History repeats itself

by Julianne Alcott

“History repeats itself…
It has to.
No one listens the first time.”

This quote really made an impact when I started studying World Wars 1 and 2 for my new display in my library.

I asked the children the question…                              

World War 1 was called “ The War to End all Wars” What does that mean?

After we had discussed the question, many children put their hands up and remarked that it wasn’t the war to end all wars, because there was the Second World War.

And that is the tragedy of history. People don’t seem to learn from their mistakes. Or at least, they think they will succeed where past people have failed.
I’m sure Hitler knew all about WW1, having fought in it, but he obviously thought he could do better. A pity that he didn’t pay attention to history. He would have learned from Napoleon’s mistake that attacking Russia during winter was bound to end in defeat.

Studying the wars has been heart breaking and depressing, but also fascinating.

Did you know that the French built a fake Paris down the Seine River from real Paris? They made cardboard buildings and monuments and lit up everything to look like the city. The object was that German planes would bomb it instead of the real Paris. The problem was that it wasn’t finished by the time the war ended, so they never got a chance to see if it worked.

I never knew exactly why the First World War started. I knew that Archduke Ferdinand was murdered in Sarajevo by a Serbian, but I didn’t know why that would spark a war of that magnitude.

Part of the problem was that Austria/Hungary swiped Bosnia from the other Balkan states.

Frantz Ferdinand was an Austrian/Hungarian, and heir to the throne. He was visiting Bosnia as a sort of diplomatic show, and that’s when the Serbian Black Hand group decided to assassinate him and his wife.

Austria/Hungary declared war on Serbia, and the other European countries chose sides after that.

The reason for WW2 is more complex, and comes from a multiple set of causes.

The biggest one seems to be the Treaty of Versailles, which was an agreement drawn up by the countries that won WW1.

They decided that Germany was responsible for the war, and must pay for it. Literally.

In fact, the country only finished paying its World War One debt off in October 2010!

Germany lost a lot of its land, and became poverty stricken. The US President Woodrow Wilson hadn’t agreed with the Treaty of Versailles. He said Germany needed to be punished, but also  helped to become a democratic nation. He was concerned that if they treated Germany too harshly, the Germans would get revenge one day.

And of course that is what happened. Hitler achieved success when he told his struggling nation that he would Make Germany strong again and tear up the Treaty of Versailles.

Did you know that Frantz Ferdinand was warned about the dangers of visiting Bosnia, but he went ahead anyway. One of the reasons was because of his wife, Sophie.

She had been a lady-in-waiting, and his family had been so horrified that he married her and brought her into their royal family. He was made to promise that none of their children would inherit the rulership of the country. Sophie could never sit next to him at public occasions, and always had to walk behind them.

Some have suggested that he visited the foreign country at that time, because it was their wedding anniversary, and he wanted to be able to celebrate it with her properly.

And there is the unforgettable story of Christmas 1914 when opposing troops stopped shooting at  each other, and shared a day of singing, food and playing soccer.

And do you know about the carrot story?

Yes, carrots can help our eyesight because they are high in Vitamin A, but can they really make you see in the dark? Studies have shown that carrots do not make eyes better equipped for night sight.

So where did that idea come from?

The Second World War… Britain spread the word that they were feeding their pilots a diet of carrots,
and that is why they were able to see Nazi bombers in the dark. Of course, this was a story fabricated to hide the fact that the British had radar, which could spot enemy planes before they reached the English Channel.

There are countless stories from both wars that are interesting, but we would do well to pay attention to what happened, and the great cost of war, so that future generations don’t make the same mistakes.


Pocket full of change


by Gracey 

Neither a wise man nor a brave man lies down on the tracks of history to wait for the train of the future to run over him.  ~Dwight D. Eisenhower

About a year ago, I attended a Company course on  ‘Managing Change’.  As with most of such courses there was a psychological bent.  The subject matter included concepts and perceptions that gelled with my intuition.  One doesn’t need a degree to recognise that change is a fact of life.  I doubt that any of us can say that a paradigm shift is a breeze.  Galloping towards uncertainty is not a normal response for anyone.  Many of us don our ostrich feathers and get the grit between our teeth until we forget why and resign ourselves to days of gale-force winds. Control freaks have a particularly hard time going with the flow.

I suppose a lot depends on whether the change is happening to you or you are effecting it.  I should embrace it.  Innovation has always been a passion of mine; I love new things, improvements, advancing technology.  Give me one problem to solve and I’ll mull over it until I’ve found a solution. Give me two and I might retreat from normal life.  Trust me with any more and I will put off going to bed.  Why?  Multi-tasking and dreams don’t aid sleep.  Speaking of dreams, sometime between the dawn and sunset of my youth, I realised that they rarely come true without action.

My dilemma, dear Dwight, is that I’m having a hard time reconciling my passion for transformation with my resistance to it. My feet are stuck in the tracks, but my heart wants to leap onto the train.  I wonder if there is such a thing as circumstantial schizophrenia.

It’s time for me to emerge from the cobwebs, shake off the dust, take myself for a makeover and buy a new map.

Dwight makes a good point.  The train is in sight.  My feet are free from their shackles and I’m expecting the engine to arrive any minute.  The tracks remain in position, stoically accusing me of abandonment as I set my feet on the platform.  I’ve done what calculations I can, balanced the cost of leaving with the cost of living. I’m ready for the ride of my life. Chances are that I’ll reach my destination with a pocket full of change.  The journey will be worth it but not over …

Memoirs are made of these

By Sue Trollip

Where would you begin your memoirs? The crux, in my opinion, is to find that key moment and write it in a way that sets the tone of the story.

In The Facts of Life and Other Dirty Jokes Willie Nelson begins: ‘They say writing the first line of a book is the hardest part.’

This is no lie and I’m guessing Willie battled to find a launching pad for his life. I’m assuming he’s had many ground breaking moments just like the rest of us. Drew Barrymore, who began drinking at 9, smoking weed at 10 and snorting cocaine at 12, begins her story with the filming of ET.

There’s the humorous approach like Jarod Kintz’s: ‘From the ages of 8-18, me and my family moved around a lot. Mostly we would just stretch, but occasionally one of us would actually get up to go to the fridge.’

Or more poignant is that of Anne Robinson’s: ‘Fifteen years after a mother has left the earth there is a grown-up daughter standing in a shop, saying petulantly to a saleswoman, ‘I know it looks nice — but I don’t wear purple.’

One of the most famous lines in biographies comes from Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke’s novel Out of Africa:

‘I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills. The Equator runs across these highlands, a hundred miles to the North, and the farm lay at an altitude of over six thousand feet. In the day-time you felt that you had got high up, near to the sun, but the early mornings and evenings were limpid and restful, and the nights were cold.’

Perhaps a better way to start would be to task yourself with this: If you could put 10 photographs in the photo album of your life, which 10 would you choose? Then pick one and begin your story from there.

Relax! I don’t want to write my memoirs and bore all who skim through it, not yet anyway. I’ve simply been thinking about life and her pivotal moments.


Perfect Pitch or What?

Upstairs, Downstairs…

By Susan RobertsI’ve been in my new abode for seven weeks now, and feel quite settled despite not having unpacked much. The problem is that in about another seven weeks’ time I will have to re-pack the few boxes I have opened and go through the trauma of moving back down to my newly-refurbished cottage at the bottom of the garden.

Do I want to move back? Couldn’t I rather just stay here, settle in deeper and allow the atmosphere of this place to permeate my soul completely? I’m in a quandary: to stay upstairs; to go back downstairs. Upstairs, downstairs. What to do… what to do…

List the pros and cons, my mother would say. So far they are about equal.

The huge, rambling and once impersonal place that I have now spread myself into is not the soulless barn that I told everyone it was. The pleasure of being able to arrange my things into different rooms, have a view on all four sides, enjoy something akin to mountain air blowing through my windows, have space between my pieces of furniture in each room, and to be able to reach my sewing cabinet when I need to mend something or alter a curtain quickly – all that is something I hadn’t bargained on enjoying so much. Let’s face it – I love it here.

But I love my cottage too, remember? Everything is cute and quaint and within reach there, whereas up here I am going through shoe leather just tramping through the place. Those midnight snacks I enjoyed when the kitchen used to be next door to the bedroom have to be planned now – I actually have to walk down a passage, through a dining room and past a spare bedroom to get to the kitchen! I need a bigger snack by then after that kind of exercise.

And then there’s the question of neighbours. As far back as I can remember, I have enjoyed being on my own. Solitude across the garden means I can play my music at 11 pm when I get home from work, or even watch a DVD until two in the morning. At the moment I can’t do that. I tiptoe around when I arrive home, very aware that my landlord – who is a light sleeper – has his bedroom beneath my kitchen. Late night feasts and scraping of chairs on the floor are not exactly fair to him.

But then, early morning music from him and his housemate as they chat over breakfast in their kitchen drifts up the blocked-but-not-completely-sealed staircase to my dining room. If I am sitting at my table writing, the Country & Western vocals filtering into my brain tend to interfere with the thought processes of my novel’s characters, who don’t want Lucille back, nor would they be cruel enough to name their boy Sue.

On the other hand, there is a very real danger in this beautiful but sad country that a woman living on her own is just no longer safe. I do feel more secure knowing that my two male neighbours are just a shout away on the other side of a wooden board. If anything happened to me down in the cottage, who would know? I live in Bridget Jones-like fear of being the old lady who dies alone and no one misses her until the local rodents have had a good feast and the smell of decomposition eventually reaches the nostrils of the neighbours.

I suppose the real question is: can I afford to stay here? Probably not. The rental is bound to be at least twice what I pay downstairs, but I haven’t yet had the guts to ask. And the perverse part of me doesn’t want to ask just yet, because I know that the answer will crush all my fantasies, and at the moment I am happier living up here in Cloudcuckooland, not knowing.

My cats love it here, of course. They have room to spread out and have settled very well. It hardly seems fair of me to expect them to move again, does it? While they get to savour it all day and every day, I work a six-day wPictureeek and feel as if I haven’t yet had the chance to fully enjoy the place. It’s like I’ve only just moved in, and I’m not yet ready to move out. I haven’t even started going through all my junk, which was part of my plan before squashing myself back into the cottage.

And then there’s the bath.

For the last fifteen years I have been a shower-and-go person, having lived in tiny cottages where showering is the only option. Now I have a bath as well, and the late night indulgence of a foam bath once or twice a week while drinking a glass of wine and listening to classical music is one that has brought back memories of a long-forgotten youth. I’ve also just bought a huge bottle of magnolia-scented bath crème and it would be a sin to waste it.

Upstairs, downstairs – the debate continues. What to do… what to do…