Wednesday Wander – Amsterdam and London

anne-frank-houseToday I’m wandering to a couple of different places, linked by a young girl who lived over half a century ago. This is Anne Frank’s house, in Amsterdam, Holland.

I did go inside the house, climbing the steep stairs and entering through the secret door to see the rooms where Anne and her family lived for so long. I looked out of their window across the rooftops, across the view that was all they had of the outside world. I saw the little bits of writing on the walls of their rooms, then walked through the rest of the house, past the photos of the dead and dying, atrocity captured in stark black and white.

Anne, as I’m sure most of you know, was Jewish. Her religion demonised by Hitler’s regime, her family forced to live in hiding after being denied visas that could have taken them to safety. Anne had just turned thirteen when she was forced into hiding – she was fifteen when she was found and sent to Auschwitz, then Bergen Belsen, where she died. A young girl who didn’t get to live her life, all because of one man’s madness. IMG_1263This photo is of a plaque at The British Library, London. There is a tree associated with the plaque – I’m not sure if it’s the one peeping over the top of the wall, or if it was behind me, as for some reason I don’t have a photograph of it. However, here is a close up of the plaque:

IMG_1262As thunder approaches, may we all hold on to our ideals.

Thank you for coming on this Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time.


If you enjoyed this post and want to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJ,  Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon.

Circles Beyond Time – Sorrow

img_3591This is the continued story of my weekend away with The Silent Eye. Please click here for instalment one and two.

After the visit to Carl Wark and an excellent dinner, I returned to my hotel unable to do anything other than watch TV for a while before falling asleep, thoughts of finishing my short story gone in the face of my experiences on the hill. Besides, I thought, I can look at it tomorrow.

img_3588Despite all the travelling the previous day, I woke early, and was one of the first people down for breakfast in the old oak-beamed dining room. Once finished, I realised I had an hour or so to spare before being picked up, so decided to take a look around Hathersage. Sue had mentioned that I should visit the church, so I upon leaving the hotel I headed left, taking a cobbled path between stone cottages towards where Google Maps told me the church should be. I came to a long muddy road and turned left again, following a glimpse of spire above the trees. After being splashed by an enthusiastically muddy spaniel, I found a gravelled path leading past mossy stone walls. The sign on the tree helped, too. ;-D

img_3590The path led towards a walled enclosure, a grove of trees crowning the hill where the church hid. I wandered up, dodging cowpats and taking care to close the gates behind me, enjoying the views across the village, thinking what a lovely place it would be to live in.

img_3601When I reached the church, I wandered around the graveyard for a little while. It was peaceful, the gravestones grey with age and lichen, family names appearing again and again speaking of an uninterrupted line of existence linked to the village. I love to read old gravestones – the stories they tell of lives lived, of loved ones and families – and there were plenty of fine examples. I didn’t find the Eyre family, which was a shame, but I did find one rather famous fellow.

img_3608This is the grave (reputedly) of Little John, he of Robin Hood fame. As you can see, it’s a very long grave, in keeping with his fabled height, and the gravestone tells the story of how he once lived nearby. Well, why not? I thought, as I took the pathway back towards the gate, smiling at the ladies decorating the ancient stone doorway with flowers, no doubt in preparation for a wedding later that day. But I had somewhere else to be and time was ticking, so I walked back to the hotel, collected my pack, then joined the companions for another day of exploration.

img_3609This time we were heading to Gardoms Edge. I didn’t really know anything about it, but, as we walked through the fields towards to the gate, Sue filled us in. Gardoms Edge was once a Neolithic village – stone hut circles, walls and other evidence had all been excavated and mapped by archaeologists, then left in place for the lichen and heather to cover once more. This sounded fascinating, and I couldn’t wait to take a look.

img_3623We entered via a farm gate, then walked among trees and tumbled stones, hut circles and walls ancient remnants of the people who once made their homes here, thousands of years ago. This would have been a nice place to live, I thought, looking out to the view across hills and valleys, the high ridge protected by virtue of its location.

…until the painted people came…

But as the land started to rise, and we moved towards the edge of the cliff, anxiety began to curl in my stomach, my breath hard to catch. I swallowed, frowning, wondering what the hell was wrong with me. After the release of last night, I had thought to find something similar today. But this was different.

Sue turned to me. ‘You don’t like it here either, do you?’ I shook my head, realising I was almost treading on her heels in my haste to get through this place. The stones here were larger, some piled precariously on the cliff edge itself, other placed in groupings, some alone. Apparently, Sue explained, this was thought to be the place where the bones of the dead were placed, a sacred spot. The valley below was peaceful, green-clad.

…yet she could see people falling, spread-eagled like starfish against the dark green below, pushed from the cliff edge to break upon the desecrated bones of their ancestors, their deaths taken from them, their sacred space destroyed…

Later, when we spoke about the place, I likened it to how a concentration camp felt, invoked 9/11. At the time, when we reached the gate in the modern fence, waiting for the rest of the group to join us, all I could say was that it felt defiled.

‘Do you not feel well? Stu asked, looking concerned.

I shook my head. ‘I feel sick,’ I said, bile rising in my throat as I looked back to the cliff edge, our companions still walking among the stones, taking photos. I had taken no photos, just wanting to get through the place.

‘It took me the same way, when I first came here,’ he said.

…she took a moment to regroup, wondering at the morning she’d had, visiting two places of the dead, one still sanctified, the other not. The dead are revered among all cultures, ceremony and ritual used to send them on their way, the origins of such practices lost in time. And to destroy such a place of ritual is to commit the deepest sacrilege. The reverberations of such an act still resonated in the land, millennia later, affecting her to her core…

As we went through another gate, a fence separating the cliff edge off from the wooded area beyond, I felt the sickness and fear start to ease, my breath coming easier. I didn’t want to go back through there again, though. I followed Sue and Stu through the woods until we stopped at a large standing stone in a clearing. It was set at an angle, notches carved into the head. A bit like a sundial, really…

img_3626

City Of Dreams

IMG_0219Last night I visited the city again.

A city without a name, yet one which I visit often and know well. Where a river runs through to the ocean and killer whales beach themselves on the shore, where a walk can leave you hanging at the edge of a perilous drop, and the only way forward is to let go. Where familiar streets from other cities join together into a strange new whole, where I know the way but am often lost.

This time was no different. I had a job, and on the way home the subway did the thing it does so often, the track peeling away to turn along an unfamiliar route, leaving me stranded far from where I wanted to be. I knew how to get back, so my faceless companion and I took the walkway through the Asian market, past scented wood and spice and flowers, to end up dangling above city streets before letting go, fear and exhilaration screaming through us as we sailed down to the streets below.

I woke to the yowl of a cat in the street outside, the familiar humped shape of my husband warm comfort as I shuddered with the aftermath of the dream. Then I went to find sleep again. And I was back in my city, though this time twenty five stories up in a building that may or may not have been burning, with people who, for some unfathomable reason, wouldn’t take the stairs with me.

I woke once more, this time to my alarm.

It’s a strange place, my city of dreams, and yet I know it well. I know if I am driving that the road will be endlessly circuitous and choked with cars, never getting me to my destination. That the buildings are a mix of ancient and modern, that whales call in the blue water nearby, salt spray dashing against the stone walls and railings. If I go out of the city to the nearby mountains, another town awaits. One of stone and twisting streets, castellated walls and golden lit windows, shops filled with gleaming merchandise.

It is a place of fear and beauty, my city of dreams.


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.