Anglophile #16 2023-2024

In this edition:

Message from the board, by Ammerins Moss-de Boer

Save the dates

Wintersprookje, by Hans Jansen

Books & Booze, by Elke Maasbommel

New board member, by Anne Koster

25th anniversary, by Thirza van der Schans

Pub quiz review, by Anne Koster

The Squirrel War, by Fleur Woudstra

Phillipa Langley’s discovery: the princes survived!, by Marjan Brouwers

End Game, by Ammerins Moss-de Boer

Trigger Warnings, by Reinou Anker-Sollie

My generation, by Annie van der Veen

Christmas fun, by Ammerins, Elke and Fleur

Save the dates!

Lots of fun & games in the New Year!

  • Friday, 9 February 2024, Books & Booze, Walter’s Bookshop
  • Friday, 1 March 2024, online pubquiz
  • Saturday, 25 May 2024, Lustrum UG: Alumni Day
  • Saturday, 7 September 2024, a visit to Wintersprookje in Diever

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Message from the board

by Ammerins Moss-de Boer

Ammerins Moss-de Boer

After four years as chair of the alumni association – and in all seven as a board member – Reinou felt it was time to hand over the baton/hammer/pen, and she bowed out at the latest general meeting. We had of course already said goodbye at our anniversary event in November, but we repeated our thank-yous and did some reminiscing over stroopwafels at the general meeting, and after a quick vote, I was appointed as her successor as chair.

It is always hard to succeed a chair with so much wit, enthusiasm and language trivia knowledge as Reinou, but I will do my best – together with the rest of the board – to think up and organise fun activities to meet fellow English alumni every few months. At the first meeting of the new board, we immediately set a number of dates for 2024. For instance, we have an online pub quiz scheduled for the 1st of March, are working on an event in Groningen to coincide with the university lustrum on the 25th of May, and of course there is our annual visit to Diever on the 7th of September. Make sure you put the dates in your diary! The plans for our monthly Books & Booze meet-up are also taking shape, as we now have a location; dates will be communicated shortly. We hope to see many of you, either online or in person, at one of those events

We are super happy that Reinou is not leaving us completely, but will still stay on as a member of the Anglophile editorial board (and I bet she can be persuaded to think up a question or two for the pub quiz…). We are also very happy that Anne has joined us as a general board member. You can read a bit more about her and what she does in this Anglophile.

We wanted to offer you an extra full, festive and creative Anglophile, with a touch of controversy… More will become clear when you read on!

And of course, we want to wish you all a warm Christmas and hope 2024 will be everything you want it to be!

Ammerins and the rest of board

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by Hans Jansen

In zijn vroege werk The Comedy of Errors onderzoekt Shakespeare de mogelijkheid van scheiding en hereniging van gezinsleden die door een natuurramp gescheiden worden. In Othello is het gevolg van ziekelijke jaloezie de dood. In zijn late Romance Een Wintersprookje brengt hij alles samen: jaloezie, dood, scheiding en hereniging. In Diever hopen we er weer een onthutsende en ontroerende voorstelling van te maken.

Are you planning to see the Diever play Wintersprookje? Consider buying tickets for the play on Saturday 7th of September (the evening performance, including the introduction by Hans). Your board will be there, bringing drinks & snacks. More information on the play and the tickets on the Diever website.

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Welcome to the Books & Booze Club

by Elke Maasbommel

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a good book becomes better with a good drink. For many people, a cup of tea would be the best option, but others (including many writers, some of whom claimed that they could not write a single word without the help of a good, stiff drink) think that they need something stronger. Well, we tend to agree. And that is why we have decided to start a new kind of book club: the Books and Booze Club.

Every month or so, we will read a book and come together at Walter’s Bookshop at the Oude Kijk in ‘t Jatstraat. We will talk about this book, discuss its themes, find out whether we liked it, and so on. So far, so good, right? But the bonus is this: every month, we will decide on a drink to go with this book we have chosen – this could be a nice wine, a specific beer, or even a cocktail that we think really suits this book. We won’t tell you which drink it will be, but we’ll make sure it’s something special!

All you have to do is read the book and show up. We’ll make sure there’s plenty of snacks and of course that drink we have prepared specially for you. Care to join us? The first meeting is on Friday 9 February. We will send you an email with further details soon. Please make sure to sign up so we know how many of you will be coming. The book we will read together is very appropriate for this season: Night Side of the River: Ghost Stories by Jeannette Winterson. It is a collection of short stories, so if you have not finished the entire book by February, you can still participate!

Hope to see you then for our very first Books and Booze event.

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New board member: introduction

by Anne Koster

Anne Koster

Hello! My name is Annegreet Koster, but I mostly go by Anne. I am twenty-five years old and finished the English bachelor’s in 2021 followed by the Literary Studies master’s from 21-22. I live in Assen but work in Groningen; I somehow can’t stay away from the city. Or from the university, as I work as a management assistant at the Faculty of Science and Engineering now. Unfortunately, this is not at all related to my background in English so I try to make do with reading as much and often as I can.

Aside from reading and listening to books, I love to cook dinners for friends and try to stay active by doing sports, going on walks, and being in nature. Even though it sounds like I never left Groningen, I moved to Cork, Ireland, for a job after finishing my master’s. I discovered the country’s beautiful nature, hence my love for nature, and met a lot of people dear to my heart. I can recommend giving it a try if you’ve never been, or can help you out with tips on places to visit if you’re planning to!

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Our 25th anniversary

by Thirza van der Schans

Getting an invitation for a lecture with the subtitle “Why We Still Love the Brontës” is an interesting experience if you, yourself, don’t particularly like the Brontës. But given that I had nothing to do that day, I thought I might as well find out why others love the Brontës, in the hope to maybe grow my appreciation of these iconic writers. 

Panel discussion

And, it must be said, Helen Wilcox managed to do just that. Her enthusiasm, and that of the rest of the audience sharing their Brontë-experiences, has placed Wuthering Heights on my re-read stack. But that was not all this event had to offer! A wonderful round table discussion revealed some continuities and a lot of changes in our beloved field, as well as opening up some intergenerational conversation about the topic of trigger warnings, a newly introduced feature in course syllabi – because those fragile Gen-Z students can’t handle the extremities and shocking qualities of literature, or to provide valuable context so people can properly prepare before perusing the pages of this week’s reading? I think the conclusion to the discussion summarised it best: upon being asked what they wished would never change in English Language and Culture studies, Monique Kroese powerfully stated “that we remember that, while language can be a great divider, it also brings people together”.

After the discussion, the buffet was opened. The announcement of “English-inspired food” caused some hesitation at first, but who can resist a nice warm cup of tom-ah-to soup when you’re nice and warm inside while in the dark outside the rain is pouring down? And where the English might not be known for having particularly impressive dishes to offer for tea, they do know how to make a good pudding – leading to cheers when the chef arrived with sizable pieces of sticky toffee pudding. 

In between the provided entertainment, there was chatter aplenty. Old classmates catching up, exchanging the latest gossip, and reminiscing on those horrific two-and-a-half-hour-long oral exams in which you had to decipher, transcribe, and answer questions about a piece of manuscript writing. As someone who graduated in 2020, I can wholeheartedly say I am relieved I never had to suffer through that particular torture. 

While I had to miss the pub quiz so as to not fully deprive the team I would have been placed in their victory, I am sure the rest of the evening must have been delightful as well. Thank you all for the wonderful conversations, and I am looking forward to the next event!

Now, to put Wuthering Heights on hold in the library….

Pub quiz review

by Anne Koster

After we’d finished the meal, mingled with both new and old friends and classmates, we were supposedly going to be split up in groups for the pub quiz. I say supposedly because it didn’t really happen. To be completely fair with you, I am not entirely sure what happened, but somehow the tables became the groups, and somehow Hans Jansen ended up with the kids. “Come up with a good name,” the pub quiz master, Robin, said and I’m quite sure we all ended up with some form of reference to the English Language and Culture, of course.

The quiz was diverse, as is the trick for a good pub quiz. There weren’t only questions but we were also given two sets of cards; one with brand logos which have since changed, and one with landmarks. I have to admit, I saw people moving to the lights on the bar on multiple occasions, either putting their glasses on or off, to have a better look at the pictures. To me, this suggested that we were dealing with quite a competitive bunch of pub quizzers.

It was a diverse quiz of quite a number of rounds. So there were questions about a bunch of numbers to which the answer of the question was the Netflix series Squidgame, or what letter one would type to pay one’s respect online, which turned out to be the letter F and was based on a video game. There were of course also questions related to the UK, Wales and Scotland, such as the names of Scottish gritters, but also that one place in Wales with the largest name on earth. There was also a music round! Or, in other words, the quietest round of the evening, as the music installation of the Café de Sleutel wasn’t going to cause any noise complaints soon. The music round consisted of movie sound tracks, but not movies from your everyday Disney catalogue. I must admit, even though Hans and the Babies won in the end, they didn’t get many points in this round.

Overall, it was a lovely evening together with a diverse bunch of people, from all ages.

The Squirrel War

by Fleur Woudstra

Why can’t Red and Grey Squirrels live together?

These days we’re very worried about the war between Russia and Ukraine and the more recent animosities between Hamas and Israel.  But have you been aware of the struggles between the red and grey squirrels in the Lake District at all?

Grey squirrels are native to the East Coast of America and are listed as one of the 100 worst invasive species in the world. Their estimated population in England ranges between 3 and 5 million.

Red squirrels are native to the UK and are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Estimated population in England: approximately 20 – 30 thousand.

Let me explain why the red and grey squirrels cannot live together:

As well as eating all the same food that red squirrels eat, grey squirrels are able to eat other food that is unsuitable for reds. This means that in times of food shortage, the grey squirrel is more likely to survive.

The arrival of grey squirrels in an area tends to cause reduced red squirrel breeding rates through this competition for food, leading to a gradual decline in red squirrel numbers.

In addition, grey squirrels can also carry the squirrel pox virus which causes severe disease and rapid death in red squirrel numbers without causing any symptoms in the greys. 

It is therefore that the National Trust asked my peace-loving friends, Louise and Pete Edwards who recently moved to the Lake District, to place and read cameras in places where grey squirrels have been spotted. Once detected, Pete’s supposed to kill and remove the grey ones as soon as possible. The cameras remain until they’ve registered solely unthreatened red squirrels feeding and frolicking over there, a result that causes much bliss amongst the devoted red squirrel protectors.

You can take a digital look at if you like to know more.

Did the princes in the Tower survive?

by Marjan Brouwers

The Two Princes Edward and Richard in the Tower, 1483 by Sir John Everett Millais | Public Domain | Wikipedia

The tyrannous and bloody act is done,
The most arch deed of piteous massacre
That ever yet this land was guilty of.

This is how Tyrrell describes smothering the two princes in the Tower in Shakespeare’s play Richard III: a dreadful deed done by order of Richard III, the evil, hunchbacked king who murdered his way to the throne, after which he died on the battlefield of Bosworth, piteously screaming for his horse. But how much of Shakespeare’s account is true? The bard lived in the days of the Tudors and thanks to his wonderful play, Richard III is universally known as a villain.

For instance, did he really kill his two nephews in the Tower? Or have we been duped by the way his name was blackened by the Tudors who took over the reins after his death? The mysteries surrounding Richard’s evil character and the disappearance of the princes have never been solved.

Excavation of Richard III in 2012

Writer and producer Phillipa Langley (1962) has been interested in Richard III for years. With the help of the Richard III Society, she started looking for the place where he was unceremoniously buried after Bosworth. And she was successful: in 2012 his remains were excavated in a car park in Leicester. She made two documentaries about this discovery: Richard III: The Unseen Story (2014) and Richard III: The King in the Car Park (2013).

Phillipa Langley

Then she went on to investigate the fate of the two princes, Edward and Richard, sons of Edward IV. She wanted to know for certain whether they were murdered in the Tower or survived somehow. One particular mystery concerns the skeletons of two children found in 1674 by workmen in a wooden box under a staircase in The Tower. King Charles II had the bones buried in Westminster Abbey where they still remain. Whether these are really the remains of the two princes has never been proven. Langley, as well as many other interested historians, have asked for DNA-testing, but so far permission has been refused by the Church of England.

In her new documentary on Channel 4, called The Princes in the Tower The New Evidence Documentary, Langley, assisted by a team of 300 volunteers, focuses on her search for proof that both boys were taken from the Tower and fled abroad to their aunt Margaret of Burgundy. Together with judge Rob Rinder, she visits several archives in Europe, where the Tudors never got the chance to destroy and rewrite historical proof. Langley seems convinced both princes escaped the Tower and unearthed four documents to prove her claim. According to the archive employees, the documents are authentic, but do they really prove her point?

In Lille she is shown a receipt proving that Margaret of Burgundy ordered 400 lances from Emperor Maximilian for the invasion led by a young boy, known as Lambert Simnel. Langley believes this boy is really prince Edward, who is crowned king in Ireland and returns to England to fight a battle at Stoke. After this battle he is never heard of again, so it is most likely he perished on the battlefield. Was this the end of prince Edward? Langley thinks so. Why else would Margaret and Maximillian go into the trouble of supporting an unknown pretender?

Another document, written in Middle Dutch, and found in the Gelders Archive, contains a personal account of prince Richard. He describes how he was taken from the Tower, how his head was shorn bald, after which he travelled Europe, ending up in his aunt Margaret’s palace. Then there is a letter written by one of Maximillian’s spies, describing what young Richard looks like. This convinces Maximilian apparently that the bald boy is the real prince.  

Finally, Langley is shown a contract in Dresden, including the royal seals, in which Richard promises to repay Duke Albrecht of Saxony a loan of 30,000 florins as soon as he has become king of England. The money is spent on a war fleet that tries to conquer England. To no avail: the young prince is taken prisoner, signs a confession and spends some time at court: unshackled and apparently without having been tortured. Which is rather odd: usually Henry VII is not so lenient towards his enemies. However, after the prince tries to escape and is recaptured, he undergoes torture and is executed. Not as Richard, but as Perkin Warbeck.  

Does all this mean that Richard III is innocent, and his nephews survived to return as (unsuccessful) pretenders to the throne of England?

I do like mysteries, but I don’t think Langley really solved this one. Her documentary is entertaining, but not altogether convincing. I hope King Charles gives permission to test the DNA of the bones found in the Tower to make sure whether or not they belonged to the two princes. Still, the documentary is well worth watching. Myself, I think I will reread Josephine Tey’s novel The Daughter of Time, debunking the myth of Richard as a purely evil tyrant.

End Game

by Ammerins Moss-de Boer

Translators making the headlines doesn’t happen very often – but man, did our profession make up for it in the past few weeks! For those who are wondering what I am talking about, of course, I am referring to the Dutch translation of the latest book on the British royal family by Omid Scobie, “End Game”, called “Eindstrijd” in Dutch, which was pulled from shops in the Netherlands amid reports that the book revealed the identity of a family member embroiled in a race row over Prince Harry and Meghan’s first child. The published English-language version did not contain the names in question, so how did such a specific detail end up in the Dutch version? The author stated that there never was a version in which the names were given… According to him, it was a “translation error”.

As a translator of many a memoir and biography (I am (co-)translator of books on Angela Merkel, Wangari Maathai, Barack Obama, U2 and Derek Parra), the story sounded strange from the get-go. How can a translator mistakenly “add” names in a book, if they are not in the source material they are working from? The other way around is much more common… I clearly remember a book I translated not that long ago, where the editor came back with the comment: “Is it me, or am I missing a bit here?” Apparently, during the scanning and OCR process to turn it into editable text to import into translation software (I was working from a hard copy, no file was available), I had turned over two pages at once … By chance, the sentence ran on without any obvious mistakes, and I had simply translated the text that was in front of me – without even noticing that two full pages were missing…

When you are working from a digital file or manuscript, there is a lot less chance of something like this happening. In translation software, such as Trados or MemoQ, you are presented with a sentence at a time, and the translation process is quite straightforward…

One major factor which seems to have played a role here, is time. The Dutch book market is a notoriously difficult one, as Dutch readers just as easily buy the English version of books, if that is the version that is available to them. To ensure that translations into Dutch are sold, they have to come out at the same time as the original book. Even a few days or weeks delay can make readers decide to buy the English version, and then you’re stuck with boxes of Dutch books that are hard to shift, because you have lost momentum. In this case, the translators (plural, as we may be good at what we do, even our fingers have their limits and we are not able to translate a 400-page book in a week, or even two), very likely worked with manuscripts that were still being edited by the publisher and it is quite easy to imagine that not all the changes that author and editor implemented, were passed on to the Dutch team. If Scobie writes in the English book: “Laws in the United Kingdom prevent me from reporting who they were” – you may wonder: was it in a previous version of his manuscript? And I think, based on what ended up in the Dutch version, that last question can be answered with a resounding yes! Luckily, the Dutch publisher supported their translators and emphasised that this should not be pushed onto their plates.

The more interesting question, which I dare not answer is: was this really a mistake, or an elaborate marketing stunt to generate publicity and sell more books? Who knows…

Trigger Warnings: cuddling or necessity?

by Reinou Anker-Sollie

Cartoon in The New Yorker

I first heard of the phenomenon Trigger Warnings in an article in the Dutch paper De Volkskrant and after reading the article I was flabbergasted and instantly opposed. I could not believe the trifles that appeared to have triggered some of these trigger warnings schools use for students. Jane Eyre received a trigger warning, come on… Jane Eyre!!! So I was triggered into a small research into the why and how of trigger warnings.

When you Google trigger warnings, this is the description you get: A trigger warning is a statement made prior to sharing potentially disturbing content. That content might include graphic references to topics such as sexual abuse, self-harm, violence, eating disorders, and so on, and can take the form of an image, video clip, audio clip, or piece of text. [Canadian University of Waterloo].

Dutch Kijkwijzer symbols

This description made me think of a phenomena that we are actually very well acquainted with. Since 1996, America has a Parental Guideline system for content shown on TV. In the Netherlands there is a similar system called Kijkwijzer and on the other side of the pond they use BBFC classification. But these all apply to video. Apparently the need has arisen to issue warnings for books as well. In addition, I recently learned that written text can have a larger effect on readers than video and/or audio. So taking all that into account, why not have a warning system for books?

As you can see, at this stage I have reevaluated my opinion and think that there is added value to trigger warnings to some degree, because you never know what students have experienced in their (relatively short) lives and what trauma’s they might have. But the feeling that warnings are issued too abundantly, still dominates. This is strengthened when I read the full text on the website of the University of Waterloo and saw the resources listed below the article. They have the following titles: “Do Trigger Warnings Create a Safe Space for Students, or Coddle Them?”, “Effective Communication: Barriers and Strategies”, “We’ve gone too far with trigger warnings”, “Trigger warnings are flawed”, “Why I’ll add a trigger warning”, “The Coddling of the American Mind”, “Saying Trigger Warnings “Coddle the Mind” Completely Misses the Point”, “I’m a liberal professor, and my liberal students terrify me”, “Why trigger warnings don’t work”. Now, based on these titles, which direction would your mind take?

The next step in my little research was to actually read the sources I mentioned above. And I have read a lot of interesting opinions and concerns, I learned a few new words (such as cissexism*) and I have now formed a picture of the use of trigger warnings in the US and in Canada. There is definitely a difference between these two countries, which is to be expected because US and Canadian cultures are clearly not the same. An example mentioned in one of the articles above, made me laugh at the absurdity of it and scared me at the same time: “In a U.S. university Dr. Christina Hoff Sommers, an equity feminist was asked to speak. Due to her criticisms of modern feminism a group of students went to a “safe room” where in which there were puppies to cuddle with and colouring books for students to use. This room didn’t screen the students to see if they were actually victims of PTSD or just students who were simply offended by someone who didn’t share their world view.”

So where I agree that trigger warnings can be useful, where is the line between giving people a heads-up to mentally prepare or giving them the option to forego reading it altogether or e.g. bailing out of a class with a guest speaker who is simply saying things they might not agree with and who might have a different world view? One would think it is actually a goal of universities and schools to expose students to different mindsets and world views in a controlled and safe environment (without e.g. discrimination).

The article about effective communication (which I found refreshingly useful) supports my thoughts as it indicates that good listeners (and this also applies to readers) should prevent from “getting distracted by emotional noise. We react emotionally to certain words, concepts and ideas, and to a myriad of other cues from speakers (appearance, non-verbal cues such as gestures, etc.). Make a conscious effort to quiet your own emotional reactions so that you can listen properly.” This would suggest that it is very much possible to read content that might by some be perceived as shocking, without actually feeling shocked. Perhaps the new generation of students have not learned to do this as well as my generation and older generations have? And is this a good thing or a bad thing? Because I already consider my generation to be quite open about feelings and emotions compared to our grandparents who kept their feelings cropped up too much if you ask me. But if you are actually traumatised by something, would you still be able read triggering content without feeling shocked as mentioned above? I wonder…

So moving on, I discovered trigger warnings originate from the 1990s where they were used on feminist message boards where women could speak about sexual trauma without holding back, because readers were warned upfront that the content could be shocking. To me, this sounds like a very appropriate and useful application. In addition, the sources I consulted mention that trigger warnings were initially installed for people with PTSD or other forms of trauma to prevent them from being triggered by the content. However, experts indicate that people (with PTSD) can also be triggered by very common things (e.g. the smell of coffee), are not always triggered by exactly the same things, and proven triggers do not actually trigger them 100% of the time. So you could question whether the trigger warnings are actually useful for people with PTSD.

Trigger warnings for books have existed for a while, but from 2014 onwards they became more elaborate. To illustrate: “In the early days of feminist blogging, trigger warnings were generally about sexual assault, and posted with the understanding that lots of women are sexual assault survivors, lots of women read feminist blogs, and graphic descriptions of rape might lead to panic attacks or other reactions”. [] They now also include e.g.: calories in a food item, how much a person weighs, drones, skulls, needles, discussion of “isms,” spiders, insects, snakes, vomit, pregnancy, Nazi paraphernalia, slimy things, holes and anything that might upset people with OCD. Please note that this is a list of topics that I consider to be quite absurd.

Thus, if this trend continues, books receive a humongous list of trigger warnings. They might even set “the tone for reading and understanding the book. It skews students’ perceptions. It highlights particular issues as necessarily more upsetting than others, and directs students to focus on particular themes that have been singled out”. Because, in practice, if a scene is too scary, you read faster, maybe skip words, perhaps even skip forward to a less scary part and it would not have as much impact (like hiding behind a pillow during a film). But now readers know something is coming, and the focus is perhaps completely on the wrong part of a piece of writing “reducing a work of literature to its ugliest plot points”. []

During our 25th anniversary we briefly spoke about trigger warnings, and it was clear that some of the younger alumni present had very different ideas about trigger warnings then some of the alumni from older generations. It occurred to me that we are dealing with a new generation that clearly has a different mindset. And I would have to agree that if you would discuss a book in class and a trigger warning was given, the whole class (not only someone with a trauma) would be aware that that particular subject could possibly trigger someone’s traumatic experiences, and consequently they might speak differently, possibly less pronounced or less explicit about the topic concerned. So in short, they might think longer before they speak. Which can be a good thing, right?

So, I now find myself in limbo, smack dab in the middle of trigger warning advocates and those who oppose and sometimes ridicule them. I have to conclude that I am in agreement that Trigger Warnings are a necessity for books, just like for films, because I think the written word can have an even bigger effect on people than video does. That, and, bad things happen to quite a lot of people, and we should never underestimate trauma. However I also think that like many things, trigger warnings have fallen prey to extremism and students are now actually being cuddled with the most ridiculous trigger warnings people could think of.  They now defy the purpose and serve more as spoilers than warnings. I do not see and feel the need to warn readers for every tiny trigger they could also encounter in normal circumstances, on social media for example. Because, well, that’s life… So, I think I am an advocate of a general system, like Kijkwijzer, on a specific place in the book, where those who need to consult them can do so, and those who don’t want to, can just ignore them. But someone certainly would have thought of something like this, or not?

*prejudice or discrimination against transgender people.

Studying English in the seventies


by Annie van der Veen (cohort 1972- 1980)

It was the year of our Lord 1972. Place of action: the Heijmanszaal, Academy Building Groningen. Occasion: introduction to the study of English Language and Literature for upcoming first year students. Lecturers: mr. Jos van Meurs and mr. Bert Wedema.

The gentlemen in question had just explained at great length how we would have to follow classes in Latin and Ancient Culture and History. So I asked (oh, how brave I felt…): “What if you did not have Latin as a subject at secondary school?” There was a silence. I will never forget the look on mr. Van Meurs’ face…. And he then asked: “What certificate do you have, young lady?” Whereupon I of course answered: “VWO, sir.” His answer: “But you cannot do an academic study with a VWO certificate …!”

A loud murmur rippled across this beautiful old-fashioned wooden college room and a young lady I later got to know as the inimitable Betty de Vries, said: “Oh yes, you can!” Mr. Wedema turned to the perplexed mr. Van Meurs and said: “I think you can nowadays, Jos.”

Okay, we were students from a limited number of secondary schools in the country that had just sent a 2nd batch of VWO pupils into the academic world. The Mammoet-Law was going to be introduced everywhere, replacing the HBS. Slowly, but gradually. We had taken VWO exams, but in the old-fashioned way. No school exams, just one oral exam and one written exam for all your subjects. There were seven of them, in my case Dutch, English, French, German, Economics, Geography, History. I had attempted Mathematics (because of the campaign Meisjes Kies Exact) but was thrown out of the lessons and strictly forbidden to ever return… Instead, I picked up Geography. I have had a wonderful life without Mathematics….

The Alpha Buidling, photograph by Kees Hartmans

Oh, I remember those oral examinations for all our subjects…. with an extra objective examiner from outside the school. Although we were a public school, RSG Lochem, we saw a swarm of retired Franciscan priests descending on the school. Everybody was terrified! It was the time of mini skirts, but my mum thought it necessary to make me a new dress which would be a bit more modest (read: longer), so as not to offend the retired priests!

My extensive knowledge of the Bible came in so handy! Whenever there was so much as a slight biblical reference, I could explain it to my examiners. Mind you, they found one with each and every subject. The one I missed (so scored an 8 instead of a 9) was where the advocates of slavery got their justification of this institution in the Bible…. (check your story of the drunken Noah after his first harvest and the reaction of his sons, one called Cham in particular!)But I passed my exams. I was a teacher myself for forty years, so I full well know what a show the signing of and handing out of the certificates has become nowadays. Not so then.

On the day, I took the bus to school, as I always did. One hour to and one hour back (if you were lucky.). On arrival together with all of my classmates I was herded into a classroom. Then, one boy’s name was called, and he had to leave the room. He had to do a resit… Poor Wouter Priester. The rest of us had all passed. Again, we were all paraded into the Holiest of Holies, the teachers’ room, where we all signed our certificate and received a book as a memento. Rapport van de Club van Rome, because we had been quite active on environmental issues. I also turned out to have the highest average score of us all.

It all felt so surreal…. I can still get quite upset about it all. There were only a few parents present, mine definitely not. Little did they know about such procedures…. I vowed to my myself that they would be present at every ceremony in the future, and they did. They have always supported me, although most relatives thought them idiots! “She is just a girl…, she’ll marry, have children and that’s it!” I have 26 cousins, and am the only one with an academic degree. Mind you, some of them have larger houses and bigger cars, but it is the thought that counts. My parents have always stood by me. Of course, there were funds you could apply for, or they would never have been able to afford to send me to university. But still…I love them dearly for it.

The Alpha Building once more, photo by Kees Hartmans.

The start of the academic year. We found an acceptable room in Groningen in Helpman, I had a bike, all my books. So, I was ready to begin. Bring it on! But it turned out I first had to undertake a journey to Amsterdam to fight for my right to study in Groningen. At the time there was a ‘plaatsingscommissie’. Students were distributed evenly over all the universities in the Netherlands. Only students with an average mark of 8 or over for their exams were assured of their place at the university of their choice. I was one of those, had already rented a room, and knew that 21 of my classmates would be in Groningen. So I was shocked to get a letter saying that I had been assigned a ‘place’ in Amsterdam! No way I was going to Amsterdam! Don’t ask me how, I cannot remember, but managed to get an interview with prof. Zwart in Amsterdam. I hitched a ride to and fro with my lorry driver-neighbour in Eibergen and ended up in the office of this very impressive professor. After explaining to him why I so desperately wanted to go to Groningen, I remember him picking up the phone and saying: “Hello Hans, I have this miss Van der Veen here. She wants to come and study with you in Groningen. Have you got a spare one for me, so we can swap?” Within two minutes prof. Hans Gerritsen had secured me my place at the Anglistic Institute in Groningen. Would you believe it?

Kees Hartmans, who started studying English in 1977 and always had a camera at hand.

At last, the day of our first classes had arrived. Very eager, but very nervous I entered the Alpha-building in the Grote Kruisstraat. Huge canteen, many people there. One girl sitting alone at a table. “Can I join you?” She was called Boukje Luttjeboer and would remain my friend for a great many years. Enter a boy with an enormous lot of hair, who asked if he could join us. Geert Barkhof, whom I still consider to be one of my best friends. Enter a boy on Swedish clogs, twisting his hair, with a packet of Van Nelle Halfzware Shag in his breast pocket, looking a lot like Paul McCartney! His name: Jan van der Leek, a second-year student of English who would become a good friend and after 1980 also my colleague in Assen till we both retired! People you meet in the beginning and who become cherished friends for the rest of your life.

The Department of English was not really prepared for the overwhelming number of 45 first-year students. I remember having a lot of the introductory classes on the first floor. Was it room 101? ha ha… And of course, on the third floor, room 314?, the one and only somewhat larger lecture room. The curriculum was pretty loaded. I may get some of this wrong, but yes, Latin classes, Classical History and Mythology, Literature, Old English, Grammar, Phonetics, British History and Institutions, and the Language Lab down in the basement of course. Was it four or six hours a week? Mr. Nico Robat kept a close watch and listened in on us from behind his control panel. Do any of you remember this? A whole set of stencilled assignments, expressions you had to study and of course the tongue twisters you had to practise. ‘Both Arthur’s sisters were married to blacksmiths. The thrifty thief walked wearily down the path.’  

‘How silly’ most of you will think all this nowadays. Here comes the teacher in me… You must remember that the world looked quite different then. I was eleven when my parents got a TV. Just Nederland 1 and 2 German networks. No BBC. Where did you hear your foreign languages? No internet then. Only gradually we began to have English spoken series with subtitles on Dutch TV. My German was and is still good because of the German TV series. All this ‘nachsynchronisieren’! And this is still the case in Germany now. How do the Germans learn their foreign languages? I remember the shock when I heard this enormous cowboy Hoss in the series Bonanza on Dutch TV say: ‘Put your hands in the air!’ and not: ‘Heb doch mal die Kanone!’

Of course, our language lab was not enough to become fluent in the English language. And only listening to our teachers was not enough either. The subject of English History and Institutions was taught by the fantastic ms. Loes Baning. You had to learn your C.A.Bodelsen: A Survey of English Institutions by heart to pass her exam. And according to her, you would never get to learn the English language perfectly, unless you lived among the English for a while, got to know their habits and even knew (in those days) how the milk was delivered to their front door! Ambitious as I was, I really wanted that!  So, God bless my parents, my mother wrote to an old school friend of hers for advice. She had married an Englishman, but they lived in New Zealand. The husband wrote to his relatives in England, who put up an advert in the local church weekly, asking people if they wanted an au pair! Assuming of course that people reading this paper would be trustworthy. They even went to check these families.  Eh voila! Boukje and I both got an address of a family that would hire us as an au pair for four weeks to look after their children.

In 1973 I crossed the Channel for the first time. Met ‘real’ English people for the first time. Made soooo many mistakes but learned very fast. Want to hear some embarrassing ones? I still smoked in those days and had brought my packets of tobacco. Of course, I rolled my own, so when I did just that on arrival at the host family, I told them that it was quite ‘common’ to do so in Holland. Whereupon Norman answered with a big smile: “I bet it is…!” and then ran off to the phone to ask a friend to come over and admire the Dutch girl who rolled her own cigarettes! Samson tobacco was quite expensive, so I had brought a cheap brand, called Two Shilling Shag. When a boy noticed this when Boukje and I were at a swimming pool he started to laugh and told me that that was very cheap! I take it you know what the verb ‘to shag´ means. I did too from that moment onwards. And by the way, do you all know how to pronounce the word ‘fuchsia’ properly? Can be quite embarrassing ….

The children I looked after, although still young, spoke better English than I did. But not for long! I had a great time with Janet and Norman, who spoke English with an impeccable accent. I went back for a second time the year after that and am still in touch with them. We even visited four years ago. And mind you, their children taught their own children some of the Dutch songs I taught them at the time…

And just to remind you of how things have changed over time, let me tell you that of course I let my parents know that we had arrived safe and sound and that we were staying with lovely families. My parents did not have a telephone yet, so I wrote them a long letter about the journey and about the family, on those special light-weight blue air-mail papers. My parents would not get this letter of course until a week later. I can only begin to imagine what that must have felt like! They decided to have a telephone installed pretty soon afterwards.

This seems like a good moment to stop my ramblings for now. Allow me to take you through some of the memories of the years still to come next time.  Have a good festive season, stay healthy and I hope to meet you again next year.

Con Diender & Annie van der Veen in April 2023

Christmas fun

Irish Soda Bread

by Fleur Woudstra

This recipe comes from Connemara where I once camped near the Cliffs of Moher with the permission of the farmer on whose land we pitched our tent. The farmer’s wife surprised us with a traditionally baked fresh soda bread which we thoroughly enjoyed for our outdoor breakfast. Fortunately, she gave us her recipe, too. For the holiday season she suggested to simply add currents and raisins, which you normally leave out. 

  • 2 (Duralex) cups of regular all-purpose flour
  • 2 (Duralex) cups of whole wheat flour (If you don’t care for whole wheat you can simply replace it by all-purpose flour) 
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ cup sugar (optional)
  • 1 cup currants
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 50 gr or ¼ cup butter or margarine
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ¾ cups of buttermilk

Combine in a large bowl the flour, salt, baking powder, soda (and sugar if used), plus the currents and raisins.

Add butter or margarine and cut in with a pastry blender or 2 knives until crumbly.

In a separate bowl beat egg slightly and mix with the buttermilk.

Add to the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until blended.

Turn out on a floured board and knead with your hands until smooth, 2-3 minutes.

Divide dough in half and shape each half into a round loaf. Place each loaf into a round

cake or pie pan, which you greased and floured before. Press down until the dough fills the pans. With a sharp knife, cut crosses on tops of the loaves, about ½ inch deep in the middle.

Bake in a moderately hot oven (175-180 ’ C) in the middle of the oven for approximately 35-40 minutes and a long fork or knitting needle comes out dry.

Book Angels

by Ammerins Moss-de Boer

None of us likes destroying books (shock horror, what controversy!), of course, but sometimes a book is so tattered that reading it is no longer an option. Simply throwing it in the paper would be a shame, so here is a fun way to turn a broken book into a book angel (designed by Christine’s Craft), to watch over your Christmas tree for years to come! Big or small, gilded or kept as is – these book angels will make you smile!

Inside cat!

Our cat (Falls, so named by the family where he was born because the kids there were fans of Gravity Falls…) loves sitting on my lap when I’m reading or working (honestly, balancing both a laptop and cat on your lap is a skill…), so when we were brainstorming about fun creative items for the Anglophile at our last online meeting and my feline companion again made his presence felt by draping himself on top of my keyboard, an idea was born.

I suggested it would be great to include a pattern for a cat bookmark, and quickly set to work designing. After a few failed attempts at writing a pattern myself, I came across a great pattern for such a bookmark in the online knitting magazine Knitty. Just look at them – how sweat are they! With a bit of effort, you can customise the pattern to make a bookmark that looks exactly like your own kitty! So, head over to this online treasure trove and cast on this pattern by Anna Hrachovec. Of course, if you are more of a crocheter, the pattern is easy enough to adjust accordingly!

Have fun!

In The News This Year

Fill in the surnames of the following persons to find the answer!

  1. Writer of a controversial book on the royals
  2. Poet who died early December 2023
  3. Journalist who is again in legal trouble over famous Panorama interview
  4. Dutch coach of the Lionesses who won FIFA Women’s Manager of the Year for the 4th time this year
  5. Winner of 2023 I’m a Celebrity… get me out of here!
  6. New Doctor Who
  7. Bra queen and former peer under fire over PPE
  8. Welsh first minister who announced on his anniversary he is stepping down
  9. Former First Minister of Scotland who got into trouble with the law
  10. Winner of the 2023 Booker Prize
  11. Player who scored the most tries during the 2023 Rugby World Cup
  12. GB entry at Eurovision 2024
  13. Actress who plays Princess Diana in The Crown
  14. Presenter who is stepping down as Newsnight lead presenter after 30 years
  15. Home secretary who was recently replaced by James Cleverly
  16. Media mogul who announced his retirement