Tranquil places can be found in your local area
Tranquil silence created by the density of large trees was broken by a gaggle of geese.
‘Look at the animals up there.’ Marianne hurried up to pat a donkey, a tiny Shetland pony and goats. On the other side of the road, Anna looked at a few large birds, and then began a conversation in Dutch with an older woman who had joined her.
‘What do you call these birds in English?’ she asked Sophie.
‘Ostriches, but I’ve never seen white ones.’ Sophie photographed and videoed them as they began to dance.
‘Oooh, aagh!’ They turned to see Marianne brushing off her clothes as she swore. ‘The bloody donkey sneezed all over me.’ She continued to pat the animals and take photos.
After about ten minutes they walked on and rounded the large church. On closer inspection, Sophie noticed men’s casual clothes hanging out to dry on furniture stored outside the building, and smelt cigarettes being smoked. ‘Obviously not a nuns’ convent any more,’ she commented for the video recording. She hurried to catch up with Anna again, feeling guilty about delaying her and worrying about Flavia waiting in the car. ‘Are we taking too long?’
‘No. I’ve texted Flavia a few times, but have not had any response so she must have fallen asleep.’ Anna shrugged. ‘She’ll see all the messages when she wakes up, and will text me if she needs to.’
Marianne looked tranquil as she sat pondering on a park bench, and asked Sophie to take a photo when they joined her.
As she did so, Sophie asked Anna, ‘Was the lady you were speaking to by the ostriches a resident?’
‘No. She nursed people here a few years ago, but now that she’s retired she still likes to come and enjoy the large gardens and animals.’ Anna smiled. ‘It’s certainly much more tranquil here than outside where I work with old people.’
‘Did she work with Oma?’ Sophie was sure Anna would have introduced her if that had been the case, but wasn’t going to leave any stone unturned.
‘No. She only started here after Oma had died.’ Anna sighed and glanced at Sophie with a ‘you know’ look. ‘She seemed reluctant to talk about the goings on in the workplace here when I tried to inquire further, so I just listened to her talk about her life now.’
‘Here’s the building that I’ve seen a photo of!’ Sophie exclaimed, getting excited at the prospect of being right in the place where Alida had last lived. They peered in the lead-light glass around the charcoal gloss painted wooden front doors. It was now beautifully renovated. Anna wandered on slowly down the single car width road as Marianne and Sophie took photos.
Despite this corner of the property bordering a motorway, it was still tranquil on account of the sheer number of thick trees. Marianne asked Sophie to get Anna for a photo under a giant oak tree branch which seemed to extend longer than the tree’s total height. Sophie went to the road and waved madly at Anna, as she returned from between two larger, plain chocolate-brick buildings, a hundred metres along the tree-lined road.
‘I don’t think any residents would have stayed in this building. Look. Currently it seems to house a media company of some sort.’ Anna declared.
Sophie’s feeling of connection with the building faded, and Marianne covered her disappointment with, ‘Oh well, the tree and pond are beautiful, so will you take a photo of Anna and me on that bench with that amazing branch across here? You know, an artistic shot which you’re good at.’
After Sophie had taken several photos with her phone, Marianne extracted her large camera from an orange, art-deco plastic handbag, and put it to her eye to set up the picture that she wanted. Then she exclaimed, ‘What the…? Oh! That shit donkey’s snot is all over the lens!’ She dabbed at the camera with a tissue while the other two chuckled.
‘Oh look! It’s all dried up and stuck onto the lens like glue.’ Marianne got out her cleaning apparatus.
‘Are you sure we aren’t taking too long, Anna?’ Sophie had become again concerned when Anna walked ahead while they photographed the building.
‘No, I was just looking for a building that looked more like a place where residents would be housed.’ Anna smiled slightly, ‘Because this one has a nice staircase, and is more likely to have been the main office for official meetings.’
Photo shoots completed, they moved on with Sophie trying to quicken the pace by walking ahead and taking her photos before her sister and cousin caught up. ‘This one on the left appears to be a place where families or guests would stay?’ She looked at Anna.
‘Possibly, but opposite is a very large building which I think is most likely to be where Oma stayed.’ Anna led the sisters on to show how it was shaped like a square, surrounding what was probably a huge quadrangle. Around the corner was another long, whisper-quiet tree-lined roadway. Only a couple of cars had slowly passed, and eventually a very high, thick hedge became visible.
‘I think that might surround the graveyard,’ Sophie whispered as they continued along what seemed to be an endless row of large windows making up the second side of the quadrilateral building.
‘This building looks awful.’ Tears welled in her eyes. ‘So far, the only fences we’ve seen were restraining the animals, but this building has only the front door on the first side we saw…’ Her voice trailed off as she turned and saw that the others were no longer following her around the chapel on the far corner. At first it appeared that there might not be a fourth side to the complex which overlooked a small lake. But there was a wall behind bushes and a high gate was in the corner next to the chapel, which seemed to be an add-on to the back corner directly opposite the graveyard, into which the others were disappearing.
With some trepidation, Sophie followed them across the road to find Marianne and Anna exploring the large gravestones which belonged to the nuns who had lived and worked there since the 1800s.
‘I wonder where the residents’ graves are…’ her voice faded as she saw a whole block of plain headstones on the far side of the bushes. ‘Look, there they are!’ She led the others there.