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 >>

Mar 162011

I’m not sure why I’ve been away for so long.  I’d say I haven’t had time, but you can always make time for things when you’re motivated, so let’s just say I haven’t had the motivation to blog for a while.  Things have certainly been busy, especially at the weekends; since the start of February every weekend has been taken up: I’ve had the family visiting and went to an excellent gig with my sister, two weekend conferences in the UK, and friends visiting Brussels for the last two weekends.  Things have felt as if they are starting to settle in with work, as well; the report I’ve been writing Read full post >>

Dec 062010

It’s probably only fair to turn a little bit of wrath towards Eurostar.  Now I’m not the sort to get frustrated by the snow.  We can’t do anything about it, after all, and let’s face it, we don’t get or need that much practice at it.  So I don’t mind if transport grinds to a halt, and I quite appreciate a bit of snow and ice, as long as I don’t fall over too often.  No, last Friday was occasioned by the snow, but let’s not let that be an excuse for a simple case of fuckwitted management.  Eurostar phone man told me it was first come, first served for Read full post >>

Aug 282010

One thing I forgot to mention before was something I have been reading: “First Footsteps in East Africa” by the Victorian explorer, Richard Francis Burton, whose exploits in making the hajj to Mecca and exploring Muslim East Africa in disguise both fascinated and scandalised Victorian England.  The book is an account of his overland voyage to Harar in 1854-55, and makes fascinating reading.  Burton was famous for his knowledge of many languages and his deep knowledge of Muslim and Hindu culture, and he took great personal risks to make his voyages.  He is a fantastic travel writer, observant and descriptive, and on some level seems to have been quite sympathetic Read full post >>