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!
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 >>
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 >>
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>>
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 >>
It’s been a warm day in Domžale, and humid too. I arrived yesterday evening after what felt like endless miles crawling up and then coasting down Austrian mountain passes, above dandelion-flecked meadows, with road and railway ribbling along past towns with names like Spittal an der Drau. I’m not so fond of manicured Alpine landscapes, at least not the inhabited ones; the predictability and tidiness of it all makes me think of the wild jaggedness that they have lost. The rain didn’t help, either, decapitating the mountains’ majesty with fog, and leaving only the staid, mannered human landscape below. Eventually the change of train conductor to one in a blue-green Read full post >>