Like most bloggers I think, I enjoy and appreciate comments, even those from the rare troll; I eventually edited the comments from Fiddledeedee, deleting all of my own responses – which I tried to couch calmly and rationally–and a few of his/her less-than-diplomatic answers. As is frequently so in such cases, Fiddledeedee’s topic quickly turned from asserting the apparently inviolable value of cultural relativity to the failings of my character. Nonetheless, I decided to leave a few choice remarks in situ for posterity. [Sorry about the dead links on that post, it’s a hazard of long-term blogging.]
Sometimes, though, my posts elicit comments emailed rather than appended. Two particularly wonderful ones rolled in last month.
The first was from the affable Fem Bromley, a Netherlands ex-pat living in Canada. She wrote about my 2009 post on the lovely work of the Dutch naturalist H.J. Slijper, about whom I knew almost nothing. She said [lightly edited for clarity]:
“I saw your postcard pictures of Henk Slijper. I'm Dutch and thought you would like to know a little about him. He passed away in 2007 after he had a few strokes. I knew him very well I took care of his mother for 9 years, and he came often home with his falcon on his shoulder. He was a very nice man and a very good painter. He spent some time in jail as he was involved during the second world war with the resistance, and got caught.”
She was able to go on to give me more information about his career and reputation:
“He had expositions in AMERICA in 1981,1982,1983,1987,1989 (Birds in Art) at Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum. Also there are a few books out with his drawings. Henk also painted for the laboratory in water colour for illness in plants and bulbs, painted for catalogues for the companies of tulip bulbs. Henk worked together with Prince Bernhard for the nature foundation. He was awarded by the Royal Horticultural Society in London with the Silver Gilt Grenfell Medal. ALSO WAS AWARDED with the Silver Anjer in the Netherlands.”
With these details, and especially with the knowledge of his first name Henk (the postcards are attributed only to H.J. Slijper) Google turned up more interesting information about the artist whom I feared was obscure, underappreciated, and unknown outside of Holland. Among his enduring legacies are his designs for falconry hoods, as it happens, another interest of mine.
The second email came from a relation of the family that owned the children's German language camp, Landheim von Specht, that I wrote a little about over the Thanksgiving weekend last year. In that case, I provided her with entirely new information about her family's story, something I found very gratifying and hope someday someone will do for me about mine.
Her initial inquiry was:
“I'm a relative of the ‘von Specht’ family in Starnberger See, but have never heard about the ‘Landheim von Specht.’ Was it run by someone with the family name ‘von Specht’? I'd be curious if you could tell me more about it.”
The next day I answered, “...as I was only 13 years old at the time, I don't believe I could now recall (if I ever knew) the first names of ‘Frau und Herr von Specht’ but they seemed to me to be very elderly at the time they were running the international children's German language camp. Herr was bedridden, Frau was vigorous. They had a kennel of several Afghan hounds, all of whom...were named Rahu. As you can tell from the photo, the estate was right by the lake, directly across the road from it as I remember. The reference to Landheim von Specht came from the back of one of my photographs, in my childish handwriting....”
She responded “...So the Landheim was definitely run by a Herr and Frau ‘von Specht’ or possibly just a couple by the name of ‘Specht’? ... At the time my relative Joachim von Specht born 1894 lived with this wife in Ambach am Starnberger See. We only know him as an ‘author’, but maybe this family was running the Landheim?”