In this edition
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We tolk – You listen
Starting school, learning to teach
Unforgettable Books: Sajo and her Beaver People
Instructable: Write your own fairytale!
A pre-corona get-together
Five Springtime stories
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By Reinou Anker-Sollie, Chairperson
I will start this Anglo with the obvious: Corona, and after this you can enjoy a lot of interesting non-corona-related articles. We wanted to organise a trip to Diever, there wasn’t much response for the proposed date, so we were thinking of suggesting a new date. During the pubquiz at our get-together on 7 March we asked around and there were indeed people interested to come with us on the new date, however… Diever has cancelled all its shows this year due to the Corona outbreak. A logical decision if you ask me. We will try again next year, and the winners of our pubquiz will be offered an alternative prize.
The pub meetings we had planned are also cancelled until further notice, due to the pubs being closed and all. As soon as the government gives a go ahead for the pubs and restaurants to open back up and we are allowed to meet with more than three people at the same time, we will decide on a new date!
So for the time being: stay safe, stay home, stay healthy and all that!
We tolk – You listen
Fighting for survival as an interpreter in the Netherlands
By Ammerins Moss-de Boer
Although all interpreters do when we’re working is talk, we’re not known to be very vocal. We are hard-working people who prefer not to be the centre of attention, especially interpreters who mainly work in Dutch public service interpreting. Our services range from interpreting for the police and the courts to the immigration services, but there are also interpreters who are specialised in wiretap transcription or healthcare.
The past 30-odd years, despite lobbying from various organisations who support public service interpreters and translators, the hourly rates have remained the same, and promises about improving working conditions have never materialised. At the same time, the requirements for entry in the register of sworn/certified interpreters and translators (Rbtv) have gone up, as have the costs to keep your registration active as you have to take regular CPD courses.
As you probably understand, this has caused quite a lot of experienced colleagues to leave the PSI sector and go commercial. They felt it was simply impossible to earn a decent income (an interpreter is a ‘zzp’er’ and simply cannot work 40 hours a week as work coming in is unpredictable and there is a lot of travelling involved), which has resulted in a shortage of interpreters in a number of languages.
Things came to a head in 2017 when a government report was published with the unsavoury title ‘Don’t tolk too much’. (1.) The report highlighted the need to streamline availability and lower costs. This resulted in a programme by the Ministry of Justice and Security: ‘Tolken in de toekomst’ (2) aimed at improving quality, making purchasing of interpreting/translation services by government authorities more efficient and professional and providing room for innovation. Well, sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?
Unfortunately, the solutions the Ministry came up with to solve the problems they saw, and the position they took in the internet consultations and face-to-face meetings with stakeholders, has baffled and angered the interpreters and translators. In a nutshell (honestly, I can go on and on for hours!):
- Outsourcing more interpreting and translation services which are now still being handled by inhouse planners. The first pilots are already running, and interpreters are now also being called up for court hearings via mediators – at even lower rates. Obviously, the interpreters who refused to work for those mediators, are no longer being called up, and in more and more cases, interpreters who are on the mediator’s books but who are not in the register, take on these sensitive assignments without qualifications to do so. We have seen in the UK how disastrous PSI tenders can be…
- Including B2 speakers in the official register to solve the shortage. Obviously, this was the last drop for many interpreters who spent years studying to get a degree and to get their language skills at C1/C2 level – only to see now that a simple secondary school diploma will be enough. Also, no requirements are specified regarding the professional skills (simultaneous interpreting, ethics, jargon etc.) required for entry at B2 level, and there are no plans for monitor and quality control. Yes, we realise some languages (such as Indonesian and Thai) are problematic, but really, there are plenty of qualified English interpreters to source from!
- A new payment system where there is a minimum rate (still at the 1984 level) and the current travel expense scheme is downgraded to €0.19(ish) per km, disregarding the fact that while you’re travelling, you can’t work (lost hours), and which does not compensate the costs for parking and car maintenance (covered by ‘voorrijdkosten’ or call-out charge).
Early 2019, a group of 100+ interpreters contacted a law firm to see what legal action they could take, and after mobilising more and more colleagues, and calling in the help of ZZP Nederland for advice on the politics of such a case, in December a resolution (3) was adopted and work stoppages were announced. In the week of 13-19 January 2020, a large number of interpreters went on strike for the first time and demonstrated at various courthouses in the Netherlands to demand attention for their position. This has since resulted in a round-table meeting with MPs of the Justice and Security Committee and with another meeting with Minister Grapperhaus on February 19. Currently, the parliamentary law counsel is looking into the legality of what the minister is trying to do, while ‘relay stoppages’ are ongoing.
What will the future look like for public service interpreters and translators in the Netherlands? A lot is still unsure, but we will continue fighting for fair compensation and proper regulation of the profession. For more information and to support our action, you can email or contact me.
1. Tolk is the Dutch word for interpreter, but it also tries to be a word play on ‘talk’: Rijksoverheid
2. Interpreting in the future. The entire dossier can be found under ‘Kamerstuk 29936’: Officiële bekendmakingen
3. To read the resolution, visit the website De goede zaak
Image by Juraj Varga on Pixabay
Starting school, learning to teach
By Charlotte Korten
I didn’t expect my first year as a real teacher to go like this. I mean, who would? It’s been over a month since I last drove home from school, thinking: ‘TGIF’. If I had known then that the schools would not open again after the weekend, I might have lingered a little longer. I haven’t seen any of my students in a month, I haven’t seen any of my colleagues in a month. I really, really miss them.
But there’s no point in complaining, is there? I can’t change the situation right now. So I try to look at it in a positive way. This is the new normal. Fortunately, my school responded very quickly to this new normal. Within three days after lockdown we could continue teaching online, from home. It took some time getting used to, not only for me but for everyone. It’s not perfect, but it works pretty well.
There are some advantages to working from home. I no longer have to drive 45 minutes there and back again. So for the first time in years, I get over seven hours of sleep a night (thanks student life). The coffee here is also pretty good, and there is a fully stacked fridge downstairs with snacks that are all for me. In addition, my students continue to amaze me. They work hard (most of the time) and I admire their resilience and adaptability. I asked my first years to make a quarantine vlog on a topic of their choice. I received a wonderful vlog from someone making a full English breakfast. It makes me proud, but it also makes me miss them even more.
I would say that, despite all the terrible news about COVID-19 that we receive daily, it is still possible to find the little pleasures in ‘the new normal’. The Stadjer in me would say ‘kon minder’.
Unforgettable books: Sajo and her Beaver People
By Henk Dragstra
Like most kids, I went through a phase of fascination with American Indians. Other boys who wanted to read about them usually turned to Karl May-type adventures; but I had no taste for the ‘Howgh’-saying, the pipe-smoking, and the scalp-taking. What appealed to me was their woodsmanship, their familiar intercourse with the natural world around them, which was so entrancingly wild and bountiful. I dreamed of living like an Indian, in a teepee or wigwam, in the American wilderness. A book that catered magnificently to this appetite was appropriately called ‘Het Indianenboek’, by H.C. Holling (Originally ‘The Book of Indians’, 1935). Beautifully illustrated, it described the lives of Indian children in various North American tribes. Reading it was almost like being an Indian child oneself, and using their lives as scripts for our games completed the illusion.
Another book about Indian children, told by an insider, was ‘Sajo en haar Bevervolkje’, a story of an Ojibway girl who loses one of her two pet beavers, but eventually recovers it. As I can see now, the Dutch title was a poor translation of ‘Sajo and her Beaver People’: to the girl, those pets were not like a small tribe of animals over which she ruled, but two intelligent beings, near-human in character and cleverness. The author, as I later found out, had had just such a relationship with a couple of beavers himself, hosting them in his cabin during a severe winter, where he let them play havoc with the dirt floor and the wooden furniture.
The author, claiming the story happened in real life in northern Canada, provided several drawings as well as detailed information about the heroine’s wigwam, the canoe, the food, etcetera, all the details one wanted to know. Unlike the author of the ‘Indianenboek’, whose personality was not revealed in the narration, the writer of Sajo’s story was quite obviously an Indian himself, and a chief at that, as his portrait made clear. His name was ‘Wa-Sha-Quon-Asin’, meaning ‘Grey Owl’. Memorizing his name was learning one’s first Indian words, hopefully to be soon followed by many others.
An additional charm of Sajo’s story was that my parents knew it, and read from it to my brothers and me at bedtime. They had enjoyed it themselves twenty years ago, when it had first been published. Thus Grey Owl’s introduction to Indian life became part of my own upbringing, his voice mingling with that of my father or mother, who took turns reading. Indeed the narrative voice was quite fatherly and benevolent, gently explaining and warning. A wise man was Grey Owl, with profound knowledge of the world he described.
One thing he very sagely pointed out was the threat to nature, and to Indian ways of life, posed by the white man’s civilization. This was a message with which my parents very much concurred, fervent nature lovers that they were.
Later, I read a few other books by this Indian conservationist, such as ‘The Tree’, and ‘Men of the Last Frontier’; in the latter, the publisher introduced him as ‘a half-breed Indian, whose… father was a Scot, his mother an Apache Indian of New Mexico, and he was born somewhere near the Rio Grande forty odd years ago.’ I found the author both impressive and accessible. Whatever Indian wisdom he had to impart to palefaces such as I, even when his words were accusatory, he always said it in a style so explanatory and familiar that it might as well have been a white man’s.
And so indeed it was. Although Grey Owl long managed to conceal the fact, he had been born Archibald Belaney, in Hastings, England, from a British father and a white American mother. On closer inspection of his books—of which I was of course not capable as a child—it soon becomes apparent that his style and narration are entirely European. Quoting Byron and Longfellow, he sees in the woods ‘the sable carpet of evergreen treetops’; he claims to ‘show you the primaeval, unsullied, wild and atavistic’. Here is a leader of men who obviously got his education in public school. For a self-proclaimed Indian, he makes remarkably distancing pronouncements on his own people, referring to them as ‘swarthy brethren’, or even ‘savages’.
Once his British identity was found out, it was easy to dismiss him as a fraud, a cigar store Indian, and his Indian lore as a hoax. But that would not be fair. Unlike most other boys, including myself, he not only dreamed of living like an Indian, he went and made the dream come true.
He became a member of the Ojibway tribe and lived much of his life in the wilds of northern Canada. He became a master in woodsmanship, an expert cabin-builder, a crack shot with a rifle, and something of a knife-throwing artist. He lived together as man and wife with an Indian woman. Though depending on the fur trade for their living, he and his consort became increasingly aware of the disaster that trapping and lumber-felling were inflicting upon the North American forests.
Convincingly impersonating an Indian, Grey Owl became an authoritative spokesman for wildlife conservation, as a lecturer and writer. White audiences were thrilled to be face to face with such an articulate and informative Chief, his message coming across much more successfully in that guise than a declared Englishman could have achieved. No doubt there was a good bit of posing and posturing in him. But his fascination with Indian ways of life was genuine and enduring. His love and respect for the Canadian forests and its wildlife are still impressive. His influence on public opinion in favour of more careful environmental management was all to the good.
So Archibald Belaney reinvented himself as Grey Owl. A very New World thing to do, and who could blame him? Let’s face it, who wants to be called Archibald—or even Archie— when you can be Wa-Sha-Quon-Asin?
Instructable: write your own fairytale!
by Elke Maasbommel
Now that the whole world has changed because of the Corona virus, and we can’t go outside or even go to work anymore, there aren’t many things left to do. Well, this is the time to catch up with your reading challenge. But what happens if you’ve read every single book you own, and you don’t know what else to read? Well, then it’s time to write something yourself. That way, you’ll never run out of reading material. If you’re not much of a writer, please let me help you out by sharing some ideas on you how to write the best stories in the world: fairy tales. Good luck, and have fun!
Once upon a time, they lived happily ever after.
When I hear those first four words, I am all ears. It’s fairy tale time! What’s today’s story? Will it be about a pretty princess, rescued by her amazing Prince Charming? Will we hear of a child who gets lost in the woods? A sweet, talking animal, perhaps? Or a magical queen who is hated by everyone else. Fairy tales are my favourite stories in the world. They’re short and they’re sweet, and we know them complete. Most fairy tales are very old indeed but they’ve never ceased to be popular. New versions of the fairy tales we’ve all grown up with are released every day. So, have you always wanted to write a fairy tale, but have you never known where to start? Or do you think you’ve got what it takes to be the next Grimm, or Hans Christian Andersen? Then read on!
The Magic Ingredients: What You Need
You can’t write a fairy tale without the necessities: pen and paper. You need to doodle, take notes, and write all your thoughts down. The other thing you need may sound obvious, but is nevertheless quintessential: fairy tales. Take them all. Buy them all. Read them all. You can only write your own version when you know the source material. It might also help to read secondary literary about fairy tales, because they will show you fairy tales in a different light. In the following step, I will write about the elements that are needed for a fairy tale.
Step One: Fairy Tale Essentials – Pick Your Plot
Fairy tales are both the easiest and the hardest stories to write: they’re very short. They range from one page to five at the very most. And because they’re so short, there’s no time to have fully-developed characters, or exquisite storylines that might eventually earn you a Nobel Prize for Literature. Instead, fairy tales are filled with archetypes, or even what we now consider clichés.
While I was doing my research for this instruction, I noticed that most fairy tales follow one of two basic plots. Needless to say, there are many more plots and variations on them, but these two are the easiest two use in your very own fairy tale.
The first one, called Rags to Riches, is about a poor person, hated by their family or the entire society, but somehow manages to climb the social ladder and eventually even ends up as a member of the royal family. The most famous example of this is Cinderella
The second one is called Overcoming the Monster. As you might have guessed, it’s about how the hero is threatened by a monster or an evil being, and sets out to slay it. Obviously, they succeed and live happily ever after. Sleeping Beauty is a good example of this.
So, the first step you have to take is to pick one of these plots. I found that both of these plots make use of three basic elements: a hero, a conflict, and a solution. If you have these, you’re good to go. In the following steps, I will delve a bit deeper into each of them.
Note: I’ve borrowed the title of these plots from Christopher Booker’s book The Seven Basic Plots – it’s quite interesting.
Step Two: “The Fairest of All” – The Good
The first thing you need to pick when you want to write is a hero, the one who we all root for, the one who will save the world and will live happily ever after, and get married to their true love. Here’s what they’re like:
All heroes look good. That’s a fact. Snow White is beautiful, and so are the other princesses. Some are even described to be so beautiful that they would make the sun smile. Prince Charming, of course, is the most handsome man who has ever walked the face of the earth. They’re almost perfect, every single one of them.
Why? Well, simply because there’s no time for flawed characters. Good people win, the bad don’t. The good people are beautiful, they are very skilled and successful, they are friendly, they are loved, and they’ve got many friends.
Write down what kind of person you would like as your protagonist – male or female, rich or poor, it’s all up to you. Just make sure they’re lovable by everyone.
By everyone? No, there’s always that one person who hates this perfect fairy tale character. That’s because we need a conflict. Move on to the next step.
Step Three: “Ugly As Sin” – The Conflict
The world would be a boring place if everything was good, perfect, lovely, and happy. That’s why we need a villain, or a different conflict to shake things up. And just as Good is absolutely perfect, Bad isn’t simply bad, it’s truly evil. It’s ugly, it’s terrible, it’s ghastly!
Usually it’s about a specific characteristic the Good possesses and that someone else, or an entire society wants – or that Bad makes use of. This can be a very good quality, like beauty – but too much beauty makes others jealous (Snowwhite). Or naiveté – innocence is an admirable character trait, but if you believe everything someone says, it makes you vulnerable (Little Red Riding Hood).
Sometimes the issue isn’t that the hero has a unique characteristic, but rather the opposite: they lack something. There are several fairy tales where the hero is an outsider, hated for not being rich enough, or pretty enough (The Ugly Duckling). It is then your task to make sure they redeem themselves and end up happily ever after.
So now your fairy tale has two elements: a hero, and a conflict. How will it end? Will we ever know? Well, yes, just read on for the next step.
Step Four: “Happily Ever After” – the Solution
You know how these stories end: they get married. They get rich. They become a prince(ss). And so on. There simply has to be a happy ending. It can’t be a fairy tale without having one, right?
Make sure your ending is as fairy-tale like as possible. Pull out all the stops, and turn your party into the celebration of the century. We need fireworks, we need a wedding, we need everything, and then some. And what we need most, of course, is the punishment of the villain. If your story featured one, make sure they get their just dessert. They almost killed your hero, or at least made them very unhappy. Off with their heads!
Note: My favourite endings are always the most brutal ones. For instance, some of the ugly stepsisters were forced to dance to their deaths in red-hot iron shoes. But my favourite has to be where someone was put in a barrel with sharp nails on the inside, and then dragged through the streets until she was dead. Ouch. And it works, really. I can’t bear watching any type of violence on tv, but I the gorier these fairy tales, the better.
Step Five: “At the Edge of a Large Forest” – Setting
Now that we’ve established there are three essential fairy tale elements, it’s time to take a look at some aspects that are also pretty important but can be tweaked to your liking. The first one is the location, or setting. Usually fairy tales take place in either a castle, or a small village, or, of course, a forest, both enchanted or perfectly normal. Obviously, there are countless more, but these three are the most popular ones. It’s a very good idea to have your fairy tale in one of these, because it will be familiar to your audience. They will know from the off-set that they’ll be reading a fairy tale.
However, if you want to change it up a bit, you can take the aforementioned characteristics, the clichés if you will, and transport them to a different setting. You can still have gloriously Good and ultimately Evil characters, have them appear in an unexpected setting. That way, your story might have a more modern feel to it, or it allows you to add a new layer previously unmentioned in traditional fairy tales (how about a feminist Cinderella?). Just make sure it makes sense – there’s no point in having a modern city that’s scared by a single wolf, for instance.
Step Six: “Listen to me” – The Audience
Most fairy tales – or the ones we know best, at least – had a very specific audience in mind: children. They are written in such a way that children could easily understand them, and parents would read them to their children while also thinking of their own experience with these stories. And for good reason: what better way to teach children something while also telling them exciting stories?
However, you don’t have to write your fairy tale for children. There are countless examples of stories which have dutifully followed up all the fairy tale rules, but eventually decided to do something completely different with it. Take the Shrek films, for instance: they used all the characters, there was a clear conflict, an obvious lesson, but still everyone can tell it’s not exactly a fairy tale. The result is a hilarious spoof on a myriad of fairy tale characters, but simultaneously an entirely new and fresh fairy tale.
Other examples are the Disney film Maleficent (they turned Evil into Good at the end!), Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes, or, perhaps my favourite one: The Princess Bride by William Goldman.
Note: Some fairy tale retellings are specifically not written for children. Somehow helpless women and strong and beautiful princes have always had this, well, extremely adult allure. Try googling Anne Rice and fairy tales. It’ll astound you.
Final Step: “I Know Everything” – Make It Your Own!
So, now that I’ve told you everything you need in order to write a good fairy tale, it’s up to you now. Gather all your creativity, evoke the magic, make sure you’ve got paper at the ready, and get started!
Will you write a traditional fairy tale, with all the classic elements? Or will you turn everything upside down and give it a very modern twist? It’s all up to you.
I hope you had as much fun reading this as I had writing it. Have fun writing your very own fairy tale!
A pre-corona get-together
By Marjan Brouwers
It now seems ages ago, that sunny Saturday in early March, when we were still allowed to get together for drinks, a lecture and a pub quiz. Actually, our last get together took place only a week before the corona crisis took hold of our country. Looking back now, it seems strange we didn’t know that this would be our last relatively corona-free weekend.
On the 7th of March a number of us met in Café the Crown, where we had a great afternoon. First we listned to the lecture by David Ashford about Orc Talk, the roots of language, about Tolkien’s sources and examples of black speech of Mordor.
We also had two visitors. In the afternoon Izette Schouwstra joined us. She is Project Manager Alumni & Employability, Communication, Career & Society at the RUG and spoke about how the university wishes to get into contact with us alumni. She is going to keep in touch with us and is thinking about ways to improve relations. In the evening, once we had moved to the restaurant, her collegue Remco Kouwenhoven, Director Alumni relations & Fundraising joined us for dinner and talked to eveyone in order to get to know us. We will of course keep you informed!
After we had taken in all this information, we moved on to do a pub quiz, problably the last one in the real world for a long time! The lucky winners were Hans Jansen, David Ashford and his lovely partner Evie!
Around six we moved to Brouwerij Martinus, where we had a lovely meal, including some very special, pricewinning beers.
We had a wonderful time and hopefully next year we will once again be able to meet, talk, have drinks and give eachother a hug! See you next year!
Again a number of students provided us with their short stories. Great to read, now that we are at home! Please enjoy these examples of Creative Writing.
Image by Alexas Fotos on Pixabay
By Nicola Ashmore
Ingrid gazed at the distant outline of the Alps. She’d lived in Switzerland for 12 years, and its postcard pretentions had thawed with each passing winter. Her friends came from prestigious backgrounds, nouveau riche and old money but she always felt amiss rather than akin with even the closest of them. If time swung to 1920s New York, she would be Gatsby and not somebody who belonged.
The first autumn wind blew gusts into her bedroom. She woke, reluctantly. Bloody nose, dry eyes, and backache: good morning. She slid through her Instagram feed. A picture showed a girl on her way to work, dressed smart-casual, carrying a flask of coffee. A pang of jealousy chipped at her. Ingrid could not remember the last time she needed caffeine to get through the day or even to be dressed before eight o’clock. It had been nine months since she graduated from university. Now she was employed once a week to mow the lawn of her mom’s golfing partner. It helped pay the bills.
She slugged her corpse (it no longer felt like a body) and went outside for a smoke. Her taste buds protested as she sipped cheap coffee. Both dizzied and nauseated her.
She was desperate not to be ordinary. She wanted to be a writer. She had read lots of stories. She had read a story about pensioners learning to swim not in a pool but on a dry, linoleum floor. ‘I want to write story like that’, she thought. It had never occurred to her that you could swim without water.
Her best friend, Jennifer, arrived in her purple Tesla. She just finished gym. She was wearing yellow Lululemon yoga pants and a gold Rolex. Her rich chocolate hair was permanently coiffed and softly framed her sharp features. Her skin was smooth like alabaster. Jen always smelt like red roses. Everything about her said money. If only the same could be said about Ingrid. Their group didn’t discuss financial matters. They worked off the assumption that everyone had money but Ingrid’s family had fallen on hard times. Her parents could barely scrape money together for petrol money, and the rent hadn’t been paid in months. If another bill went unpaid, her landlord had vowed to evict her family.
It was early but Ingrid fixed drinks anyway. Bloody Marys. She heard a car in the driveway just as she was opening the box of tomato juice. The lid tore off splattering the juice all over her t-shirt. The doorbell rang. Jen went to open the door. It was the postman. He handed her an official letter. She signed for it and walked to where Ingrid was cleaning tomato juice off the floor. “I’ll open it for you” as she saw her friend preoccupied with her clumsiness. Before Ingrid can react, Jen read the contents. “You haven’t paid your oil bill, Ingrid. They are going to cut you off! What’s going on? It’s almost winter!” Ingrid leaped to snatch the bill from Jen. Humiliated and now desperate for vodka she croaked, “I just haven’t received last week’s pay.” Jen implored, “You have a job?” “Yes.” “Well, go on, what is it?” Ingrid couldn’t believe this was finally coming out. “I’m working as a gardener.” Ingrid admired the way Jen tried to conceal her horror. She was a true friend. “Well, I can’t have you going cold now, can I?” Jen whipped out her phone in hand within seconds had settled the bill. Ingrid’s humiliation ached in her blushing cheeks. “It’s done. Now hurry, I’m thirsty.” Ingrid pierced a few olives with two toothpicks. Ice. Pepper. Lemon. Vodka. “They’re ready.”
Photo by Daniel Monteiro on Unsplash
By Eugenia Mataloni
She opens her eyes to the dust dancing in the warm light of the early morning, the stitches on her breastbone still hurting like crazy. Looking around, she realizes how all the different nuances of her taste are visible in every corner of their bedroom. She smiles wistfully, reflecting on the odd need people have to show their personality through the objects they put in their houses. Now everything feels like a deception, as if an impostor is laying in her bed, next to her husband and his messy long hair.
It has been a month since expert hands consensually violated her body to remove the tumor from her heart. The thought of someone taking her pumping muscle out of her body, to heal it and put it back, still gives her the chills. She wonders if surgeons ever feel like living in one of those doctor-patient games she used to perform when she was a child, and if they enjoy playing God with people’s life. She shakes her head to dispel that thought. Unfair. She still remembers the sweet voice of the surgeon telling her, one day: “Sophie, you’re cured. You can go home.” From that moment on, an unforeseen feeling of estrangement from her own skin settled on her mind, confronting her with the impression of not being ready for another life change right when she was getting used to the previous one. Everyone keeps telling her to be reasonable, but nothing appears logic in her mind. The guilt for not having it all together intertwines with the resentment towards those who blame her for not showing enough gratefulness.
Frederick smiles a lot these days, telling everyone that his wife is back, while she keeps wondering if she will ever be truly, fully back. To him, to herself, to the world. In the eyes of her husband she sees optimism and relief at the prospect of returning to the joys of their routine, leaving aside the long, tragic fights and unrealistic farewells with two shirts in a luggage. “From now on, we’ll do it all differently” he promised while feeding her tasteless food in a hospital room. And indeed, everything started to feel different. But not exactly like everyone expected.
The alarm rings and she gently moves Frederick’s hand from her womb. Another day. She does not feel too hopeful, but she has always been stubborn, and the idea of losing grip somehow feels morally wrong. Time is all she needs, people keep saying. And she started reciting that mantra to herself as a prayer. She goes to the kitchen and makes coffee for two, her best friend and hairdresser is on her way. She arranged this appointment to fool her own mind, to reject the feeling that she doesn’t deserve to be alive when many other people don’t make it. She never felt special. But for some reason, the world has decided to give her a second chance.
“How do you want your hair?” “Short. And pink.” Her friend giggles and gets a brush out of her bag. Sophie cracks a timid smile. Perhaps recovery starts when you allow yourself to be a little ridiculous.
Photo by Breno Assis on Unsplash
By Veroniek Lutjes
I was built brick by brick in the 1980s, many construction workers laboured for days, weeks or months to get me finished. In time, in time for what? My purpose was not clear to me at first. But then came the first ones that lived in my belly, my first family. I was to keep them warm, sheltered, safe, and, for many months, this is exactly what I did. I was happy and delighted to belong to them.
My first family did not stay, however. They took away the objects they had fed me with overtime and again I was as empty as the day I was born. New families came and went. Still new and shiny as a baby but without my biological family, I had no solid sense of identity. There were families that changed me bit by bit and I could not do anything about it. The older houses around me told me to welcome the transformation, and I decided to embrace the changes that were bestowed upon me
The loss of my family hurt me but I knew that they were unharmed. In the past, not all of us have had the luxury of this certainty. I knew a house who knew a house who knew a house that had its family brutally taken away from him. There were times when this was common, families hidden in dark attics but discovered and removed. This happened decades ago. Sometimes, broken-hearted cries still emerge from these houses, houses that were unable to shelter and protect. As protectors ourselves, we all feel these losses. We are all burdened by these events of the past.
This was long, long ago. Our responsibilities of protection, shelter and safety now seem to come naturally to us, we do not have the same struggles as the generations before us. Throughout the years, I have had many roles that went beyond my main functions. I include mystery in the lives of those who live within me, a creak of wooden stairs or whispers in the dark. I offer them a place for festivities, allowing them to decorate my rooms and celebrate their holidays. I give them a home, a place to come back to and be themselves. In turn, the families that inhabit my walls and rooms define me. They chip my paint and stain my carpets, they show me off and make me reflect them. They make sure I am alive.
Image by Tobias Herrmann on Pixabay
By Daphne Leeraar
Hello, good to finally meet you!
- Indeed, thank you for inviting me!
- Was that handshake too firm?
- Did they notice the tremble in your voice?
- Did the assistant tell them you have been sitting in the waiting room for an hour, nervously sipping at your coffee while your eyes never left the clock?
So before we start, tell me a little bit about yourself
- As if they haven’t started already
- As if you weren’t being judged the minute you walked in
- Get it together, you’ve prepared for this one, you have memorized what to say
- Tell them what they want to hear. Make sure it’s not too perfect, so that it’s just believable enough. Just like it’s almost believable they actually read the resume that is lying in front of them.
Why did you apply for this job?
- The money
- A sense of purpose
- The first thing that caught my eye when I read the job listing was your company’s name. I have been following this company for quite some time, and was interested in the opportunity to become a part of it.
- Do you think they bought it? Do they know you just spent the past day on their Wikipedia page, trying desperately to retain any information you could use to make yourself look better? They must know –
Why do you think you’d be a good fit for our team?
- – you’re a fraud.
- You have no idea what you are doing here. You finished college full of hope, with a clear idea of what you wanted to do, and then you got older and the ideas became less clear and you were let go from your last job that you hated anyway and now you are doing all these interviews in an attempt to give your life some sort of purpose, some sort of meaning, anything to get the ball rolling again…
Are you alright there? I think we lost you for a second…
- Yes I am, my apologies. I think I’d be a good fit for the team because I love to work with other people. I consider myself a real team-player, and I always like bouncing ideas off of other people.
- That is a good answer, right?
- Something they can appreciate?
- Or does it not matter what you said, did you pause too long before answering, have you already ruined your chances?
Well, I think that wraps up our time. We’ll be in contact within the next three weeks!
- The interview is finished, you can breathe again
- You’ll hear from them within three weeks, probably through an email stating that they ‘regret to inform you that…’
- Tomorrow, you have to do this all over again
- All of the above
Image by Free-Photos on Pixabay
By Sophie van Koevorden
I have inhabited many homes in my days. It has always proven fairly easy to find a comfortable spare room or cellar, attic or even the occasional larder, though those tend to make me rather sad as I cannot actually eat the food stored there. Like a lot of property these days, the homes are renovated or demolished after a while. Perhaps that is just my bad luck in having a preference for older houses, but it is the way it is.
For the past decade or so, I have made myself comfortable in a particularly cozy attic belonging to a novelist. It is a nice place, not too big or too small, too warm or too cold. Positioned right in front of the window overlooking the town’s rooftops is an old armchair, and while it takes me considerable effort to manifest myself strongly enough to actually sit there, it feels almost as if the chair was placed there just for me.
The writer makes for a particularly good companion, which I realise is most likely because he does not know that I exist. In fact, I imagine he would be insufferable to live with, as he tends to think lowly of his fellow mortals. He also has certain dubitable habits, and though I was never known to turn down a good glass of whisky, I do occasionally fear that he overdoes it.
Predominantly for this reason, I have been helping him. Besides, it is the very least I can do in exchange for my room and board. On the occasions I find him having fallen asleep at his typewriter, which have grown more frequent as of late, I will take the proverbial wheel and finish his passages for him. When he awakens the next morning or afternoon he barely remembers the previous night’s events, and he is generally very satisfied with the work he believes he produced in his intoxicated state.
Recently I have started to join him when he watches the television, and while I do not quite understand why people these days make an activity of watching their screen devices, it has helped me get a better grasp of the sort of language people use. It does usually not take too long before the writer shouts something rather profane at the apparatus before turning it off again, and frankly I understand his sentiment.
To my great enjoyment, lately we have been working on what is called a period piece together. It is set roughly around the time I was alive, and my memory serves me well in this particular case. In fact, the book is almost ready to be published. The writer seems to not want anything to do with the praise and public recognition awarded to someone as good at his profession as we are, and nobody knows who I am, but to think it will be well-received certainly brings me a sense of joy. I never amounted to much during my life, but I feel proud to have become a writer after all.