Reminiscing – Apple Trees

We had an abundance of wild apple trees in our back garden, accompanied by a small pear tree in the top left corner growing over from the neighboring property. It was a modest garden that stretched a great distance with a raised bed toward the back filled with various flowers, both wild and planted.


To the left was a newly built BBQ area with a bench on the outer wall facing the house. Rhubarb grew plentifully beneath the apples trees which father used for crumble as an after dinner treat. My brothers and I often played in the garden; running rings around one another, destroying the plants and wondering what our parents would say if we were to pick the Rhubarb and threw it at each others faces.

I remember riding my first bike. It had stabilizers and shiny tassels hanging from the handle bars just to jazz things up a little bit. I think the bike was pink…or maybe purple, with white wheels and a very uncomfortable seat. After a week of reluctant cycling on a hilly estate, I rode the bike without stabilizers for the first time. The joy I felt on this day is incomparable to anything I’ve felt since.

The hill at the end of the road led to a large field that was often used for firework displays on Bonfire night – my favourite time of the year. My brothers and I often played on the field with the neighboring kids , doing whatever pre-teens used to do in the 90’s. The days were always the same and rarely different, until one event changed the course of our childhood freedom. I was pottering in the field, probably making daisy chains and trudging through dog shit when I turned my head to see a car had stopped at the at the end of the field. My eldest brother, James, stood at the passenger seat window. I don’t remember how long they were stood talking but before I knew it James began to run up to the top of the field toward the house. To my understanding today, the teenagers tried to entice James into the car with treats but thankfully he didn’t take the bait. If ever an event were to raise the guard and change the mind of a weak, young child, this was it.

There were 8 apples trees in the back garden accompanying the lonesome pear tree. The branches crawled toward the center of the garden like old hands in the winter time, and in the spring they gifted us with blossom and inviting scents. Oh, how I miss the apple trees.


Finding the motivation

Today i took a picture. It’s not a very good picture, but it’s also not a very bad picture. Today i took a picture.

I’ve been struggling recently to try and find the motivation to go out with my mediocre camera and snap some images. I don’t really know how to work my camera or utilise it to its full potential. This is one the drawbacks.

Another drawback is that i don’t like walking around with a camera in my bag. Every time i do take it with me i rarely use it, and when i do the pictures are terrible and pointless. I’m starting to think i have lost my love for photography.

Maybe i should motivate myself to go for a walk…when the weather’s nice. Maybe i’ll even go a step further and visit some place i’ve never visited before…if i have the money. Maybe i’ll take a walk down to the beach and take a picture of the slow-moving ocean…if i can be bothered.

I guess we’ll see.

Poland – Krakow, Auschwitz and Zakopane

Poland, for me, was difficult. A country that at first glance seemed drained of all life, all joy and all enthusiasm. I visited in November of 2013 with my university when the weather was grey and the temperature was below freezing each day. First impressions i have to say where fairly disappointing…but then we wondered.

Our first day was spent settling in to the hostel. Now, when i picture a hostel in Europe, i image scenes from the movie franchise Hostel which completely put me off the idea of travelling there. As we approached the outside of the hostel, i felt my nightmares come to life. It was located down an old street then down a small, dark walkway. It’s safe to say we were all horrified. Fortunately, the interior was a complete contrast to the exterior and the owners were warm and friendly. Things were looking up already.

The whole trip consisted of long, independent walks around the streets of Krakow which allowed each group to interact with locals, try the food and study the area. I surrounded myself with friends of the course, as did everyone else. One thing i noticed during our walks was the architecture. Poland is famous for it’s gothic style which made its mark on many towns and cities during the 13th century. I like the think that the city of Krakow is in a class of its own in this sense, but i’m clearly not well travelled.

Of course, as any other study group would do, we visited the infamous Auschwitz and Birkenau sites. I don’t think anyone could’ve prepared themselves for this visit.  My dissertation was focussed on ‘dark tourism’ or ‘thanatourism’ which is defined as a form of travel that is based around death-related events that have happened throughout history to date. Popular in Western societies, some scholars argue that dark tourism has become commercialised and is ‘mocked’ for the sake of art, money and entertainment. Others suggest dark tourism provides an opportunity to contemplate death of the Self through gazing upon the Significant Other Dead. My thought process upon the visit to each site was the purpose of my visit. Little did i know what impact it would have on myself and others around me.

Auschwitz I – as we walked around the site, it was like being in an open museum. I was worried that if i had touched anything i would damage a part of history. Reluctantly, i continued my walk around the grounds. We entered a few buildings where we discovered glass cases filled with shoes and hair – all of which once belonged to the prisoners that had slaved their final days there. Our final visit within the grounds was to the gas chamber. From what i remember, this was the only one on site. I’m not quite sure what i expected to see when i got inside but what i did see horrified me, the rest of the university course  and everyone else in there with us.  The room itself was small and dark with a small opening at the top. There were scratches on the walls that were still visible. Everyone in the chamber went quiet. Many had to leave. To think that hundreds of prisoners died in that chamber is almost unspeakable.

Auschwitz II (Birkenau) – This site was built later as a combination of concentration camp and extermination camp. The vast site saw an estimated 1.3 million people sent to the camp on the transport trains. 1.1 million people died. Most died not in the gas chambers, but of starvation, infection, medical experiments and slave labour.

To think i visited these historically significant sites for my own benefit disgusts me on some level. On every other level i believe that by visiting sites that have seen death, it allows me to understand the devastating effects it had on Poland and the whole world.

On one of our final days, we visited the Soviet Union.

Scarborough Castle

Built originally as a wooden fortress by William le Gros (grand nephew of William the Conqueror) in 1130’s, Scarborough Castle still stands only now as a tourist attraction sitting on a rocky promontory overlooking the North Sea. The stone castle we see today was built in 1150’s my Henry II who is said to have destroyed the wooden fortification before creating his own version of a fortress.

The siege in 1645 saw the collapse of the Western wall which was caused by the largest cannon in the country at the time – the Cannon Royal. Many visitors are disappointed to see the castle in such condition but struggle to understand that it’s what makes it such a popular attraction. The damage showcases the history and opens up stories about what happened through the years during the reign of the many monarchs.

The castle itself sits on a 16 acre site encompassing over 3,000 years worth of history with finds dating back to 900-500BC. A Roman Signal Station, Chamber Block, Cistern, Barrack Block and a Master Gunners House sit prominently on the headland contributing to the vast history of the site and town as a whole.