Saturday, March 5, 2016

The Swan (Part 4): Delila and the Molotov Cocktail

The family home in Hamburg, 1911

IV. Delila and the Molotov Cocktail

Before I explain how the marmalade got onto the bannister I had better describe the surprise I had when I faced a firing squad. There are young girls who are keen on adventure and who would have greeted the challenge with immense courage. I did not enjoy it at all and felt decidedly weak in the knees. 

     Six rather scruffy looking marines aimed their rifles at me when I opened the door. They did not actually want me but a naval officer who was on their revenge list now the glorious revolution had at last come. But in those days they shot first and asked questions—if any—afterwards. The man they were looking for had disappeared long ago. 

     In those rather exciting days shopping was a bit of a gamble. One morning I made my way to the greengrocer and when I emerged from the shop I discovered that two machine guns had been positioned at the end of the street and the two crews were shooting at each other without taking a breath. 

     Not knowing how long their ammunition would last and longing to get home, I decided to creep along the houses, duck into each house entrance, and in order to protect myself I held the large cabbage I had just bought firmly pressed over my heart. There was a brief lull in the firing, I thought I heard laughter in the distance as I ran as fast as I could.

     Many years later I found myself in an air raid in bright sunshine. Shrapnel was clattering down all around me and, blessing my usual weather pessimism, I opened my umbrella. An air raid warden advised me to take shelter but I told him that I had adequate protection and he was sensible enough to leave with the illusion. 

     The only time I was wounded in action was during a night air raid when I had to leave our house in a hurry because a Molotov cocktail had landed nearby. I carried a basket, containing the Siamese cat Delila, and I stumbled and fell over a loose stone in the pavement, grazing my knee...

     I never asked for adventures. My aim was a nice quiet life, taking an average course: husband and three children, trying to be a good wife, housewife, mother and eventually grandmother, living in the same place, surrounded by old friends and acquaintances. Did I have my wish fulfilled? On the contrary.

     It started peacefully enough in that I was born at home to the sound of music. Mother and the midwife were doing their bit whilst father sat at the piano and played the opening choir of Bach's St. Matthew Passion, "Come ye Daughters..."

1 comment:

  1. A cabbage! Really!! Can't imagine how frightened she must have felt. Can't imagine those days. A cat in a basket? :)