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The Mother of Parliaments

A stall-holder in Cirencester told my sister that, at home, he switched channels whenever Brexit was mentioned on TV. He couldn’t stand it any longer. In response my sister remarked that she just loved watching the coverage: ‘It’s superior to the best play.’ ‘Well,’ the stallholder had to admit, ‘you couldn’t have made it up.’

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It’s Not the Economy, Stupid!

This week I’m interviewing myself.

‘You’re a Dutchman who has been living in England for nearly four years. You follow news from England but also still keep track of news from the Netherlands. What do you think of the coverage of the UK in the media of your home country?’

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Letters to the British People (1): Being Lost

The UK is a surprising country. This proves a challenge when settling in: that’s my opinion as a foreigner. And I’m not talking about the official British citizenship test you need to pass in order to become a British national and in which the authorities ask questions such as: What was the last battle between Great Britain and France? (Answer: the battle of Waterloo.) I usually answer most questions correctly but, at the moment, I have no plans at all to become a British citizen. I prefer to be a resident Dutchman. I love your country. It’s the most peculiar country in the world but it’s also my country.

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I’m Here to Stay

For the past four years, I, a Dutchman, have lived among the English. At the moment I live in Malmesbury (Wiltshire) together with my sister, who has been in England for more than thirty years (‘but it doesn’t show’).

Because of the impending Brexit, the English reputation has increasingly deteriorated on the continent, even though they liberated Europe. If push comes to shove, they will do it again. I’m an Anglophile; my doctor assures me it is harmless.

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Heartbroken

Try explaining here in England why the Dutch nearly went mad last weekend. First of all I have to tell you about Maarten van der Weijden: ‘He survived cancer, became an Olympic champion of the 10 km open-water marathon and, since last weekend, he’s a hero – a ‘giant’ according to the Dutch PM – because he attempted to swim the course of the Frisian Eleven Cities Tour (200 km); normally, provided it freezes long enough, which is rarely the case, it is completed on skates.’ (Well, that’s quite an explanation.)

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The Brits Are Coming!

Suddenly last week, Amsterdam was no longer the late mayor Eberhard van Laan’s ‘dear city’. Amsterdam is a magnificent city, that cannot be denied. ‘But during the night, Amsterdam’s city centre becomes a lawless jungle,’ according to the ombudsman of Amsterdam. You can’t invent a more tempting advertisement for the English. ‘Dad is off to Amsterdam, boys!’

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A Male Summer

It’s a genuinely male summer. There is a run on beer and men are everywhere. It’s as if you can hear David Attenborough’s mellifluous voice utter this comment: ‘There is the male of the species!’

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A Chance to Win a Copy of The White Crucifixion, a novel about Marc Chagall on goodreads

Don’t miss this opportunity to get a free copy of The White Crucifixion, a fictionalised account of the roller-coaster life in terrible times of one of the most enigmatic artists of the twentieth century.

    Goodreads Book Giveaway

        The White Crucifixion by Michael Dean

          The White Crucifixion

          by Michael Dean

            Giveaway ends February 09, 2018.

See the giveaway details            at Goodreads.

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Birds and Words

Of the women, one had been famous for acerbic remarks at Hampstead wine parties; another for delightful tipsiness at Soho lunches. A girl of mixed race, with Afro hair, wore workman’s overalls and Dr Marten Boots. Her first, and only, novel, set in a Northern seaport, had been acclaimed.

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Long Live the Christmas Markets

Since moving to Malmesbury I have suffered from market withdrawal syndrome. For about five years I ran a bookstall every Saturday on Portobello Market and I really enjoyed meeting readers and authors, the fresh air and being away from the computer. Find out how Christmas Markets came to the rescue.

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Win a copy of The Institute on goodreads

Enter your name to win a copy of The Institute, a hilarious and touching novel about growing up blind, by Vincent Bijlo.

    Goodreads Book Giveaway

        The Institute by Vincent Bijlo

          The Institute

          by Vincent Bijlo

            Giveaway ends November 15, 2017.

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Win een exemplaar van Vincent Bijlo’s Het instituut op goodreads

    Goodreads Book Giveaway

        Het instituut by Vincent Bijlo

          Het instituut

          by Vincent Bijlo

            Giveaway ends July 15, 2017.

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The Institute is our current giveaway on goodreads

    Goodreads Book Giveaway

        The Institute by Vincent Bijlo

          The Institute

          by Vincent Bijlo

            Giveaway ends June 12, 2017.

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The Yellow House is our giveaway on goodreads

    Goodreads Book Giveaway

        The yellow house by Jeroen Blokhuis

          The yellow house

          by Jeroen Blokhuis

            Giveaway ends May 03, 2017.

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A Famous Author

In the Netherlands, if I say I’m a writer, they look at me with concern. ‘Does it pay?’ is one of their responses. Another one is: ‘I’ve never heard of you.’ It’s quite different in the British Isles.

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On a London Bridge

I was in London with E on the weekend before the terror attack. She was visiting for the first time. I had made up my mind to show her as many sights as possible within three days. In my city. I may have moved from London to the countryside but still London remains my city.

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Nutella & Camilla

Prince Charles wants to do battle with the grey American squirrel. There are too many greys in the UK and this is to the detriment of the native red squirrels, which are threatened with extinction. Prince Charles wants to attack the grey squirrels with Nutella. This prompted the locals to start talking about Nutella & Camilla.

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Peeing for Malmesbury

As you may know, I’m no longer living in London but in Malmesbury. It is a picturesque, yet quite a lively town. That’s because of Dyson, the hoover specialists: their head office and research lab are located on the edge of the town.

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Axel Graafland 58

Instalment 58: Among the tall poplars on Bekkerveld pastry stall Bisscheroux has been
put up for the yearly Christmas appeal ‘Eat oliebollen (Dutch donuts) to
fight hunger in Africa.

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A Surreal Evening

I’ve always said that I would never go to a reunion, but there I was, in a restaurant on a foggy December evening in Nijmegen. I had travelled from the West of England to my birthplace in the Netherlands to be among my classmates from primary school. The boys (and two girls) of more than forty years ago.

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The Secret of Malmesbury

Here in Malmesbury, the place where I’ve been living for a week or two, nothing much happens apart from the fact that the first person who was eaten by a tiger in Great Britain (in 1703) is buried here. The odd thing is that I, a dyed-in-the-wool city person, really like it.

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What Would Donald Do?

Recently, when I had forty minutes to spare and was smoking a cigar outside Brussels South railway station, I thought: these are not the most wonderful of surroundings. In other words, quite a few oddballs were hanging around, but a relaxing cigar is enjoyable.

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A Selection Box

My apologies to Dutch readers. This time, it’s a very British subject. Read on at your own risk. My apologies also to British readers. It’s a very British subject and I’m a Dutchman living in England, so read on at your own risk.

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A Poet in Sandals

At one time I was a very traditional boy. I was a senator in the cadet corps of the Royal Military Academy (Dutch acronym KMA) and in my spare time I wore a blazer with the KMA emblem. And I had put my para wing on my pyjamas and swimming trunks.

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The Marseillaise

I had wanted to write about a course in Humming-at-Important-Moments. Imagine: you are the PM and you’ve just announced you’re resigning; you point towards the building behind you, which will be occupied by someone else tomorrow, and what do you do next? You walk over the threshold humming a tune.

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Brexit Bear

‘Bow Tie’ had already warned me. Bow Tie is a man of about eighty years, and I’ve nicknamed him Bow Tie after his ever-present bow tie. Every Saturday, he comes to our stall on Portobello Market for a chat. He talks to many of the stallholders. He has been a market trader himself.

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