Confessions of a Street Walker – part 47

It is possible that you have seen a rather peculiar woman walking around the streets of Hamilton over the last seven years. If you have, I hope you gave a wave…because I am she.

When the sidewalks were clearer I made my way to Waterdown where I traipsed my way across a fast-growing town. Waterdown is burgeoning. There is an old section of town and new streets popping up faster than I can walk on them. I now have most of Waterdown trod upon but will go back to finish a couple of streets this summer.

I have started tictoc-ing about my walking project. I am not very good at it but it has been fun. Lots of stories to tell about Waterdown. One is a little bit embarrassing. I had mentioned on TikTok that sometimes my back gives me grief and sometimes it is when I walk. Sometimes it is just when I am standing chopping vegetables and other times it’s when I walk 9 miles. I find that lying on a flat surface for a few minutes really helps. I have tried to figure out why – maybe it’s my shoes, or maybe I should stretch better. It just might be that hauling a plump 60-year-old carcass across sidewalks and streets will cause muscles to complain. On one of my walks through Waterdown, I dearly wanted to lie down. The sidewalks were mostly dry and I thought if I could just lie flat on something hard that the pain would abate. Now opportunities for lying down during walks do not always make themselves available. I don’t want someone driving by to be alarmed to see someone lying flat on the sidewalk. I don’t want anyone to call 911 and have an ambulance scream up to me while I try to flatten out my back.

I saw a lady scrapping with a shovel at some of the snow in her driveway. Our conversation:

Me to her: “I am wondering if it would be ok to lie down on your sidewalk.”

Her to me: “Umm, you want to lie down on my sidewalk?”

“Yes, Everything is ok but my back is bugging me a bit and if I could lie flat that might help.”

“Sure, do you need any help?”

“No, I am good.”

With that, I laid down on a very cold sidewalk and yabbled away with a lady who had to have thought I was a tad odd. It was a lovely chat and I got up after a few minutes and continued my walk back to my car.

I have found Waterdown full of really nice people. I hardly ever stop chatting to snap a picture but once in a while, I do.

so enjoyed chatting with these fellow walkers
on Flanders Road – I was inspired by them

Lots of little libraries around and places where people share painted rocks but there was also a great pottery place that has free pottery to take out front.

scored a creamer

Last fall I saw one house that had set up a ‘free to pick’ sign next to its prolific flower bed.

I have now headed out to the country roads and am enjoying them immensely.

so far

New Years Resolution – April 2022

My brother and I made a New Years Resolution to watch a movie ‘together’ each month. ‘Together’ became difficult to do once co-vid restrictions were imposed and then he moved to another province. So now we both watch the same movie and then get together on Google Meet to talk about it.

This month was my pick and I chose Cold Turkey. The movie poster really sums up the plot.

Cold Turkey is 1971 film that was produced and directed by the great Norman Lear who also had screenplay credit. There were lots of recognizable stars from 1970s TV. Jean Stapleton who had starred in Norman Lear’s brilliant TV series All in the Family played the mayor’s wife in Cold Turkey and she also played a secretary in last month’s movie, Klute. Tons of cliches and it was way too over-the-top but I did find a few themes that I appreciated.

Jeff was less impressed than I was. I felt that the movie was trying to tell us something deeper than its first impression and that maybe what we think we want or need is not always what is best for us. It reminded me that we may run around acting like idiots but we need to learn to live with each other. That was true when the movie was made and it is truer than ever today. Jeff’s turn of a 1980’s movie next month.

New Years Resolution – March 2022

My brother and I made a New Years Resolution to watch a movie ‘together’ each month. ‘Together’ became difficult to do once co-vid restrictions were imposed and then he moved to another province. So now we both watch the same movie and then get together on Google Meet to talk about it.

After deciding to watch 1960’s movies this year we have pivoted and will now watch two months of decades in ascending order re: March and April will be 1970’s and so on.

This month Jeff chose the 1971 movie Klute.

interesting to see the different movie posters

It starred Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland. Fonda won a Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of a call girl. Fairly suspenseful, it was pretty good.

Sometimes other reviewers say it better than I can. This is from the brilliant Roger Ebert:

The girl’s name is Bree, and the movie should probably be titled Bree instead of “Klute,” because the Fonda character is at the center. John Klute (played by Donald Sutherland) is a policeman who has come to New York, free-lance, to try to settle a missing persons case. It appears that the missing man may still be alive, and may be the source of obscene letters and telephone calls Bree has been receiving. Bree initially refuses to talk to Klute, but she eventually does confide in him, mostly because she’s frightened by midnight prowlers and wants his protection. The film examines their somewhat strange relationship, and at the same time functions on another level as a somewhat awkward thriller.

Our review is below.

We rambled, of course. Some current event discussion and a little family therapy. See you next month.

Confessions of a Street Walker – part 46

It is possible that you have seen a rather peculiar woman walking around the streets of Hamilton over the last seven years. If you have, I hope you gave a wave…because I am she.

Long time – no post. I have been walking throughout the winter, but for January a large number of my 10 miles per week, were covered by walking up and down our driveway, due to snow and ice-covered sidewalks. Up and down and up and down. I confess that it was quite monotonous.

Tried some GPS word walking. It is not as easy as it looks.

it was supposed to say ‘love’

When the sidewalks got a little clearer I was able to walk around closer to home and really enjoyed walking downtown.

a bridge on Locke Street which lives up to its name -it reminds me of the bridge we saw in Cologne when we were in Europe
words to discover on the sidewalk
Sometimes I get a chance to chat with the nicest people.

I started recording little snippets of my walks and posting them to TicTok. Quite a learning curve for me to walk and talk at the same time. I confess that I am, by no means, a good videographer but I am having fun with it.

The rest of the winter I spent walking in Waterdown. More about that next time.

so far – boy is Flamborough ever huge – lots of miles to cover yet

Mystery Solved – Give Me a Ring Sometime

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’

Like the woman in the parable of Luke 15, I know what it is like to be looking for a lost item. Things come and go around here. Some quite unfathomably as a matter of fact. Some things we find again and others are lost forever.

Martin has never liked wearing his wedding ring. It always cut into his finger and he never felt safe wearing it at work so he would only wear it on special occasions. Then one day it disappeared. We know he had it in October of 2000. We are pretty sure he lost it sometime before 2004. We searched when we realized it was missing but there was no sign of it and we came to the conclusion that it had been lost forever. Martin always said he didn’t need to wear a ring because he has a particular hangdog look that would easily prove to anyone that he is a whipped husband. 😆

In 2009 we got a new washing machine and set it up in our basement where it merrily washed our clothes – our mentionables as well as our unmentionables since then. Earlier this month we noticed there was some water pooling under the machine. Martin investigated by moving the machine away from the wall. Under the machine sat a discomforting amount of cobwebs and dust and unidentifiable flotsam and jetsam of the life of a middle aged couple. Martin then spied a ring under the machine that has not been moved since 2009. Yes, you guessed it. It was his wedding ring. Wow.

It must have been sitting in a shirt or pants pocket since before 2004 and then fell out and rolled under the machine when I was doing the laundry sometime after 2009.

Rejoice with us for that which was lost is now found.

New Years Resolution – February 2022

My brother and I made a New Years Resolution to watch a movie ‘together’ each month.‘Together’ became difficult to do once co-vid restrictions were imposed and then he moved to another province. So now we both watch the same movie and then get together on Google Meet to talk about it. This year we are planning to watch movies from the 1960’s – the decade that both of us were born in.

This month it was my choice and I picked The Entertainer.

Like last month’s choice, it had been nominated for Best Picture but did not win. Dr. Strangelove lost to My Fair Lady (in 1965) and The Entertainer lost to The Apartment in 1961. I did not know much about the movie but wanted to watch something with Laurence Olivier in it because I hadn’t recalled ever seeing any of his movies.

Our video review is below. We rambled a bit (big surprise). Enjoy.

New Years Resolution – January 2022

My brother and I made a New Years Resolution to watch a movie ‘together’ each month.‘Together became difficult to do once co-vid restrictions were imposed and then he moved to another province. So now we both watch the same movie and then get together on Google Meet to talk about it. This year we are planning to watch movies from the 1960’s – the decade that both of us were born in.

Jeff had the first choice and he picked Dr. Strangelove. An iconic slice of the 1960’s.

We recorded our conversation about the movie and then rambled on and on and on.

My pick is next month. Looking forward to it.

Second Mystery Solved

It began with a picture. An old photograph treasured by my mother-in-law that held a mystery.

Who were these two girls? The story takes place during World War 2 in Groningen, The Netherlands. What was their fate? My mother-in-law did not know the names or the fate of the girls but their part in her life affected her deeply. Even if she had remembered names they would have not likely been their own as Jewish people were forced to take on new identities to stay safe. My mother-in-law had passed away in September of 2012 and so the mystery remained.

This past summer I did a search of the photograph through Google Lens and there was a connection for the girl on the left. Her name was Elsbeth (Betti) Devries and she died in a concentration camp. It still boggles my mind that any invading force would consider a 13-year-old girl deserving of death. I wrote a bit about what I found out about Elspeth in an earlier blog post.

But I still did not have any information about the girl on the right. She looked older. Was she related? What was her fate?

My cousin Klaas lives in the Netherlands and is quite connected to the historical groups. He passed along my information request to Bas, who in turn contacted Ally who then replied to me with a remarkable story.

The mother of Betti died in 1982. Her obituary gave a clue about Herta.

It appears that the girl on the right was Betti’s cousin Herta. I cannot be positive about this as I have not been able to connect with Herta’s children. Herta and Betti shared grandparents through their fathers and they both came to the Netherlands from Germany. I found a few articles online about Herta. Sometimes some of the translation details are not strictly accurate but it gives us a sense of some of the history. An April 2012 article from ‘Trouw’ was particularly helpful. Some of it is reprinted below. Herta de Vries was born on September 24, 1922 in Leer (Ost-Friesland) in Germany. She passed away on April 2, 2012 in Rotterdam.

Herta de Vries was born in German Leer and of Jewish descent. She fled to the Netherlands at the end of 1938, as a sixteen-year-old girl, together with her father from the Nazis, just after the Reichs Crystal Night when violence against the Jews erupted in Germany. Her mother had recently died of a kidney condition that could have been cured if she had been given the right medicines, but which she was denied as a Jewess.

It appears Herta spent some time (perhaps in 1939) at the Emmahuis, a sort of refuge home. An article was found with her words regarding the experience.

“From there I went to the Emmahuis in Wijk aan Zee, that was terrible! It was not as terrible anywhere else. In the first place of course you do feel upset, because you come from a family. Those barracks, I knew that was temporary, but the Emmahuis, the people in charge were so terrible, I don’t know if that was because that was cheaper, they did not speak their languages, no German, and there was one there who could really use her hands, and she did that too! We had to go out for walks, it was cold, and we had to go once or twice per day, I don’t remember exactly. And the matron, she would hand out the mail at a long table every morning. It was my birthday while I was there, and I got a postcard from an uncle in Germany. I was very, very, very unhappy there. I cried so much there, I have never cried so much in my life, that is how unhappy I was.” 

After wandering around, Herta and her father ended up in Musselkanaal at the beginning of the war, where relatives who had previously emigrated to the Netherlands already lived. There it also turned out to be unsafe for Jews when Herta’s uncle and later her father were arrested – both died in a concentration camp. In the meantime, a boy from a seafaring family in Scheveningen had heard about the difficult fate and precarious situation of the German De Vries family in the north of the country. The war had already wreaked havoc in that Reformed Van der Zwan family: the merchant ship that father was sailing on had been hit by a German torpedo in 1941 and he had died in the process. Son Willem, a grammar school student, received permission from his mother to pick up the Jewish family De Vries. He took Herta (and her aunt Mary and daughter Elsbeth??) from Musselkanaal by bicycle to Winschoten station, and then by train to The Hague. Herta (her alias was Annie Bakker) came to live in the house of the Van der Zwan family as a woman in hiding. She and Willem fell in love and wanted to get married. That was postponed because on the intended day the message came in that cousin Elsbeth, who had been arrested (again) by Dutch agents in 1943, had not survived the war. She had been gassed in Birkenau.

Willem and Herta were engaged for six years before they got married in 1952. In those six years, Willem studied theology at the Free University to become a minister. Herta was baptized, but did not deny her roots: “I am and will remain Jewish.” As a pastor’s wife, she sometimes had difficulties, especially in the orthodox congregation in Overijssel. Willem van der Zwan was nicknamed ‘the red minister’ because of his progressive views. Herta was his mainstay. The spouses crept closer to each other in terms of faith, and the two of them seemed to want to close the gap between Christianity and Judaism. Although Herta was not academically trained, she was certainly as intelligent as her husband. She liked to read, especially literature and poetry, in Dutch, a language she had already mastered while in hiding by reading children’s books by WG van der Hulst and Anne de Vries. She spoke it flawlessly and without an accent. She was a vivacious woman who enjoyed every day and who was fond of her husband and four children and was also extremely humorous.

In the Rotterdam pastor’s family, the meals on Friday were slightly tastier than on Sunday. That was the tangible influence of Herta. She had been baptized in the Reformed Church after the war, but for her, the eve of the Sabbath had more meaning than Sunday all her life, and that was reflected on the table.

William passed away in 2000. It was a difficult time for his widow. Life threatened to lose its luster but she climbed out of the valley. She was pleased that all her seven grandchildren were given Jewish names, she saw it as a tribute. She applied for the Yad Vashem award posthumously for her husband. Willem himself had always refused, because he did not feel like a hero. But Herta felt that the man who, along with his siblings, had saved her life and the lives of others, more than deserved it. It became a mission for her. When the letter from Jerusalem came in with the good news, she cried for a long time—with relief (because it took so long that she feared the decision would be negative).

When she turned 89, her children gave her an iPad and she had mastered the device in no time. She emailed, Skyped, exchanged photos and surfed the internet. She hated it when the connection went down. On a daily phone call from one of her children, when asked how she was doing, she replied, “I’m not feeling well and I don’t have internet either.” The iPad was used, even during the last weeks of her illness when it was clear that the end was near, or, in her words, the book was full. Herta de Vries died on Monday 2 April, 2012 and was buried four days later, on Good Friday. That was quite special, because that year the Jewish Passover started on that day. That is not the case every year. Thus, at the end of it, the two faiths that defined her life reunited.

So that is a little bit about Herta. I am grateful for the opportunity to read a little bit about her life. Maybe one day I can be in touch with her family to confirm that she is, indeed, the girl in the picture with Betti.

Books I Read in 2021

Along with listening to audio books I read books digitally from the library as well reading real paper books held in my own hand. There is nothing like falling into the pages of a good book.

These are the books from this year.

Catherine Cookson: one of my favourite British storytellers.
Started the first three books on audio but the library
only had the remaining books of the series in a digital format.
Autobiography of an amazing young woman
who is helping to make the world better.
So one day I will have to toss this book. But not yet.
Pretty good detail of the life of a complicated man.
Read this before as well as have seen the movie.
A good story.
Some spiritual reading.
Two digital books from the library.
Blaze Island was a Hamilton Reads book. A little environmentally alarmist for my taste but I did like it.
Found at a free little library. A woman growing up in an abusive environment. Highly acclaimed but I thought ‘Meh’.
I tried hard to like it as it is a classic but
I just could not get into the characters.
A powerful story of a mother’s love.
A young adult book that I never would have picked up
on my own but I won it in a book prize package
and thought I would give it a whirl. Not bad.
Finished all of the Harry Potter books and
then watched all of the Harry Potter movies.
A lovely way to deal with my Harry Potter withdrawal after finishing the series
My story about mourning with fellow church members during a time of co-vid restrictions is part of this anthology.
I’m very proud of this one. I had another short story published this summer. It was fun to finally read what the other authors wrote. Looking for the theme of ‘Hamilton’ woven into each story was fun. Being part of the Hamilton Mountain Writers’ Guild has been such a good experience for me.
A look at the basics of faith from where it all began.
Dear Mr. Hanks, you delight me, on screen and now in print.
Varied stories around a theme of the typewriter.
Some short stories published by three friends. A good read.
Another YA book. I think I read it as a teenager. I liked it.
Loved this book for a few reasons. #1 A real-life mystery was solved with tenacity. #2 I have been learning about a family story that involved a friend of my mother-in-law who had a similar fate as Hana. I find those stories difficult but fascinating. #3 Years ago, I almost met the author. Part of my first writing class at McMaster I wrote a First Person Singular that was chosen by Karen Levine to be read on a CBC radio program. Then the program was cancelled.
Almost famous was I.

Such a varied group of books. I have lots on my ‘to read’ list and each month it only gets longer.

Books I Listened to 2021

Starting with the most recent, these are the audiobooks I listened to from the Hamilton Public Library this past year. Some of them I listened to attentively and others were just on in the background. So grateful for this service they offer.

Really liked The Tattooist of Auschwitz, The Rose Code, and The Huntress. They were set during World War 2. War times are a hard subject matter but definitely worth the time to read.

Started the first three Bridgerton books on audio and the last five books I read digitally from the library. Binge-watched the miniseries on Netflix.

Really liked the two stories about the packhorse library women of early America in The Bookwoman of Troublesome Creek and The Giver of Stars as well as The Lost Apothecary which was also a historical read.

Captivated by the book Wild as it followed a woman’s journey along the Pacific Coast Trail. Glad I could read about it instead of experiencing it.

I also liked the autobiographical books. Loved having Barak Obama, Michael J Fox, and Carol Burnett reading to me. I enjoyed The Dutch House because Tom Hanks was telling me a story while I was walking the country roads of Flamborough and who wouldn’t enjoy that?

Driven largely by a wonderful character, I did like the two books about Olive Kitteridge although I did not read them in the proper order. Heard there is a mini-series done which I would like to watch one day.

Really like the Charles Martin books. Fairly predictable once you know his style but he writes really well. I also enjoy anything by Mitch Albom.

There were a few that I just could not get into. Some of that was my fault as I started listening while doing other things and then found that I could not keep track of the plot or characters as well as I should have: Hum If You Don’t Know The Words, Angels Make Their Hope Here, My Name Is Lucy Barton, A Wrinkle In Time and Caste might be worth giving a try by reading the actual book.

You can count up the hours, I get 376, but I have also been known to play at 1.25 speed especially when I am getting close to the return date. Looking forward to listening to more books in 2022. They are fun company when I go on my long walks. Love the recommendations that come from fellow readers on Facebook. I get to try stories I might never have found on my own. Happy reading/listening folks.