caravan of met een reisclubje naar het buitenland toog: altijd genietend met – en van – anderen die erbij waren.
Kortom: een aangenaam mens. Zijn vrouw en naaste familie kunnen over de moeilijke laatste maanden heen terugkijken op een echtgenoot, vader en schoonvader, en opa die meer dan dat was: gewoon een belangstellende vriend en raadgever.
The things we leave behind
by Elke Maasbommel
I sometimes struggle to write a post. There are times I find myself so devoid of inspiration, that staring endlessly at the screen causes my eyes to wander off in different directions, hoping to find the tiniest particle of creativity; outside, on the table, or underneath the couch. On those days, I usually end up with a headache, a full stomach (somehow my brain always convinces me that food will spark my imagination, which is never the case), and a blank screen. Occasionally, however, my pieces write themselves. And this is what happened when I decided to buy something in a second-hand bookstore.
I wasn’t allowed to buy any books yesterday. That’s the one thing my boyfriend demanded of me when he allowed me to go with him to the bookshop. I promised I wouldn’t. However, since I needed to feed my book-buying addiction, I kindly asked him if buying books for others would be allowed. It was.
So that’s how I found myself at the checkout counter with three books tucked safely under my arm, hoping that they would be great birthday presents. But I was the one who received a real gift: I found a used bookmark in the second-hand books I had just purchased. It was a personal one, with pictures and a date on it.
Finding items like these always inspires me. Why, I wonder, would they leave behind this bookmark inside a book? Did they simply forget about it? Or did something happen between two people who used to be friends? Was the memory of the person on the bookmark too depressing, and did they just want to get rid of it? Did they even read this book? Was this book given to them by someone else? Was it, therefore, a personal gift that was underappreciated? And why would they donate a gifted book, and not even finish it? Or is this bookmark a hidden message to the person buying it? What would they want to say with it? Should I go on an adventure to try and find out?
I have no idea what was going on with this particular bookmark. However, if I were a proper writer, this would be the theme of my next novel. The Things We Leave Behind, it would be called (it’s not a very good title, but hey, as I said, I’m not a proper writer), and it would focus on things we discard, things we no longer attach any meaning to, but which might be really valuable for someone else. I would touch upon issues such as materialism and lost love, and how getting rid of unwanted items is a metaphor for letting go of negative feelings – or of how somehow, inevitably we lose things we wish we could somehow recover.
Oh! What a splendid book it would be! Critics would love it, it would be translated into a hundred different languages, and everyone would buy it – and it would be the perfect birthday gift. Not everyone would read it, though, and some of them might even donate it, unread, to a second-hand bookshop.
Let’s hope they leave something inside of my novel, and inspire aspiring authors to write their next bestseller.
Memories from 1969-1974
by Jan Hink
In this and subsequent issues of the ‘Anglophile’, we intend to publish some memoirs of the ‘seventies at our department (then our ‘institute’), as told by alumni of that period. For starters, here are some reminiscences by Jan Hink, covering the 1969-1974 period.
At the ‘Alfagebouw’, Grote Kruisstraat 2/1
In 1969 I first set foot in Grote Kruisstraat as a young student of English. It was still summer. The building was new, and we spent sunny breaks on the lawns of the old Hortus Botanicus, in which our Institute of Languages had been planted only very recently. The fifteen minutes between each session was a very welcome novelty for young students, fresh from their secondary schools. We spent a lot of time there, or in the spacious canteen.
My motivation for this study was, I think, very flimsy. I was a young boy who did not really know what he wanted to do: the son of a bulb grower who had the idea that studying something – anything – would be a wise thing to do. In 1968 my secondary school got a new phenomenon: a careers master, who had said: “Jan, you love languages – you could study English”. The course which was open for HBS-A candidates (MO-A and MO-B Engels) was given in Nijmegen, Amsterdam and Groningen. I chose Groningen because it sounded good – and because I had never been there. There were still those other vague ambitions: becoming a bulb grower or a truck driver, but they could wait until after these five years.
I should perhaps say a bit more about the building and about our social life. To us, young students, the ‘Anglistisch Instituut’ was a miracle of space and efficiency. No cramped spaces, a beautiful library with lots of space to work, and a lot of support from Toos Zuurveen. Gradually, we seemed to grow into the building, where more and more extracurricular activities were organised. Some are just a name – Spring Festival, in which I performed a role I do not remember. Some memories remained: the lively evenings in the English Students’ Club, situated on the loft of the “Hendrik de Cock” student society on the Coehoornsingel. I even had an official function there: PR officer, responsible for drawing posters.
When I found these posters again, the first name that struck me was Rina van Maanen. She was one of those older students we often saw but did not mix with very much. It was only in my third year, during a short fling with Rina, that I met that other older student Hennie Schoenmaker, who is still my wife. Many more contacts date from these first years. Your ‘Anglophile’ for instance, is filled for about 50% by Henk Dragstra, who I knew first as an older fellow student, then as a teacher and friend. Anja Wieringa, who started studying after having worked for a few years, was a colleague for many years at Zernike College Haren and Groningen. I had lost sight of Renee van Gelderen, whom I envied for her travelling experience and her slightly American pronunciation until we became colleagues in Warffum for two years in 2011-2013. Haye van den Oever was never far away it seemed. He drew my attention to the Alumni Club.
Even though my fellow students in those years were real lifesavers, I was not good at stable friendships. Hennie Brand! I would have loved to spend some time in the UK with you in the summer of 1970, after our first year and… I let you down. Phone connections were almost non-existent, so I did not reach you to tell you I would be in London late for our holiday. Back home in Noord Holland, we had not finished lifting, processing, and sorting the flower bulbs. Only when I felt my dad could do without me, did I get on my way for my first trip to the UK. Of course, you had by then left the place near Paddington where we were to meet, so I hitchhiked through England with someone else – another example of my complete lack of planning once the work in the bulb fields was done and holidays started.
Henry van Dijk, what beautiful musical experiences we shared in our student rooms and on the top floor of the students’ residence ‘Selwerd 1’. And yet – we lost contact for about half a century.
“Selwerd 1”, you might wonder: these were the years in which students were moving from private digs to specially designed buildings, owned by the ‘Stichting Studenten Huisvesting’. During the first few months in Groningen, I lived in the Schuitemakerstraat, in a small room with a petroleum heater. The family lived on the top floors of the house, on the ground floor of which Mr Mein had his business, a small wholesale tobacco trading company. After the cold months there I felt fortunate to land on the 9th floor of this Selwerd 1 building, with a few older students who held jobs balanced with a very nice social life. Paul Schilders, Anneke van Tuyl and Pieter Dun were fellow “Selwerd 1” tenants in that rather quiet, well-kept building. We were pretty serious students, too, and we all ended up as teachers.
Of many other fellow students I have only fragmentary memories, and as I said, I lost sight of most of you over the years. One chance meeting showed how parallel your lives have sometimes been to mine: in a small exhibition of ‘Joost Swarte and Friends’ in De Lawei in Drachten a woman my age entered with her husband and a friend of theirs who lives near us. She looked so familiar that I tried: “Annet!” And yes, she looked up. Annet van den Akker, after about fifty years.
I think there were about thirty students in our year, two of whom finished their MO-B in July 1974, within the standard five years. I was slightly delayed by a compulsory thesis-like piece of writing. In December 1974, with I believe three more students, I graduated.
From that time I was a fully qualified teacher. Funny actually, because as a preparation for the job this study was really very summary. What little practical preparation we got was a few hours of ‘Algemene Didactiek’ and some more hours of ‘Vakdidactiek”, taught by Mr Paul Floor. The latter course was linked with the subsequent short period of practical work in a school. In my case the so-called “hospiteren” period was planned and performed in Wessel Gansfort school. Both Elzo Huizing and Paul Floor agreed I did not have much talent for teaching……
In order to bridge a financial gap, and in spite of the negative advice I had got, I took up teaching in September 1974. My first experiences in Assen were, surprisingly, quite reasonable, notwithstanding the scant preparation and my lack of talent. In retrospect, this was mainly due to the well-planned and well-organised system used by the two older teachers of English at the ‘Professor Dr. P. H. Kohnstamm School’ in Assen. I worked there for three years.
Then I moved closer to my home and started teaching in Zernike College, a more standard-type secondary school in Groningen. There was a lot to be learned there, and I felt like a rookie again. That was a really difficult second start. Only after two or three years there did I feel I had become a professional. Interestingly, in the course of the years I taught Mr Floor’s children and grandchildren at that school.
And did I like my job? Yes!! I always say that if I am ever born again I would choose the same profession.
Back to the early 70s: the teachers
I really have to scan my memory to recall the people who taught us. The first person who comes to mind is Professor Wilkinson: how remarkably friendly and humorous this man was. The warmth and the love with which he filled the classrooms is what I remember best. We were often timing the standard moment for a good anecdote, which usually came about fifteen minutes before the end of the hour. For me, he was a great and friendly soul, a perfect example for young teachers.
Another great example was our teacher of Latin and Classical culture, Mr Tichelman. Precise, polite and passionate. I both dreaded and loved his lessons. The most remarkable hour was the one in which he broke down, when reading about the death of Socrates. We were all diligently reading with him, heads down, when suddenly his voice stopped. “My apologies, ladies and gentlemen. I thought I would be able to read this after having avoided it for many years, but I can’t” – and he was crying. I have always remembered this as a sign of greatness.
Of other teachers I have more fragmentary memories: Mr Riewald, very friendly, and with an extremely surprising pronunciation of English, obviously dating from the times when that was not yet considered very important. Rudy Bremer, our teacher of translation, whom I remember mostly for his flamboyance. Liesbeth Verpalen, who was his opposite in many ways and who commanded my respect with her quiet and serious stability. I hope to see her again this spring. Anthony Davies, who had that absolutely unique quality to bring Old English and history to life for me. When he told a story you felt it was about real people. Mr Posthumus, who I felt inhabited a different world, but the perceived disconnection was probably my own fault. Alasdair McKinnon was a never-ending source of more or less useful facts. Never a dull moment in his courses.
And did I see them after 1974?
Yes, but only a few of them. Not too often, though. When I was a teacher at Zernike College in the 80’s I sometimes cycled from Helpman to the northern part of Groningen with Professor Gerritsen, who was then still working on the Wolters dictionaries. Almost half a century later, sometime in 2018, to our mutual surprise, Bert Wedema and I met at Verhildersum in Leens. He and his wife were visitors, I was a member of the board there. Since I stopped working in 2014, I have spent a lot of time on all kinds of volunteer jobs.
Two of the later encounters with one teacher stand out: sometime in the 90’s I was in Waterstone’s in Cambridge when a short, older man entered: “If that isn’t mister McKinnon!” – “If that isn’t Jan Hink!”. He had ‘gone back home’ after his early retirement. We spent a good Wednesday afternoon in his home after he had showed me his rooms in his old college. I told him that with a group of Dutch careers counsellors we were studying practical examples of careers counseling in the UK. When he heard we did that in cooperation with Anglia University he said: “Well, I guess if you called the army a university you would have even more students.”
In the early 2000’s Hennie and I passed Cambridge again, on an errand, picking up our son’s running shoes left at a friend’s house. In a shopping centre outside the old centre of town we were wondering what kind of life the old man we saw there would have had – until we noticed in passing that it was that same Mr MacKinnon again. He had aged almost beyond recognition, and one or two years later, trying to contact him again, we learned he had died.
And what did we actually learn?
Even though that is a very hard question for me to answer, I do feel that these five years were really a great educational opportunity. We had the chance of reading and studying a wide range of subjects; the course definitely brought me new horizons in history. Even though it was mainly British, with a very tiny window on American culture, it was a lot, in all its insularity. It was especially great if you loved reading.
The linguistic studies in these years seemed to be more academic than education-oriented. I hardly felt I was preparing to become a teacher. In fact, for a long time I had the idea that I was just getting some general education for who knows what future job. Grammar, (traditional and ‘modern’ in those early Chomsky days), phonetics, and pronunciation were all necessary evils to me.
The real fun was reading – mainly novels, something I have never stopped doing. Throughout my working years, in which I did all kinds of work which had nothing to do with English, I have kept reading novels. I am rather omnivorous in that: everything by Paul Auster, until he lost me in his last novel; Atkinson, Follett, Hornby, Murakami, Zadie Smith…. In my teaching years, I mostly tried to keep up with English and American literature. At the start of every novel, I long for that ultimate experience. To me, the best book I read in the 80’s was The Fountainhead; in the 90’s it was The Bonfire of the Vanities, in 2005 it was The Brooklyn Follies. In the last fifteen years though, I have started reading more and more Dutch, French, Hungarian (in translation) and German literature.
Let me end with this German touch; after all, the British Royal Family is also half German. My best book of the last decade was Unterleuten, by Juli Zeh. Incredible that she wrote it when she was just forty, and that she was able to give a picture of German society in and around Berlin with such riveting accuracy. And the best one of this decade? Mittagsstunde by Dörte Hansen.
Three short stories by WEM 1 students
Once again the English department selected three creative stories written by WEM 1 students to publish in our magazine. For which we are very grateful of course. These stories were written in December last year (which explains why one of them is about Christmas).
Sometimes Ambient, Mostly Loud
by Mabel Mensink
It’s hard to breathe when I panic like this. My head feels full, heavy, impossible to carry any further. I want to scream, cry, vomit. Anything to purge this incessant dread that just won’t stop coursing through me. My veins carry it exactly where it doesn’t need to be. My hands tremble, my stomach tightens, the muscles in my legs contract and expand without rhyme or reason, everything is screaming for some kind of release. But there won’t be any. This panic, this abject terror, it can’t go anywhere yet.
I desperately wish it was anger, that it was focused solely on some random individual. I am physically unimpressive, no muscle to speak of, but at least I could get my frustration out through some form of violence, real or imagined. I wish that my blood was boiling in my gut, that my knuckles were white with rage, that somehow I was up against something I could actually fight, but this is dread, and dread paralyses.
This fear cannot turn into rage, not now. It will boil just below the surface and the only tangible solution is waiting for the fire fuelling it to gradually dim and go out. The best I can hope for at this moment is that sleep might take it away; the silver lining of panicking at night.
Panic so thoroughly exhausts me most of the time, that sleeping through it isn’t an unusual idea. The thought that I might have made plans for tonight briefly runs through my head, but knowing my pitiable social life I dismiss it easily. If I am a hermit, my friends are deep-sea creatures yet undiscovered. I am alone.
No, my only plan for tonight was to read some report or another for a project, and I almost started too. The title is lengthy and its contents are probably equally so. I haven’t dared to open it, despite needing to present its findings in only a few days.
I read most easily in bed, it just feels natural to be covered in a warm blanket while lying on a hard mattress. I also mostly read from a screen, which is where the panic starts. The downside of not owning some sort of e-reader is that social media distracts me easily. We’ve all been there, Twitter has a new main character of the day and everyone has an opinion at the ready. In the sheer joy of ridiculing some random person on the internet, I forgot the constant barrage of hate, sometimes ambient, mostly loud. I looked at the trending tab, a huge mistake. Someone else was trending, someone whose ideas are only too familiar. Another national news outlet has conducted another interview with another one of them. I’ve lost count of how many there have been now. She wants us dead, they all do. She’s too polite to say it in those exact words, but she does. And there’s nothing I can do about it.
The Bigger, the Better
by Marjolein Werkman
Emma dragged the pine tree she had just bought up the stairs to her small student room. She loved Christmas and got a tree as soon as it was socially acceptable to do so. Other decorative bits and bobs had already been unpacked the month before, but the tree was the cherry on top of her Christmas cake. She was already looking forward to snuggling up on the sofa and watching her collection of Christmas movies with the lights of the tree illuminating her room.
She placed the tree in its designated corner, making sure it would be the centre of attention from every seat in her room. She then carefully slashed the netting and let the branches unfold. Taking a step back, she looked approvingly at her new friend. On one side the branches were a bit squished against the wall and on the other the wide lower branches almost touched her bed. Maybe it was a bit big. But bigger is better, especially with Christmas trees, right?
With some festive tunes on, she started decorating: first the lights and a sparkly garland, then baubles and bells on every branch. When she at last got down from a wobbly stool after placing the topper, she couldn’t be happier with the end result. There it stood, the Christmas tree of her dreams full of glitter and sparkle, the lights reflecting in the darkened window.
Her stomach growled. She had completely forgotten the time while decorating and it was now way past dinner time. She fixed herself something quick to eat and, in the meantime, planned the Christmas movies she was going to watch that night. She shoved a DVD in the old player, plopped down on the sofa with a steaming plate of pasta in one hand and the remote in the other, turned on the TV, and only then realised that she would have to watch The Holiday on her laptop this year instead.
by Lotte Bekkema
‘Hey, you okay?’ I was met with a huff, which was more than I got from her on most other days. Call me a fool, I like to label myself an optimist.
‘It’s like that, huh?’ I sat down on one of the snapped evergreens; the storms were getting pretty heavy lately.
‘You could’ve gotten one of those on your head, if you hadn’t been careful,’ I said, gesturing to all of the other fallen trees. She didn’t look at me, but I could sense the heat coming from the gaze that was currently directed at the lake in front of us. Maybe it was just my imagination, but I swear I could’ve seen some bubbles forming. I scraped my throat and put my cold hands into the pockets of my jacket. Okay, so maybe a pleasant conversation wasn’t on the table today. But still, could hardly blame me for wanting to offer her some company. Not like there was anyone else to do it anyway.
I’d found her here a month ago when on my daily patrol. She’d been sitting exactly where she was now, feet dangling in the dark green water. My first thought was that it was strange she was still wearing her boots. My second thought was that I’d never seen anyone here before. The lake was too polluted for anything to be able to live in it. My third thought was that I should probably tell her that.
Her face looked younger up close, early teens maybe? She didn’t seem to head my warning, not even sparing a glance in my direction. She’d just let a little air flow past her lips and kept on swinging her legs back and forth. I looked at her feet then. Dark, mossed roots reached out of the water and had creeped their way up her bare shins, locking her in place. She wasn’t wearing any boots, after all.
‘Don’t you ever get cold?’ I tried striking up a conversation again.
‘Don’t you ever get tired of being annoying?’ Well then.
‘Seems like someone’s in a bad mood today.’
‘Piss off, lady.’
It’s then that I noticed her red, puffy eyes, even though she tried her best to hide them. A deep sigh escaped me as I stood up only to sit back down again, this time cross-legged on the grass close to where she aggressively wiped her cheeks with the backs of her hands. I was careful to not get in contact with the water.
‘World knock you down, huh?’
‘So what, am I just supposed to let them get to me like that? Cry over it like a little girl?’
‘Little girls cry for important reasons too, you know.’
I reached out to put my hand on her shoulder. She tensed, but made no attempt to shrug me off. We sat like that for a while, before I had to go back to finish my rounds. No further words were exchanged. I’d probably see her again tomorrow.