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Research

While I was writing Hope Bay I found that many questions came to mind. If you scroll down on this page you’ll find a list of some of these questions as well as some answers I didn’t expect. A main area of research was life in Holland during the second world war. I was lucky enough to meet two women who had lived in Rotterdam during the war. If you follow the links in the menu bar to Mary Vroom and Cathy van Toorenburg you can read their story of this time. The other thing I needed to research was dolphins. This was the best part of my research.  Click on the links above if you’d like to know more about my adventures with dolphins.

Questions about life in Holland during the war …
• What sort of wood would a shop be panelled in? Is walnut likely?
• During the war did bakeries sell much bread? How did the rationing work?
• What happened with the bakeries when the food became scarcer?
• What sort of bread would be sold? Would a bakery make cakes and biscuits too?
• Did people bring their own dough to the bakery to bake?
• How did Dutch children address their mother and father, what is the Dutch for Mum and Dad?
• How do you spell “thank you” in German?
• Identity cards – were children listed? Did they have their own cards?
• What was the uniform for a Nazi soldier?
• Would Kurt be SS or regular army?
• Would soldiers accompany Gestapo or did the Gestapo have their own men?
• What date is Queen Wilhelmina’s birthday and all the other members of the Dutch Royal Family?
• What was it like to live through the bombing of Rotterdam?
• Did people have any inkling of what was likely to happen?
• From which direction did the bombers fly?
• Types of bombs did they drop?
• What was it like as the bombs fell?
• What sound did they make?
• What was it like after the bombs fell?
• What was the term for a chambermaid in a Dutch hotel?
• How was the Dutch resistance organised?
• On the black market during the war would a packet of cigarettes be a good exchange for a pig’s foot and bag of onions?
• Was there still fighting in the Ukraine in the last months of the war?
• When did the war end? Would it be winter a few months from the end of the war?

Many of these questions were answered by my uncle-in-law, Bruce who is a military historian. Thanks Bruce!

I also interviewed Mary Vroom and Cathy van Toorenburg who lived through the bombing of Rotterdam. You’ll find their stories in this section.

Questions about dolphins
• When dolphins come into shore do they come on their own or are they always in a pod?
• What can’t people hear in the water – what frequencies? How do dolphins hear?
• When the dolphins are coming into shore do they generally swim along the surface of the water or do they come underwater as much as they can?
• Do they ever play tricks with you? For example trying to surprise you?
• Can they easily recognise familiar people in the water?
• How do they take fish from your hands – do you drop it into their mouth or do they reach up to take it?
• What sort of fish do you feed them? Do they have favourites?
• If you are familiar with a pod of dolphins are you able to recognise particular dolphins as they swim towards you?
• Will the mothers bring the calves in to shore?
• Do different dolphins come each day or are there regulars that come no matter what?
• When they breathe from their blow hole is the spray similar to a whale?

I took myself off to discover the answers to these questions. You’ll find some of my adventures in the dolphin research section.

Questions about stroke
• What are the early warning signs of a stroke?
• Are there different types of stroke?
• What happens during and after a stroke?
• Are you likely to go into a coma after you’ve had a stroke?
• How would a stroke patient be treated? Would they have to stay in hospital or could they go home?
• During a consultation what things is a doctor likely to do with a stroke patient?

 

General Questions
• How do memories form in children under the age of five.
• What sort of whales will you find in southern waters? – Minke? Southern Right, Humpback?
• To go forward what direction do you push the engines controls on a ferry?
• Do ferries still have engine telegraphs?
• If you were to drift in a ferry towards an island for one kilometre in a strong wind and current about how long would it take you to get there?
• What breed of dog is likely to yap a lot and crave attention?

Answers I hope to remember

Sometimes while researching I would learn something that surprised or touched me. I tried to write some of them down so I’d remember:

Sentimentality
Henrietta von Schirach was the daughter of Hitler’s photographer and had known Hitler since childhood. She had seen Jewish people being rounded up in Amsterdam and dared to challenge the Fuhrer on the fate of these people. In her memoirs she notes that she was told not to be so sentimental.

Ignoring orders
General von Choltitz was the commander of the Nazis forces who surrendered Paris to the allies. Hitler had ordered General von Choltitz to destroy the historic buildings in Paris prior to surrender. He ignored this order.

Learning from good people
Elie Wiesel, a survivor of the camps and a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize said:
Let us not forget, after all, that there is always the moment when the moral choice is made. Often it is because of … one person (that) we are able to make a different choice, a choice for humanity, for life. And so we must know these good people who helped Jews during the Holocaust. We must learn from them, and in gratitude, we must remember them.

The Church remained standing
At the end of the war the German city of Dresden was bombed severely by the allies. Most of the town was destroyed but one building remained standing – the Church. When I first heard of this I was amazed that this one building had been saved until I was told that the tall spire had been used as a navigation mark by the bombers.

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