Her stories of The War: 02
I often find myself pondering the real story behind my grandmother’s story of her arrival in England.
She has told the story a million times to my dad, my sister and myself, but each version has an unplugged hole, and these little gaps she carefully skips over. Everyone has moments in their past they would rather forget, or wish happened differently, and she obviously had certain things she didn’t want to re-tell, for whichever reasons she had. I doubt that she had forgotten anything maybe she was fluffing up the flawed bits, but then again I can hardly remember being a teenager, she had a long life and forgetting things that happened 60 years ago can be forgiven.
She was always living her reality alongside her memories and stories of long lost dreams, of love and adventure. She loved him, from day one, and she still loved him when he left her, and she still loved him when she re-married, and she still loved him when he passed on for the next realm. She was a Romantic. She left home, from a grey, post-war small town in Germany, left her newborn son with her parents and scarpered to England in search of him. She couldn’t speak a word of English.
She fell in love with the enemy, but he came home to Britain when his post ended. She tried to follow him but all she only knew that he was living in the Isle of White. She found a job in a laundry house on the island but didn’t know where he was. She somehow found him while living there for some months. Then there’s a gap. I don’t know the bit in-between. Somehow she did make everything sound so romantic. Fleeing everything she knows in order to find her long lost love.
They eventually came to London and settled. He took endless photographs, lots of glamourous shots of her in the park and it was so fun when we found them all so many years later. Then there was that terrible road accident. They were all on holiday in Belgium 1959, he was driving the motorcycle, Nan on the back, Dad in the sidecar. The sidecar was fitted it for driving in UK, but in Europe it was on the wrong side.
They were pulling out of a fuel station and a car smashed in to them catching the back of the bike. He was thrown off the front. Dad was safe as he was on the wrong side. Nan was crushed by the force of the impact. She subsequently spent the following three years living in various hospitals around Belgium until she was fit enough to travel, and came back to London. Dad was living with his aunt in Scotland but I don’t know where “he” went. Dad, as a boy, went to visit, both in Belgium and in UK with his aunt and he was allowed to sleep over whenever the hospital had a spare bed. The nurses gave him free meals, extra ice cream portions, let him skid around in wheelchairs and jump around on crutches. For the first 18 months she was in full-body plaster. FULL BODY for EIGHTEEN months.
She remembered eating cherries in the summer and spitting the stones out of the hospital window. She and D played games seeing who could get the most on target through the window.
|| When I was with her at Guys Hospital in 2010 she re-told me this story every morning. The layout of the ward was exactly like her ward in Belgium - all the beds in one long row down the room like a ladder. It reminded her of this story because nowadays at Guy’s the windows are all painted shut “dust-proof” apparently. But fresh air heals the mind and body. In the latter days she asked me to open the window and couldn’t understand why I wasn’t able to. ||
If her life were to be translated to a book or the screen, it would be a Shakespearean love tragedy. The happy ending would be that she left us, her pains stopped and she was finally back with him. She thought about him every day for the last 40 years, I remember her kissing his photo, and they are finally back together again.