Statues in da house

The latest “Mach’ Was” challenge has ‘statues’ as its topic. When I read that, I looked up from my laptop, glanced around my living room, and figured that wouldn’t be a problem…

My mother loves statues and has little statues all over her house, dozens  and dozens of them at least. I guess it is through her that I have come to appreciate them as well and when I take that look around my living room, dining room and back garden (I won’t even mention what can be found upstairs), I see statues in various sizes surrounding me; apparently I have collected quite a few of them myself over the years! Mr. Esther has joined in with contributions as well. We are no deliberate statue collectors but, yes, we do now posess quite a few!

On a little antique desk that also carries our phone, we have these three little ones. I didn’t photograph them on the desk as that corner was just too dark, so I set them in a row on our dining table. I can hold all three easily in one hand.

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We bought the little head on the left years ago at the prehistoric site of Lascaux in France; it’s a replica of a 23.000 year old figurine called the Venus de Brassempouy! The middle head is something we bought at the famous German Meissen porcelain factory after a tour we did there – pretty much the only thing we could afford. 😉 The cat on the right we bought at the British Museum in London last year after seeing the real deal ancient Egyptian cat in the collection. We have a black cat right here at home and couldn’t resist this small replica which looks just like her!

I also quite like the artist Nikki de Sainte Phalle and her famous colourful voluptuous “Nana” women. Do a google image search combining her name and the word ‘nana’ and you’ll see what I mean. When I was a child living just outside of Jerusalem, we played on this huge monster slide in a residential area in Jerusalem which she had designed. It’s still there, my kids also played on it 8 and a half years ago…

Monster

Anyway, a few years back my younger brother was working in a furniture store and saw this ‘Nana’ woman…

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… it’s made of a thick kind of papier-mâché, he immediately thought I’d love it (and he was right!) and he got it for me.

I also have these two African mothers:

The one on the left I got from my mom once. Alas it fell and the baby’s head broke off in such a way that it could not be repaired. I still love it, though, so I have kept it. The one on the right is my most recent acquisition, I only got it about two weeks ago. My mom recently sold the cottage in the north of The Netherlands that she owns and that statue is from there. While clearing out I immediately claimed it as my own, luckily there were no other takers.

On the windowsill by our dining table we have these two tall and very slim wooden figures…

The left one we bought at an Asia market, it’s an Indonesian statue. I can’t recall where I got the right one, but we’ve had both of them for many years now.

I have a favourite painting that I have yet to see for real. It’s Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss. My parents knew this and got us this little statue, now standing on our piano (that no one plays)…

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We have some more cat statues as well, besides the black cat in the first picture I shared above. And we have a snail! And a Buddhist monk!

The yellow cat on the left I got from my younger sister, it has a suncell battery and when the sun shines it waves its little paw! It’s Asian (I think Thai, maybe Chinese) kitsch and I find it funny! The other cat is something we once got from our neighbours after we took care of their cats while they were away on holiday. The little glass snail I saw at an arts & crafts market once and I just found it cute. The buddhist monk is a gift I got from the kids a few years ago.

Speaking of buddhist monks gifted to me by my kids… I have a whole row of little monks right underneath our TV screen! They were a Mother’s Day gift. 🙂

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My daughter found this following family statue on top of a recycling container about a year ago… We both liked it and gave it a home.

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We also have a little wooden viking boat with little wooden vikings in them. Bought it in Denmark for the kids when they were little, we still like it and keep it as an ornament now. The figurine on the right is a chess piece we also bought at the British Museum. It’s something my husband fell in love with, a replica of one of the Lewis chessmen from the 12th century, probably originating from Norway.

Speaking of my husband… he loves history, especially Roman and medieval history and is a bit of an expert on heraldry. So, we now have a knight with shield in a corner leading to our hallway, which we also use as a pedestal for the bust of a woman. In our back garden we have two stone lions with coats of arms. One coat of arms is from my family, the other coat of arms, the one on the right, is my husband’s. His family doesn’t have one, so he designed one himself and recently had it registered. 🙂 He also painted all these shields himself.

As this post has now landed in our back garden, let me also share some more statues we have there!

The one on the left, another bust of a woman, we got last year in Poland, it was dead cheap! Yeah, we don’t really buy durable quality, we just get what appeals to us in the moment. The pedestal it’s on was also a leftover from my mother’s cottage that we confiscated. The family statue on the right is one we bought when Mr. Esther and I became parents; it was also our first garden statue. I also love this statue…

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… she’s made of concrete, so nothing special there, but I find her so pretty!

Coming back into the house, I also have a number of small statues in my DVD cupboard…

The head on the left I made myself during a workshop with colleagues some 5 or 6 years ago. It’s supposed to look like my one ex-colleague… Of course it hardly looks like her, except for maybe possibly the hair, but for a first attempt at ever doing anything like this, I was quite proud. My daughter subsequently decided she also wanted to make one, so the pink one is hers. On a side note: that baby photo on the right is a picture of my grandmother, taken in 1908!

And last but not least these…

I can’t remember where I got that tiny squirrel. The owl is a beeswax candle that we never had the heart to burn. The angel on the right is a gift from my in-laws.

So, there you have it, Herba and Pö: my house is a hot mess with loads of statues!

Easter Bunny

I have not had any inspiration for the latest Mach’ was Easter Bunny challenge. Easter bunnies have never really been on my radar, not even in my childhood. So, I was going to skip this challenge, but then I saw something on my Twitter timeline and although it’s not much, I figured it’s at least something!

Even before Harry Kennedy (Richard Armitage) became the man of Geraldine Granger’s (Dawn French) heart in The Vicar of Dibley, I used to really enjoy watching the show! And yes… I’ll just share some gifs of them here (nothing to do with Easter, just for my own viewing pleasure…)

Geraldine yells at HarryHarry Geraldine kissHarry leans behind GeraldineHarry Geraldine hand kiss

Well, in the first season of The Vicar of Dibley, way before there was even any thought of Harry, there was an episode about Easter in which Dawn French dressed up as the Easter Bunny! She went out at night to hide Easter eggs around the village and I saw this fun little gif of that on my Twitter timeline. 🙂

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So, there you have it, that’s it from me for this challenge: Dawn French as the Easter Bunny!

Geraldine Easter Bunny

Have a Happy Easter everyone!

Library flash mobs

A little PS to my Mach’ Was libraries post. I was looking at pictures in other library posts that Die Pö has so nicely collected for this challenge and somehow I suddenly thought of this video that I had first seen quite some time ago! It’s a choir flash mob in the public library of Valladolid (Spain), wish I had been sitting there in that library at that time! I absolutely love this:

Apparently there are more library flash mobs out there, like this one in the Manchester Central Library:

And a happy one in one of Harvard’s libraries:

In downtown Seattle library, there’s a STOMP flash mob and they use library books, book carts and bins:

And here’s a heartwarming one, made for the 60th birthday of a librarian in a Long Island library:

And ‘Halleuja’ at Wexford public library, where some singers hid their music in library books:

There are even more to be found on YouTube, just type in ‘flash mob library’ and a whole array awaits you. Aren’t libraries cool? 🙂

Libraries – my refuge and more!

A new Mach’ was challenge, set by Die Pö, asks us to do something with libraries… and that I can not ignore! Libraries have always been important to me. They have been my refuge in the past, I fell in love with stories there, I have found true love through them and I have worked in them.

My earliest library memory is of the school library. I loved reading, I was a voracious reader. I was in elementary school in  Jerusalem and every Friday at the end of the school day “library class” was scheduled. aisjIt was my absolute fave class of the week, I can’t remember how many books you were allowed to take out but I do know I borrowed the maximum amount each week. I remember other kids not liking going and messing around in the library but as soon as I entered the school library my nose was in the shelves and the books and I was lost to the outside world.

When I was 10 we moved to Germany and went to live in a village that didn’t have its own library. I went to German school, learned to speak German quickly but longed, absolutely longed, for English language books and for my old school library. We soon started going to an American Episcopalian church in Frankfurt am Main on Sundays, which was situated close to several US army bases (this picture is of the church we went to)…

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We made friends there and one man in particular – not quite legally I think – gave us his library card for a nearby American army library. The library was open on Sunday afternoons and every Sunday after church we’d go there for an hour. I loved it there and for me Sundays were not necessarily about going to church but were about going to the library. My most vivid memory was loaning all the Laura Ingalls Wilder books from that library again and again and again… We were able to use the library card for a few years until we were found out. The man who had given us his card tried to put in a good word for us, how we had been model lenders, but no, the card was revoked and I was very depressed about that. We had moved to another, larger, town in the meantime but the library there wasn’t well stocked and certainly not that well stocked in English books. I was library-less for a while and hated that.

Not long after that I was able to win a scholarship for an international school in The Netherlands. I hadn’t been happy in German school and because I had kept up my English through reading (thank you US army library!), writing a diary and also speaking it at home, I was now able to go to this English language international boarding school. At age 16 I was off! The school was situated in a castle, an absolutely beautiful spot, and for the two years I was there I was thankful every day that I could go to such a beautiful school!

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Being away from home at 16 and alone at school did take getting used to. I was able to go home to my parents in Germany on holidays and to my aunt in The Netherlands on free weekends but I was miserable for the first 3 months. There was a school library there, which in part became my new refuge, and I loved reading all the English language books I could find there. I also was happy to be speaking English all day and after the initial difficult adjusting period I soon took to my new school life. I loved the independence, I loved the location of the school, I made new friends and I learned to handle many of the over-privileged students there with a certain degree of humour. In the end it turned out to be a very good time I had there!

I finished high school and went on to university in the old town of Leiden. I struggled with what I wanted to study. I first majored in psychology, then in English and at the university I naturally made use of Leiden’s big university library.

What I learned most of all during that time was that an academic course just wasn’t for me. It was too theoretical, I needed something more practical. As I was flunking out of uni because I didn’t like it, I also started avoiding the uni library there and I turned to Leiden’s public library, which was well stocked in (non-academic) English language books…

OB Leiden

It also offered me a place to hide away from people, yet again a library had become my refuge. I was in a real funk during those years, no idea what I wanted, where I was going. It was in this library that I started researching what other things I could do with my life, other than becoming a psychologist, an English teacher, a translator or an academic. That gave me the ammunition to talk to my parents and my dad sat down with me and systematically guided me through choices and wishes that I had already been able to prepare. In the end we figured out what I could do for a career: I could become a librarian! I had resisted that idea in the past, my mother was a trained librarian after all and I wanted to be me and not my mother. But librarianship it was and it was a good choice.

The training was very different from what it had been in my mother’s day, especially as we were at the beginning of the digital age; a lot of the training was centered around (digital) information management. It was at that applied sciences uni in Den Haag (situated in these buildings that now aren’t there anymore)…

BDI Den Haag

… where I met a young man who was into archives/museums (whereas I was more into libraries). We did the same course and fell in love and he is now my husband. So, in a way, I owe meeting the love of my life to librarianship!

During my librarianship course I also was able to start my first library job. My dad was General Secretary of an international Jewish-Christian dialogue organization with its head office in Germany and in that office there was a small specialist library. The library specialized on Judaism, Christianity, history relating to both, and Holocaust studies. My mother was the part-time librarian / documentalist there and my older brother (a student of Jewish history) helped out in that library during his vacations. He soon went to the US to continue his studies there and his position became vacant. As I was a librarianship student by then, my dad asked me to follow in my brother’s footsteps. And so during all my vacations I would work in the Martin Buber House library in the town of Heppenheim.

Martin Buber House Heppenheim

My mom ordered the new books and saved them up for me to organize and catalogue when I got there during vacations. I was also the one who suggested setting up a digital catalogue instead of the card catalogue. After I finished college my boyfriend (now my husband) and I were hired by my dad to set up the digital catalogue, get all the books into the system and set up a digital lending system. It was our first job out of uni, the project lasted about 3 months and was a lot of fun to do. I was especially interested in all the Holocaust study books there and read many of them throughout the years (even before I actually worked there).

During my studies I also used the Dutch National Library in Den Haag a lot…

And I did a 4 month internship in Newcastle Upon Tyne (England) in the library of what used to be Newcastle Polytechnic but is now Northumbria University.

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My first library job after we finished that cataloguing job at the Martin Buber House in Germany was at a small library specializing in education in developing countries in The Netherlands. It was situated in the attic of this building…

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I couldn’t stay there long (just 6 months) as I was only hired because the regular assistant librarian was on sick leave. That job did lead me to my next job: working in the library of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, specializing in development cooperation subjects.

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I stayed there for 2.5 years but when they couldn’t offer me a fixed contract, I found another job as head of a graphic design college library…

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I did that job for 6 years and I really enjoyed it! But the library was small and soon everything was running so smoothly, it started to get boring. Also, my kids were small and I wanted to work closer to home. I found a job as head of a secretarial/reception department of an advisory organization in my home town and I did that for many years, leaving the librarianship world behind me. I have now moved on to digital information management (which will also be my new job) in which I can still use many of my skills from my librarianship days, but I am not a librarian anymore now.

As for my use of libraries nowadays… I don’t use them anymore! There was a public library very close to where I live, but it closed 3 or 4 years ago…

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My town now only has one large (admittedly very nice!) central library left and if I want to go there, I really need to go out of my way. So, I don’t go to a library anymore, I don’t even have a membership anymore… I still wish they hadn’t closed down the library close to me. Even though it wasn’t greatly stocked (most notably, the English language section was far too small), I still liked going there… and there was always the possibility of inter-library loans. I have now found other ways to get the much craved information/books I need but I do miss the physical, calming presence of a library.

Libraries have always been and will always be important to me. I like being in them, I like visiting them when I am on vacation (I adore old libraries in castles!) and they will always hold a special place in my heart.

And it was all yellow…

The new ‘Mach was’ (‘Do something’) challenge is to do something with the colour yellow. When I read that, two things instantly flashed through my mind simultaneously.

One thing that flashed through my head was the Coldplay song ‘Yellow’ that I really like…

And the other thing that flashed through my head was “Israel photo books”! I had made two photo books of a special trip to Israel back in the fall of 2008 and, as where we’d been to had been warm and sunny, I had chosen to have all the photos printed on a yellow background…

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A little personal history: I was born in Jerusalem and lived in a village just outside Jerusalem until I was 10 years old. I have very clear and very happy memories of my childhood there and I have been back to Israel 6 or 7 times after we moved away. My oldest brother moved back there at the end of the 1990s and now lives there in the south, in the desert, just above Eilat. My brother and his family are Jewish and in 2008 the eldest son did his bar-mitzvah in the kibbutz where they live. For the first time since we had left there in 1980 we were all back in Israel as a family to celebrate my nephew’s bar-mitzvah. It was a special trip with my parents, my brothers and sisters (I have 7 brothers and sisters, of whom 4 are adopted) and our kids, and my aunt. I made these photo books for everyone after we returned from our trip and I still look at them regularly. I associate yellow, sun and warmth (not only weather-wise, but warmth of feeling as well) with that trip. That trip was all about reliving our childhood memories. Here a few pages from my yellow photo books…

For instance, pictures of my old school in Jerusalem. My dad used to drop us off at school before he went to work in the mornings and in the afternoons we’d go home to the village we lived in (3km outside Jerusalem) by bus…

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Or the “monster” we used to play on a lot. My parents would go to a nearby shopping center once a week to get groceries and we kids would stay and play at this playground on the “monster” (a sculpture by French artist Nikki de Saint-Phalle) until they picked us up again…

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We used to go to the old city of Jerusalem a lot, my dad’s office was just outside Zion gate, not far from the Western Wall. It was special taking my kids there…

… with the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (the place where Jesus is supposed to have been crucified) not too far off either…

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Alas we were not able to visit the Al Aqsa mosque that year (it is often closed to visitors for fear of attacks) but the golden Dome of the Rock next to it is always beautiful, glittering in the sun, just like on the first picture I shared above.

During that trip in 2008 we stayed at the guesthouse of the convent right near our old house. As kids we used to be at the convent all the time, we were good friends with the nuns there, and it was so special actually staying there with my own kids, sharing the memories. My oldest brother, who died age 7 a year before I was born, is buried in that convent and we had a little ceremony for him while we were all there together…

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We visited our old house. When you approach our old, very red, house from the front, you have to walk this narrow path till you get to the gate of ‘our’ front garden. They were renovating the house when we were there and we were allowed to come in and visit. These pics are of the approach to our house and the back of the house…

Inside the house, right at the center which was also the living room (the bedrooms surround the central living room area), there is an old olive press. I remembered it as something huge, but standing next to it as a grown up, it felt really quite small to me…

We were also able to enter my old bedroom that I had shared with my younger brother and sister the last few years we lived there. I remember loving to stare out of my bedroom window, I had a great view over the valley from there…

The walk from our old house to the few little shops in the center of the village is only a few minutes and when I captured my daughter skipping down the short central pedestrian street in the village, it brought back many memoires of me skipping there in the same way as a child.

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In the old days when we lived there, there was no checkpoint between Jerusalem and Bethlehem like there is nowadays (including a horrendous wall!). On Sundays, after we had gone to church in Jerusalem, we’d often drive to Bethlehem and have a falafel there in this small place on Manger Square, where the Church of the Nativity is situated. The tiny falafel place is gone, but the Church is of course still there. The entrance door to the church was made very small a long time ago during the Ottoman empire so that people wouldn’t just enter the church on horseback… or it’s small because that means that everyone entering it needs to automatically bow, leaving all egos at the door…

Jerusalem itself is in the hills but when your drive out of Jerusalem to the south you soon head down and into the desert. In the south you get to the Dead Sea…

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… and after a few hours you get to the kibbutz my brother lives at. It’s all rock desert, and orange and ochre and dark yellow down there…

And even inside where the bar-mitzvah for my nephew was held, the walls are yellow…

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So, yeah, the colour yellow is inextricably tied to Israel for me. There is even a very well known Hebrew song called “Yerushalayim shel Zahav” (“Jerusalem of Gold”), so I am not the only one with this association. 🙂