The Yorkshire Dales

Just a few more picture impressions to share from our holiday… Of the ducks at our campsite, for instance. There are so many of them! I love seeing them quack and waddle around although my son in his tent is less happy with them… their quacking right next to his ear each morning wakes him up before he wants to wake up.

We also passed through the village if Middleham, where Richard III (him again – a bit of a theme for us this holiday!) spent part of his childhood in the castle there (now a ruin).

 

 

The area is also known for horse-racing and we promptly walked by some stables next to the castle…

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We visited Aysgarth Falls in the Yorkshire Dales…

This is apparently also the location where the river fight between Robin Hood and Little John was filmed in the 1991 movie Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves:

The Dales are so beautiful, pictures can hardly do them justice! And yet we tried to capture some of the wonder (click to enlarge)…

When we saw a litte red car in the distance on one of the narrow roads, Mr Esther, a grown man of 46, exclaimed, “Hey, there’s Postman Pat!”

Another filming location we drove through was a village, Askrigg, that was used for external scenes in the 1970s/1980s TV series All Creatures Great and Small.

The series was about the Yorkshire vet James Herriott and Mr Esther kept on saying how he loved watching that TV series in his youth and how that show defined the look of the English countryside for him. It really was a great show, we also enjoyed watching it at my house, so we both were mildly excited at actually driving through this village.

We were also quite high up in the Dales at one point, it really felt like the middle of nowhere. It was quiet and windy and very chilly up there (see my shivering son) and oh so beautiful!

We start our journey back home on Thursday. We’ve totally blown our budget for this holiday but even so, I’m really not ready to leave yet…

Picture impressions

This time no long blog post about our holiday (at least not in words), just some pictures…

First off Lincoln, a medieval town with some beautiful medieval houses still there and a beautiful cathedral! My brother (who lives in London) later told me they have a beautiful Christmas market there every year. I think we need to come back for that one day…

Cambridge, university city. Very beautiful as well, with all its colleges and punting boats on the river, but totally overrun with tourists (like us). My brother who lives in London (the dark guy you can see from behind in some of these photos) came up to meet us there for the day and we had a lovely time together. Click on images to enlarge if (among other things) you want to see a street musician in a trash can!

MTA: even The Guarduan has something to say about how busy Cambridge is, in an article I was just reading here.

Today we left the kids at the campsite (and in the pool) while Mr Esther and I went off on our own. We first made a quick stop in Fotheringhay, where Richard III was born and Mary, Queen of Scots was beheaded.

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And afterwards visited Peterborough with its cathedral and 13th century original wooden ceiling, which is also the last resting place of Katherine of Aragon, first wife on Henry VIII.

Tomorrow we break up camp and go on to West-Yorkshire.

Esther in Leicester

I kinda like the alliteration of that. 🙂

So, yesterday was Leicester(shire) day with the family and I can tell you Leicester really is all about Richard III. For me personally, it was all about Richard Armitage as well of course.

Leicester is a little over an hour away from our campsite. We were late getting away in the morning and then got lost on the way in Kettering, looking for a gas station and then for a place to use the bathroom (the gas station didn’t have that, they said), so by the time we finally got to Bosworth it was after 1 pm! Bosworth is the place where Richard III was killed on August 22nd, 1485 in battle against Henry Tudor. There’s a museum but we didn’t take time to visit that, we just traipsed over the battlefield site and monument…

By the way, even the bathrooms at the Bosworth site are Armitage Shanks. 🙂 I also very much liked a chain mail necklace I saw, but as I don’t wear militaria (and to what occasion would I even wear such a necklace?) I decided against buying it.

After Bosworth we drove to Leicester but before we got there, we made sure we passed through the village of Huncote first. It is well-known to Richard Armitage fans that he grew up there, so naturally, as we were near anyhow, I thought it might be fun to drive through it. We didn’t get out or anything, just drove through and got a very quick and fleeting impression of the village.

There’s a pub…

… and a church and a village green…

… and I saw a sign to the primary school but was too late to photograph it (we didn’t have the time to drive to it either). So, the impression was fleeting but it looked like a lovely village in the middle of a very green countryside. You can hardly imagine that it’s so near to a big city. Within five minutes, however, you find yourself driving into the outskirts of Leicester, which is a very busy city…

At the request of my son we drove by Leicester City football stadium…

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The parts of the city that we drove through didn’t look great until we got to the city center. After we parked, we walked into the center and this was the first part we saw…

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One of the buildings is the Radio BBC Leicester building, which immediately made me think of Richard Armitage again as he has been interviewed for Radio BBC Leicester before.

In fact, over on Richard Armitage Central there is a link to an interview where Richard speaks about Richard III on BBC Radio Leicester! Very fitting with our visit there yesterday!

We of course also visited the cathedral which is where Richard III is now buried. The black embroidered cover was used during his reburial procession and ceremony.

Some more impressions of the very nice looking center of Leicester…

We also went shopping there, it’s a very good place for shopping. There’s a huge mall right there in the center, good for year-round all-season shopping. It also had this store:

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In Colchester I had come across Mr. Darcy, here in Richard-Armitage-city I fittingly came across Mr. Thornton. 🙂 Is it a coincidence that both are sweets / chocolate shops?

For all its Richard-ness (the Third and Armitage), Leicester was also the city where Mr Esther and I celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary yesterday! For that alone, it will remain a bit of an extra special place. My son took a few pictures of us and the four of us had dinner in an old bank building that is now a grill restaurant with a very nice ambiance.

Yes, Esther very much enjoyed being in Leicester!

To see or not to see

This morning on the train on my way to work, I came across an article about a new documentary called “Forbidden Films” which asks the question whether the Nazi propaganda films should be un-banned or not. This is a topic that has come up in my mind for 25 years now and I do not have the answer!

One of my first jobs was in a small library situated in my father’s office in Germany. The library focussed on religion (Jewish, Christian and Muslim) and history of religion and there was of course also a whole section on World War II.

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Part of that library section was called “Der Giftschrank” (“The poison shelf”) where  some Nazi propaganda material was kept, like for instance Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” or some copies of the notorious Nazi propaganda paper “Der Stürmer”. That section was locked and was only allowed to be opened, and the materials in it perused, by permission from the boss himself (my dad). The Giftschrank was there for study purposes.

I have always learned that censorship is bad and that freedom of speech is essential in a free world. Yet here we are, forbidding these Nazi propaganda films to be seen and the literature to be read. On the other hand (due to having been allowed to leaf through some Giftschrank materials) I know how sickening this material is and it is unthinkable that there are people out there who might want to re-use some of it for their own twisted purposes! This stuff is so toxic, it would create a stir and get attention that you maybe don’t want it to have. On the other hand, how are we to really learn from history if we keep the evil locked away? Or should everything be open, but with comments explaining what it helped do? Or should there be no explanations and should these texts and films just speak for themselves?

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Still from Nazi propaganda film “Triumph des Willens” made by Leni Riefenstahl

I have no answers to all these questions. My first reaction is that everything that is so discriminatory and racist and sets people up against each other should be forbidden. Yet – those materials offer opinions and points of view and shouldn’t we at least be open to what others think (or thought) even if we absolutely hate what they think? It’s the same with all these “Je suis Charlie” cartoons. I find many of the anti-Islamic cartoons to be extremely offensive and racist and it sets up people against each other. I realize it is also a reaction to extremist Islamic ideology (which I also absolutely hate – I hate any extremist ideology, period). But even with those cartoons I wonder: how far can we allow these opinions to be aired? Where is the line and should there be a line?

The whole recent Cybersmile brouhaha, with freedom of speech and censorship essentially at the heart of it all, has made me think about this and now the article I read this morning throws it into a larger arena – what can or can’t we say, what can or can’t we write and what may be read or watched and what should be forbidden?

I’m very curious to see this “Forbidden Films” documentary, I wonder to what conclusions I would come. I don’t expect answers because I don’t think there really are definitive answers but I am throwing this out there in the universe to ponder over…

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Ich und Du

Here in The Netherlands we have Remembrance Day on May 4th (today) where we remember those killed in war and we celebrate Liberation Day on May 5th, when The Netherlands was liberated from the Nazis in 1945. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the war and every year these commemorations make me stop and think.

The war in 1940-1945 has shaped my outlook on life even though I was born 25 years after World War II ended. Memories of the war have been recounted to my brothers and sisters and me ever since I can remember. My father didn’t have too many memories of the war to share but my mother’s memories are very vivid and to this day she often tells us all the stories.

My mother was the daughter of a shipowner. Her father owned fishing ships in Scheveningen, the little town at the beach of The Hague that is now a bustling resort. She has a few memories of before the war, like going to Meijendel in the dunes of The Hague and Wassenaar to watch her father ride horses. “When you’re bigger you can learn to ride as well!” he told her, but that never happened. The war came when my mother was 4.5 years old. She was the eldest of 3 children.

Her father, my grandfather, started working for the resistance. He was involved in a plan to evacuate the Dutch Queen Wilhelmina to England with one of his ships but ultimately another flight path was chosen for her. My grandfather’s fishing ships were confiscated by the Nazi’s at the beginning of the war, their house near the beach in Scheveningen was declared a war zone and had to be evacuated.

Scheveningen Atlanktikwall 1944My grandmother took my mother and her sister and brother to live in Den Haag, while my grandfather went into hiding because of his activities for the underground. The 17th century bible, a family heirloom (now proudly on display in my parents’ home) was wrapped up and buried in the soil so that it would not be stolen by the Nazis. You can still see the damp in some of the pages.

The war was tough on the population. Food on rations, night time curfews, escaping into shelters during bombings and when you came out seeing dead people who hadn’t made it. There were regular round-ups and the Gestapo (the secret police) regularly came by my grandmother’s house looking for my grandfather. One day they took my grandmother with them for questioning and kept her overnight while the small children remained all alone in the house that night, not knowing whether their mother would return. Once in a while, often after dark, my grandfather would come home for a secret visit and then he would disappear again through the hatch in the floor, to the crawl spaces under the houses. My mother remembers one particular day when their house was searched by the Gestapo: her father had just left after a secret visit and she and her sister Irene were sitting on the rug covering the hatch, playing there and making sure the hatch could not be seen. Discovery of the hatch was to be avoided at all cost; their father must not be found!

And then there were the stories about school. Less and less children came to school, Jewish children went away. There was at least one girl in class who my mother knew was Jewish. Her hair was dyed blonde and she passed through life as a “Christian” girl. One time my mother pointed out to the girl that her hair roots were dark. When the girl came to school again the next day her hair was all blonde again. When my mother told her father about it he got angry with her because with that remark my mother could have endangered that girl’s life. The winter of 1944-1945 was later dubbed “the hunger winter”. Food became very scarce with often only boiled tulip bulbs for a meal. Wood in the tram rails was used for firewood and the toes were cut off the shoes so that they could still be worn by the growing children. It was a very difficult and desperate time.

Finally in May 1945, when my mother was 9, The Netherlands was liberated.Bevrijding-Den-Haag-2 Bevrijding-1945-Den Haag

Dutch collaborators were interred in a camp, ‘kraut girls’ who had dated German soldiers were accused of collaboration and were shaved publicly, their bald heads painted with red dye. My mother, as the eldest, was taken by her father to witness all this. When the German troops marched out of The Hague, my grandfather told my mother to spit on them and she did.

After the war, the family returned to their house in Scheveningen where the rats were crawling everywhere and the floors were covered in human excrement. My grandfather told my mother to do her best at best school but that she was allowed to fail German class. Hate for the Germans ran deep. If a German tourist came to visit Scheveningen and asked directions, my mother was instructed to smile, point towards the North Sea and say sweetly “Immer gerade aus” (“Go straight ahead”). My grandfather’s hate for the Germans later cost him his life. At the end of the 1950’s he went to Germany to receive compensation for his ships that had been confiscated by the Nazi’s. In Germany he got appendicitis but he refused to be treated by German doctors. By the time he returned to The Netherlands it was too late. He died.

At around this time my mother (who had not been raised in any religion) met my father, a young idealistic theologian. My father was very interested in Judaism and the murder of 6 million Jews in the war had deeply affected him. He admired the German-Jewish philosopher Martin Buber who had fled from the Nazis and advocated dialog in his philosophies. This dialog philosophy became the basic principle in my father’s further life. He even got to meet Martin Buber once in person in 1959 and interviewed him! Buber’s “Ich und Du” (“I and You”) dialog philosophy is what guided my father in his work and became a profound influence on my mother as well as they were trying to help build a better world in the aftermath of war.

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My parents got married in 1960, the first children were born in The Netherlands, and my father was dispatched to Israel in 1967 by the Dutch Reformed Church; he was to work as an advisor and a bridge builder: help the Christians receive more insight into Judaism and understand that the roots of Christianity lie firmly implanted in Judaism (Jesus himself was a Jew after all!) and show the Jews that not all Christians hate them or want to convert or murder them. Martin Buber’s “Ich und Du” brought to life in my father’s work, a philosophy close to his and my mother’s heart. No more hatred and anti-semitism, what was needed was an understanding of the beliefs of the other, the realization of how much each has in common and the acceptance of people just as they are. My father as well as my mother had learned from the war: racism and oppression should never happen again, every person counts, it doesn’t matter where they are from, what they look like or what they believe. We live in a multicultural world – instead of being divided by difference, how about also realizing how rich this world is in all its variety? This philosophy of life was not just abstract; it became practice in our home. Next to the ‘biological’ children (of whom I was the last to be born, in Jerusalem) my parents adopted 2 Palestinian babies and 2 Ethiopian teenagers: we became multicultural ourselves and turned into a family of different faiths (or no faith) and colors. Added to that, many other children temporarily lived with us, when the need arose, for short term fostering.

When I was 10 years old we moved to Germany. My grandmother in Scheveningen found it difficult to accept that but my parents did not believe in racism and hatred: not all Germans are bad! My father continued his work on an international level, becoming General Secretary of an organization called “The International Council of Christians and Jews”. In a beautiful twist of fate the head office of the ICCJ was located in the former home of Martin Buber, my father’s philosophical hero! He worked in Buber’s House for 17 years.

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From my teens to the beginning of my twenties I became obsessed by the Second World War; a logical consequence of my parents’ history and work. I had been surrounded by the subject ever since I could remember, after all. When I was 19 I even went on a “Holocaust” study trip where among other places I visited Auschwitz in Poland. This left a profound impression on me and the values and lessons from history handed down to me by my parents were only strengthened in me through these experiences. To this day I try to live by them – be open to people, never judge a book by its cover, accept the other for who they are, embrace diversity and never ever lose touch with your humanity.

So, why are the 4th / 5th of May important to me? Because every year I am reminded of these lessons. Every year I hear people say in the speeches how we must learn from the lessons of the past and everyone agrees and applauds, while the next moment I see hate and intolerance towards, for instance, Muslims around me here in The Netherlands. Every year I hope that the remembrance of what happened in the war and the celebration of freedom will jerk us into behaving with respect and humanity towards the other, even though opinions and beliefs may differ. Through opening yourself up towards the other and vice versa there is a way. Ich und Du.There is always hope and to make the world better, you really only have to start with yourself.