by Anton Wills-Eve

Is there a place in the world you never want to visit? Where, and why not?

<a href=””>No, Thanks</a>


In 1944 when I was two, my father jokingly said to my mother, on getting a free weekend at our family home on the Thames in Buckinghamshire, “Well, with all our bombing of mainland Germany hotting up at least I will never have to visit Berlin. I can think of nowhere in the world I would hate visiting more!” Mum merely smiled. Two weeks later the news organisation for which he worked as a war correspondent told him that he was to join the invasion forces on D-Day.

Yes, you’ve guessed it, by the following late Spring dad was one of the first journalists to enter bombed out Berlin where he found it as close to hell as he expected. My mother merely chuckled and remarked that her superstitions should  be taken more seriously.

It got worse. Dad hated everything to do with racial discrimination and swore he would never cover any stories which involved him having to obey discriminatory regimes. So of course March 1960 found him in deepest South Africa covering the Sharpeville massacre and its aftermath and not being allowed to publicly oppose apartheid!  I can well remember my own dislike of all aridly dry  countries and how I could not get out of my first free-lance assignment. During the university vacation I found myself covering the Franco Algerian war in North Africa for my father. I had to go, the money was too good.

And so it went on . I moved from the Sorbonne to follow in dad’s footsteps which saw me in Vietnam for three years after swearing I would never set foot in the place. The fighting in Northern Ireland really upset me mentally. As an English Catholic I literally prayed I would never be asked to see the Emerald Isle only from the bloody viewpoint of bigotry and bloodshed. My three years in Belfast were probably the worst of the lot. I started to wonder if I had inherited my mother’s superstitious premonitionary accuracy. A happy marriage and family of my own led me to change to writing about European politics from 1985 onwards and I started to work in places I quite liked. But I was very careful not to promise I would never visit places I really did not think I would like.

All my life I have had a favourite saint who has stood by me, protected me, loved me and helped me retain my faith through some of the most awful places on God’s earth. St.Rita, the patron saint of hopeless causes, we really get on well together. She’s great and has never let me down in my life. I am currently fighting my third cancer in the last five years which is why my sister queried me, wide eyed with astonishment, when she heard me telling a friend I hoped I would never be asked to visit Cascia. It is in Umbria, central Italy, and is the city where St.Rita lived in the middle ages and is entombed.  “But I thought you loved her?” my sister said.

The train tickets I showed her, from Rome to Perugia and on to Cascia, were all the reply I needed.

Anton Wills-Eve