Friday, June 24, 2011

Times Past, (Or Not, As the Case May Be)

As a child  I once visited, with my mother, some new friends that she had made.  They were European immigrants.
Bored, I wandered around the room.  In their small glass-fronted bookcase, I was surprised to see a copy of "Mein Kampf" in pride of place.
I didn't mention this to my mother, but as she was rather pro-communist at that stage it seems little wonder that the friendship did not develop.  Though I believe they may have had a certain authoritarianism in common.
Years later I mentioned this to a friend of long standing.  I knew that he was born in Germany during WW2, and that his father had been in the German army.  However, I was surprised by the vehemence of his reaction.   His mother, (a very beautiful woman), had worked closely with Hitler, he said - (some of her best friends were Jewish, he defended her).  Why shouldn't they have a book that had meant so much to them?  A book that was as precious to them as a bible?
Taken aback, I didn't ask further.   But it still intrigues me that they valued so highly something which I thought was completely discredited.
Other immigrants I came across:  Italian and Maltese.  Bare footed, poor, impetigo scaling down their legs, school lunches of a hunk of bread and a raw onion.   Some of their surnames are now blazened over hugely successful and well-known businesses.

Talking To Myself

I have been told that comments can no longer be left here.  This is no doubt due to some alignment of the stars, some malevolence of the mysterious web, or an accumulation of personal failings.
However, I will continue to chortle away to myself.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Secrets and Stories

I once, after the death of both my husband and mother in law, asked a sister in law what I thought was a rhetorical question.
"Oh, I can tell you that, Frances," she said, and proceeded to tell me a confidence that her mother had once shared with her.
I was shocked. By the information - not that it was so shocking, but because it was so out of character with the woman that I thought I knew - but that she would reveal what was obviously meant to be a secret. Does death negate this?
I didn't pass this on. However, the sister in law told her own daughter, who told all the cousins, etc etc.
My own daughter has said that, irrespective of the ethics, she is pleased to have this information. A valid point.
The urge to confide is both strong and puzzling. My mother in law had not told her other daughter, who sometimes seems disbelieving of the whole story.
Are the dead non-people whose wishes no longer need to be respected?
Perhaps they are. I don't think that I will share any information that I regard as among my secrets.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Our Hearts Were Young and Sanctimonious

Once I had summer holiday work as a live-in waitress in Perisher Valley, a winter ski resort. At that time an Australian summer holiday meant the beach, so the guests here were all European migrants sensibly seeking the cool. I had never before come across women who were both mature and pampered.
We wore dirndls with eidelweiss (!) and long socks; we were well paid, well fed, and, apart from serving three meals a day, had plenty of leisure time. The guests were exquisitely courteous, and undemanding - until She arrived. At one of "my" tables.
Beautifully coiffed and Elizabeth-Ardened though she was, I could not estimate her age, sensing that she was not as old as her facial lines suggested.
Guests had a choice of 3 entrees, main courses and puddings. From the start she wanted more. Her eyes would skim around others' selections, and she would whisper: "Can I have some xxxx also? And a little....xxxx? Perhaps some xxxx? And xxxx?" This gave her some very odd combinations, but she ate every crumb.
I was sanctimoniously appalled by her greed.
Instead of adopting the numerous small ways a waiter can undetectably disadvantage a customer, I went to the other extreme: no matter what she ordered, I suggested more. I offered her cutlets to go with her roast beef. Apple pie to go with her souffle. They were often accepted.
I was of course ridiculing her.
When she left she sought me out. She tipped me generously, and thanked me lavishly.
She had, she said, been in a Siberian gulag for many years. The cold? You get used to that, she shrugged. But, the hunger: you never recover from that.
I still feel a little ashamed.