Saturday 7 February 2015

Tuesday 15 January 2013

Staying Local 2008 - A Sombre Time (Part 1)

We have a date. Our next destination is less than 100miles away, so with no rush, Ian prepares a route while Guzzisue starts packing.  To reach our destination we had to travel near a place named Belsen. Ian was not sure if this was ‘The Belsen’ and Guzzisue thought that the place has a double-barrelled name. With all day on our hands, and paws, there was only one way to find out.

Down a traffic free road we travelled, not a sound except the Guzzi’s rumble, Ian managed to overshoot a car park. Turning round he had success the second time,

The camp of Bergen-Belsen was used as both a prisoner of war camp, mainly for captured Russian soldiers and a concentration camp. I will return to this later, for our first stop was at the Learning Centre. Here there are detailed information boards outlying the liberation of the camp and an exhibition room.

Within the room, devoid of people, a slideshow showing the transporting of people to a railway station and their embarking into cattle trucks for their journey, complete with the recording of a locomotive. The recording stopped when the entrance to the camp became the last slide. Unnerving and very moving at the same time.

The exhibition taking place was titled ‘Banished From Warsaw 1944, The Plight Of The Children’.

The main objective of the exhibition was to encourage decussion on the topic concerning deportation, which took place in Warsaw between August and October 1944.On August 1st 1944, poorly armed units of the underground Home Army beganthe struggle against the German army stationed in Warsaw. The uprising began. The German army mobilized special forces to suppress the uprising. Both Hitler and the commander of the Schutzstaffel (SS) and the Police, Himmler, gave the following order: “Every inhabitant is to be killed.” And then the atrocities began.

Carefully laid out in aisles were hanging cloths, some with a child’s description of the event as they remembered it.

This is how Halina Lewicka Paszkowska, aged 12, remembers some of the events from the time and how they affected her life:

 When on August 1, 1944, at 5pm, the Warsaw Uprising began, I was at home. We stayed in our house until August 13 (Sunday), and then, during the pacification of our street, I took shelter with my parents in a cork insulation factory, which was across the street from our home. During the pacification of Wola, on August 20, as the SS formations forced us to Pruszków, we miraculously escaped being shot on the way to the outskirts of the city. As I went, I saw murdered people on Bem Street, burned infants. I saw a burning horse (restrained with a wire and surrounded by wood). On Bem Street, SS Officers were standing next to tables that were covered by white paper, displaying trays of cake, which they offered to us, while we were forced to move by the butts of guns. It turned out that they were trying to make a film; unfortunately, it did not work out according to their plan because as we walked by the table, everyone turned their head in the opposite direction. Nearby however, they were shooting people (but obviously, they did not film this).

In Pruszków, they crammed us into cattle wagons and locked them shut, and then for the next couple of days they transported us to Germany, to the transit camp in Bittenheim, where we went through a month-long quarantine. Next, after splitting us into groups, they transported our group to Stuttgart. Upon arriving in Stuttgart, we were forced into a peculiar, slave market, where we were groped, patted, and our teeth were looked at. These kinds of inspections were carried out by the directors of companies, with the assistance of Gestapo officers. All of this took place under torrential rain, on the platform of the railway station. In Stuttgart, I worked (as a twelve-year-old child) in a factory of weapons, Kugellageefabrik “Norma” (a factory producing ball bearings) in Kanstadt (a neighbourhood). The work conditions were horrible; all of the handling of ball bearings took place in kerosene. My mother had her palms and forearms eaten away to the bone by the kerosene, and after six months of work there, she weighed 38kg. I developed a rash on my entire body and horrible wounds developed in my armpits, and I had abscesses the size of nuts on my legs. We could not cure ourselves; we were slaves. The factory was responsible to the arms industry, and the conditions were like a camp. Hunger, terror, as well as continuous carpet-bombing by the Allied forces.

Before liberation, which took place on April 19, 1945, our “Guardians”, commanded us to sit in a shelter that was hollowed out on the slope of a mountain: it was cold, wet, and there was no food. We were not working there, so we did not get food! There were rumours that they were going to kill us there, and only a quick Allied invasion impeded their plans.

After liberation I stayed in a camp in Ludwigsburg; the camp was named after Washington, and I was cared for by American doctors while I was there. In November 1945, I returned to Poland by the first possible transport. There was nothing in Warsaw; everything had been burned down, so my parents settled in Lódź. My parents lived separately; they did not withstand life’s test. In Germany, their marriage started splitting. I tried to continue with my education, but I stopped after the third semester of middle school, which was ninth grade. My nerves were worn out; my whole life was in ruins. My beloved city burned to the ground, my family broken, inhumane conditions while at the camp, malnutrition, work – they all took a toll on my health.

In 1950, I got married; I have two children who are already adults. I was under the care of the Psychological Health Clinic. I do not work; my husband supports me financially. Living through the war and the occupation left me with permanent trauma, anxiety, repulsion and apprehension with regard to Germans. I cannot even listen to the German language without having my heart race and without becoming jittery. I will never visit the GDR (East Germany) or the FRG (West Germany).

I would suggest that this interview was completed some years ago, the last sentence stating that she would never visit the GDR or the FRG again. The Berlin Wall came down in 1989, quickly followed by reunification in the following year. Does she still feel the same? What are the thoughts of her children? I understand that these questions would digress from the main topic, just wondering, that’s all…

As always, within all the atrocity that takes place, there are the stories of kindness and compassion

and those that are left waiting at the train station, patiently looking after family suitcases, for their return….

Friday 30 November 2012

Mud, Sweat & Gears.

The turkey has been stuffed, Lizzie has finished her three o’ clock speech and James has saved the world again. All the hype has been and gone like a blown up and burst balloon. What next?

On Boxing Day at 11.00am, practise starts for the Northampton Motor Cyclists’ Club Ltd, Wild & Woolly Charity Scramble.

This year the event was held at Airfield Farm, Market Harborough. The conditions were perfect and the only things missing were the World Of Sport cameras and John Banks. Fortunately, I was there, camera in paw, to capture the event. Time to sit back, relax and enjoy the mayhem, mud sweat and gears.

Tuesday 27 November 2012

Au revoir à La Grande Pomme

Hello. Remember me? Is it really nearly eight months since I last did a post? Life has been so hectic during this period.

First of all, Ian's father suffered a stroke in April and he has been kept busy with looking after him for most of this time. All is well now and he is making steady, solid progress. This must have something to do with the stubbon streak that runs in his family.

I too also suffered a major life threatening problem. On our travels this year, which I will write about after I finish the current series, I was nearly decapitated and had to spend a while at the Teddy Bear Hospital here in Nottingham. I was well looked after and I'm fit to travel again after my rehabilitation.

Right now, I'm in the final stages of editing a film that I took last Boxing Day and assuming we don't get too much more rain here in the Midlands, could be something for you to get out and enjoy this year. So, for now, it's goodbye to The Big Apple and hello blogland.

Wednesday 4 April 2012

Staying Local 2008 - End Of The Rats Tail/Tale

There has been the myth, the book and many adaptations on film over the years on the tale of The Pied Pier. All that is left is the play.

Throughout the summer months, on Sunday at midday, by the side of the Hochzeitshaus, in the centre of Hameln, the people of the town perform their adaptation of the events.

The play is approximately half an hour in length and I recommend that you get there in good time to secure a good viewing point. Strange how the Piper plays the oboe and near the finale manages to play Wooden Heart.

I’m sure there must be grain some truth in the story. Could the children have been a generation taken away by an army? Could there have been a plague? Or a nearby crop failure? Throughout history there have been many events to start the exodus of people. A few years ago, Nottingham’s Robin Hood, went to Hameln to help celebrate the 750th anniversary of the event.

And here concludes our trip to Hamelm. Guzzisue and myself leave Ian alone for a few minutes for quiet contemplation before we depart tomorrow.

Friday 9 March 2012

Staying Local 2008 - Finding Rats

Sunday is certainly tourist day. They arrive by the coach load. Surprisingly, the only shops that appeared to be open were cafes, restaurants and bars along with the occasional souvenir shop.

Hameln has a story to tell and does so at every opportunity. In amongst the statues around the centre is this little girl

And a piper.

Along the ground, there is a trail of white rats to get people onto the tourist trail.

For the tourist with impaired vision, there is a model of the town’s layout, thus giving an idea of the local topography.

The story about the Pied Piper of Hameln is known the world over and Hameln certainly goes for the overkill.

I shall start at the Rattenfängerhaus, pictured in my previous post.

Although this was built in 1602-3, it was not until around the turn of the 20th century that it became known as the Pied Piper’s House. What connects the two is that there is a plate on the building. This states that on 26th June 1284, 130 children were led away from Hameln by a piper, wearing multi coloured clothes.

HToday, the building is a restaurant, its speciality being ‘Rats’ Tails’. Many homes and business have rats, real or toy, in their doorway. The Rattenfängerhaus is no exception.

The other building previously mentioned is the Hochzeitshaus, or Wedding House. Throughout its life the Hochzeitshaus has been many things, ranging from a courtroom to a tavern, an armoury and also a pharmacy. The Board of Pharmacy were located here in the 1800’s and Friedrich Wilhelm Adam Sertürner, the discoverer of morphine worked here until his death in 1841.

Above the third floor of the Hochzeitshaus there is a glockenspiel with 37 bells. This chimes twice daily, during which the bronze door centre of the second floor opens. This brings to life an automation of the Pied Piper story. The automation was severely damaged during WWII, but repaired in 1964.

To get a good view of the show it is recommended to arrive a few minutes early to avoid the tourist guides armed with umbrellas. Our vantage point was from a shop doorway, balancing on a small step.

Finally for this piece, I will leave you with a short film of the automation and glockenspiel.

Sunday 19 February 2012

Staying Local 2008 - Searching For A Rat

Hameln, Hamelin in English, has been an important settlement for centuries. It first became a (civitas) town in 1200AD. Traders were frequently troubled by highway robbery, thus from 1426 until 1572, Hameln joined The Hanseatic League.

During the 16th century, several buildings were constructed in the Wesser Renaissance style by the merchants and landed gentry. Features of this style of architecture include subdivided façades with scrolls, pyramids, obelisks, decorations of globes, fine chiselled stones, ornamented wooden friezes with coats of arms, masks and envy heads.

The Leisthaus was built on behalf of a wealthy corn trader, Gerd Leist. Today, it houses the Hameln Museum. Although there were no English explanation cards for the exhibits, an informative guidebook was purchased at the end of our visit.

The Leisthaus is the building on the right in the photo below, with the Stiftsherrenhaus, or Canon’s house to the left.

Frederick Poppendiek, the mayor and a businessman of Hameln, built Stiftsherrenhaus in 1558. There are several biblical figures depicted between the floors and under the eaves. These include God the Father, Christ, the apostles, David and Samson.

Another two prominent buildings in the Wesser style are the Hochzeitshaus

and the Rattenfängerhaus.

I will return to these later, as they are integral to my next post.

In the 17th century, Hameln started to be developed as a fortress and with the River Wesser as a natural defence; the town became the strongest fortress within the Hanoverian principality.

The two drawings of Hameln, the first from 1622 and the second dating from 1741 show the transformation.

Hameln’s next stage of development started in 1808 when Napoleon ordered the fortress to be destroyed. In doing this, the town was able to expand into the surrounding area. Later in the 19th century, Hameln came under Prussian jurisdiction. Rail links and a carpet weaving factory soon followed.

During the Second World War, Hameln became a target for the Allies bombing raids, destroying much of the town. In 1968, a total restoration of the old town was started and subsequently completed in 1992. Hidden away, it is still possible to find unrestored buildings of the old Hameln,

While the modern day centre looks like this.

Throughout the town, statues have been placed on main streets to add further interest.

Many alleyways need to be investigated, as you never know what you may miss.

Even the local park directs us back to England!

Unfortunately, we are still reminded of the past.

For now, let’s sit back and relax.

Tuesday 10 January 2012

Staying Local 2008 - I Smell A Rat

We had plans. Never before had we been to the southwest of France. Never ridden through The Pyrenees, criss-crossing the Spanish boarder. This year was going to be no exception. Two weeks before our departure Guzzisue came down with a virus and not wanting to keep it to herself, passed it onto Ian the week before we left. Feeling tired and weak, my fellow travellers decided that staying local would be a better option. Staying local insured that we were never more than 450 miles from home, as the proverbial crow flew, still giving us many new locations to visit.

Disaster was averted on Friday, when loading up the Guzzi. Ian managed to break a strap on the Baglux harness. Panic was setting in when he went to a local cobbler who could send the harness off for repairs. It would be returned within six days! A customer in the shop recommended Timpson’s in Arnold, approximately three miles away. With nothing to lose, Ian headed Timpsonwards.

‘Leave it with me for twenty minutes’, said the very nice man behind the counter, so he did.

Twenty minutes later and one harness had been repaired. The cost? Just some change into the charity tin.

Guzzi packed, Guzzisue managing to leave work early, we were heading for Dover by18:30, arriving at the hotel by 22:00. Our indoor picnic of biscuits, chocolate and service station sandwiches helped us to sleep.

Next morning we were woken by the sounds of other residents departing for the early ferry. We decided to follow their lead and made our way down to the port terminal, only to find a long queue. Ferry times had been altered due to a damaged ship; therefore two into one will go! The saving grace was that it was September and not the height of summer. We joined a group of bikes waiting to board, on their way down to the Alps.

A good advantage for crossing the Channel on a motorcycle is that we are first onto the ferry and first into the restaurant, where a ‘Full English’ was on the menu. Breakfasted, it was time to stretch our legs and have a walk around the ferry. This year saw a new innovation – 7 Minute Massage.

Arriving in Calais we picked up the signs for Dunkerque and headed off through the Low Lands. Belgium came and went without us noticing, Holland would have been the same, except that Ian took a wrong turn, confusing the Dutch word for exit as the next place we were aiming for. A quick about turn and we were back on the correct road and heading for our destination in Germany.

Upon reaching the town we were staying for a couple of nights, signs like this were very helpful.

Hotel found, Guzzi unpacked, into town for a meal and drink. Our first impressions of the town were that for Saturday night, things were very quiet. Perhaps we were in the wrong part of town. The weather forecast for Sunday is promising, but a chance of rain on Monday. We are on a new adventure, so who cares?

Tuesday 13 December 2011

Round Britain Rally 2011, What Goes Around, Comes Around

Windmills were another collection on the landmark list for this year and Ian and myself visited three different types.

The first one is Stevens Mill in the village of Burwell, Cambridgeshire. At one time, Burwell had four operational windmills, the Stevens’ Windmill being the last on standing. It was operational until the 1950’s but is now in need of repair. As the windmill is a listed building it was saved from demolition and the long task of refurbishing it is in hand. The windmill can be operated with only two sails, these were built in the 1980’s at a cost in the region of £15,000. To put another pair of sails in position today, the price would be doubled!

Situated on the Lincolnshire Fenland, eight miles, as the proverbial crow flies, from the coast, Sibsey is ideally situated for the location of a windmill. Originally built in 1877, Sibsey Trader Windmill is one of a few six sailed windmills remaining in England. Due to a shortage of time, we were unable to have a look around or sample the fayre in their tearoom. This has been added to our ever-expanding ‘To Do’ list.

Many s are only too pleased to have RBRers visiting their location. One landmark was on private property this year, clearly visible from the road. They requested for photographs to be taken from the roadside. This request was observed by all that visited to my knowledge. This leads me on to our third windmill.

In the north of my home county, Nottinghamshire is the village of Tuxford. The windmill, situated near the village was the landmark for this year. The proprietor did not take too kindly to his windmill being used as a landmark and tried to charge entrants for taking a photograph! Needless to say very little money exchanged hands! Many photographs were submitted from the roadside with the windmill in the background. I’m sure his tearoom could have served a few thirsty and/or hungry RBRers, thus helping with the upkeep of the windmill. I can only assume that in this time of wealth and prosperity extra finance was not required. Upon this reasoning, dear reader, you will notice the lack of a link to this enterprise.

There has to be a first for everything. The first man on the moon, first flight, first locomotive, first car and even the first motorcycle. This brings us to a tranquil suburb in Letchworth, Hertfordshire, to locate the first ROUNDABOUT in the UK!

Built circa 1909, we can only imagine the confusion this may have caused. In Portree on the Isle of Skye a few years ago, a mini traffic island was built in the centre of the town. The islanders had not seen anything like it before, thus resulting in a few accidents before it was replaced with a one-way system. I’m not suggesting that this would have been the case in Letchworth, but to come across something so alien…and what sort of traffic flow would there have been in this area in the early part of the last century. Could it have been an experiment to try out before being unleashed in the capital? Whatever the reason it works well as a traffic flow solution, unless you want to get through part of Swindon.

To end, by turning full circle, another roundabout was a featured landmark. This particular example at Thornaby on Tees, Teeside has a Spitfire in the centre. This replica was built in 2007. It seems a little ironic, as the roundabout is located at the junctions of Thornaby Road, Bader Avenue and Trenchard Avenue. Ironic in the sense that Douglas Bader flew in a Hurricane.

The reason for mentioning this unvisited landmark? In all honesty it’s just so that I can finish with this film clip. No matter how many times I watch it I still have a smile on my face.

Friday 25 November 2011

Round Britain Rally 2011, Planes And Boats And Trains

Well the RBR has finished for another year. The usual ‘adjustments’ having to be made during the course of the event. One landmark was sold and moved piece by piece to another location, another, a Roman Milepost was hit by a car and had to be removed for running repairs (groan). Repair work also was required for a statue of John Perry so we took an exciting picture of his plinth.

As has become the custom, the RBR season kicks off with the ARSE, the Annual Rally Starting Event. This year’s gathering took place at the Ellesmere Port Canal Museum where over 50 entrants met for the obligatory group photo. The object to photograph was the anchor sculpture, situated near the café. Yes, one or two people did snap the wrong anchor.

Doctor Beeching’s axe saw the closure of many rail lines in the UK during the 1960’s, however one line that closed before his hand gripped the shaft was the Southwold to Halesworth line. On this local line, at Whenhaston, Suffolk, a plaque depicting the site of the local station has been erected.

To some extent this phoenix looks set to return, as there is a project to reinstate a small section railway, complete with a heritage centre.

There was one type of railway that Beeching could not get onto his report, the cliff railway. This year’s event saw the inclusion of several of these, two of which we visited on the weekend of our motorcycle club’s rally weekend.

On the way down to the rally site we stopped off at the Lynton and Lynmouth Railway. Lynmouth is on the A39, a road to Devon and Cornwall that is often by passed for the dual carriageway of the A30 and M5 motorway. Built in 1890, this water balanced funicular railway works in contrast to other water operated railways. Often water is released from the lower carriage until it is lighter than the top one, whereas on this railway, water is added to the top carriage from the West River Lyn.

Having stopped for some ‘Traditional’ fish & chips, we got into conversation with a local biker, resulting in a rather longer stay than anticipated. We vowed to return here for a longer stay in the future. Little did we realise that it would be sooner rather than later.

‘This one will be easy to find’, said Ian about the Babbacombe Cliff Railway. ‘We just head for the coast and follow it round’. Reaching the coast and following it round took us all the way around the headland and into a housing estate! When in doubt, ask the local postie, who put us on the right track. The plans for the Babbacombe Railway were put forward by Sir John Newnes MP, the man who built the Lynton and Lynmouth Railway. Sadly they were not approved until after his death. The line was completed in 1926.

The railway took us down to a secluded, almost deserted beach. Well it was mid May so that could have been the reason. The beach bar was deserted and the snack bar did a roaring trade in tea and coffee, with ample choice on where to sit.

Grove, Oxfordshire, was the destination for the ‘plane’ part of this post. And that is where we found this De Havilland Venom. Although Grove was reputedly the busiest airfield in 1944, there remain only a few derelict buildings around the area. This particular aircraft once belonged to the Swiss Air force and then Aces High. Not surprising is the fact that part of the airfield has now been turned into a business park.