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 >>

Oct 072013
 
Outreach on Facebook

Last week was Quaker Week, when British Quakers make an extra effort to do some outreach and talk to the world about who Quakers are and what we do. I was on holiday, so I thought that perhaps my contribution could be to ask people on Facebook if they wanted to ask any questions about Quakerism. The resulting thread was so much fun (to write and read) that I decided to repost a screenshot here, so that it disappears from view a little more slowly than on Facebook, where it has already been pushed down the timeline by much less interesting forms of noise.

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>>

May 152013
 
In Carinthia

History and the past are not the same thing. Doing history is not about creating some facsimile, making a perfect replica, finding the ‘correct’ facts as if just writing them all down would mean that history was now ‘right’. What we are doing when we think about, write about and remember the past is really to try and say something about how we see ourselves in the present and the future. I’ve come to Slovenia and Austria in search of my grandfather’s wartime experience, but have also learned a lot more about the history of this area, and about how the events of the past still have relevance today. Read full post >>