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The Remains Of The Day

I’m an Emma Thompson-fan, an Anthony Hopkins-fan and Hugh Grant and so on. Plenty of people, therefor, to make this film worth while, right?

I know it has won prizes and people were full of it. I just couldn’t find it. The story keeps dragging on for over two hours.
When I was in my early teens I would have loved this film. I hated the Hollywood-formula where they would always, always live ‘happily ever after’. I loved Welcome To The Dollhouse for that very reason. In the end, nothing had happened to make Dawn Wiener’s life even remotedly better.

The same here, really. Two people from a house staff who only seem to look at the quality of work they both deliver within that house, have to appear as if they do so without any emotion.
Except that’s not the case. Anthony Hopkins, who plays Mr Stevens, the head of the household, makes sure his father, William Stevens, gets hired by his employer. With this step, he is no longer objective.
Emma Thompson, playing Miss Kenton, notices immediately. And this is where they are of for a wrong start.
Mr Stevens doesn’t actually allow anyone to even doubt his father being unable to fullfill his duties. It is not until his father’s ill health simply collapses, that he is forced to see that. And still then, both Mr Stevens and his father, don’t actually agree on the possibility that the job is over.

The affections Mr Stevens has for Miss Kenton are so well hidden that a few of the scenes that do make it clear, also point to the fact that Mr Stevens is not worthy of her feelings for him: someone who tries to hide it that well, for the sake of the job that needs to be done and so on, is far too much in love with that job, to ever feel any duty towards his subject of affection.

Of course, this is entirely my opinion on such matters, not especially on the film. I did think the film to be too long. For that time it was perhaps normal, nowadays it tends to get a bit long, that many speeches during dinners and people agreeing, disagreeing and noticing the staff won’t open their mouths as that’s simply not their job.

It’s also nice to see Christopher Reeve walking and being his lovely self here!

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Posted by on June 12, 2018 in Films, Opinion, Uncategorized

 

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Kiss

Him: ‘blimey, I haven’t seen you in ages! How are you?’
Her: ‘yes, it has been a while. I’m fine thanks!’
Him: ‘so why haven’t we met for so long?’
Her: ‘probably because the last time we met, you kissed me’
Him: ‘did I?? I don’t recall?’
Her: ‘it still happened’
Him: ‘do you have any evidence of this statement?’ *smiles*
Her: ‘well, there’s witnesses…’
Him: ‘we weren’t alone?? This could be nasty…’
Her: ‘nope, my father was right behind you…and my mother was left in front of you. Looking very jealous, I might add..’
Him:’what?! Where was my wife? If your parents were present…’ *nervous giggle*
Her: ‘she was right next to you…’
Him: ‘any case this all happened when I was hammered?’
Her: ‘yup, that’s what my husband said. He was next to me, he saw the kiss coming and ducked. I was too late for that’.
Him: ‘right, so errrr…see you later when I manage to forget we ever had this conversation to clear up my memory?’
Her: ‘it’s a good plan!’

 
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Posted by on August 2, 2016 in Daily life, Humour

 

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Dodenherdenking

Om in de tijdgeest van Dodenherdenking te blijven: twee brieven uit de oorlog, van families die er qua geloof buiten stonden, maar er natuurlijk middenin zaten.
De eerste is van een de getrouwde dochter die haar ouders schrijft, de tweede van die ouders. De brieven dateren van verschillende momenten, zijn geen antwoord op elkaar. Ik heb de spelling van nu gebruikt.

“Vlaardingen 25 Febr ‘41

Liefste vader en moeder,

‘k Zal er maar eens even de tijd voor nemen om terug te schrijven. Want ik heb het druk. De dagen vliegen voorbij en dan is er dit en dan weer dat. Tante Saar zodoende ook vergeten en Ome Dies wist ik niet. Als er zich nog eens zoiets voordoet moeder, moest jij maar een bloemetje voor me bestellen in Goes, want jij hebt op ’t ogenblik niet zo veel aan je oren als ik.
Ik breng Tonnie en haal hem op de fiets van z’n school. Hij voelt er zich thuis of hij er altijd geweest is. ’t Is een lust om hem zo te zien genieten, maar ’t is voor mij een hele toer want hij is zwaar hoor en ’t is een heel eind. Jo zal misschien wel al geschreven hebben. Hij stond Vrijdagmiddag 12 uur onverwacht voor onze neus. Dadelijk mee aangepapt dat begrijp je. Zondagavond weer weg. ’t Was gezellig. Het is z’n plan de Paasvakantie bij ons door te brengen vanwege het werken aan zijn examen. Toontje bracht al 2 prenten mee, die hij zelf geplakt heeft. Een sluit ik hierbij in voor Oma Moeder.
Er worden hier verschrikkelijk veel mensen weggehaald. Maandag 43. Dinsdag ook weer. Waarvoor weet ik niet. Ze mochten niet eens afscheid nemen en zonder bagage of verschoning weg.
Adje is weer helemaal beter. Oma Vos maakt het ook zo goed en heeft nog steeds in kwartiezuing.
Jo vertelde dat vader naar Den Haag ging en misschien nog aan koren maar niet gezien.
Wanneer ga je naar Frankrijk vader? Schiet maar gauw op, want ’t is zo ’n beetje de stilte voor de storm denk ik.
Vanavond is ’t hier weer bijeenkomst.
Ik zal zeker wat rozijnen sturen, voor een papa heer tegelijk en dan geef je ze zelf maar, alsjeblieft moeder we verrekenen het later wel. De jas zal ‘k betalen, maar ‘k weet niet goed meer hoeveel het was. Misschien weet Adje het wel. Nu geliefden, tot de volgende keer. Houdt je taai. Veel liefs van ons allen en van jullie Ma
Ps Er is hier nog een klant die naar oester vroeg. Waarschijnlijk Honders. Zijn er nog?”

“Yerseke, Woensdag n.m. 7 uur 27/4, 1944

Lieve Allemaal,

Jullie brief van 5 Sept ontvingen we 12 Sept we hebben helemaal niet meer teruggeschreven omdat we hoorden, dat vervoer enz gestaakt was. Nu horen we echter, dat af en toe nog enkele brieven per fiets etc vervoerd worden, dus wagen wij een kans. We maken het gelukkig best hoor, zitten midden in het krijgsrumoer, veel gevlieg, afweer een vliegtuig neergekomen in de moer, nogal wat bommen op de Laren en omgeving. Ook één op de put van ons (duikersluis) en +_ 12 meter steiger weggeslagen, 3 huizen schuttershof, een paar loodsen en de helft van de loods (kuiperij Blieck en onder aan de dijk bij Ome Bram alle ruiten kapot. Elektriciteit al meer dan 3 weken kapot, waterleiding idem, gas slechts van 7 tot 9 uur ’s m. en 10 t 1 uur ’s middags en ’s avonds van 5 tot 7 uur dus zitten we bij een petroleumlamp daar we gelukkig nog wat olie hebben. Enorm veel is hier uit Frankrijk en België gepasseerd via Vlissingen en Hoedekenskerke bij Kole woont in Baarland en houdt ’t spreekuur te Kwadensdamme een bom van 2000 kg bij het kerkhof verwoeste zijn huis dwz plafond spreekkamer naar beden en grote scheur in ’t huis. Kole is vorige week even geweest. Hier was slechts één dode de vrouw van Gerrit Bos 83 jaar oud en voorts nog enkele gewonden. In Breskens 110 dood en 45 gewond (een zoon van Hovestad (Dirk) die vroeger monteur was bij Reitsma was daar ook bij de doden in Breskens, ook Axel, Vlissingen, Biggekerke enz moeten nogal doden gevallen zijn door bombardementen.
Er is hier veel fruit afgestormd en verder is het nu niet te vervoeren, dus kun je plenty krijgen. Ik hoop, dat de brief jullie mag bereiken. Veel kussen en beste wensen en groet je liefh vader.
Uitgezonderd boter gaat het met het eten goed hier.

(zelfde papier)

Lieve Allemaal, Je vader heeft zo wat alles geschreven. Hoe gaat het jullie? Wellicht ontvangen je deze brief wel niet maar we proberen maar eens. Gisteren is er een auto uit Rilland gereden naar Schiedam om geul en naar Vlaardingen om boter. Die is hier voor geen f100 te krijgen. Ik eet vet met olie en melk door elkaar en je vader een beetje van de karn. Aardappelen en groente hebben we genoeg. Overige levensmiddelen zeer schaars. Alles ligt stil. Geen school geen kerk. Ieder ogenblik jagertjes waar de afweer op schiet. Er heeft hier ook van dat zware met als in Vlaardingen gestaan maar daar er geen elektries is is het nu weg. We zitten met een petroleumlamp. Vannacht weer veel jagertjes: ook nog een bom in ’t gat waar mossels liggen gegooid. Wat heeft dat nou voor nut. ’s Nachts overal lichtkogels maar ik kom er niet voor uit ‘t bed. We hebben een paar keer het benauwd gehad toen de boten in de kaai beschoten werden. Bram slaapt nu weer thuis. ’t Schiet slecht op hè! Ik denk dat we er nog voor eerst niet vanaf zijn. De gasfabriek heeft nog voor 2 weken kolen. De kolenhandelaars hebben heuse kolen aan de bakkers moeten afstaan. Kunnen jullie Jo bereiken stuur dan de brief maar door. We zitten hier afgesloten voor de buitenwereld. Wat denk ik dikwijls aan jullie en kijk dan maar naar de foto. Je bent wel in tijd geweert. Ik zorg zo een beetje voor het eten maar ben gauw moe. Zou Dirk niet per fiets naar hier komen? Ik zie Lee wel eens voorbij komen. Door binnen wegen is het van af Bergen op Zoom wel te doen. De Rotterdamsche bank is in weken niet geweest zo dat velen bijna zonder geld zitten. Wij kunnen gelukkig bij Gerard van Oosten voorschot krijgen omdat we daar stukken gekocht hebben. Nu geliefden in gedachten veel kussen en omhelzingen ook voor de jongens. Hopende op een spoedig wederzien. Wat zou dat een vreugde zijn. Bogaards hoort zeker ook niks uit Zuudrande? Verleden week reed er nog een vrachtwagen voor bij met D waar op stond de Hullens Zuudrande. Er wordt ook hier alles weg gehaald wat rijbaar is. De dr en zuster rijden met een rode kruis vlag aan hun fiets. Nogmaals het beste toegewenst. Je liefh moeder
Tante Saar geeft een brief van Jan uit Den Haag ontvangen van 7 Sept”

 

In the timespirit of Holocaust memorials, here are two letters that were written during the war, by families that were, religionwise, outsiders, but even still they were part of the picture as a whole.
The letters are written by a married daughter to her parents, and a letter of her parents to her. The letters are of two different occasions, they are not a response to one another. It’s just two random moments during the war. I did apply today’s spelling to the letters. I used the original Dutch names of the places where things happened.
I chose to share them as they give quite a powerful image of how things were at the time. 

‘Vlaardingen, 25 february ’41

Dearest Mom and Dad,

I will finally take the time to write back. Because I’m quite busy. The days fly by and then this happens and then that. Aunt Saar I forget and I didn’t know about Uncle Dees. If something like that happens again, mother, you should order some flowers from me in Goes, because you’re not so busy as I currently am.
I bring Tonny and get him off school by bike. He feels at home like a fish in water. It’s so good to see him quite so happy, but it’s quite a tour and he’s quite heavy, so it is quite some work to get him there. Jo may have written to you by now. He unexpectedly appeared on Friday, 12 o’clock. Immediately did a catchup, you’ll understand. Sunday evening gone again. It was a good time had. He plans to spend his Easter holiday with us to work for his exams. Tonny has already presented us with two imprints he made himself. I’ll add one to this letter for Grandmother Mother.
There are huge amounts of people being collected here. Monday 43. Tuesday again. I don’t know what for. They weren’t even allowed to say goodbye, or pack some luggage or any refreshments.
Adje is much better again, up to shape. So is grandma Vos.
Jo told that father is going to Den Hague.
Are you still going to France, father? You should make a hurry with it, because it’s the quiet before the storm, I think.
Tonight there will be another meeting.
I will send you some raisins, mother, we will make the bill up later, it’s no problem really. I will also pay for the coat, but I can’t remember quite how much it cost? Maybe Adje knows. Well, hope to see you soon my loves. Stay strong. Love from all of us and you Maatje.
ps.s there was someone here asking for oysters. Are there any left?’

‘Yerseke, Wednesday afternoon 7PM 27/4, 1944

Dear All,

Your letter from September 5th we received the 12th Sept we haven’t written because we had heard that transportation etc had been discontinued. But now we heard that every once in a while, letters are being delivered by bike and so, we are taking a chance aswell.
We are thankfully quite alright, are in the middle of the martial noise, many planes, one got down somewhere close, quite some bombs on Laren and surroundings. Also one on a well of ours (diver lock) and about 12 meters of pier gone and 3 houses of Schuttershof, a few storage rooms and half the storage (coopery Bliecker and under the dike at Uncle Bram all the windows went bust. Electricity has been down for three weeks already, just like water and we only have gas from 7 to 9 AM and 10 to 1 at noon and from 5 to 7PM at night, so we’re seated with a paraffin lamp as thankfully we still have a bit of oil. Very much here has passed from France and Belgium through Vlissingen and Hoedekenskerke. Kole lives in Baarland and keeps his doctor’s practice in Kwadensdamme. A bomb of 2000 kilograms on the cemetery destroyed his house: the ceiling of his office came down and landed in the waiting room. Kole did visit for a bit last week. There was only one dead here, the wife of Gerrit Bos, aged 83 years, and some wounded. In Breskens 110 deaths and 45 wounded (a son of Hovestad (Dirk) who used to be a machenic at Reitsema. In Breskens, Axel, Vlissingen, Biggekerke etc should have lots of death victims due to the bombarnements. Lots of fruits have been blown off the trees and there’s no way to transport them right now, so they are easy to get a hold on. I hope this letter reaches you. Many kisses and well wishes, your loving father.
except for butter we are doing well here.
(same paper)
Dear All,
your father has written nearly all already. How are you doing? You might not receive this letter, but we thought we just try. 

 

 

 
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Posted by on May 4, 2016 in Daily life, Uncategorized

 

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The Magdalene Sisters (review)

This film with, amongst others, Dorothy Duffy, Nora-Jane Noone and Anne-Marie Duff, tells the dreadful story about the Irish, catholic way of handling young girls/young women who have been going through puberty and all its consequences.
You’d think it’s dramatised. Or at least you hope it is.

Unfortunately this is not the case.

When the film came out, previous inhibitants of these laundrettes ran by nuns protested: said it didn’t show honest enough what went on inside those walls.
That it was way more awful.
You see three girls being brought there and the reason why.
One girl has given birth to a baby whilst unmarried. Her baby is taken away from her, seconds after she has been forced to draw papers to give him up for adoption. Another girl has been raped by her own cousin during a weddingparty and another one, an orphan, likes the wandering eyes of boys too much (apparently).
This is silly enough in itself, but the daily amount of abuse the girls receive is incredible. And all in the name of God. I was raised an atheist, which doesn’t help, but you can’t help thinking: a victim of a rape shouldn’t be treated this way. Also, no girl deserves to be called a ‘whore’ when any of this occurs.
It’s a powerful portrait. It also shows how vile religious life is towards any young girl or woman, because, let’s face it, there’s religions nowadays who forbid women to so much as show themselves, in case a man feels his urges coming up. You see, when you’re part of a religion, it’s always the woman’s fault. NOT EVER the man. Not ever. And if you can find an example where this is different, then please let me know. I’m honestly curious.
Back to the film:
Seeing how the nuns (the main one played by Geraldine McEwan, which she does so well indeed, as you honestly hate her at some point) consider themselves so much better than any of these girls. More priviliged. Factually, they were guards in a prison. While at the same time, they kept innocents.
How they ate in the same room as the girls, but behind a fancy bar and eating far more nutricious and tasteful food. Bread, butter, milk, jam,tea, etc. Where the girls had some sort of porridge while the Bible was read out loud. Of course.
The girls have to wash clothes and beddings and so on, are not allowed to speak to one another. When there’s already someone in there with a same name, the nuns would take your name too.
The girl who has given birth has not healed yet, but doesn’t receive any help when it comes to her milk being stuck in her breasts.
After the girls have taken a shower, they are obliged to parade in front of the nuns, who make fun of them. In the nude. For a young person in the bloom of life, that’s just cruel.
Any girl who objects, will be punished by slaps on the legs, arms or whatever with wood or leather. Speaking of anything else than a Bible is pretty much forbidden.
I do wonder what the exact goal of these Mary Magdalene Laundrettes was. Was it to simply punish the girls? The nuns that were ruling, if they had to apply for a job there, what was the exact job description? Was it to be ‘as cruel as humanly possible’?  There was no happy ending for these girls except for running away and flea the country, that’s for sure.
In the film you see a girl who ran away being returned by her father, who slaps her with a belt, tells her she no longer has a family, that they do not wish to have anything to do with her, tells her she’s a whore, that they are ALL whores and so on. The head nun is present when this happens. You can clearly see the nun doesn’t want to interfere because she wants all the girls in that dormitory to know just how unwanted they all are. If the father would have struck his daughter with an axe, I’m sure the nun wouldn’t have done anything either, for it was supposed to be an example to the other girls.

Anyone who considers rape to be not so much of an issue, should see this film. Because these are girls who told about their rape. They expected help. And I know you’ll say ‘but this is a different time, it’s different now!’ and I’m telling you that your consideration of ‘you should have cooperated then’, or ‘it was your own fault’, is the exact same message that is carried out by these bloody nuns. Nothing will change for any girl, if rape isn’t considered a serious crime and the perpetrator is ‘just a naughty boy’ of sorts. It’s not. It’s not a small issue. Having sex is a major change in a girls’ life, which should never be taken lightly.

I was surprised when, in the end, it turned out that one of the girls kept a very steep faith. If anything, this film prevented me from having any faith in faith at all.
These nuns should have been prosecuted. I hope some of them did. I’m afraid of the answer. In my opinion, they were nothing short of a guard in Auschwitz. If I would know where their graves are, I would tapdance on top of them. They were the worst nightmare for any young woman growing up. The worst thing is: with all of the talks about the church sexually abusing the youngest of persons in their care, I don’t recall EVER hearing or reading about these Mary Magdalene Laundrettes. That’s the biggest shame of all.

This film is powerful to watch and I’d recommend to see it. Just keep the tissues ready as the feeling of injustice will crawl into your mind and body.

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2016 in Films, Opinion

 

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Mamma Mia (review)

With Meryl Streep, Stellan Skarsgard, Julie Walters, Colin Firth, Amanda Seyfried, Pierce Brosnan and several others.

This film hasn’t got much to do with acting. It is a joy to watch for who likes ABBA.
It’s about a girl getting married (Amanda Seyfried), not knowing who her father is and having invited all of the possibilities for that after finding her mother’s diary.
They all come over and have one big, gigantic drunken party, the hen night. On a Greek island. With ABBA music. Not bad. But for who wasn’t invited to the party or not into ABBA music, it’s not for you.
Unless you must really like the sight of Colin Firth, Pierce Brosnan and Stellan Skargard in high heels. Because yes, that happens aswell. Also, Meryl Streep in overalls. Seriously, lovely stereotype of a woman alone raising her own child?! Apparently women who do that never look feminine?
Whereas Stellan Skarsgard simply looks hot in his tights with high heels. How the bloody devil does he do that?! Colin Firth looks less ridiculous than he’d probably wish, too, Pierce Brosnan does a better job…

The unfortunate thing about films like these is that the music gets a bit fucked up. Still, they clearly had a lot of fun while filming, and it’s good to see it’s not just the show of skin that they’re trying to sell. Amanda Seyfried could have worn a bikini at the beach, but they went for a bathing suit and this fits the circumstances far better, to be fair. She seems dressed without actually being dressed.

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2016 in Films, Humour, Opinion, Uncategorized

 

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Sterke genen/ Strong genes

Jaren geleden, bij het overlijden van mijn oma van vaderskant, gebeurde het al eens. Dat mijn oom (van moederskant) me aanstootte en fluisterde:
‘Zeg, help me eens even om hier wijs uit te worden; waarom lijken er hier veel meer mensen op jouw vader dan waar ik mee bekend ben?!’
Ik legde daarop vlug uit dat wijlen mijn opa twee keer getrouwd was geweest. Op één kind na hebben al zijn nakomelingen (acht totaal) hun uiterste best gedaan zoveel mogelijk op hun vader te lijken. En dus op elkaar.
Dat leidt tot verwarring als je je niet bewust bent dat er twee verschillende gezinnen waren.

Nu bijna een herhaling. Dit keer zonder de betreffende oom die om uitleg vroeg.
De halfbroer van mijn vader overleed. Dienst en plechtigheid in een kleine kapel. Tussen de modderige voetbalveldjes. Parkeerplaats vinden voor de deur of iets droger bleek onmogelijk. Een veld vol plassen.
Bekende gezichten zien, zonder ooit echt kennis te hebben gemaakt. Wel ongeveer van elkaars bestaan weten. Opmerken dat de dochter van de overledene toch wel héél veel lijkt op je eigen tante. Eén gezicht. Het is bijna eng.

Een klein zaaltje. Een kist met een foto, omringt door vazen met veldbloemen. De kinderen links, de kleinkinderen rechts. Daaromheen de overige genodigden. Waaronder wij, die andere kant van de familie. Die uit respect en nieuwsgierigheid waren gekomen. Nieuwsgierig naar familiebanden waar we nooit zo bij zijn geweest. Vanwege de echtscheiding die er destijds heeft plaats gevonden.
Mijn opa scheidde van zijn eerste vrouw, waar de overledene een kind van was, en ging verder met mijn oma.

Beide kinderen van de overledene spraken. Dochter tamelijk kort en wat afstandelijk. Duidelijk is dat ze haar vader accepteerde zoals die was en van hem hield op haar eigen manier.
‘Ik zou geen andere vader gehad willen hebben!’ besloot ze krachtig.
Zoon had meer te vertellen over zijn vader, die kennelijk nogal een knutselaar was (‘geen pvc-buizen voor de elektriciteit, maar tuinslang, want dat was goedkoper’, ‘van een fotostatief maakte hij een schildersezel’, ‘autobanden bewaarde hij, want daar kon je schoenzolen zo mooi mee repareren’). Ondertussen ook dat vader niet altijd de meest voor de hand liggende oplossingen voor problemen had (‘van de eettafel kon weken niet gegeten worden, omdat pap daar de motor van zijn auto op had gelegd. Die was hij aan het repareren’, en ‘de caravan paste niet goed in de garage, dus groef hij met een spade een deel van de vloer eruit, zodat het wél paste’…).

De echte dikke tranen kwamen bij de kleinkinderen, die het simpelweg niet droog hielden tijdens hun voordracht.

Het is merkwaardig zoveel herkenbare zaken tegen te komen op de begrafenis van iemand met wie je nauwelijks kennis hebt gemaakt. Een liefde voor uien, bijvoorbeeld. Het altijd bij je dragen van een zakmes. Het eten van hele knoflooktenen en zeggen dat dat ‘heel gezond is’ (dat is kennelijk een familie credo!?). Het eindeloze knutselen als zaken niet werken op de manier die je voor ogen had. Het doornemen van complete handleidingen vóór je ergens mee aan de slag gaat. De liefde voor fietsen. De liefde voor de natuur. En zo nog meer zaken.
We hebben allemaal dezelfde achternaam. Het bond nu meer dan ooit.

De verhalen over de scheiding zijn verschillend. Zo heb ik zelf vernomen dat de eerste vrouw van haar man af wilde en hem dus maar koppelde aan degene die mijn oma zou worden. De tweede vrouw. Of dit waar is, geen idee. Wat wel duidelijk is, is dat de eerste vrouw na de scheiding boos was. Ze hertrouwde, maar koesterde wrok. Het was kiezen óf voor haar, óf voor haar ex.
Zelf heb ik nooit geweten dat ik kennelijk bij ‘het andere kamp’ behoorde, omdat ik onderdeel uitmaak van de familie waar deze eerste vrouw zo de pest aan leek te hebben. Niet dat ik er last van heb gehad. Haar eigen kinderen des te meer. De oudste was bovendien met het broertje van de nieuwe vrouw getrouwd. Dat hielp niet.
De overledene was nog wat te jong om te beseffen dat wat zijn moeder over zijn vader vertelde, vaak niet waar was. Als tiener is dat ook lastig, me dunkt.

Ik sprak met de dochter van de overledene, die me duidelijk maakte dat ze altijd al wel meer contact met de rest van de familie had gewild. Ze bedankte ons hartelijk voor onze komst, enkele keren zelfs.

Wij stapten het vieze veld weer in, met modderige schoenen.

Years ago, at the funeral of my grandmother from father’s side, it happened. My uncle (of mother’s side) poked me, and whispered in a desperate tone:
Can you help me? Why do I see more people resembling your father than I’m aware of that even exist?’ so I was quick to explain that my grandfather had been married twice. Except for one child, all of his children (eight in total) had done their utmost best to resemble my grandfather as much as possible. And so each other. With success, it now appeared.
It does lead to confusion if you’re not aware you don’t know all of them.

Now it seemed like a repeat of that situation. Without the uncle asking for explanation.
The halfbrother of my father had died. Sermon and funeral in a small chapel. In between muddy fields where soccer was being played. No parkingspot in front of the dry chapel, instead we had to go for one of these muddy places.
Noticing familiar faces. Not really knowing them, despite the fact that you’re aware of each other’s existence. Then you notice the daughter of the diseased one, who resembles one of your aunts (not present now) in such a way it’s almost scary. 

A small chapel. The coffin, surrounded by vases with flowers. The children on the left, the grandchildren on the right. Others circled around them, chairwise. Amongst them, us. The other family. For support and out of curiosity. Curious about the familyties of which we were never really a part. Because of the divorce that took place.
My grandfather divorced his first wife, which the diseased was a child of, and married my grandmother.

Both children of the diseased spoke. The daughter quite short and a bit pragmatic. She clearly simply accepted her father the way her was and loved him for his part in her life.
‘I would not have wanted a different father!’ she concluded quite powerfully.
Son had more to tell about this father, who was, apparently, quite a dabbler (‘no pvc-pipes, but a garden hose, as that was cheaper’, ‘out of a photo tripod he made an easel’, ‘he kept every car and cycle tire, because they were great for fixing broken soles of shoes”). Meanwhile this also meant that not every solution for a problem was that practical (‘we couldn’t eat at the dining table for weeks, as dad was occupied fixing the motor of a car and that was the operating table being used’, ‘the van didn’t fit in the garage, so dad took a spade and dug out the floor to make the van fit the garage’).

The big tears were wept when the grandchildren spoke, who simply couldn’t keep dry during their speech.

It was very remarkable to hear so many familiar things about someone you have barely known. The love of onions, for instance, the fact that he could eat a bulb of garlic, stating it was ‘so very healthy’ (this seems to be the credo of our family?!). Always carry a pocket knife. The endless handicrafts if things don’t work the way you want them to work. The thorough read of a manual before starting to work with a new piece of equipment. The love for nature. The love for cycling. And so on. And so on.
We all carry the same last name. Today, this bonded more than ever.

The stories about the divorce are different. I have heard that the first wife didn’t want more children after two and that my grandfather did want more. Then my grandmother appeared and the first wife kept pushing the two together until they fell in love and a divorce was inevitable. But the first wife remained angry. She did remarry, but this never changed. It was a choice: either you were with her OR you picked for her ex. 

I had no idea that I was, apparently, part of the ‘other camp’. I have had no burden because of this. I simply wasn’t aware I was part of a family that this woman appeared to hate so much. Her own children had problems with this. The eldest especially, as she was married to the brother of the new wife. The one who died now was merely a teen when the divorce happened. He first believed all of the (often nasty) things his mother told him, only later on he realised it wasn’t true. This is difficult for a teenager, I can imagine.

I did speak to the daughter, who told me immediately she would have wished to have more contact with us. She was apparently quite happy we were there to attend her father’s sermon, for she thanked us several times for coming.

After that, we stepped back into the dirty field, into our cars.

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2015 in Daily life

 

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When a parent kills the other parent

I was a young teenager when my mother received a phonecall from her mother, my grandmother. It was quite a disturbing conversation.

Her cousin, who had recently divorced, was found dead. Murdered.

I’m not sure if her ex-husband simply wasn’t a suspect at first or what else the reason may have been that he was allowed to visit the funeral, but I do recall my mother speaking highly emotional about it.

‘Why wasn’t he told to bugger off?!’ she sobbed.

After this tragedy, the daughter of this cousin came to visit us quite regularly. My mother wanted her to feel like she had some family left to lean on. Not a bad place to be. It’s just unfortunate that I even remember now, my mother could speak very ill of this girl’s father in our presence. As I soon noticed, even though the girl didn’t protest to this, the girl didn’t care for it much either.
In all honesty, my mother had a point as the father had killed the mother by slapping her over with a bat several times while she was walking the dogs. He had just lost the custody battle over the children, all four of them.

The place the girl and some more siblings were staying at was the new girlfriend of her father’s. At one afternoon, when my mother had taken the girl, one of her siblings and me out to the beach, upon our return, the phone rang. My mother answered it, talked for a while, then gestured the girl and her sibling to come to the phone.

‘It’s ridiculous, he’s only gonna get 8 years for it!!’ my mother said quite loud.

Some time after that, the girl and her sibling appeared again.

‘We’ve just received bad news. Dad has 8 years to do. We hope he can get out earlier because of good behaviour or something’. Against the words my mother just used, I took it the girl much rather would be around her father, despite what had happened.

Soon after this, the contact between the girl and our part of the family became less and less. The girl knew far too well what my mother thought of all of this. It did not help for healing.

So when a detective in a tv-show says: ‘would a child want to be with a murdering parent?’ the answer isn’t just ‘no!’, it could be the kid wants to out of loyalness or simply because the child does not wish to stay behind alone.

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2015 in Opinion

 

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