The Prison Camp in La Thuile


At one end of La Thuile, away from where most tourists would wander, is the remains of a prison of war camp. There are a few worn signs, which are all in Italian, so I photographed them and typed them into Google Translate. It seems that the camp was in use during both wars, and the prisoners worked in the local mines. During the second world war, prisoners came from Yugoslavia. I’m not sure who they would be, though I have read elsewhere that Jewish prisoners were used as slave labour in Italy, for things like keeping the mountain passes open, and in mines. I guess it’s possible they were also part of the camp in La Thuile, and used in the mines here.

There’s not much left of the camp, and it’s hard to see whether the buildings were barracks for guards or dormitories for prisoners. Most of the buildings are on private land, so it wasn’t possible to get very close. Below are some photos, and the translation of the information signs. It’s hard to glean many facts from either.

Translation of Prison Sign:

First World War

Already during the First World War it is known that over 50 prisoners of war were employed in the work of the mines. In 1918, “the 31 prisoners of war were awarded a wage of just under 1/3 of the normal worker, ie 3,400 lire per day. By making a downward calculation it is possible to establish that, at the end of the First World War, the prisoners of war who find employment in the anthracite mines of La Thuile amounted to about one hundred units. They were guarded by military personnel and housed in special barracks in the Villaret region.”

Unfortunately there is no other news, it is not known where they were housed, where the special barracks were, but the presence of prisoners and their work in mining are attested in the first as in the second world war. Surely it was a place near the mouth of the mine, perhaps the place was already this … [sic]

Second World War

The set of buildings that insist on this area were born between 1941 and 1942 when the Cogne, “for exceptional needs, had to undertake the construction of barracks for housing prisoners of war, militarized workers from the army and military surveillance personnel at the concentration camp for prisoners” who will work in the mine. The building project is dated November 1941 and the request for the concession is presented by the Cogne Society to the Municipality of La Thuile on May 28, 1942.

The document shows that the constructions are “partly carried out and partly to be carried out. […] These are temporary barracks raised to a single floor above ground and will be built in timber with walls covered in” Eraclit or Populit “slabs. 2 cm thick, plastered, with a roof covered in Marseilles tiles on a timber frame.” The camp consists of the dormitories, the refectory, the prisons and a small infirmary inside the fence as well as the building for the guard, offices and lodgings of the Commando, non-commissioned officers and troops. From military archive documents it is clear that this is the camp for prisoners of war called Campo P.G.N. Porta Littoria.

The opening date is not known but on 1 March 1942 there are 250 ex-Yugoslav prisoners of war, more precisely 131 Serbs, 113 Montenegrins and 6 annexed Italians; in the following months the number and the provenance will be constant. The P.G. 101 and a mandatory work camp in the mine. The prison camp was closed on August 8, 1942 ‘following the cessation of use of labour by prisoners of war in the mines of the Soc. in Cogne.

Consequently, they are probably sent back to the camp, where the interpreters return. It is therefore open for a few months, a part planned on the south side will not even be built. [sic]

***

If you happen to know anything about the prison camp, please let me know. It doesn’t quite fit with the beautiful village in the Alps that is La Thuile today. I suspect in a few years, all remains will be removed, as the new houses being built are gradually getting nearer. LaThuile is beautiful, but I wonder what secrets it holds.

Thanks for reading. Have a great day.
Love, Anne x

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Having a Laugh in Turin


Continuing my travel blogs, written whilst in Italy.

Taken from next to the Roman wall. The big dome with windows is part of the cathedral.

Some friends from England were staying just across the border, in the French Alps, so we arranged to meet them in Turin. It was such a fun day.

They were arriving by train, and we drove from La Thuile, so I used Google maps to search for a nearby car park. It directed us to one very near the station. As we approached, it was difficult to find, then at the last minute, we spotted a ramp descending under the buildings, advertising parking. We took a ticket, went through the barrier, and disappeared under the building. It was all a little scary. There were spaces, and nothing to indicate they were reserved for residents, so we parked. Checked the prices on the pay machine (just in case) and it all looked fine, so we left and hoped the car wouldn’t be clamped when we returned.

Met friends and wandered towards the old part of town (which was very near to excellent car park). We came to a square, with two nearly identical churches (this seems to be a thing in Italy) and found the cathedral, Cattedrale di San Giovanni Battista. This is where they keep the Shroud of Turin, the shroud that some think wrapped the body of Jesus after he was crucified. I knew that it wasn’t on display, but I was interested to see where it was kept. There is also a replica shroud, in another church, so I hoped to see that too. Just out of interest. I am not sure what I think about the shroud (other than that it’s interesting). Some people claim the shroud is miraculous. Others say it’s a hoax, and dates from mediaeval times. I understand that several universities tested it, and all found it dated much later than Christ, but it was also thought to have been in a fire at some point, which would mess up carbon dating. Personally, I have no idea. If a shroud was ever used (I’m not sure how bodies were wrapped in those days) then it’s possible that it never decayed because Christ was holy—but it’s equally possible it did, as I don’t think everything he touched still exists today.

Anyway, the cathedral had a special side chapel where people could sit and muse the idea. I think the shroud was in the box in an alcove, but I’m not sure—the signs were all in Italian.

Then we went for lunch. We found a café in a square, and ordered focaccia. Some ordered enough for six people, and then ate them all. (No judgement.)

Our next stop was Galleria Sabauda which was accessed via Musei Reali Torino and we had to buy a ticket that included several different things. Our friends were keen to see a particular painting (Passion of Christ by Memling) which none of the guides seemed to realise was there. We found it eventually (it looks smaller in real life than online!)

Lots of different scenes from The Passion of Christ, all in one painting. By Hans Memling.

There was another painting, which Husband said was called ‘The Shocking Spectacle Following Unexpected Gust of Wind’ but I’m pretty sure he was lying.

We then wandered back towards the royal palace (because we had tickets). On the way, we popped into what we thought was a chapel, and it turned out to be an amazing part of the cathedral, where originally they had kept the shroud. There was a massive dome, with a dove at the top (which Husband said was a leftover Christmas decoration that the caretaker had refused to get down because it was so high). We considered the possibility of smuggling a helium balloon in and releasing it before running away. It was very opulent, with lots of black and gold. It didn’t feel very holy, I didn’t feel inspired to pray, but it was impressive.

A really cool dome. There is a glass dove, right at the top.

The royal palace was the same as every other royal palace that allows tourists—lots of interconnecting rooms, lots of gilt and dusty curtains. The sort of place that makes you feel glad you’re not royal and forced to live there.

We were then at saturation point with museum/galleries, so went in search of ice creams. I ordered a bicerin (pronounced ‘bich-er-in’) which is a traditional drink in Turin. It’s basically very rich hot chocolate with a shot of espresso and topped with cream. It was delicious.

Bicerin. Delicious.

Then we sat near the river and chatted, very lovely. We had a quick McDonald’s (very nice, but probably not what you should do when in Turin) before our friends left to catch their train back to France. We found our car (not as easy as it sounds) and it wasn’t clamped, so we paid (17 euro) and drove back to La Thuile.

Turin is a lovely city, and there’s lots more to see. Definitely worth a second visit, would make a good weekend away.

Hope your day goes well. Thanks for reading.
Take care.
Love, Anne x

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When the Queen Dies


Tributes left to honour Queen Elizabeth II

We were in Italy when the Queen died. (I will continue my travel blogs next week, but in respect to the Queen’s funeral, I felt I should write something different today.) Messages started to appear on our family online chat, so I was aware that ‘something’ was happening at Balmoral, and we watched BBC news, waiting for the expected announcement. Even though we could access the news online, I wanted to be in England while it was happening. I wanted to hear discussions in the supermarket, and hear announcements and prayers at church, and to share the news with people around me. Instead, we were in Italy, eating in restaurants where people were untouched by the news.

We came home the Sunday after her death. I watched the coffin procession on television, and wondered how it would feel, to follow the coffin of someone you loved while the world watched. Maybe it helps when everyone understands. Maybe it doesn’t.

On Thursday I went to London. I wanted to see the flowers, to be part of history while it unfolded, part of the community. When the train reached Croydon, I began to notice people carrying flowers, the station was full, there was a sense of people who had a purpose. There were more flowers at Victoria Station—a pop-up shop selling bouquets at inflated prices.

I followed the crowds towards the palace, and we were soon directed between barriers, filtering towards Green Park. We passed Buckingham Palace, the flag flying at half-mast, the guards on duty, extra police standing at street corners. There were signs, and toilets, and marshals wearing purple vests who were directing people and answering questions. We walked along the edge of the park, to Wellington Arch (so we had walked two sides of a triangle!) then back into Green Park, to an area cordoned off for flowers.

There were a lot of flowers. There were flowering orchids in pots, and arrangements, and bouquets that had been unwrapped and were lying in lines. Cards and letters were secured on top, damp and smudged, carrying messages from school children and people who had met the Queen and people who had watched her from afar. People were respectful, there was no shouting or laughter, but neither did I see any tears. The atmosphere was peaceful, grandparents showing the flowers to children, young people placing bouquets along the line.

Some people had left candles, others left cuddly toys. Especially Paddington Bear.

To be honest, I find the Paddington Bear messages slightly perturbing. I enjoyed the video clip for the Diamond Jubilee, and I understand that people want the Queen’s death to be peaceful, for her to be in a better place. But it’s like they have replaced angels with a fictitious bear from a storybook. Have we, as Christians, done such a bad job of preparing people for death? Has the Church not explained that death is not the end?—Not because a pretend cuddly toy will collect us—but because Jesus himself said he’s preparing a place, that he’ll collect us when it’s time, and there will be a new world, with no more suffering. Have we made angels and Jesus so rule-based, so frightening, so detached from the reality of our lives, that people prefer to think of Paddington collecting the Queen? Is that safer somehow, less demanding of us perhaps? When we are trying to make sense of death, coping with all the upheaval and insecurity that even the death of a distant person will bring, surely that is the time we need to know where to turn. I’m sad that Paddington Bear seems to be filling that spot. I feel it’s time we turned round, and tried to find God again.

Anne E. Thompson
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Best Lunch Date, Ever…


I have just had the most amazing lunch. Not the food perhaps (though there was nothing wrong with it) but the venue? Wow! We have just arrived home, and I have a slight headache (you will understand why in a minute) and I am bursting to tell someone.

We had lunch at the top of Mont Blanc!

Preparing for the descent.

It was such fun. First we drove to Courmayeur. Well, strictly speaking, first we went to the local Pharmacy in a panic because we read on the website that it was essential that we wore the correct type of face-mask—but after that we drove to Courmayeur. We followed signs for the cable-car (the funivia) and there was plenty of parking underneath. Italy seems to do parking very well (either that, or we have been very lucky so far).

There was then some confusion, with a ticket office, and several different queues which didn’t seem to lead anywhere and no helpful signs, and loads of people. We had already bought our tickets online, so we joined a line that looked promising, and managed to get the piece of paper we needed to walk up to the cable car. I don’t like heights (as you know if you read my blogs regularly) so I was extremely pleased to find a seat, in the middle, where there was hardy any view through all the standing passengers to the scary plummet as we ascended the mountain. Hardly anyone wore masks, I think only the foreign tourists, who had also read the website, were wearing them. The website should perhaps be updated (I write this in August 2022).

The cable car stopped midway. There were amazing views, and paths you could walk along, a little botanical garden, and deckchairs. The deckchairs were full of lounging bronzed people who had stripped down to their underwear. I don’t think any will make the cover of Vogue, so I will spare you a photo!

We then caught another car up to the top of the mountain. Again, not too scary if you kept your eyes shut the entire time. It was crammed full of tourists, and athletic looking people with climbing gear, and dogs. I love that in Italy, dogs are welcome just about everywhere.

The top of the mountain had various viewing platforms, but we went straight to Bistrot Panoramic. It sits on top of Pointe Helbronner (which I understand is one of the peaks of Mont Blanc). The views were amazing. The restaurant walls were glass, and the seats were transparent, so wherever you sat there would be views. We were slightly early, and managed to have a corner table. After a quick gin and tonic, this was fine, and I rather enjoyed it. I had some red wine too to prepare for the descent (hence the slight headache now).

The meal was a set menu: a potato dish (like Dauphinoise potatoes but with bits of ham), a soggy-bread-and onion dish (nicer than it sounds) and a vegetable soup over pasta dish. We chose a mushroom dish and a sausage in tomato sauce dish, to accompany the cheesy polenta (which all went together very well, but would have been not great alone, as the mushrooms were a bit slimy and the polenta needed more salt). Dessert was apple cake (which was apple pie!) and tiramisu. We finished with coffee. All very nice, and when put together with the view, completely fabulous.

The table next to us had a huge dog curled up asleep. Next to the door of the restaurant was a bowl of dog water. I now plan to return, with my dog (maybe not Kia, as she’s a bit old now and would snarl at everyone).

We spent some time taking millions of photos, then went back to the car. As lunch dates go, it was perfect.

Thanks for reading and have a great day.
Take care.
Love, Anne x

And we saw Maria!!!!
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The Best of Days, the Worst of Days…


Today has been a mix of highs and lows. Mostly highs, so I will start there.

As you know (if you read my blog regularly) we had booked a house in Italy for the summer, but popped home after a couple of weeks to attend my niece’s wedding. After the wedding, we returned to La Thuile for the rest of August. It felt like coming home as we drove from the airport, past ‘our river’ that races through the valley, to the view of ‘our mountain’ with the glacier that reflects all the moods of the sun.

Anyway, today I suggested that we should go to a café for an espresso (which is one of my favourite things about Italy—sipping a coffee in the sunshine, somewhere beautiful). Husband suggested that rather than walk to the nearby café (‘our café’) we should try somewhere new, on the other side of town.

He directed me along lanes, through the park next to the river, up narrow streets. We arrived at a pretty building next to the river, with a family sitting in lounge-chairs in the garden. At our arrival, they all jumped up, assured us that they were open, and the man showed us to a table in the shade. He then disappeared.

I looked around. On one side was the river, on the other was mountains—all very pretty, perfect for a leisurely coffee. The man then reappeared, carrying cutlery and glassware, and a basket of fresh bread. He smiled welcoming as he set our table. Lots of eye-contact between Husband and I, neither of us spoke. The man hurried away.

Now what? The man was so welcoming, the bread looked freshly baked, dare we say that we only wanted a coffee? Husband said we should just order something small (we already had dinner reservations for the evening at ‘our restaurant’). The man reappeared with the menu, and we chose a couple of dishes. Neither of us understand much Italian, so it was a bit random. What arrived were platters of cheese and meat, which went perfectly with the house wine. We finished, an hour later, with the espresso that we had come for. It was all very unexpected, and very lovely. A good time.

After our lunch, we discussed what to do, as I have hurt my leg and can’t walk far. Husband suggested we went ‘up the mountain on the cable car.’ I knew this was something he really wanted to do, and we had just enjoyed a lovely lunch in the sunshine, so I agreed. I hate heights. It was even worse than I imagined.

The ‘cable car’ is not a cable car, it is a chairlift—designed for skiers in the winter, and mountain bikers in the summer. I watched the chairs as they flew down the mountain, turning at the bottom, slowing for passengers, then continuing back up the mountain in a continuous loop, never actually stopping. I saw a few people nearly getting bonked when they stood up but didn’t move out of the way quickly enough, and I tried to learn from their mistake as we joined the line of young men with bikes. We fed our tickets into the machine, and stepped forward. A man appeared from his cubicle and hovered near the emergency-stop button. We stood in place, the chair arrived behind us, we sat back, a bar was lowered in front of us, and we rose towards the sky.

I decided it would be best to keep my eyes shut. This worked fine on the way up. It felt like flying, I could hear birds and smell the pine trees, and the temperature grew gradually cooler as we rose. We reached the top, Husband yelled at me to let go of the safety-bar, a man hovered near the emergency-stop button, I leaped off the chair, remembered to hurry to the side, the chair sailed past me and I was on solid ground. All great. I felt rather pleased with myself, and enjoyed looking at the views and watching the young men as they raced down the mountain on their bikes. Then we decided to go back down. Then it all went wrong.

As we fed our tickets into the machine, the man emerged again to hover near the stop-button. Obviously we looked incompetent. The chair swept behind us, I sat, the bar was lowered, I shut my eyes and pretended I was flying. Then Husband (who I have now forgiven) mentioned that the safety bar was raised and lowered by the passengers—in other words, him. That felt very unsafe. If you have a fear of heights, you will know that the fear is connected with falling, and the belief that somehow you might fling yourself over the precipice. I am not scared in airplanes, because I cannot fall out. I am terrified on cliff edges because I might fall over. Now I was being told that if I lifted the bar (yes, I know that this was entirely in my control and wouldn’t happen, but fear is not rational)—if I lifted the bar, I would plummet to my death. I took deep breaths. Then Husband mentioned something about the view below, and fool that I am, I opened my eyes. I was not flying. I was suspended on an insecure chair, miles above ground, with nothing but a moveable bar between me and certain death. My heart stopped, I thought I might vomit (pity the mountain bikers below!) and I started to shake all over. I think I whimpered.

For the next few terrifying moments we sailed through the air. I shut my eyes and prayed very hard and tried not to think about how it would feel to fall. Then we arrived. The same man hovered near the emergency button (they didn’t seem to do that for anyone else!) and I managed to stand, to move out of the way, to walk to the nearest bench. I didn’t speak. Somehow, I survived. But it was bad, very bad.

I hope your day is full of good things, and that you cope with the bad things calmly.
Take care.
Love, Anne x

Anne E. Thompson
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Weddings, then and now.


We came home from Italy in time for my niece’s wedding. I really enjoyed it—it was an afternoon full of prettiness, and declarations of love, and being with family. I haven’t been to many weddings recently, so I was interested to see how much things have changed from when I was married in the 1980s. Many things were the same, but here are some of the differences:

Venue. Most people were married in church. My friends who married in a registry office (the only alternative to marriage in a church) did not include the ‘traditional’ elements of the wedding. So no long white dress, no walking down an aisle with the father of the bride, no music. A registry office wedding tending to be brief and functional, with very few people invited to attend.

Today, the possible venues are varied. My niece’s wedding was in a barn, and the layout was almost exactly the same as any small chapel, with an aisle and flowers and rows of seats facing the front. There was even a wooden lectern to rest a book on. In England a non-church wedding can’t include hymns or prayers or Bible readings, but there was music.

I sort of understand why ‘the church’ demands that non-church weddings don’t include anything religious, because God, and the worship of him, is not a game; not something to pick up and use like something of no importance. Therefore they want to regulate how their holy things—the holy book, hymns, prayers—are presented. However, I feel sad that if someone wishes to include God in their wedding but for some reason does not feel able to marry in a church, they are excluded from all outward signs of this. They can still invite God to be present, and they can pray internally, but I feel sad that English law makes it difficult for a couple to include God unless they want a church wedding. Over time, every marriage faces challenges, and wanting God to bless your vows, including him in the marriage seems sensible to me. I think a wedding is less likely to use religious things inappropriately than other places (like football matches, where hymns are allowed to be sung).

Vows. Some of the vows said at a wedding are legal requirements. These are the same wherever you marry, and they don’t seem to have changed since I was married. They have to be word-perfect, and said in the presence of witnesses and a person certified to register a marriage. In the past, at a registry office, these were the only vows said. Today, it seems popular to add your own vows.

Church weddings also include certain vows, as listed below:

I, N, take you, N,

to be my husband,

to have and to hold

from this day forward;

for better, for worse,

for richer, for poorer,

in sickness and in health,

to love and to cherish,

till death us do part;

according to God’s holy law.

In the presence of God I make this vow.

When I was married, the bride also promised to obey her husband.

Couples today seem to write their own vows. I’m not sure what I think about this. I was wondering what I would promise if I wrote my own vows. Marriage lasts a really long time. I think being faithful is important (because otherwise, what is the point of a marriage?) Promising to forgive is essential, and to try and listen. I think respect is important, and for me, being able to share anything and to laugh together lots, matters. Staying together, even when times are tough, is also part of being married.

Gender Roles. Traditionally, the bride was given away by her father, and accepted by her husband. I was completely happy with this when I was married (though actually, my brother gave me away). Today, many brides consider this sexist (not sure why I didn’t!) Even if they walk into the venue with their father, they may have words that don’t involve being given from one man to another.

There were other differences, but these were the main ones. However, the occasion was still about a couple committing to each other, it was still about love, and everyone dressed in their best clothes and arrived hoping to have fun. There was still a meal, and lots to drink, speeches (though these are not always said by males only today) and laughter.

The Cake. When I was married, we continued the tradition of having a tiered fruit cake, with formal white icing. The bottom tier was cut and shared with guests, the top tier was kept and used as a christening cake when the first baby was born. As people tended not to have children immediately, most couples removed the icing and shoved the cake in the freezer until they needed it. Eating it a few years later felt decidedly dodgy, but as far as I know, no one was ever poisoned.

Today, many couples choose not to have a fruit cake, which seems an excellent plan to me (does anyone other than my brother like eating fruit cake???) There is still a cake, and it is still cut (which is a tradition which I never liked, and I wanted to leave out from my wedding, but I was told there must be a photo!) The wedding we attended had a red velvet cake and chocolate brownies to share, which are a much better idea.

Whatever traditions are followed, weddings are still about love, and a couple committing to stay with each other. Rather marvelous I think. Thanks for reading. Take care.
Love, Anne x

Next Monday I’ll tell you about our return trip to Italy. It was very interesting to live somewhere different for a while, and learn about a small town in the Alps.

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Italy: Angry Ice Creams and Absolute Beauty


Italy is beautiful. There are many beautiful places, but I have a personal favourite—do you?

You will remember from last week’s blog that we went to Italy for a couple of weeks at the beginning of August (returning for my niece’s wedding on the 18th, but you will have to wait until next week to read about that!) We stayed in LaThuile, which is a ski resort in the winter, and in the summer is a village of musical-box log cabins, and window boxes full of geraniums, and hot, hot, sunshine. The whole family plus partners came, and we had a happy time of reconnecting.

The Italian Alps might be the most beautiful place in the world. Even better than Scotland (which has some amazing scenery). I’m not a great lover of cities; I love big skies, and rushing rivers, and mountains, and trees (so Iceland wasn’t really my taste). Some of the mountains were still topped with snow, and snow is always exciting, even when it’s in the distance. (My family will correct me here, and tell me it’s not snow, it’s frozen glacier, but you know what I mean.)

We visited many beautiful towns and villages, and walked up mountains, and through mountain passes, and along valleys. There was a lake, high on a mountain pass. The water was so blue, and the sun was so hot, it was tempting to swim. Only the dogs were actually in the water, humans knew it would be freezing. As we walked round the lake we could hear the clonking bells of cows, and there was a herd of them with curved horns, drinking from the lake.

We visited Aosta, with its Roman remains and cobbled streets and carvings of wood. It was full of tourists when we were there, and there was a rain storm with huge drops of water soaking us all.

My dad played an accordion, so I loved this sculpture.

My main memory of Aosta is the ice cream parlour, where I had a stand-off with the assistant! The shop was busy, and while we stood in line we watched a man bring trays of chocolate-dipped lollies, and vats of fresh sorbet and creamy ice cream to refill the display. The counter was pretty, with fresh fruit, and coloured ices, and cones. But I also watched the girls serving, as they touched the money and credit cards, scratched an itch, then served the ice cream without washing their hands. I decided I would have an ice, placed in a cup with a scoop (no contact with those hands). All was going well, until I saw the assistant pick up a straw (touching the part that goes in the mouth) and place it in the ice. When it was my turn, I reached up, and took my own straw from the pot.

The assistant glared at me, and told me I shouldn’t touch. (Somewhat ironic.) I explained that I had only touched my own staw. She continued to scold me, then tried to add a straw from her own dirty hand. I told her that I did not want her straw, I already had one. I did not want a straw she had touched.

Oh the fury in those eyes! She returned to serving the rest of our order, glaring at me as she dolloped scoops of ice cream into cones. I have never been served ice cream with so much hatred! It did taste very nice though.

We also walked in Parco Nazionale Gran Paradiso, strolling beside rivers and waterfalls, staring at huge rocks left by glaciers. Very pretty.

But there is one place more beautiful than all the others. You can walk there from LaThuile, but two hours is about my maximum for an enjoyable walk, so we drove up the winding road from the town, turning onto a track before we reached the hamlet of Cappella di San Bernado. The track was very narrow, with hairpin bends, the valley falling steeply away to one side. Not a comfortable drive. I was glad when Husband announced he wasn’t going any further, and parked on a slim patch of grass next to the track. If a bus came, we’d be in trouble. But it wasn’t the sort of place a bus would go.

We walked. The track rose gradually, gently taking us further from the valley floor. We could see a river, and guessed the speed of it. There were trees below, dwarfed by the distance between us, dark green pines clinging to the side of the mountain. Patches of grass were dotted with brown mud, dug out by marmots which scampered away when they heard our voices echoing round the valley. (I must say, I will never ever manage to see much wildlife, because my family is so noisy!) Streams trickled from the rock next to us, forming puddles before trickling down to join the river. As we stepped over the puddles, clouds of blue butterflies rose, dancing around us like a host of fairies with blue and gold wings. We could see cows with their clonking bells in the distance, and beyond them, beyond everything, there were the mountains, watching. It was truly beautiful.

I hope you see some beauty this week. Try not to annoy any sales assistants though! Thanks for reading. Take care.
Love, Anne x

Clonking bells wherever there are cows.

Do You Want the Good News or the Bad News?


Good News or Bad News?

Is the message of the Bible good news or bad news? Often the physical book even describes itself as a ‘Good News’ Bible, and Christians often refer to the good news of the gospel message. But is it good?

Sometimes this feels a little ironic to me. When churches then go on to explain how to ‘become a Christian’ a person must meet certain criteria, I think it all starts to sound more like bad news! I was taught that to ‘be a Christian’ I must understand that Jesus and the Holy Spirit and God are all one, I must repent of my sin and ask for forgiveness, I must acknowledge that Jesus died for my sin, and ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit. This was all achieved by praying ‘the prayer’ which somehow encompassed all the above. Going forward, I should attend church, read my Bible every day, praying frequently—confessing my new sins and striving to live how God wanted me to live. Most difficult of all (in my view) I should constantly be looking for ways to tell other people how to be a Christian, encouraging them to undergo the same process. Anyone who did not meet the above criteria was trapped in their sin and doomed to hell and eternal torment. Very bad news indeed. Most of the people who I love do not fit into the rather narrow category above.

Yet, when I read the Bible (point seven above!) things seem a little different. Jesus said he came to show people who God is, and he accepted people before they had done any of the above. Sometimes he told a person they needed to change their life, or give away their money, or repent of something they were doing wrong—but this was always after they had come to him. There wasn’t a form to complete, or a waiting list; the disciples didn’t regulate who could approach (and when they tried to, Jesus told them off!) People simply came. People were simply accepted.

I also read that after they came, after they had been accepted, they generally changed, they often wanted to be different, better, people. But the changing, the wanting to be changed, was afterwards. It was not an entry criteria. And they tended to differ in what they actually believed, they had different views of theology (which is shown in the later books in the Bible, where we see them having arguments about things).

Several of the books in the Bible were written by Paul, and I’m still not sure what authority they should have (as I have discussed in previous blogs) but I do think his views are helpful today. One of his letters describes Jesus’s mission as reconciling people to God, and that a Christian’s mission is to continue this—to be an ambassador, helping people to be reconciled with God. I do not, personally, feel I should be telling people what they are doing wrong, or insisting that they believe certain things (like in the Trinity) or changing their behaviour. But I would like to tell them that God wants to accept them (right now, just as they are, warts and all!) I would like to remind them that God wants them to be reconciled with him, and that everything that’s wrong in their lives does not count any more. All the rest of it—how they personally live out that truth—is between them and God.

Perhaps this is good news. Perhaps this is what our message should be. What do you think? Good news or bad news?

Thank you for reading. My next blog will be more about our holiday in Italy at the beginning of August. Enjoy your day.
Take care.
Love, Anne x

Anne E. Thompson
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*****

Before Italy…


We went to Italy for a couple of weeks. It was a variation of the trip we planned for 2020, when we rented a house in the Italian Alps for a few months, just to see how it would be to stay somewhere beautiful for a while. That trip was cancelled—another victim of the Covid lockdowns—so when the same house was free for the beginning of August, we booked it.

I arrived exhausted, mainly due to the last days of July. It had been busy—much too busy to call the wasp man, so I told Husband that we had a nest, and he said he hadn’t seen any wasps, so neither of us phoned the wasp man. Which was a mistake, but we’ll come to that later.

Sisters

You will remember my sister was staying? Well, she returned to Canada on the 30th of July, so we all met the night before for a barbecue at my brother’s house. To say goodbye. I hate saying goodbye to my sister, she’s a part of me, there’s some strange physical bond, and Canada is much too far away. When we returned from our family trip to Cromer (see an earlier blog) I had to make lots of scones, because all the ones I had made previously were eaten by my sister, and me, and various relatives who came to see my sister.

The dog also had to go into kennels, and I hate that now she’s so old, just in case…

Anyway, I survived saying goodbye to both of them again, and there was no time to think because the 30th was a whirlwind of making beds, cleaning the house, preparing meals for stray children (who aren’t children any more, but you know what I mean) when they arrived. In between time, I flung items of clothing in the general direction of a suitcase.

At about 2pm, my eldest son arrived from Vietnam. He’d been working there, managed to dislocate his leg, and had to be collected by taxi from the airport (because no one else was free). He hobbled in on his crutches, looking all tired and relieved to be in England, and thin. I don’t think he’d eaten much and he’d done a lot of trekking through jungles. When confronted with a tired thin son, mothers like to cook. I was busy, so cooked a frozen pizza (but the thought was there). Younger son carried the suitcase upstairs, I put a load of Vietnam-dirty clothes in the washing machine, then smiled a welcoming smile as our first visitors arrived.

At about 2:30, all my in-laws arrived for a cream tea to celebrate my parents-in-law’s diamond wedding anniversary. We had put up bunting, and decorated tables, and it was sunny so we could sit outside (with the wasps—you remember them?) Everyone seemed contented though, and it was a happy celebration.

At 4pm, people left, and I had time to clean up (mostly) and then fold the clothes that I had thrown towards the suitcase, packing them properly. I cooked dinner for the family (they all came back for the wedding anniversary and to come on holiday). I was asleep within minutes of going to bed. But only managed a few hours because the taxi arrived at about 4 am. Then off to the chaos of Gatwick.

I will tell you about the joys of travelling with someone in a wheelchair in a later blog. Italy will have to wait too, otherwise this will be too long. We returned yesterday, ready to attend my niece’s wedding (another fun celebration I expect) and I will leave you with a few pictures of Italy, simply because it is beautiful.

Hope your week goes well. I will tell you about the very best place in Italy next week. Thanks for reading. Take care.
Love, Anne x

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Biggin Hill Memorial Museum


My sister is visiting from Canada, which is a great excuse for some days out. We have often driven past the museum at Biggin Hill Airport and we decided to visit. I’m not entirely sure if it was the best afternoon we spent together.

Driving into the museum car park was probably the best bit. You can see the old buildings, red-brick huts where it’s easy to imagine airmen living during the war, and a couple of fighter planes. Biggin Hill was one of the main RAF bases in the second world war and being so close to London it saw lots of action. We hoped the museum visit would include a chance to see inside the huts, to imagine the lives of the young airmen, to relive the tension of living in such a place. It did not.

The car park was full of vintage cars when we arrived. We decided we would have a proper look at them at the end, and hurried into the museum. There was a shop just inside the door, and a man selling tickets. It cost £6.50 each, which seemed a bit expensive, but the man offered to explain about the exhibits which added value.

Engine with the remains of the wooden propellors showing.

The man told us that the average time a pilot spent at the base before he died was 11 days. Eleven days. I don’t know if that’s accurate, but it’s shocking. They were boys really young, some of them only 19 years old. They were given planes they didn’t know how to fly, and sent off to fight. Some of the deaths happened after the planes were upgraded to having retractable landing-gear, because the pilots would forget to lower it before landing. Some of the deaths were because the fuel tanks were under the seat of the pilot, and shrapnel, or pieces from a shattered propeller, would explode the fuel. The first exhibit was an engine, and we looked at the remains of the wooden propellers. Later, they used metal ones but although these were more durable they would also cause sparks and potentially explode the fuel tank. (If I was a pilot, I would be more worried about sitting above a potentially exploding fuel tank than the enemy trying to kill me.)

The museum is small. Basically just one large room. There are a couple of films playing—one film of elderly pilots talking about their days flying from Biggin Hill, and one a clip of actors showing how pilots spent their days while waiting for a raid. The first film was interesting, and we heard about the pubs the airmen visited, and how they coped with so many deaths (they didn’t think about it). The other film was less exciting: there was a countdown, showing how long to the next raid; the pilots played cards or read, or smoked while waiting. Then the bell would ring, they would leave everything, and run towards their planes, desperate to get them in the air before the enemy planes appeared and bombed them. A life full of boredom and extreme stress.

The walls of the museum were covered in memorabilia. Gas masks, and uniforms, and photographs. It all very felt very homely, very real. These were real people, working to win the war.

The main part of the museum is the memorial chapel. This was slightly interesting, but it was built after the war, and really was more a place for people to remember the dead than part of a museum tour. The young pilots never sat there, that wasn’t the place they prayed desperate prayers to God, it wasn’t the place they remembered their friends, the place they gave thanks for returning after a mission. It felt more like a school assembly hall.

The gardens (mentioned on the website) were small (and not worth mentioning on the website). The really interesting-looking red-brick buildings were not part of the museum. They were sealed off, not even available for a photograph. We left the museum to find the vintage cars had all driven away, which was bit of a shame.

Is the museum worth visiting? Yes. Is it worth £6.50? Not in my opinion.

We went home for tea, and as I watched one of my sons playing croquet in the garden with my sister, I was very thankful that we are not at war.

Thanks for reading. Hope you have a fun week.
Take care.
Love, Anne x

Anne E. Thompson
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