Thursday, 4 December 2014

Christmas on the Home Front

Tea and Christmas cake anyone?

I have had a very exciting couple of weeks at work (well, more exciting than normal!) which I wanted to share with you.

I am involved with the WW2 programme at work where we run an evacuee camp and get groups of school children to try out lots of different period activities whilst learning what life was like on the Home Front. I love running these days – dressing up and indulging in my love of this period of history. So, I decided to approach Mr Bossman and see if I could run a couple of weeks of Christmas on the Home Front as a special offer. He happily agreed to let me give it a try and I am proud to say it was a huge success.

Some of our props.

We decorated our WW2 building and shop with period decorations. I spent hours creating paper chains from facsimile WW2 newspapers and sourcing paper decorations and streamers of crepe paper. We found the tiniest tree in the world and added some red, white and blue bunting too. I even found a supply of old Christmas cards to stretch above the mirror. Some fresh greenery from around the site completed the decor.

I spent hours researching facts and figures. Being a bit nerdy I wanted everything to be perfectly accurate but in truth we could just give an flavour of the time. Hence we had some American supplies in the shop alongside ration guidance from earlier in the War. Petrol rationing facts didn’t quite match with the dates on the magazines – but overall it gave a good impression of life in that era. And I just had to get over it!

The children got the chance to look at some toys and to think about what they might find in their stockings. They cooked and tasted authentic WW2 recipes and learned about rations in the shop. They got to weigh out a weeks’ worth of sweet ration to take home with them although I suspect none of them managed to make them last a whole week! Hopefully alongside the fun we managed to get the children to appreciate some of the hardships suffered by people, we certainly had several very thoughtful comments from the children.
A visit to our authentic Anderson Shelter (also decorated for the season) and an exciting Beetle Drive game with an onion prize were also on the agenda.

To top off the fun for me, I got to spend some time away from my Land Girl dungarees and look a little more dressed up. Curled and pinned hair, a nice party dress and even some lippy (apparently those Americans down in the town have a little to spare!!) 

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Egypt Adventure Part Three - in which we ride camels and get sand in our crevices!

I promise I won’t be boring you with any more Egypt Adventure posts but I just wanted to share one last experience with you all!

DD was determined to ride a camel while we were out there – it was number one on her wish list. This is actually one of the few things that I could say ‘done that’ to, but I was quite happy to have another go.

So, the trip that best fulfilled this brief was the ‘Desert Adventure’ which promised a day full of excitement and a camel ride too. On booking the trip we were presented (read ‘sold’) a scarf each. This was the traditional keffiyeh which I have since learnt has different political meanings related to colours. We wondered if ours were more of a stereotypical tourism trap – like selling University sweatshirts to Oxford or Cambridge visitors but I can safely say they were very welcome out in the desert!

Don't you just hate it when you dress for the desert and someone is wearing exactly the same!

The day started at the Centre where the trips are run from. This was an attractive place just outside of Hurghada. We arrived and met up with the rest of our group for the day over a lovely cup of Hibiscus tea. First part of the adventure was Dune Buggy driving. DD and I had teamed up with a couple from Yorkshire. Myself and Julie decided we would let the others take turns in driving while we admired the view from the back. DD was very excited – dreams of speeding off into the desert were, however, cruelly dashed when we found ourselves at the back of the convoy and stuck behind someone who had to stop and take photographs every 5 seconds.

Pedal to the metal - not.

Next we all piled into jeeps and set off into the real desert. This took us into the Red Sea Mountains. I was surprised at actually how beautiful the terrain was, not at all what I expected from desert.

We made a couple of stops on the way to a Bedouin Village, the first one to see a real mirage. It was ok, but I didn't feel the awe that I think our guide expected.

The second stop was to climb a sizeable mountain and run down a sand dune on the other side. Now this was pretty awesome! The top of the mountain afforded some great views and a chance to glory in the peace before we whooped our way down the slope.

We arrived in the Bedouin Village not really knowing what to expect. Clearly they no longer live in the huge tents that everyone visualises but in huts and shacks. Not so romantic but that’s the price of progress I guess.

We got to share sweets with the children – this felt a little weird, were they really hanging out for Werthers Originals and Haribo? Then followed a tour around the Village. I couldn't help but feel bad about this too. Many of the Bedouins now make their living through tourism which basically amounts to herds of us traipsing through their space while they put on a show of making bread, weaving, and generally getting on with the day and trying to ignore us. It felt wrong, a little like being in a zoo and getting them to perform. And I felt bad that I was contributing to this trade but then also I was helping them to maintain a living. All a bit morally confusing.

However, we did get to have the camel ride. Some of the children (buzzed up on all our sugary treats) helped us on and off the camels and led us for a few minutes’ walk. DD was thrilled! I was just overawed by the absolute silence in the desert. Not a bird or a creature, no wind, just nothing…. It was a moment of pure calm.

The trip back to the Centre took in a visit to a water spring and a chance to take some photographs as the sun went down. We were told we didn't get the most spectacular sunset due to clouds – but I was impressed anyway.

The camera sadly just didn't capture the colours....

Back at camp we got to settle down for a Folkloric Show with a pretty poor bellydancer, some whirling dervishes and an impressive men’s stick dance. There was a good buffet and BBQ and some traditional tea.

To finish the evening we had the chance to use some massive telescopes to star gaze in the night sky over the desert.

It was a full on day and we left the Centre tired but very happy. We snuggled on the balcony back at the hotel to chat about the experiences and how the beauty of the desert would be with us forever.

How true this turned out to be when we took our shoes off and prepared for bed that night!