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Anne Frank House - Amsterdam

Anne Frank House – Amsterdam

So NaNoWriMo has fallen by the wayside due to a very badly planned holiday and a crippling week. The holiday I knew was coming, and I managed a thousand words a day while I was out there, with the intention of catching up on my return. The moment I got back I got a spectacularly painful ear infection, which caused a four day bout of deafness and pain. Not ideal writing conditions.

When I finally picked myself up from that I sat at my computer and went ‘You know what NanoWriMo isn’t for me.’ I intend to speak more about that in another blog, about why that is, maybe explore a little about different working pace and personalities.

But for now, I’ve just got back off holiday and I had a wonderful time. When you haven’t travelled for a while you forget what it feels like to go somewhere and not have things meet expectations. By that I do not mean my holiday was not as good as I expected it to be, I’m more talking about subverting cultural expectations and forcing your mind to engage with new things.

Now while I was there I visited Anne Frank’s house and I jotted a few thoughts down which I’m going to put below. Looking back on it, it really makes me think about how, getting so caught up in writing and looking at words on a page, it’s so easy to forget what stuff actually feels like, because if asked about it now, I know this wouldn’t be what I would say. Writing, obviously there is a lot of description and you think about it and you imagine yourself there but I jotted this down as quickly as I could on exit to try and capture the moment when I was there, as opposed to trying hard to remember it later:

“So the first thing that hit me about visiting Anne Franks Annexe was the noise. The noise they were making in the house was such an important thing for the Franks after the Germans occupied the Netherlands, they could barely move during the day for fear of being hear and they certainly couldn’t run water or go to the bathroom.

I felt so conscious of every step I was taking, and the steps of everyone around me as well. Going up the stair inside the annexe the fourth stairs from the top creaked with every visitor. The far left corner in Otto and Edith Franks room was slightly concave and made an old groan with every step.  Even though every single visitor held a respectful silence while they were there it felt so loud. I could just imagine the Frank family hopping the fourth step with every trip to their kitchen, at first terrified that the warehouse workers would hear them, but after a while just naturally avoiding the fourth step and taking its noise for granted. It’s very unusual to think of a kind of life where you have to be so concerned with the floorboards creaking.

Because of the pace of the museum and the small size of each annexe room there would be about six people in each of the rooms at once, eight at the most, the exact number of people who lived in that annexe for two years. We all only just fit standing together, even though the rooms have been completely emptied. The rustling and the footsteps felt like they could be heard from the outside.

Another thing that really struck me was what obviously hasn’t been saved. A surprising amount of it has, the lines on the wall where they tracked Anne’s and Margot’s growth are now kept behind glass. But there are loads of ghosts of things that are only half left. Anne’s room had a few choice pictures put back up on the walls to show what kind of posters she adorned her walls with. But behind that you could see where others have been stripped away and the wall has been scrubbed.”