Monday, 27 September 2021

A Miraculous Encounter



I heard the following story a long time ago. It's a story of miracle, luck, and good chance. And, it's a story that moved me. And, it's something I've never forgotten.

It was Vienna. The summer of 1973. I was having tea with the Clarks. I was a family friend. And, the Clarks had 4 very nice children. Nicola and Roger who were 18 and 19, and Emily and Peter who were twins. And, Emily and Peter were still very young. In fact, only 6. And, the story I heard was all about Emily and Peter.

The Clarks had recently come up from Africa. Noel Clark, the father, had worked there as foreign correspondent and was now doing the same in Vienna. And, the story took place whilst the Clarks lived in Africa.

An old friend of the Clarks had dropped in for tea. A doctor from London. He was in town for a conference. And, then came the sandwiches. But, there was one person missing. Little Emily. She was up in her room not feeling well. And, then, when the doctor asked how little Emily was, it was Peter, Emily's twin, who spoke.

Little Emily cries very much, she's tired all the time, she never wants to play, and, she never eats supper. And, there's one other thing, my sister looks kind of blue”. The doctor stopped eating. He was taken to Emily.

The very next morning, Emily and her mother were on the plane back to London. And, it was all thanks to Peter. In his innocent way he had accurately described the symptoms of Emily's condition. A hole in the heart. And, there at the airport in London and waiting for them was an ambulance. There wasn't much time. Speed was important.

The operation took place that very same night. It lasted more than 6 hours. And, 3 days later Emily woke up. She had come through.

And, 6 other little children were treated for the same thing that week. Only 2 survived. Emily and one other child. Emily had been very, very lucky. She'd had a Guardian Angel. And, Emily's Angel was Peter her twin. It was Peter's innocent words that had saved Emily's life.

A doctor on holiday, little Peter's innocent remarks, and a plane that was leaving. Good chance, good luck, and very good timing. All three at the very same time. A story I've never forgotten. And, I often wonder what happened to Emily. It was all a long time ago. The afternoon we had tea in Vienna.

Click here to listen with full text on YouTube

Sunday, 5 September 2021

The 49er

 


The 49er is a small café in Vienna.  It's where the 49 tram goes back into town. And, this little 49er has stories to tell.

Last week, Liselotte Konrad, a regular 49er, told me the following story.  

It had just gone 11 when the old lady walked in. She wasn't alone. Behind her and slow was her very old dog. Could she  leave her dog in the café. Just for a while. Only 10 minutes. The waiter agreed. The old lady left her very old dog in a corner. It soon fell asleep.

The discussion that started was hot. A hot as the day. The regulars had all reached the age of knowing much better than everyone else. The old lady shouldn't be trusted. It was her trick to get rid of the dog. The old lady would never come back. And, just look at it. Filthy dirty old dog. Never been washed. And, it stinks! Disgusting. And, so the discussion continued.

Ten minutes later the old lady returned. There was silence. Lots of red faces. The old lady took a seat by the window.  The waiter soon brought the old lady her order. Chocolate cake, whipped cream, and a coffee. The waiter  told the old lady  her dog had been perfect. No trouble at all. In fact, a very nice dog. No one disagreed. Everyone smiled. All very friendly. 

The old lady paid with a generous tip. She then walked out of the café, over the tracks, got on the tram, and went back to town.

Thursday, 2 September 2021

John Meredith




John Meredith used to like playing jokes. Most of his pranks were good. Others not so. And, some of John's practical jokes even made people angry.

It was late afternoon. The phone rang. It was Linda. John was surprised. He hadn't seen Rudy and Linda for a very long time. Rudi and Linda were having a dinner. Would John like to come and bring someone with him?

Sue was pleased when John phoned. Dinner at Rudi's and Linda's was something she liked. Rudi and Linda were hosts who were famous. They were the talk of Vienna.

John explained. The dinner was a fancy dress dinner. Topic, the French Revolution. Sue was excited. An original idea.

Sue worked hard on her costume. Maria Antoinette was her choice. Doreen, Sues best friend, helped with the dress. Hannes and Gordon, friends with a theatre, lent Sue a suitable wig. And, Mavis, another good friend, helped Sue with her makeup.

John and his Queen took a cab to the party.

Linda led John and Sue into the living-room. Pre-dinner drinks, nuts and crisps, meaningless small talk, gentle laughter. All of a sudden, there was silence. People stopped talking mid-sentence. Looks of surprise. Looks of amazement. Marie Antoinette had arrived. What a wow! Everyone else was boringly normally dressed. Sue whispered to John. She was going to kill him. This wasn't funny. And, nobody laughed at John's practical joke.

The evening wasn't so bad. Everyone knew everyone else. And, despite being very wrongly dressed, Sue had a nice time. John was well known for his pranks. Everyone knew him. But, this time, John had gone over the top. This wouldn't happen again. After the party, Sue went home on her own. She was very insulted and very, very angry with John.

John understood. He felt sorry,  and at the same time relieved. It could have been worse. Sue could have come as a nun, or even a clown. Sue didn't speak to John for a very long time.

This was John's first and last fancy-dress prank. He had got it all wrong in a very serious way. Now, of course, things are OK. It was a long time ago. In fact, many years. Now it is funny. Something to laugh at. But, things were never the same. Never again did Sue go out with John. A very bad joke almost ruined a good friendship.

John Meredith enjoyed playing jokes. Most were good. Others not so. And, some of John's practical jokes even made people angry. Sue had been too much for John. A very hard lesson in life. A lesson John never forgot.

Wednesday, 25 August 2021

A Young Man in Vienna



I was young in Vienna and living in a very small flat. Only one room. And, living next door was Niki. A truly great friend. She had often been of great help. And, very soon, Niki was to help me again. Only, this time in a very unusual way.

I was having a party. It was my birthday. And, my very small flat was jammed full of partying friends. And, of course, Niki as well. And, the noise my party was making was enormous. We were rejoicing.

Then, just before midnight came a buzz. The intercom. The police. I let them in. My flat was on the very top floor and the police would need at least 3 or 4 minutes to make it up to my floor.

Niki went into action! Amazing. She very quickly ushered everyone next door to her flat. Then, when the out-of-breath policemen finally made it up to my floor, I was ready. 

I opened the door in my dressing gown. Behind me was silence and darkness. I faked one or two yawns for good measure and pleasantries were exchanged as was normal. And, apologising, the police then went on their way.  

10 minutes later the party came back. And, although we tried very hard, we couldn't keep a lid on our noise. In fact, we got louder and louder and merrier and merrier.  

Then, came the banging on my door. Very loud and very sudden. The police had come back again. Caught red-handed, we fell into silence. The message was simple. Very big trouble if they came back a third time. Even arrests. The party stopped dead in its tracks. Everyone left.  And, that was the end of the party. But, not the end of the story.  

Six weeks later the summons arrived. I duly appeared as was ordered.  The court found the whole thing amusing. However, being let off with a warning was out of the question. I had committed two very serious offences. Making fun of the police and disturbing the peace. The fine was enormous.   

Niki took over again. She started a whip round. The money came in. Then, after paying the fine, I took Niki for lunch. It was the best I could do. Without Niki, I could have been locked up for life or even deported. But, I wasn't. All's well that ended well. And, that really was the end of the story.

Young in Vienna. A true story. Written and read by Nigel A. JAMES




Sunday, 15 August 2021

Poly Salzer

 


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Poly Salzer

Horse jumping is a sport that is mastered by few. And, those who succeed are hard working and disciplined. And, Poly Salzer, a German young lady, was one of the best in the world.

Poly Salzer was born into a horse loving family. It was 1961. Her parents were riders and her sister as well. But, Poly wanted more. She wanted to jump. And, jumping demands horses that stand out from the rest. One cannot get far on an average old farm horse.

And, Poly spent a very long time on the lookout. She would recognize her horse when she saw it. She had the eye. Then came the moment.

Poly was on her way home. Cycling hard. A storm was approaching at speed. Poly didn't want to get wet. Not far to go. Then, all of a sudden, Polly had to put on her brakes. A horse box was blocking the road. Poly didn't believe what she saw.

A white foal was being led into the box. It was beautiful. It was just right. Where was it going? This unwanted and unneeded foal was going to its death. The slaughter house!

Luckily, Poly and the farmer had been in the same class together. Could anything be done? A price was quickly agreed. The foal was now Poly's. Then the clouds opened and down came the rain. Storm Cloud was the name Poly chose.

Storm Cloud and Poly won many great prizes. And, the best one of all was in Atlanta, 2002. An Olympic Gold. Two very proud winners. Poly and Storm Cloud.

Poly Salzer had a good eye for horses. And, one day in a storm, her horse walked into her life and not onto plates as was planned. Poly's eye was the eye in the storm, and, together, Storm Cloud and Poly rode into the future.

Monday, 9 August 2021

Beam Me Down to Riverside

Riverside is a very small town in Iowa in the USA. And, Riverside has something very unusual. An unusual statue. A statue of someone who hasn't been born.

In 2018, the mayor of Riverside unveiled a statue of Captain James Kirk, the commander of Star Ship Enterprise of the TV series Star Treck. Here is the twist. Captain James Kirk will be born on the 22nd of March, 2228. A very long time in the future.

The future of Riverside started more than 50 years ago. Star Trek was first broadcast on the 8th of September 1966. Written by Gene Roddenberry, Star Trek became one of the world's most popular TV series. And, now, many Trekies still watch the original series on TV. Star Trek is a universal cult with millions of followers. And, this is perfect for Riverside.

Since this statue of someone who hasn't even been born was unveiled, Riverside has become a mecca for Trekies. Each year, thousands visit this town. Riverside is booming. New hotels, restaurants, and souvenir shops.

Riverside looked to the future and went to where no man has been. To the future. And, they can beam themselves back when ever they want. The best of both worlds. Captain James Kirk is definately coming. This everyone knows. But, no one knows when he's leaving. Let's wait and see!

Riverside. The trek begins here.



Thursday, 5 August 2021

A Duchess and a President

It was a very cold night a long time ago. The Duchess of Devonshire was entering her thoughts in her diary. She and her husband were in Washington as Guests of the Kennedy family.

It was the 20th of January, 1961. The occasion -Jack Kennedy's inauguration.

The Duchess had had a very full day. The swearing in at the capitol, the march-past at the White House, and, the ball in the evening. A day of surprises, minor shocks, and a front seat glimpse of a different society.

The first surprise turned out to be a small shock for the Duchess. It was at the actual swearing in at the White House. The Duchess was very put out. Many people completely ignored the prayers, preferring, Instead, to move around taking photos.

But, what happened during the march-past at the White House was almost too much.

Just as an air force unit was stiffly marching past, one of the airmen broke rank, stepped out of line - took a snap of the President then fell back into line and carried on marching!

And, there was more, and, it came from the top.

While all this was happening, President Kennedy was drinking coffee and eating chocolate biscuits. The president was trying to keep warm!

But, the ball in the evening was very much different.

The Duchess was very impressed by everyone's willingness to speak to the press. Journalists – in those days in America - were very respected people.

But, there was still one more lasting impression to come. The whole occasion had been a melting of rank. Whoever you were, you were important. This wasn't so in the Duchess's Britain.

Then, the Duchess stopped writing and turned off the light. She'd had a very long day. She had been there at the making of history; she had discovered great differences.

Everyone was in with a chance. That was America.

A Duchess and a President. Some interesting differences.

Monday, 2 August 2021

Hedi Pröller - Where there's a hammer - there is a way!

Hedi Pröller

Action speaks louder than words, and when Hedi Pröller suggested a door through from the kitchen and into the dining room she was met with a wall of rejection. Her husband's reaction was not very nice. The door was no good idea and should be forgotten. There was the mess, the cost and the house might even fall down whilst knocking a hole through one of its walls. In other words, an idea that no body needed.

But, Hedi not only needed this door, she wanted it, too, and she was determined to get it. And, so without asking her husband, Hedi went out and ordered a blue folding door. Where there's a will there's a way, and ways are mostly a question of time! And, time came quicker than expected.

Hedi's husband had to leave town. Perfect. Hedi and her sister and three of their friends went into action. First came the hole, then came the plaster, and last of all came the door. And, it not only looked great, but worked perfectly, too. And, Hedi's life suddenly changed. Serving hot meals was no longer a chore, in fact, it became very good fun.

And, Hedi's husband? He came home as expected, and, to Hedi's surprise, he didn't even notice the new folding door! And, then, when 3 days later the penny finally dropped, Hedi Pröller's husband's reaction was not as expected. He actually liked the new folding door. Hedi Pröller, her husband agreed, had been right once again. And, to say sorry, he took her to Sacher's for dinner!

And, the mess and the cost? There was none. And, the house was still even standing! Where there's a will there's a way – or - as Hedi Pröller would say - where there's a hammer there will be a door! Action speaks louder than words.

Hedi Pröller, a woman of action who simply just did it and never took no for an answer. If you have a hammer, you'll have a door!

Hedi Pröller – a woman of spirit.

Monday, 26 July 2021

Hermina Diwald

 

Hermina Diwald was 13 years old at the end of the Second War. The fighting had stopped and people were heading for home. Living was beginning again. But, not so for Hermina Diwald and her family. Home had stopped being home. They were never to see Werschetz again. They were German. The Banat, where Werschetz was had become east. Hermine, her sister, and family, and many more Donau Schwaben as well were interned.

Camp life was hard. There was Illness, hunger, and hardship. Families were seperated. All part of the misery. There was, however, a choice. Stay put in internment and end up in Russia - probably dead. Or, take your chances and run! And, so it was that Hermine, her family, and others, as well, stepped out after dark through a hole in the fence into freedom. Their flight to the west was dangerous and hard. Being barked at by dogs. Being hungry and cold. A journey of permanent risk. Sleeping by day and walking by night. But, they arrived. Happily exhausted. Soon afterwards, Hermine and family found a new home in Vienna.

But people don’t run away from places, it is from people they flee! Home will always be home. And home needed keeping alive.

In Vienna, Hermine and others busily wrote and produced the Werschetzer Zeitung, a journal of essential reading for those who never left Werschetz in heart. But bitterness was never part of its content. The Werschetzer Zeitung was interesting, factual, and entertaining as well. Yesterday was past and the then was the present. Werschetz would always be Werschetz and the Werschetzer Zeitung was there to connect.

Sadly, Hermina Diwald passed away a few years ago. But, as long as was able, Hermine Diwald kept keeping people together. Writing's a gift. Hermina Diwald used it for good.

Hermina Diwald. A lady who stepped through a hole into freedom.


Sunday, 18 July 2021

The Church of Mary Magdalena in Felsöörs

 

Felsöörs in Hungary lies in the Balaton uplands to the north of Lake Balaton. And, Felsöörs has an interesting church. The Church of Mary Magdalena. And, this beautiful church is not only Hungary's second oldest church, it is also a Romanesque gem.

The Church of Mary Magdalena goes back more than 500 years. In its time, this church of great beauty and strength has survived periods of war, periods of light, very dark times, invasions and even one or two fires. And, the Church of Mary Magdalena in Felsöörs has an interesting story as well.

A secret tunnel used to run from the church to an airfield in a clearing nearby. And, from there, resistance fighters were flown out to safety by the British in the Second World War. A wonderful story. But, sadly, no traces remain of this life saving tunnel that really did have a light at its end.

And, the church of Mary Magdalena in Felsöörs in the Balaton uplands has more than just stories. It has wonderful murals as well. Wall paintings of ancient importance with feelings of mystery and comfort. Mary Magdalena's a church to feel good in. 500 years of beauty and peace. Romanesque beauty.

The Church of Mary Magdalene is easy to find. When you're next in the Balaton Uplands, stop off at Felsöörs and go into the church. It's well worth a visit. And, if you're lucky, you may even catch one of the many fine concerts that are put on in this church. Its acoustics are great.

The Church of Mary Magdalena in Felsöörs. A picturesque church with feelings of peace that are set in the feelings of ancient belief.

Felsöörs - a picturesque village in the Balaton uplands.


Monday, 12 July 2021

Paris Maderna

 Click here to listen to Paris Maderna

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In those days, Paris Maderna was a young inventor - or reinventor of things that had already been invented. He was a colourful character. And, when I got to know him, he was busy reinventing the bike. And, one of his ideas was not only brilliant, but rather unusual as well.

Paris Maderna's new bike looked more like a bed with three wheels than a bike. And, to ride it, one had to lie in it, not sit on it, and the pedals were up at the front and coupled to the front single wheel. And, riding it, Paris Maderna promised, was not only simple, but comfortable, too. And, I remember quite clearly the day that I saw it in action.

To begin with, Paris Maderna explained how it worked. To steer to the right, one had to lean to the right, and vice-versa for left. There was no other way. The bike had neither steering wheel nor handlebars and to stop, one had to simply stop pedalling. It was all very simple. And, then with a smile and a grin Paris Maderna lowered himself into his bike and got ready for action.

And soon, Paris Maderna and his bike were moving at speed. And then, at just the right distance from the fast approaching concrete wall, Paris Maderna leaned to the right. Nothing. The bike kept on going. Paris Maderna then leaned to the left. Again nothing. And then, with one last desperate effort, Paris Maderna leaned again to the right. And, the bike started turning. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief. But, the wall had been quicker than Paris Maderna, and the sound of the crash told it all. All we could do was help Paris Maderna out of the wreckage and take him next door for a beer.

But, of course, Paris Maderna didn't give up and soon he was back on the road. This time with steering and brakes. And now, all these years later, his range of products is not only exciting, but varied as well. The new age of cycling is here, and the hard work and peddling has been done by Paris Maderna! Persistence pays off and Paris Maderna peddled to the top in a painfully colourful way.
Paris Maderna – a colourful person with a range of colourful products.

Sunday, 4 July 2021

A. J. Cronin - Never Give Up


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Click here to listen to A. J. Cronin with full text on YouTube

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 A. J. Cronin was one of Britain's most popular writers and his best known book was The Citadel. A story of medicine, poverty and riches. But, The Citadel nearly didn't happen at all. It was saved by a walk in the rain.

At the time, A. J. Cronin was 33 and working in London. He was a general practioner and worked very hard. His days began early and sometimes lasted all night. Burning the candle at both ends. But, despite his very heavy work load, A. J. Cronin always found time for studying and keeping up with medical developments. He was not only a popular doctor, he was dedicated, too. But, his private life was completely the opposite.

A. J. Cronin could never find himself. He was always looking for other things to do. A balance in life. A hobby. He was never short of ideas, but none ever worked. He simply lost interest and stopped. Being a doctor was all he could do. He worked harder and harder and longer and longer. But, was always too busy to see what was happening.

One morning, A. J. Cronin woke up with a terrible pain in his stomach. He tried to ignore it but it got worse. The next day, he called on a colleague to examine him. A.J. Cronin didn't like what he heard. He had an ulcer. He was seriously ill. His choice was simple. A dangerous operation or 6 months off doing nothing at all. A. J. Cronin went to the far north of Scotland.

The fresh sea air and going for walks did him good. His health began coming back. But, very, very slowly. He would need time. But, what else could he do except nothing? Then, whilst down on the beach, he had an idea. Something he'd always wanted to do. Write a good book. There was nothing to stop him. Now he had time. On his way home he stopped and bought pencils and paper. Then, after dinner, he sat down and started.

Writing a book wasn't easy. Until then, A.J. Cronin had only written prescriptions. But, he had an idea and knew his direction. So far so good. But, the words were the problem. They just wouldn't come. It took him two weeks to write 800 words. He persisted. A month later, he was writing a thousand each day. His book was coming on well. He was happy. Then, the inevitable happened.

All of a sudden, A. J. Cronin lost interest. He stopped writing. He was frustrated and angry. Angry for starting something so silly. A book that no one would read. He was sour. In a fit of white rage, he threw everything into the the bucket. In to the rubbish went his work. Never again would he do such a thing. Then, he went for a walk in the rain. He had to cool off. And, there, not far away and working his field was Angus.

A. J. Cronin and Angus had become very good friends. Angus immediately knew. Something was wrong. A. J. Cronin explained. But, Angus showed neither compassion nor understanding. Angus was angry. Very angry. How could A. J. Cronin simply give up! If everyone gave up, nothing would happen. Giving up for old Angus was simply no option. A. J. Cronin was a big disappointment. A. J. Cronin was stunned. He was ashamed. He turned and went home.

The first thing he did was rescue his work from the bucket. He sat down and continued his writing. Now, very intensively.  Angus's words had struck home. Three months later, A. J. Cronin found a publisher in the phone book and sent in his manuscript.

A. J. Cronin recovered completely and time quickly came to go back to London. He had got to know the entire village and was now saying goodbye. Suddenly, he heard his name being called. It was the postmistress. A telegram was waiting for him. It had just arrived from London.

A. J. Cronin was to contact his publisher as soon as he got back to London. He and Angus went out for a drink.

A. J. Cronin's book, The Citadel, sold more than three million copies. A huge success. It was translated into nineteen languages and filmed as well. A.J. Cronin had made it. He had won. He had beaten himself. And, all because of a walk in the rain and some very straight words from old Angus, a very good friend.

A. J. Cronin never gave up again. He went on to write many good books. Amongst them, Dr. Finlay's Casebook, and, The Stars looked Down. A. J. Cronin was born in Scotland in 1896, and died in Switzerland in 1981.

A. J. Cronin – A man who gave up giving up.

Tuesday, 29 June 2021

Edward Cave

 


There are many different kinds of magazines. Something for everyone. Everything from atoms to zoos. But, why are magazines called magazines?

In 1730, the French Canadian printer Edward Cave decided to produce a monthly printed sheet for men. A general interest sheet to contain short and interesting articles. His idea was good. But, what should he call it?

Edward Cave's first idea was 'A Store of General Information.' An idea based on the many general stores of his time that sold everything needed. This was a perfect description of his concept, but sounded far too clumsy. Something better was needed. 

Fortunately, Edward Cave spoke French. All he had to do was substitute the English word store for the French word magazine. Both meant the same. But, the French sounded better, and, it worked. 'A Store of General Information' became 'A Magazine of General Information.' And, the word magazine stuck and became international.

Edward Cave's magazine  became very popular. And, within just a short space of time, many others had followed. And now, 300 years on, magazines are just as important as ever. Magazines - not stores - are part of our lives.

Edward Cave had an idea. A store of brilliant ideas that became a magazine for men. Not only a clever idea with a very clever  name, but also a clever new word that became known all over the world. The word magazine. A cross between English and French.

Edward Cave and his magazine for men. Without French it would never have happened.

Edward Cave. A Canadian printer with a very good idea.




Sunday, 20 June 2021

Ida Leo - Leaving Her Mark!


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Ida Leo was very, very busy when she retired. This fine Canadian lady was a very keen reader.  And, biographies were high on her list. People were very  good subjects.  And, Ida Leo was an interesting subject as well.  And, all for one very good reason.

It all began a long time ago.  It was a cold winter evening. Ida was in front of the fire and reading a very good book. Every page was exciting. Then the telephone rang.   A picture of her daughter made do as a bookmark,   

Then, after this very long phone call,  Ida Leo went back to her book. And, there, waiting for her was her daughter's wonderful smile.  Ida Leo went back in time and felt happy. Wonderful memories. Then she had an idea.

Soon, Ida Leo was turning old photos into bookmarks. The results were amazing.  There, Once again, were the people she knew and all were  smiling at her.  Ida stopped feeling alone.

Within a very short time, the rest of Ida's family were catching up on their pasts with bookmarks by Ida. And, it didn't stop there. Word quickly spread. Soon, Ida Leo was getting pictures through the post to turn into bookmarks. She was in business.  Old family snaps had found meaning again. They had come out of old boxes to where people could see them again.

And, Ida's long winter evenings? They were no longer long. Ida Leo had too much to do! Her bookmarks were now in everyone's books. There was no one in Canada without one.  Reading had become a family occasion, People were seeing each other again. and, all because of a phone call.

Ida Leo answered the phone and discovered a brand new very good use for old family pictures.  Bookmarks with welcoming eyes and the smile of someone who's close. And,  now, Canada's smiling again.  What could be better?

Ida Leo - Leaving her mark!  




Sunday, 13 June 2021

The Train from Veszprem to Gyor - A long ago journey.


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Click here to listen  with full text on YouTube

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It was a very hot day when we took the train from Veszprem to Gyor. We were in Hungary. And, our short journey north was full of summer time fun. This very small train was packed full of families with kids. They were happy, excited, and on their home. And, there was noise.

There was giggling, laughing and singing, and the sounds of kids chasing each other through the train. And, this giggling and laughing turned into incredible ear piercing screams each time the train went into a tunnel. Screams that lasted as long as the tunnels. And, there were very many tunnels on our route and some very long!

There was, of course, much more than the noise. There was very much to see as we went on our very slow way. The Bakony, through which we were passing was pure natural beauty. Forest as far as the eye could see, rivers and streams, and colourful flora.   A paradise for those who love nature. But, the hand of man was clearly visible, too.

There was a very proud monastery that stood on a hill. Many small villages and churches. Farms with animals and tractors. And, even a castle that had seen many battles.

And, this was the sense of the journey. Ancient and modern. Young and old and all having fun. All enjoying the ride.

And, the train was the ride. The train, which we called the garden shed on wheels, was made up of 4 or 5 very small carriages. The seats which were plastic had seen better days, and the whole train needed a coat of fresh paint. But, none of this mattered. The train did the job and that was all that was needed. Fun doesn't need luxury.

So, next time you have time, go down to Hungary and wait for the train. Gyor down to Veszprem and back. And, by the way, Gyor and Veszprem are well worth a visit as well.

It was a very hot day when we took the slow train from Veszprem to Gyor. Eighty kilometres in three and a half very short hours. And, we enjoyed every minute.

The train from Veszprem to Gyor. A very noisy ride on a hot summer's day.

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Sunday, 6 June 2021

The Beats that Came out of the Shadows

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Karlsplatz is a beautiful square in Vienna. And, there I was on my way to a meeting. The weather was fine. A beautiful afternoon. Then, I slowed down. Coming from under the trees in the shade was a beat. I went over to look.

It was a group of drummers. About thirty or so. And, the drums they were playing were small. The drums were held between knees or balanced on laps. The drums might have been small, but the sound they were making was tremendous. I was intrigued and sat down to listen. 1 or 2 minutes wouldn't hurt.

I was glad. This was the very first time I had actually listened to drums. I discovered something new.  A beautiful feeling.  Drums were not only background, they were pure music, too. And, this was an amazing group of all ages. They had no notes to play from and no conductor to look to. The exchanging of glances was all that was needed. They were harmony pure, well practiced, and all very happy.

The group finished playing. I spoke to their leader. American.  The group was on its first tour of Europe. The next day was Moscow. A very heavy schedule. Was it a stress? Not in the slightest. Drummers never suffer from stress.

I got to my meeting on time. It was boring. Later I went back to Karlsplatz. The drummers had gone. I went for a beer. The waiter, who I knew well, gave me a look. He was surprised. I told him I wasn't  impatient. Only beating a song!

Karlsplatz Vienna. Slow down, keep your eyes and ears open, discoveries can even come out of the shadows.

The Beats that Came out of the Shadows.  Karlsplatz - a long time ago.

Wednesday, 26 May 2021

Willi Noelle - A Great Shooting Star

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Shooting Star! - Willi Noelle

Willi Noelle used to be a cameraman for Austrian TV. A job full of surprises. And, the surprises he got one night in Beirut were not only thrilling but dangerous as well. It was 1972 - just before Christmas.

Willi Noelle and his team had gone to Beirut  to meet   Yassir Arafat.  Three  days were all that they had. Beirut was simply too dangerous. Leaving the hotel was out of the question. Waiting was all they could do. Waiting for a call that might never come!

The first two days brought nothing at all. And, day number three, their very last day, was the same. Nothing! Nothing at all. And so, at eleven that night, Willi Noelle and his team went down to the bar for one or two rounds before bed. They'd soon be on their way home. Going home with no story. Not very nice. 

Then came the call!  Outside in the dark was a car. It was waiting for them.

It was pitch black as Willi Noelle and his team were driven at speed through the night time streets of Beirut. Streets full of shadows and danger. And, only Willi Noelle who was sitting in the front was able to see the signals the driver was flashing. The shadows were guarding their route.

Soon they arrived at a small dimly lit courtyard. There was menace in the air. Uniformed soldiers were smoking and hanging around.  Willi Noelle and his team were afraid. Very afraid. And, there in the courtyard they waited.

Then - through the still of the night came a sound. The sharp clack clack clack  of a stick. A small lame man with a hunchback came out of the shadows. An officer. And, his oversized uniform made him ridiculous.  Only signs were exchanged. And then, Willi Noelle and his team followed the officer's clack clack clack  back into the shadows.

They came to a dimly lit door in a wall. And there, deep underground was a bunker. A bunker smelling of waiting and stale Turkish smoke.

The furniture was simple. An English red leather three piece suite, a table, and on one of the walls a mountainous landscape. But, there were small comforts, too. The offer of a strong Lebanese coffee and an even stronger Turkish cigarette was gladly accepted. But, this bunker was nothing more than a hole in the ground. A place only for hiding.

Then, as his camera was being admired by an Hungarian, Willi Noelle thought he saw the wall move!  He wasn't dreaming. The wall wasn't a wall, it was a screen. And, there in the shadows of the shadows and waiting for them was the unshaven and smiling Yassir Arafat. And, Yassir Arafat, the great PLO leader was impressive. His charisma was powerful. He was bigger than himself.  They started to talk. This was what they had come for. They were not disappointed. This was one of the most interesting and powerful discussions Willi Noelle had ever experienced. Yassir Arafat did have a message. And, he told it.  

A few hours later, Willi Noelle and his team took off from Beirut. They were happy and tired. They had got what they'd come for. A  brilliant interview with Yassir Arafat. Then, high up in the sky, all became clear.

No passwords had been used to enter the bunker. The key had been the clack clack clack of the officer's stick.   Had Willi Noelle and his team been captured or taken they would have had nothing to say.

And the Hungarian? He was an arms and explosives expert. He was checking the camera. It could easily have been a bomb or a gun.

Then Willi Noelle thought about their three day wait in the hotel. And, this too became clear. Checking and watching. Was Willi Noelle really Willi Noelle? Was Willi Noelle's team really Willi Noelle's team? There's no such thing as trust in a war.

Of course, Willi Noelle completed many more missions. But, his days in Beirut were the days that stood out. Chancing with death in a city of war, and bringing home an interview with one of history's greatest. Yassir Arafat. The most feared, most admired and most wanted man in the world.

Willi Noelle was a camera man for Austrian television. And, more often than not, there was more of a story behind the getting of the story than the story itself!

Willi Noelle, a great shooting star.

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Thursday, 6 May 2021

Albert Gunther - An Afternoon Flight and a Very Hard Landing - A bus that took off and flew!

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Way-homes on London red buses are for taking it easy. These stop and start trips allow time for reading the paper, and, if sitting upstairs, the view of a London evening on its way into darkness is the best in the world! But, passengers to Dulwich in South London got more than they paid for a long time ago. While riding home for their suppers one late afternoon, they not only flew, but made headlines as well!

It was the 30th of December, the last working day of 1952. Albert Gunter had just steered his number 78 double decker bus onto London's world famous Tower Bridge. All of a sudden, he felt his bus going-up! The arm of the bridge on which he was driving was rising! And, it looked as though his bus was about to make history. The first ever London bus to fly off a bridge and sink in the Thames! But, Albert Gunter knew what to do. He went into action.

Automatically, Albert Gunter dropped down in gear and put his foot on the gas. His bus needed speed. He only had seconds. The gap between the two arms of the bridge was getting bigger and bigger as each second passed. His bus had to fly over the gap or crash into the river. Faster and faster he drove. He had no other choice. There was no going back! And, Albert Gunter succeeded. His bus took off and flew for just a few seconds. And, that was enough.

Down came the bus with a bang! It was loud. The passengers and seats were thrown about as the bus came to a stop on the other arm of the bridge. And, thankfully, only one or two minor injuries. But, that wasn't the end of the story.

Albert Gunter was decorated for bravery by the Queen. He had saved the lives of his passenger's. And, by-the-way, that was the first ever medal that Queen Elizabeth the Second awarded. A medal, not only for bravery, but also for flying a bus. And, all London joined in with its praise and its thanks. And, Albert Gunter was made London's 1952 man of the year. And, that was good so. Albert Gunter had not only saved the lives of 63 people, he had given them a story to take home as well. The day they flew home in a bus!

Albert Gunter and a very hard landing. An incredible story. London 1952.



Sunday, 2 May 2021

The Cycle of Life - Changes - Thoughts by Martin Glossauer

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Changes are part of everyday life. And, as Martin Glossauer discovered, the Tour de France, was and still is the perfect example of change. He was watching a film.

The film Martin Glossauer was watching was made just after the Second World War. It was all about the Tour de France. And, Martin Glossauer noticed three interesting changes. Helmets, smoking, and wine. Nobody was wearing a helmet. The race was just as dangerous then as it is now. Then came the smoking. Most of the cyclists were not only smoking during the breaks, but, whilst cycling as well! And, refreshments have completely changed, too. The favourite refresher was a glass of red wine. During the cycling and resting as well. Then, Martin Glossauer started to think. There had been other changes, too.

There were no seat belts in cars when Martin Glossauer was young. And, very few motor-cyclists wore helmets. These were things that nobody thought of. And, smoking, too was widely accepted. Nowhere was free from the smell of old smoke. Buses, trains, aeroplanes, offices, cinemas, and homes. Everywhere was the same.

And, one last drink for the road was a common farewell. And, more often than not, one last drink became more.

We have seen many changes. Many positive things. So, remember the now, it won't last for ever. Things disappear all the time and are quickly forgotten. And, as Martin Glossauer believes, personal diaries are the best way of saving the past. Our presents will then be kept for the future. But, personal diaries are vanishing, too.

Changes are part of everyday life. Things come and go, and others remain and change with the times. And, as Martin Glossauer discovered whilst watching a film, the Tour d. France was and still is the perfect example of change. Go get a note book and start writing things down. We might be remembered, not completely forgotten. The future will say a very big thank you.



Wednesday, 28 April 2021

Life is the Sweetest of All - Alexandra Lanz

  


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This story goes back a very long way. It's all about Alexandra Lanz.  This is her story.

Alexandra was fourteen. She was, as usual, at school. About mid-morning she began feeling unwell. She got worse, and all of a sudden  collapsed. Her liver had completely stopped working. Her condition was critical. She was taken to hospital. She was to stay there for 5 very long years.

Alexandra's stay in hospital was pain, suffering and despair. And, worst of all, time that never moved forward. Her youth was draining away; there was nothing she could do. She was stuck where she was. But, where there is life there is hope. And, where there is hope there is faith. And, Alexandra had both in great plenty. She knew she'd recover one day.

Then, one day, a light came on at the end of the tunnel. A liver transplant was agreed. The first ever in Vienna. The operation was a total success. And, from that moment on, Alexandra's life began coming back. But, it was during her operation that Alexandra Lanz experienced something not only unique, but very special, too. An out-of-body experience.

Alexandra was floating gently above and watching the surgeons below. And, this out-of-body experience was the most wonderful thing Alexandra had ever experienced. It was powerful and soft. She knew the worst was behind her. Her hope had not been in vain.

And, coming back to life meant other challenges, too. Alexandra had lost 5 years of school. There was much to catch up on. But, her hard work paid off. Alexandra finished her schooling and went on to medicine. And, then she met Harry and married.

But, another miracle was waiting for her.

After her liver transplant, Alexandra was told that becoming a mother would never be possible. Again, Alexandra never lost hope. Then the impossible happened. Alexandra became the first ever liver transplantee to give birth. A wonderful son.

In her darkest of times, Alexandra discovered there was a life after life, and, now she knew, too, there was a life before death. And now, with husband and two healthy sons, she's living every minute to its full. Life is the sweetest of all.

Alexandra Lanz. She lost a few years, but never lost hope. Stronger then ever, she came back again. Dreams can sometimes come true, but faith can even move mountains. Alexandra Lanz – a woman of faith and great courage. A woman who never gave up.

Alexandra Lanz - Life is the sweetest of all.




A Miraculous Encounter

I heard the following story a long time ago. It's a story of miracle, luck, and good chance. And, it's a story that moved me. And, i...