Geleende gedachten.

Dezer dagen gebeurt er meer in mijn leven dan ik zelf wellicht doorzie. Aan veranderingen ben ik gewend. Aan nederigheid en het accepteren van iets wat men lot noemt ook. Ik ben gewend geraakt aan niet verwezenlijkt krijgen waar ik van droom. Aan niet verwerkt krijgen waar ik mee worstel. Ik ben gewoon om niet meer te kunnen leven op een wijze die voor de meeste mensen van mijn generatie eigenlijk de gewoonste zaak van hun wereld is.

Maar hun wereld is niet mijn wereld.

Ik ben gewoon te reizen in mijn hoofd en soms in de realiteit. Altijd speelt het verleden daarbij een rol in een soort samenhang met mijn heden op een vooral ondoorgrondelijke wijze. Ik ruil mijn verdriet, angsten en gebrek uit tegen passie voor wat ik schrijf of fotografeer en vooral met wie ik dat samen doe. Mijn pen, papier, computer, ze zijn mijn gereedschap. Een uitgestelde mond die pas spreekt wanneer een ander me leest. Nooit is dat op het moment dat mijn handen vastleggen wat mijn gedachten mij vertellen. En zelden spreek ik mijn diepste gedachten uit, hoe intiem mijn tekst soms ook lijkt te zijn voor wie mij leest.

Dat is mijn wereld.

Na jaren intensief schrijven en bouwen aan wat mijn droom is, vecht ik tegen slijtage. Tegen vermoeidheid. Ik vier de kleine victories en mijn ziel poogt zich te verbinden met andere zielen die zijn als ik. Om dat te duiden lees ik verhalen uit de tijd die mij als geen andere tijd intrigeert. Over mensen die mij door hun leefwijze aantrekken. Ik lees hun werk, hun gedachten, hun pijn, hun liefde. Ik lees liefdesbrieven.

Hun wereld is een beetje mijn wereld aan het worden.

vita virginia

Ik heb idolen. Dat is het goede woord. Ernest Hemingway natuurlijk, mijn eeuwige inspiratie. Sinds een tijdje lees ik de boeken van Vita Sackville-West en Virginia Woolf’s werk. De afgelopen tijd heb ik hun liefdesbrieven gelezen en ben daar diep door geraakt. Want ik herken ze. Ik proef de stille liefde, de verhulde passie, de soms platonische maar o zo vaak nauwelijks verhulde liefde tussen hun geest, hun ziel. En ik herken het. Ik herken dat als mijn eigen gedachten, mijn eigen woorden en mijn eigen stille en ongeschreven teksten. Ik herken hun devote toewijding aan wat zij het liefste deden: schrijven. Ik herken dat zij dat konden door de verbinding die zij met elkaar hadden als vakgenoten, als geliefden hoewel die liefde lang niet geconsumeerd werd in de zin die men tegenwoordig maar al te gemakkelijk ziet als de enige basis waarop mensen zich verbinden met elkaar. Zij waren zo liberaal, zo gesofisticeerd in hun levenswijze. Zo niet angstig voor de consequenties van het helder willen zijn over hun gedachten, gevoelsleven, liefde en kunst.

En ik wil mijn wereld zelf ook zo graag zo ingevuld zien worden.

Niet in alle aspecten, maar wel in een aantal essentiële, is precies ook dat wat er gebeurt. Terwijl dat gebeurt en scheppen in vriendschap en samenwerking de basis is geworden van mijn leven voel ik ook de angst die in hun liefdesbrieven sluimert. De angst om het te verliezen. Wanhoop zelfs soms en vooral de vermoeidheid die het grootst is vlak na het gevecht. Vooral ook het besef dat achter blijft wanneer het gevecht tegen het verzwijgen van het eigen gevoel verloren is.

Dus ben ik gestopt met vechten, aanvaard mijn vermoeidheid na alle jaren, omarm mijn toekomst zoals die zich nu aan mijn ontvouwd en besef dat het mijn gedachten zijn die mijn grootste goed zijn. Tegen de stroom van de ratio in kan ik zeggen dat ik eindelijk van mijzelf hou. Genoeg om verder te kunnen en te willen. Die vermoeidheid zal minderen, de basis steviger worden en ik weet net zo min als Vita en Virginia wisten toen liefdesbrieven tussen hun wisselden hoe het zal eindigen. Ik weet hoe het hun verging. Toch ben ik mijn angst voorbij. Juist nu mijn leven eindelijk de vorm krijgt die het moet hebben, nadat mij na al die jaren en pijn mijzelf duidelijk is geworden wat mijn essentie is. Juist nu blijk ik te mogen vertrouwen op mijzelf, op wat ik maak en hoe ik dat zelf waardeer.

Dit schreef Vita aan Virginia, het passionele antwoord kwam later. Dat antwoord is bekend geworden bij de literaire liefhebbers maar de vraag die het antwoord ontlokte in mindere mate. Daarom citeer ik die tekst hier. Hoe het anderen vergaat die dit lezen weet ik niet maar ik begrijp het alsof ik het zelf geschreven had. Het zijn daarmee geleende gedachten. Ik sta mijzelf dat toe. Voor even. En leg dit opnieuw vast, in een andere tijd en een andere omstandigheid. Voor wie het aan gaat.

…I am reduced to a thing that wants Virginia. I composed a beautiful letter to you in the sleepless nightmare hours of the night, and it has all gone: I just miss you, in a quite simple desperate human way. You, with all your undumb letters, would never write so elementary a phrase as that; perhaps you wouldn’t even feel it. And yet I believe you’ll be sensible of a little gap. But you’d clothe it in so exquisite a phrase that it should lose a little of its reality. Whereas with me it is quite stark: I miss you even more than I could have believed; and I was prepared to miss you a good deal. So this letter is really just a squeal of pain. It is incredible how essential to me you have become. I suppose you are accustomed to people saying these things. Damn you, spoilt creature; I shan’t make you love me any more by giving myself away like this — But oh my dear, I can’t be clever and stand-offish with you: I love you too much for that. Too truly. You have no idea how stand-offish I can be with people I don’t love. I have brought it to a fine art. But you have broken down my defenses. And I don’t really resent it.

© 2013 Alice Anna Verheij

Headwind, Laxmi’s Story – still available.

In 2011 and early 2012 I wrote the English language novel ‘Headwind, Laxmi’s Story’ about a young Bhutanese woman who was born in a refugee camp in Nepal after her parents were exiled from the supposed to be Shangri-La country Bhutan. Laxmi was resettled by the UNHCR (United Nations refugee agency) to the Netherlands. In her story she looks back at het past life in the camp and tells about her struggle to create a new life in a society that is alien to her. And all the time she longs for her true love, the boy she grew up with in the camp and who now lives in the United States as a resettler.

Headwind, Laxmi’s Story is about coming of age in between cultures, about the life as a refugee and a migrant. About having to struggle for a decent life and about a love that seems impossible. It’s about the caste system that is a fundament underneath the Hindu society and the changes that come when people are taken from their home, their country, culture an religion and implanted in a modern society. But above all it’s a story about a young woman with a difficult past who fights her way through life, like most refugees do.

Headwind, Laxmi’s Story is still available through mailorder in the Empowerment Foundation’s bookshop or directly through me. Here you’ll find the first chapter of the novel to get a grip with the story of Laxmi. Click here for Headwind, Laxmi’s Story Sample. You can buy the book here. All earnings are donated to the Empowerment Foundation in support of their empowerment project.

headwind front coverHeadwind, Laxmi’s Story Sample

 

 

First sentences when awake 1: “Where is Alan Road?”

I dream a lot. And I capture dreams. In contrast with many people I can recall my dreams for some time. That allows me to get inspired by the most wonderous stories that happen in my dreams. Most of my dreams have to do with traveling. Well actually almost all of my dreams. The explanation for that is that life for me is one big continuous process of change. Change I welcome and never am afraid of. It even drives me to write the way I do about the topics I choose. It makes me follow those dreams and makes me travel. As such my dreams are often the seed where new experiences and friendships derive from.

Being a dreamer is nothing like being unrealistic or a being out of reality. It merely is a mirror of my life combined with imagination, inspiration and experiences. My dreams tell me things I do not easily recognize when fully awake. They do change the coarse of my life and even the most important decisions in my life have been triggered by the subcontious reality of my dreams.

So I learned to value my dreams and to sometimes chase them. For me my dreams define me as a person and as an artist. As a writer.

Because of that I’ve been capturing the first sentence that pops in my mind as soon as I am waking up. I pen them down, for reference. It’s a way of capturing those dreams. Sometimes these sentences do not telle me that much, sometimes they explain themselves later. Sometimes much later. The moment I am really awake I try to spend half an hour writing down the dream I had based on that one sentence. And that way of handling my dreams sometimes brings me stories or poetry. Or the need to change someting in my way of life. I also log the time with that sentence that I pen down in those early hours. Somehow that seems important although I do not (yet) know why.

This morning’s sentence at 6.54 AM was: “Where is Alan Road?”.

Alan Road could of course be a road. But Alan Road wasn’t a road in my dream, it was a person. This Alan Road is someone I’m  searching for. I met him on a trainride from The Hague to London. He was a young man, a performer. A poet. He was on his way to perform in London in an old pub where they have poetry evenings where writers and poets come to listen to each other and enjoy each others company. Alan was a quiet man, I think around his thirties. With an unshaven face, like some guys think is looking cool. He was sitting there in the fast moving train quietly on his mental island. So was I. We didn’t talk at first.

It took us an hour before we exchanged words. He started first, I answered. We talked about how the landscape changes colour while traveling in a fast train. And how that seems like a film, a fast changing decor. Something that is not really out there but that’s projected. Alan started this game of imagining a world outside the train that was not real even though we were looking at it. I went along with him and we had a lot of fun thinking of all kind of situations and people inside that moving landscape. And what they did to each other, how the loved and cheated, what businesses they had and who killed who, where a little boy was about to be born and what that boy would later become. We envisioned people walking in the fields in northern France, hand in hand being romantic. And about a cyclist who tried to follow the train for a while abviously unable to keep up with us. Within mental minutes we were in Calais riding into to Channel Tunnel and quickly after that on our way on the English main land. We laughed a lot. Alan was a nice guy.

By the time we arrived at the trains destination we had exchanged phone numbers and plans for the coming days. I promised to come to his performance, somewhere in the Wimbledon area. So, a few days later I went there. There was indeed a poetry night going on in the Alexandra, the pub he told me to go to. He described the place accurately so I had no doubts. But Alan wasn’t on the program. I waited, searched, but didn’t find him. No Alan. Halfway the evening I asked a barkeeper wether he knew where Alan Road was. His answer was simply “Just around the corner miss, two blocks away.”

alan road

Only then I realized I had been in Alan Road years ago, to visit a friend who lived there. It must have been more than 30 years since, and I wonder why this place came back to me. I guess I’ll have to check it out someday or maybe another dream will explain this.

© Alice Anna Verheij

The greatest show on earth.

I went inside. A small square table right in the center of the mirrored wall. Well, all walls were mirrored but I mean the one facing the Boulevard de Saint Germain-des-Prés.

Paris, Café de Flore. I’m chasing the footsteps and memory of Hemingway. Whenever I go to a place he went I feel some sort of personal connection. Unexplainable I guess. He’s not there anymore and I am too young to have been his lover. If I could have been I probably would have been. Anyway, Café de Flore in the Parisian center of literature and philosophy. Simone de Beauvoir sat here too. Maybe just like me but probably not alone but with Sartre sharing one of these small tables. And a café creme or more likely a glass of wine.

cafe de florePhoto: ‘Café de Flore’ © 2013 Alice Anna Verheij

Hemingway wrote that people who do not allow themselves the hugely overpriced coffee at Café de Flore are missing out on probably the greatest show on earth. I happen to agree. Because this café certainly is an ongoing show. More than it’s equally interesting neighbour Les Deux Magots, which I tried out the day before. One simply has to go in and sit at one of the tables and watch. Watch the waiters moving around. The place is lively even when only a handful of the 40 tables on the gournd floor are occupied and the rest of the guest are outside enjoying the terrace and the spring. The real show is inside. Through the open doors just before lunchtime you will find no less than 20 waiters running in and out with filled and emptied trays. Outside the peak hours their number deminishes to ‘just’ 12 and even they are sometimes pausing to chat with each other lively. But never for long. The waiter flirt with the women, the have a good eye for beauty looking at how the respond when challenged. The Amrican girls don’t notice it. The interior of the café is very art nouveau-ish. Light, lots of glass, squared shapes and ornaments and those little tables placed in an invisible grid in such a manner that it’s possible to travel full speed in between them with filled trays. The chairs are Thonet chairs in the variety with the 6 bars in a waiver shape at the back in between the elongated back legs. Little arcs in between the legs give them enough strength to withstand long term use by gravitational people.

A napkin is draped over the left arm and the tray rests on the right hand. The skirt is whiten and long ending just above the well polished shoes covering black trousers. The vest is as black as the trousers are and the shirt is toothpaste white. A black bow-tie is standard. Waiters really are waiters here. Their smile is tempting and inviting and has just about the same color as their shirts, independent of their age. Interesting. Although there’s the 20 of them running around they form a group of 50 on the café’s payroll. They accept tips with a slight nod and a smile, but tips are rarely given. I suppose the prices prevent people to give tips. In their wallet the waiters seem to have enough change to prevent them from unneeded walks to the cash register inside. Their walking route is twofold. The ones from the side terrace follow a high speed trail with a double wave making them zigzagging in the café, the ones from the Boulevard terrace have just one corner to handle. Both streams end at the right side of the mirrored fake wall behind which the kitchen is located. The connect with the line of waiting waiters who are emptying their trays, passing the orders and refilling their trays with earlier orders to deliver them to the guests after another high speed wave walk to the terrace or inside the café. The cutomers inside the café are left alone. There are just a few of us sitting at a few of the tables. The others are reading a newspaper or a book. I am writing, it’s quiet and I realize that there’s no music distracting us. A stranger stares outside with his mind wandering of to a place unknown.

The café creme is delivered on a silver platter. The cup and saucer, coffejug, milk jug and glass filled with water are all imprinted with ‘Café de Flore’. I guess they’re some sort of collectors item and I presume that because of that they are renewed very frequently. They look brandnew. The whole café is a time machine. From my table position I imagine that the view hasn’t changed much in the past eight or nine decades. There’s an unmatched level of perfection in displaying the past in a beautiful manner, even better then in that other time machine opposite the church. The mosaic of the tiled floor with the little waiver shaped in yellow and brown tints, the dark wooden chairs and tables, the tomato red seats, the mirrored walls divided by marble elements, the copper of theframes around the mirrors and off the illumination and the creamwhhite of the ceiling and the two lonely pillars in the middle of the café split the space in a darkish but interesting underworld and a light upper world. The murmur of talking people is everywhere all the time. Some people are silent.

Around lunchtime the number of inside customers quickly rises to the level that most of the little tables get occupied with cups, saucers, plates, glasses and cutlery. The noise level rises equivalently. The waiters still smile, no matter how hard they have to work. In retrospect I agree with Hemingway’s words. Visiting Paris without having coffee at the Café de Flore is worse than not seeing the Eiffeltower in Paris’ skyline when looking down from the Sacre Coeur. The patron at the door never smiles but shows a presidential expression overseeing his world of customers and waiters. His hands are almost permanently folded in front of him. When I finally leave we greet. A bientôt. I will come back soon I hope.

© 2013 Anna Ros

Opportunity knocks.

Life is a strange happening.

It is, really. You never know how things will evolve. No one can be sure about his or hers future, no one can be sure about winds in favour or winds against them. Life truly is full of surprises and changes, chances, threats, mishaps and fortune. Thing is to never loose faith, to never loose hope for better times when things are bad or become worse. To rejoice when life is good to you, to embrace happiness, no matter how small. Because one simply can’t know if life will continue its course with ones lide.

opportunity_knocks_quote

Quite often I use the phrase ‘it is like is is’. It’s a Buddhist phrase, and Asian attitude. It’s Zen. Life is like it is. Always. One only has to accept for what it is, no matter how terrible it presents itself or how glorious and wonderful.

My life hasn’t been easy in the past decades. Actually, ever since I was twelve life has turned itself against me for most of the time. Surely I did have good times, happiness and triumphs. But the winds have been against me more often than in favour of me. I should have been bittered by now. I should be cynical. And sad. And honesty forces me to write that I was like that sometimes. But never for a long time. I was born in the Aries sign. Aries are fighters, they are built to overcome difficulties, find their own path in life and follow it. They are, I am, survivors. Believe me, I have nearly lost it a few times. But I’m still here.

In the past few days, a new friendship turned into something special. From that friendship has come an opportunity in my life that I didn’t expect anymore.

Since 2006 I’ve been writing. Developing myself as a writer, a novelist, playwrite and literal artist. I worked hard against the odds like lack of name and fame. I made beautiful stories and books, a wonderful play and much more. But the audiense never really got to the level that I had hoped for. I never got my lucky break, my breakthrough to the level of fame that would enable me to live the life of a writer and artist on the level that my ambitions tell me.

But now that opportunity has risen. I wasn’t seeking or expecting anything to happem, I didn’t aim for it, I simply did what I learned myself to do: open up to people that challenge me in one way or another. And than, all of a sudden, it’s there. This year I’ll write a book that I didin’t expect to write and of which I can be dead sure that it will get media attention and visibility. It will vest my name as a writer and as such bring me what I desired: the recognition as a professional writer.

Life still is a challenge, the difficulties I have to overcome are enormous and often too much to oversee and overcome. But since a couple of months I’ve been able to turn life around again. Now I find myself making books, films and exhibitions on a professional level. My art is sloly but gradually finding its way to an interested audience and I am thankful for it. And I do know it is a lot of hard work, but at least now I get the opportunities I hoped for (and believed in).

Next year around this tims, God or whoever else prevails, that book will be there. By that time there will be media attention and a lot of visibility, simply because of the topic and the way it comes together and with who it is made. All I have to do is survive and dedicate life and time to this. I simply just have to do it. Believe me, I will. I certainly will. Because alongside with this work my other work will find its way. I have the confidence, I have the strength and now I finally have the opportunity. Opporunity knocks and I will answer!

© 2013 Alice Anna Verheij

A phone call

trein

Train. The Hague to Amsterdam. The thing was on time. Oh, and there actually was some sunshine out there to guide me. To keep me awake. Of course I didn’t take a book with me, after all it’s less than an hour to Amsterdam. I hate reading books when I’m sure that there isn’t enough time to finish at least a couple of chapters.

Anyway, time was flying in absolute boredom. The landscape was absolutely boring. The people in the train were totally uninteresting except for that girl who sat three seats away. I liked her hat, a bowler at the perfect size. Problem was that she looked so cool that it wasn’t fair. The good news was that her shoes didn’t match. Thank the Lord for cool girls who make fashion errors. Makes me feel human. We stopped at Leiden station, a concrete, steel, aluminium and glass structure in ultimate uglyness. Silently I requested Al Qaida to bomb the place. Stations like that should be destroyed. A.S.A.P..

Phone rings in my bag. I don’t notice it.

Train moves again, cityscape Leiden slides along my window. It’s ugly from here, which is strange for a city that really is quite nice.

Phone rings again. I notice.

Front pouch of bag zips open and there’s my daily junk. I frantically search through the chaos I created when leaving home cursing myself for not being organized enough to have a nicely ordered and accessible bag.

Phone rings again. Got it.

I let the white devil slide from it’s cover and thumb-slide the sucker to answer the call. I don’t recognize the number. I mean, the phone doesn’t recognize it and as such shows a number in the display. I never recall phone numbers if they’re not connected to either lovers or friends. I answer.

“Morning, Alice speaking?”
Man says: “Shouldn’t you be at Katwijk to file charges for abuse?”
“I didn’t abuse anyone.”
“You’ve been abused, haven’t you?”
“Not in Katwijk, I never go there.”
“But you’ve just been released from hospital…” Man asks with a doubtful voice.
“For some months.” I answer truthfully.

I decide to play him. He obviously isn’t that smart and I hate guys on the phone without the decency to say their name when I answer. Same goes for women.

“We’re waiting for you here you know.” The man sounds a bit agitated. I love it.
“Oh dear, that’s a nuisance. So, you want to be abused?”
“Err, what do you mean?” Man sounds confused.
“Well if you are than charges can be filed of course.”
“Yes, but…” Man sounds totally confused now.

Silence. For 10 seconds. Voices in the background.

“Err, you are Mrs. Verdoorn?”
“No, I’ve been having a different name for years.”

Silence.

“Oh, I must have the wrong person.”
“I am quite alright but certainly not yours.” I answer the guy. He still doesn’t laugh. Fucker.

Silence.

“Err, well err. I mean. Err…”

– click –

I smile as the train rolls into Amsterdam Lelylaan station. I grab my stuff, put on my cap noticing the girl with the bowler following me with her eyes and a big smile. I wave her a kiss and leave, she miles back at me. It’s gonna be a great day.

© 2013 Alice Anna Verheij

Ik ben zo moe van jou, o Nederland.

Noot: driekwart jaar geleden herschreef / hertaalde ik ‘Going to a town‘ van Rufus Wainwright. Een lied dat hij, eerlijk is eerlijk, uit verveling en baldadigheid schreef in de lobby van een hotel tussen concerten in. Zonder diepere bedoeling, zonder er een protestleid van te willen maken. Maar dat werd het wel. Het werd een lied dat bij deze tijd past.

Het is nu driekwart jaar later. Veel is veranderd. De pier op de foto is failliet en zal misschien afgebroken worden. Zoals er veel afgebroken wordt. Vandaag las ik dat het College Van Zorgverzekeraaars (CVZ) voorstelt om de psychische ondersteuning van mensen met psychische problemen alleen nog maar te vergoeden bij een medische noodzaak. Daarmee onderstrepend dat je voor hulp psychisch ziek moet zijn (volgens het daarvoor geldende normenboek DSM IV) en dat psychische problemen buiten die veroorzaakt door ziekte maar gewoon door jezelf en je huisarts (die daar niet voor geschoold is) opgevangen moeten worden. Wil je hulp, heb je hulp nodig, dan moet je dat maar zelf betalen. Kan je dat niet, zoals een toenemend aantal mensen, dan kun je voor wat betreft die verzekeraars doodvallen. Letterlijk.

Gaan die plannen door dan zuller er ook doden vallen want het aantal suïcides zal toenemen bij het wegvallen van de zorg voor mensen met post traumatisch stress syndroom, slachtoffers van misbruik, mishandeling, verkrachting, burn outs, onverwerkte traumas uit jeugd of anderszins. Zij zijn geen medische gevallen dus moeten het maar zelf zien te rooien. Daarmee is de verzekering van de Nederlandse gezondheidszorg indirect verantwoordelijk voor de doden die zullen vallen en het instandhouden of het versterken van het lijden van duizenden zoniet tienduizenden mensen. Hun aantal groeit als gevolg van de verharding van de maatschappij.

Nederland maakt hiermee zichzelf ziek, doodziek. En, als het aan deze mensen ligt die dit bedenken, uiteindelijk dood. Weg beschaving. Van Zorgverzekering naar een verzekerd zijn van verwaarlozing. Verwaarlozingsverzekering.

Ik ben nog steeds moe van Nederland en verlang naar de dag dat ik dit land definitief de rug kan toekeren. Of mij dat lukt weet ik niet, of ik dan in Europa of elders zal leven weet ik ook niet. Hoe dan ook, deze hertaling draag ik op aan de mannen en vrouwen van het CVZ die de plannen smeden om de geestelijke gezondheidszorg in Nederland te decimeren en daar willens en wetens slachtoffers mee gaan maken. Ik gun ze een jarenlange persoonlijke ernstige depressie. Ik mag dat als overlevende van diverse suïcide pogingen. Het hierna volgende schreef ik in april 2012, mijn mening is helaas niet veranderd sindsdien. Mijn leven overigens wel. Ten goede, dankzij de onbezoldigde zorg van een paar vrienden en een project van hte Rode Kruis. Een organisatie die goddank losstaat van de Nederlandse staat en haar beperkte blik op de rechten van haar burgers.

In een uitwisseling op Facebook legde mijn goede vriendin Floortje me nog eens dit prachtnummer van Rufus Wainwright voor. Ik heb er al zo vaak naar geluisterd en het heeft me altijd geraakt omdat ik er iets voelde dat ik niet kon omschrijven. Tot Floortje een hint gaf dat iemand maar eens een Nederlandse versie moest maken.

Er zullen mensen zijn die – terecht – vinden dat ik negatief schrijf over mijn eigen land. Er zullen mensen zijn die het met me oneens zijn of het me zelfs kwalijk nemen. En anderen die het niet begrijpen of me een zeur vinden. Maar er zijn er vast ook die zich herkennen in de pijn die ik heb proberen te verwoorden over hoe mijn eigen land verworden is tot iets dat ik verafschuw. Verwoord aan de hand van Rufus Wainwright die, wonend in New York, in een opwelling zijn originele tekst liet stromen en waarin hij onverholen kritisch is op de verwording van het Amerika van George Bush.

Mijn tekst laat mijn walging proeven over de staat van dit land. Een land zonder kleur maar met angst voor de vreemdeling, voor de andersdenkende, voor de ander die niet is zoals de gemiddelde burgerlijke grijze muis. Een land van egoïsme waar hypotheekrenteaftrekm pensioen en immigratie voor gaan op barmhartigheid en liefde voor hen die het moeilijk hebben. Een land dat maatschappelijk en politiek geen enkel ankerpunt meer voor mij vormt en dat mij gevoelsmatig wegjaagt. En hoezeer men het met mij oneens zal kunnen zijn, zijn de woorden gewogen en spreken ze mijn diepste gevoel uit. Mijn ontembaar verlangen to vluchten naar desnoods een stad die niet meer bestaat. Weg van het grijs, weg van de verzuring en de beschimping. Weg van de krantenkoppen vol mensenhaat, weg van het gebrek aan compassie, weg van de tweets van Wilders en de lamlendigheid van een tandeloze oppostitie. En vooral weg van het land dat mij mijn gevoel ontneemt en me omlaag drukt tot er niets meer van me over is. Met een vage hoop dat er ooit een andere tijd zal komen. Ik kan momenteel niet anders dan hiermee mijn diepste gedachten laten vallen op deze plek. Want ik ben moe. Heel erg moe van dit land. Heel erg moe van jou, o Nederland.

Hier is mijn versie:

“Ik ben zo moe van jou, o Nederland”

Ik ben onderweg naar een stad die niet meer bestaat
En loop weg van de plaats die ik altijd heb gehaat
Ik zoek naar mensen die hun hart niet hebben verbrand
ik ben zo moe van Nederland

Ik maak het goed voor de leugens van de Telegraaf
Ik maak het goed voor die liedjes o zo braaf
Het lijkt wel of hun waarheid niet meer bestaat
Ik ben zo moe van jou, o Nederland

Ik zoek er mijn eigen pijn, zal er niet eenzaam zijn
Ik heb mijn leven lief, o Nederland
Ik heb mijn leven lief

Zeg me, denk je echt over de hel omdat je teveel liefde gaf?
Zeg me, denk je echt dat alles wat je deed zo goed was
Ik moet het weten, na het bloed van die jongen die daar ligt in een plas
Ik ben zo moe van Nederland

Ik moet het weten
Misschien zal ik je nooit meer zien, of misschien ook wel
Jij had je voordeel van een wereld en ook van je spel
Ik ben onderweg naar een stad die niet meer bestaat
Ik ben zo moe van jou, o Nederland

Ik zoek er mijn eigen pijn, zal er niet eenzaam zijn
Ik heb mijn leven lief, o Nederland
Ik heb mijn leven lief
Heb nu teveel verdriet
Maar tòch ’n droom in ‘t verschiet
En dat is al, meer niet

Ik zoek er mijn eigen pijn, zal er niet eenzaam zijn
Ik ben onderweg
naar een stad die niet meer bestaat

Muziek, tekst: © Rufus Wainwright
Hertaling: Alice Verheij © 2012

A lady, some dead poets and a painter’s academy.

Didn’t expect to find the one we did and not to find the one we wanted to. I mean, we were looking for that dead actress but found the lady instead. Lady Wilde to be exact. Oscar’s mom. According to her tombstone she wasn’t just his mother but also a nationalist (which is no surprise) and a women’s rights activist (which is a surprise to me). But also a pretty snobbish character according to Dave. Dave? Yes, Dave. The old guy we met at the graveyard and who visits the place twice a week every week. He likes the quiet atmosphere he said. And he loves to chat about the people who’s remains are lying there under the most fantastic stones, monuments and tombs. Surrounded by stone carved angels frozen in time. It’s a poets place shared with writers, theater people and painters, doctors and officers, gentlemen and their ladies.

lady wilde

So what’s snobbish about lady Wilde? Well, Dave told me that she had some desires concerning the place where her remains were to rest till eternity. A tree for instance. She demanded to be buried under a tree, which I can understand as she would be secured by crows and other creatures inhabiting the trees. Like the squirrels one can see running around the place. The snobbish thing however was her wish not to be born next to ‘commoners’. After all, lady Wilde was a lady and commoners where of the lower species in her opinion, I presume. I guess it’s forgiven by now.

Dave was quite a character and we met him by accident. The old man was about seventy years old I suppose and walking in the muddy paths in between the stones and monuments. He obviously knew his way around because for an hour or so he guided us through the maze of thousands of stones to the likes of William Thackeray, princess Sophia, some poets and writers and peculiar ladies. With stories as a company he clearly enjoyed showing some of the special monuments. From the Egyptian like tomb with the sphinxes around it, to the lady with the veil over het head and the tomb from which a tree grows without any roots in the ground. It made the place magical and the visit most enjoyable.

After the long walk it was nice to rest a bit at the pub just around the corner. A typical Victorian style building with high ceilings, dark wooden panelling, an endlessly long bar and just the right tables and chairs to be comfortable. The Mason’s Arms is an old one, named after the stone masons who would have been working next door carving stones and monuments.

The tube station is near and within minutes the underground brought us right into the heart of London for a non buying shopping spree in Oxford and Carnaby Street, Piccadilly, Soho and with some detours to Burlington House, the wonderful building where the Royal Academy of Arts was and still is seated. It is magnificent with beautifully painted ceilings, impressive stairways and an atmosphere which is inviting. Great exhibitions too but that wasn’t what we came for. It was the building with the seven arches at the entrance looking like enormous teeth in a monsters mouth waiting for people to step inside.

Time warp.

We’re in the Windsor Castle. The pub, not the castle. In Holland Park close to the Kensington area for which this whole visit is intended. The great thing about the place is that’s its still for the most part in its original state. Three areas separated by wooden walls to divide the customers. At the back is the Sherry Bar. In old times for men only. The 1835 pub was first a meeting place for farmers bringing cattle to the market in Hyde Park, then a meeting place for painters and poets and now for trendy and moderately wealthy locals. Most important me is that it is the very location where some of my novels characters used to meet long, long time ago. And it felt good to be there because it was everything I hoped for to find. An ideal spot for some key scenes in the lives of the ladies who have become a part of my life in such an unexpected manner.

A few hours later we’re back at the Mason’s Arms, drawing a bit and writing a bit in anticipation of what’s to waiting for us in the coming days.

© 2013 Alice Anna Verheij

Year’s end and new beginnings.

When I face the desolate impossibility of writing 500 pages, a sick sense of failure falls on me, and I know I can never do it. Then gradually, I write one page and then another. One day’s work is all that I can permit myself to contemplate. John Steinbeck

I was born on a New Year’s Eve. Nepali New Year’s Eve on April 13 to be exact. Not the one we celebrate here. I wasn’t aware of that until last year. Working and living in Nepal made me realize it. Of course it is of no importance besides the fact that I nowadays celebrate the New Year twice a year. Once is my own new year, the other one is everyone else’s new year. And every year I reflect on the past year, look back a year, or two or three, and compare. Compare how my life is compared to the previous New Year’s Eves. I’ve always done that because I solemnly believe that when times are hard it is good to look back and based on the comparison understand where the progress has been. I thrive on progress and change, that’s why I do that. Because I also believe that the year I can no longer define progress in any aspect I will have lost my soul.

Past nine years have brought joy, challenge, pain and sorrow. So, on the one scale is all that defines me now as the person I am and what I think is good. The other scale is loaded with the negative, the disasters, illnesses and headwind. And I do not even try to objectivate the outcome. Because if I do I I can not be sure that the overall balance is positive. I simply don’t know if I’m better off now than a year ago. This year has learned more than any year before that the negative might just as well bring a lot op positive things and the seemingly positive can be a dark thing.

A year ago I was in love, and love was answered. In another place in the world, far away from home I had unexpectedly found a woman who I fell in love with and in spite of a massive ravine between our cultures. I felt my life had changed and I planned to move away from Europe and start another life in Asia. It wasn’t even a dream but it was a reality and steps were made, choise were made and I felt so good. In February the axe fell. Totally unexpected. Cultural differences prooved unbreacheable. I had to let go and to be honest, I had already done so the day I stepped on that damned airplane that flew me back to my European life in January. Sometimes I still feel I shouldn’t have boarded that plane but just stayed. For that new life. For love.

I didn’t stay. I flew back. I lost my love.

It tumbled me over and then it was the April New Year’s Eve and I turned fifty, thinking it didn’t matter to me at all. But it did. A lot, an awful lot. I fell sick and the summer went unnoticed. I did not live.

By fall I started breathing again. I published a novel and a photobook. Photo exhibitions followed and there is still one ongoing until February next year. Four days after my birthday on April 18 I was in bed with a bad flu and I found a painting on the internet. I swept me off my feet. I had to know what that painting was and I started researching. I found out it was made by a nineteenth century painter who lived in Kensington, London. ‘Flaming June‘ made me restart my life. Research learned me that there was a dispute about the model who sat for Frederick Leighton for thet specific painting. That dispute led me to a forgotten woman who died in the 1930’s but who was three decades earlier one of the most beautiful women in England. And gradually a story unfolded which was already there waiting to be revealed. More on that can be read here: www.woordenstorm.nl/lachrymae.

Flaming_June,_by_Fredrick_Lord_Leighton_(1830-1896)

It’s end of December now, tomorrow is the last day of this year. I am working hard on my new novel which has evolved in a trilogy about three women, about emancipation, about relationships, war, poverty, wealth, beauty and decay. And about me. It’s the work I will have to write in the coming year, maybe even years. I already know most of the story but I also know that as always it will grow and evolve in a much more detailed and compelling story. My biggest work ever. And tonight I look back. Back to this crazy year.

My life is in many aspects destroyed in the past decade. My body is defect in a very private aspect and I feel deep sadness about that. It actually is the reason why relationships scare me. I don’t think anyone can help me with that, it is very much my own struggle to get some peace over that. My economics are, well they are virtually non-existent. To Dutch standards I am poor and in debt to a level that I will never overcome, no matter what I do and no matter how hard I work. This was the year that I had to learn the harsh reality of not having the money to lead a normal life. I don’t have my own front door anymore, most of my belongings have gone (which for the most of it I don’t mind at all), I can hardly afford transport to anywhere and my social life is becoming smaller and smaller. There are days I do not have food. But this year also learned me that I have the ability to go on and after a year living way below poverty standards I am still here. The most important thing that happend to me this year is that I relearned to make decisions about my own life again. Because I did.

Which brings me to next year.

January will be very difficult. They’re coming to take some of my things away. I won’t be there myself. Complicated story. Pressure is building on me rapidly and life will certainly not improve in January. But important moves are being made. Finance stuff for instance. In the coming months it will all become more transparant and that will inevitable lead me into some sort of debt reduction scheme or bankruptcy. Life won’t end over that. What will happen is that I’m entering a couple of years of very poor living standards but I have the assurance that they won’t be worse than they are now. And yes, that old divorce thing will be corrected in the coming months and that might very well bring a lot of relief. If only because the negative economic part of that will be lifted and redevided in a manner that is fair and making my life easier. It’s all the direct result of the I choice made this year to start rebuilding my life after a downwards spiral that had caught me in the past nine years.

And then there is art. The other major decision I made is that my life will be about writing my books, making my photos and filmwork and focus on the arts as my line of business and the major driving force in my life. It even tops relationships. I know now I can not make any concessions anymore in regard to the art I make and the reason why I do that. Because writing is for me like breathing. There is no way that I can stop that or want to do so. Which made me to choose a pseudonym for writing my future work. Enter Anna Ros. 2012 has brought me a lot on the artistic plane because I’ve grown and made major steps forward but 2013 is even more promising in that. My work improved and so did my writing. I have become confident in that work. I know my abilities and I know where improvement is needed. And there is a lot out there waiting for me to take on. The trilogy being the most important work but there’s also that other loosely related work which I make with a befriended writer. It will surprise a lot of people and is really exciting to make. And of course the film will get finished in 2013, at last. Not as one major work but as a series of three or four short documentaries, portraits of specific people telling the story of forgotten refugees.

And love? Well, that is something else entirely. I am not chasing it to the intensity that I did in the past years. If it happens, it happens. Which doesn’t mean I am not in love because I think I am. To a certain extend. Maybe 2013 will be a good year for love. I would like that but of course that’s uncertain. What is certain is that it will be a great year for friendships. With the few people out there who really know me.

So, this New Years Eve is a very unclear one. Unclear on how my live will continue in 2013, uncertain about where I’ll live and with who. Uncertain about love. But very certain about what defines me: my writings.

I wish all of you a good 2013. With health and love. Skip the economics and other non important things of life, just go for happiness and health. That should suffice.

Love,
Alice Anna

© 2012 Alice Anna Verheij

Living backwards.

I don’t know. I really don’t. Thing is that I have this feeling that I am living life backwards. Growing younger in stead of aging. A bit like Sean Morey wrote a long time ago and being quoted – and misquoted by the likes of George Carlin and Woody Allan. Living backwards as if I become younger. As if youth is returning and I am not coming of age but leaving of age in stead.

alice living backwards

I know by experience that life is a circular thing, it revolves and revolves again. Which means age is just a state of mind, not a reality. I know young people with an age old mind and old people with a juvenile brain. It’s how things are. Every now and then the two meat on common ground when two people find each other and recognize the other one as ‘one of those’ or even ‘one of us’. The old spirits who are truly age-less. These amazing people that seem not to be locked into the age their physical presence prescribes. They’re souls, they’ve circled, they know, they reconize and they do not care for wether the other person is physically older or younger. They are the ones who recognize true age, the age of the heart. I do not believe in re-incarnation because I know, the memory and the experience is simply to vivid not to be understood.

And I guess I’m one of them. I’ve been here before.

I’ve been young and I’ve been old. Now I’m in between the two. I have experiences, I’ve loved and have been loved, fell in love and lost it, been rich and poor, healthy and less healthy. It really doesn’t matter that much anymore. It seems that I’ve past the boundary of ignorance and I’ve loved and hated the journey. But it’s coming to an end because I do know where I am, what I am and why. There’s no need for what other people find important.

By surprise I found that it’s clear now. I don’t mind how things go unless I can be with the ones I love and create whatever my minds tells me to. I am for what it’s worth my art and my art is my life. No boundaries, no consessions, no hustling. I just know I’ll be fine, I’ll just grow younger or maybe even shrink younger. I am opposite.

Anna.

Is UNHCR creating malnutrition in the Bhutanese refugee camps in Nepal?

A few days ago a letter was written by important members of the Bhutanese refugee community in Nepal to the UNHCR in that country. The letter is a request to discuss maltreatment by the UNHCR regarding the refugees they are supposed to take care of.

What is happening?

Since the early 1990’s the UNHCR has managed and maintained a number of refugee camps in the southeast of Nepal (more exact, in the Jhapa and Morang districts). At its height there were over 107.000 refugees listed in those camps. Since 2008 the UNHCR has started the by far largest third country resettlement program ever aiming at completely solving the decades long refugee crisis of the Bhutanese who exiled from their Shangri-La like country in the Himalayas.

unhcr

The UNHCR has done a tremendous job in guarding peace in those camps while at the same time bringing essential humanitarian aid the the inhabitants. Nepal (just like India and Bhutan) never signed the UN refugee treaty so the UNHCR has been working there on a UN mandate. They have been partnering with AMDA (Asian Medical Doctors Association) for health care, Caritas for education, Lutheran World Federation for camp management and monitoring and the WFP World Food Program for food distribution to the camp communities that have no other means of existence.

But things have changed. The aim of the UNHCR in Nepal seems to have shifted in the past few years from caring for the refugees who livin in limbo in the camps to bringing a durable solution to their situation by third country resettlement. According to the international morale of refugees the people should repatriate but that has obviously proven to be an impossible dream as Bhutan, the country of Gross National Happiness, has been frustrating talks and efforts for that ever since the crisis started in 1991. Assimilation in the Nepalese and Indian society is also a no go as Nepal and India do not accept that (the lack the resources to do that on a humanitarian responsible manner), hence the durable solution of the UNHCR: resettling to the west.

This resettlement project is well underway with almost two thirds of the refugees already resettled to mainly the US and countries like Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Norway Denmark, Netherlands and the UK. But there are fears that not all refugees will resettle. After all it is an opt-in project and not all refugees desire a life in a completely alien western society ultimately losing their history, religion and way of life in due time. Some 10,000 refugees have not opterd for resettlement. Let alone the other more than 4,000* refugees that have not been registered as refugees for a variety of reasons. They do however live in those camps without food, healthcare and proper housing. (* The number is based on a headcount by camp management in 2011 and has decreased to a yet unknown figure.)

So something needs to happen. Recently the UNHCR has announced that they can no longer provide vegetables to the refugees, taking out an important element in their diet which is by no means extensive. The effects of not supplying vegetables as of January 2013 will no doubt be deteriorating health of the camps population in the coming years. The reason the UNHCR has given is that they lack a proper budget for this essential food. Which is very strange as the European Union has provided for a over 3 Million Euro budget for the UNHCR for the years 2012, 2013 and 2014, continuing the financing of the UNHCR’s operation in regard to those camps. So what is happening?

According to the Beldangi camp secretary, Dhan Bir Subba, (Beldangi is the largest of the two remaining camps) the UN has informed them that the budget is redistributed by the UNHCR to other refugee crisis areas in the world. Basically stating that they simply do no longer see a priority in maintaining proper support to the Bhutanese refugees still living in the camps in Nepal. Which of course is an extra push to get the refugees to the point that they will opt for resettlement. So is this argument used by the UNHCR just a trick to reach a ‘durable solution’ by increasing pressure on the refugee community to resettle completely? And if so, is that ethical?

According to Subba the UNHCR has declared that they have no other option than to decrease the available budget for the Bhutanese exiles in the camps, a ‘Hopson’s choice’ so to speak. The UNHCR has also declared that they will distribute vegetable seeds as an alternative, but as the remaining camps are heavily populated, the availability of enough land to grow crops is a question that remains. The UNHCR seems to have suggested to use the empty huts of resettlers for that purpose.

The chairman of the Bhutanese Refugee Representative Repatriation Committee, Dr Bhampa Rai, who I have het the privilige to interview a number of times concerning the situation of the refugees, has condemned the UNHCR decision. And by all means, the timeline between announcing and stopping vegetable distribution is just over a month, making it impossible for the refugees to grow enough crops for a healthy nutrition, seems irresponsible.

“The decision has created doubts on UNHCR’s intention towards refugees. How can those who themselves survive on delicious vegetables on daily basis decide to stop the supply of the same items for us,” Dr Rai said according to the Bhutan News Service.

The question that this raises is wether the UNHCR is now going to a stage in promoting resettlement to the refugees by disregarding basic human rights like proper nutrition. And that is not all. The Bhutanese refugees feel that they are pressurized by the UNHCR to resettle, which means that they doubt wether they really have a free choince NOT to resettle but continue hoping for repatriation to their motherland.

Apart from the other issues mentioned in the request written by major community leaders to the UNHCR (see the attached letter), the nutrition issue is a very serious decline in the basic care for the refugees and frustrates the mandate of the UNHCR itself. The monthly supply of (only) 500 grams of season vegetables is ending this month. The diet of refugees in the camps will lack one of its important components and is for health reasons undesireable.

It is worrying that the UNHCR is also forbidding the refugee leaders to bring their complaints to the VIP’s who visit the camps. From personal experience working as a journalist in the camps I do know that some issues (like the large numner of unregistered refugees, the deteriorating education in the camps and the mounting crime like identity fraud and even institutionalized fraud) are being kept under the radar. Freedom of press and freedom of speech are just as much at stake as the basic human rights of the camp population. ‘Thou shalt not report negative’ is an adagium in this unmonitored situation.

LETTER-TO-UNHCR

It seems that the UNHCR is building pressure to end the Bhutanese refugee crisis and is not stepping away from methods that should be doubted and discussed on an international level and especially at the European Union, being the main financier of the UNHCR in Nepal.

In the meanwhile malnutrition is something that the Bhutanese refugees in Nepal should fear. The reality of life in the UNHCR managed refugee camps in Nepal is that things are not at all nice and dandy and in fact seem to become worse. But will the international community respond to that?

© 2012 Alice Anna Verheij

Karma

No I am not a Buddhist. Nor am I an educated Hindu. I am also not a Christian anymore and certainly not Muslim. In fact I am non religious.

But am I really?

Well, maybe not. Maybe I am a religious person but in a different way. Maybe I do believe in powers stronger than mankind. Maybe I do believe in good fate and bad fate.

I do believe in a certain balance from within. A balance I am slowly learning to understand. The Buddhist principal of enlightment is something I think I understand. Up to a level. However, I do not understand why Buddhists can be as violent as they often are. Because I know they are. I’ve seen too much of that in regard to Bhutan. And I do not accept that it’s the Birmese Buddhist monks that are as true racists hindering Islamic charity organizations to enter the country and help the poor people in the refugee camps in the west of Birma along the Bangladesh border.

Islam is something I cannot embrace. It’s too violent. There are too many wars fought by Muslims nowadays. And I think that just as in other religions there really is a terrible inequality between men and women. Let alone other genders like me. No matter what other Muslims say, there seems to be an unbreachable gap between the Islam vision on humanity and the lack of positive action in the world coming from Muslim countries.

Same goes for Judism for as far as I am concerned. Because the politics from Israel (and their US based supporters) is disgusting. To my opinion.

I am certainly not Christian. I know too much of history to be able to be Christian. I would be too ashamed to be part of that religion. And I know I don’t believe in hell. Actually, that is the very reason why I cannot be a Christian anymore. I simply cannot mentally accept that there would be a God of revenge allowing a place like hell to exist. For me that God would not be a God but quite the opposite.

Hindu? No. Because there are too much problems in that. I love some cultural aspects of Hinduism and I certainly am positively interested in the concept of integration of the Hindu Gods in daily life. But I doubt the way minorities are treated and the caste system that seems to have originated from Hinduism is something I can never accept. It is horrendous.

But I do believe in the concept of karma. The concept of predestination on the basis of how people act and how ‘the system’ works. The concept of consequences connected with acts and thoughts and the lasting effect of that. Even on to new life over the border of death. Reincarnation is something that I can believe in. Just as people say they’ve not seen proof I find that there has also not been proof against it. And I do have some experiences I cannot explain and that haven proven to me that these connections to previous lives are certainly possible.

And I do believe in dharma. In doing what I have to do. And what I have to do is what I know by heart is the only reasonable option to do. Always. That includes the positive and negative and the choices I make and have made in life. I do believe that there is a framework, a masterplan, that we do not see or know. But that guides our lives.

And I have learned to trust both dharma as a sort of guidance system in my life nowadays and karma as the inevitability of how life unravels itself to me (and others). I solidly believe that there are reasons for me to be who I am and to experience my life like it is. Which is why I meditate, read the old Hindu books and slowly learn the importance of that guidence system in life. It is why I honor deteis like Nataraja and Ardhanrishvara as the two Hindu Gods that are closest to my inner person. That is where the connection lies and that is what I am slowly starting to understand as the core mechanism of my being.

Real life proves it to me.

Example. I live a poor life. I am pretty sure that just about everyone I talk too has an economically easier life than I have. And if I would really have to live off the funds I have available it would we be totally impossible to live in this complicated money driven society. I am in fact living at the sideline.

Which is fine with me.

Because I’ve learned to trust karma. I’ve learned that when things are really important and need funds to be supported on an acceptable level, I can trust that there will always happen something positive. Just today, that positive way of looking at life got rewarded. Our work (mine and my friends work) is on display in a gallery in the best possible manner. And that little backup that I need to be able do that one thing that is so important for the research on my new book, seems to be there. Totally unexpected when looked at from a western perspective but totally expected when looked at from an eastern perspective. Karma proved its existence again to me.

I suppose for a lot of people this thinking is unrealistic or even crap. But for me it certainly is not. It is how my life works. And I don’t mind. Actually I like it this way. I guess I am partly Hindu, a little Buddhist with a Christian background which originated from Judaism. A wonderful mix.

So, why did I write this?
I wouldn’t know. I suppose I just had to.

© 2012 Alice Anna

A postcard from Jane.

Today, to my surprise, I received a postcard from Jane. Jane Morris. She lived in England between 1839 and 1914. She was a model. In those Victorian times she was one of the three grand ladies of painting next to Elisabeth Siddal who was portrayed as Ophelia by the great painter John Everett Millais and Dorothy Dene, one of the three muses I am writing about in my new novel. Dorothy was no doubt the most beautiful of the three but she was a kind of Marilyn Monroe and died at a too early age of 39 presumably of laudanum overdose but probably due to an abortion that went wrong.

Anyway, Jane Morris was as a model rather surprisingly probably the most successful of the three women. She was married to a known and respected painter and by that was wealthy compared to others. And she was the lover of Dante Gabriel Rosetti, the prince charming of the pre Raphaelites. Jane is the most portrayed and Jane was no doubt the least talented of the three models in those days. Dorothy was an actress and Elisabeth Siddal a very talented paintress. Jane however was a model of vry humble working class descent, her talent being a mystifying beauty and an enduring inspiration to both Rosetti as her husband William Morris.

So, Jane wrote me a few days ago from London. Having lunch on a boat not far from the Tate where her portraits hang, in between writing her lifestory. A couple of months ago we’ve met in a café just around the corner where I live. She told me about her life and I told her about mine. You see, I identify as much with Lena Dene as my table partner identifies with Jane. Lena is, as you might already know from my other writings, the younger and unknown sister of the fore mentioned Dorothy and in real life was named Isabell Helena Pullen, a cockney girl by birth. Anyway I talked to Jane, or her reincarnation, that day and was struck by the amazing resemblence of her with the Jane from way back then. During the following months I researched for my book and in the process thought of this Jane many times. I saw her portraits hundreds of times. And now I received this wonderful postcard. Seems she’d been thinking of me too in the past time and as she wrote followed my advice, went back to London and started writing. I wonder what will come of that.

Hopefully we’ll meet again soon.

© 2012 Alice (Lena) Anna Verheij

Give me a reason.

Some time ago, this song helped me. I don’t know why because a few years later I feel even more worn out. Actually, I guess I am. What’s left of me is my ability to write the book I’ve been compelled to write for such a long time. So I can close it, no matter what. I am sorry, It will not be a nice story.

Give me reason
to go on and on
a reason to fight
a straw to hold

Give me a reason
to keep trying
against the odds
and in the cold

Give me a reason
to live a dream
a cause to chase
a path to walk

Give me a reason
to not give up
and try again
and to grow old

Give me a reason
to love this life
for what it is
a life too bold

I guess I am like Kerouac’s fabulous yellow roman candle. Mad to talk, mad to llive, mad to be saved. Burning candles will some day extinguish.

© 2012 Alice Anna Verheij

De wereld veranderd niet.

Als documentair kunstenaar wordt ik soms getroffen door analogiën in oude kunst met mijn eigen werk. Christa Zaat, een facebook kunstverzamelaar die een onvoorstelbaar fraaie verzameling Victoriaanse en Edwardiaanse schilderijen op haar facebook gepubliceerd heeft, verraste me met een schilderij van de Engelse schilder Walter Langley. Zijn schilderij ‘Waiting for the boats’ laat vissersvrouwen zien die wachten op de boten die op haringvangst buitengaats waren. Ze kijken met afwachting, spanning en soms angst naar de zee bij de haven. Komen de mannen terug? Zijn alle boten er? Is mijn geliefde er bij? Of mijn zoontje?

Het schilderij laat het leven zien van de vrouwen in mijn familie een paar generaties terug. Mijn opa was immers een visser. En zijn vader ook. De spanning op de gezichten zijn een voorbode van het leed dat mogelijk op de vrouwen wacht. Want als de mannen niet terugkeerden lag nog zwaardere armoede in het verschiet.

Walter Langley (English painter) 1852 – 1922
Waiting for the Boats, 1885

Maar het schilderij riep bij mij nog iets heel anders op. De treffende gelijkenis in de uitdrukking op de gezichten van de vrouwen die ik fotografeerde in een vluchtelingenkamp in Nepal zes weken nadat een brand hun kamp en alles wat ze bezaten verbrandde. Ik weet overigens bijna zeker dat enkelen van hen inmiddels in Amerika of Australië, Nederland of Nieuw Zeeland of in een ander land wonen, begonnen aan een nieuw en minder uitzichtloos maar zeker ook moeilijk bestaan.

© 2011 Alice Anna Verheij
Vluchtelingen vrouwen en kinderen wachtend op hulp, mei 2011 Goldhap Camp, Nepal

De vrouwen op mijn foto wachten op wat er gebeuren gaat. Er wordt die dag hulp gebracht maar of zij daar wat van krijgen is niet duidelijk. De zwaarte van hun bestaan drukt op ze als een loden last en de ogen stralen niet alleen berusting uit maar soms ook wanhoop. Het beeld van deze foto is er slecht één van de honderden, nee duizenden, die op mijn netvlies staan en die ik in vele foto’s en videobeelden heb. Ze doen pijn. En ze motiveren me om door te gaan met wat ik doe: de beelden delen met een ieder die bereid is de ogen open te houden voor het leed van anderen. Mijn vrouwen zijn geen visservrouwen maar vluchtelingen, gevlucht voor een regime dat niet schroomde om een groot deel van het eigen volk het land uit te jagen. Zoals de visservrouwen de slachtoffers waren van hun armoede in een maatschappij die niet voor ze zorgde.

Er is in pakweg honderdvijfentwintig jaar in werkelijkheid niets veranderd. De ogen van zij die het zwaar hebben laten dat zien. In 1885 en in 2011, dezelfde blik, vergelijkbaar leed:

Hierbij nog wat gegevens over Langley’s schilderij voor de liefhebbers (met dank aan Christa):

Langley’s mastery of watercolour allowed him to capture the clear morning light of Cornwall as the fisherwomen wait on the quayside by the seawall in the last few moments of leisure when they are able to share news, knit and read letters from relatives as they await the arrival of the herring fleet that has been away at sea and is returning with the day’s catch. All is still and peaceful before these women’s strenuous daily work begins and the women have to unload and clean the fish. The youngest of the women appears to be concerned about the arrival of the boats, perhaps nervous that not all of them will return; many men were killed in ocean storms. The anxious expression on her young face is in contrast to the weather-beaten skin of the older women who are used to sitting and waiting for the boats. It is this subtle sentiment that Langley was able to capture so convincingly, because he understood the women and their hopes and fears and knew what it was like to be poor and to work hard.

© 2012 Alice Anna Verheij

The fall of the sportsman.

Remember how it all began
the apple and the fall of man
The price we pay
so the people say
Down the path of shame it led us
dare to bite the hand that fed us
Fairy tale the moral end,
wheel of fortune never turns again
Never turns again

Above lyrics have been my phones ringtone for quite sometime. I know them by heart. They’re from a song by Natalie Merchant. ‘Thick as thieves’ is the title. It’s a mysteriously complex song with lyrics of biblical proportions. She sings about the fall of men and of how a king abandones his people and in the end falls from grace. Like mankind has fallen from grace.

Like the sportsman that fell from grace. Like Lance Armstrong.

I use that ringtone as a constant reminder to me about the nature of mankind and the consequences of that. To warn me against deceit and to let me understand that superiority and status have no meaning but are nothing more than the outcome of fortune. In most cases. Of course, for the real great women and men in history this is different. They have gained status and were in many cases superior. But not without mistakes. Gandhi was a strange guy doing very strange things to young girls. Mandela was involved in agression and Rabin was a freedom fighter with blood on his hands. But all of them were great in their own right because they’ve changed themselves over time and have become examples of man’s greatness to the world.

So how about Lance Armstrong? The fallen sportsman. And how about cycling as a sport or sport as a part of society? What is the relation with the songtext I wrote just above these lines?

Lance Armstrong was a cancer patient. And he survived. Not because of persistence although his fight must have been heroic. Not because of his abilities. No, he simply survived because he was fortunate. If not damned lucky. All the noise around him when he returned to cycling after having ‘conquered’ cancer, was crap. And we all knew that. But many wanted to believe. The man now seems to have been a spider in the largest doping & deceit web in cycling history. Maybe in the history of sports all together. And he has fallen. Deep.

But his sport, cycling, had long before fallen. Fallen in the hands of man’s greatest enemy: greed. Sponsors and all kinds of people and organizations, have bundled their forces many years ago. For their own good and for the money. Because cycling is business. Actually sports is business. And where there’s business, there’s greed and deceit. It really is not that complicated to comprehend. Which makes the sport’s crocodile tears the more unbelievable. But there is more.

Where in everyday’s society we have laws to guide us all, sports has its own mechanisms. No laws, but rules. Rules that are constantly broken. To understand the status of rules versus laws one only has to watch a soccer match. Hitting or spitting someone in the face will result in a red card, if its seen by the referee. Or nowadays by the camera. If one would do so in the real world, a night in a cell would be regarded as fairly normal and justified. And that’s just an example. The incidents in sports concerning discrimination of minorities, abuse, substance abuse, deceit, drugs trafficking and dealing, bribes, slander and violence, are countless. Only seldom does that, in normal society defined as anti social, behaviour come to public conviction. Sports have rules, no laws. And because of that sport is behaving lawless because bending and braking the rules is ‘all in the game’.

But is it? Is all of that really ‘all in the game’? Isn’t it logical to file suit against the likes of Armstrong, when proof or testimonies against him are there? Wouldn’t a court case be a normal thing for someone who has become a very rich person thanks to the sport that he used for his own purposes and richness? And wouldn’t it be logical for the police to arrest footbal hooligans who defame people with another skin colour or sexual prevelance? And get them on trial to be convicted. Because in fact, they do break the laws that are in place for the rest of the society.

Isn’t it in a larger perspective not high time that sports in general becomes subdued to law? Wouldn’t it be completely logical to have for instance the FIFA targeted as a criminal organization after proven fraud, threats and bribing of government officials and indeed complete governments? Why would sport continue to have a ‘status aparte’? Why is it that we allow the IOC, the FIFA, the UCI, to name but a few, have a status above the laws of society. Isn’t it completely crazy that we allow these organizations to demand amnesty upfront for crimes by their staff, while negotiating the countries they hold their major sports events? Sport in the twentyfirst century has become almost, if not completely, the most openly corrupted business globally. And it certainly makes victims. Just ask the people in South Africa living close to the soccer stadiums and the people in East London living in the parts of town who were promised improved housing and services but were only used for the greater good of capitalism.

Sports is no loger what it once was intended for and what it for most of the amateurs still is: a fair competition of people who are skilled in a certain area. With winners and losers. And with a participating society that simply loves the games and hates the cheaters. The major sports have become openly criminalized parts of society living in a seemingly lawless world.

Maybe, just maybe, the fall of the sportman Armstrong will lead to a cleaner sport. And maybe, just maybe, society will learn form the fall of who many thought was a great man but who seems to be nothing less than just a fraud.

But unfortunately, Lance Armstrong will probably never get a fair trial in a normal court of law and sports will stay what it is: an in its core dishounest practice which is appealing to be witnessed by the general public. Next year, no doubt, people wil hail the new victor of the Tour de France at the Champs Élysée in Paris. As if nothing has happened and as if the competition was fair.

© 2012 Alice Anna Verheij

The Writing Desk.

Yesterday I did something tremendously important. I created the writing desk for my next book. A couple of months I was lucky when somewhere else in the house I live in a small desk became available. It is the perfect little desk that can be closed to lock away things and opened to give me a writing spot that’s near perfection.

I am writing a novel about the women at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century. I live in a late nineteenth century house in a late nineteenth century part of town in a almost cliché writers room. Small and cluttered with my belongings breathing an atmosphere of past times and orientalism. My room connects with my work. The desk is made of wood and comes from the 1950’s or earlier. It is small but big enough for work and for storage of the books I need. It can hold a vase with flowers and my personal things like the little china boxes and perfume bottles. It has a seat for some of the furries that have value for me and – out of sight – is a handmirror I use for morning make up and to look myself in the eyes every now and then.

Writing a novel requires a well arranged location to do that. Every book has it’s own specific spot. The first one was a café, the second one another café. The third was my bed and the fourth was again a café which actually played a significant role in the novel. Novel five was written in a mountain camp on a small terrace with just a small table in complete isolation overlooking the Himalayans. The perfect spot to keep me in the right mood for that book. The result is Headwind, Laxmi’s Story and was published recently. (Buy it here!). That ‘desk’ looked like this:

And as humble as it looks, when the view is unveiled I had while writing one can imagine that writing a novel in such a place is literally a breeze. Sorry for making anyone jealous. Of course Kakani, the place in the Nuwakot area close to Kathmandu is fixed in my memory like a beautiful dream. In fact I quite often dream about that place.
But, my next novel is somethings else. It is a book about beauty and decay, love and limitations, models, painters, sculpters and the occasional poet. It’s about the love between two women that could be labelled as lesbian love but was much more than that and about the need and importance of adjusting ones sexuality to the circumstances in life. And because of that it is a book about myself. Hence the mirror in my desk.

My room has old things in it. A 1910 Underwood typewriter. Little bronzes and books, a lot of books everywhere. There’s a chandelier and the kiss from Klimt is on the wall covering almost all of that wall. And now, there is this little desk that will become like a second home and where I no doubt will spend a lot of my time writing. The desk in Kakani is no longer there as a desk. No traces left. The writing spots in the café’s are just tables for people to have a coffee or a lunch. My bed is what it is, my bed. And what will become of this desk? Will it survive after the work is done? Or will it stay with me and become the basis of work to come?

© 2012 Alice Anna Verheij

Keep calm and …

Every now and then someone drops a ‘Keep calm and …’ poster on facebook, the backside of their phone, a tee they ware or a bag they drag along with them. I wonder why. I wonder why they want others to stay calm and I wonder why they think staying calm is a positive thing. In fact, when I see one I can rarely stay calm and have a strong tendancy to respond with a big and well meant …

Being a generally kind person I withhold myself from doing so. But not always. Because in my humble opinion a statement like ‘keep calm and be/do/think/say whatever’ statement is patronizing. And I am not the only one. Researchers seem to have found that posters and other crappy goods inspired by the WW2 government poster ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’  are not at all creating an atmosphere of upbeat stoicism. A professor Henry Brubaker (I have really no idea who he is) of the Institute for Studies (which probably doesn’t exist) said:

The poster is actually more likely to inspire exasperation, boredom and a sense of living in a hopelessly empty world where nothing means anything any more and all human experience has been reduced to the purchase of trivial nostalgic shite from shops playing Groove Armada CDs.

And I agree with this probably non existing fraud of a professor. The original poster was designed by the British government during World War Two to empower its people while dodging the bombs thrown at them by the Germ(an)s. Which makes me wonder what the effect of staying calm in such a situation would result in. In that type of situation I would certainly not want to stay calm but get the fuck out of there a.s.a.p. before one of these suckers would land on my head and blow me to oblivion. Wherever that may be.

Barter Books from the UK was responsible for rejuvenating the ‘keep calm and carry on’ thing. This little film explains. Looking at it I can only say that apart from this terrible poster thing I do love that bookshop and would certainly love to pay it a visit if I ever get in the vicinity. Probably because of the miniature trains running on tracks above the racks packed with books. I don’t think they play Groove Armada there.

Anywhatsoeverway, nowadays all kinds of people including my dear son are running around with variants of that silly poster on their stuff. Which is equally silly I think.

So my dear keep calm and whatever friends, please indeed keep calm. And fuck off.

Have a nice weekend though. And drink, drive and fuck safely if you have to.

© 2012 Alice Anna Verheij

Dutch Floriade exhibition embraces human rights violator.

Note: today we received an invitation from the organizing committee of the Floriade to discuss our findings with them. Of course we accept that invitation.

On September 22nd this year a Bhutan day was held at the Floriade World Horticultural Expo in Venlo in the Netherlands. The day was centered around making the world a better place and the concept of ‘Gross National Happiness‘. Amongst the people present that day was Mrs. Erica Terpstra, a well known Dutch liberal ex politician who made a television program about beautiful Bhutan, its nature and culture. Next to Mrs. Terpstra, Mr. Dago Tshering was present. He holds a minister seat in the government of the small Himalayan kingdom.

Erica Terpstra returned home with the honor of having a tulip named after the queen of Bhutan presented, presumably unaware of the fact that she had been shaking hands with a notorious human rights violator. Because, who is Dago Tshering for real?

In the early ninetees, after demonstrations against the at that time already longtime ongoing civil rights violations, a process of ethnic/religious/cultural cleansing was started by the Bhutan government. In just a few years the civil rights and citizenship were taken away from over 20% of Bhutan’s population. Changes in marital and citizenship laws were cooked up to do that. Wearing other clothes than the traditional dress from the powerful ruling elite minority was forbidden and the Nepalese language was banned from schools and government organizations.

Through a policy of state terror in which political murder, random arrests, torture and years long incarceration of intellectuals and leaders from the south and east of the country, the population in those regions was oppressed. After violent attacks by the Royal Bhutan Army and the police against village leaders, their families and other local leaders, a total of over 100,000 and possibly 150,000 people fled the country. Many of them at gunpoint after being forced to sign papers stating they were voluntary leaving and abandoning their homes, land and possessions. The by far percentagewise largest exodus in 100 years really started off in the first months of 1991 after an edict written by that same Dago Tshering who came to Venlo in the Netherlands to welcome the visitors to the Bhutan pavillion on the Floriade exhibition.

Because, on August 17, 1990, Dago Tshering, then Deputy Home Minister of Bhutan wrote a ‘NOTIFICATION’. It states literally, and I quote:

You are hereby instructed to immediately inform alls the gups, DYT members and the general public in your dzongkhag that any Bhutanese national leaving the country to assist and help the anti-nationals shall no longer be considered as a Bhutanese citizen. It must also be made very clear that such people’s family members living under the same household will also be held fully responsible and forfeit their citizenship.

With this order to the Dzongkhas’s, Dago Tshering personally kicked off the ethnic cleansing that would in the end lead to the exile of over 1/6th of Bhutan population.

The Netherlands is, together with the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Denmark, the United Kingdom and the European Parliament, financing the UNHCR refugee camps in Nepal and the resettlement of the larger part of the population of these camps to these fore mentioned countries. By doing so the West is taking the rap for the effects of the Bhutanese ethnic cleansing that was initiated and excuted since 1990 by Dago Tshering and the current prime minister of Bhutan, Mr. Jigme Thinley. The international community has until now spend tens of millions of dollars on this issue and will continue to do so on request by the United Nations. The European Union itself has sourced the UNHCR at the end of 2011 with over 3 million euros for upholding the refugee camps in Nepal and taking care of the after effects after these camps will be emptied by the ‘durable solution’ as the mass resettlement is euphemistically named by the UNHCR.

Bhutan has since 1991 systematically refused to take a serious effort in repatriation of its own people to their villages and homes. The victims live in diaspora without expectations for return to their motherland.

In 2012 however, Dago Tshering is received and honored by the Floriade. There were no Bhutanese refugees present in Venlo. They were not invited by the organization and Mrs. Terpstra probably again had no idea what she was dealing with.

© 2012 Alice Anna Verheij