Category Archives: Family

Quick thinking, exhausting holidays and crazy parties!

There are very few dull moments in Newman Towers and the last few weeks have not been an exception! The first six weeks of this school term have been all about finishing my novel, and after a lot of hours spent with my laptop, I have now taken a break for a few weeks which is a good thing as they have been full with other stuff.

In the school holiday, I took the little people to Holland for a few days. Hubby had to work so it was just the three of us. We had great fun going on the ferry and catching up with family. It was brilliant spending some quality time with my sister and even better seeing my awesome nephew. Jacob idolises him and it is great to see them all get on.IMG_1154

We all had a lovely time (including hubby who had a weekend all to himself), but it did mean that the little people went back to school rather tired as we got home at 21.30 on Sunday evening.

On the Tuesday it was the dreaded Halloween! I dread not because I don’t let my little people trick or treat. Normally we do something else special on Halloween but because we had just been away it didn’t happen. I’m sure they’ll live. 🙂

On the same day, another one of Elisabeth’s teeth came out, she had been wobbling it for ages so she was very pleased. Now a few months ago, her front tooth came out and I nearly forgot about the tooth fairy……..now you can see what’s coming…….this time I didn’t nearly forget about the tooth fairy…….I actually did!!!! Elisabeth came downstairs in the morning with a trembling bottom lip

“Mummy, the tooth fairy didn’t come.”

Ahhhhhh!!!!! Quick!!!!!! Think of something!!!!!!!!!!

“Maybe the tooth fairy was so scared by all the Halloween costumes yesterday that she was too afraid to come out?”

“Yes, that’s probably it, maybe she’ll come tonight.”

Pfew, that was close! The tooth fairy actually came that day ready for when Elisabeth came home from school. Nicely done, even if I say so myself 🙂

To finish off the crazy weeks, my dad came to visit over the weekend to celebrate bonfirenight and our 12,5 year wedding anniversary. For some reason it is tradition in Holland to celebrate this, according to my dad it’s because the Dutch love a good party but because a lot of marriages don’t make it to 25 years, we celebrate at 12,5 as well 🙂 no idea whether it is true or not, but any excuse for a party is fine by me!

It was complete chaos with 4 kiddos under seven, 9 adults, food, drink and lots of fireworks, but it was awesome. A perfect way to celebrate.

I have to admit though, that after all that fun, it is quite nice for things to get back to normal for a bit…..until Christmas that is………………

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I wasn’t scared……well, maybe a little

A few months ago I found a little lump in my breast…..slight moment of panic. A few days later……it was gone……sigh of relief. A few weeks later…..it was back…….moment of: what the heck do I do now!?!

To be perfectly honest, the temptation to just ignore it was pretty strong. I spent a couple of days doing jsut that and I did really well. But no matter how hard you try to pretend these things aren’t there, they niggle…..and niggle……and niggle. You can ignore them but they never quite leave your brain.

So I decided to have it checked out. The doctor I saw couldn’t feel anything and I wasn’t actually that worried. I am not sure whether this was just complete denial of the whole situation or a genuine feeling, but I assumed it was nothing to worry about. The doctor shared my lack of concern but still referred me to hospital to make sure. 

The appointment came through quite quickly, and still I wasn’t worried. 

The day of the appointment came, and still I wasn’t worried.

I drove to hospital and got myself a cup of tea because I was early, and still I wasn’t worried.

I find the right department, let reception know I was there, sat down, and still I wasn’t worried.

I had a look around at the people in the waiting room and the numerous leaflets with titles like ‘coping with cancer’ and all of a sudden it hit me; today could be just a routine check with a positive outcome and I’ll be home for lunch, or it could be the start of a long horrible journey. 

A lady of similar age to me arrived for a post treatment check up and all I could think about was whether she had children and whether they knew what their mummy was going through.

Luckily I didn’t have to wait very long. The nurse who saw me was lovely and she didn’t think it was anything to worry about, but she sent me to have a scan anyway.

The scan confirmed that it was just a bit of dense tissue and I was sent back to the nurse with the result. By this time the waiting room was so full that it was standing room only and it was a very strange feeling to know that not everyone in this room will be as lucky as me. Some people will, like me, be home for lunch and that be the end if it. But for some this will only be the start, and their lunch will be truly ruined by the prospect of the awful journey that is ahead of them. 

Again I didn’t have to wait long to be seen and the nurse confirmed the resukt of the scan. She also pointed out that I did the right thing by having it checked out. Then she sent me on my way.

And I went home, and felt lucky, damn lucky.

Around the corner from Anne Frank

Most people in my life know that writing is one of my biggest passions and ever since I was a little girl I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. But then I did grow up, and well, life happened and becoming a writer didn’t.

But when my wonderful Elisabeth was born I decided that I was not ready to let the dream go and I would somehow become a published writer one way or another. A lot of writing projects were started but very few were finished, apart from one. One that meant an awful lot to me because of the person I wrote about.

Just writing the story was incredibly satisfying, but I wanted the world to know about this amazingly brave person, and I was over the moon when ‘Dutch Magazine’ (dutchthemag) was willing to publish it.

This is the story of how Anna Elisabeth Van Nes-Visser, my beloved grandmother, saved the life of a young jewish girl during the second world war.

 

Around the corner from Anne Frank

Everyone knows the story of Anne Frank and “Het Achterhuis”, but Miep Gies, who looked after the Frank family, wasn’t the only one who, during the Second World War, risked her life by hiding Jews. There were thousands of them. It is estimated that 25,000 Jews survived the Second World War because they were offered a hiding place. Some people hid Jews to make money, some did it because they thought it was the right thing to do and some because not doing it didn’t even occur to them. Anna who lived at the Leliegracht in Amsterdam, around the corner from where Anne Frank was hiding, was one of those very brave people. She was also my grandmother.

In the summer of 1943, the house where Liesje, a young Jewish girl from Amsterdam, and her family lived was raided. Liesje was the only one who managed to get out of the house before the German soldiers took her whole family. She was hidden by the family who lived next door but they couldn’t, or wouldn’t, keep her. They put her in touch with someone who moved her to Utrecht where she found a place to hide, but in the winter of 1944 she was no longer safe there. This is when Anna was asked if she would take in a Jewish girl who had nowhere else to go.

Just over a year before, Anna’s father had been executed in Camp Vught. He was given the choice to either tell where Klaas, Anna’s husband, was hiding or to die. The Nazis did manage to find Klaas in the end, and he had been in Camp Vught for almost a year when Anna was asked to take Liesje in. Anna felt she needed to do something because of what the Nazis were doing to her family, and she agreed. After the war she often struggled with her reasons for this decision. She came from a very religious family and feelings of revenge weren’t generally accepted.

Liesje moved into Anna’s attic room. Anna tried very hard to accommodate Liesje’s Jewish traditions and Liesje tried to be as little a burden as she could. From March 1944 until May 1945 Liesje lived in Anna’s attic. She would only come downstairs for dinner, this was risky of course and the door to the attic was always left open just in case she had to go back upstairs quickly, but Anna insisted that dinner was eaten at the dinner table. This was her way of bringing some normality into the girl’s life.

Liesje helped out where she could. Anna had three children under five and had to go out every day to queue up for food. One day when the two youngest were ill and it was freezing cold outside, she left her three children with Liesje. All went well until someone she had known for years, and who knew that her husband had been captured, asked her: “Anna, where are your children today?” Anna didn’t expect the question and didn’t know what to say. She made up an excuse about her oldest looking after them. Luckily her lie had been believed, but that was the last time she ever left the children with Liesje.

Liesje lived in the attic until the end of the war without ever going outside. If she ever looked out of her window, she could have seen “Het Achterhuis”, but she wouldn’t have known there was a girl hiding there, just like her, living through the same fears. If they had both looked at the same time, they could have seen each other, and maybe even given a careful wave.

The stories of these two girls, Anne Frank and Liesje, are very similar. Both of them were Jewish, both were scared, but both of them were lucky enough to find a woman brave enough to risk their lives by hiding them. But the end of their stories couldn’t be more different. The Franks were betrayed and arrested. Little Anne died in March 1945, two months before the end of the war aged only 15. Liesje on the other hand struggled to walk normally when, on the 6th of May 1945 Anna took her outside for the very first time since she arrived 14 months earlier. Little Liesje, or Auntie Lies as she would later be known to us, died a happy woman aged 82.

After the war there has been some debate over what actually happened. Two parts of the story have different versions. The first is what happened to my great grandfather. My grandmother’s account is that he was executed because he wouldn’t give up my grandfather’s location, but my grandmother’s sister has always insisted that he died of pneumonia in Camp Vught. The other part where there is some doubt, is how Liesje ended up with my grandmother. The story that she has always told her children is that Liesje was living next door and escaped into my grandmother’s garden when their hiding place was raided. She hid in her coal shed overnight and knocked on the back door in the morning. A written account that we have from Anna however, tells us that she was asked whether she would take Liesje in. This document also mentions my grandmother’s struggle with the reasons why she decided to hide a Jewish girl. We do not know for sure what actually happened, but in my opinion the way I have written it here makes most sense. It seems likely that the execution of Anna’s father would have instilled the feelings of revenge that made her decide to help Liesje and that she later struggled with. This could also explain why she told a different story of how Liesje came to live in her attic. If she would have found Liesje in her back garden it almost takes away the conscious decision of taking her in and therefore the hiding of the girl is not a decision based on feelings of revenge.

We will never know for sure what really happened, but regardless of which version describes history most accurately, the plain truth is that Anna, without a shadow of a doubt, saved Liesje’s life, and so did so many other brave souls who risked everything by offering innocent people a place to hide in their homes. Their stories need to be told. And never forgotten.