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Page 55 - Looking for Uncle Joop

A street in sepia. The river flows in from the left and runs in a perfectly straight line to the back of this view. If you want to cross the River Luts, turn left over the iron drawbridge where the signpost points in the direction of the nearest towns: Lemmer, Sloten, Joure and Heerenveen. Or you might walk straight on, parallel to the river. It is high summer: to your left the street is densely lined with mature lime trees in full leaf, which intermittently hide the water from view. As you pass you will catch glimpses of it and see a small boat go by, a skûtsje, bringing logs from the nearby woods. Stop. Wait there. See the trees are casting shadows on the sun-bleached cobbles, as you feel the warmth from the stone rising through the soles of your shoes. Now look to your right, where a long line of buildings echoes that on the other side of the river. In between the houses you will find the modest façade of the Dutch Reformed Church where the minister delivers his sermons. Cast your eye upwards from the brickwork and you will see the short but sturdy tower with the weather vane at the top. Now work backwards. The building with the pretty gable next to the church is the rectory, where the Minister and his wife live with their son and daughter. The ground floor has two elegant, tall windows, and stone steps leading up to the front door. Stand back, look up, and you will notice that the first floor has one broad, centrally positioned window. The top of the building features a free-standing decorative stone engraved with a cross, an anchor and a heart: the symbols of Faith, Hope and Love. Next to the rectory is a bakery, owned by the de Boer family, where the Minister’s wife buys her bread. The next two gables have their awnings out, as suffused with sunlight as the street itself. It must be somewhere between late morning and early afternoon, as the sun cannot reach these windows after two o’clock. This is the men’s clothing shop and home of Benjamin Steegenga, who has a wife and nine children. And finally, the last building, the one with the heavy, dark-stained door and closed shutters, that is the ‘Building of Christian Interests’, a meeting hall for Christian organisations. The irony of its name will become apparent in the final stages of the war.

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