Very soon, I’ll be starting my trip, leaving monday feeling both excited and intrigued to step in the path of history, which really helps bring it alive for me. It will take a few days to get down to my starting point at the south of Italy, but I’m including other points of interest along the way, such as visiting the foxholes that were dug out in the Battle of the Bulge, which you may have seen if you watched ‘Band of Brothers’ As I go along I’ll be writing my book which will compare Bob’s account (my Step Grandfather) with how I see things today, and am running a crowdfunding page to gain support for the book, please do take a look here: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/never-lose-hope-a-pow-journey-then-and-now
So its been very hot lately and I’m not going to complain, as the winter was long this year very cold, and I’m saving a fortune on heating bills!!
I went to the beach the other day, in Brighton and the water was so cold I almost froze over. There were people swimming including a mate I went there with, but alas I’ve been spoiled and know of the sea in the Maldives, St. Lucia and Turkey all of which is lovely warm water. In fact there is a beach I went to in Turkey that was with no exaggeration ‘like a hot bath’ it was incredible!
However, I am writing this ahead of a trip round Europe and thinking of a different beach:
Maybe you’re thinking how beautiful and peaceful this looks, and I agree it most definitely is. The water in the picture is the English channel though so still really cold, but on a hot day even I can persuaded to go in!
The reason I’ve shown this picture is because it would have looked so very different about 80 years ago, because this is Utah Beach, one of the five main landing place for the Normandy invasion, D-Day. It is difficult to imagine how a place so beautiful could have been the place of utter horror to so many. And yet, as the water turned red, it signaled the coming of the end of the war, which came about only a year later, the allies had a stronghold in Northern France after D-Day and the war was won.
In the next few blogs, I will be visiting parts of Europe, retracing the footsteps of my Step Grandfather who was a Prisoner of War. he was captured in Torbruk, North Africa and taken to Benghazi where after a few months of bad treatment and lack of food and water he was transported with many others over to the south of Italy.
I will visit the south of Italy and follow his path, up through Austria and into North Germany, and add my thoughts to blogs here as I go with a few pictures along the way…
Please follow me to stay tuned…
With the clocks going back an hour getting up to leave at 4.30am was a little less painful!
I drove through the dark to Gatwick, and caught the plane after a fairly clear journey, taking off early at 8am. Checking your bag in now is all automated which was new to me, but once I’d sorted that, I’d got on the place and sat back for the flight. By the window I could see below and with the clouds and the angle of the sun I saw a complete rainbow effect which was cool.
Once I landed at Arlanda, Stockholm I was under the cloud again and it was snowing! With a bit of wind making it a blizzard! Its how I always imagined it, but thankfully it didn’t last more than an hour, or settle, although apparently it was the first snow of the season!
I met a friend at the airport, and traveled back to his place to dump bags and since I would need a pillow for my spare bed so had to visit Ikea, since in Sweden so got the pillow and couldn’t miss out on the famous Ikea meatballs and gravy!!
We had a beer in a pub away from the store, and noticed several things, firstly, it got dark at about 3.30pm which totally threw out my body clock, it felt more like 10pm when later it was only 6pm, the temperature was obviously colder than the uk at just 2 degrees (I left home at about 10 degrees) and some of the names I found funny such as a chocolate bar called ‘Plopp’ that you can buy from Willy’s – you can enter or leave car parks following signs for enfart or utfart !!, and the end station at the end of a train line is ‘Slutstation’.
So we planned some cultural things to see over the next week, and get an idea of what Stockholm has to offer, and there is a lot! A lot of history, and things of interest…
I have always noticed something about water, and yes before anyone says it, it’s wet!! But it can also be many different things.
When it’s lying there still and calm it is very peaceful. When I took a walk at Frensham Ponds, Near Farnham last the silence was everything I heard. There was no computer fan whirring away or music playing in the background, there was no traffic noise or people chattering in the background, it was just silent, except for the odd ripple of water as a fish came up for air, or s bird called out.
It’s a place not far from where I live and I wondered how many places are there around the country that are amazing to see but we are all so wrapped up in our lives that we forget about the simple things in life that can bring simple happiness and relaxation so easily.
How much space do we need? Or do we never have enough?
I took this image a while ago and I think it conveys many other things other than just space, such as solitude, reflection, peace, freedom, and lots more…
It was taken in an ideal location, on the island of Kuredu, Maldives and also think it looks like an ideal place to go to sit relax and contemplate life, which in a way is what triggered my blog seeing this photo again.
I think it is an image that is open to interpretation too. It could convey a certain feeling of loneliness since there is only one chair there not two. Lost in a large expanse with no one around for company, or at least having one chair offers that suggestion.
Or, it could be seen that the person who’s chair it is, likes their solitude and wants a moment of quiet reflection with there thoughts and the sound of the lapping tide on the shore, whilst soaking up a few rays of sun, with no one there to interrupt their peace and tranquility.
Not far from the beach chair was this scene which I prefer. A totally natural vista which has been created over time naturally occurring on the same island.
As I sit here remembering that view, seeing it for the first time was the total realization of paradise for me. I have this same image as a large canvas on my wall at home. It always brings a smile to my face knowing that there is such natural beauty still out there in the world, away from all the buildings and roads and pollution that humans create. I think if ever I was ship wrecked, I would hope to be ship wrecked here and would be quite happy to live out my days in a place such as this. (With food and wifi obviously;) )
I have thought for a while now about a question, do we over complicate life? The rat race, the need for more money, the growing list of things we want to buy but are too expensive so we work ever harder. but I think it is easy to miss the little things, such as a view like this which means far more to me than so much of the commercial things available.
The space within the image though is idyllic, and I appreciate it all the more since I live in a 1 bed small little flat. I love my flat don’t get me wrong, but when I look at this picture it reminds me there is a whole world out there, full of amazing sights and more space that I would know what to do with.
Space comes in all shapes and sizes wherever we are in the world, I for one always try to keep my eyes open and appreciate as much of it as I can, the world is a beautiful place.
Today I did something I’ve never done before. I went in to a supermarket and bought a meal deal – chicken wrap, crisps + water, and gave it to this person.
But how many times do you walk past someone like this. I know I do all the time, but today was different and I really felt like I wanted to do something helpful. We all have times when life is cruel and hard on us. Many times some people are so wrapped up in their own lives that we forget that others are suffering too.
Often people ask ‘Can you spare some change, love?’ or words to that effect, and many just walk on by, wrapped up their own lives and not giving a thought about someone just fighting to survive the day.
I made the decision to get the food for this person, and went into the supermarket and got a meal deal just for her. I came back out, went up and handed it to her, saying “I think you look like you need this more than me” and she thanked me and off I walked.
It was a small gesture, I could tell she’d had a tough time since she was clearly not new to the streets, her skin looked grubby, her teeth in a sorry state, and I wondered just how does someone cope in a real homeless situation. Her head hung in her arms, I could tell she probably felt beaten by the world – the world can be a cruel place.
I also thought that in the past I have walked past homeless people thinking why don’t they just get a job and sort themselves out, but its easy to say or think those thoughts, but I bet her reality doesn’t make such a thing as easy as that sounds.
She had a cup in front of her, hoping people would give her money. I am skeptical of that because the common view of a lot of people is that it might just go on a bottle of whisky or drugs. But by giving her food and water today, I know that that will help her to at least not be hungry.
The line in ‘Parklife’ by Blur suddenly came to me after having given her food which is:
‘I feed the pigeons, I sometimes feed the sparrows too It gives me a sense of enormous well-being And then I’m happy for the rest of the day safe in the knowledge there will always be a bit of my heart devoted to it’
Now obviously she’s no pigeon or Sparrow, but by helping another fellow person I felt I was just doing something human. A little bit of kindness goes along way, and I encourage others to think twice about walking by, and maybe give someone a helping hand.
Life is very tough for some people, and I believe that we are all able to do things in our lives to improve our own lives. Sometimes though, a helping hand is required, maybe to restore our belief in ourselves, maybe just to say everything is going to be alright, maybe just to show someone that there is a place for us all in this world.
Whoever you are, whatever you do, I do believe that you should never give up! Life finds a way, but sometimes an extra helping hand does help…
What would you have done? Please comment below…
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It is amazing and disturbing all the things that went on between ’39-’45 Things worked out well for the allies but there was heavy cost on both sides. I’ve learnt a lot about WW2 over the years and seeing a V1 bomb still on the ramp aimed at London is a chilling sight.
The Firing Control Bunker stands next to it, where the German Officer would have overseen the bombs take off releasing the V1 by electrical contact. There are no working parts inside the bunker now, just the empty concrete shell. This particular site at Val Ygot was immediately bombed before it ever got used. However, there were 117 sites like Val Ygot and some were used to devastating effect. In 1944 between mid Jun – August approximately 3000 V1s reached London killing 6000 people and wounding 3 times as many. The total number of ‘doodlebugs’ launched was 9521 and at its height, about 100 were launched per day across the launch sites. Some V1’s didn’t go far accidentally landing in France killing or wounding civilians.
This ‘Amagnetic’ Building was built without any ferrous metal to avoid confusing the compass withing the bombs. It was in here that the compass would be adjusted for direction and the flights altitude would be set and autopilot engaged. Once ready, the V1 would be sealed so there were no changes before getting to the launch pad.
The evidence remains all around the area that the site was rendered unusable from allied bombing with big craters still in the ground and destroyed buildings still visible.
It seems so strange that in a wood that stands today so quiet and peaceful, such an evil thing lurked within and was primed to take so many lives miles away. The noise of WW2 is over thankfully, and the woods are peaceful once more, but the memory of the horror of those days lives on, let us not forget…
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