I’m back!

It’s been a while. A long while. A way too long while since I even logged on to WordPress, let alone wrote anything! But I’m back, well I’m trying to be (I imagine Arnie saying “I’ll try to be back” wouldn’t have made quite the same impact – ha ha).

Jacob has recently started pre-school 3 hours a day, and the weeks leading up to that, a lot of my sentences started with: “Well, when Jacob goes to nursery I’ll have a bit more time to do that…” so I planned to do a lot of things, and I mean a lot of things.

First things first though, I increased my hours at work. Working only two days a week is lovely, but it does not help ones financial situation much, so half of the hours Jacob was going to be at nursery I agreed to work. Luckily the amazing company I work for are really flexible and were happy to let me do the extra hours from home.

After taking off time that I spend walking to school and back to do the now 3 school runs a day, this leaves me with about 3 hours at home to do other things. In those 3 hours I decided to do the following:

  • Go for at least 2 runs every week
  • Cook lots of meals to go in our freezer for the busy days
  • Write at least 2 or 3 blog posts a week
  • Become a domestic goddess whose house is so clean it barely looks lived in
  • Catch up with some friends I haven’t seen for a while
  • And write a book

All of that in 3 hours a week.

I don’t think I need to explain why this hasn’t happened. Although in the first two weeks of Jacob’s new adventure (for details of this you will have to wait for my next post) I did go for 1 run, cleaned and tidied up our dining room and generally got the house in a state that, although it very much looks lived in, you don’t stick to the kitchen floor anymore. And the best bit is that I have actually finished the first draft of my first ever novel – eek!

Oh, and I have just written a blog post, but obviously you already knew that 🙂

 

Advertisements

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.

 

 

I’m back!

Wow, you know you’ve been busy when writing is one of your favourite things and still you haven’t posted for 5 months! I know! Five whole months without as much as a word. Without trying to make excuses, the main reason I haven’t been blogging is that we have had a lot of illness over the last few months. I was ill pretty much from just before Christmas up to nearly the end of February with one nasty cold and/or flu after the other. And as soon as I was better, yes you guessed it, the kiddos got ill.

Jacob got off lightly the first time with just a cold that was gone within a few days, but Elisabeth was not so lucky and she was poorly for almost two weeks. We even got worried we might have had to cancel her birthday party, but she got better just in time…..or so we thought. Last week she again came down with high temperatures, sore throat and ear ache. Poor girl.

Because she is far too ill to go to school I have taken today off work (unpaid, eek!) to look after her. Normally I work from home when Elisabeth is not well because she is such a good girl and she happily lets me get on with what I need to do, but we have had so little sleep this week that I decided that and trying to work and looking after a poorly girl was just a bit too much. So a day off it is (which was a good decision because even writing this is making my eyes wanting to shut quite desperately!).

Anyway, winter won’t last forever so in theory the colds will go, and hopefully that means I will have a little more time (and energy) to write. In the next few days I would like to share with you my first ever published article about how my super brave grandmother saved the life of a Jewish girl during the Second World War, so watch this space!

Felixstowe beach

Because I haven’t had much creative energy lately, I thought I would post something I wrote a while ago. It has been available on one of the pages on my blog so some of you might have already read it. I hope you enjoy it.

Felixstowe beach

Even though it was a cold and cloudy afternoon we decided to brave the weather and go to the beach. Because of the chill in the air we packed our winter coats, but also sun cream, just in case, and got in the car.
During the quarter of an hour drive the weather underwent a complete metamorphosis. With each mile we covered a bit more blue sky appeared, and by the time we had reached our destination, the sun was out, there was not a cloud in the sky and it was almost hot. So instead of putting on our winter coats, we applied generous amounts of sun cream and joined the stream of people strolling along the boulevard.
Everyone seemed to be moving at half their normal speed. I immediately adjusted to the slower pace and loved the sensation of wandering without a destination or a required time of arrival.
On our left the beach huts looked freshly painted in pretty shades of pastel, and on the right were the bright colours of the gardens in full bloom. On the beach a group of sea gulls were having a party with a half eaten bag of chips and an ice cream cone.
I have always loved this quieter end of the beach where the shops will be shut until the summer holiday starts and there will be noise everywhere. Far away from the pier we chose I our spot, and whilst my daughter started her mission to collect every pebble on the beach, I stared out to sea. In the hazy distance I saw several trawlers moving their cargo and I wondered what tropical destinations they were heading for.
A squeal of delight from the pebble collector brought me back to reality just in time to grab her and jump out of the way of a massive wave that seemed determined to get us wet. She laughed so much she almost choked. Because I can’t resist the sound of her laughter, we played this game over and over again, until my arms hurt so much I couldn’t carry her any longer.
As I put her down her hair blew in my face and I inhaled the scent of sun cream, milk and that sweet baby smell that was fading way too fast. From what seems like miles away I could hear the irritating tunes of the pier and the screaming children who, instead of collecting pebbles or playing catch with the sea, spent this sunny afternoon inside demanding more money from their parents for yet another ride. But none of this where I was. In my own little world there was nothing but sunshine, sand, sea and the most wonderful little creature in the world who grinned at me as she ran off to meet another wave.

Too busy…..no time to write

I am sure I’m not the only one who doesn’t have enough time to do all the things I want to do, which in my case is mostly writing. Even though I only work part time, I still struggle to fit things in. I know this is not limited to parents, although those with children do seem to suffer from it more. It is not just that there aren’t enough hours in the day, there are two other problems that ensure you don’t get around to doing anything.

The biggest one is, without a doubt, tiredness – or should I say exhaustion. In theory I could spend a couple of hours writing every evening, but by the time it is 9pm I am so tired that I just want to go to bed and read my book for a while.

The second one is the unpredictability of children. Even if there would be the odd evening where I would have enough energy to do something productive after 9pm, this would most likely be the night that Elisabeth doesn’t want to sleep.

So, I have decided to give up trying doing anything, apart from writing the odd blog post, in the evening and try and squeeze in an hour of writing in the morning. My husband is up early most mornings so it’s not like I’ll be losing out on sleep….sleep is for losers anyway 🙂

What I learned since becoming a mummy

Normally when life gets a little tough I am the first to grab a pen (or ipad) and write about it. Writing sorts out my brain. Writing stuff down is like having a good tidy up in my head, put things in the right places if you like. But the last few weeks I have not wanted to write, most likely because there are things in my head that I don’t really want to give a place, this also widely known as denial.

But one thing I have learned since becoming a mummy is not to be too hard on myself. I do the best I can and a lot of times the best is pretty damn good! So it is ok to let things slip every now and then.

A couple more things I have learned over the last 19 months are:

There is no such thing as a perfect parent, and just because other mums look mega organised doesn’t mean that they are. It is easy to compare yourself to your mummy friends and think that they are doing a far better job than you are. The chances are they’re not!

Always trust your gut! Trust your mummy instinct, it tends to be right. The few times I didn’t, I really regretted it.

Anyway, I hope that I will soon get back to writing regularly, and probably bore you endlessly with my stories about sleeping, no sleeping, new words and all sorts of other mummy stuff 🙂