Once a month I always look back on what I’ve been up to in the past weeks. What were my personal highlights? What films and series did I watch? What exhibitions did I visit and which countries did I travel to? Find the answers in my Reflections on August.
When you get a letter from the doctor which basically says: “Ya old!”
So, here’s the thing: I turned 40 this year. Despite the fact that my dark brown hair is gradually turning more grey by the day, I don’t have any problems with it. (I even rap about it as you can see in the previous sentence.) It might help that people still judge me to be at least 10 years younger than my actual age.
But then came the day I received a letter from the GP soon after my 40th birthday saying I was entitled to a NHS Health Check. This is a free service offered to any adult in England between the age of 40 and 74.
While I’m very grateful for this service, I thought: Really? Health-wise, I’m now in the same age group as senior citizens up to the age of 74?!? Of course I accepted the invitation and I had my health check this month. You’ll be happy to hear I’m as healthy and fit as the average 39-year old! Hurrah!
More proof I’m finally all ‘grown-up’: This month I stayed in a hotel all on my own for the very first time!
It might come as a shock to some, but I’m not a fulltime blogger/London tour guide. What it is I do for a living? Well, I’m a freelance editor and writer. And for one of my current projects I’m writing content for English course books for one of the leading Dutch educational publishing houses! (ThiemeMeulenhoff)
And for this project I had to take a 2-day course at their office in Amersfoort, the Netherlands. Since it wasn’t convenient for me to stay with my parents, the publisher’s booked me into a hotel about a 5-minute walk from the office. This meant that I ironically had the shortest commute of all participants.
It wasn’t till a few days before my departure I realised I had never stayed in a hotel all on my own before! I’ve often flown on my own, but had always shared a room with someone, being either family, a partner or girlfriends. Even last year during our 24-hour cultural city trip in Antwerp, my bestie and I shared a room.
My comfy hotel room in NH Hotel Amersfoort. There was also a big desk on the other side of the room. The ideal hotel for business trips.
> Want to know more about what I do for a living? You can read about it here:
A Typical Work Day in the Life of Dutch Girl in London
So how was my first solo hotel experience?
It was great! I could watch whatever I wanted on TV (although I thought I broke it on my first night trying to pair it with my smart devices) and I slept like a baby. The hotel, NH Hotel Amersfoort, was super quiet (with mostly business people staying there) and the room was incredibly comfy.
The only thing I found strange and needed adjusting to, was not speaking to anyone for hours at end. Because I obviously wouldn’t see another human being from the moment I went to my room in the evening till I went to grab breakfast in the morning. And even in the breakfast room no one seemed very eager to have a casual conversation. They were either still half asleep and stared into the distance, occasionally grunting something to their travel buddy across the table, or they were already discussing work with their colleagues.
Left: The office of Dutch publishing house ThiemeMeulenhoff. The last time I worked in an office was 7 years ago! // Right: on day 2 I took my magazine down to the hotel breakfast room. This way I could enjoy some relaxing me-time before the intense day at the office.
The best thing about this work trip was getting a lift to my parents one evening from an ex-colleague of mine who happens to work at the publisher’s. (He actually got me this ‘gig’.) It was great catching up with him in the car and then come home to my parents and dig into my mum’s delicious home-cooked food. It was almost like living in the Netherlands again when I used to visit my parents for just a few hours instead a few days like I do nowadays.
I also had a fantastic week in picturesque Frome and Bath in England’s idyllic Somerset
Earlier this month, hubby and I spent five days in beautiful Somerset. Hubby was invited to be part of the Listen Festival in Frome where he had an exhibition in the Black Swan Arts centre and also played a live show in a former silk mill.
Viewing hubby’s photo exhibition Other People’s Stories in Frome. Inspired by hundreds of old photos bought in a local auction, hubby created a sound piece based on the accents spoken in the area. It brought back memories of his grandmother who had grown up in Somerset.
The curator of the festival, Helen Ottaway, was so kind to let us stay in their house for almost a week. And it was partly thanks to her and her husband’s hospitality, we had an unforgettable time in Somerset.
Frome (rhymes with ‘room’, not ‘Rome’) is a little picturesque town filled with pretty lanes, cute shops and plenty of places to eat (and arty ex-Londoners). It’s also very close to the historical city of Bath, most famous for its ancient Roman Baths. I’ve wanted to go to Bath for years now so of course we made a day trip whilst we were in the area.
When in Frome, make sure to visit Rye Bakery. This delicious restaurant and bakery is located in a former church.
Day trip to Bath
Bath is truly magnificent and I’m in the middle of writing my personal travel story about this UNESCO World Heritage city for my travel blog Done That Been There. It will be up there very soon so make sure to keep an eye out for it!
Left: sculpture on the upper floor of the Roman Baths complex with Bath Abbey in the background // Right: posing by the Roman thermal bath.
Left: Pulteney Bridge in Bath // Right: view from the top of Bath Abbey
In August I wrote the following blog posts on Dutch Girl in London
Film Review: ‘Heavy Trip’ – A Finnish Black Metal Comedy: This Finnish comedy about an upcoming amateur black metal band has been hailed as the Scandi version of the cult film This is Spinal Tap. Even if you’re not the biggest metalhead, the bizarre adventures of this ambitious metal quartet will rock your socks off!
Dutch Girl Tales #17: Mijn Top 5 Nederlandstalige guilty pleasures: Inspired by the sunny weather, I listed my Top 5 Dutch guilty pleasures in this month’s Dutch-language blog post. I won’t make up any excuses and try to justify my choices. After all, they’re my guilty pleasures!
From Kissing to Birthdays: 5 Things I’ve Had to Relearn Being Dutch in the UK: Although I still feel very Dutch and am often baffled by certain British habits, after living in the UK for 7 years now I might be more integrated than I realise. From the way I answer the phone to greeting friends, in this blog post I share 5 things I’ve had to relearn being Dutch in the UK.
Memory: The Origins of Alien: In celebration of the 40th anniversary of one of my favourite films ever, Alien, director Alexandre O. Philippe made the documentary Memory: The Origins of Alien, showing never-before-seen materials, interviews and exclusive behind-the-scenes footage. It came out in selected cinemas across the UK last week and will be available on DVD and On Demand from 2 September.
What to do in London:
The best 10 free museums in London
People often complain that London is such an expensive city to visit. That’s true if you make the mistake to eat out in the main touristy areas. But there are actually plenty of free things to do in London. Did you know for example that you can visit the permanent collections of London’s museums, considered as some of the best in the world, for free?
“But I don’t like museums”, say most people. Well, you have plenty of choices in London. Whether you’re into dinosaurs, fashion or mummies, I’m sure there’s a museum out there you’ll love to visit. Find my list of the 10 Best Free Museums in London on my travel blog Done That Been There! (Available in Dutch and English.)
This photo of the Natural History Museum was taken by me last year for my first photography exhibition in London! You can read about this incredible opportunity in the blog post I wrote about it at the time: Come and Visit My First Photo Exhibition in a London Gallery!
More art tips
Coincidentally, all the exhibitions I saw in London this month were about female artists. From rare colour photographs by Vivian Maier to ‘spiritual’ drawings by Madge Gill to photos by chameleon Cindy Sherman. It’s not too late to see them, I recommend all three of them!
Left: Taking in the details of a Madge Gill drawing
- Madge Gill @ William Morris Gallery (until 22 September 2019): One of the things I enjoyed most about this exhibition was that it brought me to an area in London I hardly visit. My previous visit to Walthamstow, east London was three years ago already when I followed the Walthamstow street art trail.
The works by Madge Gill, an artist I had never heard of before, were curious, to say the least. She didn’t start drawing until later in life and she claimed she was led by spirits. Madge suffered from some serious health problems, not only physically (she lost an eye as a result), but also mental illness. Not surprising when you learn about all the heartache she endured during her lifetime. This includes giving birth to a stillborn daughter. When you look at her drawings, you often see an image of a female figure in them. This might be her projection of herself, her deceased daughter or the spirit that led her (which might be a personification (or rather spiritisation?) of her daughter).
- Cindy Sherman @ National Portrait Gallery (until 15 September 2019): This must be the biggest exhibition by photographer Cindy Sherman I’ve ever seen. The often larger-than-life photographs all feature the artist herself. But if you wouldn’t know that, it would be difficult to see because she does an amazing job in changing her persona for each different project.
I couldn’t help but admire her level of dedication to her practice because she must put in a lot of work in each of the photos! I bet she’d make an incredible actor too because she’s so good in expressing emotions with her body language and facial expressions. A true artist!
- Vivian Maier: Colour Photographs @ Huxley-Parlour Gallery (until 14 September 2019): When former nanny Vivian Maier fell behind rent, the contents of her storage locker were seized and sold in auction in 2007. It was by complete chance that three buyers had got their hands on a treasure consisting of more than 100,000 negatives, prints, contact sheets and unprocessed rolls of film.
Vivian Maier might have been a nanny by profession during her lifetime, after her death (sadly) she’s now celebrated worldwide as a great street photographer. While the majority of her works are in black and white, Maier also took colour photos. This exhibition at Huxley-Parlour Gallery has a small selection of these colour photos on display. Go see them if you get the chance!
Besides street photography, Vivian Maier would sometimes also take ‘selfies’ via windows and mirrors.
My August watchlist: film recommendations
To finish my reflections on this month, here’s an overview of the films and series I’ve watched. My recommendations are indicated with a *.
My favourites were the Finnish black metal comedy Heavy Trip and the Spanish thriller El cuerpo (2012) by director Ariol Paulo. I first came across his films completely by chance during an endless search on Netflix. (Do you also find it takes forever to chose a film on there?) I was home alone and chose to watch Paulo’s modern film noir Contratiempo (The Invisible Guest). It was so good I watched it again a few months later with hubby. And it’s so good I would happily watch it again. El cuerpo doesn’t have that same level of intelligence as Contratiempo but it’s still worth the watch as it excels many of the more straightforward Hollywood films!
New in the cinema
Films (re)watched at home
So far my personal highlights of this last month.
Tell me, what have you been up to in August?
Best, Zarina xx