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Showing posts from May, 2012

The Grass is Singing by Doris Lessing

Cover image © HarperCollins. After watching a couple of films, Chocolat (1988) and White Material (2009), directed by Claire Denis, a French director who spent part of her childhood in colonial West Africa, I went in search of more information about the films' settings. In doing so, I discovered an interview with the director saying that the latter was inspired by Doris Lessing’s The Grass is Singing . The novel is set in rural, 1940s Rhodesia, although confusingly the setting is referred to as ‘South Africa’ throughout. Lessing said in an interview that there wasn’t “very much difference between the Rhodesian experience and the South African experience,” although, “The Grass is Singing is very Rhodesian because it was based on the life of the district which I was brought up in.” The focus of the novel is on Mary Turner, whom we discover at the outset of the novel has been murdered at the hands of her houseboy, Moses. The first chapter deals with the people of the dis

Het Withstraat Dagboek: Onze Laatste Maaltijd in Rotterdam

The Arab-inspired lighting inside the Bazar restaurant in Rotterdam. Refreshed from an afternoon nap, I find Rotterdam exactly as I left it: peaceful, chilly and with a layer of ice or snow covering everything outside of the large windows of No. 59a Witte de Withstraat. It is the evening of Saturday 11th February and after a day of wandering around Amsterdam everyone has retired to their rooms prior to this evening’s meal. Pia and I wait patiently as Julian, who is ‘being mother’, makes tea in a saucepan on the small stove in the corner of the room. As it dawns on Julian that there is the opportunity to watch the first half of the rugby match between Italy and England on TV, Pia suddenly does a death-defying backflip over the sofa, forward rolls out of the door, jumps over the banisters and hides in her room – all without spilling a drop of her tea, or a crumb of her biscuit. Obviously she’s not much of a rugby fan. By the time we leave 59a, Julian is wondering why he

Looe Harbour

Looe harbour, Cornwall, as seen from the bridge. Over the May Bank Holiday weekend, I was lucky enough to go camping in Cornwall. Our campsite was actually the large garden of someone’s parents in Liskeard. Using quite possibly my favourite iPhone app, Instagram, I set about capturing the slowly darkening skies over Looe harbour whilst we returned back to camp after an afternoon of beach cricket.  The wonder of the Instagram app is that it allows you to place a variety of different filters and frames over the photos. In this case, the filter helped to emphasise the contrast between the slowly approaching dusk and the little remaining light hitting the water. For more information about Looe harbour, visit:

Het Withstraat Dagboek: Een Koude Dag in Amsterdam

Looking along the frozen Oudezijds Voorburgwal, in Amsterdam. The temperature has continued its descent to unknown depths overnight and with it has brought the arrival of Jas from England. It is Saturday 11th February and once more I have cruelly awoken the students in order for them to be ready in time for our coach’s departure to Amsterdam. This morning 'Rotterdam' by The Beautiful South is my song of choice and I walk around the building singing it loudly. Foolishly, I thought I’d get a full night’s sleep last night, but, sure enough, Jas’ arrival at around 2am put paid to that. A few people have managed to make it down to breakfast on time at Restaurant Werelds, the restaurant attached to the Home Hotel where we have eaten for the previous couple of nights. One by one, and increasingly bleary-eyed, the students skulk in, although a certain quartet of girls are conspicuous in their absence. With the arrival of a few Dutch students, their teachers Ilse, Lau

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells

Cover image © Penguin Classics. When it comes to literary genres, I am the first to admit that Science Fiction is simply not something I ever even think twice about. I’ve never really liked Star Trek or Star Wars, and could just about muster the energy for one episode of The X-Files annually back in the 90s.  With this in mind, I decided that if one is to start anywhere with Science Fiction, one should do so with the grandfather of modern Sci-Fi, H.G. Wells – also the new cover art for the Penguin Classics reprint appealed to me! First published in 1895, the novella is told by an unnamed narrator who is friends with an inventor, enigmatically referred to only as the Time Traveller. A week after discussing the theoretical possibility of time travel, the Time Traveller invites the narrator and a group of friends to dinner at his house in Richmond, but is conspicuous in his absence. Midway through the dinner, the Time Traveller arrives looking dishevelled, tired and cover

Het Withstraat Dagboek: Een Morgen in Hoogvliet

Hoogvliet Metro station in the wintry afternoon sunshine, looking towards De Akkers. The excitement of being away from home is always too much for some students. Despite all the warnings from Julian and myself about not staying up all night, some students just could resist the temptation.  It is Friday 10th February , it is still freezing cold and I am waiting with the group on the platform at the Eendrachtsplein Metro station in central Rotterdam. After a night with very little sleep thanks to the noise of twenty hyperactive students, everyone is looking somewhat bedraggled. After a wait of fifteen minutes, whilst a forgetful trio of students ran back to the Home Hotel having left part of their camera equipment there, a train arrives. The 7.30am train has the ultimate destination of De Akkers, but we’re only travelling on the C Line as far as Hoogvliet, an outlying borough of Rotterdam where our partner school Einstein Lyceum is located. Everyone in our g