Friday, 13 June 2014

Summertime...and the Livin' is Easy...

The problem with "getting away from it all" is that every good intention of being a regular blogger tends to go out the window. I don't travel with loads of technology, and thus, I'm very behind in this "not quite a travel blog."

Last week, after being drenched in a downpour of epic proportions and deafened by the bustling humanity outside my window, I escaped gladly to the island of Terschelling for time with family and some peace and quiet. It's always a joy to go back to the only place I can really think of as home.

On June 6, I sat watching the D-Day Remembrance service in Normandy on television. It was attended by all the state dignitaries and Royals of the Allies. I was glad to see Angela Merkel there too, representing Germany - it is a relief to know there has been enough time for healing to begin properly. Veterans from the Allied forces who had landed on the beaches of Normandy were there; the Prime Ministers and Kings and Queens shook hands with them and thanked them. President Hollande of France was the host of the event. He looked rather weary of greeting nearly every country in Europe and her allies (though, as we know from our history, not Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, or Sweden...). Hollande did, however, give a marvellous speech. It was in French and the television gave Dutch subtitles, so between the two I managed to understand it all. I found his words very moving and hopeful, and he spoke poignantly about remembering our troops as well as the German victims of Nazism.

An old photo of the bunkers in the dune
Sitting not 200 metres from a German WWII bunker on the island, while watching this service was, in a way, surreal. As I have previously written, seeing the War from an occupied country's eyes is quite different. Hearing the memories of this day from family members is fascinating: the utter hope they felt is very moving even to this day. Listening to the BBC broadcasts on secret radios and passing on the message: "They've landed in France! They've arrived!" I can't even begin to imagine how it must have felt - the beginning of the end of the War in Europe.

It was a humbling afternoon of remembering; I felt glad that I am of a generation that is, thank goodness, coming to terms and understanding the full meaning of "forgive and forget".

My marvellous view from the port deck
It was a good weekend away, getting my fill of summer sunshine, sand, reading, cycling through the dunes, eating far too much, and building sandcastles with children. The Netherlands has a lot to offer when it comes to the outdoors, I must say. I headed back to Groningen, taking the slow ferry boat. I could have easily taken the fast one, but I had a little bit of time before needing to be back in the city. There is something rather wonderful about travelling purposefully. To enjoy the process for itself alone. It was a perfect day on the sea: hardly any wind and a blue sky. I found a perch on the outer, port deck and sat writing with pen and paper for two hours, watching ships and sail boats pass us by. Glorious!

In the harbour town of Harlingen I resolved not to run like a madman for the train, and instead walked the kilometer through town to the other train station. They've installed loads of informational boards about the harbour and canals, talking about the history of this once busy shipping port. I arrived perfectly on time to catch the train home. I wrote in the train too, finding that by hand, writing takes a lot longer and allows one to think carefully. We are spoiled by our computers sometimes...

Grote Market, Drie G'Zusters
Groningen was loud and hot and sticky when I arrived. I missed the fresh sea breeze immediately. The last few days have been full: mind numbing noise from the street below (honestly, who starts machinery at 6am...?!), and going to and fro.

The constant noise that summer seems to bring to the city is driving me slightly batty. But, it is summertime, and as the old song says, the livin' is easy. Each day is a blessing.

World Cup fever is very much abuzz here, and I can't help but fall in with the feeling. Holland plays tonight against our old rivals, Spain (on Friday the 13th!).  Hup Holland, Hup!