ALL GOOD THINGS…
One of the weird things about the hotel was that the bathrooms were at the end of the main corridor and were kept locked. The drill was you had to ring for the chamber maid; she would run you a bath, provide you with towels and charge you x amount of Austrian schillings. The first time I did this the water was cool. We weren’t sure if this was a local custom as in Greece, where the moussaka is never hot by the end of the day, or not.
The water in the hand basin in our room was hot so - as William was out - I decided to have a really good stand-up wash. The custom was to bathe once a week and during the war we were only allowed five inches of water. Some people even painted the tide mark round the bath. However as a nurse I was accustomed to a daily hot bath. In the middle of my ablutions the door handle was rattled – it was William – also a little rattled to find the door locked. I blithely asked him to wait until I was finished. What I didn’t realise was that he had come upstairs with some of the boys who were in the opposite room and were vastly amused at his discomfiture. Another lesson learnt; privacy in marriage is a rare commodity.
We had formed a small group of friends with a couple of the younger MV boys and two charming Swiss girls and set out on a long coach trip to Bologna which is in Italy between the Apennine mountains and the Adriatic coast. The city was little changed since the Renaissance with wide piazzas, marble floors and dusky red buildings – La Rossa as it is known was a great contrast to our Austrian idyll. The food and shops were tempting and the dazzling scenery en route was well worth the gruelling journey.
The capital of Vorarlberg is Bregenz on Lake Constance which is bordered by Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Every summer an opera is performed on a floating stage on the lake and our little gang had the great good fortune to attend the spectacle. We spent the afternoon in a small boat requesting the boys to ‘regardez le soleil’ whilst we changed into our cossies for a swim. To my shame I cannot remember the name of the opera but do remember clearly the beauty of the voices drifting over the shimmering lake in the setting sun.
As the honeymoon came to an end I realised what a lucky girl I was when, less than two years earlier, I had thought life worth living was over. Jamie was banished from my conscious mind but Maddie always stayed in touch with Liam – Jamie’s brother. I was told that Liam was now married to the Austrian girl who had fled with her parents before the war. Many years later I heard that Liam had told Jamie I had married someone who had been in the Navy and Jamie assumed it was Andrew. A year later he married the older woman.
It was time to return to real life in a strange town. William was on the final part of his apprenticeship and I had to find a job. First we had to collect our presents and settle in the two rooms we were renting from the man we met in the street. There was plenty to think about on the long journey home and some shocking news at the end of it.