Keele University in a Nutshell.*

*Intentional Squirrel Joke!

I was a Keele University student for several years, during both my undergraduate and postgraduate studies.

My alma mater now has its very own Buzzfeed listicle, which brings back some fond memories!

33 things everyone who studied at Keele University will understand 

'A walk in Keele woods' - sitting in my favourite tree. This photo was taken a few years ago, when I was a postgraduate student at Keele.

‘A walk in Keele woods’ – sitting in my favourite tree. This photo was taken a few years ago, when I was still a postgraduate student at Keele.

My PhD graduation at Keele University.

My PhD graduation at Keele University.

And for a while, I even had my very own pet squirrel! This is "Mr. Squirrel" waiting outside the kitchen window of my Horwood flat, waiting for some nuts...

And for a while, I even had my very own pet squirrel! This is “Mr. Squirrel” waiting outside the kitchen window of my Horwood flat, hoping for some nuts…

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Lights Out.

The single candle I lit as part of the WWI centenary ‘Lights Out’ event, 10pm-11pm on 4 August 2014, to commemorate all of those who lost their lives.

“Dulce et Decorum Est”

By Wilfred Owen

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.
Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

“Lights out; but also, lights on”

By Musa Okwonga.

Lights out; but also, lights on.
Lights should be shone into every corner,
Into every corner of each battlefield
and each soul of those sending them to die.
Lights should go on in our minds,
when we recognise the pattern of all this happening again.
Lights on in Israel-Palestine, Ukraine; in Iraq, Syria, Nigeria;
Lights on in South Sudan, in Congo;
Lights on in the regions of our globe
That our tongues and our history books do not yet know,
but soon will.
So lights on for the Central African Republic,
For the Rohingya and for West Papua,
Because this is War;
A virus in endless search of new hosts,
Settling on those who have not yet developed resistance,
Whilst those who survive it
Are not yet eager enough to share the cure.

Read more about the Lights Out event.

Remembering the Warsaw Uprising

Today marks the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising; the day when the Polish resistance took up arms in an attempt to liberate their city from German control. Following 63 days of ferocious street fighting by the Polish Home Army, who were supported by the civillian population but failed to attract any substantial international support, the beleaguered resistance capitulated having suffered estimated losses of 16,000 resistance fighters and 150,000-200,000 civillians. Following the rising, the Nazis extracted revenge by systematically reducing most of Warsaw to rubble while executing and forcibly evacuating its surviving citizens  – by the time Warsaw was ‘liberated’ by the Soviet Red Army in 1945, 85% of the city had been destroyed and from a pre-war population of 1.3 million only around 1000 people remained, hiding in the ruins.  The defeat of the Home Army also removed any serious domestic resistance to Soviet control of the city, where a communist regime was swiftly imposed in the aftermath of the Second World War.

Last year (2013) I was visiting Poland, and I arrived in Warsaw a couple of days after 1st August anniversary. The central monument was still festooned with flowers and candles:

Monument to the Warsaw Uprising, Warsaw (August 2013). Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Monument to the Warsaw Uprising, Warsaw (August 2013). Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Monument to the Warsaw Uprising, Warsaw (August 2013). Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Monument to the Warsaw Uprising, Warsaw (August 2013). Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Monument to the Warsaw Uprising, Warsaw (August 2013). Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Monument to the Warsaw Uprising, Warsaw (August 2013). Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Monument to the Warsaw Uprising, Warsaw (August 2013). Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Monument to the Warsaw Uprising, Warsaw (August 2013). Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Monument to the Warsaw Uprising, Warsaw (August 2013). Photo © Kelly Hignett.

More generally, while walking around Warsaw, I noticed that the uprising has become much more ‘visible’ in the city’s heritage. Today, the memory of the Wasrsaw Uprising is intimately integrated within the fabric of the city. In addition to the central monument, numerous smaller plaques and commemorative memorials connected with the uprising are scattered around the city, while the anchored ‘P’ (PW), the symbol most commonly associated with the 1944 uprising and the Polish underground, is a very common sight. This is perhaps unsurprising, as for many decades after WWII the communist authorities attempted to suppress popular memory of the uprising: emphasis was placed on the role played by the Red Army in the liberation of Warsaw, while the leaders of the Polish underground were denounced as German collaborators and terrorists, who acted to protect the interests of the bourgeoisie and rich landowners. Any official commemoration of the uprising was forbidden, and it was only after the fall of communism in 1989 that the first monuments were able to be openly erected. Here are just a few examples:

Building decorated with the symbols of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Building decorated with the symbols of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Commemorative plaque, with floral tributes. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Commemorative plaque, with floral tributes. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Memorial for 40 members of the Polish underground who were shot by the Nazis. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Memorial for 40 members of the Polish underground who were shot by the Nazis. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Wall plaques in commemoration of the Polish Home Army. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Wall plaques in commemoration of the Polish Home Army. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Wall plaque denoting barracks errectd during the 1944 Warsaw Uprising. Photo credit © Kelly Hignett.

Wall plaque denoting barracks errectd during the 1944 Warsaw Uprising. Photo credit © Kelly Hignett.

Wall plaque on ul. Mysia, in commemoration of a scoutmaster involved in the 1944 Uprising. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Wall plaque on ul. Mysia, in commemoration of a scoutmaster involved in the 1944 Uprising. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

 

Commemorative plaque on the corner of ul. Krolewska. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Commemorative plaque on the corner of ul. Krolewska. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

I also visited the Warsaw Uprising Museum (Muzeum Powstania Warszawskiego) which opened in 2004. The museum, housed in a former power station, has done much to raise the historical profile of the uprising:

The Warsaw Uprising Museum (Muzeum Powstania Warszawskiego). Photo  © Kelly Hignett.

The Warsaw Uprising Museum (Muzeum Powstania Warszawskiego). Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Armband worn by a member of the Polish Home Army during the 1944 rising – on display in the Warsaw Uprising Museum.Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Armband worn by a member of the Polish Home Army during the 1944 rising – on display in the Warsaw Uprising Museum.Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Memorial Wall, outside the museum. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Memorial Wall, outside the museum. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Finally, last summer the area around Rynek Nowego Miasta (New Town Market Square) was abuzz, as filming was underway for ‘Miasto ‘44 (City ‘44), a new film about the uprising by acclaimed Polish director Jan Komasa, which has just premiered in Warsaw to mark the 70th anniversary of the Uprising. Last summer, one of the streets was cordoned off for the film crew, with barricades erected. I also noticed several actors and film extras, dressed in 1940s fashion and military uniforms, who were wandering around and enjoying the sunshine whilst taking a break from filming!

 

Barricade, constructed on the film set of ‘Miasto ’44’. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Barricade, constructed on the film set of ‘Miasto ’44’. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Actors filming ‘Miasto 44′ in Warsaw happily pose for photos. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Actors filming ‘Miasto 44′ in Warsaw happily pose for photos. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Filming Miasto ’44. Photo  © Kelly Hignett.

Filming Miasto ’44. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Actors enjoying the sunshine, during a break from filimg. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Actors enjoying the sunshine, during a break from filimg. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Filming ‘Miasto ’44’. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Filming ‘Miasto ’44’. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

You can watch the official trailer for the film Miasto 44 Here.

* This is a shorter version of a longer article that was originally posted on my blog The View East, in August 2013.

 

 

Beautiful Prague – Krasna Praha.

When I decided to start this blog, I just knew that my first post had to be about Prague. Prague captured my heart from the first moment when I emerged, blinking and fuzzy headed, fresh off the overnight sleeper train from Krakow, early one morning in July 2004. That was my very first visit to Prague, and it marked the start of what has become a beautiful and long-lasting love affair.

All of the places I’ve visited have their own charm, but Prague will always be special to me. On arrival, I instantly felt a deep connection to the city, and have always felt ‘at home’ there. I’ve visited several times since that first trip, and each time I visit, I discover new things to love about Prague.

Luckily, my academic research into Czech/Czechoslovakian history gives me a reason to return often. I’ve been learning Czech for the past six months. I visited Prague again recently (June 2014 – to attend a conference which you can read about HERE) and I will be returning again this September. Miluju Prahu – and I can’t wait to return!

So, Prague is likely to feature on this blog fairly often. For now, here are just a few photos I’I took during my most recent visit to this beautiful city in June 2014. Hopefully these will whet your appetite for more!

Sunset in Prague, June 2014. © Kelly Hignett.

Sunset in Prague, June 2014. © Kelly Hignett.

Sunet in Prague, June 2014. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Sunset in Prague. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Sunet in Prague, June 2014. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Sunset in Prague. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Sunset at Prague Castle. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Sun set behind Prague Castle. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Dusk falls in Prague, June 2014. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

A peaceful walk along the Vltava, as dusk falls in Prague.. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Evening bustle on Mala Strana. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Evening bustle along Mala Strana. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Early morning in Mala Strana, June 2014. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Early morning in Mala Strana, June 2014. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Mala Strana. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Mala Strana. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Turret effect. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Turret effect. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Kampa Park. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

The quiet calm of Kampa Park. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Prague Tram along Narodni Trida. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Prague Tram along Narodni Trida. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

David Cerny's 'Hanging Man'. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

David Cerny’s ‘Hanging Man’. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Statues, resplendent along Charles Bridge. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Statues, resplendent along Charles Bridge. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Another Prague Statue - with added pigeons! Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Another Prague Statue. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

 

The Astronomical Clock, Old Town Square, Prague.  June 2014. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

The Astronomical Clock, Old Town Square, Prague. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Entrance to Old Town Square. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

View over old town square, looking down from the astronomical clock. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

View over old town square, looking down from the astronomical clock. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Old town square in sepia. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Old town square in sepia. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Old town square at dusk. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Old town square at dusk. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Wenceslas Square. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Wenceslas Square. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Mmmm, Prague Beer - from the Strahov Brewery. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

Mmmm, Prague Beer – from the Strahov Brewery. Photo © Kelly Hignett.

An unusual busker! The sign said 'To buy an engagement ring'. I really hope he succeeded! Photo © Kelly Hignett.

An unusual busker! The sign said ‘To buy an engagement ring’. I really hope he succeeded! Photo © Kelly Hignett.