Brussels Women's Club

Passport January 2023

Celebrating Women – Dame Judi Dench
By Sheila E

One of the most well-known and celebrated actresses working today in the UK, Dame Judi Dench celebrated her 88th birthday in December 2022. One of her most famous roles in recent times was that of ‘M’ in the James Bond film franchise. She took up this role in the film ‘Goldeneye’ in 1995 and appeared in 8 films, ending with a cameo in ‘Spectre’ in 2015. However, there is much more to her career than this.

She was born Judith Olivia Dench on 9 December 1934 in York. Her father was an English doctor and her mother was Irish. Her parents met while studying at Trinity College Dublin. Judi attended a Quaker secondary school in York and religion still plays an important part in her life. She came into contact with the theatre quite early on, as her father was GP to York Theatre Royal and her mother worked there as wardrobe mistress. Actors often stayed at the Dench house and Judi got involved in 3 productions of the York Mystery Plays in the early to mid 1950’s, playing the Virgin Mary in the third one. Although she trained originally as a set designer, she became interested in acting after one of her brothers went to the Central School of Speech and Drama and got a place there herself, graduating in the same class as Vanessa Redgrave and being awarded four prizes including the Gold Medal for Outstanding Student.

Her career in the theatre began with the Old Vic Company at the Royal Court Theatre in Liverpool in 1957 playing the role of Ophelia. She played the same role in London and in 1960 she was Juliet in a production designed by Franco Zeffirelli. She joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1961 playing Anya in ‘The Cherry Orchard’ in London and Isabella in ‘Measure for Measure’ in Stratford. Touring abroad and in Britain was followed by acting in films and on TV. She won two BAFTA awards in 1966 and 1968, the former for Most Promising Newcomer in a Film Role and then for Best Actress in the film ‘Talking to a Stranger’.

In 1968 she auditioned and got the role of Sally Bowles in the musical ‘Cabaret’. She was so unsure of her ability to sing that she auditioned from the wings, but her rather unusual croaky voice was judged perfect for the role and the show had a long run. After this she returned to the RSC with many notable successes, playing Lady Macbeth in the acclaimed Trevor Nunn production but also some comic roles, such as Beatrice in ‘Much Ado about Nothing’. An important theatre critic, Bernard Levin, commented that she was “demonstrating once more that she is a comic actress of consummate skill, perhaps the very best we have.”

She continued to win various awards and from 1981 to 1984 she played alongside her husband, Michael Williams, in the BAFTA winning TV series ‘A Fine Romance’. There have been so many
successes that they are too numerous to mention here, but some highlights are playing Cleopatra at the National Theatre, Queen Victoria in the film ‘Mrs Brown’ and Queen Elizabeth I in the romantic film comedy, ‘Shakespeare in Love’ for which role she won an Oscar and a BAFTA for Best Supporting Actress. After winning the Oscar, Judi joked: “I feel for eight minutes on the screen, I should only get a bit of him”.

Judi married fellow actor Michael Williams in 1971 but he died of lung cancer in 2001. They had a daughter, Finty, and there is now a grandson. After Michael’s death, Judi went almost straight away to Canada to work on the film ‘The Shipping News’, which she described as therapy, helping her to cope with her loss. She also worked on the film ‘Iris’, based on the life of the author Iris Murdoch.

Both she and Kate Winslett, who played the younger Iris, were nominated for Academy Awards for this film. Other films from this era are ‘Ladies in Lavender’, ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’, where she naturally played Lady Bracknell of the famous “A handbag!” line, and the 2005 adaptation of ‘Pride and Prejudice’, playing another acerbic aristocrat, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. In the same period there were several very successful Bond films.

The 2010’s brought another long list of successful films. There was ‘My Week with Marilyn’, ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’, where she was joined by a stellar cast including Dame Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton, Celia Imrie, Bill Nighy and Tom Wilkinson. ‘Philomena’ in 2013 was a very different kind of film, where she played an elderly lady, whose child had been taken away from her by the Catholic Church and given away for adoption against her will, when she was a young single mother.

Her moving performance in this film was hailed as a triumph and earned her her seventh Oscar nomination. One would think that by now she would be ready to retire, but not a bit of it. In 2021 she played the Grandma in Kenneth Branagh’s film ‘Belfast’, a coming of age comedy drama, which is set in the troubles of late 1960’s Northern Ireland. It got rave reviews and was voted The People’s Choice Award at the 2021 Toronto Film Festival. It also earned her an eighth Oscar nomination. Dame Judi is outspoken in her criticism of ageism in the theatre and film industry. She said: “I’m tired of being told I’m too old to try something. I should be able to decide for myself if I can’t do things… Age is a number, it’s something imposed on you.”

Judi has appeared on the cover of ‘Vogue’ magazine and remains a popular figure in the UK. She has, to her surprise, found a new partner, David Mills, a conservationist, with whom she has been together since 2010. They met when he invited her to open a squirrel sanctuary near where she lives in Surrey. She is a patron of many charities, mainly related to the theatre or to medical causes. She was awarded an OBE in 1970 and became a Dame Commander of the British Empire in the 1988 New Year’s Honours List. A stellar career, which is still continuing!


Albert I – the Soldier King
By Ann E

Albert I of Belgium, also known as the Soldier King, was born in Brussels, son of Prince Philippe, Count of Flanders. Albert succeeded his uncle Leopold II to the Belgian throne in 1909, due to the fact that Leopold’s only son and successor had died at the age of nine and that women were not allowed to become sovereign in those days.

Albert married Elisabeth, Duchess of Bavaria. The couple went on to have three children: Leopold (1901-1983), the future Leopold III, Charles (1903-1983), the future Regent and Marie-Jose (1906-2001), the last queen of Italy.

When Germany invaded Belgium with the aim of ultimately conquering France, King Albert took personal charge of the Armed Forces. After the Belgian capitulation, Albert was forced to move the
Belgian government to Le Havre in France, where he continued to govern his nation even though he himself remained a resident of Belgium. He visited the troops, went to the front line and successfully commanded the Belgian army. The King had originally declined to cooperate with the allies and maintained separate command of the Belgian forces. But in 1918, Albert finally gave in to pressure and cooperated with the allies in the final offence of 1918 (the Kortrijk offensive). By this time, he was commander of the Flanders Army Group led by General Foch of France.
After the Armistice on 11 November, The King, Queen and Princes made a triumphal entry into Brussels on 22 November. In his speech from the throne on that day, Albert announced major
reforms which included universal suffrage (men only), equality of the two national languages and the introduction of Flemish at the University of Ghent. He also announced recognition of trade union freedoms and the extension of social legislation. A truly reforming monarch.

In 1928 on his initiative, the National Scientific Research Fund (FNRS) was created to encourage industrial development. Unfortunately, this would turn out to be the end of his excellent reforms.

The King died tragically following a fatal fall while rock climbing in Marche-les-Dames, near Namur. A large number of veterans of the Front accompanied their popular commander to his final resting place. Albert was succeeded by his son Leopold III, who would face the Nazis in World War II.


Introducing the BWC Charities for 2023
By Lilian E

Supporting charities has always been an important part of our Club’s vision and mission. And under the very able and enthusiastic leadership of Charity Coordinators Andrea F and Gill B, the Club raised €20,000 in 2021 and over €15,000 in 2022 for our two charities: Holy Trinity Community Kitchen in Brussels, and Mbedza in Malawi. These impressive results reflect the generosity of members and guests alike who participated in the numerous fundraising activities over the past two years.

In December 2022, it was time to vote for two new Charities that the Club will support in 2023. BWC Raise the Roof won first place as the Belgium Based Charity with 36 votes, and the Beautiful Gate Lesotho won first place as the Developing Country Charity with 58 votes. However… during the last week in December 2022, Constanze S-K (who nominated Beautiful Gate
Lesotho) heard that they do not have a Belgian-based rep anymore, since the unfortunate death of their previous rep Andrew Pimm earlier this year. So…we have decided to go with Mala India, which won second place with 26 votes and which was nominated by Carol J. Mala India not only has a Belgian-based rep; in fact, he is the founder of the charity and runs a 1500 m2 store in Brussels (see here), together with volunteers, to cover the running expenses of the charity.

Mala India
Mala India was founded in 1994 to help give underprivileged children back their dignity by providing both individual and collective aid, medical attention and education. Education in India is beyond the reach of poor or orphaned children who, without it, are forced into work from a very early age if they are boys, or into marriage in they are girls.

BWC Raise the Roof
We are very happy that members voted for BWC Raise the Roof. Back in 2018, we also forewent the nomination of a Belgian charity in favour of raising funds for a new staircase to the cellar, called The Staircase Fund. And now, in these post-COVID years, getting help towards covering our €20,000 cost for last year’s roof renovation, is very much appreciated. A number of fundraising events are already planned for 2023, so watch this space!

Scale Dogs
Also, as Scale Dogs came in second place with 20 votes, Antonia W has graciously agreed to arrange a Tea & Talk in March this year, so that we can find out more about this special charity. Antonia: “I am what they call a volunteer ‘famille d’accueil’ for Scale Dogs. This means that we regularly welcome a puppy or young dog for a variable time period and help with basic education before they move on to their guide dog training at 14/15 months.” Scale Dogs also have demo dogs and Antonia is thinking about inviting one of the trainers to bring a demo dog so that we can see one in action.

Want to get involved?
Of course, in order to be successful in raising funds for both of these good causes, we need a Charity Coordinator (or two!) for 2023, as Andrea F and Gill B stepped down in 2022.
So if you are looking for a really enjoyable, and especially a very satisfying position, where you can really make a difference, here’s the scoop: You love knowing what you do makes a difference to people less fortunate. You enjoy coming up with new fund-raising ideas and working with others to make them happen. You like taking responsibility for something from start to finish, and motivating Club members to volunteer and participate. Of course, you can share this position with another member, like Andrea and Gill did over the past two years.

Sounds like you? Then let’s talk! Contact Lilian E or email Andrea and Gill will be more than happy to get you started!


BWC Golf Update

The beginning of December we saw frost and snow. Ravenstein Golf course was open so on the ninth of December, several intrepid ladies gathered to play two rounds of nine holes. To encourage them in their sport, Lynette very generously sponsored and had supplied ‘fortified’ hot chocolate. The fortification of choice seemed to be Amaretto.

Despite having to knock the build up of ice off our boots regularly, we managed to complete our games without anyone falling over. Janice won the best 18 holes. Ester won the best 9 holes overall. Wendy won the best front 9. Sybil won the best back 9 on count-back from Marie-Astrid. Ester won nearest the pin in 2 on Hole 7, Marie-Astrid on Hole 16 and Veronica on Hole 18.
Unfortunately, our 12 Holes of Christmas was cancelled because of the weather. However, 18 of us, adorned in Christmas attire, lunched at 7 Fontaines. We enjoyed a quiz, set by Stuart, and played a team game which involved putting on a hat, scarf, glasses and ski gloves before unwrapping a sweet.

We then sang ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’. And a jolly good time was had by all. Happy New Year!


The Coincidence
by Ann E

Many years ago, my husband and I attended an interesting exhibition in Brussels of wall hangings by a particular Brussels-based artist, who shall remain nameless. We were enchanted by what we saw and decided to contact the artist in question and order a wall hanging for our living room, where there was a big, empty space on the wall crying out to be filled.

The artist told us she would like to visit our home to get an indication about what the space looked like and what was required. She also told us that being a French speaker, she and her husband had never visited Flanders. We found this quite surprising as we only live some 15 km from the centre and to my knowledge, no one had yet been killed in the language “wars”.

So the couple came to darkest Flanders to see how the other half lived. She took measurements and told me what she intended to make. It would be a tree of life with many different coloured branches similar to what we had seen at her recent exhibition. She also stressed that if we did not like the final product, there would be no obligation to buy. So far, so civilised.
After a few weeks, the couple returned with the finished product. To our horror, it was awful. Gaudy to the extreme and to our eyes, made from bits of kitchen curtain. We politely refused it. She was livid and flounced angrily out of our house. Not surprisingly, we never saw or heard from her again.

Scroll on about one year. I had arranged with my eldest daughter to go and see “Carmen”, a new production at the Monnaie Opera House. My husband, who is not a fan of opera, said he would meet us in that nice Italian restaurant that had just opened in the street that runs parallel to the opera house. We sit down and guess what? Right opposite us is the dreaded wall hanging that we had refused, staring us in the face and for sale at twice the amount the artist had asked us to pay!

Did she manage to sell it? We will never know as the restaurant is no longer there. But as they say, there is no accounting for taste or for life’s many little coincidences.


BWC Recipe
Hot Punch Sauce and Panettone Bread & Butter Pudding
By Carole J

Elizabeth “Eliza” Acton (17 April 1799 – 13 February 1859) was not only an English poet but also a cook, who produced one of the country’s first cookbooks aimed at the domestic reader rather than the professional cook or chef, Modern Cookery for Private Families.

In this book she introduced the now-universal practice of listing the ingredients and suggested cooking times with each recipe. It was an immensely influential book which established the format for modern writing about cookery. It also included the first recipe for Brussels sprouts!

Shortly after its publication she relocated to London, where she worked on her next and final book, The English Bread Book (1857). Along with recipes and a scholarly history of bread-making, this volume contained Eliza’s strong opinions about adulterated and processed food! Eliza, her health never strong, died in 1859 and was buried in Hampstead.

Eliza Acton’s Hot Punch Sauce
To serve with Bread & Butter Pudding (see below) or other puddings.

1 large navel orange (organic)
1 lemon (organic)
110g caster sugar
25 g plain flour
50 g unsalted butter, softened
2 tblsp rum
2 tblsp brandy
175ml medium sherry

Pare the orange and lemon using the appropriate grater holes to produce fine shreds.
Stir water and sugar together in a saucepan and bring to the boil, turn back heat to a simmer and add orange and lemon rinds. Simmer very gently for 15 minutes.

While this is simmering, squeeze the juice from the orange and lemon. In a separate bowl work the flour into the softened butter to form a paste.

When the 15 minutes are up, add the orange and lemon juice along with the alcohol (almost any spirits you have in your drinks cupboard will do or you could just use sherry) and bring back to a gentle simmer.

Now add the paste in small pieces to the liquid, whisking as you add them until they have dissolved, and the sauce has thickened and become slightly translucent. It should be served hot and can be made in advance and gently reheated without boiling.

And here’s a good recipe to use up left over Panettone (Italian Christmas cake) or buy one when they are reduced in price after Christmas!

Panettone Bread & Butter Pudding (adapted from Jamie Oliver’s Naked Chef recipe)

575 ml Full fat milk
575 ml Double cream
1 vanilla pod (or a few drops of vanilla essence)
4 medium eggs
170 gr Caster Sugar (or whatever sugar you prefer)
500gr Panettone
Softened Butter
1 organic Orange – zested
Orange Marmalade
3 tbsps. Cognac or Cointreau (optional) or other liqueur
A little icing sugar


Cut the Panettone into thick slices (horizontally) and butter. Lightly spread each slice with marmalade. Cut each slice into 4.

The custard

Bring the milk and cream just to a boil in a saucepan. Cut the vanilla pod in half, scrape out the seeds and add to the pan of milk and leave to infuse (alternatively a few drops of vanilla essence can be used). Remove from the heat. Add the Cognac or Cointreau or other liqueur if using this.

Whisk the eggs with the sugar until pale. Pour the warm milk on the egg mixture, whisking gently as you go. Add the grated orange zest.

Preheat the oven to 160° C or Gas 3

Assembly: butter an oven proof baking dish approx. 25cm x 16cm x 6 cm high. Prepare a roasting tin large enough to take the baking dish.

Dip each slice of Panettone into the custard and arrange in the dish, overlapping each piece (this is a rather sticky process!). Several layers will be possible. Pour the remaining custard over the slices.

Place the dish in the large roasting tin and fill the tin halfway with boiling water (bain marie).

Sprinkle with icing sugar and bake for about 45 minutes. Check after 30 minutes: the crust should be lightly browned but it should still be slightly wobbly inside – and, if you are lucky, will look like a soufflé!

This might sound more complicated and calorific than the Bread & Butter Pudding we knew as children, but it is worth the effort!


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