It’s going well with the Corona virus trends here in The Netherlands. Cases, hospitalizations and deaths are rapidly declining while vaccination levels are rising.
So, as of last week, lockdown has eased somewhat, meaning that museums have opened again, under strict regulations of course. Mini me has been wanting to go to the Anne Frank House museum in Amsterdam for a while now. Both of our kids know Anne Frank’s story well, we just never actually went to the museum with them because, frankly, it’s always too packed. Now, with Corona restrictions in place, not many people are allowed in so we figured now would be the perfect time to go. We booked tickets in advance and this afternoon the four of us finally visited the famous annex behind the offices of Otto Frank’s company where the Frank family had been in hiding. Over the years I have been there 4 or 5 times but it was really good to visit this place with our kids.
After our visit we stopped for a bite to eat right outside the building, right beside the canal.
Junior then left to go and see his girlfriend while mini me, Mr Esther and I stayed in Amsterdam and walked around there for a bit. We also saw soccer fans dressed in orange walk around there as this evening The Netherlands plays its first soccer game in the European Championship against Ukraine. It’s an at home game, in Amsterdam.
We avoided the busiest shopping streets and at the end of the afternoon headed home again (first stopping for dinner in a small town not far from our home). Had some tea in our front garden…
… before this evening we too succumb to a little bit of orange fever. The shops and supermarkets have already started to go orange in honour of Dutch soccer these past two or so weeks….
… and now we are watching the Netherlands versus Ukraine soccer match. The score as I type this is 3-2, we’re nearing the end of the match.
It’s been lovely going to a museum, doing some sightseeing, eating nice food and having great summer weather to boot. It really feels like a holiday.
I’ve been catching up on strong women in history movies of late, women I had heard of or only had rudimentary knowledge of but now I feel I know a little better. Of course I don’t see these movies as documentaries but they did give a nice little deepdive into who they were.
I started with On the Basis of Sex about supreme court judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg (played by Felicity Jones) before she became a judge. It followed her early career and her groundbreaking win in a case where she argued to not discriminate against a man as a carer for his ailing mother on the basis of his sex. That laid the goundwork for later equal women’s rights laws. I also love how Ruth’s marriage is portrayed here, a real partnership between two equals, the way (for me) that a marriage should be, a give and take in equality.
I love how this is not about a superhero female lawyer but that it’s about a woman who quietly fights for justice in her own unique way. I know Felicity Jones is not for everyone but I have really liked her since I first saw her in Northanger Abbey quite a few years ago and she doesn’t disappoint here either.
Hannah Arendt focuses on (not surprisingly) Hannah Arendt as she follows the trial of Adolf Eichman, leading her to coin the famous term ‘the banality of evil’. It was a good and thought provoking film with a great performance by German actress Barbara Sukowa but it was also a very slow moving and sometimes tedious to get through story. Either that or I watched it too late at night when I was too tired to follow all of the thoughts laid out in the film, which meant I felt my eyes drooping on occasion. Even though it was slow, the movie did stick with me for a little while so I think I need to watch this one again, when I am feeling more alert.
I like that this is not about a woman battling and fighting for a place in a man’s world, it’s a movie about a strong and already respected woman in her own right who lives life on her own terms, a political theorist (I understand she didn’t see herself as a philosopher) trying to make sense of the evils of the Holocaust. It’s well worth a watch (even if a tad slow).
Harriet is about the life of Harriet Tubman, who in the mid 1800s escaped slavery in Maryland and went on to free 70 more slaves from the southern plantations after that. I know very little about Tubman and I really liked this movie which gave me more of an insight into who she had been. Cynthia Erivo was truly remarkable as Minty aka Harriet, I was surprised when afterwards I found out that Erivo is actually a British actress, she was so good!
The story was dramatically well told, Harriet was a strong and very determined character who wouldn’t let anyone sway her from her path. The music was good too, especially the spirituals in it made me want to listen to the soundtrack. I don’t get that urge often when I watch a movie.
Cynthia Erivo sings herself, what a gorgeous voice she has. The song “Stand up” that she co-wrote was nominated for an Oscar but lost out to Elton John…
I then saw Big Eyes, about painter Margaret Keane (played by Amy Adams, I watched the movie because of her), another woman I knew nothing about. She painted the famous big eyes paintings in the 1960s that were also turned into countless posters and postcards. Her husband (played by Christoph Waltz) marketed and took credit for all her work for many years and she let him out of fear.
It is depressing to see her become isolated from others, caught in a restricted world alone with her husband and lying to her daughter (from her first marriage). It is then a relief to see her subsequently emerge and come into her own at the end. I had no idea about any of this, so it was an interesting watch for me.
As usual, Amy Adams is brilliant in this, can someone please finally give her that Oscar?
Last but not least, I watched Misbehaviour, a movie about the 1970 Miss World competition, held in London, hosted by a quite sexist Bob Hope. Claiming that beauty competitions demeaned women, the newly formed Women’s Liberation Movement achieved overnight fame by invading the stage of the Miss World show. At the same time, that show also became the first time a black woman from South Africa was allowed to compete and the first time a black woman (from Grenada) won.
Keira Knightley, Jessie Buckley and Gugu Mbatha-Raw starred in this movie (I especially love the latter two although Keira is really good in this one too), alongside a few other good names (Rhys Ifans, Keeley Hawes, Leslie Manville, Greg Kinnear). I like how this movie shows the point of view of the protesters as well as of the contestants, especially the two black women who use the competition to try and find emancipation. There is a conversation after the contest between the winner Jennifer Hosten (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and protester Sally Alexander (Keira Knightley) in the bathroom, both discussing their points of view and I just wish that scene had lasted longer. I enjoyed this movie too.
All of these movies are well worth seeing but my fave of these have been Harriet and On the Basis of Sex, the latter even leading me to watch the 2018 documentary RBG, which gave a fascinating insight into Ruth Bader Ginsburg. These are ‘just’ movies, so by nature dramatized and maybe not 100% accurate in the stories they tell, but I do love them and how they bring these stories to the awareness of people today. We’ve come a long way in many things but these movies also remind me that we have a way to go yet as we still fight many battles today against racism and sexism.
33: Christ was crucified (according to astronomer Humphreys & Waddington)
1043: Edward the Confessor crowned King of England
1312: 2nd council of Vienna, Knights Templars suppressed
1367: Henry IV of England, King of England and Lord of Ireland (1399-1413), born in Bolingbroke Castle, Lincolnshire, England (d. 1413)
1657: English Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell refuses crown
1783: Washington Irving, American writer (Legend of Sleepy Hollow), born in NYC, New York (d. 1859)
1860: The Pony Express mail delivery system, which used continuous horse-and-rider relays along a 1,800-mile (2,900-km) route between St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California, was launched in the United States.
1882: American outlaw Jesse James is killed by Robert Ford at home in St Joseph
1886: Dooley Wilson [Arthur Wilson], American musician and actor (Beulah, Casablanca), born in Tyler, Texas (d. 1953)
1893: Leslie Howard [Stainer], British actor (Gone With the Wind, Of Human Bondage), born in London, (d. 1943)
1897: Johannes Brahms, German composer and conductor (Hungarian Dances; A German Requiem), dies at 63
1913: British suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst sentenced to 3 years in jail
1919: Austria expels all Habsburgers and according to Mr Esther the use of coats of arms by families is banned
1920: Novelist and short story writer F. Scott Fitzgerald (23) weds novelist Zelda Sayre (19) at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York
1922: Doris Day [Kappelhoff] , American singer, animal welfare activist and actress (Pillow Talk, The Man Who Knew Too Much), born in Cincinnati, Ohio (d. 2019)
1924: Marlon Brando, American actor (The Godfather, A Streetcar Named Desire and On the Waterfront), born in Omaha, Nebraska (d. 2004)
1930: Helmut Kohl, German chancellor (West Germany, 1982-90, unified Germany, 1990-98), born in Ludwigshafen, Weimar Republic (d. 2017)
1930: 2nd Academy Awards: “The Broadway Melody”, Warner Baxter & Mary Pickford win. First time Academy Awards are broadcast on the radio.
1933: 1st airplane flight over Mt Everest
1934: Jane Goodall, British ethologist (studied African chimps), born in London, England
1948: US President Harry Truman signs Marshall Plan ($5B aid to 16 European countries)
1952: Dutch Queen Juliana speaks to US Congress
1958: Fidel Castro’s rebels attacked Havana
1958: Alec Baldwin, American actor (Joshua-Knots Landing, Beetlejuice), born in Amityville, New York
1961: Eddie Murphy, American actor (SNL, 48 Hours, Beverly Hills Cop, Raw), born in Brooklyn, New York
1968: Martin Luther King gave his last speech (“I’ve been to the mountaintop”) at the Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee. The next day, King was assassinated.
1973: The first handheld mobile telephone call was made by an employee of Motorola, who called AT&T’s Bell Laboratories
1976: 21st Eurovision Song Contest: Brotherhood of Man for United Kingdom wins singing “Save Your Kisses for Me” in The Hague, The Netherlands
1977: Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s 1st meeting with US President Jimmy Carter. I still remember the excitement at home (we lived just outside Jerusalem) when the Camp David Accords were signed two years later.
1978: Matthew Goode, English actor (Leap Year, A Single Man, A Discovery of Witches), born in Exeter, Devon, England
1982: Cobie Smulders, Canadian actress (How I Met Your Mother), born in Vancouver, British Columbia
1991: UN Security Council adopts Gulf War truce resolution
1996: Federal agents in Montana apprehend Ted Kaczynski, an American terrorist known as the “Unabomber,” who had killed 3 persons and injured more than 20 with explosives sent through the U.S. postal system.
2012: US President Barack Obama officially secures Democratic presidential nomination
2016: Panama Papers published – 11.5 million confidential documents from offshore law firm Mossack Fonseca expose widespread illegal activities including fraud, kleptocracy, tax evasion and the violation of international sanctions by the world’s elite in the world’s largest ever data leak
2021: Esther turns 51, celebrating her second birthday in Covid 19 quarantine…
The text on the cake translates to “It’s Esther’s birthday. Happy birthday old cake (i.e. meaning ‘old bat’)!” and yes, there is a spelling mistake on the photo gift my son got me which I love (it is so him!). Unlike last year, this year my already vaccinated mother and aunt were able to visit. It’s been a nice, low-key day.
This month’s Mach’ Was challenge has the colour orange as its theme. Well, the first thing that pops up in my mind when the word orange is mentioned is my country, The Netherlands. Orange is an important colour here.
Our royal family is from the noble house of Orange-Nassau, the name originates from the municipality of Orange in the south of France. While we do have a monarchy here (since 1815) our king has no real powers, all political power lies with the prime minister and the government. The king can’t even make an official speech that is not approved by the prime minister but the monarchy is popular here, for their representative and symbolic value. I won’t further elaborate on Dutch constitutional politics here, but what is essential to know is that because our King Willem-Alexander is from that house of Orange-Nassau (and his ancestors before him), orange has become our national colour. It’s a conspicuous colour and is used a lot here.
Orange has historically been an important colour because of this royal house association. During the Second World War it became a symbol for Dutch resistance after the Dutch capitulated to the Nazis in May 1940 and Queen Wilhelmina fled to England. During the war “Radio Oranje” became very important to the Dutch resistance, where messages were broadcast to the Dutch from London by Dutch officials and our Dutch queen Wilhelmina in exile. It was forbidden to listen to the radio during the war but secretly it was done a lot.
Official commendations given by the king are in orange. My father received one for his life’s work in 2003 (not actually from the queen at the time but presented to him by the mayor of the town he lived in).
Nowadays, the most popular use of orange is for anything to do with our national football (soccer to the Americans) teams. Football is our national sport and our national team is called “Oranje” (Dutch for orange). Our female football team is doing really well internationally and is called the “Oranje Leeuwinnen” (orange lionesses – the lion is part of the Dutch coat of arms, Mr Esther could tell you all about it, he is a heraldry expert).
Google ‘Oranje supporters’ (see search result here) and you can see how orange the fans get! The sports fans even have a name, they are called “Het Oranje Legioen” (the orange legion). During the football European and World Championships ‘orange fever’ hits the nation and the streets here are decorated in orange, some more than others (more examples of decorations in this article)…
Thankfully, I have never lived in a street that gets that orange. Frankly, such over the top, nationalistic displays always scare me a little. So far these have only ever been in good fun but what if nationalism like this gets taken too seriously, like it was in Nazi Germany and what I see in the US now as well? Not the topic to discuss in this post, but I do wonder sometimes when and if the scale will be tipped. Anyway, back to the colour orange as used by the Dutch…
For any big international sporting event, orange will always be represented somehow. It’s also popular duing speed skating events (the Dutch perform excellently on the world stage when it comes to speed skating)…
… even our king and his wife, Queen Maxima, come to show support dressed in orange…
International sports tournaments aside, there is one day every year where the country also turns orange and that is during King’s Day when our monarch’s birthday is celebrated. It used to be Queen’s Day when we had Queen Beatrix (who abdicated in 2013) but after 7 years I still catch myself sometimes saying “Koninginnedag” (Queen’s Day) instead of “Koningsdag” (King’s Day). I have posted about King’s Day several times before (see the King’s Day tag) and I admit that I give in to nationalist sentiment then when I wear my one orange item of clothing: an orange scarf that I’ve had for many years. It’s the one nationalist day a year that I really do enjoy, as everything is one big outdoor party.
We even have orange pastry to celebrate, with the oblong-shaped tompouce being the most popular orange pastry.
So yeah, when you come to The Netherlands, and especially when you stay here for a longer period, the colour orange can not be escaped! It is the symbol of Dutch togetherness and patriotism.
We have a great natural history museum here in The Netherlands, called Naturalis, situated in the old university town of Leiden. They opened their new, much bigger, building last year and we’d been meaning to visit for a while. Especially mini-me was eager to go to see the new T-Rex they have there. So, yesterday we went. The building looks like this from the outside…
… and inside it is quite stunning (click on images to enlarge).
The collection too was stunning, all very nicely put together, but what I think I loved most is that in some parts they displayed the work they do alongside the collection itself. In the two following pictures you can see in the background of the room that researchers were actually busy doing their thing (in this case cleaning off dinosaur bones). The floating skeletons in the middle are of whales.
The assorted animals they had were impressive…
And the dinosaur exhibit was very cool. They were even working on assembling a dinosaur right in the exhibition space.
And I also loved the landscape model of The Netherlands as it was 30.000 years ago during the ice age, accompanied by a skeleton of a mammoth put together from hundreds of different mammoth bones finds.
The early humans exhibit was alas closed to visitors as apparently 1.5 meter distance measures could not be guaranteed there, so that means we just need to come back again another time when it is open again!
We walked into town in Leiden afterwards for drinks, which is always a bit nostalgic for me, as I once lived there for 8 years when I was a student.
Social distancing was doable throughout and judging from afar it was good that we didn’t head into the shopping street as that did look terribly busy. I always long to travel abroad on my holidays, get another perspective and see new things, but this day in Leiden really felt like a holiday as well.