Monday, June 26, 2017

An Imperfect Life.

Chapter 22



Exhausted after our marathon journey we spent a couple of days recovering.  I unpacked my trousseau and we did the deed.  I decided Rome wasn’t built in a day. Eventually the clouds lifted and with them our spirits and we started to enjoy our honeymoon.  It was exciting being surrounded by foreigners – the Scesaplana was a favourite resort hotel with the Dutch Royal Family.  An enormous Dutchman introduced us to ‘velvet liquid fire’ and Grand Marnier became our evening digestif.

  There were Italians and Swiss but one day a coach full of young men arrived and incredibly they turned out to be from Metro Vickers where William worked.  Even that didn’t dampen our spirits.

We became friendly with two older ladies from Edinburgh who were seasoned travellers.  They had a very good relationship with the rather dour head waiter who, following their example we called Rudolph.

“Pat dear – it’s probably not a good idea to call Rudolph Rudolph.”

“Oh but I thought that was his name.  I’m sure I heard you…

“You see my dear we used to come here before the war so Rudolph is an old friend and well - Flora and I are quite elderly so it is permissible.  However he is the Head Waiter and should be addressed as Herr Ober.”

  She told me this in such a gentle way I was grateful and we immediately took her advice and Herr Ober was less grumpy.  After all we had been enemies until recently.  It was a shock to see the graveyards full of photographs of young men in German uniform.  Some of them looked like children.

  I was mesmerised by the sparkling mountain - the Scesaplana which seemed to be whispering “climb me!”   When I heard the Metro Vickers lads were planning a climb I persuaded William that we should do it first rather then go up in a crowd.

At 10,000’ the mountain was almost three times the height of any mountain I‘d climbed, but as the village was itself high I reckoned we -  by now - should be acclimatised and wouldn’t go barmy as we got higher.  Dodie had made it clear that William had no climbing experience so I did feel responsible, asking lots of questions about the route and choosing a perfectly clear day for the climb.  Trained by Jamie and Alec in the Lakes I was fairly good at spotting routes.  It was a long slog but well way-marked.   As we got higher the greenery and rocks were covered with snow and when we eventually reached the top there was an amazing vista.  All around were distant peaks.

“Look William we’re surrounded by ice cream cones – upside down.  Aren’t you glad we did it?”

William grinned – I think he was glad.  We were fascinated by a man dressed in lederhosen who was preparing to scree- run down a rocky precipice.  It was far more dangerous than anything I had done in the lakes so I had no intention of suggesting we took that route.  As he set off his friends leant way over the edge calling out to guide him from above – shouting “Links! Links! Recht! Recht!”

Once he was out of sight there was a deathly silence and we trusted he had got down safely.

  It was very hot as we worked our way down the mountain – not a soul in sight so I took my shirt off.

We felt immensely proud chatting to the MV boys later in the bar and the next day they repeated our feat.

“I got a great shot of the glacier,” boasted one of them.  There was quite a lot of chat about the glacier and later, in our room I questioned William.

“I don’t remember any glacier.  Do you?”  William admitted he didn’t.

  For the briefest of times William was putty in my hands and - to my shame - we set off the next day to climb the mountain once more.  At the summit we met some English speaking climbers and discovered the large snowy waste at the bottom of the mountain was the glacier and we were about to traverse it for the fourth time.

Whilst all this activity was going on I was on a quest to find ‘the Big O’ (orgasm).

It was akin to catching a falling star or attempting to scoop up mercury from a broken thermometer.  I kept coming close until finally – BINGO!  It blew my socks off!

“Pat the desk gave me this telegram for you.”

My hands shook as I opened the orange envelope.  I screamed and William rushed over to comfort me.

“I’ve passed!  I’m State Registered!”

I explained that I had left sufficient money for Matron to send a telegram to tell me the results

“Good old Matron.  She actually paid for an extra word - CONGRATULATIONS! Wasn’t that nice of her? “

I had the big O and an R.S.C.N - all in one day.  William just grinned.

Walking round the Austrian countryside was pure Von Trapp although the musical had not yet been written.  The hills were alive – with the sound of cow bells, the children and adults were dressed in quaint costumes, there were tiny churches and the whole area had a fairy tale feel.  The shepherds were very friendly and would offer us a schnapps and we ignored their very ripe smell.  I suppose washing lederhosen isn’t the easiest thing to do. We learned to greet the villagers with a cheery “Grus Gott!”  One woman replied with a cut glass accent “Good morning- actually I’m from Chelsea!”

 It was so sad wandering round the church yards and seeing photos of young men in uniform their lives cut short by the awful war.

  The day after our second ascent I woke up blinded.  All that glittering snow had given me snow blindness.

William was very solicitous.

“Time to slow down a bit.  After all we are on honeymoon.”  After a day in a darkened room I was fine but made sure to wear sun glasses for the rest of the time.

One of the weird things about the hotel; the bathrooms were at the end of the main corridor and were kept locked.  The drill was you had to ring for the chambermaid, 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 wondered if this was a local custom as in Greece where the moussaka is never hot by the end of the day.  As the water in our hand basin was really hot and William was out I decided to have a really good stand–up wash.  In wartime days it was the custom to bathe once a week with just five inches of water; some people painted a line round the bathtub but as a nurse I was accustomed to a daily hot bath.  Half way through my ablutions the door handle rattled – it was William- also a little rattled to find the door locked.

“Give me quarter of an hour William I’m having a wash.”

What I didn’t realise was that he had come upstairs with some of the MV boys who were in the room opposite and who were vastly amused at his discomfiture.  Sorry William.  I was learning that privacy in marriage was 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 in Italy between the Apennines and the Adriatic coast.  Bologna with its 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 the Vorarlberg is Bregenz on Lake Constance which is bordered by Germany, Austria and Switzerland.  Every summer since 1946 an opera has been performed on a floating stage on the lake and our gang of six had the great good fortune to attend this spectacle.  We spent the afternoon in a small boat and requested the chaps to “Regardez la soleil,” whilst we changed into our cossies for a swim before the opera.  I can’t remember the name of the opera sadly and research has been fruitless – it was July/August 1951 but I do remember being moved by the beauty of the voices drifting over the lake – shimmering in the setting sun.

  As the honeymoon came to an end I realised what a lucky girl I was.  Less than two years earlier, I had believed that life worth living was over.  I had managed to banish Jamie from my conscious mind but Maddie always kept in touch with his brother Liam.  Many years later I heard that Liam 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 – Sheffield.  William was in the final part of his apprenticeship and I had to find a job.  First we had to collect our wedding presents from Mum and Dad and then settle in the two rooms we were renting from the man we met in the street.  I felt I had come to Austria a girl and was leaving as a woman.  Would people be able to tell?  Did I look any different?  I was longing to see Mum and Dad and tell them about the people we had met and the mountains we had climbed but as soon as I saw their faces I knew something was wrong.  Mum had beautiful blue/green eyes and when she was distressed they were a clear turquoise.

“What’s the matter Mum?”



Granny Annie said...

I enjoyed every single word (even without Jamie) and now must know why Mum was so distressed.

AndrewM said...

Nice setting for an opera...

Pat said...

Granny Annie: you are my dream reader Annie.

angryparsnip said...

As always we drift along with your words.
You always leave us wanting more.

cheers, parsnip and thehamish

Pat said...

Parsnip: it would be lonely without you.

savannah said...

Granny Annie is right! WHAT HAPPENED???? xoxox

Exile on Pain Street said...

It's funny you mentioned it. The first time I left the U.S. I was absolutely thrilled to be surrounded by foreigners. I might as well have been on Pluto for all I understood. I loved it.

It must've been a strange time to be there. They joked about the war on Fawlty Towers and the like but so soon after the war much have felt piculular.

You worked a little blue this time. I like it. So you weren't taught that sex was something to endure? I've reduced an entire generation in an entire country to a stereotype.

These stories are so enjoyable. Thanks for taking the time.

Pat said...

Savannah: all will be revealed. I was just as impatient actually living it.

Exile: a little blue? Moi? Glad to help to un-sterotype the Brits. That can't be bad.
My pleasure.

kenju said...

The big "O?" Funny to read about that

I also want to know what your mum was distressed about.

Pat said...

Judy: I wonder if you had another name for it over there? Originally I was going to continue Chapter 22 to include the next part
but with builder in the house I kept being interrupted so decided to end it there. Will continue shortly .DV.

maurcheen said...

Ooh missus, you've made a little singing fella blush! The big 'O'! Ooh!

(I've given up on Facebook for the moment.)


Pat said...

Maurcheen: Oh dear! It seemed a landmark - a rite of passage that couldn't be ignored. I hope you don't give up on me. Facebook can be a pain I know and blogs have suffered because of it. Keep smiling - and singing.

Mage said...

Nice, nice, but now we have to wait for the next installment.

Pat said...

Mage: I'll try top speed up a bit. I don't want to leave you all hanging indefinitely and I won't be here forever.-:)

Kim Ayres said...

Maggie and I still haven't had a honeymoon. I was unemployed when we got married, and Rogan was 3 months old. In fact the longest time we've had together on our own in the past 22 years was 4 nights in Northumbria earlier this year when Meg was away on a trip with the college. I hope at some point we'll be able to rectify this.

Meanwhile, I'm glad your big O didn't remain elusive :)

maurcheen said...

Oh dear Patricia I would never give up on you. I'm quite sure the draw of FB will be hard to resist for too long.
Have a lovely weekend, see ye soon.



Pat said...

Kim: If anyone deserves a lovely honeymoon it's you and Maggie. I think you should make it a top priority for this year and I know it isn't easy but time goes by so fast and then its too late. It is a great comfort to me to kn0w that once Alastair and I were together - and in spite of all the family traumas - and there were a few in our extended family - we always made time for us to be alone together. That sounds Dutch but you know what I mean. I shall be watching you!

Pat said...

Maurcheen: I have my 6'2" grandson here so it is a good weekend.
I understand your frustration with FB. All the politics has caused a lot of toxic feeling and outbursts but hopefully that will clear up and I don't intend to engage in it if I can possibly help it. At least we have our blogs. Keep smiling - and singing.

maurcheen said...

I will always sing, and it's folk such as yerself wot keeps a man smiling. Xx

neena maiya (guyana gyal) said...

Pat, I've just gobbled up Chapter 21 and 22. It's like watching this exciting, interesting life as a series on Netflix, and I want more more more.

What a wedding. What a glorious honeymoon.

It was even more special reading about Austria because, right now, my cousin Nan is visiting Austria with her hubby, her mother and her mother-in-law. Her mother-in-law [a most beautiful soul] is Austrian [she got married to a Guyanese and settled in Guyana].

Pat said...

This particular flu virus is especially vicious. My cousin, visiting Guyana, came with it in December, then had a relapse. I'm so glad you've decided to not go on cruises again. It used to worry me. on

neena maiya (guyana gyal)

on 04/07/17

Ohmygosh. I'm totally enjoying everything, Pat, happy wedding, travel-stains and all. on

neena maiya (guyana gyal)

on 03/07/17

*blush* on

Pat said...

Neena: some bug got into the comments box and muddled it. So sorry.
I do hope Nan and family enjoyed Austris. It is a beautiful country - ideal for a honeymoon if you love the countryside.
I love having you read the story. Makes it all worth while. And I'm lucky that people are so patient and appreciative.

Ms Scarlet said...

Terrific, Pat....
No, Rome wasn't built in a day - this did make me laugh!
Looking forward to the next chapter....

Pat said...

Scarlet: Hope you are OK. Was worried about you.

Mage said...

Oh, what a wonderful honeymoon then wham, you have left us hanging.

Pat said...

Mage:just had a lovely visit with an old friend in Cheltenham. Will be posting the next chapter this week. Promise.