Nov 152013
 

On the train this morning: lots of litter on the table opposite – newspapers and coffee cups and such. A woman sitting down at that table picks it all up and dumps it all down on my table, then looks offended by my surprised look. She says “what?” as if asking me to explain myself. So I say that there is probably a bin at the end of the carriage. She says there is never a bin on trains, and anyway, she didn’t leave the litter on the table. (I think: you did leave it on mine). I pick up the cups and paper and take them to the bin Read full post >>

Oct 152013
 
A centenary

All the posts on here recently have focused, in one way or the other, on my family. I mentioned in my last one that my grandmother would have been 100 on 7th October. Now my mum has written her own blog post about Bill Skinner’s life, which I’m just reposting as a companion piece for all those I wrote about my grandpa. I’ll return to non-family related posts when inspiration next strikes!

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Oct 082013
 
Geoff: a coda

Longtime readers will remember a series of posts I wrote earlier this year, following a trip to Slovenia and Austria, about my grandpa Geoff Skinner’s experiences as a prisoner of war in Austria. While he was adapting to his new reality, the war dragged on around him. While in captivity, he sent off for textbooks and put in the study that allowed him to train as a doctor, after the war was over. And without that, I would not be sitting here today, because he was introduced to my grandmother by a teacher, while, aged 26, he was back at his old school, cramming for the exams he’d never have Read full post >>

Jul 052013
 
Diggers!

Ever since I’ve worked in my current job, one of the largest demolition jobs I’ve ever seen has been going on across the road. When I started last September, there was a huge building – a city block, effectively, opposite. Then diggers started to appear, lifted onto the roof by cranes, vast in size but small against the sides of the building, like flies on a rhino’s hide. They started drilling and bashing and carrying and bulldozing, and over several months the building became an enormous pile of rubble. Conveyor belts on caterpillar tracks came along, seeming to move the spoil from place to place; water jets sprayed it to Read full post >>

Jun 042013
 
At Waidmansdorff

Both Carinthia and Yugoslavia suffered in WW2. I’ve always found it interesting that Geoff’s experience, was very different – not freedom, to be sure, and not as he would have wished it, but in the circumstances, and compared to other places, pretty tolerable. This surprised me because before I really started considering it, I had an notion that captivity under the Nazis would be all hardship. Read full post >>

Jun 022013
 
At Bleiburg

In the last post, I wrote about Carinthia, where my grandfather spent most of the Second World War as a prisoner of war. I’ve often wondered what impression this left on him; his parents came from Devon and he was born on the New Kent Road and grew up there and in Tooting. So far as I know, he did not leave Britain before the war; to have travelled around the world and ended up in this sleepy, mountainous corner of Austria must have seemed very strange. He visited Klagenfurt again, in the 1960s, but as far as I know, this was his only return visit. He felt a much closer connection, largely because of his friend Ida and her family, with the country which, when I was small, was called Yugoslavia, and which now is called Slovenia. Read full post>>