Bette Westera (b.1958) writes poems, songs, stories
and informative books for children about various
subjects. She has received numerous prizes, including
the Woutertje Pieterse Prize twice, six Silver Pencils,
two Golden Pencils, two Golden Poetry Medals and
a Book Lion. In 2021, she wrote the children’s Book
All is Shut
All gives way, all gives up
All is split, all is shut
All sings, and all plays
All is shut, all split up
On Thursday 12 and Friday 13 March 2020, I visit the Münchner Bücherschau Junior, at the invitation of my German publisher, Susanna Rieder Verlag. By way of greeting, I hug my German publisher friends, Susanna and Johannes, without reserve. I have a busy schedule, but we soon hear that various schools have cancelled. They don’t want their pupils to travel by public transport to the location of the Bücherschau. The schools that are able to walk the distance are still coming.
When we say goodbye on the Friday, we hug each other again; it would have felt strange not to. Luckily, the train is still running, although it’s remarkably empty for a Friday afternoon. Two days later, all of the hospitality venues in the Netherlands hastily have to close their doors.
The months that follow feel like as an oasis of peace. Suddenly, I have time to walk, to read and to try out new recipes. Requests come in for films of me reading, and other digital alternatives for contact with my readership. I say yes a few times, but all too soon, I’m fed up with the reading selfies. Why not just accept that some things aren’t possible for the moment?
I write poems about the good sense and nonsense of hoarding toilet paper, soft toy drums, holidaying in the back yard, and closed zoos. Barbara de Wolf illustrates these and we use them to make cheerful Corona cards, which we send digitally and by ordinary post. I enjoy the solidarity I can feel all around me, and which has now transformed into division. I cherish the social contacts that are possible: walking in the fresh air (often, because it’s lovely weather) and Zoom drinks parties with friends (occasionally, with white wine and vegetarian deep-fried ragout balls). I swim in seas of time and feel the space that this gives me in my mind. Meanwhile, my diary is filling up again. Good? I’m not entirely sure…
The elephant’s bored and the lion’s yawning lazily.
The spider monkey hangs half-hearted from a thick
The warthogs are asleep, and the badgers are catching
up on their zzzs.
The lynxes stroll listlessly, shuffling through the sand.
Through the bars of their cage, the tigers peer pitifully.
The polar bear sticks to his lair, while the hare runs
The baboon is languidly picking fleas off her mate.
The rooster’s slept late and the owl has nothing to say.
The fox, feeling down, says: ‘No chickens around.
No boys, or girls, not a one
On shoulder or cart, with their apple juice or a bun.
No kids with peanuts for the chimps, or lollies on their
They’ve got to open the zoo, because this is boring us
View the column on the website of ‘Het Parool’.
What is a writers’ hotel without writers? A pen without ink? For a period of six months in 2021, one author a week was invited to stay at the Ambassade Hotel and describe their writing lives at that time. Throughout the period May to November 2021, the newspaper Het Parool published the Writers’ Hotel columns in its weekly Arts Section.
Read more about this column project in collaboration with ‘Het Parool’.
Would you like to stay at the writers’ hotel as well? Enjoy a unique experience in the Ambassade Hotel with these special offer packages or come and admire the library after visiting our sunny terrace on the Herengracht!