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Posts Tagged ‘Netherlands’

 

The Guardian Angels who preside over the affairs of yours truly recently enabled a short trip to Netherlands. Other than a wonderful meeting with some fans of P G Wodehouse in Amsterdam, one could also visit Zaanse Schans and Rotterdam.

Of tilting at windmills

Zaanse Schans in Netherlands is best known for its collection of well-preserved historic windmills and houses. Built from 1576 AD onwards, these windmills have been used for multiple purposes. Claude Monet was so impressed that he came up with several paintings depicting these.

From 1961 to 1974 old buildings from all over the Zaanstreek were relocated to the area, so as to preserve this unique architectural heritage and to promote this as a unique open air museum of windmills, old houses and traditional crafts.

While crossing the windswept bridge over the river Zaan, one is captivated by the panoramic view of windmills. One could be excused to feel like a Don Quixote who is firming up plans to tilt at some of the magnificent wooden giants.

Much before the management concepts of Customer Orientation and Flexible Manufacturing Concepts came into vogue, the entrepreneurs owning the windmills had put these into practice. The mills were producing whatever the market demanded.

Tobacco leaves were chopped and pulverized in the past to produce snuff in as many as 83 windmills in the Zaan region. From 1675, around 20 smaller windmills were used to crush mustard.

Over time, in keeping with the demand pattern, windmills underwent a transformation. For example, one of the mills was originally a paint mill, but went on to be a mustard mill, tobacco grinder and board sawmill. Post 1911, it was converted into a timber factory with biscuit boxes being made for the Verkade brand. From 1961 onwards, the famous Mustard was produced here.

Of aniseed products and cow creamers

Some of the windmills have been making spices. Some of you may know that herbs and spices form an integral part of the Dutch cuisine. Spiced biscuits and sweets are commonly found. Mulled wine, aniseed milk and even some sandwich toppings containing aniseed have these. Traditionally, the birth ritual celebrating the arrival of a newborn baby involved the proud father stirring a cinnamon stick into the kandeel, a liqueur, providing strength and warding off evil spirits.

If Jeeves and Bertie Wooster had ever visited the area, the duo would have been delighted to have had an easy access to aniseed products. Luring back a dog McIntosh would then have been the work of a moment for them, enabling them to avoid a trip across the Atlantic so as to escape the fury of Aunt Agatha.

While in Rotterdam, yours truly was delighted to have had the opportunity of sneering at the cow creamers displayed in one of the stores. Being aware that these were indubitably of modern Dutch origin, one lost no time in registering scorn. The same was the treatment meted out to some distant cousins of the Empress of Blandings on the next shelf. However, all this sneering and scorning did not leave the sales girl on the counter amused.

But the aim of one’s life is never to keep sales girls amused. Rather, it is to outgrow the inane desires to possess material objects and thereby enjoy unalloyed bliss.

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2019/03/08/another-drones-club-meeting-in-amsterdam)

 

 

 

 

 

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‘Is Mr. Little in trouble, sir?’

‘Well, you might call it that. He’s in love. For about the fifty-third time. I ask you, Jeeves, as man to man, did you ever see such a chap?’

‘Mr. Little is certainly warm-hearted, sir.’

‘Warm-hearted! I should think he has to wear asbestos vests.’ 

(The Inimitable Jeeves)

 

If one happens to be an ardent fan of P G Wodehouse pottering about Amsterdam, and gets an opportunity to meet up local members of the P G Wodehouse Society there, one would be wise to wear an asbestos vest before popping up at the gig. One does not necessarily allude to romantic possibilities here, but only to the kind of warmth, sweetness and courtesy which welcomes one at such events.

When yours truly, in the garb of Bingo Little, passed by Amsterdam recently, Psmith, the journalist and cricket historian, lost no time in organizing a small get together. Galahad, the charming President of the Society, took some time off from his linguistic and scholarly pursuits and decided to join in. Pop Glossop, yet another linguist and a communication expert, trooped in, duly braced for the loony festivities.

A lay person could be excused for believing that not much gets discussed at such gigs. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Besides the characters and narratives dished out by Plum, the events which led one to come under the spell of the Wodehouse canon get recounted. Different lenses with which his works can be viewed – social, economic, political, psychological, and the like – get discussed. The relevance of the same in our tension-ridden contemporary times is subjected to a pitiless analysis. The need for new books which try and imitate the Master comes up for a mention. Personal experiences which remind one of some Plummy instances get shared. The work being done by various Wodehouse societies the world over to spread Wodehousitis gets appreciated.

Bingo Little, fresh from his international travels over the past two years, had an intensive discussion with Galahad. Copious notes made by the latter may soon result in an article which could get unleashed on the unsuspecting members of the Society in the June 2019 edition of its journal, Nothing Serious. He also received a treasure trove of books – Dutch translations of some of the Master’s works and a compendium of the wit and wisdom of Wodehouse by Tony Ring – from Galahad and Psmith. Bingo obviously felt honoured and chuffed, especially because after the gig got over, Pop Glossop ensured that Bingo’s return to his temporary abode in the city was comfortable.

Earlier, during a leisurely stroll around the Amstel, Psmith was quick to point out to Bingo Little the various attractions of the city. One of these was a statue of Spinoza, ‘the Prince of Philosophers’, in front of the Amsterdam City Hall by the Zwanenburgwal. As we know, Spinoza is held in high esteem by none other than Jeeves himself.

The duo also passed by the house where Rembrandt had lived for some time. It is common knowledge that there are many reasons for the centuries-old popularity of the renowned artist – the tremendous volume of his output, the range and the quality of his work, and the kind of unique life he lived. But beneath all this is the undercurrent of human psychology that his work represents. Look at any of his subjects, and you can somehow surmise the kind of slings and arrows that Fate might be bestowing upon them at the time of facing the artist’s easel.

Rembrandt

The narratives dished out by Plum are not different. The psychology of the individual reigns supreme. Whether one comes across mentally negligible bachelors, intelligent valets, goofy females, maiden aunts, helmet-pinching curates, eccentric bishops, or even senile aristocrats and their nagging sisters, it is their psychology which determines the flow of the goings on. Even those from the animal kingdom get presented to a reader with unique insights into their behavioural patterns.

It stands to reason that Netherlands, which produced creative geniuses of the stature of Spinoza, Rembrandt and Vincent van Gogh and many others, has one of the few societies which spread sweetness and light globally by keeping the Wodehouse canon alive and kicking.

It does not really matter that the backdrop of his oeuvre is the vanished world of Edwardian England. What matters is that his work continues to educate, engage and entertain all those who decide to take a saunter down the streets of Plumsville, soaking in its brilliant sunshine and savouring low-hanging fruits of pristine humour on the trees lined up on both their sides.

(This article was reproduced in the May 2019 issue of Nothing Serious, the newsletter of the P G Wodehouse Society of Netherlands.)

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/05/03/a-drones-club-meeting-in-amsterdam

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2018/03/13/p-g-wodehouse-fans-some-meetings-during -2017)

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Fans of P G Wodehouse can be found all over the world. When they decide to meet up once in a while, bread crumbs get thrown. Different versions of Sonny Boy get rendered. The Gussie Fink Nottle speech at Market Snodsbury School gets recreated.

Characters and situations get discussed gleefully. The milk of human kindness flows unabated. Flowers bloom. Sanity regains its throne in one’s mental framework. God takes some time off his onerous responsibilities and relaxes in heaven. All is well with the world.

During 2017, yours truly was fortunate to have had some such Plummy encounters. The video here recapitulates the same.

Enjoy!

 

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/05/03/a-drones-club-meeting-in-amsterdam

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/05/15/another-drones-club-meeting-at-asker-in-norway

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/11/23/a-plummy-encounter-in-new-delhi-india)

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Be it Blandings Castle or Totleigh Towers, summer is eternal and the sun beams benevolently across the books of Mr Wodehouse. And Mr Ashok Bhatia, who has spent much of his 60-odd years curling up in bed with the works of the great humourist, hails from a land where the sun-shine is as eternal, although not quite so benevolent. It is more prone to broil the citizens till they totter on the brink of the loony-bin.

In Amsterdam, however, even as the calendar assured that it was nearing the end of April, the weather was having a cold hearty cackle at the expense of misguided tourists shivering in their light jackets. Thus, the erstwhile management consultant and his wife turned up at Restaurant Szmulewicz wrapped from head to toe under many, many layers of wool, fleece and polyester.

Ashok is done with navigating the highways of the corporate world. He now spends his time with NGOs in the rather diverse and distinct disciplines of Management and Spirituality. That is provided he can tear himself away from his lifelong perusal of the antics of Jeeves, Ukridge, Lord Emsworth and the rest of them. He has recently authored a book himself, which takes a humorous look at the principles of management and, as a corollary, mismanagement. But perhaps he is happiest when adding thoughts and reflections to his blog, which, needless to say, is dominated by PG Wodehouse.

Mrs Bhatia has not really been an avid Wodehouse reader herself. But matrimony comes with associative afflictions. She is not immune to the moments when her husband is spotted variously chuckling, guffawing and, to use a modern illusion, rolling on the floor with laughter. Investigations carried out at these junctures do keep popping up Wodehousean passages as chief suspects. And she excels at that profound quality found in the better or worse halves of devoted readers, without which the very pursuit of reading would be rendered impossible – indulgence. She indulges Ashok as he reads, and tolerates him even as he sometimes reads aloud to her. It was this sterling indulgence that had brought her to Szmulewicz, withstanding the association of not only her husband but three more Wodehouseans.

Josepha Olsthoorn and Wil Brouwers had turned up before one could even say ‘Bring on the Girls’, charming and hospitable, eager to spread sweetness and light. And Arun too had been allowed in the restaurant … although as he entered there had been a distinct sound of a very old sheep clearing its throat in the southern alps, followed by the words, “Long hair, sir, in my opinion, is dangerous.”

Thus glasses were clinked, old Plum was toasted, Empress was remembered, Ukridge was discussed. It grew louder and funnier by the minute, an evening filled with humour and hapjes, Galahad and gezelligheid.

In short, it was a perfect what’s-its-name of the thingummy and the thing-um-a-bob of the what d’you-call-it.

(The aforesaid write-up, whipped up by Arunabha Sengupta, appeared in ‘Nothing Serious‘, the magazine unleashed upon its members by the Dutch Wodehouse Society at regular intervals.

Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and freelance sports journalist based in Amsterdam. He also has a past in the software industry that still gives him the jitters. Apart from being a Wodehousean, he is also a Holmesian and is the author of the pastiche ‘Sherlock Holmes and the Birth of The Ashes.’

Permission to reproduce this piece, if piece is indeed the word one wants, is gratefully acknowledged.)

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/05/03/a-drones-club-meeting-in-amsterdam)

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The intermittent rays of a highly reluctant evening sun were falling on the city of a wind-swept Amsterdam. The Amstel flowed quietly. The Opera House rose from its banks in a majestic manner.

At the Rembrandt Square, a swathe of wide-eyed tourists of various sizes, shapes and ethnicities were busy getting photographed for the sake of posterity. Some liked to be remembered standing just beneath the imposing statue of the famous painter of the country. Others preferred to get clicked with the soldiers surrounding the main statue in the square. Some others fancied being seen in the company of army drummers which formed a part of the ensemble of statues at the square.

Just off the square, located on Bakkerstraat, inside a cosy and warm restaurant by the name of Szmulewicz, the owner, with a stiff upper lip which would have put even the Rev. Aubrey Upjohn to shame, was surveying his patrons of the day with a distinct frown of disapproval. He thought those visiting his place on the day were rather a noisy and boisterous lot. A sprightly and conscientious Miss Mabel was scurrying around, serving customers with alacrity and elan.

Psmith, the efficient coordinator who had organized the Drones Club meeting at the restaurant, was anxiously waiting for his invitees to join him.

Given the address, one could be forgiven to presume that he was expecting the famous detective and his companion, Doctor Watson, to join up. After all, literally translated from Dutch, Bakkerstraat is nothing but Baker Street. Alas, that was not the case, for the street was located not in London but in Amsterdam.

Nor were artists of such fame as Bill Lister, Corky or Gwaldys Pandlebury on his list of those invited to participate in the festivities.

Instead, on his list of invitees were some of the characters etched out with much finesse in the Wodehousean canon. Eve Halliday, the famous librarian from Blandings Castle, was expected. So was Aunt Dahlia from Brinkley Court. Also, joining in were Bingo Little and Rosie M Banks from India. Regrettably, Galahad, the President of the local Wodehouse Society, had already expressed his inability to make it to the meeting due to some harsh sling  and arrow of Fate he was facing at the time.

Within a few minutes of the appointed time, the group had assembled. Introductions had been performed. The couple from India was overjoyed to be meeting some members of the Society, which had seen as many as twenty-seven springs since it came to be formed.

Psmith was quick to inform everyone that due to constraints of space at the restaurant, plans to hold a dart throwing competition had been abandoned. Even though bread crumbs could be ordered, all assembled concurred that any projectile activity involving the same could be deferred to the next meeting, so deliberations could take place in a serene atmosphere, in tune with the decorum of the place. Plans to stand on the table and sing Sonny Boy were also vetoed for the same reason. Orders for tissue restoratives and the exotic fare on the menu were duly placed.

When asked about the whereabouts of the family members of Bertie Wooster’s sister in India, Bingo Little appeared to be clueless. It transpired that Bingo Little had progressed beyond being an editor of Wee Tots and had now become an author in his own right. On her part, Rosie M Banks had grown out of her previous role as an author and ventured instead into the realm of spirituality and meditative practices. Both confirmed that Bingo was still following the tradition of ensuring a regular supply of afternoon tea to his better half, thereby ensuring matrimonial harmony on the domestic turf.

Psmith, a prolific author in his own right, was delighted to present Bingo Little with his latest book, Sherlock Holmes and the Birth of The Ashes, a delectable tale of the detective unraveling the villainy behind and other events which took place at The Oval during August, 1882. Bingo regretted his inability to reciprocate the gesture, not having on hand his recently launched book, a light-hearted take on the art and science of management.

Aunt Dahlia, geniality personified, was keen to leave the gathering a wee bit early. It appeared that Anatole had planned a lavish spread at home. She feared that her absence at such an important event could make him put in his papers, thereby causing much disruption at Brinkley Court. This, she felt, would be worse than the perilous implications of the impending stand-off between USA and North Korea. The group wished her good luck.

Eve Halliday was elaborate and generous in her praise of her previous employer, Lord Emsworth. She fondly recollected her time at the Blandings Castle, and her invigorating encounters with the Empress of Blandings.

She and Psmith got into an animated discussion over the relative superiority of Plum’s screen plays vis-à-vis his romantic whodunits and other creative endeavours. As expected, the discussion was inconclusive.

The speech of Gussie Fink Nottle, delivered many years back at the Market Snodsbury School, came in for a loving mention. So were the sterling characters of such strong-willed women as Joan Valentine, Sally and Mrs Spottsorth. The conduct of such kids as Thos, Seabury and Edwin came up for discussion. One of the members sympathized with Aunt Agatha for the challenges she faced so very bravely while bringing up Thos.

There was a consensus that many of the problems faced by humanity at present – poverty, treatment meted out to the delicately nurtured, and terror, to name just a few – could be effectively tackled by ensuring that Homo sapiens followed the Code of the Woosters.

The meeting was yet another evidence, if evidence is indeed necessary, of the love for Plum’s works which transcends boundaries and can bring people of diverse origins together.

(Note: Yours truly and his spouse wish to express their heartfelt gratitude for the warm hospitality extended to them by Ms Josepha Olsthoorn, Mr Arunabha Sengupta and Ms Wil Brouwer.)

 

 

 

 

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