Oh boy! What was Steve mad! Ranting like Jillert Amane! The great all time supporter of the all time Olympic US Blade Skating team! His “investment”did not pan out this time. Cutting “Dutch” Tulips furiously in half on Prime Time TV! Showing contemptuously the famous Dutch “wooden shoes” that are only used in “Holland” to please the American tourists. At some point I was afraid he would throw the wooden shoes at me from the screen. What a show.
OK, the Dutch speedskating coach Jillert Anema touched a bit hard on the favorite US national sport, “football” (which is called “voetbal” in Holland translated into “soccer”in the USA and then made into “football” here, but the “foot” is only used when punting for a goal, whereas in the “real football” it’s all with the foot. Rugby, called after a town Rugby in England where it was developed in the 16th century, is a bit of a mix, but played without all the overdone body armor as in US football). But was Jillert not a bit right with the current criticism in the US media on NFL stars turned “knuckleheads” for the rest of their life after so many head-injuries?
I take issue with the hurt of the American media saying that Jillert’s “rant” was “Anti-American”. That is a typical self-conscious reaction. His point was that if the USA want to participate in international speedskating, it needs to better prepare to win, and maybe spend a little less on national football, which is not an international sport. Holland is not anti-American but your best friend, and friends quibble occasionally. We all remember Shani Davis, an AFRICAN AMERICAN on SKATES!, winning the all round world championships in 2005 and 2006 and gold on the 1000 meters at the 2010 Olympics. What happened to the team?
Now, let’s go down to Steve’s accusations that the Dutch don’t even know how to call their own country; “Holland”, “Netherlands”, “Low Countries”, or whatever. It’s YOU, Steve, who doesn’t know. It’s them “foreigners” who call us that.
Item: “The Netherlands” MEANS “Low Countries”. “Nether” means “lower”.
item: in 1588, the Dutch and the British beat the Spanish Armada! “Viva Olanda”! Stands for Holland.
item: in 1688, William III “stadholder”of the then “Republic of Holland” (it was not The Netherlands yet, though the lands were low) beat the French Louis the Fourteenth to french fries (translation: smithereens) by becoming King William III of England through his marriage with Mary Stuart, affectionately called “King Billy”in Scotland and Northern Ireland (yes, that’s the same guy of the College of “William & Mary”). Louis the Fourteenth reportedly said: “ces salauds des Pays-Bas” (those bastards of the “low lands”) – Vive les Pays-Bas!
item: around 1614, the Dutch established “New Netherland” (Nieuw Nederland) along the Hudson River, which became “New Amsterdam” and remained so until the British took over in 1665 and named it New York. That’s a good one. You weren’t even Americans then! I’m sure that if at that time we had the Amsterdam coffee shops you Americans love so much, Holland would have stayed by popular demand and you would not have needed the Boston Tea Party with all its current ramifications.
item: New York has a famous Holland & Holland gun room, a town called “Holland”, and so many other things called “Holland”, including double-dutch and going dutch, not to forget my dutch uncle.
We call “Holland” “Nederland”, which means “low land”, since a good deal of it is below sea level, but you foreigners prefer “Holland” to “The Netherlands” because it’s shorter. Can we help that?
And please don’t throw those Dutch shoes at us. You would miss them. It is reported you wear them at home for comfort.
As for the Olympics, coach Jillert Anema was right: speedskating is a world sport, and US football is not (he was joking that you always think you ARE the World, but you aren’t anymore since Michael Jackson passed away). USA (350 million people) won second place with 28 medals (11 gold), Norway (5 million people) won third place with 26 medals (9 gold) and LowLand Holland alias The Netherlands (16.8 million people) won fourth place with 24 medals (8 gold). In sum Norway did best. But USA Meryl Davis and Charley White were fabulous in figure skating. Just wonderful. I loved them (but your Canadian neighbors think Putin rigged the figuring to help Obama out of his care mess). The Dutch are speedskaters and you do what you are good at, internationally.
As for the Blade US Skating team, why not just buy them
After all, the US team’s T-shirt you showed on TV was made in Bangladesh!(Donate now and help put skaters on track for winning Olympic medals — plus, for any donation over $30, you’ll receive a Colbert Nation/ Speedskating shirt!)
Your TV sports guy says football is much more “exciting” than two guys or girls racing “round and round”. True, speedskaters don’t pound on their competitors, they only do “sport”. That’s boring.
And why do you call us Hollanders “Dutch”? Again, not our fault and it’s so confusing. We call ourselves “Nederlanders”, but in English that sounds too much like “Neanderthals”. The great American informed people might not know the difference. So better keep it at “Dutch”. Dutch derives from the word “Deutsch”, the language that developed in the Germanic countries in Europe as of the Renaissance. Dutch are not “Pennsylvania Dutch”, these originate from Germany. English-speaking people pronounced Dutch language “Dutch” because it was part of the “Deutsch” or “Germanic”languages. But the Dutch language is quite different from German (compare for example Spanish and Portuguese). But why then was President Reagan nicknamed “Dutch”? Nobody really knows, unless from Reagan’s Memoirs that his father nicknamed him “Dutch” because as a baby he looked like a “fat Dutch boy”. Wherever he got that from is a mystery to me. He may have looked at that ad showing a Dutch boy smearing his bread with Dutch butter and growing up “strong”.
So, Steve, stop confusing us names. Get your skating team to use Dutch butter and the USA Blades will go speedy gonzales like your Amtrak or our TGV.
The few photographs in the short story – link on the right – were given to me by Audrey’s mother in the fifties when I met her at the house of my grandfather’s sister, Aunt Nini van Limburg Stirum, where she stayed sometimes. I had glued them in my scrapbook at boarding school, proud that I was given “personal photographs.” However, on researching their origin, it appeared they were all copyrighted.
Aunt Nini bequeathed to me the photo that is on the cover. Audrey’s mother, Aunt Ella van Heemstra, had told her she should leave it to me. It was an old frame that stood later in our house on my grand piano. To verify if it had a copyright, a professional framer friend carefully opened the fragile back and then we noticed that Audrey’s photo was collated to a photograph of another unknown beautiful woman taken by a high-end studio in Rome! Did they feel at that time that Audrey’s photo was not important enough to buy a new frame for it? Audrey was not “famous“ yet at that time, and that’s probably the reason why this photograph is not as widespread as some of the others.
On the back of the photo figured a stamp stating that photographer Noel Mayne of Baron Studios in London was the copyrighted photographer, but he died in 2011 and we could not find an estate handling his copyrights posthumously.
Noel Mayne had taken the picture when Audrey was modeling and doing cabaret shows in London around 1950, and that was before she was discovered to play Gigi on Broadway.
We found that the photograph of Audrey and Mel Ferrer and their son Sean appeared on the audreyhepburn.com website.
They apparently used it as a Christmas card to close friends in 1962. We copyrighted it to Sean Hepburn Ferrer, as we could not find the original copyright holding photographer. In the process, I became aware that Audrey must have been the most photographed film star ever. Just look at the Wikipedia and Google sites. Even her sons reportedly said that they did not realize how famous their mother was, despite all the paparazzi.
The short stories are published by Willow Manor Publishing of Virginia (www.willowmanorpublishing.com) which also handles cover design. They will be offered to readers in the USA through Amazon Kindle, which sells for the regular low introductory Kindle price of $0.99 cents. On Amazon.ca (Canada), the price may vary around CDN$1. Readers in the Netherlands may want to go to amazon.nl, which leads to amazon.co.uk., which, in turn, is the source for readers in England as well. (I understand that Amazon will open a Netherlands bookstore this fall.) Readers in other parts of the world will have their own directives how to reach amazon.com and get access to the stories.
I would have liked to offer the Audrey short story for free but the Amazon Kindle system does not allow that. Whatever proceeds I will receive from the story will be donated to the Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund, http://www.audreyhepburn.com. This site also includes many charming photographs of Audrey throughout her life. She never boasted, had no scandals, was always gracious and seemingly self-conscious about her fame as an actress. Audrey says herself that she seemed to have been floating on heavenly air, unaware what was happening to her. She was a natural, who at the end of her life gave herself completely to the poor hungry children of the world, as the unforgettable Ambassadrice of UNICEF.
I admire the work the Children’s Fund and UNICEF do. In my career at the World Bank, I have seen many destitute children as well, but was unable to do much about it as one person. I was able to lift two young women from their doomed poverty cycle in Africa, but even though two lives saved is better than none, it is a drop on a hot plate.
Readers may, therefore, also want to donate to this Fund directly by going to the website. It is managed by Audrey’s sons Sean Hepburn Ferrer and Luca Dotti. Sean was given a preview of the short story and he was agreeable to us publishing it. I hope you like it, too.
I got to know Audrey when I was seven and she a young girl seven years older than me, and while she had that lovely smile and endearing face, how could I expect at that age what she would become?
I have been fascinated – as so many others – by her star, and it is because she gave me that goodbye kiss at seven that I stayed glued to her till she died. A remarkable woman, or as her son Sean titled her for his wonderful book: “Audrey Hepburn, an Elegant Spirit.” You can get it on Amazon, too. It is published by Atria Books (Simon & Schuster, Inc) and warmly written, as you can understand from a son of a wonderful mother, including most interesting and moving views from those who were close to her. It also contains marvelous photographs not found on the “internet”.
When I saw the book’s advert, I felt I wanted this more than any of the many biographies written about her because of its personal nature. An elegant spirit, that’s what she was.
The ten Short Stories entitled Some Women I Have Known start with a personal story about Audrey Hepburn. She died way too young in 1993, but her life was such an amazing whirlwind of brilliance that she will remain an icon for many into the far distant future. She was 7 in 1936 when I was born, from a Dutch mother, Ella Baroness van Heemstra and a British father, Joseph Ruston. Audrey spoke English, Dutch and French (from their stay in Brussels, where her father worked for a while.)
Audrey 7 years old with her mother from Wikipedia.nl – Family photo.
Why write about it now, as it is twenty years ago that Audrey left us for another world? Because her disappearance keeps coming back to me. A cousin, Anne van der Laan (http://www.genealogieonline.nl/en/stamboom-smits-van-oyen/I1066.php), and I talked about the women we had met in our lives at a family reunion at the Maarten Maarten’s house in Doorn in The Netherlands in 2002, where Maarten Maarten’s Some Women I have Known stood prominently in the Library. Shaking hands, we agreed we would write our own Some Women together.
John and cousin Anne van der Laan – 2007
He asked me which woman I would write about first. I mentioned Audrey at once. Not because I had been part of her living circle, but because I had met her at a very young age as a normal girl who came to visit us, played with me, and then ten years later suddenly stood shining at the firmament, leaving me bedazzled of her beauty and charm. Was that the same girl? My whole life I remained bewildered by her inspiring personality. Anne and I started writing our stories but then Anne passed away shortly after we took the above picture. Project down. I took it back up only a few years ago.
The Audrey story starts how I met her when I was 7, in 1943, during World War II. She and her mother, then divorced, fled to Holland from England in 1939 when the war broke out, thinking Holland would remain neutral as it did during World War I (1914-18). It turned out different, when Nazi Germany invaded Holland in May in 1940, bombing Rotterdam to smithereens. I was just four and a half, but still remember seeing from our backyard the bomb explosions clouding over Schiphol airport. Her mother, two step brothers, Alexander and Ian Quarles van Ufford from an earlier marriage, and Audrey, stayed with her grandfather, Arnoud Baron van Heemstra, in Velp, a residential suburb of Arnhem in the center of Holland. Arnoud was previously mayor of Arnhem (1910-1920) and thereafter Governor of Suriname (1920-1928), then still a Dutch colony (“Dutch Guyana”, in the Caribbean).
Arnoud knew my grandparents van Coehoorn van Sminia through family (linked with the van Limburg Stirums), and of course, through local life. He took Audrey and her mother one day to see them in the small village where they lived, about ten miles from Velp, when I was there on vacation. The Germans must have given them passage or visiting was still allowed during the day, I don’t know. It was 1943 and Audrey must have looked like this, as I remember:
Young Audrey at thirteen – Wikipedia.nl, probably a family photo
The family suffered enormously from the harsh living circumstances enforced on them by the Nazis, but Audrey’s mother Ella saw to it that Audrey could take ballet dancing lessons, Audrey’s dream of becoming a ballerina, at the Arnhem Conservatory. My personal story starts there.
Photo from Wikipedia.nl, in 1944, a family photo.
Would Audrey have become as famous had she pursued her dream to be a ballerina? I am sure she saw the ballet movie The Red Shoes that reached the theaters in 1948 and was widely acclaimed. Perhaps she would have liked to act the ballerina role of Vicky Page and if a bit older she might have done that very well, but would she have reached her pinnacle and touched us the way she did in the much broader medium of the movies? I doubt it.
With the next blog, we will publish the short story.
Men know women and women know men, but some are worth writing about more than others. This blog is to launch ten short stories about women I have known. The first short story is about how, as a boy in Holland, I met Audrey Hepburn, who developed from a young Dutch girl wrecked by World War II to one of the most beloved and enchanting film stars ever. And how I met her again in Switzerland. A story I can’t forget and would like to share with you and which her son, Sean Hepburn Ferrer, found “a sweet story” when I asked him to have a look at it.
Some of the “short story women” left a lasting impression on me (such as Audrey Hepburn and my grandmother, “Lady D”) and some shared part of my life. Some are left out because writing about them would be too painful.
Meeting women of different plumage seems to have been my star-enforced fate. I always felt that astrology had something to do with it. One astrologer told me that it was because I was born at 1:00 o’clock in the night when the moon stood at a particular angle to Mother Earth in the Scorpion month. My stars pointed to eternal adjustment (euphemism for continual trouble), and that included women.
My grand uncle-author, Joost van der Poorten Schwartz (pen name “Maarten Maartens”, see my blog of October 18, 2013) wrote books one hundred years ago, widely read in America, England, and Germany, and one of his books was a collection of short stories entitled Some Women I have known. After reading these often humorous short stories, written in the Victorian age, I decided to write my own Some Women, though content and style are of course totally different from the great-uncle.
Apart from his eloquence as an author, which I surely do not pretend to match, his Some Women is more a blend of satire and psychological realism of female characters in his time, and a reflection on marriage as it evolved in the upper-class in his days. His characters are fiction, likely painted from people he met. The stories are approached from an objective angle – probably the reason why he wrote them in the third person despite the title – although his stories do contain autobiographical elements. My stories are based on real characters I met – mostly in romantic relationships – and they are written in the first person because of the autobiographical elements. A few stories are “memoir”-type such as “Audrey” and “Lady D”. As a consequence, I borrowed my uncle’s title as a hull for my own stories, while their content and approach are different and from a personal angle.
In several stories names and places were changed, where needed, to avoid complaining phone calls or knocks on my front door. Maarten Maartens was accused by people who thought his characters resembled them! Here is where non-fiction, memoir and autobiographical fiction must draw a fine line.
The short stories will appear on a monthly basis, probably in the second half of each month.
Coming soon. Stay on the look out.
There are hundreds of millions of blogs floating through the stratosphere reaching readers are all over the world. Most we don’t know personally or meet because the world is a big place, but bloggers do get close to their readers through comments and reactions.
Several readers wondered why I had dropped the blog on “The Gay Thing”. I considered it a fairly balanced opinion from a straight guy who is waking up amidst a rapid changing world where his longstanding morals and values are being challenged. I edited the blog first to neutralize some terminology but in the end I pushed the trash-button.
The reason was that a good and very respectable friend of mine felt hurt because life on the other side had been all but pleasant. If that friend felt hurt, other friends might as well. And since I attempted to put forward a balanced view, friends on both sides of the aisle may have felt hurt.
Sexual orientation is a controversial issue. I felt compelled to make a point in the upsurge of current events. But that appeared an invalid impulse as we won’t see fully eye to eye on this “thing” and its origins, and as I don’t want to hurt good friends, better let it be and remove the sting.
My blog mainly focuses on memorable events, living highlights, and stories that I think are worth telling. An occasional blurb on the cacophony outside my front door may inadvertently go off into the air and this one did. I will weigh that more carefully in the future, as there are many others who blog about these things already or talk about it on radio talk shows and my opinion won’t change that.
So, let’s keep the peace and try to live together as best we can, and move on.
John and Mike, looking at it from above, and moving on