After a linesman in the Dutch amateur football league was kicked to death, and in London a nurse committed suicide because two Australian DJs played a bad joke on her, I was in desperate need of something frivolous. Luckily there was news from San Francisco.
The Maya calendar ends on 21 December 2012. Is the end of the world really near? It reminds me of the millennium bug. But the Mayas are really worrying certain people, or in other words, these are the people who are getting ready to travel to Bugarach, a village in the south of France.
Wednesday 19 December at 7.30pm in the Poetry Cafe. We hope you will join us!
Part of being a celebrity is keeping things neat and tidy. Before you know it, your old love letters turn up. Soon someone says, picking up a present from under Christmas tree: ‘Good heavens, what’s this?’ The reply is fumbled: ‘Darling, I’ve bought you Mick Jagger’s love letters.’
Recently the members of the new Dutch government were sworn in by the Queen. They had to redo it because one of the channels had missed the ceremony due to an ad break. The Queen spoke about ‘rehearsing a play’. It reminded me of an old army saying: ‘double-stitched lasts longer’.
I hardly ever pay visits. I love a lively discussion, but rather not in someone’s home. Visiting is a bit superficial, like a ‘novel without an extra layer of meaning’. In the way it invites thoughts like: would they use the living room suite for group sex on a bleak autumn day?
Poery & Translation November Programme
Can you name the person who was recently awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics? You probably can’t. I too would have to look it up. And who won the Nobel Prize for Peace? ‘The EU,’ both of us answer, and we fleetingly think of previous laureates such as Yasser Arafat and Barack Obama.
Recently I spent a day on Portobello Market in London. Two police officers walked past; one was a tall bobby, the other a minute woman police constable. The WPC especially caught the attention: she was a mere five foot but kitted out in the full uniform. I could almost have put her into a box and taken her home.
That year the Beatles released Love Me Do, Elvis Presley released Return To Sender and Bob Dylan produced his first album. One month earlier Nelson Mandela had been arrested and on the same day Marilyn Monroe had committed suicide. The next day Sonny Liston and Floyd Patterson fought for the boxing heavyweight world title. I was born – it was 24 September 1962 – and the weather was lovely.
I pity Kate’s lackey; of course Kate and William don’t go on holiday without servants.
Why would you do something you’re bad at? For some people it’s their hobby; other people take part in the Paralympics.
Recently, in the German city of DÃ¼sseldorf, a 74-year-old official was struck in the carotid artery by a javelin during an athletics competition. The news item also mentioned that: ‘Some of the spectators were in shock and needed psychological counselling.’
As a youngster I’d rather be a Red Indian than a cowboy. I believe they are called Native Americans nowadays but we couldn’t have known that. Actually, fifty per cent of American Indians prefer this term and thirty-seven per cent call themselves Native American.
On Sunday 5 August, Holland Park Press had a stall at Deventer Book Market in the Netherlands, ‘the largest book market in Europe’. The publisher had travelled from London and I was there too.
Everyone in London is an information point. While my publisher and I were walking towards Hyde Park, at the bottom of the street, we were asked three times for directions to Hyde Park.
The older I get, the more I’m plagued by nostalgia: for things and people. For example, I feel nostalgic about Tony Blair, who didn’t really become interesting until he invaded Iraq.
At the time of writing Andy Murray is through to the semi-finals at Wimbledon, and yet I don’t think he will win Wimbledon. Maybe I’m wrong, but I always get a bit depressed when watching Murray. Even on a blissfully sunny day he looks as if he’s expecting rain, and his mother sits like a small angry cloud in the players’ stand.
Last Saturday I went to a reunion. I can just hear my friends say: ‘But you never go to reunions!’ That’s right: normally you wouldn’t find me at such an event. Death is the guest of honour at most reunions. But I went as my mother’s wheelchair-pusher.
I recently visited Cape Town to attend a book launch. I’d been looking forward to it. ‘Cape Town’ my acquaintances sighed with a hint of jealousy, as if they saw a faraway vision, but I was also thinking about flying for twelve hours in economy class.
A few years ago, I was looking at Africa across the Strait of Gibraltar from a windswept Tarifa in Southern Spain. Africa looked enormous and I felt minuscule, like the grain of sand in Ingrid Jonker’s poem.
It has been a bad week for disco: Robin Gibb, one of the Bee Gees, and ‘disco queen’ Donna Summer passed away. I’m nearly fifty, so you could say I’m one of the disco children. I turned 15 in 1977, the year in which the film Saturday Night Fever was a smash hit. Those could be called my glorious years: I still had a full head of hair.
David Cameron sometimes signed his emails to Rebekah Brooks, former editor of the News of the World tabloid, with LOL. David was under the impression that it meant Lots of Love.
In those days I often climbed onto the roof of the hospital, sometimes alone, but often with my friend Ewout. It was a kind of addiction.
I recently watched an interview on BBC Breakfast with a representative of the Cloud Appreciation Society and the author of a book called Clouds That Look Like Things.
During the past few weeks I’ve frequently been reminded of the 1634–1637 tulip mania. In the early seventeenth century, French ladies at court would pay hundreds of guilders for a tulip flower, which they wore in their décolleté at gala evenings; a wonderful image.
Most royal families are just a tiny bit common: witness their preference for fast cars, planes, yachts, hunting, firearms, money, hydrogen peroxide, extramarital affairs and villas in sunny countries, though not necessarily in this order.
I stayed in London last week and came across a lot of Berties: boys with ambitious mothers. The Berties in London all have scooters, and are mainly busy trying to escape.
When visiting London I always stay with family near Paddington. After arriving by Eurostar I travel by tube from King’s Cross–St Pancras to Paddington. For the Olympic Games the names of these stations will be changed to Nadia Comaneci and Lionel Messi.
I know two people whose first name is Engelbert – well, one I really know and the other I know from TV. One is a former colleague from my time in the army, and although he is nearly seven feet tall, his name is not so heroic.
There are people who think it’s odd that a coach crash in Switzerland which killed 28 Dutch and Belgian passengers, including 22 children, receives more attention than a similar accident that took place in Africa, involving African victims. They ask, ‘Aren’t both events equally awful?’
The other day, a man was attacked by a fox just outside Tesco in Orpington, Kent. Even though the man was an imposing civil servant, the fox wasn’t put off, because it was after his shopping bags. In the end, the civil servant gave it a garlic baguette.
Money, class and one overwhelming (forbidden) emotion!
Recently, as part of Jewish Book Week, I went to a discussion about
religion and science. Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks and atheist and
mathematician Marcus du Sautoy were the speakers.
In Aigle, Switzerland, the Frenchman Robert Marchand recently set the cycling world hour record for riders over one hundred years old. He finished at 24.25 kilometres. This made me want to interview this man and it reminded me of The 100-year-old, a short story by the Dutch author Godfried Bomans (1913–1971).
One of the most difficult things in life is to say something meaningful
after someone has died, especially if you knew the person. Unfortunately
Paris Hilton knows everybody and announced to the world: ‘So sad to hear the news about Whitney Houston.’
‘Are you collecting Muppet points?’ asked the checkout assistant at my local supermarket. ‘Well,’ I muttered, ‘Am I a man or a Muppet?’
Sergei Polunin is just twenty-one and was the youngest ever principal at the Royal Ballet. Yet this week he announced that he no longer wanted to dance for them and was resigning with immediate effect. That’s what I want to discuss this week.
I already knew two Margaret Thatchers, but recently another one has been added. Now it’s a case of three Margaret Thatchers. It’s not that they continually hit me over the head with a handbag, but they are powerful women.
Never one to miss a play on words, the Sun ran this headline during the past week: ‘I’ve been Edam fool but I’ll be Gouda from now on’, obviously referring to Dutch cheese.