Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Prince Beer

At the end of April this year, The Netherlands will have a King. For the first time since 1890. Willem-Alexander, Prince of Orange will be named 'King Willem-Alexander of The Netherlands'.

Did you know that his nickname is 'Prince Beer' (in Dutch 'Prins Pils')? In the past he used to drink beer in public and smoke cigarettes. A lot. What kind of King will he be? He will survive. Although, at the same time I'm convinced that, being (better: playing) a King will be though for him. His main constraint is - next to the fact that his wife Máxima is much more popular than he or his mum Beatrix - that he wants to be taken serious. On his opinions. On his cleverness and sensitivity. On his public tasks as King. On his dreams. On every step he takes privately. He wants to be taken serious as an individual on what is, in essence, irrational: inherit a Kingdom by birth.

Did you know that one of his family-members, John Maurice of Nassau (1604-1679) ruled as governor over a part of Brazil? Between 1630 and 1654 we Dutch ruled over Dutch Brazil or New Holland. Our main interest was wood and sugar. This colony never became a success because no-one (better: hardly anyone) wanted to live there. A part of Recife, Cidade Maurícia (in Dutch 'Mauritsstad'), was named after him.

Did you know that one of his family-members lived in 'Kasteel van Wijchen'? Countess Emilia of Nassau (1569-1929) lived there with her husband Manuel of Portugal (c. 1568-1638). I got married in the house that once was theirs.

P.S. More details on the King's family tree: here.
P.P.S. Last weekend I finished Tom Wolfe's book 'The Right Stuff' (1979). What a lovely and interesting book #mustread on test pilots after World War II and on the first astronauts. Those who had the right stuff for being in control of an air- or spacecraft.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Fox, Grapes and a Ladder

This week I found out that the story of 'The Fox and the Grapes' is based on a Greek original. It belongs to Aesop's (around 620 and 560 BC) collection of fables.
The 'original' story reads:
"Driven by hunger, a fox tried to reach some grapes hanging high on the vine but was unable to, although he leaped with all his strength. As he went away, the fox remarked, 'Oh, you aren't even ripe yet! I don't need any sour grapes.' People who speak disparagingly of things that they cannot attain would do well to apply this story to themselves."

A more detailed version:
One hot summer's day a Fox was strolling through an orchard till he came to a bunch of grapes just ripening on a vine which had been trained over a lofty branch. "Just the thing to quench my thirst," quoth he. Drawing back a few paces, he took a run and a jump, and just missed the bunch. Turning round again with a One, Two, Three, he jumped up, but with no greater success. Again and again he tried after the tempting morsel, but at last had to give it up, and walked away with his nose in the air, saying: "I am sure they are sour." Moral: It is easy to despise what you cannot get.
Why am I telling you this? Sometimes I think it's this kind of rationalisation people (most of them?) use when they say "Being Rich makes you Unhappy". They don't want Sour Grapes. They don't want Being Unhappy.

The Fox could have used a ladder to get up to the grapes. What "ladder" do people need that are Not Rich?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


There are more books about Napoleon than someone can read in one life. That's what I learned at high school during the history lesson.

My son S. asked this week: "Why do you read so much?" My answer: I love to learn new things on subjects I am not familiar with. I am very curious. I like to visit unknown corners of people, countries or periods. It makes life shine.

I was not always like that. When I was 17, I was bored with books and knowledge in general. It all made no sense to me. But in retrospect that boredom lasted one or two years. Before and after that I just read what I wanted to read.

I am addicted to books. Addicted to the point of views that each book brings. Reading makes me humble.

I must have read thousands of books. Most books I only read once. Some, I read twice. There is only one book I never succeed to finish: A. Hitler's 'Mein Kampf'. I started it three times. All three times stopping at 2/3 ... what a bore.

Oek de Jong's 'Cirkel in het gras' did I read four (or more?) times. Gavin Maxwell's 'Ring of Bright Water' four or five times. His 'The House of Elrig' three times. There is only one book I keep on reading every few years: Jean Grenier's 'Islands'. I guess I read it 41 times!

How many books did you read from this Great Books list? I have only read 24 of the 100 listed. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Tão Rara

Instead of reading Stedman's 'Surinam' (1796) I read two other books during my holiday. 

For the 41th time - I guess - I read Jean Grenier's 'Islands' (1933). Can't remember why I wanted to read it one more time. All I know is that I suddenly was in the middle of this book again and all I could do was finish reading it. This is the only book I have read more than four times. For me this book is like breathing. One quote from this book: "Passion requires a fortress. Without secrets, hidden behind walls, there is and will be no beauty and happiness." 

Life is so rare. Tão rara. I tell you 'I love you' and that I am 'yours'. With words. With words that's the highest, the most perfect we can say. That is the best compliment I can give to you: me.

P.S. The second book I read is Tom Wolfe's 'The Right Stuff' (1979). I have not finished it as yet. I wrote about it before.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


Is there a word for returning "home" after many years being in exile? Away from your loved ones, family and friends because you are a soldier or a sailor. No signs. No communications. Just uncertainty, questions and doubts for the ones who are leaving and for the ones who stay behind. In a 'sea' of longing. A la 'saudade'. A la 'lengsel'. A la 'sehnsucht'. A la ... - there must be more.

For species 'homo sapiens' it is only possible since 100 years to communicate directly over long distances. Only 100 years! Since our species invented writing - couple of thousand years ago - we are able to communicate via letters but these had to travel with the same ship or army in which 'you' went into exile.

Is the word (or are there words?) I am looking for: 'kingdom'? The bible talks about 'kingdom' versus 'in exile'. Camus uses the same distinction. 

Or is the word, image I am looking for: 'returning'? Returning to the womb. Returning to hugging arms, big and small kisses. Just being THERE.

How is making love with your lover after so many years? Does it feel like the first time?