Where is James?
I want James.
James? Where are you?
James, please make up my bed.
James, have my breakfast and coffee ready at eight. Don’t forget to pick up the paper from the front door.
James, clean my wife’s bedroom, PLEASE! And bring her a cappuccino, a fried egg, a toasted buttered muffin, and don’t forget to sprinkle it with bacon crusts and paprika.
James, drive my car out of the garage and wash it. I have to go out.
Here’s the shopping list for today, James. Make sure you cross out evrything to make sure you didn’t forget anything.
Drive me to my lunch date, James, at noon sharp, and pick me up at two.
James, please light the fire at four. Get some fresh wood from the shed.
James, why is my tea not ready yet? Don’t we have marmalade in the house? Don’t you know I always want marmalade on my crackers?
James, please bring me my sherry at five, and a plate of Swiss macaroons. Some salmon mousse on those little toasts, too, please. Thanks.
James, when is dinner served? What did Missus order? Steak, pork or what? I hope you didn’t do those awful Brussels sprouts again?
James, where’s my evening gown? Didn’t you get it back from the cleaners? I was so mad when I messed it up with my brandy l
James, Mr. and Mrs. Vanderpoorten are coming for dinner tomorrow. Is everything on schedule? Table silver polished? Candles set?
Anything more of your service, Mr. John?
Thank you James. Did you bring Missus her bedtime tea?
James, where are you?
Are Santa Claus and Saint Nicholas the same or ‘brothers’?
Daughter Sam figuring as Santa Claus at Georgetown Visitation, Washington, D.C., schmoozing with Papa John.
The Dutch (and Belgium/Luxemburg and northern France) celebrate ‘Sinterklaas’ (or Saint Nicolas in French) on the evening of December 5 and the morning of December 6 (Belgium/France). In Holland, this is a major festivity, which keeps the children in great expectations of what gifts they will get, on the condition that they behave well. The Dutch Sinterklaas is the precursor of the British/American Santa Claus, which is celebrated at Christmas. Most Americans probably don’t know that, but the American Santa tradition emerged from the Dutch settlers in New Amsterdam, now New York. How this happened is lively described by Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinterklaas) and I will not repeat it here, but as a Dutch family in the US, we celebrated Sinterklaas with the children when they were young (from 4 to 8) and still believed that Sinterklaas really existed.
Sinterklaas comes around on a white horse that can fly over the rooftops, and drops gifts through the chimneys with the help of his servants, called ‘Black Peters’. The origin for this story is that at some stage the bishop Nicholas moved from Turkey to Spain in the middle ages, and in Spain, wealthy people had servants from northern Africa (‘Moors’) who are brown skinned. The ‘Black Peters’ are nowadays in uproar in the Netherlands because of a culture clash with inhabitants from Surinam and Africa, even though Black Peters were never considered a ‘racial’ matter before. But politics have a tendency to destroy the fun of long-established national customs.
At the time we were on assignment in Bangladesh (1980-1984), the Dutch diplomatic and foreign aid community always celebrated Sinterklaas enthusiastically, and for us parents, the period leading up to it was a perfect time to keep ‘the kids’ in good behavior. Every night they put their shoes out (in the living room) and if they were well-behaved they found a little gift from Sinterklaas. If they did not behave well, they could be ‘punished’ by Sinterklaas when, on December 5, they met him and his ‘Black Peters’ who would put a bad boy in a jute bag to take him to Spain to drill school (of course, if they put one in a jute bag, he was released a short while later).
The main differences between Sinterklaas en Santa Claus are that Sinterklaas rides a horse that flies, and Santa sits on a coach pulled by flying reindeer. Sinterklaas has Black Peters as servants while Santa is accompanied by elves who do not punish children for bad behavior. William Bennet wrote an interesting book about ‘The True Saint Nicolas’ worth reading: https://amzn.to/2LxG8lg
Below follow some pictures of a happy Sinterklaas childhood.
The Dutch Ambassador, H.E. Pim Damstee, receives Sinterklaas at the Dutch Embassy in Dhaka, Bangladesh, surrounded by expat children, and followed by his ‘Black Peter’.
Son Dave (6) absorbing a well-deserved dressing-down by Sinterklaas, reading from his notes about Dave’s bad behavior he’d heard about. Dave narrowly escaped the jute bag.
Sam, whose behavior was more cautious in the face of possible ‘punishment’ by a Black Peter, walks away happily with a gift.
On return to Washington, years later, the Sinterklaas fun continued for the grandkids, at the Dutch Embassy in Washington, D.C. The festivity is organized by the Dutch club “DC Dutch” in collaboration with the Dutch Ambassador.
The Dutch Ambassador, H.E. Renée Jones-Bos, receives Sinterklaas at the Embassy for the annual Sinterklaas festivity (picture dates from December 2011). We knew Renée when she was a young Third Secretary at the Dutch Embassy in Dhaka, Bangladesh where we became good friends. We met her again when she was stationed in Washington as Embassy Counsel, and given her brilliant reputation, we were not surprised to see her nominated Ambassador to Washington years later, one of the highest posts of the diplomatic service. In 2012, she was appointed Secretary General of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the highest level of the civil service, a post she held until 2016 when she became Ambassador to Moskou where she is still today. She was selected as ‘the most powerful Dutch Woman.’ Quite a career!
Son David in animated discussion with the Ambassador, her husband Dr. Richard Jones (UK), a writer, sharing in the amusement.
Black Peter entertains grandson Preston and his dad.
Next, Preston John meets Sinterklaas, expecting his gift.
Sinterklaas hands Preston John, called PJ for short, his gift, Black Peter looking on. No jute bag this time.
PJ’s younger sister, Sadie Rose, takes Sinterklaas and all Black Peters for granted and goes for a snooze. She knows she will see her gift later,
PJ to the contrary is admiring his gift.
Merry Christmas to you all, from Santa Claus!
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It’s Friday night and Fred, Frank, Tom, and Ted are drinking beer with their regular friends at the Hullahoo bar, talking about the issues of the Me Too Movement. Cindy sitting across from Frank yells, “Me 2 is taking over boys. It’s role reversal. You better take notice.”
“Scary, Cindy, I did,” Frank says. “I stopped dating for fear of being broadsided or perhaps even castrated.”
“Right,” Ted added. “Broads do that nowadays. What are we going to do about love?”
“You guys are all babes in the woods,” Marlene scoffs. “Me 2 wants real men that do not assault or belittle women like calling us broads.”
“Oh yeah?” howls Frank. “You mean those real men with their naked torsos trunked on romance novels?”
“All written by women, including erotica,” Ted adds. “The three Ls: Love, lust, and lasciviousness. Are they also members of the Me 2 movement?”
“You’re hallucinating,” Marlene’s friend Melissa says. “Me 2 women have their own sense of self-esteem, even if they write erotica.”
“Ha, ha,” laughs Fred. “If I write an erotica novel, I’ll be called a pervert and if you do it, it’s called art. Call that a double standard.”
“When I walk the corridors in my office,” Ted says, “I look straight ahead now and say nothing anymore to the girls passing for fear of being accused of sexual harassment.”
“I won’t open the door for any woman anymore either,” Tom says. “For fear of being told off that she can do that herself. And when I am in the elevator, I won’t even try to let the woman exit first. I rather travel up or down to the next floor. For fear of being told that I’m making inappropriate advances.”
“Me 2 is a serious movement,” Cindy buts in. “You guys shouldn’t make fun of it. It responds to a longtime abuse of women in the workplace or domestic violence, and nobody did a damn thing about it. Thanks to the Me 2 Movement they do now.”
“We’re not denying that, Cindy,” Fred argues. “To the contrary, we agree and I personally am glad that this screwy matter has been put in the limelight. But Me 2 has thrown a wrench into the courting ritual. It’s like lighting a firecracker on the Notre Dame square with all this social media hype. Ever seen male pigeons pursuing female pigeons? Aren’t you guys denying nature’s procreative role?”
“Humans are rational people, animals are not,” Melissa says, raising her voice. “Men have been denying female rights for far too long.”
“You say,” Frank exclaims. “What about those female empresses that sent their lovers to the gallows?”
“Kathryn Dunoova, that French movie star, also said Me 2 had gone too far,” Tom says. “You’re throwing your loverboy away with the bathwater.”
“It’s Catherine Deneuve, you butthead,” called out Emily from the other side of the counter. She pretended she could speak French. “She later apologized for critiquing Me 2.”
“Okay,” Tom responds. “Maybe she did. But she and some ninety-nine other famous French women said the usual male courting rituals shouldn’t be called sexual harassment, and that’s what’s happening here in the US. It’s killing our romance. I guess French women are different from their American species. I’ll be moving to Paris.”
“I was going to propose tomorrow at the top of the Empire building,” Ted announces. “But for fear of being laughed at I may just as well throw myself over the railing.”
“Why should you guys have the exclusive right to propose?” Emily wonders. “Why can’t I propose? Waiting for someone nice to propose is very frustrating for women.”
“I’m sure that most of us men were already proposed to in bed by our girlfriends after our cummy, whispering let’s get married,” Frank says. “Most of us would be too embarrassed to say ‘no.’ So Emily, get your act together.”
“Would you like me to try?” Emily asks, her eyes full of seduction.
“Are you proposing?” Frank asks, among loud laughter.
Emily comes around, pushing his friend Fred off his seat and sits next to Frank. “Yes, I am,” she says. “Pay me a drink to seal it.”
The Hullahoo friends raise their glasses, cheering, “Long live Me 2!”
ENCHANTING THE SWAN – REPRINT BY SUN HILL BOOKS.
” A very enjoyable read. Could make a great movie” – Neal Cary.
” A fine romantic thriller” – Daniel Dwyer
” A heartbreaking love story” – Vera Wilson
Get it on Kindle: https://amzn.to/2UID9dQ
PAPERBACK COMING SOON!