Strange days indeed

Yesterday during a press conference given by our prime minister the announcement came that primary schools will re-open with some restrictions after the May holiday we have here (May 11th) and that young kids are allowed to gather together again for sports training activities under supervision (and with no parents watching from sidelines). All other measures we have in place with our lockdown will be extended until May 20th (four weeks from now) and all large gatherings, events, festivals have been cancelled till September 1st. Our PM said that should more restrictions be lifted in four weeks time then that will only be possible with some very strict measures in place that need to be stringently observed. We need to prepare for a “1.5 meter economy”. How all this will effect the university I work at is anyone’s guess. We’re physically closed till June 1st, I’m already thinking that will probably be extended until after the summer…

In the meantime all we can do is make the best of the world as is and, for now, enjoy the ducklings and lambs and little daises on the side of the road as we take our walks-with-a-distance (pictures taken two days ago)…

20200420_184526_resized-120200420_185708_resized20200420_191610_resized

Personally, I also enjoy the view of Mr Esther and my cat waiting for me in our front garden as I walk to the recycling bins and back…

20200421_182625_resized

Six weeks of lockdown now for us and while many things are starting to feel normal it also still remains weird to be so restricted in where you go and what you do outside the house.  At least another four weeks of these restrictions to go and probably even longer after that…  It makes me think of this John Lennon song:

I specifically think of the chorus: “Nobody told me there’d be days like these | Strange days indeed | Most peculiar, mama…”
(Side note: Wow! At 1 minute 21 that’s Fred Astaire on Yoko Ono’s arm in this video!)

I really liked one thing our PM Mark Rutte said yesterday: “The freedom of one person cannot be at the expense of the health of another”. I think he’s right, so the message continues to be: #StayAtHome.

Cool! ‘We’ win!

The Netherlands has won the Eurovision Song Contest for the fiirst time in 44 years!

The song was a bookmaker favourite to win but of course you never know whether you can trust that. We always watch the Eurovision Song Contest every year (kinda, while multi-tasking on laptops and ipads and phones). Winning, even if there are so very many iffy songs, still is a huge deal. This has been one of the better Dutch entries of the past years..

… and even though I haven’t been following all of this hullaballoo closely at all, I’ve got to admit to being stoked about a Dutch win!

Duncan Eurovision

Congratulations, Duncan Laurence!

The real Slim Shady!

Yesterday evening, Mr Esther junior and I went to see Eminem perform live in Nijmegen in the east of the Netherlands. My son has been an Eminem fan for about 3 years now and this concert was the gift he got from us for his 17th birthday. He is the only one of his friends who really loves Eminem, so, as they are no fans, I said I’d love to go with him. I’m not a rap or hip hop fan at all but through Es jr’s influence I have started to really like some of Eminem’s songs and found myself excited to be going to this concert as well! Of course, my excitement was no match for Es jr’s excitement.

We got there quite early, in the afternoon. I got Es jr a commemorative concert t-shirt which he absolutely loves…

We walked around, got drinks and something to eat and then secured ourselves a nice little spot. Es jr didn’t want to go up too far in the front, he doesn’t like the pushy crowdy element when close to the stage. It was quite hot, so while waiting and chatting we shielded ourselves from the sun for a bit.

IMG-20180712-WA0003

The evening started with two rap acts to warm up the crowd. Finally, at around 9.20 pm, Eminem started his concert and Es jr was in seventh heaven. This was pretty much our view – good view on the screens and we could see Eminem (encircled in this picture) jumping around and rapping on stage.

20180712_212756_resized_1

He had an MC/side-kick to help whip up the crowd and sing along with him and it was a great concert! He sounds great live, just like on his recorded music and really gave his all to make the concert a good one. Eminem hasn’t been to the Netherlands in 15 years, so him singing ‘Without me’ where he sings “Guess who’s back? Back again? Shady’s back, tell a friend!” seemed extra topical.

For those who don’t know, Eminem is also nicknamed ‘Slim Shady’…

He sang a lot of great songs, some of his greatest hits…20180712_213524_resized… and Es jr could rap along with pretty much all of them! He was also not shy to stick up his middlefinger together with thousands of others when asked to do so by Eminem.

Eminem has this one song where he does a really quick rap in the song “Rap God”. In fact, I understand that that song is in the Guinness Book of Records for being the hit single which contains the most words.

There was a beautiful section where Eminem sang some duets with Skylar Grey, songs that have been recent hits from his latest album. Skylar Grey really has a great voice! He also did this song with her from 2000 called “Stan” about a stalker fan…

As the sun set, it all looked even more beautiful.20180712_223703_resized

The last song ‘Lose yourself’ (one of my fave Eminem songs) was beautifully lit and beautifully performed, a perfect end to the concert.

It ended with a few fireworks…20180712_225316_resized… and it really was over all too soon. In fact, that may be my only gripe: the concert lasted barely 90 minutes. I’m used to concerts being a little longer than that, would’ve been cool to have a little more. No matter, though, we were very grateful for all that we had seen and heard and Es jr really was very happy! “I can’t believe Eminem is here, so close to us in the flesh!” he beamed at me during the concert. And: “Best birthday gift ever!” he exclaimed afterwards. This concert certainly is a memory to treasure, for Eminem and for sharing that with my son. 🙂

Focusing on the good… my son!

After my depressing last post, I really do have to report on the highlight of this past week, of this past schoolyear, actually!

I absolutely love my son, but he really is a lazy sod. His secondary schooling has been a bit of a headache for us, every year he only just made it to the next grade. Here in The Netherlands you have several levels of secondary schools. The highest level is called VWO and prepares you straight for university, the second level is called HAVO and prepares you for applied sciences college/uni, the third level is called MAVO and prepares you for vocational education. Within MAVO you have a few more levels that are lower.

My son is smart enough for at least HAVO but as he’s such a lazy sod, his results didn’t get him in there, so he has been doing highest level MAVO instead, aiming to move on to HAVO afterwards. He is almost 16 and a month ago he had his last finals for the MAVO exam. This past week we heard he passed in one go, without needing to re-sit any exam! Woohooo! Quite a relief for him and for us as well! We cheered very loudly when the call came. 🙂 As is tradition in The Netherlands when kids pass their secondary school exams, the flag also went up at our house with my son’s schoolbag hanging from the pole…

20170614_son

He wants to be ‘a manager’ one day, although what it is exactly he would like to manage he doesn’t know. However, he’s been very enthusiastic about a 3 year vocational college course for hotel management (we went to an open day a few months ago) and wants to go on to do that instead of going on to HAVO. The second half of the the second year and the first half of the third year he’ll have to do one or two internships, with at least one of the internships needing to be abroad. He loves the idea of that! So, at the end of August it will be hotel management college for him, in a city close to here that he can travel to easily. He’s been accepted into the bi-lingual Dutch-English program of this course, which makes him and us very happy. He’s more of a practice-oriented guy than a theoretician, so we’re really hoping this college will suit him well.

We’d promised him a PlayStation if he passes his exams (he’s been wanting one for years now). Yeah, bribes may be bad parenting, but we were getting desperate and it seems to have worked in the end… My husband ordered a PlayStation for him yesterday and it came this afternoon. It’s hooked up now. My son has been obsessed with basketball for the past year or so, he follows the NBA closely and was elated when ‘his’ team, the Golden State Warriors, won the NBA championships last week. So, we also got him an NBA game and the boy is happy!

20170617_son ps4

Boys and their deserved toys! And moms and dads have extra leverage over him for the coming 3 years… As the PlayStation is hooked up in our living room, we get to control the use of it for now. 🙂

The good, the bad & the ugly

It’s been a tough, bad week…

  • Landslide in south east Bangladesh after a cyclone, killing over 150 people!! (there are so many lives always at risk in Bangladesh because there is no money for water, storm and flood management infrastructure);
  • Republican congress staff shot at & wounded in Washington (hatred is encouraged nowadays with divisive rhetoric and when will something be done about gun laws? I don’t see how MORE people carrying concealed guns solves anything);
  • And an awful fire in the Grenfell Tower apartment building in west London (30 known dead but probably more to follow; could the reason for this deadly fire spreading so quickly be negligence by the owners?).Paper Fortune Teller

And then yesterday I met a young woman from Ivory Coast with an ugly story. She is only 19 years old, still a girl really, with not much known about her, she is very reticent. She somehow came to The Netherlands and was forced into prostitution (whether here or already back in Ivory Coast, I don’t know). She has now found refuge at a shelter and has a 2 week old baby… father unknown… She’s had little education, has only been to primary school and says she can read and write. She mentioned losing her mum some years ago and something about brothers with ‘hunger belly’ some time ago.  What awfulness has she seen in her 19 years? Why are many men’s actions so ruled by their di**s that they need to exploit and use (vulnerable) women? What future is there for this Ivory Coast girl? And for her absolutely beautiful 2 week old daughter who I got to hold for quite a while? When asked how she felt about becoming a mum she said, she was happy, “at least I am not alone anymore”. She has no idea what to do, where to go, whether she even can or will stay in The Netherlands… She is overwhelmed by life and she’s a new mum all on her own at that. The shelter she is living in is filled with young women who have stories like her’s. Needless to say, I have been preoccupied with this young woman and her tiny daughter for the past 24 hours…

With all this bad and ugliness I have put myself off writing about anything good, although I will try. There were some new Richard Armitage pics this past week that are good and that I really like (especially the one of the two bearded men, lovely smiles there!)…

… and a picture of Richard and Rhys Ifans in action during filming which is nice too. There is also a new selfie that Richard tweeted for Cybersmile’s stop cyberbullying day (an admirable goal)…

Everyone is gushing about this new selfie being so wonderful and I just keep on thinking, “what am I missing?” To me, Richard looks off in this… something about his mouth, his hint of a smile, feels very posed and not real… his face looks a little plastic too, reminds me a bit of one of those wax dolls at Madame Tussaud’s. I really love this man, but I’m just not one to gush over every image of him, I guess. Or maybe I’m just in too much of a bad and ugly nitpicking mood after this week to appreciate the good? I know we must keep on battling bad and ugly with good; I really do try that and I know Richard tries to do that with this Cybersmile thing (and no, me criticizing this image is not cyberbullying), but sometimes it all just feels so hopeless…