Orange

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.

Happy Father’s Day

To my own papa, who will live in my heart forever…

…to the best father I could ever have wished for for my children…

… and to all the beloved father figures out there: Happy Father’s Day!

Golden years

My younger brother found old slides in my mother’s apartment, I took them to be digitalized a few weeks ago in a store near me and today picked up the end result on a USB stick. What a little treasure it turned out to be! Memories of the golden years of my childhood came rushing back to me when I looked at the pictures, most of which were new to me.

The pictures of my childhood home brought out such warm feelings. This following picture was taken from the side of our house. We lived downstairs and there were two small, separate apartments upstairs that were rented to other people. The laundry you see drying must have been from our upstairs neighbour. I remember little of her (she moved away halfway through my childhood), I just remember she was an old lady called Frau Barur who liked to eat flowers and she scared me a bit. I remember she showed us pictures of herself as a dancer before the war, I think she was of Hungarian origin but not sure about that. She was also an Auschwitz survivor, I remember the number tattoo on her arm.

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The back of our house looked like this (you can see where the stairs are leading up to the upstairs apartment). We used to play on that little wall under the window. That used to be my bedroom that I shared with my older sister, I later moved to another bedroom. This picture was taken before I was born, though.

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In this next picture my older siblings are seated to the left of that back door to the garden and underneath the window that in later years would be the room I shared with my younger brother and sister. This looks like it was taken in the summer of 1968.

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We looked out over the valley from that side of the house and I used to adore looking at that view, at the houses below us and the rocks and trees and tiny buildings across the valley. I love that there’s a picture of that view in these slides. It’s also the view I remember seeing from my second bedroom at that side of the house. Between the trees, at the other side of the valley, the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum is located. I remember looking toward those trees, trying to make out the museum and really wanting to visit it. My parents never let me, though, as they thought I was too young for that (we lived there until I was 10). I finally did visit Yad Vashem years later.

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Another picture taken at the end of the 1970s (I think, going by how big my younger brother and sister are here) shows how our back garden matured. We used to love to play there.

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The pictures also include a few with my oldest brother before he died at age 7 from an accident in March of 1969 (a year before I was born). This is him at the back of the house…

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… and planting trees (I think) with my father, my grandfather and other people I don’t know. That blue Renault was ours. I think I have a flash of a memory of it, but not sure whether it’s a real memory or just a memory connected to seeing pictures of it. In my mind it was a darker blue, though. I think these pictures were also taken during the summer of 1968.

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Speaking of my grandfather, there are also pictures of him and my grandmother. I barely remember my grandfather, he died when I was 4, but I do remember feeling a great warmth for him. This picture of him, taken somewhere in the Old City of Jerusalem, may be one of my fave pictures that I know of him! I have no idea who those kids are.

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I also very much like this one of my grandmother relaxing. I think it was taken in the gardens of the nearby convent which had a guesthouse. My grandparents stayed there when they visited. Our house also belonged to that convent, we hired our house from the kind and fun nuns who lived there.

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I think I even know the exact spot where this following picture of my grandfather was taken, right outside the convent’s guesthouse.

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The official entrance to the convent looked like this. The man in the picture is my grandfather, I don’t know who the lady is.

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There are also a few pictures from inside the house. We used to have an old olive press right in the middle of our living room. This picture was taken after my brother died and before my mother’s pregnancy with me showed, I think it must be fall of 1969 going by the sweaters everyone is wearing. The curtains behind the olive press lead to the door to our back garden.

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The next few pictures were taken during Christmas of (I think) 1976 when I was 6 years young. I’m the little blonde girl. We had a load of guests that year and were singing all kinds of Christmas carols. The first picture is of me and my brother performing a song, probably “Little Donkey” which is the only thing I ever remember performing with him.

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There were also some lovely pictures of my dad. In the second picture of all the clergy coming out of the church, my dad is the man in the middle (dressed in black). The third picture is typical of how my dad used to gesticulate when he spoke, I love that picture.

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Last, but not least, when my parents were engaged in 1959-1960 they went to Israel for a year (before moving there again in 1967). My dad was studying at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem for a year and my mother worked as a librarian in Tiberias at the ‘Scots Hospice’. They used to visit each other during weekends. This picture was of them during that time…

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The final picture I want to share here is of my mother and some sheep. Somehow this picture has a “the hills are alive with the sound of music” vibe to me. Going by the fact that my mother is wearing the same outfit as in the picture above, I think this may be outside Tiberias.

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There are of course more pictures (79 in total!) but these really were my favourites. It’s been so much fun discovering them.

Richard, Agatha and me

Rich is yet again busy with audiobook recording, this time in his at home studio. Apparently now he’s recording Agatha Christie’s first Poirot book. I know Hercule Poirot is Belgian, not French, but the striped shirt Richard’s wearing has a French vibe which suits Poirot. 🙂

2020-05-06 10_35_20-Richard Armitage op Twitter_ _I’ve been hard at work recording two beloved Agath

Maybe he should have introduced himself as Reeshar Armeetahzg.

This ‘good fan’ *cough* (I’m not a little child!) has perked up her ears at the mention of Hercule Poirot. Will he be narrated with a French-Belgian accent? Now that I might want to hear. Reeshar mentions that he will tell us something about a personal connection he has to Agatha Christie and I have one too which I can’t resist sharing here.

My father hardly read fiction, it was mostly non-fiction theology, religion, philosophy and politics for him. He did read Agatha Christie, however. In fact, I still have a few Agatha Christies on my bookshelf precisely because they belonged to my father and I can’t bear to give them away.

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I’m not a huge mystery book reader but my dad encouraged me to read Agatha Christie and so I did and I enjoyed them. He especially loved Hercule Poirot and also the Hercule Poirot movies with Peter Ustinov. Ustinov will always be the definitive Poirot for me.

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Will Richard reading Agatha Christie, and Hercule Poirot specifically, convert me to audiobooks? If my dad were still alive, I’d certainly invest in a Christie audiobook for him to see how he’d like it.

Remembrance

May 4th in The Netherlands is always Remembrance Day for those who have died during the Second World War. In the evening of May 4th there’s a ceremony in Amsterdam where the king and queen come to lay wreaths. Due to the corona crisis the central Dam square in Amsterdam was empty except for the king and queen, our PM, the mayor of Amsterdam and two more people. Very weird, as normally the remembrance is very crowded every year.

This year, for the first time as it’s 75 years since the end of the war, our king also gave a speech and I think it’s the best one I’ve ever seen him give. Our king is not a natural public speaker yet this speech seemed to flow naturally from him. It was thoughful, and even gently critical of his own grandmother’s role during the war, and the line “Sobibor began in the Vondelpark [a park in Amsterdam] with a sign that said ‘no Jews'” felt very simple and very true. There’s a little blurb in English about the speech here.

I won’t go into all this in detail as I’m very tired because it’s been a bit of a difficult day for me where we buried my aunt’s friend, who had also been a bit of an honorary aunt for my family. It was strange doing so with only 20 guests present, everyone sitting a distance from each other and afterwards picking up a cup of coffee and tea and then standing outside with a distance, talking about the funeral and remembering H. During the funeral my father was also referenced several times, which was heart warming and also emotional. H had a beautiful send off, filled with love.

This Remembrance Day for me today is not only about the war but also very much about my father and H…

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May they rest in peace and if there is an afterlife (something I don’t believe in but I would like to believe in), may they find each other there.