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Column: The Pope’s shoes

By Magazine

The new Equality Bill has caused quite a lot of commotion. The Pope made it known that he thinks the bill threatens religious freedom. The gay movement is at the forefront of the protests. They maintain that the Roman Catholic Church cannot refuse to open lay positions to gay people. These reactions made me think: the Pope, who wears the most adorable little red shoes, can’t really be that vehemently opposed to gays. I put this opinion down to my Catholic upbringing.
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Article: My Little War

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My little War by Louis Paul Boon, translated by Paul Vincent, Original Dutch title: Mijn kleine oorlog. This is the first in a series of articles looking at examples of Dutch & Flemish authors in translation.
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Column: ‘I am having my first period’

By Magazine

People from the UK have one big advantage: they speak rather good English, although we can make an exception for people from remote Yorkshire valleys. English, the language, is the most important product exported from the UK. Looking at it from a different angle, if only they spoke English in Germany, it would be the leading industrial nation. At present the United States fulfils this role, so actually you could argue that Americans are really just Germans who speak English.
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Column: With the benefit of hindsight

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‘With the knowledge of the facts I had back then, I wouldn’t have acted differently at this moment,’ said the Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, after the presentation of the David’s Report about the decision making process that led to the provision of political support for the invasion of Iraq.

 

Just for a moment he acted in the spirit of Margaret Thatcher, ‘the Iron Lady’: ‘The Lady’s not for turning.’ However, after a night fighting to keep his Cabinet together, he declared: ‘With today’s knowledge of the facts, I would have acted differently back then.’
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Column: The Noughties

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In English there is a name for the first decade of the new millennium: the Noughties. Did you know that in The Netherlands this poor decade goes nameless?


At the start of the Noughties I had only a handful of friends. At the end of this decade hundreds of people claim to be my friend courtesy of the social networking sites. By the way, this development has not made the slightest difference about who I consider my genuine friends.
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Engel in Pictures

By Magazine

Arnold Jansen op de Haar, the author of Engel, took his Christmas break in London. He visited several of the locations featured in his new novel Engel and luckily his publisher had her mobile phone to hand to record the events.

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Column: Letter from London

By Magazine

I found myself at Brussels South station on Christmas Eve. For several days now Eurostar had been battling with severe delays.

 

The pictures shown on TV made trying to board a Eurostar look like the Dunkirk evacuation – ‘Try to catch a boat!’ – but when I arrived at the check-in desk, I was surprised to learn that I could travel on an earlier train to London but it had to be in first class.
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Column: Hydrogen Man

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‘The true cause is not the increasing production of CO2, but the growth of the world’s population,’ I replied to the ‘Hydrogen Man’ as he asked my opinion about the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen when I met him in the street.

 

I looked at the street packed with people busy with doing their shopping and whispered: ‘The human race is a plague.’

 
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Column: On Writing a Novel

By Magazine

From time to time you meet one when walking down the street: a typical character for a novel. Often my attention is caught by the looks of the would-be persona. For example, I think someone has the face of a gravedigger and a story is born there and then.

Other times you realise that a relative or acquaintance has just the right attributes you’re looking for in this case it is not their looks but rather their character that interests me. I cannot wait until I can begin writing from their perspective.

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Column: Message from the Mainland

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It all began with images of the Cumbria floods. They made me want to explain how the Dutch deal with their surplus of water. In other words: a brief guide to the Dutch system for foreigners.


At the first sign of high winds, the Dutch react swiftly and order ‘Limited Dyke Watch’.

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Lord of the Ring

By Magazine

Prince Harry announced that he had gained a sister, something he had always wanted. This was the best quote of the day. On top of this he had made his mother’s engagement ring available to the happy couple. Prince Charles quipped that they had been practising long enough. His remark was just a bit vulgar and reminded me of his engagement to Diana.

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Column: Haiku Herman

By Magazine

His face made the headlines on TV and it was the first time I became aware of him. At first I thought they were announcing a repeat of the children’s TV series Catweazle, about the 11th century wizard who travels through time. Well, the man I saw on television certainly looked as though he had only just made his first acquaintance with electric lighting. However I wasn’t looking at Catweazle but instead it was my first glimpse of the new European president, Herman Van Rompuy!

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Column: Big Bird in Berlin

By Magazine

I tried to explain to Big Bird this week: ‘The two figures who walked through the Brandenburg Gate were not Bert and Ernie.’ ‘Really?’ said Big Bird surprised, ‘but they very much looked like that couple.’ I had to explain to him that he had seen Angela Merkel and Hillary Clinton. By coincidence they happened to be wearing the same type of clothes and hairdo.

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Column: In and among people

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I live in the small Dutch provincial town of A., about the same size as Reading. Nothing ever happens here. Late at night you will not find more than four cars waiting for the traffic lights on one of the main thoroughfares. Early on Sunday mornings the city centre is so deserted it resembles Chernobyl after the nuclear disaster.

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Column: Cycling for Europe

By Magazine

Last week the Dutch Prime Minister made a surprise appearance on the BBC when they showed a picture of one of the non-official contenders for the new position of EU President with the caption: ‘The Danish Prime Minster’.

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Column: Cycling for Europe

By Magazine

Last week the Dutch Prime Minister made a surprise appearance on the BBC when they showed a picture of one of the non-official contenders for the new position of EU President with the caption: ‘The Danish Prime Minster’.

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