Anglophile #15 2023-2024

In this edition:

Message from the board, by Reinou Sollie-Anker

Save the dates

On School Trips and The Next Great Novels, by Elke Maasbommel

Welcome to Wrexham, by Ammerins Moss-de Boer

Book Eaters, by Ammerins Moss-de Boer

The Sun, the Stars, and Tennis Balls, by Elke Maasbommel

Chat GPT and poetry: Arts Lecture by Ellen Deckwitz, by Marjan Brouwers

Girl Math, by Ammerins Moss-de Boer

A night with James Bond, by Elke Maasbommel and Marjan Brouwers

A funny tragedy at Diever, by Marjan Brouwers

Message from the board

by Reinou Sollie-Anker

We have some lovely reading ahead for you, but first things first:

We have a jubilee party coming up on the 4th of November! It would be so lovely to see many of you there. And, alumni who are not members of this association are also very welcome, so feel free to forward the invitation to old classmates! The invitation will follow shortly in a separate mail.

Also, as per the next Annual AGM, the board will lose one board member and we have noticed that a board of five is a really nice number, so if there is anyone interested in joining the board, please contact us!

If you are like me and you mostly read books from your favorite genres. Let yourself be surprised by reading some of our suggestions by joining our online book club on Literal. Let’s read “out of the box”!

We had fun writing, so we wish you a lot of fun reading 😊. See you on the 4th of November!

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Save the dates!

Saturday 4th of November: our 25th anniversary in Café de Sleutel, Groningen

Tuesday 14th of November: Annual AGM at the Harmonie

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On School Trips and The Next Great Novel

by Elke Maasbommel

One of my biggest regrets in life is that I haven’t written a novel yet. I desperately want to, and that’s why I sometimes lock myself up in my room for hours on end, trying to write down lines that will change my life – indeed, change literature itself. So far, my creative flow has not been, er, flowing much. To make matters worse, I had to go on a school trip to England last week, which would distract me from writing my still very much non-existent novel. I decided to apply some wise words from Wes Anderson’s movie The Grand Budapest Hotel to this trip: if you’re an author, just observe and listen, and the stories will come to you. Want to know whether I returned with any grand ideas for a novel after this exciting, exhausting, existential-crisis-inducing week? Then read on!

Every school trip starts in much the same way. We need to check whether all children are there and whether they’ve brought their passports (yes, one needs a passport to travel to the UK nowadays – but this subject has already been discussed endlessly in recent novels, so I will not go into this any further), whether they haven’t got any illnesses, brought any booze or drugs. Furthermore, we always have to make sure we won’t run over any crying parents who aren’t quite ready to say goodbye to their children and are swarming all over the place. Oh! I thought, while telling the bus driver that, yes, everyone was there so we could leave, wouldn’t it be a great idea to write a coming-of-age/adventure novel about a student who was overlooked? They would show up, an hour late, and find out that the bus had left without them. What they would do next was to travel to England by themselves, but they would be hindered by parents who would tell them it would be too scary to go there on their own. Also, all mobile phones would be out of service for some reason, so they would never quite know where to go. After days of searching for us, travelling by bus, train, plane, and on foot, losing a shoe and their sanity on their way, only helped by the fact we’d stay at this London district called Morden, we would finally meet up again at the very last day when we would be ready to go back to the Netherlands. They would have learned so much about themselves and the world, and would have trust issues for the rest of their life. The end.

On the second day, we walked for hours. Our chauffeur (now, there’s an interesting story! His boyfriend lives in London, and somehow this man joined us wherever we went – and our driver didn’t even bother asking us if that was okay; it was all quite strange) dropped us off at the Museum of London, and we would walk all the way back to Buckingham Palace, because we’d picked a route which would show us all of London’s most famous highlights. The children complained, said their feet hurt, that it took us way too long to get there, and we didn’t allow them enough time to take pictures of every single thing they saw. After a while, we walked into this little park, and one of the students said that there are quite a lot of poisonous plants in England. I then told him that it was time for one of my very strange and very specific rules that I made up on the spot and should never be taken out of context: “there shall not be any licking of plants.” Well, I soon came to regret that. They soon mock-licked anything that even remotely resembled a plant, and I was left laughing until I cried. They even drew a picture of us, them finally licking a very sad flower, and me looking very cross with them for having disobeyed this one rule. But then I realised that I could write a science-fiction zombie-apocalypse novel about this, with everyone who’d eat or lick anything plant-based turning into mindless monsters trying to wipe out society. Only a couple of intelligent scientists, who had conveniently locked themselves up in an underground base for days on end, trying to eradicate hunger (notice the similarities between these scientists and me trying to write my critically-acclaimed and wildly popular debut novel?) would manage to reverse this catastrophe by creating artificial food. Everything would soon turn back to normal, the scientists would be awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine, and everyone would live happily ever after. But the world would change in one major aspect: there would never, forevermore, be any licking of plants. The end.

Thursday was museum day. I took a group of ten students with me to the Natural History Museum – you know, the one with all the dinosaurs. It is located in this beautiful building in Kensington, and the moment we set eyes on it my students gasped. Once inside, the first thing we saw was a skeleton of a blue whale, and right after that a mount of a giraffe – my favourite animal. We did a dinosaur and mammal tour, and we were all so impressed by all these different animals. But what surprised me the most was how we didn’t know about dinosaurs until the nineteenth century. The word dinosaur, meaning terrible reptile, was coined (so Google tells me) by the controversial scientist Sir Richard Owen. I then thought about how I would do so much research that I could write a historical novel about this man and the discovery of dinosaurs. I would look up how science evolved drastically in the nineteenth century, and how our understanding of the world and ourselves changed with it. I would think I knew this Mr Owen so intimately that I would often talk about him as though he were a good friend of mine. My novel would show that Richard wasn’t very likable (for instance, he sometimes took credit for other people’s work), but somehow we’d all end up thinking of him as a hero of his time. Or would we? The end.

On Wednesday, day three, we went to Brighton, this lovely coastal town quite close to London. The sun was shining, the sea was calm, and the famous Brighton Pier looked just as shabby-but-charming as I had expected it to be. I assumed everything would be perfect. But nah, of course, it wouldn’t. There were four students who had already proven themselves to be quite annoying. This time, they showed up an hour late. We decided to punish them by saying they could not leave this one table at the beach for five hours, while two of us, the teachers, went for a walk with the rest of the students. After a while, one of us would take over babysit duties. When it was my turn to make sure the boys would not leave, I had this great idea for a philosophical novel about how being forced to stay in the same place for hours on end would allow one to truly consider one’s predicament. What was it that had brought them to this specific place in this specific time? What, and who, had contributed to them turning out this way? Would there be only regret, or also hopefulness? Eventually, my novel would show that it would not be that hard to change one’s identity by thinking about everything for a good long while. Even those who live their lives by doing whatever they want, not minding anyone’s feelings for even a single second, would come to realise what their actions have meant for others. Eventually, humanity would change for the better. The end.

Finally it was Friday. We were tired. We had walked a lot, we had talked a lot (mostly about these boys, who simply refused to think long and hard about themselves and still behaved atrociously all the time – I’ll gift them my Great Philosophical Novel when it’s done), we had eaten too much and slept too little. The bus left at eight in the morning, and then we boarded the ferry from Dover to Dunkirk, then drove all the way back to Groningen. My brain was fried, and I didn’t get any ideas for the next great novel. Maybe I could write a stream-of-conscious novella about how the outside world reflects our innermost feelings. Maybe not. Maybe I should just leave the writing to those who are actually really good at it. Maybe I should just watch Wes Anderson movies instead of being inspired by them. The end.

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Welcome to Wrexham

by Ammerins Moss-de Boer

It all started with a simple recommendation… “Disney+ thinks you might also like…. And now we are die-hard Wrexham fans. Honestly, die-hard. Like fans with an iFollow subscription. Who sit in front of a (sometimes horribly buffering) League 2 game twice a week (and ‘we’ are still in the cup, so even more games!). Who have a Wrecsam flag hanging in their living room. And yes, who are learning Welsh!

It all started out so innocently, with that Disney+ recommendation. We had just fallen into the black hole that was the day after the Women’s Euros 2022 (yeah, England!), and obviously, it was still a while until the World Cup in Qatar (which, we honestly weren’t going to watch — yeah right… as if). So, when we were recommended Welcome to Wrexham, we thought: why not? It has the guy from Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds), it has the guy from Always Sunny in Philadelphia (Rob McElhenney). And it has football. Win-win-win!

We were hooked from the beginning. We had never heard of Wrexham. I even had to look it up on the map! But the story about how a football club that had really gone through tough times, that was bought by the town in a last-ditch attempt to save the club, that was now fighting its way up the National League again, with hopes of promotion, and then got the attention of two Hollywood stars, just has everything you want. You get to know the people in the town, the owner and regulars of the pub/hotel that is right next door to the stadium, and of course all the volunteers, staff, and players of, honestly, the best club in the world.

So, right after binge-watching season one, we started listening to games (you can do that for free on the website). Of course, that didn’t really scratch the itch, so we bought a season pass to watch games online. We even had our own Wrexham T-shirts made (I know, sad…) as the kits were no longer available for sale. We cheered and booed along with the team, shouted at referees, bit our nails, and then lost our voices and popped the champagne when that elusive promotion did happen (sorry, spoiler alert…)!

And now, as I said, we are – again – kitted out and watching games. And eagerly awaiting season 2 of Welcome to Wrexham, which will air here in Europe from 13 September. And who knows, at the end of this season, there will be another champagne cork stuck in the ceiling, but for now, it’s: Pob lwc Wrecsam!

PS: If you want to join us, go to

PSPS: You need Disney+ to be able to watch the show, but it is well worth it! (And if you’re done with season 1 before season 2 drops, just go and watch all of The Mandalorian again. Or The Bear. And they have The X Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 24 and Grey’s Anatomy too, for those of us who like the classics…)

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Unforgettable Books

The Book Eaters – Sunyi Dean

by Ammerins Moss-de Boer

On our most recent trip to Scotland, we – of course – also stocked up our English-language library. We passionately feel that it is an insult to leave a bookstore without books, so we ended up with a boot full of books to take home with us. Around twenty bookstores and a huge stack of books later, I noticed a bit of a theme… I had bought The Book Thief, The Book of Lost Things and also: The Book Eaters.

The protagonist in The Book Eaters is Devon, born into a family where books are literally devoured, as they require books, manuals, and ink tea for sustenance. The knowledge they gather by ingesting the pages is carefully curated, however, to ensure they don’t go mad by filling their head with too much, diverse information. And how handy is it to simply eat a car manual and be able to fix your faulty transmission?

Devon’s family belongs to one of the few remaining clans of book eaters in the world, and that is also exactly the main problem… To survive, the book eaters require a carefully planned system of procreation, where the daughters are married into other families to give birth to healthy, book-eating children. Most girls can only have two children, so it is important to get it right… The boys become either patriarchs of families or knights, acting as go-betweens between the families, ensuring that this system is upheld and the girls end up where they are supposed to. But: not all the children that are born, are book eaters. And the knights have a whole other secret task…

Devon felt she was different from an early age, but when her second child is ‘wrong’, she feels she has no other option but to take drastic action, leave the book eaters, and find her own way in the world. However, she finds out that blood is thicker than water and she cannot simply leave her past behind.

What follows is a mesmerising and somethings shocking story about growing up and finding your place in society, with elements of fantasy and, yes, love, of course. A great book for those who love fantasy, such as Neil Gaiman or Susanna Clarke.

(The Book Eaters, Sunyi Dean, Tor Books, 304 pp – also available as an eBook)

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The Sun, The Stars, and Tennis Balls

How I Ended up at Centre Court at Wimbledon

By Elke Maasbommel

On normal days, I only read Young-Adult novels because something (usually work) is taking up so much space in my head that there’s not enough room in there to deal with Great Literature. I am not proud of it. I wish I didn’t have such a busy job. But sometimes, however, there are good things that also demand quite a lot of brain power. And it just so happens that I was reading Nicola Yoon’s The Sun Is Also a Star while a Very Good Thing happened to me. Coincidentally, its topic, coincidence versus fate, mirrored this Thing in such a striking way that I just had to write about it, combining real events and this novel.

The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon about Natasha, a Black teenage girl who is forced to travel back to her native country Jamaica later today, and Daniel, a Korean-American boy who doesn’t want to be a doctor even though his parents demand it. Natasha is cynical and trusts in science, while Daniel is a dreamer and believes in fate. They meet and fall in love in two hours. Of course they do, because they’re seventeen years old.

I started reading this book because one of my students really liked it, and I always ask them if I can borrow it so I can tell them how much I liked it, too (or lie about liking it). They then know I show an interest in them and their hobbies, and think I’m quite an ok person. Sometimes, anyway. So, I had to give this one a go to.

More importantly, I started reading this book when I was queueing to get Grounds tickets for Wimbledon, the tennis tournament. It’s very easy: you turn up early – as in, ungodly-hour, what-on-Earth-am-I-doing-here, you-must-be-insane early. My alarm was set at four in the morning. Thankfully, the sun was shining brightly when we arrived at the Queue. Since it would be several hours before we’d enter through the Gates of Wimbledon, I pretended not to be exhausted and started to read. It was an ok book, but I hate it when teenagers think that they can fall in love within one second and then think they’ve met the one. It all feels quite delusional. Still, I kept on reading – it wasn’t like I there was anything else I could do, of course.

Two hours, three litres of sun screen, and a hundred and fifty pages of The Sun is Also a Star later (yes, this book really is that simple – by now Daniel was adamant the universe wanted him and Natasha together, while she vehemently denied this, and I saw it coming for ages that of course they would admit to each other that they were in love) I received a phone call by Phil, a man I had met at our AirBnB the night before. We had started talking, and of course I asked him about Wimbledon. He had just returned from it, and he had tickets for two more days. I told him I was quite jealous, for he had proper tickets, while we plebeians simply had to hope we’d be allowed in via the Queue. He then went on to say that he might do something for us. But don’t get your hopes up, he added. We wouldn’t, and forgot all about it.

So, the next morning, Phil called me and said that yes, he could do something for me, if I gave him my email address, so he could forward it to someone who could get us Centre Court tickets. No, really? No, what? No, this can’t be true, can it? No wait, are you a scammer? I asked him. No, he said. (We later discussed how terribly naive it was to ask a scammer if he’s a scammer, but hey, at least I tried.) Turns out he really wasn’t, and my continuous outcries of disbelief eventually turned into an elated YES! All I had to do, however, was buy said tickets. All I had to do was to wait for an email.

In The Sun Is Also a Star, everything seems to be going right for Natasha and Daniel. But then something happens, and it might all go wrong. Well, that’s what I felt like while waiting for that one email. Since Wimbledon Park was packed, with ten thousand people sitting there, eating there, and checking their phones for the latest results on the tennis courts which were so close and yet so far away from us, the internet wasn’t really working. It was so slow that I started to fear I would never receive that email. My mum said, Daniel-like, that everything would be ok, because it was fate. I, very much like the realistic Natasha, said that no, we were doomed.

But no! Just like in every single book, there’s always the special something that happens which allows everyone to live happily ever after. My special something is my boyfriend, whom I called (which was also quite an ordeal) and begged to check my email for me. After a while he called me saying that indeed an email had arrived. Then he said he’d use my laptop to transfer the money. Then he paid the tickets. Then I received a confirmation email. And then I had two tickets for Centre Court, which must surely be the best place in the world! We left the Queue and almost ran to the Gates. We were in. How? What? Why?

In The Sun Is Also a Star (if you haven’t realised by now: this post is not really about the book, for it’s quite a simple, predictable, cliché, both stylistically and plot-wise, book about two teenagers who are very different but nevertheless think they are in love with each other after literally minutes – instead, I use Yoon’s novel as a device to write about my perfect Wimbledon experience) the two main characters somehow start believing in the idea that they were meant to be together. They start to believe that all the things that happen to them that day simply had to happen, that the weird woman who made Natasha be late for a meeting and the man who talked to Daniel about a religious experience were there because they were destined to be there and bring them together.

By now, I started to think that the main characters were on to something. Somehow, my cold, cynical heart that doesn’t believe in fate or karma started to thaw a little. Somehow, I had almost convinced myself that I had been destined to talk to Phil. Somehow, I felt like we deserved those tickets. And that’s how somehow, we ended up in Centre Court in unbelievably good seats.

In The Sun Is Also a Star, Daniel and Natasha keep telling themselves how lucky they are, and how they start dreaming of a better future. Well, my mother and I felt like we were dreaming all day. We pinched each other continuously, unable to process how lucky we were. We watched all the tennis heroes we had seen on tv so many times. We applauded after every point. We cheered on our favourite players. We almost cried when one of them lost. We almost cried again when another one (not a favourute – I’m talk to you, Djokovic) won. We watched the best tennis players in the world, on the best court in the world, and this was an experience nobody would ever take away from us. We were very, very happy.

The happiness hasn’t passed yet. I still feel like I could wake up any second, only to find out I’m still in the Queue, hoping to be let in. Yoon’s novel ends with a twist even my Young-adult hating mind appreciated. We started our days in London with a twist I could not possibly have anticipated. Maybe it was all fate. Maybe our Centre Court day was simply meant to be. Or maybe it was just a coincidence.

Like I said: on normal days, I don’t consider Young Adult novels worthy of being called a novel in the first place. The thing is: this wasn’t a normal day.

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Arts Lecture 2023 by Ellen Deckwitz about ChatGPT and poetry

by Marjan Brouwers

Ellen Deckwitz, photo by Merlijn Doomernik

Be very afraid! That was the feeling that kept Tim Kassenberg awake at night when he was preparing a lecture about ChatGPT for our association last Spring. Was he right to fear the consequences of Artificial Intelligence? Will AI applications like ChatGPT threaten our future as professional teachers, writers, translators, poets, novelists, and editors? Will we be out of a job before we can blink? The title of this year’s Arts Lecture by poet Ellen Deckwitz is not really helpful: ChatGPT: the poet is dead, long live the poet!

Ellen Deckwitz, an alumnus of Dutch Language and Culture, does not shy away from a challenge. She asked ChatGPT to compose several poems and some short plays and stories as an experiment. As she perused the results, she realized most texts were rather dull and cliché. A few of them, however, were surprisingly funny and well-constructed and could easily be mistaken for works generated by a human.

Write poetry!

Although many of her writing buddies fear the onslaught of AI, Ellen is not afraid computers are going to put her out of business as a poet. She took her time to explain why. When you ask ChatGPT a question, she told us, the AI uses your words to generate the most obvious answer. For example, when she asked ChatGPT to complete the line ‘I feel sad and …’ it answered ‘depressed.’ Not wrong but hardly an interesting choice. She referred to the Dutch poet Vasalis who wrote ‘I feel sad and good’. Such a line generates curiosity. And that is something the AI finds very hard to do if it can do so at all.  

Write really good poetry!

Ellen is not convinced that ChatGPT will be able to generate poems that speak to your soul. Really good poetry is disturbing. It makes you feel uncomfortable, angry, or sad. It forces you to doubt your own judgment or it keeps you awake at night, mulling over the lines you want to understand but don’t. Writing good poetry requires a human mind, not a computer that is unable to think as haphazardly as we do.

You sound like ChatGPT!

She thinks ChatGPT will perhaps even stimulate us to become more aware and critical of how we speak and write. For example, recently, when one of the Republican candidates continually spoke in elaborate, full sentences, his competitor remarked he sounded like ChatGPT, which was not a compliment.

Long live the poet!

Returning to poetry, she told the audience that poetry should renew itself constantly. Good poetry is never easy, obvious, or cliché. Moreover, what we consider to be good poetry changes over time. After experimenting with ChatGPT a lot – it turns out to be quite addictive to ask ChatGPT to generate poems – she concluded that of all the poems ChatGPT produced, not one was able to move her. Long live the poet!

A final word

Image of a poet, generated by Deep AI

At the end of Ellen’s lecture an interesting matter came up: can ChatGPT help stressed-out students to overcome their reluctance to write a shitty first draft, by doing this for them? I suddenly found I disagreed wholeheartedly. Writing a shitty first draft is part of the process. Skipping this part may seem like a good idea for students who are afraid to write a less-than-perfect first draft. But I think everyone needs to stumble once in a while. Don’t be afraid of writing a faulty essay at your first try, embrace its shittiness and carry on. The next version will be a lot better. Me, I love writing first drafts, because anything is possible at that stage. I know I will have to rewrite the whole thing later on. This gives me the creative freedom to write down anything that pops into my head. No way I would let anyone, let alone an AI, take away that wonderful kick of writing something fresh and new. Nor should students do so! It would be their loss!

Dear reader, what is your opinion on AI-generated texts and images? Drop us a line and let us know in our next issue of the Anglophile!

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Girl Math

by Ammerins Moss-de Boer

Isn’t it a coincidence that a few days after you pitch the idea of writing a piece on ‘girl math’ to the Anglophile editorial board, de Volkskrant picks it up and writes about it? But where my contribution was going to be about the fun and social element of it, about how with girl math we try to justify expenses and cover our shame for spending money on extravagant purchases in a fun and self-derisory way – de Volkskrant calls it a “debilitating form of economics for people who don’t want to think about the concrete costs of living.”

And there is where I think the newspaper actually goes right, where I, as a fan of the TikTok channel (look it up by simply searching for ‘girl math radio’, it’s done by FVHZM, and it’s hilarious), go left. This is not at all about women and girls who have too much money and who just throw it around without batting an eye lid, but who do feel slightly ashamed for having all that money and feel the need to justify themselves to the outside world. No, the women/girls who do girl match, actually overthink a purchase. The underlying question here is: Do I actually deserve this? Do I deserve those lovely Egyptian cotton bed sheets, or that beautiful pink power suit, or that handbag? And way too often, after a lot of deliberation, the scales tip towards No. Those Hema sheets will do just fine, and are a tenth of the price. Our inner critic is stern: “Girl, come on, how often are you going to actually wear that pink power suit? You don’t need it, you’ve got a fine enough outfit for that conference in your (capsule)wardrobe!” And in addition to our inner critic, our real-life partner often throws their opinion in the mix: “Babe, HAVE YOU SEEN THAT PILE OF HANDBAGS IN THE CORNER OF THE BEDROOM???”

So, we sigh, click on the rubbish bin icon and delete the purchase; but it hurts and the loss stays at the back of our minds for a long time. What if… What if I had bought those sheets, the Dyson hair curler or those Taylor Swift tickets… And there is where girl math comes in. Because we often find it impossible to answer the question “Do I deserve this?” with a YES. We need a justification. And not just an emotional one (I love that handbag! I am a huge fan of Taylor Swift!), but an economic one. I deserve the Egyptian sheets… because it would improve my sleep and they would last us at least two years, so if you divide the purchase by the number of nights used, that would come down to less than a euro a night, and isn’t a good night sleep worth much more than that? Wearing that pink power suit at the conference… will make me stand out to that one client I’m after, who will hire me and then pay me for a job that pays for the suit twice over! Money. Money. Money. We have to show to the outside world that this purchase was a sound investment instead of something we just wanted and longed for.

This makes girl math a form of social critique. It pokes fun at our inability to just answer that question of “Do I deserve this?” with a resounding YES. “Yes, I deserve that coffee. Because I work bloody hard, earn good money and am allowed to sit down in a warm café to enjoy a bit of luxury on a rainy day instead of standing on a cold and windy train platform with a bland but scalding hot paper coffee cup from the Kiosk.” And: “Yes, I know that buying that handbag means that I will have a bit less money to spend on flowers for the rest of the year, but hey, there are flowers enough in my or my neighbour’s garden to enjoy. Who needs flowers, I have wanted that handbag for months and deserve it!”

We. Deserve. It.

And this was actually a very elaborate way of me explaining why as a mom of a hardcore Swiftie, I bought flights and tickets to go and see Taylor Swift in Stockholm. We deserved it. But more on that a next time!

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A night with James Bond

By Elke Maasbommel and Marjan Brouwers

When it comes to the James Bond franchise, people hardly ever agree on anything. Whether it’s the best quotes (“The name’s Bond, James Bond”, “Shaken, not stirred”, or “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die” are but a few) or which gadget’s the coolest (a cigarette gun, a watch with tape in it, a poison pen – I could go on), arguments could go on for hours. But the one that really divides every single Bond fan is the age-old question about who portrayed him best.

Recently, Martin Koolhoven, who shows up every month or so to give a lecture on cinema at the Forum, told his audience he knows exactly who’s the best Bond ever – and we’re all fools if we don’t agree with him. It only took him two hours and a showing of The Spy Who Loved Me starring Roger Moore to convince us.

Elke’s Bond experience

Being a non-Bond fan myself (which was quite unfortunate seeing as I was seated in the front row and Koolhoven loves shaming those who haven’t watched every single film known to mankind), I had no idea what to expect. Of course, I have watched a couple of Bond movies, and while they’re quite enjoyable, I don’t often feel like watching a James Bond film. Well, leave it to Koolhoven to make it interesting even to Bond virgins (and really, they were there!). He gave us a history lesson on all the movies – even the bad ones were mentioned, if only with a ‘this one’s just a hot stinking mess’ – and showed us some particularly good scenes.


There were great quotes; a personal favourite is the one where Connery electrifies a man in the bathtub, and he walks away with the words: “Shocking, positively shocking.” There were amazing gadgets, but we must always remember the invisible car in Die Another Day is not one. There were great actors, such as Desmond Llewelyn who played Q for over thirty years. And The Spy Who Loved Me was filled with stuff that modern films would definitely not get away with anymore – but we all loved it. A great night was had by all. Oh, and the best James Bond, according to Koolhoven? Sean Connery, obviously. We weren’t allowed to disagree.

Marjan’s trip down memory lane

Unlike Elke, I think I must have seen almost all Bond films. While watching the scenes Koolhoven showed us, I realized I skipped the one with George Lazenby and Diana Rigg. And if I am not mistaken The Spy Who Loved Me, the Bond movie we got to see after Martin’s lecture, was the very first one I saw. According to Martin, the first Bond you watch is usually the one you love best.

Vintage Bond

In The Spy Who Loved Me Roger Moore is dealing with four Russian spies, while skiing down an incredibly steep, snowy mountain, fighting a giant with metal teeth (Jaws), and charming the hell out of Anya, the beautiful Russian spy. His adversary is a creepy villain who feeds his secretary to a shark. Vintage Bond so far! The storyline will not surprise anyone: once again an evil, extremely rich villain is plotting to take over the world, but is thwarted by James Bond, accompanied by a stunning Bond girl. Also, there are plenty of cars, boats, helicopters, and submarines, including a white car that transforms into a small submarine. Then there is a secret base full of anonymous men all dressed in colourful uniforms, and a sexy female helicopter pilot who tries to shoot James, winking at him at the same time. M and Miss Moneypenny also make their usual appearance as well as the old, white-haired Q, complaining loudly about Bond’s casual treatment of his precious gadgets.

Back to 1977

I clearly remember watching The Spy Who Loved Me for the first time in 1977. I was fourteen years old, and our neighbours took me and my younger brother to the cinema in Groningen. Afterwards, we went for drinks at the Drie Gezusters. We used to live in a small village and only went to the Stad twice a year with my mother to buy clothes, so this was a night to remember. I thought I wrote about it in my diary at the time, but I just found out I did no such thing. No gushing account about Roger Moore to be found. A couple of months later I did write about watching the first Star Wars film, which 14-year-old me thoroughly enjoyed.

Bond & Barbie

AI-generated image by T. Hansen, depicting James Bond

Watching A Spy Who Loved Me again was quite entertaining, but, as Elke mentioned, it is filled with stuff a movie today would not get away with. Of course, James always ends up snogging skimpily dressed women, sighing ‘Oh, James’, but I had forgotten how mainstream sexist jokes used to be. Like in a scene in the submarine when peeping toms are ogling Anya taking a shower. Or when James jokes about women drivers when Anya has trouble getting their van into gear, while Jaws is bashing in the roof. Did this misogynistic attitude bother me? No, I was not bothered, I like those old Bond films too much to make a fuss. Just the same, like Barbie, when she arrived in the Real World, I was surprised at what I saw and wondered how to put an end to the patriarchy and gently ditch Bond Ken.

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A funny tragedy at Diever

by Marjan Brouwers

AI-generated image of Shakespeare by Vicky Hamilton

On Friday 15th of September, we (four members of your board) drove to Diever for yet another agreeable evening of Shakespeare, introduced to us by our very own Hans Jansen. He warned us beforehand: you are going to watch a tragedy (spoiler: both Antonius and Cleopatra die at the end), but it is one of the funniest tragedies Shakespeare wrote.

Well prepared, we sat ourselves down, treated everyone to white wine, juice and bites, and waited for the play to start. As usual, players were roaming around, chatting to each other amiably while the band was playing some Egypte-inspired ditties. Like this one!

And all of a sudden the play took off and Hans was right: even for Diever standards (they always include funny bits in every play) it was a very funny play with a lot of asides to the audience. We were asked in advance not to take any photographs during the play. So here is an impression of Diever before and after. And all right, some we found on the Dievers website!

We had such a good time that we decided there and then to get tickets for the Globe this winter. We will keep you posted!

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