In the presence of fate - updated 06/11/06, p25
Select messages from
# through # FAQ
Goto page 1, 2  Next  :| |:
The CBB -> Ste Therese's House

#1: In the presence of fate - updated 06/11/06, p25 Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Wed Aug 16, 2006 6:48 am
Seeing as I started wondering about Andreas and Marie's children halfway through my last drabble, I thought I'd try to write a drabble about their eldest daughter. The first few posts will have to be background so I hope they're not terminally boring!

I was born on a January afternoon, high up on the Sonnalpe, in the house known as Die Rosen. On that day it was virtually cut off from the lakeside below by the snow and ice that had come as they always did to the Tiernsee region at that time of year; but not even the treacherous weather conditions and the absence of a proper road leading up the mountainside were going to stop my grandmother from being there to support her eldest daughter through the birth of her first child.

Summoned by a message brought to her by her niece Anna, a maid at the Chalet School which was one of the few places in the village of Briesau contactable by telephone in those days, she made her way up the slippery path with grim determination, to be at my mother’s side. Grandma would have gone through hell and high water to help one of her children or grandchildren, so I suppose that there was no way that she was going to let the Tyrolean winter hold her back.

She was a determined woman. She still is. The villages surrounding the Tiernsee were dogged by poverty and my grandparents had sometimes struggled for sheer survival in the early years of their marriage, as their family grew almost year on year. Like most of the other men in Briesau, Grandpa worked as a goatherd and consequently he, his wife and their children existed through the winter months with no real source of income, knowing that an early fall in the temperature and a late thaw could bring them to the brink of disaster.

Whilst most of their neighbours, in what was then and still remains today the most devoutly religious part of Austria, put their trust in the will of the Lord to keep them safe, Grandma took matters into her own hands. Declaring that she wasn’t spending another winter uncertain from one day to the next how she was going to feed and clothe her children, she opened a guesthouse; and her housekeeping skills and excellent cooking soon won the new enterprise an excellent reputation and the recommendations that came with it.

Grandpa was away for most of the summer months, leaving her to cope alone with both their young family and the guesthouse, but cope she did. And now they had some insurance against the winter weather, because, when the temperature dropped, people flocked to admire the scenery and to skate on the frozen Tiernsee, especially when the popular ice carnivals were being held. But then the Great War came. At its end, the Empire fell apart, and the economy fell apart with it. With few natural resources, the area had little to attract investment - but its natural beauty did continue to attract tourists, and, one long, hot summer, the Bettany family came to stay.

Last edited by Alison H on Mon Nov 06, 2006 7:47 am; edited 72 times in total

#2:  Author: FatimaLocation: Sunny Qatar PostPosted: Wed Aug 16, 2006 6:50 am
Very Happy A new drabble from Alison ~ hooray!

This looks interesting, thanks.

#3:  Author: NellLocation: London, England PostPosted: Wed Aug 16, 2006 9:06 am
Looking forward to learning more!

#4:  Author: MiaLocation: London PostPosted: Wed Aug 16, 2006 10:40 am
Oooh this does look interesting! Thanks Alison

#5:  Author: janetbrown23Location: Colchester PostPosted: Wed Aug 16, 2006 12:07 pm
I am very intrigued by this already. It has to be about the Pfeiffens or is it?. I will look forward to the updates with interest, but then I spend far too much time looking forward to updates of far too many drabbles. Is there a cure for CBB DRabble Addiction please anyone?


#6:  Author: leahbelleLocation: Kilmarnock PostPosted: Wed Aug 16, 2006 4:18 pm
This is looking very interesting already! Can't wait to read more.

#7:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Wed Aug 16, 2006 5:02 pm
Definitely interested in reading more.

Thanks Alison.

#8:  Author: francesnLocation: away with the faeries PostPosted: Wed Aug 16, 2006 7:00 pm
This looks excellent

Thanks Alison

#9:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Thu Aug 17, 2006 6:52 am
A steady stream of visitors passed through Grandma’s guesthouse over the years, and, hard though she worked to make their time as her guests as pleasant and comfortable as possible, few of them drew her attention in any particular way. The Bettanys were different for three reasons.

For one thing, visitors from England were few and far between. Most of those who came to the Tiernsee from beyond Austria’s new borders were either German or Italian: such English visitors as did come to the Alps tended to stay in the more fashionable resorts. For another thing, they stayed at the guesthouse for the entire summer. That was very rare indeed: visitors who had the time and money to take a holiday lasting an entire summer would, as a general rule, either take a house for the duration of their stay or else base themselves at a proper hotel. Finally, they were a highly unusual combination – a brother and sister, not yet even twenty years old, and a second sister aged just seven.

It was common enough at the time for young Englishmen of a certain level of wealth and privilege to be travelling the Continent, but it certainly wasn’t the norm for them to be doing so in the company of their sisters. And it was very unusual, even in the “Roaring” Twenties, for a young unmarried lady of that same social class to be abroad without her mother or some other suitable female companion, and equally so for a young child to be so far from home without her parents, guardians, nanny or other adult of a rather more senior status than a brother and sister not even legally of age. And so Grandma was intrigued.

However, she learned before long that the three of them were orphans who had lost both their parents when the elder children had been only twelve years old and the youngest just a tiny baby. Always instinctively maternal, from that moment on she took a special interest in them, and as a result the rest of the family did too. That was how my Uncle Fritzl and my Uncle Hansi came to show them the empty chalet that they and the other local lads used as a secret hideout. It belonged to Herr Braun, the owner-manager of the Kron Prinz Karl hotel. He’d bought it before the war with some idea of converting it into additional hotel accommodation, but because of the effect on trade of the war and its aftermath he’d abandoned the idea, and the chalet had lain empty ever since.

The summer ended, as summers do; and the Bettanys went home, as guests do. Maybe Grandma hoped that they might come back the following year: if she did, she was disappointed. Then, five years later, completely out of the blue, she received a beautifully-worded but utterly bizarre letter, asking firstly whether or nor Herr Braun’s chalet were still vacant and secondly, if so, whether she had any idea if he might be willing to rent it to the elder Fraulein Bettany and a French friend of hers, in which for them to open a small private school.

Once Grandma had recovered from her initial surprise, she realised that the Bettanys must have suffered a very severe downturn in their financial fortunes. Even so, the notion of anyone opening an English school at the Tiernsee seemed to her to be very odd indeed. However, she replied to tell Fraulein Bettany that the chalet in question was indeed still vacant and to suggest that she contact Herr Braun and see what he had to say about the idea. Clearly it met with his approval, because, not long afterwards, she received another letter from England. This one said that everything was arranged and asked her if, by any happy chance, she knew of a trustworthy person or two who – for suitable recompense, of course – would be willing and able to collect the keys from Herr Braun and see about getting the place cleaned up.

It being a quiet time at the guesthouse, Grandma, ably assisted by her eldest daughter, jumped at the chance to earn a little extra money. And so, in a manner of speaking, it was actually my family who opened the Chalet School. My grandmother and my mother.

#10:  Author: FatimaLocation: Sunny Qatar PostPosted: Thu Aug 17, 2006 7:06 am
Thanks Alison. Very Happy

#11:  Author: MiaLocation: London PostPosted: Thu Aug 17, 2006 11:45 am
Thanks Alison. The background is interesting!

#12:  Author: LizBLocation: Oxon, England PostPosted: Thu Aug 17, 2006 12:40 pm
Hurrah for a new Alison drabble Very Happy

*looking forward eagerly to more*

#13:  Author: leahbelleLocation: Kilmarnock PostPosted: Thu Aug 17, 2006 4:32 pm
What a fantastic drabble! Can't wait for more!

#14:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Thu Aug 17, 2006 4:43 pm
Oh excellent.

Thanks Alison

#15:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Fri Aug 18, 2006 6:56 am
Thanks for the encouragement!

At the time of Fraulein Bettany’s letter, my grandparents had four children of working age. The eldest was Uncle Fritzl, then came my mother, Marie, then Uncle Hansi, then Auntie Luise. My mother and Auntie Luise had both known from an early age that they would have to go into service when they left school. The same was true of their younger sisters, the eldest of whom was my Auntie Rosa. There was little other employment in that part of Tyrol for young girls like themselves.

There was no industry for miles around, there were no offices in the small lakeside villages, and the owners of what few shops there were ran them themselves with help from their own families. A few brave souls went to seek work in Innsbruck, the nearest big city, but finding a job there generally then posed the problem of affording somewhere nearby to live. What my mother aspired to most, she once told me, was to work at the Schloss Wertheim, the palatial home of the von und zu Wertheim family who employed a large staff and were renowned for treating them well. Of course, jobs there were like gold dust. As soon as one girl said she was leaving, another girl would recommend a sister, cousin or friend for the job before the day was out.

There were no other noble families in the area, and so most girls ended up working either for middle-class families, who would generally employ only one or two servants to carry out all the tasks that servants were expected to do, or at one of the Tiernsee’s several hotels, where conditions could be even harsher. My mother’s girlhood friend, my Auntie Karen, my godmother who couldn’t be any closer to me if she were a blood aunt, worked for a time in the kitchens at the Kron Prinz Karl and was very unhappy there. The hours were long and the head chef was a bad-tempered bully.

My mother had worked at a hotel that had closed its doors for the last time that winter, throwing its entire staff out of work, and Auntie Luise was working across the lake at Seespitz for a family who demanded much and showed her little consideration in return. So, when Fraulein Bettany, who’d never been less than kind and courteous to either of them, suggested that they both come to work at her new school, they could scarcely, so they’ve both told me, believe their luck. The school grew rapidly almost from the moment it opened, and soon Auntie Karen went to work there with them. Later, Cousin Anna, one of their many cousins, joined the domestic staff there as well.

Uncle Hansi worked at the school from even before it opened, as a general handyman. His friends laughed at him for going to work at a girls’ school where his bosses were two women, but they weren’t laughing at him when the next winter came and he was still in work whilst most of them were struggling to earn a few schillings doing anything they could. Even my Uncle Eigen, only ten years old when the school opened, sometimes helped out there in the early days, carrying messages and assisting with various odd jobs.

And so my family played a big part in the Chalet School in the first few years of its existence. Fraulein Bettany and her business partner, Fraulein Lepattre, treated them well by comparison with other employers around the Tiernsee and made sure that all their staff and pupils did the same. My mother thought that Fraulein Bettany was wonderful. She thinks that still. She’s never thought any differently. That’s why my life’s turned out the way it has done.

#16:  Author: FatimaLocation: Sunny Qatar PostPosted: Fri Aug 18, 2006 7:11 am
The background is really interesting, thanks Alison.

#17:  Author: LizBLocation: Oxon, England PostPosted: Fri Aug 18, 2006 7:49 am
It must have been such a gift for the family to be involved in the school.

Thanks, Alison

#18:  Author: leahbelleLocation: Kilmarnock PostPosted: Fri Aug 18, 2006 9:01 am
Enjoying this background to the family. It's fascinating.

#19:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Fri Aug 18, 2006 6:52 pm
Not surprising the family were so loyal to the Bettany family.

Thanks Alison.

#20:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Sat Aug 19, 2006 6:49 am
Hope this bit's OK. I had all sorts of trouble with Gretchen's father - a) his surname is given as Le Mesurier in "Exile" and Monier in "Gay", b) his first name changes from Andreas to André and back at random (sometimes even within the same book!) and c) sometimes he's Austrian and sometimes he's French Rolling Eyes . I decided it made more sense for him to be Austrian, but then I had to think of a reason why he had a French surname. *Scratches head in confusion Confused .*

Still, if it hadn’t been for Fraulein Bettany, both Fraulein Bettanys in fact, I’d never have been born. It was only because of them that my mother came to meet my father, Andreas Monier. Like her, he’d grown up in a small Tyrolean village: unlike her, he’d lost both his parents before reaching the age of twenty and had moved to Innsbruck with the idea that he might find the streets of the city paved with gold. He didn’t, but he did find a job as a “manservant” for a well-to-do elderly gentleman.

Like Uncle Hansi, he got teased about his work by those who said that it was no job for a real man, but it meant a year-round wage and a guaranteed roof over his head and so he took no notice of other people’s comments. Besides, there was a history in his family of similar employment – his grandfather, before his marriage, had worked as a manservant for a very minor member of the nobility. That was how our family had come to bear the French-sounding name “Monier”. My great- grandfather’s master, who’d very much fancied himself as a local leader of fashion, had got it into his head that he’d seem far more smart and sophisticated if he were thought to have a “French valet”, as he’d termed it; and so he’d insisted that his Austrian manservant adopt a French surname.

My father’s elderly master passed away a year or so before my parents met, but my father was lucky enough to meet up with an English doctor who was looking for a servant. He was too grateful to be in work again to wonder too much about what an English doctor might be doing in Innsbruck; but, as it turned out, Herr Doktor James Russell was not only a man of considerable private wealth but also a specialist in the field of tuberculosis, and had come to look round some of the Alpine sanatoriums with a view to opening one of his own.

One day, the Herr Doktor was returning from visiting one of these sanatoriums when the train on which he was travelling was involved in an accident. He wasn’t hurt, and he seemed less concerned about the accident itself than with telling my father about the attractive young lady - also English, and accompanied by her sister and two of the pupils of the school of which she was headmistress – whose assistance he’d sprung to after she’d helped a fellow passenger to escape from a burning carriage. After that, he suddenly seemed to take a great interest in the Tiernsee area; and, not long afterwards, he and my father travelled there, officially for the purpose of seeing whether there might be a suitable location for the proposed sanatorium anywhere nearby.

My father was delighted when they found out that they’d arrived during the week of a lively ice carnival, especially when the Herr Doktor told him that he could take the evening off to go out and enjoy the fun. The Herr Doktor went out to skate on the lake alone, and whom should he see there but the sister of the lady from the train accident. After that, he was so lost in his thoughts that he forgot to look where he was going, and when she, evidently not a very good skater, fell over in front of him, he had no time to swerve out of the way and he fell on top of her.

And so he took her back to the school, where he met up with her elder sister again: she, of course, was Fraulein Madge Bettany. Within the space of a few months they were engaged to be married. On one occasion during those few months my father took a message from the doctor to Fraulein Bettany, she thanked him and suggested that he go to the kitchen and ask for a cup of coffee and a cake, and that was how my parents met. In the kitchen at the Chalet School. Not a very auspicious place for a first meeting, but they were taken with each other from the start, so my mother told me once. I can remember exactly when she said that, because it’s so rare now that she ever talks about her life in Austria.

#21:  Author: FatimaLocation: Sunny Qatar PostPosted: Sat Aug 19, 2006 7:04 am
Thanks Alison.

She's not too impressed with the huge role the school plays in her life, is she.

#22:  Author: leahbelleLocation: Kilmarnock PostPosted: Sat Aug 19, 2006 12:03 pm
Thanks, Alison. It's really interesting to see things from a completely different point of view.

#23:  Author: LizBLocation: Oxon, England PostPosted: Sat Aug 19, 2006 12:48 pm
I wonder why Marie talks so little about life in Austria now - because of the war, or for other reasons?

Thanks, Alison

#24:  Author: francesnLocation: away with the faeries PostPosted: Sat Aug 19, 2006 8:32 pm
Interesting to see it all from a different point of view.

Thanks Alison

#25:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Sun Aug 20, 2006 7:51 am
Herr Doktor Russell duly opened his sanatorium, up on the Sonnalpe above the lake, and set up home nearby in a house which he and Fraulein Bettany named Die Rosen. When the two of them got married, my mother left the Chalet School to become their housekeeper. I don’t think that she was given much choice in the matter, but, as it so happened, the arrangement suited everyone admirably. It meant that she and my father could work together, and that not only would they be able to marry whilst both continuing in their respective jobs, but that they would have a home of their own – well, a few rooms in the Russells’ house, but that was more than some young couples had – in which to begin their married life.

A year after Fraulein Bettany and Herr Doktor Russell had been married, my parents’ own wedding took place. They invited all the girls from the school to the reception. How many of those girls later invited my parents to their own weddings, I wonder? One or two, perhaps. Certainly no more. And, as a wedding gift, they presented my mother with a group photograph – of themselves. Of all the stupid, useless, ridiculous things to give someone as a wedding present! But my mother thought that it was wonderful. Largely because Frau Doktor Russell had one exactly the same.

Incidentally, when my mother moved to Die Rosen, Auntie Luise took over as head cook at the school. A year later she also left to be married. Her husband, Uncle Johann, was the son and assistant of one of the local shopkeepers. Auntie Karen was put in charge of the kitchen and the domestic staff after that, and remained so for nearly twenty years.

Neither of the Russells attended my parents’ wedding, because their first child, a son called David, was born on the very same day. Soon afterwards, my Auntie Rosa joined my parents up on the Sonnalpe, as David’s nursemaid. I was born not the following January, but the January afterwards. I don’t have many memories of the house in which I was born, but I do remember that it was big. Maybe all houses seem big to a small child, and certainly it was nothing by comparison with somewhere like the Schloss Wertheim, but it was still large compared with most of the other houses I knew – which was a good job really, given how many different people lived in it.

It wasn’t what you’d call a normal family home, for any of us – but, to me, mine was a happier and more “normal” family than those of any of the other various people who lived there, and so, in my early childhood, I never felt deprived in any way by being the child of the servants. Rather, I felt that I was the luckiest of the many children in the nursery.

#26:  Author: FatimaLocation: Sunny Qatar PostPosted: Sun Aug 20, 2006 7:55 am
And, as a wedding gift, they presented my mother with a group photograph – of themselves. Of all the stupid, useless, ridiculous things to give someone as a wedding present!

Laughing Yes, really they could have come up with something much better!

#27:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Sun Aug 20, 2006 7:58 am
She's a strange mixture, isn't she? In some ways very angry and resentful, yet in others most appreciative.

Thanks Alison.

#28:  Author: leahbelleLocation: Kilmarnock PostPosted: Sun Aug 20, 2006 11:20 am
I guess it was a strange upbringing for someone of her background. Other girls of her own age must have been being brought up in more traditional homes.

Thanks, Alison. I am really enjoying this. Laughing

#29:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Mon Aug 21, 2006 6:47 am
Why did I feel lucky? Well, I had a Mummy and a Daddy, both living with me, and as well as them I had a huge extended family of grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins all living nearby. I was the only person at Die Rosen who did.

As well as Herr and Frau Doktor Russell, and my mother and father and Auntie Rosa, there were a surprising number of other adults living there, all of them Britons far from home. There was Fraulein Joey: she was the Frau Doktor’s sister, although in many ways the Russells were more like a mother and father to her than a sister and brother-in-law. I thought it was very sad when Mummy told me that Fraulein Joey’s parents had died when she’d been a little baby, so she didn’t even remember them. During school holidays, the Herr Doktor’s sister, Frau Venables, a Matron at the school, also lived at Die Rosen. Her parents had died too, before she’d had chance to make up a quarrel that she’d had with them, and she’d lost her husband and her three little boys as well.

Then there was Fraulein Rosalie, the Herr Doktor’s secretary and a former pupil of the Chalet School. Her parents had sent her to the school when they’d gone to work abroad and had decided that they couldn’t take her with them, and then, shortly after their return to England, her mother had died. Her father was still living, but he’d remarried and she didn’t think that her stepmother would want her to live with them, so it suited her to have a job in another country. Herr Doktor Maynard, the second-in-command at the sanatorium – which everyone called “the San” for short – also lived with us for a while.

Finally, there were Fraulein Juliet and Fraulein Grizel. They ran a subsidiary branch of the Chalet School, which was actually on the Sonnalpe rather than in Briesau. This branch was for “delicate” girls – although most of them appeared perfectly healthy to me – and, although the two of them didn’t actually live at Die Rosen, they spent most of their time there during the holidays. Fraulein Juliet’s parents had both been killed in a car crash and she had no brothers or sisters. Fraulein Grizel’s mother had died when she was young, and she was on bad terms with both her father and his second wife and rarely saw either of them.

So those were the adults. Then there were all of us children. The eldest three, Biddy, Robin and Daisy, were all a lot older than I was and were at school most of the time. Daisy, the youngest of them, was the eldest of Frau Venables’ two daughters. Although she was the Herr Doktor’s niece, she hadn’t met him until she was nine, after her father and brothers had died and Frau Venables had brought her and her little sister to Austria. I couldn’t imagine life without Daddy, or without my little brother when he arrived, and I always felt sad for Daisy and her sister Primula. Years later I learnt what their father had really been like, and by then they had no mother either.

I didn’t see that much of Daisy, but Biddy and Robin would usually come to church with us on those weekends when they were at Die Rosen, they being the only other Catholic members of the household, and so I got to know them quite well, Biddy in particular. She had lost not only her father but her mother as well, and then her stepfather too. She’d supposedly been “adopted” by the school Guide company, which was some sort of club that most of the older girls belonged to. I never did understand how a schoolgirls’ club could be responsible for a child, and in the end I think she effectively became a ward of the Russells. Certainly she always spent the holidays with us. I suppose she had nowhere else to go. I always looked up to Biddy. Maybe it was because her mother had been a maid as well.

As for Robin, she had no parents living either. Her mother had died when she was very little, and her father had then gone off to work in Leningrad and left her at the Chalet School with people she’d never met before. Later, he’d come to the Sonnalpe to work as Herr Doktor Russell’s secretary, but he’d died in a climbing accident soon afterwards. Fraulein Joey always referred to Robin as her “adopted sister”, which sometimes seriously confused people. The actual relationship was that the Russells were Robin’s guardians.

Then there were “the nursery folk”. Me included – yes, for much of the day I spent my time in the nursery with the other children, despite being the child of the servants. I suppose that it wasn’t an ideal situation, but it meant that Mummy got through her work much quicker than she would have done had she been looking after me all day as well, and that not only suited the Frau Doktor but meant that Mummy and Daddy and I had more time to spend together in the evenings. Anyway, the nursemaid was my aunt, after all. I’m not sure that the Herr Doktor was overly pleased about my being with the other children, but he never actually voiced any objections to the arrangement. There was only one person who did.

#30:  Author: janemLocation: Ash, Surrey PostPosted: Mon Aug 21, 2006 7:27 am
I'm really enjoying this.

Alison. I think the way you have worked all the details and background in and then changed it to be from Marie's point of view is brilliant.

Who could it be that doesn't like her. Think I can guess

#31:  Author: MiaLocation: London PostPosted: Mon Aug 21, 2006 10:34 am
janem wrote:
Who could it be that doesn't like her. Think I can guess

Me too!

Why doesn't Jem like them mixing?

Thanks Alison

#32:  Author: Ruth BLocation: Oxford, UK PostPosted: Mon Aug 21, 2006 11:36 am
I have a pretty good idea who the objector might be!

Thanks Alison.

#33:  Author: ChelseaLocation: Your Imagination PostPosted: Mon Aug 21, 2006 2:28 pm
Fatima wrote:
And, as a wedding gift, they presented my mother with a group photograph – of themselves. Of all the stupid, useless, ridiculous things to give someone as a wedding present!

Laughing Yes, really they could have come up with something much better!

My step-brother and sister gave their mum and my dad a photo of themselves (plus SS's dog) for a wedding present Shocked

#34:  Author: leahbelleLocation: Kilmarnock PostPosted: Mon Aug 21, 2006 3:10 pm
Thanks, Alison. This is fascinating.

#35:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Mon Aug 21, 2006 4:35 pm
Hmmm, wonder who it is then? Hardly likely to be Sybil - she's not old enough is she?

Thanks Alison.

#36:  Author: francesnLocation: away with the faeries PostPosted: Mon Aug 21, 2006 7:09 pm
Would it be Master Rix?

She's a really interesting character, and it's fascinating seeing a different take on Die Rosen.

Thanks Alison

#37:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Tue Aug 22, 2006 6:52 am
Thanks for the comments Very Happy .

The eldest of the “nursery folk” were Peggy and Rix Bettany, the twin children of Frau Doktor Russell’s brother and his wife. Although they had a mummy and a daddy, they didn’t live with them. Herr and Frau Bettany lived in a country called India, and apparently it was considered unhealthy for British children to live there. That was why the Bettany children lived with their aunt and uncle rather than with their parents. It seemed very strange to me that anyone would want to live somewhere where their children couldn’t be with them, but that was the way it was.

The twins were always referred to as “Peggy and Rix” rather than “Rix and Peggy”, which was odd because Rix was very much the boss of the pair. In fact, he was the boss of the whole nursery; but I don’t suppose he was any bossier than most eldest children are, and we got all right once he accepted that my being younger and female didn’t mean that I was going to take orders from him. Peggy got on my nerves, though. She seemed to think that we girls should do everything that Rix said just because he was a boy; she was always fussing over her dolls and trying to fuss over we younger children as well; and if anyone asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up she just simpered and said that all she wanted to do was have a house and lots of children to look after. The adults all thought that she was wonderful. I could never understand why.

Next came Primula Venables, Bride Bettany and David Russell, all fairly close in age to each other and around two years younger than the twins. Bride was the twins’ younger sister, and Primula was Daisy’s. Primula always seemed like the youngest of the three even though she wasn’t: she was very shy and quiet and she wasn’t allowed to do much because Herr Doktor Russell said that she was “delicate”. She was very sweet, without being sickly sweet like Peggy was, but quite often you just tended to forget that she was there.

Bride was different: she was very much the leader of those three. I sometimes felt sorry for her, because people were always saying how pretty Peggy and Primula were and you could tell that they were thinking what a shame it was that Bride wasn’t pretty too, but I liked her and I couldn’t have cared less that she wasn’t pretty. She was very bright and always thinking up new games for us to play; and she did her best to get on well with everyone. So did David. He was a nice boy, even if he did tend to let Rix tell him what to do more often than not; and he never seemed to resent the fact that there were so many other people in what was supposedly his family home.

Then, after a gap of around twenty months, came Jackie Bettany, Sybil Russell and me. Jackie and I were almost exactly the same age: his birthday was at the end of December and mine was at the beginning of January. Sybil’s was in March. So I was two months old when Sybil was born. And I was less than ten months old when Herr and Frau Bettany went back to India, leaving Jackie, then just a little baby like I was, and their other children behind them. Jackie was a quiet boy, the quietest of all of us except maybe for Primula. Sybil, by contrast, was never quiet at all. From a very early age she always had more than enough to say for herself. She was well aware that she was “the daughter of the house”. The only daughter of the house. And that coloured most of what she had to say in those nursery days. And none of it was ever very nice.

#38:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Tue Aug 22, 2006 6:57 am
Oh, so it was Sybil then - oh well, the narrator should feel right at home then as Sybil was nasty to all the cousins too! Interesting that she should like Bride more than Peggy - always felt sorry for Bride being compared so unfavourably to her prettier sisters - for a family that, supposedly, didn't want a girl's looks to be discussed they made a huge fuss about them.

Thanks Alison.

#39:  Author: FatimaLocation: Sunny Qatar PostPosted: Tue Aug 22, 2006 7:00 am
Who was the elder one, Peggy or Rix? I usually call our twins Mariam and Abdullah, but SLOC puts it the other way round. Mariam is one minute older, which is why I give her top billing!

Thanks Alison.

#40:  Author: MiaLocation: London PostPosted: Tue Aug 22, 2006 11:13 am
Thanks Alison

*pats Jackie*

#41:  Author: leahbelleLocation: Kilmarnock PostPosted: Tue Aug 22, 2006 3:23 pm
Thanks, Alison. Sybil always was a right little madam!

#42:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Wed Aug 23, 2006 6:46 am
Maybe Sybil was the way she was because she was pretty and people were always telling her so. Fraulein Joey, who never seemed to show any affection towards Sybil despite being her auntie, was always insisting that other people’s comments made Sybil conceited and that being conceited meant that she had a bad attitude towards everyone else. But no-one seemed to think that people making similar comments about any of the other girls caused a problem. And, personally, I didn’t think that it was that at all. Sometimes I actually saw Sybil look upset when people commented on her looks – usually when they’d asked where her red hair came from and then remarked on how much Rix resembled the Frau Doktor and how much Primula resembled the Herr Doktor.

It seemed to me that the real problem was that she resented having to share her parents with so many other children. It was understandable, I suppose. Neither of them spent much time in the nursery anyway – it was Auntie Rosa, rather than the Frau Doktor, who looked after us most of the time, and some days the Herr Doktor would be kept late at the San and we’d all have gone to bed before he even got home. And, when Sybil and David did get to see their parents, Primula and the Bettany children were always there too.

Not that that excused the way Sybil behaved towards the rest of us – and, believe me, she could be very nasty indeed. She was constantly telling Primula and the Bettanys that they were “only cousins” whereas she and David “belonged”. It never seemed to occur to her to feel sorry for Primula because she had no father, or for the Bettanys because their parents were thousands of miles away. And she used to tell me that I and my little brother Jakob, who arrived when I was two, shouldn’t be in the nursery at all because we were the only the children of the servants and we should be in the servants’ quarters where we belonged.

I learnt soon enough that the best way to deal with Sybil was to ignore her. Anyway, it wasn’t as if I wasn’t aware that being the servants’ children made Jakob and me different from the others. Quite often, when the Russells had visitors, the other children would be taken to the Saal to see them and be shown off to them; but we never were, even if the visitors were just girls from the school. And, when we were in our own quarters, Mummy and Daddy were always cautioning us to be quiet in case we disturbed the others. I say “quarters”, but really they were just three rooms at one side of the house – a bedroom for Mummy and Daddy, a bedroom for Jakob and me, and a bathroom. Auntie Rosa slept in the nursery.

Still, I knew that it was Jakob and I who were the lucky ones. Sybil might have done a lot of talking about “belonging”, but I always felt that we “belonged” far more than she did. We had a whole family in Briesau, after all, and we could count practically everyone else in Briesau as a family friend. And we got plenty of visitors - usually Grandma, or Auntie Luise, or Cousin Anna, or Auntie Karen - of our own.

And some days, especially when the weather was nice, we’d go down to Briesau, sometimes with Auntie Rosa, sometimes with Mummy and Daddy, and sometimes with all of them. I loved going there. Everyone would rush to greet us, and they were always interested in Jakob and me even when the other children were with us. As a special treat, we’d occasionally go over to the other side of the lake on one of the steamers, and usually we got away without having to pay because one of the men who operated the steamers was Uncle August, my grandfather’s brother. How I loved living near the Tiernsee. It never occurred to me that I’d ever live anywhere else.

I might not remember much about those early days at Die Rosen, and at the Russells’ house down by the lake where we sometimes stayed in the summer, but I do remember that I always felt happy and secure, and that I always knew that I was where I belonged. And I remember so clearly not being able imagine what it must have been like for all those people at Die Rosen who weren’t as lucky as I was – who were separated from their families and living in a foreign country,

#43:  Author: FatimaLocation: Sunny Qatar PostPosted: Wed Aug 23, 2006 7:21 am
Jo never was particularly nice to Sybil, was she. Thanks Alison.

#44:  Author: leahbelleLocation: Kilmarnock PostPosted: Wed Aug 23, 2006 12:13 pm
I don't think Jo's attitude helped Sybil at all, though I think she meant it well. Thanks for the update, Alison.

#45:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Wed Aug 23, 2006 6:29 pm
Thanks Alison - funny that, she was far luckier than any of the Russell/Bettany/Venables clan with regard to family, wasn't she?

#46:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Thu Aug 24, 2006 6:51 am
Sybil’s remarks about “belonging” might not have bothered me, but I knew that they bothered the Bettanys and that in particular they bothered Rix. Being five years older than Sybil, and a boy, he couldn’t retaliate very far without being accused of bullying. Sybil knew that very well and took full advantage of it. So I was very pleased for Rix when it seemed that he and the rest of the Bettanys had finally got one up on her. She and I can only have been about three at the time, but I remember the scene clearly. One morning, Rix came bursting into the nursery, his face glowing with excitement.

“You will never guess what!” he said exultantly. Auntie Rosa was too busy fussing over Primula, who had a bit of a cold, to take much notice of what he was saying, but the rest of us looked up immediately from the game we were playing.

“What?” David asked obligingly.

“You’ll never guess!”

“Well just tell us, then,” Bride said. “It’d better be something good!”

“Oh, it’s good all right,” he declared jubilantly. “We are going to India to see Mummy and Daddy!”

“Who’s going to India?” Sybil asked. She usually tried to look as if she wasn’t even remotely interested in anything that Rix had to say, but this time I could tell that he’d really got her attention.

“Me, Peggy, Bride and Jackie. With Auntie Jo. Not you. You’ll be staying here, playing games in the nursery whilst we’re off riding elephants and meeting maharajahs and everything else that we’ll probably get to do in India. Mummy and Daddy aren’t going to want to see you, are they? You’re only a cousin.”

Sybil flushed angrily. She was obviously about to make some disparaging remark or other, but David gave her a black look and for once she kept quiet. However, unusually, David didn’t seem to be entirely convinced by what Rix was saying. “Are you sure about this?” he asked. “Who told you? I thought you weren’t supposed to go to India because you might get ill there.”

“Well … it was actually something I overheard,” Rix admitted. “By accident: I didn’t really mean to listen to what Auntie Madge and Auntie Jo were saying. But it’s definitely true. It’s because of Dr Hunter.”

Herr Doktor Hunter was a new doctor at the San. None of us liked him. Mummy said that it wasn’t nice to say that you didn’t like people, especially when they were important people like doctors; but I didn’t think that even the other doctors liked him, because I’d seen Herr Doktor Maynard glaring at him. I couldn’t imagine what on earth he could have to do with the Bettanys going to India, but it all made more sense when Rix said that Dr Hunter had been upsetting Fraulein Joey and that she’d decided to go to India for a while to get away from him.

“Yes … but did she definitely say that she was taking us with her?” Bride asked doubtfully. She didn’t seem all that excited about the prospect of a visit to India – I suppose she didn’t really remember her parents - but Peggy was sitting with her hands clasped together and a look of delight on her face, and Rix was practically dancing for joy. I was so pleased for them: I couldn’t imagine going through even a single day without seeing Mummy and Daddy, never mind being separated from them for years on end. And I couldn’t help feeling sneakily glad that Sybil was looking well and truly put out about it all.

“Well, not exactly,” Rix confessed. “But I heard Auntie Madge saying that maybe Auntie Jo’d be better going on her own because the climate there wasn’t healthy for children. Then Auntie Jo said that she’d spoken to Uncle Jem about it and that he’d said that he thought it’d be all right, and that anyway she didn’t want to do all that travelling on her own. And Auntie Madge said that if Uncle Jem thought it’d be all right then she was sure it would be. So there you are! We’re going to India!”

#47:  Author: FatimaLocation: Sunny Qatar PostPosted: Thu Aug 24, 2006 6:54 am
Oh, poor Rix, he'll be so disappointed.

Thanks Alison.

#48:  Author: Ruth BLocation: Oxford, UK PostPosted: Thu Aug 24, 2006 9:48 am
Oh poor Rix and Peggy! I want to give them a big hug!

#49:  Author: MiaLocation: London PostPosted: Thu Aug 24, 2006 9:54 am
Oh how sad... They could have gone, if Robin went! Sad (what a horrible sentence but you know what I mean)

Ty Alison

#50:  Author: leahbelleLocation: Kilmarnock PostPosted: Thu Aug 24, 2006 4:00 pm
Oh, poor Rix. And Peggy will be devastated, too.

#51:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Thu Aug 24, 2006 5:58 pm
Poor things - bet Sybil will crow.

Thanks Alison.

#52:  Author: LuluLocation: West Midlands, UK PostPosted: Thu Aug 24, 2006 7:37 pm
I like the observation that Rix, etc., as well as Sybil and David, perhaps have less than Marie and Andreas' children.

Thanks Alison.

#53:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Fri Aug 25, 2006 6:57 am
I’d never seen either Peggy or Rix so excited, and their excitement infected Jackie and the three of them talked about little else for the rest of the day. Both David and Bride were clearly sceptical about the whole thing, but it looked as though they were about to be proved wrong when Fraulein Joey came to the nursery the next morning and said that she’d got some news for us all. Peggy sat up straight, her face more alight than I’d ever seen it before, whilst Rix wriggled about so much that it was a wonder that he didn’t fall off his chair.

“I think you’re all going to be quite excited about what I’ve got to tell you, especially Peggy and Rix and Bride and Jackie,” she said. “I’m going to India to stay with your Mummy and Daddy! And, if there’s anything that you want me to tell them, or if you want to draw some pictures for me to take for them, then you’d better start thinking about it straight away, because we’re going to be setting off as soon as we can get everything arranged!”

“Who’s we?” Rix asked in bemusement.

“We? Robin and me, of course. You wouldn’t want me to be trekking halfway across the globe on my own now, would you? Now you get thinking about those pictures! And remind me to take some snapshots of you all before we go.”

I saw Peggy’s eyes filling with tears, desperate disappointment spreading across Jackie’s face and sadness across Bride’s, David and Primula looking at them all with sympathy, and Sybil smirking. I moved over to where Peggy was sitting and squeezed her hand. I couldn’t think what else to do.

“I don’t understand,” Rix said. “Won’t we be going with you? Don’t you want to take us? Or do Mummy and Daddy not want to see us?” He looked close to tears himself, and it was only then that Fraulein Joey seemed to realise what he’d been thinking.

“Oh Rix!” She tried to put her arms round him, but he pulled away, muttering something about “boys don’t hug” and rubbing his eyes vigorously, and she gave up and sat down on the arm of the chair that Peggy and I were sharing. “We’d love to take you with us, of course we would, but it’s a very long journey, and you know that the climate in India isn’t healthy for you. But I promise that we’ll tell you all about it when we get back, every little thing.

“Remember that it won’t be all that long before Daddy’ll be due for his furlough and then he and Mummy’ll be coming here to see you all, and that you can write to them as often as you like in the meantime. And I’m sure that they’ll be very glad when I tell them in person how well you’re all getting on, and how happy you are here with David and Sybil and Primula.”

I suppose that sometimes it’s a good job that none of us know in advance what fate has in store for us. How would the Bettany children have felt if they’d known then just how many years would have passed before they did see their parents again?

It was horrible in the nursery whilst Fraulein Joey and Robin were in India. Sybil kept taunting Rix about his parents not wanting to see him, and the quarrels between the two of them were worse than ever. David sometimes tried to intervene, but he rarely had much success in calming things down; and Peggy burst into tears at the slightest little thing. However, by the time the travellers returned, we all had something absolutely thrilling to look forward to, so thrilling that I couldn’t quite believe that it was going to happen until it did. Crown Princess Elisaveta of Belsornia, her fiancé, Raphael, Duke of Mirolani, and his aunt, Queen Roxalanne of Mirania, were coming to stay with us.

It was like something out of a fairy story! A real live queen and a real live princess coming to Die Rosen! I’d never been so excited in my life. I was really rather disappointed to find that they were actually quite normal and didn’t walk around wearing crowns and dripping from head to toe in jewellery all day, but I soon got over my disappointment in the excitement of their being there at all and the lovely summer that we all spent together. Even Rix and Sybil put their differences aside as we all enjoyed ourselves in the glorious weather, picnicking on the mountainside and paddling in the lake. Those were happy days.

#54:  Author: FatimaLocation: Sunny Qatar PostPosted: Fri Aug 25, 2006 7:15 am
It must have felt as though their parents really didn't want to see them.

Thanks Alison.

#55:  Author: MiaLocation: London PostPosted: Fri Aug 25, 2006 9:37 am
Oooh Roxalanne! I do like her. Thanks Alison

#56:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Fri Aug 25, 2006 6:12 pm
Poor kids - still, at least having royalty come to visit helped.

Thanks Alison.

#57:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Sat Aug 26, 2006 7:20 am
Soon afterwards, the Russells, the Bettanys and the Venableses went to Belsornia for the Crown Princess’s wedding, at which Fraulein Joey was chief bridesmaid. We weren’t invited, of course; but, much, as we would have loved to see a royal wedding, we’d never expected to be asked and so we weren’t disappointed. And we had a wonderful time whilst all the others were away. We went down to Briesau nearly every day, and Mummy and Daddy were able to spend much more time with Jakob and me than they were normally.

The rest of 1937 seemed to fly by: almost before we knew it, the year was drawing to its close. On Christmas Eve I begged to be allowed to stay up to go to church with the adult members of the family. Eventually Mummy said that I could on condition that I had a sleep in the afternoon, which I readily agreed to – although I spent more time pretending to be asleep than actually being asleep. So, in the evening, I went off to Mass with Mummy holding my right hand and Daddy holding my left hand, surrounded by my grandparents and my aunts and uncles, and all the other people from the village who’d known our family for years. I was so happy, and so excited that I don’t know how I kept quiet during the service.

After church, we all went back to Wald Villa, where Grandma and Grandpa lived, to open our presents. Then those of us who lived at Die Rosen had to go home, because Mummy had to be up early on Christmas Day to prepare Christmas dinner for the Russells and the others. It was very cold out by then, and I was very tired, but I’d enjoyed myself so much that I didn’t care. Then, on Christmas Day itself, we were able to go back to Wald Villa for a couple of hours. Jakob and our little cousin Sabine, Auntie Luise and Uncle Johann’s new baby, slept for most of the time, so I was the centre of attention for once and I freely admit that I thoroughly enjoyed it, but most of us all I just enjoyed being there, spending part of the special day with the rest of our family.

And then it was January, and it was my birthday. Auntie Rosa made a little party for me in the nursery. We had a wonderful time. Even Sybil seemed to enjoy herself! We played games and tucked into the delicious birthday cake that Auntie Karen had made for the occasion and carried carefully all the way up the mountainside, and the adults all stood around saying that they couldn’t believe how the time was flying and that they wondered what 1938 was going to bring to us all.

Little did we know then, we young ones, that over the space of the next few months our safe, cosy childhood world at Die Rosen was going to be torn apart and lost for ever.

#58:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Sat Aug 26, 2006 7:36 am
Of course, from a child's eye, the wrench would have been even worse as they would not have seen the warning signs. Crying or Very sad

Lovely Christmas - thanks Alison.

#59:  Author: FatimaLocation: Sunny Qatar PostPosted: Sat Aug 26, 2006 10:08 am
She has such a lovely family. Thanks Alison.

#60:  Author: leahbelleLocation: Kilmarnock PostPosted: Sat Aug 26, 2006 2:18 pm
Thanks, Alison. She has such a lovely relationship with her family. I'm glad they had a nice Christmas, even though they had to work at Die Rosen.

#61:  Author: francesnLocation: away with the faeries PostPosted: Sat Aug 26, 2006 4:56 pm
This is such a beautiful story.

Thank you Alison

#62:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Sun Aug 27, 2006 7:53 am
Thanks for the comments Very Happy .

Soon after my birthday, the Easter term at the Chalet School began, as it did every year; but this time it was different. The main part of the school had moved from its premises at Briesau up to the Sonnalpe, to a building which had previously been a hotel called Der Edel Ritter. I didn’t know why the school had moved and I didn’t really care, but I was very pleased about it because it meant that Auntie Karen and Cousin Anna would be living close by and that we’d be able to see much more of them both.

What I didn’t realise at first was that the move was going to mean the partial break-up of our little group in the nursery. Frau Doktor Russell had been teaching Peggy and Rix, and more recently David and Bride and Primula as well, to read and write and do sums. Now, she and the Herr Doktor decided that Peggy, Rix, David and Bride should all attend classes at the school in the mornings. Primula wasn’t included, presumably because Herr Doktor Russell thought that her health wasn’t up to it, but she didn’t seem very interested in the idea of going to school anyway. Personally, I thought that it sounded rather exciting.

Rix, of course, made all sorts of pointed remarks about big boys and girls going to school whilst babies like Sybil had to stay at home, but Sybil was delighted about the new arrangement because she thought that now her mother would have more time to devote to her. However, what actually happened was that Frau Doktor Russell decided to go back to teaching English at the school, as she’d done before she’d been married. So, if anything, we saw less of her than we’d done when the school had been at Briesau. Sybil was very upset about it, although she tried hard not to show it. Obnoxious though she could be, sometimes I found myself feeling very sorry for her.

Another change was that Herr and Fraulein Denny, two of the teachers at the school, came to live at Die Rosen with us. Fraulein Denny was all right, but Herr Denny was weird. He wore very peculiar clothes and I couldn’t understand half of what he said. Still, I didn’t see that much of either of them, so their being there didn’t really bother me that much once I’d got used to it.

And then, round about the time of Sybil’s birthday, all the adults started wearing anxious expressions and using a word that I’d never heard before. “Anschluss.” I didn’t know what it meant, and I didn’t like to ask anyone because it was a subject that seemed to upset people, but I gathered that it was to do with Germany, and something called “the Third Reich” and people called “Nazis”.

#63:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Sun Aug 27, 2006 8:38 am
Horrible times - poor kids.

Thanks Alison - really interesting seeing all this from a child's eye.

#64:  Author: leahbelleLocation: Kilmarnock PostPosted: Sun Aug 27, 2006 12:25 pm
Poor children. Their lives are about to change unimaginably. Thanks, Alison.

#65:  Author: JennieLocation: Cambridgeshire PostPosted: Sun Aug 27, 2006 1:13 pm
This is wonderful. Thanks, Alison.

#66:  Author: FatimaLocation: Sunny Qatar PostPosted: Sun Aug 27, 2006 2:25 pm
Poor girl, what is she going to think of the next upheavals?

Thanks Alison.

#67:  Author: ChairLocation: Rochester, Kent PostPosted: Sun Aug 27, 2006 4:30 pm
Thanks, Alison. I have just read this from the beginning of the drabble. It's interesting to read it from Marie's - is that her name? - point of view. I felt so sorry for the Bettany children when they didn't have the chance to go to India.

#68:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Mon Aug 28, 2006 8:10 am
Her name is Gretchen. It's only given twice in the books, once as Gretchen and once (in a bit edited out of the pb edition) as Greta. Her brother's name is only given once, as Jacques on one of the days when their dad was French instead of Austrian Confused , so I've changed it to Jakob as the Austrian equivalent!

I’m not quite sure exactly what I understood, back then, by either the word “Germany” or the word “Reich”. Living at Die Rosen, I was probably better aware than most children of my age that the world was a diverse place and that, in different parts of it, called “countries”, different languages were spoken, different customs were followed, different religions were practised and different climatic conditions prevailed. I knew that Germany, although people there spoke the same language as they did in Austria, was a different “country”, and that it was to be found on the other side of the Tiern Pass; but I don’t think I had any concept whatsoever of statehood and independence, and I wouldn’t have understood what the Anschluss was even had someone told me.

I know what I understood by the word “Nazi”, though. Every time I heard Mummy and Daddy and other adults using it, they sounded worried, and so I took it to be a term equivalent to something like “bogeyman”. Some of the stories that Auntie Rosa read to us involved bogeymen. And once, after Rix and David had run off during a game of hide and seek and it had taken us ages to find them, Auntie Rosa had said that none of us were ever to go off on our own again - because you never knew when there might be bogeymen about. That was what I thought Nazis must be. Bogeymen.

I didn’t know what a Nazi might look like, but I realised that there were Nazis in the area when I heard Herr Doktor Russell say that he’d been summoned to attend a meeting with some of them. It was rather worrying, but I was sure that Daddy and Herr Doktor Russell and Herr Doktor Maynard would be able to keep us all safe, and that soon enough these Nazis, whoever they were, would go back to wherever they’d come from and leave us in peace.

In fact, most of the time, safe in the nursery, I didn’t think about these Nazi people at all. There were plenty of other things to think about, after all. There was Easter to look forward to, and then, the week after Easter, Fraulein Juliet was getting married and we were all, even Jakob and I, going to her wedding. Best of all, springtime meant that the weather was getting better, and that soon we’d be able to spend plenty of time out in the fresh air. Being cooped up in Die Rosen for days at a time, as we generally were when it was cold and wet outside, could get very boring.

One day, Fraulein Joey and Herr Doktor Maynard announced that they were going on a picnic with Robin and some of the other girls from the school. We were thrilled by the idea of a picnic, the first one of the year, and begged them to let us go too; but they refused point blank to take us, even though we all asked nicely and promised faithfully to be on our best behaviour. We were extremely disappointed and thought it was very mean of them.

We expected them back by eighteen o’clock or so, but by half past eighteen there was no sign of them and it was starting to get dark. Sybil and Jackie and I should have been in bed by then – Jakob was already asleep - but all three of us felt that there was no way we’d be able to sleep, and Mummy, Auntie Rosa and Frau Doktor Russell were too worried to be strict about bedtime for once; so we were allowed to stay up. Eventually, at around nineteen o’clock, Robin arrived back – with Herr Doktor Gottfried Mensch, whom we were quite sure had had nothing to do with the picnic. And without Fraulein Joey and Herr Doktor Maynard. It was all very odd indeed. Herr and Frau Doktor Russell were obviously very worried and I began to feel frightened. What if the Nazi people had got them?

At half past nineteen we were all eventually packed off to bed, and, although I’d been sure I’d never be able to sleep, the next thing I knew it was morning. And, thankfully, both Fraulein Joey and Herr Doktor Maynard had got back safely. Peggy, who’d been in floods of tears the night before, asked her aunt where on earth she and “Dr Jack” had got to and why they’d come home so late. Fraulein Joey said that Robin and one of the other girls had got separated from the group, and that the rest of them had gone to look for them but had ended up getting lost themselves instead.

Her story sounded plausible enough, but, somehow, something about it just didn’t ring true. However, she refused to say any more, and the important thing was that everyone had got back safely in the end. After a day or two, I stopped thinking about it all, and concentrated on looking forward to Easter.

#69:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Mon Aug 28, 2006 10:05 am
Yes, can understand them worrying - and can understand them thinking the worst was over.

Thanks Alison.

#70:  Author: leahbelleLocation: Kilmarnock PostPosted: Mon Aug 28, 2006 1:00 pm
It must have been a very confusing and scary time for the children.

#71:  Author: LizBLocation: Oxon, England PostPosted: Mon Aug 28, 2006 1:14 pm
Must have been so scary for them. And then a huge upheaval to come Confused

Thanks, Alison

#72:  Author: FatimaLocation: Sunny Qatar PostPosted: Mon Aug 28, 2006 2:58 pm
I like the way she thought of Nazis as similar to bogeymen!

Thanks Alison.

#73:  Author: ChairLocation: Rochester, Kent PostPosted: Mon Aug 28, 2006 8:14 pm
Thanks, Alison. I feel so sorry for all the children and everyone else that was living on the Sonnalpe.

#74:  Author: TaraLocation: Malvern, Worcestershire PostPosted: Mon Aug 28, 2006 10:12 pm
Thanks, Alison, a fascinating point of view.

#75:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Tue Aug 29, 2006 6:50 am
On Easter Sunday, Mummy and Daddy and Auntie Rosa took Jakob and me down to Briesau, to join the rest of the family for church, and then we all had Easter Sunday lunch at Wald Villa. But somehow it wasn’t like it’d been at Christmas. Everyone seemed quiet and subdued, and it wasn’t nearly as much fun as I’d been anticipating. Also, it was a warm day and it got really stuffy with so many of us in the house. Part way through the afternoon, Daddy and Uncle Fritzl said that they were going outside for a breath of air. A few minutes later, I asked Mummy if I could go outside for a bit as well. She said that I could as long as I didn’t wander away from the house.

I only got as far as the doorway. Then I heard voices. I knew that it was wrong to stay there and eavesdrop, but I really did want some fresh air and I’d promised Mummy that I wouldn’t wander off. Besides, sometimes when you start listening to something it’s very hard to stop.

“There are other jobs, Andreas,” Uncle Fritzl was saying. “I understand your loyalty to the Russells, but surely you can see that by working for a British master and mistress you and Marie and Rosa could be drawing attention to yourselves; and that’s the last thing anyone should be doing with things the way they are. Hansi’s decided that he’s not going back to work at the school after Easter, and I’m hoping that Anna’ll have the sense to tell them that she can’t carry on working there either. Karen too. I’ve said this to Rosa already but all she did was get upset; but I would think that if you and Marie leave Die Rosen then she will too. Think about it, Andreas. For the children’s sake if not for your own. Please.”

“We’re not being forced out of our jobs by the Nazis,” Daddy said forcefully. “I appreciate your concern, Fritzl, but so far the Nazis don’t seem to want any trouble with the British - and, anyway, they’re hardly likely to bother about Marie and Rosa and me, are they? And what are the chances of Marie and me finding anyone else who’ll employ a married couple with two children? Besides which, the Russells have been good to us and we wouldn’t want to let them down. We’re staying where we are.”

I ran back into the house after that. My mind was racing. Obviously Uncle Fritzl thought that we were in some sort of danger because we lived at Die Rosen. But why? It made no sense to me at all. Why would anyone mind that Mummy and Daddy and Auntie Rosa worked for the Russells? The Herr Doktor was a good man who helped people who were very poorly and might otherwise have died. I’d heard lots of people say so. But Uncle Fritzl wouldn’t have said what he’d just said for no reason. And it sounded as if Uncle Hansi agreed with him. And that Auntie Karen and Cousin Anna might be in danger too. Were the Nazi people going to come and get us all? And, if they did, what would they do to us? I was terrified.

After three days of worrying and three nights disturbed by bad dreams, I plucked up the courage to tell Daddy that I’d heard someone – I didn’t say whom – talking about the Nazi people and that I was frightened. And Daddy hugged me, and he said that I wasn’t to worry about anything. He said that he and Mummy would always look after Jakob and me, and that everything would be all right. And then I felt better. If Daddy said that everything would be all right, then everything would be all right.

#76:  Author: LizBLocation: Oxon, England PostPosted: Tue Aug 29, 2006 8:28 am
It's all very scary - and of course the domestic staff were at just as much risk of trouble for staying with the Russells/at the school/San as the teaching staff.

Thanks Alison - it's fascinating seeing this from the 'downstairs' (and child's) point of view.

#77:  Author: MiaLocation: London PostPosted: Tue Aug 29, 2006 9:07 am
Thanks Alison, this is really thought-provoking

#78:  Author: ChairLocation: Rochester, Kent PostPosted: Tue Aug 29, 2006 11:21 am
Thanks, Alison. It's interesting to see that Marie and Andreas feel so loyal to Jem and Madge.

#79:  Author: FatimaLocation: Sunny Qatar PostPosted: Tue Aug 29, 2006 12:53 pm
Poor girl; I hope she doesn't have too bad a time leaving Austria.
Thanks Alison.

#80:  Author: leahbelleLocation: Kilmarnock PostPosted: Tue Aug 29, 2006 2:11 pm
Poor little girl. How scared she must have been. I hope she won't suffer too much when things start getting tricky for the school and San.

#81:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Tue Aug 29, 2006 5:40 pm
Poor little girl - and yes, to any of the Austrians, they would have been in particular danger.

Thanks Alison.

#82:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Wed Aug 30, 2006 6:46 am
So I was able to stop worrying, and to enjoy Fraulein Juliet’s wedding. I’d never been inside a Protestant church before and it was all a little bit strange to me; but Fraulein Juliet looked beautiful, and she and her new husband, Herr O’Hara, were obviously very happy. It was a lovely day. The boys scoffed and said that weddings were soppy, but we girls thought that it was all very romantic and we speculated as to who at the Sonnalpe might be the next to get married. We thought that it would be either Fraulein Grizel or Fraulein Rosalie, both of them only a little younger than Fraulein Juliet; but we couldn’t decide which one of them it was more likely to be. Fraulein Grizel was prettier, but Fraulein Rosalie was quite pretty as well and she never got bad-tempered like Fraulein Grizel sometimes did. So we weren’t sure.

However, it was actually Fraulein Joey who announced shortly after the wedding that she was engaged – to Herr Doktor Maynard. We were all rather surprised, because she’d always insisted that she was never going to get married, but everyone was very pleased about it. Peggy and Sybil hoped that she’d ask them both to be bridesmaids, so that they could wear pretty dresses. In all the excitement, I almost forgot about the Nazis altogether. But, then, one of them came to Die Rosen.

We were having our mid-morning milk. Sybil and I both reached for the same glass and we ended up knocking it over. Some of the milk went on to the table and some of it went down Sybil’s dress. Frau Doktor Russell, who was in the nursery for once, took Sybil off to get changed, and Auntie Rosa sent me to the kitchen to ask Mummy for some cloths to wipe the table with. I’d just got to the kitchen when there was a loud knock at the front door: Mummy went to answer it and I followed her. Standing at the door was a big, aggressive-looking man in a uniform. I knew, without even having to ask, that here, in the flesh, was a Nazi.

I was too afraid to move. I just stood there, rooted to the spot. I could tell that Mummy was afraid too, and that frightened me even more. Then the Nazi said that he wanted – in fact, he said that he demanded - to speak to “the Fraulein Josephine Bettany and the Fraulein Robin Humphries”. Mummy went to fetch them, and suddenly I found myself able to move again and I scurried after her. There was no way that I was staying in the hall on my own with that man there.

But the man followed us into the Saal, where Fraulein Joey was talking to Fraulein Grizel. I didn’t understand most of what was said next, but it was something about “the Gestapo” – I had no idea what that was, but it certainly sounded very scary – and the laws of “the Reich” and there being “no Austria”. That last bit made no sense to me whatsoever. Of course there was an Austria. We were all standing in it!

Then Frau Doktor Russell came downstairs with Sybil, and she ordered Sybil to go to the nursery immediately and tell Auntie Rosa that none of us were to leave the room until someone came to say that we might. Then she saw me standing behind Mummy, and ordered me to go to the nursery immediately as well. It was very rare for her to speak to any of us like that, and the fact that she’d done so made it clear just how serious this was.

Sybil and I fled. We burst into the nursery, gasping for breath, and slammed the door behind us.

#83:  Author: ElleLocation: Peterborough PostPosted: Wed Aug 30, 2006 8:33 am
Gosh. have just discovered this Alison, and it is excellent. So excellent I should have been dressed and in work half an hour ago! Oh well, its technically history, so therefore research....

#84:  Author: leahbelleLocation: Kilmarnock PostPosted: Wed Aug 30, 2006 10:00 am
It must have been so terrifying for such a small child, especially having Nazis barging into your home!

#85:  Author: NellLocation: London, England PostPosted: Wed Aug 30, 2006 11:01 am
Thank you Alison. How scary that must have been.

#86:  Author: MiaLocation: London PostPosted: Wed Aug 30, 2006 2:41 pm
Thanks Alison *echoes Nell*

#87:  Author: FatimaLocation: Sunny Qatar PostPosted: Wed Aug 30, 2006 3:51 pm
Yes, it's the thought that there was one in her home that must have been so terrifying.

Thanks Alison.

#88:  Author: ChairLocation: Rochester, Kent PostPosted: Wed Aug 30, 2006 4:44 pm
Thanks, Alison. I am now wondering if Sybil and Peggy were allowed to be bridesmaids.

#89:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Wed Aug 30, 2006 5:20 pm
Must have been terrifying for them.

Thanks Alison.

#90:  Author: LizBLocation: Oxon, England PostPosted: Wed Aug 30, 2006 5:51 pm
Poor kids - no idea what's really going on except that things aren't right and are scary Confused

Thanks, Alison

#91:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Thu Aug 31, 2006 6:50 am
Thanks for the comments. BTW I am working on Gretchen and Sybil being about 4 at this point, which is older than Sybil is in Exile but fits in with her age in the following books. It got even more fun later on when Sybil (whose age I'm following as all we're ever told about Gretchen's age is that she was 2 months old when Sybil was born) stayed 14 for about 2 1/2 years!

We heard a lot of raised voices, and then we realised that the Nazi was taking Herr Doktor Maynard away. Later on, the adults tried to tell us that the Herr Doktor had gone to Innsbruck on business for a few days. Once they accepted that we knew very well that the Nazi had taken him, they tried to reassure us that he was just going to have to answer some questions and that the Nazis wouldn’t hurt him. We weren’t at all convinced, and it was only when the Herr Doktor arrived back safe and well a few days later that we stopped torturing ourselves with thoughts of what they might be doing to him and whether we might never see him again.

In the meantime, the summer term at the school had started, and Rix, Peggy, David and Bride reported to the rest of us that a lot of the girls who’d been there before the Easter holidays weren’t there any more. Jackie asked fearfully if the Nazis had taken them away as well. Rix said that he wasn’t sure but that he thought they might well have done; and Primula started to cry. Auntie Rosa told Rix off for upsetting Primula, but then she asked exactly what he’d been saying, and we told her.

She told us firmly that we were to stop being so silly and frightening each other; and that of course the girls hadn’t been taken away by the Nazis: they’d just left to go to different schools. But we knew full well that it wasn’t normal for so many girls to leave at once, especially as no new girls had come to take their places. Nothing seemed to be normal any more. We weren’t even sure what normal was any more.

Then, the week after the Nazi had come to Die Rosen, Herr Doktor Russell, Frau Doktor Russell and Frau Venables all came to the nursery together. The Frau Doktor told us that they had something very important and serious to say to us all, and that we were all to be very sensible and grown-up about it. Then the Herr Doktor said that Frau Venables and Fraulein Rosalie were leaving Austria. They were going at the end of that very week. And not only Daisy and Primula, but also David, Sybil and the four Bettany children were all going with them.

There was instant pandemonium. Rix said that he wasn’t scared of the Nazis and that he wasn’t going anywhere. I could see that in actual fact he was terrified. He’d already lost one home and been separated from his parents, and now he was about to lose another home and be separated from his aunts and uncle as well. It wasn’t even as if they were going to England, which we’d all been told so much about. They were going to a place called Guernsey, which none of us had ever even heard of. Peggy burst into tears, and Jackie said that if Rix wasn’t going then he wasn’t going either.

Sybil burst into tears as well, and said that she didn’t want to leave her mummy and daddy. Frau Doktor Russell tried to reassure her by saying that she and the Herr Doktor and Fraulein Joey would be going to Guernsey as well, just as soon as they could make arrangements to close the school and send all the girls home, and make some arrangements concerning the San. She said that Herr Doktor Maynard would be going to Guernsey as well, and so would Fraulein Grizel, and Robin, and Biddy, and lots of other people too.

Sybil stopped crying then, but she said that she didn’t see why she couldn’t stay at the Sonnalpe until her parents were ready to leave, and then they could all leave together. However, David managed to persuade her that they both had to do as they were told, and leave with Frau Venables and Fraulein Rosalie. He solemnly assured the Frau Doktor that he’d look after Sybil for her, and then the Frau Doktor started to cry as well.

They all seemed to have completely forgotten that Jakob and I were there. I put my arms round my little brother and hugged him tightly. I felt as if our world was crumbling around us. Everyone was leaving Die Rosen. The school was closing down. What was going to happen to us?

Once I’d calmed down, I realised that I knew the answer. We would go to Wald Villa, and stay with Grandma and Grandpa until Mummy and Daddy found new jobs. And, hopefully, they’d find jobs that didn’t require them to “live in”. And then we’d be able to have a house of our own. Instead of living at Die Rosen, with Sybil sneering at Jakob and me for being the children of the servants, we’d be living in our own home, in Briesau close to all our family and friends. Despite all the horrible things that had been happening recently, it seemed as if our lives were actually about to take a turn for the better.

#92:  Author: leahbelleLocation: Kilmarnock PostPosted: Thu Aug 31, 2006 10:11 am
Poor little girl. Thanks, Alison. This is wonderful.

#93:  Author: LizBLocation: Oxon, England PostPosted: Thu Aug 31, 2006 12:47 pm
I think she's likely to be disappointed on that one Sad

Thanks, Alison

#94:  Author: FatimaLocation: Sunny Qatar PostPosted: Thu Aug 31, 2006 1:43 pm
Yes, not just 'servants' children' but in a foreign country, too. Poor child.
Thanks Alison.

#95:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Thu Aug 31, 2006 4:36 pm
And, of course, all Jem and Madge's plans will actually go by the wayside anyway!

Thanks Alison.

#96:  Author: little_sarahLocation: Liverpool/Manchester PostPosted: Thu Aug 31, 2006 7:17 pm
Thanks Alison, it's really interesting to see everything through Gretchen's eyes.

#97:  Author: ChangnoiLocation: Milwaukee, USA PostPosted: Thu Aug 31, 2006 8:02 pm
Alison, I just found this. This is wonderful! She is very observant for a four-year-old. The poor Bettany kids....


#98:  Author: JackiePLocation: Kingston upon Hull PostPosted: Thu Aug 31, 2006 8:56 pm
I've been following this Alison - it's horrible to think what might be happening next.



#99:  Author: ChairLocation: Rochester, Kent PostPosted: Thu Aug 31, 2006 10:16 pm
Thanks, Alison. I'm sorry that everything is so scary.

#100:  Author: TaraLocation: Malvern, Worcestershire PostPosted: Thu Aug 31, 2006 10:27 pm
Seeing all this through the eyes of a child is so powerful. All their worlds being turned totally upside down, and not understanding why. And the adults trying to hide their frantic anxiety and grief.

Very moving, Alison.

#101:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Fri Sep 01, 2006 6:52 am
No-one actually said anything about what was going to happen to Jakob and me, but I assumed that we’d be staying at Die Rosen until Herr and Frau Doktor Russell, Fraulein Joey and everyone else had left, and it sounded as if that wasn’t likely to be for a good few weeks yet.

Obviously I was a little upset at the prospect of being separated from the other children, but I’d always known that our ways would part sooner or later. After all, we’d hardly been expecting, or wanting, to spend our entire lives in the nursery. I’d long been aware that, at various points in the future, I’d be starting at the village school in Briesau, where Jakob would follow me when he was old enough; the other girls would be going to the Chalet School, as boarders; and Rix, David and Jackie would be going off to school in England. Once all that happened, it was inevitable that we’d be making different friends and leading different lives.

Admittedly I hadn’t expected the separation to come so soon, nor to be so complete and permanent, but it was hardly as if Jakob and I were having to be parted from, say, Grandma and Grandpa or our aunts and uncles. As Sybil had always been so fond of reminding us, we’d never really belonged with the other Die Rosen children anyway. So, although I was genuinely sad about them leaving, I wasn’t breaking my heart about it.

Daisy Venables, by contrast, was devastated at the prospect of being parted from her schoolfriends, and insisted that she wanted to buy presents for them before she went. So, on the day before the group from Die Rosen were due to leave for Guernsey, Fraulein Joey and one of the teachers from the school took Daisy, Robin – who was to stay at Die Rosen that night so that she could say goodbye to Frau Venables and the others in the morning - and some other girls on a shopping trip to Spartz, the nearest town. Three people from our house set off on that shopping expedition - but only Daisy came back.

She was brought home by a goatherd called Herr Scheitzer. I vaguely knew him - he was a friend of Uncle Fritzl’s – and I knew that he’d be out in the mountains at this time of year. There was no way that he’d have been anywhere near Spartz - so how on earth had he come to meet Daisy, and why was he bringing her home? I couldn’t ask him, because he said that he needed to speak to Herr Doktor Russell in private. What was going on? And where were the others? It was like the terrible day of the picnic all over again.

And this time it was worse. It was far, far worse, because Daisy, who was usually so happy and cheerful, was tearful and hysterical and gabbling incoherently - about churches and trap doors and secret passages and Herr Goldmann the jeweller. I couldn’t make head nor tail of what she was saying and then, before any of us could ask her any questions which might have made sense of it all, Frau Venables and Frau Doktor Russell took her away for a hot bath and bed.

The rest of us were packed off to bed early too, but I couldn’t get to sleep. I lay there, tossing and turning, and wishing that there were a clock in the room so that I’d know what time it was. Where were Fraulein Joey and Robin? Surely they’d be back soon, with yet another tale about people getting separated from the group and other people getting lost. I knew that I wouldn’t believe whatever story they came up with it, but I didn’t care: I just wanted to know that they were all right. I lay there and lay there, and still they didn’t return; and then I heard Mummy and Daddy going into their room and I knew that it must now be very late indeed.

But then I heard a knock at the door, and I heard Robin’s voice, and I felt a tide of relief surge over me. I didn’t hear Fraulein Joey speaking, but I was sure that Robin wouldn’t have come back without her: they were devoted to each other. Fraulein Joey must just be trying to be quiet so as not to wake anyone. Now that I knew that, whatever might have happened, they were both safe and sound, I was finally able to relax; and I drifted off to sleep.

#102:  Author: FatimaLocation: Sunny Qatar PostPosted: Fri Sep 01, 2006 7:05 am
Poor Daisy, it was a horrible experience for her.
Thanks Alison.

#103:  Author: Ruth BLocation: Oxford, UK PostPosted: Fri Sep 01, 2006 8:12 am
Poor Daisy - the effect on her is passed over in the books, but it must have been horrific.

#104:  Author: LizBLocation: Oxon, England PostPosted: Fri Sep 01, 2006 11:01 am
I'm glad she's stopped worrying, but it's a shame it's only temporarily Sad

Thanks, Alison

#105:  Author: ChairLocation: Rochester, Kent PostPosted: Fri Sep 01, 2006 12:17 pm
Thanks, Alison. I'm feeling sorry for Daisy and everyone else.

#106:  Author: MiaLocation: London PostPosted: Fri Sep 01, 2006 1:19 pm

Thanks Alison, this is so moving.

#107:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Fri Sep 01, 2006 6:43 pm
Horrible time - poor Daisy!! Crying or Very sad She was only 12.

Thanks Alison

#108:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Sat Sep 02, 2006 6:47 am
It was a strange night, and when I woke in the morning I had no idea how much of it had been real and how much of it had been a dream. I know that I did go to sleep, but then … did I keep waking up, or did I dream it all? I thought I heard Herr Doktor Russell’s voice, and then I thought I heard someone leaving the house – but it would have been the middle of the night, so where would anyone have been going? And then I thought I heard banging at the door, and Frau Doktor Russell speaking, and angry voices demanding to speak to “the Fraulein Robin Humphries”. Did it really happen, or was it the events of the week before coming back to haunt me whilst I slept?

Then I thought I heard Herr Doktor Maynard and Herr Doktor Mensch talking - but why would Herr Doktor Mensch have been at Die Rosen in the small hours of the morning? And then came the sound of even more comings and goings until, finally, it was time to get up. How much of what I’d thought I’d heard had actually happened, and how much of it had I dreamt? I just didn’t know. And outside the window everything was covered in a thick mist, which added to the sense of unreality.

But some things were real all right. Robin had gone. Fraulein Joey had gone too: in fact, she didn’t seem to have ever returned from the trip to Spartz the day before. And Herr Doktor Maynard had gone as well. All their belongings were still there, but the three of them seemed to have vanished into thin air.

Mummy tried to tell me that they’d just decided to leave for Guernsey earlier than originally planned, but there was no way that I was being fooled by that. People didn’t just suddenly decide, in the middle of the night, to set off on long journeys, without even taking any luggage with them. When she realised that I’d convinced myself that the Nazis had taken Herr Doktor Maynard away again, and had this time taken Fraulein Joey and Robin away too, she took a deep breath and told me that there’d been some trouble – she didn’t say what exactly, but it had obviously been something very bad - in Spartz the day before. And that, because of it, Fraulein Joey, Fraulein Wilson from the school, Robin and some of the other girls had decided to leave Austria at once.

Herr Doktor Maynard and Herr Doktor Mensch had gone with them, and, she assured me, would make sure that they were all safe. Mummy had great faith in doctors. I hoped that she was right. At least the Nazis hadn’t got them: she was quite definite about that, and that made me feel much happier.

Frau Venables, Fraulein Rosalie and the Venables, Bettany and Russell children left shortly after Fruhstuck. Horrible though it sounds, in the end I was quite glad to see them go. I didn’t understand what was going on, but I understood one thing. Uncle Fritzl had been right. There was danger at Die Rosen. The sooner that the Russells and the others were away from there and safely in Guernsey- wherever that was - the better. And then we’d be able to leave too. We’d get away from Die Rosen and we’d go and live in Briesau. And then, I was sure, everything would be all right.

#109:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Sat Sep 02, 2006 7:34 am
Oh dear - she is going to be disappointed, isn't she?

Thanks Alison - the tension and events as seen through a child's eye make it even more horrible. Shocked

#110:  Author: FatimaLocation: Sunny Qatar PostPosted: Sat Sep 02, 2006 7:37 am
Yes, it's terrifying to think what these little children had to go through.
Thanks Alison.

#111:  Author: LizBLocation: Oxon, England PostPosted: Sat Sep 02, 2006 10:35 am
If only that were the case Confused

Thanks, Alison

#112:  Author: leahbelleLocation: Kilmarnock PostPosted: Sat Sep 02, 2006 11:19 am
How difficult it must have been for her to try to make sense of what was going on. I'd like to think she'll be safer now, but somehow I doubt it! Thanks.

#113:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Sun Sep 03, 2006 7:53 am
There isn't much detail in Exile about how the people who weren't with Joey & co got to Guernsey, so I hope no-one minds me making it up!

I’d assumed at first that, once the decision to close the school had been taken, the girls and the staff would be departing straight away. Of course, it wasn’t that easy. All the girls’ parents and guardians had to be contacted, and travel arrangements had to be made. However, it was only a matter of a few weeks before the school had shut down, Auntie Karen and Cousin Anna and the rest of the domestic staff had moved back in with their families, and the girls and the teaching staff had all left the area. All except for one. Fraulein Grizel insisted that she wasn’t leaving until Frau Doktor Russell was ready to leave too.

I heard them talking about it. “I do so wish that you’d change your mind and go with the others, Grizel,” Frau Doktor Russell said anxiously. “I’m sure that your father’s worried about you and that he’s keen to have you home, and I’d be very glad to know that you were safely away from here. It’s kind of you to be concerned about me, but I’ll be fine. I’m a seasoned traveller, remember!”

“Not in … well, a delicate condition, you’re not,” Fraulein Grizel said firmly. “Anyway, there’s no way I’m going back to Taverton, even temporarily. I’m going straight to Guernsey. And there’s no way that I could let you travel on your own after everything you’ve done for me.”

Really, they were all obsessed with this idea of people being “delicate”, I thought! Robin was delicate, Peggy was delicate, Primula was delicate, Fraulein Joey was delicate, all the girls who’d been at the “Annexe” were delicate, and apparently now the Frau Doktor was delicate as well!

Fraulein Grizel carried on speaking. “You won’t be leaving it too long before you go, will you?” she asked. “I understand that you don’t want to leave Dr Jem; but it’s a long journey, and the Channel can be rough at any time of year.”

“That’s what Jem keeps saying,” the Frau Doktor said. “Especially given that … well, last time I was earlier than I’d expected, although I’m fairly sure that I haven’t made the same mistake this time. I don’t know what to do for the best. I don’t want to leave it too long, for obvious reasons. Nor do I want to be apart from the children for much longer. Besides, it’s not fair to expect Margot to look after my two and Dick and Mollie’s four indefinitely, although it’s very kind of Rosalie to stay with her rather than going home, and equally kind of Gillian Linton to say that she’d escort Biddy to Guernsey and help Margot and Rosalie as much as she could. But I don’t want to leave Jem without having any idea of how long it might before he can leave. Oh Grizel, how did it come to this? What’s happening to the world?”

Fraulein Grizel shook her head sadly and said that she didn’t know.

I didn’t understand half of what they’d said, but I felt very sorry for Frau Doktor Russell, and for David and Sybil who were separated from their parents. But then, the week after the school closed, Mummy and Daddy told me that “the Government” – whoever exactly they were – were taking over the San, which meant that the Russells would now be able to leave. Frau Doktor Russell and Fraulein Grizel left for Guernsey soon afterwards, with three of the British doctors; and the Herr Doktor told Mummy and Daddy that he’d be leaving too as soon as he’d sorted out the issue of something called “compensation”. I didn’t know what that meant, but I hoped that it wouldn’t take too long.

With only the Herr Doktor left at Die Rosen, Mummy and Daddy and Auntie Rosa had far less work to do, which was good because it meant that they had time to take Jakob and me to visit all our family and friends. On one particular day, we went to see all of them - Grandma and Grandpa, and Auntie Luise and Uncle Johann and baby Sabine, and Cousin Anna, and Auntie Karen, and everyone else as well. For some reason everyone seemed to be very upset, and they kept hugging and kissing us all – much to Jakob’s disgust – but over the past few months I’d got so used to people acting strangely that I didn’t honestly think very much of it. At the time.

#114:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Sun Sep 03, 2006 8:47 am
Well actually, although it's not in Exile, there is something written about the School's departure from Austria! Wink

Like Grizel in this - brave of her.

Expect Gretchen to be most disappointed when she discovers just why all her family appear so upset.

Thanks Alison.

#115:  Author: ChairLocation: Rochester, Kent PostPosted: Sun Sep 03, 2006 9:00 am
Thanks, Alison. Grizel was very supportive of Madge.

#116:  Author: FatimaLocation: Sunny Qatar PostPosted: Sun Sep 03, 2006 9:13 am
Good for Grizel, staying with Madge. It's nice to see her good side.

#117:  Author: JennieLocation: Cambridgeshire PostPosted: Sun Sep 03, 2006 1:13 pm
Thanks, Alison, the terror and the not knowing. I think the adults were so concerned with keeping things from the children, that they never bothered to notice how much the children were taking in.

ETA: I'm so glad that you're giving Grizel her chance.

#118:  Author: leahbelleLocation: Kilmarnock PostPosted: Sun Sep 03, 2006 1:38 pm
Nice to see such a supportive side to Grizel. Thanks, Alison.

#119:  Author: MaryRLocation: Cheshire PostPosted: Sun Sep 03, 2006 1:49 pm
Children always take in far more than anyone thinks, don't they? And usually get it out of all proportion and frighten themselves. Crying or Very sad

Thanks, Alison.

#120:  Author: ChangnoiLocation: Milwaukee, USA PostPosted: Sun Sep 03, 2006 2:49 pm
MaryR wrote:
Children always take in far more than anyone thinks, don't they? And usually get it out of all proportion and frighten themselves. Crying or Very sad

Thanks, Alison.

Only here, with what is about to happen, I'd say it's hard to get it out of proportion. Their country is gone, their world is going to come to an end. Poor kid.

Thanks, Alison, for writing this.


#121:  Author: LizBLocation: Oxon, England PostPosted: Sun Sep 03, 2006 5:04 pm
Good for Grizel Very Happy

Thanks, Alison

#122:  Author: TaraLocation: Malvern, Worcestershire PostPosted: Sun Sep 03, 2006 10:39 pm
Interesting to think about what did happen to the others.

And Grizel is lovely here.

Poor wee Gretchen, nothing is going to get any better. Agree with Mary that adults always badly underestimate what's going on in a child's mind.

Thanks, Alison, this gets more and more fascinating.

#123:  Author: Kathy_SLocation: midwestern US PostPosted: Mon Sep 04, 2006 12:39 am
Very interesting perspective!

Thank you, Alison.

#124:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Mon Sep 04, 2006 6:50 am
Thanks for the comments Very Happy .

I hadn’t been sleeping well – I kept having bad dreams about everything that had happened and then waking up early – but after our long visit to Briesau I was tired out, and that night I slept soundly until I was woken by someone gently shaking me. I couldn’t believe that it was morning already, but then I realised that it wasn’t morning at all: it was the middle of the night. I immediately panicked, thinking that the Nazis must have come to Die Rosen again, but I relaxed when I realised that the only voice I could hear was Mummy’s. “Gretchen, I need you to get up and get dressed,” she said. “I’ve got your clothes here. Will you put them on whilst I get Jakob ready?”

“Ready for what?” I wasn’t at all impressed at being expected to get out of bed when it quite obviously wasn’t morning yet. It wasn’t as if there seemed to be any sort of problem in the house. “What do we have to get up now for? I’m tired.”

“We’re leaving,” she said quietly. “Come on, please. We need to set off very soon.”

We were leaving! At long last, we were leaving! I’d assumed that someone would tell me in advance when the time came for us to go, and I certainly hadn’t expected to be heading off in the middle of the night; but never mind – we were leaving! Wide awake all of a sudden, I tumbled out of bed happily and beamed at Mummy. “Now? Does the Herr Doktor know that we’re going? Are we going to live with Grandma and Grandpa?”

“Yes, now; and yes, of course the Herr Doktor knows,” she said exasperatedly. “Come on, Gretchen! Go and have a wash and brush your teeth, and then get dressed, please: there’s a good girl. I need to get your brother sorted out.”

“Are we going to live with Grandma and Grandpa?” I persisted.

“No. We’re …” She hesitated for a minute and my initial euphoria began to fade a little. I hoped fervently that she wasn’t about to tell me that she and Daddy’d got jobs in another big house where we’d have to live in and Jakob and I would have to spend our days in the nursery putting up with people like Sybil. “We’re going to visit Daddy’s auntie and uncle,” she said finally. “Auntie Clothilde and Uncle Pierre. In France.”

I sat down on the bed with a thump. France? I’d heard of France, of course. It was where Mademoiselle Lepattre - Frau Doktor Russell’s friend - and her cousins the Lecoutiers were from. They’d recently moved back there, I knew. But I’d never heard of an Auntie Clothilde or an Uncle Pierre, or indeed of Daddy having any relations in France. And why would we be setting off to go there at this time of night? Something wasn’t right.

I looked at Mummy suspiciously. She was biting her lip. “You’re making it up,” I said bluntly. I’d never been rude to her before, but I was tired and confused and now I was beginning to feel frightened as well. “Where are we really going?” I asked. “Why won’t you tell me?” Suddenly I had a horrible thought. “Are the Nazis coming to try to take us away? Have we got to go and hide somewhere? Is that why we’re going when it’s dark?”

“Oh Gretchen, of course not!” she exclaimed. She put her arm round my shoulders. “You mustn’t think that. Honestly, it isn’t that: I promise. Now come on, be a good girl now, and go and get ready. Will you be able to manage by yourself or shall I get Auntie Rosa to help you?”

I sat back, crossed my arms, planted my feet firmly on the floor and looked at her stubbornly. “I’m not going anywhere until you tell me where we’re really going,” I said.

#125:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Mon Sep 04, 2006 7:06 am
Oh dear - if you must lie to children at least make it convincing!

Thanks Alison. Laughing

#126:  Author: LizBLocation: Oxon, England PostPosted: Mon Sep 04, 2006 7:39 am
Poor Marie, the last thing she needs now is rebellion from Gretchen, but it must be so difficult for her to know how much to tell her - and possibly she doesn't know everything either.

Thanks, Alison

#127:  Author: ChrisLocation: Nottingham PostPosted: Mon Sep 04, 2006 12:25 pm
Whatever happened to 'instant obedience'? Laughing

#128:  Author: FatimaLocation: Sunny Qatar PostPosted: Mon Sep 04, 2006 1:22 pm
Poor child, after all her worrying it's no wonder she is suspicious of being woken in the night like that.

#129:  Author: JennieLocation: Cambridgeshire PostPosted: Mon Sep 04, 2006 1:43 pm
Thanks, Alison. I can understand Gretchen's reaction to the news.

#130:  Author: ChairLocation: Rochester, Kent PostPosted: Mon Sep 04, 2006 4:16 pm
Thanks, Alison. I wonder what Marie is going to say to Gretchen.

#131:  Author: MiaLocation: London PostPosted: Mon Sep 04, 2006 4:22 pm
Poor little Gretchen! Thanks Alison

#132:  Author: leahbelleLocation: Kilmarnock PostPosted: Mon Sep 04, 2006 6:17 pm
No wonder Gretchen is concerned. I hope she can be persuaded to leave.

#133:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2006 6:52 am
Daddy must have been wondering what was taking us so long, because he came into the room at that point - just in time to hear what I’d said. He and Mummy looked at one another and he nodded.

“All right, Gretchen,” Mummy said quietly. “We’re going to Guernsey. It’s where Frau Doktor Russell and all the others have gone; and now we’re going there too; and then the Herr Doktor will come on soon afterwards - and, once we’re all there, everything’ll be just like it used to be. But, until we’re out of Austria, we need to pretend that we’re going to visit Auntie Clothilde and Uncle Pierre in France, because …well, because….” She looked uneasy and she turned to Daddy for help.

Daddy sat down next to me. “Gretchen, we need you to be very grown-up and very brave,” he said. “Do you remember the man who came here and took Herr Doktor Maynard away? The Nazi man?”

I nodded. Remember him? I didn’t think I’d ever be able to forget him as long as I lived.

“Well, it’s possible that men like him might try to stop us from leaving the country, if they thought we were going abroad to stay. They probably wouldn’t stop you and Jakob and Mummy from going, but they might try to stop Auntie Rosa and me. I haven’t really got an Auntie Clothilde and an Uncle Pierre, but we’ve got to imagine that I have: we’ve got to pretend, like a game. And if we’re asked where we’re going, then we have to say that we’re going to visit them. Thank heavens that we’ve got a French-sounding surname!

“So do you understand now? Gretchen? Oh sweetheart, don’t cry! It’ll be all right: Mummy and I’ll be there to look after you. And just think - we’ll be going on a big train, and we’ll even be sleeping on the train! And then we’ll be going on a big boat, much bigger than any of the boats of the Tiernsee. And remember that, at the end of it all, you’ll be seeing Sybil and all your other friends again, and everything’ll be back to normal.”

Sybil! As if I wanted to see Sybil! I didn’t care if I never saw her again. At that precise moment I didn’t care if I never saw any of the Russells or the Bettanys or the Venableses again. All I cared about was that Mummy and Daddy were saying that I had to leave my home and my family and go to some nasty horrible foreign place that I knew next to nothing about and where we’d hardly know a soul and where the people wouldn’t even speak German. And how often would we be able to see Grandma and Grandpa and everyone else if we weren’t even living in the same country as them? “I’m not going,” I sobbed. “I’m not going. I’m staying here. You can see me when you come back to visit.”

“Gretchen, you’re being silly now, darling,” Daddy said. “We’re going to Guernsey and that’s that. I know that the thought of going to a strange place is scary, but I’m sure you’ll love it when we get there. Anyway, you can’t very well stay here all on your own, can you?”

I supposed that he had a point there. I couldn’t really stay at the Sonnalpe on my own. Besides, I didn’t really want to stay there. It had been horrible there over the last few months. Maybe I could go and live with Grandma and Grandpa, or Auntie Karen, I thought. They’d look after me. But I didn’t want to be separated from Mummy and Daddy and Auntie Rosa and Jakob. But then I didn’t want to be separated from everyone in Briesau either.

I thought deeply. “Do you promise that we’ll come back lots and lots to see everyone?” I asked. I didn’t know how far away Guernsey was, but I got the feeling that it would be too far for us to be able to come back every weekend; but maybe if we could come back every few weeks or so it wouldn’t be quite so bad.

Mummy and Daddy looked at each other again, and Mummy bit her lip and shook her head. And then finally I understood, I really understood, what going to Guernsey meant.

It felt like the end of my world.

#134:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2006 7:46 am
Poor little Gretchen, it was the end of her world. At least Marie was honest with her - but taking a terrible risk by being so. Crying or Very sad

Thanks Alison.

#135:  Author: LizBLocation: Oxon, England PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2006 9:56 am
Alison H wrote:
“Do you remember the man who came here and took Herr Doktor Maynard away? The Nazi man?”

I nodded. Remember him? I didn’t think I’d ever be able to forget him as long as I lived.

Poor kid - I hope she didn't have nightmares about him for years Sad

Thanks, Alison

#136:  Author: ChairLocation: Rochester, Kent PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2006 10:43 am
Thanks, Alison. I'm sorry that Gretchen has to go away from her Grandparents.

#137:  Author: FatimaLocation: Sunny Qatar PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2006 1:31 pm
I hope Grechen doesn't give the game away - I can imagine her saying that they don't really have an Uncle Pierre and that they're actually going to Guernsey!
Thanks Alison.

#138:  Author: leahbelleLocation: Kilmarnock PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2006 3:02 pm
This is so sad. Poor Gretchen. It must be heartbreaking to be uprooted from everything you know when you don;t understand why. Thanks, Alison.

#139:  Author: francesnLocation: away with the faeries PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2006 8:26 pm
Oh poor poor little Gretchen.

This is a wonderful drabble - thank you Alison

#140:  Author: TaraLocation: Malvern, Worcestershire PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2006 9:18 pm
How awful for her to be so torn apart.

I, too, hope she doesn't give the game away, particularly as she's so resistant to the whole idea.

Great drabble, Alison.

#141:  Author: ChangnoiLocation: Milwaukee, USA PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2006 9:36 pm
Poor girl. It is "the end of [her] world". But she seems to be written as such a precocious child that I think she knows how important it is not to give the game away. Also, she hates Nazis so much that I think her dislike of them would trump any desire to tell them (or anyone else) her family's real plans.

For someone so young, she seems to be very aware of the danger of her situation.


#142:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2006 9:46 pm
She's probably a lot more aware of what's going on than she should be at her age Laughing , but I couldn't make her any older at this point Rolling Eyes . Although I do like the idea of her being brighter than any of the Russell/Bettany kids!

#143:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Wed Sep 06, 2006 6:47 am
Mummy took my hand. “Gretchen … I know that this is hard for you, and it’s hard for me too; but you need to understand that, once we leave Austria, we won’t be coming back; not even to visit. Not for a very long time. Guernsey’s a long way away, but it’s not just because of that. If we were to come back into Austria, it might be difficult for us to leave again. So we won’t be coming back for as long as the Nazis are here, and neither I nor anyone else can tell you how long that’s going to be.”

So we were leaving because of the Nazis! “But what about Grandma and Grandpa and everyone else?” I demanded fearfully. “Won’t the Nazis get them if they stay here? What if the Nazis take them away?” I started to cry again. “Why aren’t they all coming with us? I don’t understand.”

Mummy sat down and put her arms round me. “Gretchen, listen to me, sweetheart. Nobody’s going to do anything to Grandma and Grandpa, or to Auntie Luise and Uncle Johann, or to anyone else we know. They’ll all be absolutely fine, and we’ll know that they’re fine because we’ll be hearing from them all the time. They’ll be sending us lots of letters and telling us all the news from Briesau. We’re not leaving because anyone’s coming to “get” anyone, honestly: there’s no need to be frightened. We’re going because of the Russells. They’ve decided to go to Guernsey, and we work for them so we have to go where they go.”

I’m quite sure that what she said, the reason she gave me for leaving, was only meant to make me feel better. But it made me feel worse. We were leaving our family and friends and everything we knew behind, and going to some strange place, just because of the Russells? That was what she’d just said, wasn’t it? “Why?” I demanded furiously. “Why do we have to go where they go? They’re not part of our family. They’re not our friends. Why can’t we stay here? Why can’t you and Daddy work for somebody else? Why do we have to go just because they’re going?”

“Because of the Russells.” How many times have I heard that over the years? How many times have I asked “Why?” and been given that as an answer. And I’ve never been able to accept it. I couldn’t then and I can’t now. But on that day, before I could vent my feelings about the Russells any further, something else suddenly struck me like a thunderbolt. They’d said that we were going now. I looked from one of them to the other. “Aren’t we even going to go and say goodbye?” I asked tearfully.

“Oh Gretchen,” Mummy said sadly. “That was what we were doing yesterday. We didn’t say anything to you and Jakob because we were afraid that one of you might tell someone. If anyone in Briesau, where people know that we work for the Russells and people know that we’ve got no relations in France, were to find out that we were going, they’d realise that it was for good … and that’s why we've got to leave now, before it’s light. We’ll have to walk the first part of the way. But once we’re away from Briesau, and we’re where no-one knows us, we’ll be getting on the train and then, God willing, we’ll soon be well on our way to Guernsey.”

I was only a small child and I suppose they’d have dragged me away kicking and screaming if they’d had to, although in the end I went along quietly like the obedient little girl I was supposed to be. And, before long, we were indeed well on our way - on our way away from Briesau, away from Tyrol and away from Austria, none of us with any idea at all of how long it might be before we’d be able to return. Months? Years?

I don’t think I even really knew what months and years were back then. In fact, all I felt I did know, when Daddy helped me off the boat after the rough, sea-tossed crossing that marked the end of our journey – a long and tiring but mercifully safe and unhindered journey - was that I was tired and seasick and I wanted to go home. And that, instead, we were going to somewhere called Bonne Maison. I didn’t even know what that meant. It was French and I didn’t understand a word of French.

Bride told me the next morning that it meant “Good House”. She said that that meant that we’d all be happy there. It was a silly thing to say, really. But, somehow, it made me feel better.

#144:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Wed Sep 06, 2006 7:27 am
Poor little girl - and can see where here resentment of the Russells sprang from.

Thanks Alison.

#145:  Author: LizBLocation: Oxon, England PostPosted: Wed Sep 06, 2006 7:35 am
Completely away from everything she's ever known. I'm glad Bride told her the house name and she got comfort from it - poor mite needs all the comfort she can get.

Thanks, Alison

#146:  Author: FatimaLocation: Sunny Qatar PostPosted: Wed Sep 06, 2006 8:52 am
Yes, I can understand how she is fed up with the 'because of the Russells' explanation. Thanks Alison.

#147:  Author: ChairLocation: Rochester, Kent PostPosted: Wed Sep 06, 2006 11:27 am
Thanks, Alison. I'm sorry that she has had to leave when she wants to stay with everyone else.

#148:  Author: JennieLocation: Cambridgeshire PostPosted: Wed Sep 06, 2006 12:39 pm
Thanks, Alison.

#149:  Author: leahbelleLocation: Kilmarnock PostPosted: Wed Sep 06, 2006 1:22 pm
How awful to be torn away from everything that's familiar to her and to have to start again in a strange new place.

#150:  Author: francesnLocation: away with the faeries PostPosted: Wed Sep 06, 2006 2:08 pm
Poor little Gretchen.

Thanks Alison

#151:  Author: JustJenLocation: sitting on the steps PostPosted: Wed Sep 06, 2006 6:20 pm
I just got caught up on this story Allison and I'm enjoying it very much.
Please update soon

#152:  Author: ChangnoiLocation: Milwaukee, USA PostPosted: Wed Sep 06, 2006 9:49 pm
How sweet of Bride re: the Bonne Maison comment! It's the kind of thing a kid would say and another kid would find comfort in. Although Peggy is always presented as "the motherly little soul", it looks like Bride is really the one looking out for Greta/Gretchen, at least.

Thanks, Alison!


#153:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Thu Sep 07, 2006 6:48 am
Thanks for the comments Very Happy .

A lot happened during our first seven or eight months in Guernsey. In some ways, it wasn’t all that different from being at the Sonnalpe. The Herr Doktor arrived at Bonne Maison a few weeks after we did, and the San reopened nearby. Mummy and Daddy and Auntie Rosa did their work as they’d done before, and Jakob and I spent most of our time in the nursery with the other children as we’d done before.

I was old enough to be starting school in the September, but I was terrified at the prospect of being sent somewhere where I wouldn’t know anyone and where, although I spoke English well enough, everything would be strange and foreign. However, it had been decided that Fraulein Joey, Fraulein Grizel and Fraulein Rosalie would teach the Bettany, Russell and Venables children at home, as none of the local schools met with Frau Doktor Russell’s approval, and after Fraulein Rosalie heard me voicing my fears about school to Mummy it was agreed that I could attend lessons with Sybil and Jackie. (Much to Sybil’s disgust!) When I started lessons I found that I thoroughly enjoyed them; and I was surprised but pleased when all three Frauleins said that I was a much quicker learner than either of my two “classmates”.

So things could have been much worse. I didn’t have to go out amongst strangers, and I liked our little nursery “school”. And Auntie Rosa, Fraulein Rosalie and Fraulein Grizel took us out for walks and picnics when the weather was nice, so we weren’t stuck inside all the time. Even better, not long after we’d arrived in Guernsey Cousin Anna and Auntie Karen arrived there too. Auntie Karen went to work for Gillian and Joyce Linton - two old girls of the Chalet School, who were living nearby - and Fraulein Grizel who was sharing a house with them. And Cousin Anna went to work for Herr Doktor Maynard and Fraulein Joey, after the two of them got married on a beautiful Guernsey autumn day.

The wedding helped to cheer all of us up after everything that had happened. It was a strange wedding in some ways, because it took place in a Catholic church even though Fraulein Joey was a Protestant. That was because Herr Doktor Maynard was a Catholic. It was all a bit confusing. One of the things that I found very difficult to get used to in Guernsey was the fact that most of the people there were Protestants. After living in Tyrol, where almost everyone was Catholic, being somewhere where most of the churches were Protestant, the religious images which I was used to seeing in public places just weren’t there, and festivals such as the Feast of the Assumption passed without being marked, took a lot of getting used to.

Daisy, Peggy, Bride, Primula and Sybil were all bridesmaids. It was only a small wedding, but Fraulein Joey had promised them months ago that they could be bridesmaids and I suppose that she didn’t want to disappoint them. Robin was the chief bridesmaid, and Fraulein Grizel was a maid of honour. For the first time in a long time, no-one looked sad and no-one looked worried. It was a wonderful, happy day.

Then, about two months after the wedding, God sent a new baby to Bonne Maison – a little sister for David and Sybil. She was named Josephine, after Fraulein Joey – or Frau Doktor Maynard, as she now was - but everyone called her Josette. She was a very pretty baby, with dark hair and pink and white skin. I thought she was lovely, and I wished that God would send me a little sister as well.

There were some days when I was unhappy and I cried, because I missed Grandma and Grandpa and my aunts and uncles and cousins so badly and I had no way of knowing how long it might be before I’d be able to see them again. And I missed the Tiernsee as well. We got letters from home, but it wasn’t the same. At one point I did hope that we’d be able to go back, because everyone kept talking about the Nazis doing something in Munchen and so I hoped that maybe they’d left Tyrol and gone back to the other side of the Tiern Pass, but it turned out that they hadn’t. And sometimes I wished that I could meet other children, because Sybil was never very nice to me, Jackie was always so quiet and there was no-one else at Bonne Maison who was my age. But, all in all, life in Guernsey wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d been expecting.

Then it all started to go wrong.

#154:  Author: LizBLocation: Oxon, England PostPosted: Thu Sep 07, 2006 7:41 am
I was about to say 'I'm glad things are getting a bit better for her'. Then I read the last line!!!

Thanks, Alison

#155:  Author: leahbelleLocation: Kilmarnock PostPosted: Thu Sep 07, 2006 10:28 am
LizB wrote:
I was about to say 'I'm glad things are getting a bit better for her'. Then I read the last line!!!

Thanks, Alison

Me too! Such a shame things have to get more difficult for her. Thanks, Alison!

#156:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Thu Sep 07, 2006 10:42 am
Poor Gretchen - she's got so many changes still to come. Crying or Very sad

Thanks Alison.

#157:  Author: FatimaLocation: Sunny Qatar PostPosted: Thu Sep 07, 2006 1:12 pm
Now I'm worried - what went wrong?

#158:  Author: ChairLocation: Rochester, Kent PostPosted: Thu Sep 07, 2006 3:04 pm
Thanks, Alison. I wonder what is going to go wrong.

#159:  Author: EilidhLocation: North Lanarkshire PostPosted: Thu Sep 07, 2006 3:21 pm
Thanks Alison - just read this from the start and it's great. Looking forward to more!

#160:  Author: TaraLocation: Malvern, Worcestershire PostPosted: Thu Sep 07, 2006 10:02 pm
Glad that Gretchen's intelligence is recognised.

Also wondering what went wrong. Anything to do with Sybil's jealousy of Josette, I wonder?

#161:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Fri Sep 08, 2006 6:55 am
Sorry this has got a bit miserable - just trying to follow what we're told about events during the "missing bit" of Exile Rolling Eyes . Hopefully things'll cheer up once they get to Armiford!

The first problem was that Sybil didn’t like the new baby. Well, actually, I don’t think that she objected to anything about little Josette herself. She just didn’t like the way that everyone who came to the house was more interested in the baby than they were in her; and she certainly didn’t like the way that the baby took up so much of the Frau Doktor’s time. A few times, Auntie Rosa caught her leaning over little Josette’s cot, prodding and even pinching her. Poor Auntie Rosa didn’t know whether to tell the Herr Doktor and the Frau Doktor or not, but eventually she decided that she had to.

Instead of asking her why she was doing it, the Herr Doktor gave Sybil a stern talking to, and Frau Doktor Maynard – although I don’t know what it had to do with her – told Sybil that she was a very wicked little girl to hurt her baby sister. Of course, that made Sybil feel as if the whole world was against her; and she took it out on the rest of us. She kept telling me that the servants’ daughter had no business having lessons with her and Jackie, and that it was pointless me learning anything anyway because all I was going to end up doing was being a housemaid, and she was constantly coming out with all that “not belonging” stuff when speaking to her cousins. David would tell her to shut up and stop being so horrible to everyone, but then she’d end up quarrelling with him too. All in all, it sometimes made for a very nasty atmosphere indeed.

Then we all got chickenpox. I’m not sure how it started, but the whole lot of us, from Rix and Peggy down to Jakob, came down with it en masse. Only baby Josette escaped, probably because she didn’t spend much time with the rest of us. None of us had it very badly, but we were all itchy and irritable and none of us liked being cooped up in the house, so nerves got very frayed until we were all better and the quarantine period was over.

All of that seemed bad at the time, but then something far, far worse happened. Frau Venables hadn’t been very well ever since she’d come to Guernsey. I once heard Herr Doktor Russell saying that he’d never forgive himself for letting her bear the heavy responsibility of taking eight young children halfway across Europe with only Fraulein Rosalie to help her, but the Frau Doktor said that he shouldn’t blame himself and that Frau Venables had never really recovered from everything that had happened to her in Australia. I knew that Daisy and Primula’s daddy and three brothers had died in Australia, and I thought how terrible it must have been for Frau Venables and I felt very sad. I didn’t really understand why either that or the journey away from Austria should have made her ill, but she got weaker and weaker and sometimes I felt that she didn’t even want to get better.

It was decided that Daisy and Primula should go away to England. Fraulein Rosalie took them to stay with her father and stepmother. The day they went was horrendous. They both cried and cried and said that they didn’t want to go. “Mummy won’t be here when we get back, will she?” Daisy sobbed. “You’re sending us away and we’ll never see her again. I’m not a baby: I know what’s happening. I’m the same age as you were when your mummy and daddy died, Auntie Madge. How would you have felt if you hadn’t seen them for weeks before it happened? Remember what happened when Princess Balbini died? She wanted Mario and Maria with her at the end and no-one could find them. What if Mummy wants Primula and me and we aren’t even in Guernsey? Please, please don’t make us go.”

But Herr Doktor Russell said that it was Frau Venables’s wish that Daisy and Primula be sent away, and so off they went. They were gone for over three months. When Frau Venables’s condition worsened, David, Sybil, Bride and Jackie went to stay at Les Rosiers, and Peggy and Rix went to stay with Fraulein Grizel and the Lintons. So only Jakob and I, and baby Josette, were in the nursery with Auntie Rosa when Mummy came in and told us that the angels had taken Frau Venables to heaven. She said that we weren’t to be upset, because now Frau Venables wouldn’t be sad or in pain any more; but it was the first time that anyone I’d known well had died and I couldn’t make sense of it. How could someone be there one minute and gone the next? I didn’t understand any of it.

#162:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Fri Sep 08, 2006 7:20 am
Definitely don't understand why Madge would do that to Daisy - she knew about the Balbinis, she knew the age Daisy was would have been the time when she needed her mother. Bet if the school had been up and running it wouldn't have happened - Miss Annersley wouldn't have allowed Daisy to go through the same pain she experienced. Crying or Very sad

Like the little bit about not understanding why Frau Doktor Maynard spoke to Sybil! Wink

Thanks Alison.

#163:  Author: LizBLocation: Oxon, England PostPosted: Fri Sep 08, 2006 7:35 am
Poor Daisy and Primula - how heartbreaking for them Crying or Very sad

Thanks, Alison

#164:  Author: FatimaLocation: Sunny Qatar PostPosted: Fri Sep 08, 2006 7:35 am
How cruel to send Daisy away; although maybe Mrs Venables preferred the girls to remember her as she was, not as she became before she died. Thanks Alison.

#165:  Author: ChairLocation: Rochester, Kent PostPosted: Fri Sep 08, 2006 9:52 am
Thanks, Alison. I'm sorry that Daisy and Primula were sent away and they weren't able to see their mother during the last months of her life.

#166:  Author: leahbelleLocation: Kilmarnock PostPosted: Fri Sep 08, 2006 11:00 am
That's so sad for Daisy and Primula. Daisy was at just an age to be really affected by being sent away. I wish she'd been allowed to stay, even if Primula had had to go away.

#167:  Author: ChangnoiLocation: Milwaukee, USA PostPosted: Fri Sep 08, 2006 5:32 pm
Poor Daisy! I can understand sending Primula to stay with someone else at her age, but when Daisy is old enough to realize what's going on and asks categorically to stay, she needs to be allowed to stay.

Poor girl.


#168:  Author: patmacLocation: Yorkshire England PostPosted: Fri Sep 08, 2006 9:32 pm
I've just read this from the start and it's excellent. You've really caught the confusion of a little girl and how a small child hears snippets and puts 2 and 2 together - sometimes making 5 Confused It must have happened to so many children at that time as people were uprooted in so many countries.

The interplay with the Russells et al is very realistic as well. By their own standards and the expectations of Marie and André, they treated their servants well but Gretchen is a new generation and I can imagine she would resent the inferior status of her parents as she grew up.

thank you Alison.

#169:  Author: TaraLocation: Malvern, Worcestershire PostPosted: Fri Sep 08, 2006 10:29 pm
Such a sad lack of understanding from good people, trying to do their best. From the lack of interest in why Sybil is behaving as she does (admittedly it's scary to have your youngster hurting the baby) to the cruelty of sending Daisy and Primula away, especially as Daisy is so clear-sighted about why she needs to stay. Poor kids. Sad

#170:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Sat Sep 09, 2006 7:17 am
I don't really understand why EBD decided that Daisy and Primula should be sent away, especially after the comments about the Balbinis and about Hilda in New Confused . Anyway, on to the next bit! Thanks for the comments Very Happy .

It was Frau Doktor Russell who helped me to accept what had happened. She said that, when someone died, they fell asleep and woke up with God. I thought about that a lot. It made sense to me, and I found it a comfort. I think she said the same thing to Daisy and Primula when they came home; but Daisy in particular found it very hard to come to terms with losing her mummy. She was still very upset about being sent away to England when Frau Venables was dying, and I think that that was why she decided that she didn’t want to live at Bonne Maison any more. She asked if she could go to stay at Les Rosiers, and eventually both the Russells and the Maynards agreed to let her.

It all made me feel a little bit guilty about being upset at not being able to see my family in Briesau. At least they were still alive, and we heard from them regularly. Frau Venables was gone for ever. Looking back on it years later, I supposed that the shared experiences of everything that had happened at the Sonnalpe, and of then leaving the Sonnalpe and making that long, difficult journey to Guernsey, had, despite our different backgrounds, ages and personalities, created a bond in our little circle; one that was shared by all of us and could never be shared by anyone else. That one member of that circle was gone and was never coming back was something that we all found very difficult to get used to.

Gradually, though, things started to return to something like normal. Or, at least, they did for most people. Gillian and Joyce Linton became friendly with a lady called Miss La Touche, who looked after a big family of children – brothers, sisters and cousins – and, before long, all of them were introduced to all of us. Daisy made friends with the eldest of the girls, whose name was Beth Chester, and Bride made friends with Beth’s sister Nancy and their cousin Julie Lucy. In fact, the two family groups all got on very well, and soon the Venables, Russell and Bettany children were being invited round to play with their new friends fairly often.

Jakob and I were never included in these invitations. I’m sure that no-one meant to be rude or unkind by excluding us. It just didn’t occur to them to do otherwise. We were the children of the servants, after all. Mrs Chester in particular seemed very pleased that her children, especially Beth, were making “nice” friends - I heard her say so several times - and I supposed she thought that Jakob and I couldn’t be classed as “nice” because of who our family were. So the other children would go out and we’d stay at Bonne Maison without them. I suppose that there’d always been a gulf between them and us, but now it became far more obvious, and far wider.

And then the gulf widened even further – because the Chalet School reopened. It reopened in a building called Sarres. The place was quite a mess to start with, but two men recommended by Mrs Chester did a lot of repairs to it and made it much better. Then the place was cleaned from top to bottom and all the floors were polished – by Mummy, Auntie Rosa and Cousin Anna. Sometimes I wondered if Frau Doktor Russell, Fraulein Rosalie and the others even knew how to clean things. And some of the teachers and girls who’d been with the school in Tyrol came back, and Auntie Karen took up her old job as school cook.

Sybil and Jackie were to go to the school Kindergarten, of course. But what about me? It did occur to me that maybe I could go there too. Of course, I knew that servants’ children didn’t usually go to the Chalet School – but Biddy went there, and her mummy had been a lady’s maid and her stepfather a chauffeur. I didn’t understand all the ins and outs of it, but I thought that maybe if they could make an exception for her then they could make one for me too.

I’d always assumed that the school’s admission criteria were based on social background. It was only when Daddy gently explained to me that my going there just wasn’t an option, and why, that I realised that, except under very exceptional circumstances, you couldn’t go there unless you paid. I didn’t mention the subject again after that. I knew even at that age that we had very little money.

It was decided that the school should open at the end of August, rather than in September when the new academic year would start at the other local schools; and Mummy was kept so busy with all the cleaning and the other preparations that the issue of a school for me was rather left in abeyance. The new Chalet School opened on August 31st. Even I had to admit that its reopening after over a year was quite exciting, and everyone else at Bonne Maison and Les Rosiers was thrilled almost beyond words.

#171:  Author: FatimaLocation: Sunny Qatar PostPosted: Sat Sep 09, 2006 7:30 am
Yes, I can see why she'd think she could go to the school if Biddy had been there. After all, she's smart enough to go.

#172:  Author: leahbelleLocation: Kilmarnock PostPosted: Sat Sep 09, 2006 11:25 am
Such a shame she couldn't have gone to school. It might have helped take her mind off leaving Austria.

#173:  Author: kerenLocation: Israel PostPosted: Sat Sep 09, 2006 6:46 pm
So where will they send her, I mean she has to go to school?
and whose problem is it?

#174:  Author: TaraLocation: Malvern, Worcestershire PostPosted: Sat Sep 09, 2006 10:01 pm
Aaagh! How horrid! I feel so cross that this bright little girl, who is so closely connected with the families who run the school (in every sense), can't go there because they have no money.

I suppose she will have to go (horrors!) to the village school. Which is fine, it's just not fair. Sorry. Am steaming!

#175:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Sun Sep 10, 2006 8:17 am
The euphoria lasted for little more than a day. The school reopened on a Thursday. On the Friday afternoon, I realised that something was very wrong. All the adults were looking anxious, and I kept hearing the word “Poland” mentioned. I tried to remember where I’d heard of Poland before, and then I remembered that it was the country that Robin’s mummy had come from. I had absolutely no idea why everyone should be talking about it all of a sudden, but clearly there was something going on; and from the looks on people’s faces and the tones of their voices it was obvious that it was something bad.

“Do you know why everyone’s talking about Poland?” I asked Rix when he and the others got back from school that evening. Rix generally liked to give the impression that he knew everything. He didn’t fool me for a minute, but I thought he might know more than I did about whatever was happening. However, he shook his head. “Not sure. I know what you mean, though. I heard some of the mistresses at school talking about it. There’s definitely something up. I’ll go and ask Uncle Jem: he’ll know all about it.”

“He might not tell you,” I said doubtfully; but Rix looked at me scornfully and said that he wasn’t a baby and that of course his uncle would tell him. It turned out that he was right. The Herr Doktor came back to the nursery with him, and explained briefly but carefully that Poland had been invaded by Nazi Germany.

He looked very solemn and worried. However, when he’d gone, Bride got the nursery atlas out, we all pored over it to see where Poland was, and we saw that it seemed to be a very long way away. We were terribly sorry for the poor people there, of course – the very word “Nazi” was enough to strike fear into the hearts of every one of us after what had happened before we’d left Austria - but we honestly had no idea just what the invasion meant for Britain and for all of Europe.

We still hadn’t on the Saturday, when we heard the word “ultimatum” being used. Peggy looked it up in the dictionary, but all it said was “final statement of terms”, and none of were sure what that meant or what it had to do with Poland. We wondered who was the best person to ask about it, but then we got distracted by Auntie Rosa announcing that we were all going out for a nice long walk because we really ought to be making the most of the nice weather before autumn set in. She popped her head into the kitchen to speak to Mummy before we left. “We’re just going out for a walk, Marie,” she called.

Normally Mummy would just have called back something like “All right” or “See you later”, but on this occasion she stopped what she was doing and she looked worried. “You won’t go too far, will you?” she asked. “And, Rosa … whatever else you do, remember to speak English all the time. No German. Not in public. Not with things the way they are.”

Now I began to feel frightened. Frightened and confused. With what “things” the way they were? Now what was going to happen?

On Sunday, September 3rd, just before eleven o’clock in the morning, Herr Doktor Russell summoned us all into the drawing room (as the Saal was called in Guernsey) and put the wireless on. He told us that the British Prime Minister, Mr Chamberlain, was about to speak.

Then Mr Chamberlain’s voice came over the wireless set into the drawing room.

"I have to tell you now that no such undertaking has been received and consequently this country is at war with Germany."

#176:  Author: leahbelleLocation: Kilmarnock PostPosted: Sun Sep 10, 2006 10:36 am
How scared she must still have been. Poor little girl. Thanks, Alison.

#177:  Author: francesnLocation: away with the faeries PostPosted: Sun Sep 10, 2006 2:05 pm
Poor poor little Gretchen.

She's going to have a pretty hard time at the village school in the current political climate. Especially with such a German name. Confused I don't see why they can't make an exception and send her to the Chalet.

Thanks Alison

#178:  Author: FatimaLocation: Sunny Qatar PostPosted: Sun Sep 10, 2006 2:21 pm
I wonder how much English they spoke; and they were sure to have German sounding accents. Poor girl, she won't be popular at school if she gets there.

#179:  Author: MiriamLocation: Jerusalem, Israel PostPosted: Sun Sep 10, 2006 5:08 pm
THe older membaers of her family would probably have had an accent, but I'm not sure that she would. She did grow up in the nursery at Die Rosen, along with childern who spoke english as thier first language, and hearing it spoken by adults all the time. Children pick up accents very easily, and her english was probably good. What is likely to be much mnmoer problematic is being called Gretchen.

It makes a lot of sense really for Andre to have adopted a french sounding name.

#180:  Author: ChairLocation: Rochester, Kent PostPosted: Sun Sep 10, 2006 6:28 pm
Thanks, Alison. I'm sorry that Gretchen didn't have the chance to go to the CS. I hope that things won't go badly for them in Guernsey.

#181:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Sun Sep 10, 2006 8:34 pm
Poor girl - not really knowing what it all means, yet knowing it means trouble.

Thanks Alison

#182:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Mon Sep 11, 2006 6:47 am
I'm leaving going to school until they get to Armishire as the poor kid seems to have enough to cope with as it is Rolling Eyes !

When I understood that Britain, and the rest of the British Empire, and France, were all at war with Germany, my first thought was that very soon the Nazis would be driven out of Austria and we’d be able to go home. But then Mummy and Daddy sat me down and explained that the war would probably go on for a very long time, and that there was no knowing for certain just what might happen.

Then they explained that, for as long as the war lasted and Austria remained part of the Third Reich, it would be virtually impossible for us to communicate with the people at home. We would know nothing, nothing at all, of what was happening to Grandma and Grandpa and all my aunties, uncles and cousins until the war was over.

At first I said that they were making it up. I knew that they weren’t, but I didn’t know what else to say. I shouted and I cried and I went and threw myself down on my bed and refused to leave my room, and I threw a book at Mummy when she came in to try to talk to me. Then she started to cry too, and I realised that it was just as bad for her, and I put my arms round her neck and we cried together.

It was the same for the other Austrians living nearby. There were a few of us. Me. Jakob. Mummy and Daddy. Auntie Rosa. Cousin Anna. Auntie Karen. Maria Marani, the Head Girl of the Chalet School. Frau Mieders, the school’s cookery teacher. The Count and Countess von und zu Wertheim, the Countess’s sister Frau von Gluck, and their children, who'd all come to live in Guernsey. From noblemen to servants, we all had to accept that contact with our friends and relatives at home had been severed, and that there was nothing we could do about it.

We also had to accept that, because we were Austrians and Austria was part of the German Reich, some people would think that we might want Germany to win the war. Mummy and Daddy said that, because of that, it might be best for us to try to keep a low profile for the time being. So they decided against sending me to the local school, and decided that I should have lessons at home for the time being, with Auntie Rosa.

It wasn’t ideal. I loved Auntie Rosa; but she wasn’t a very good teacher, and sometimes when I asked her questions she didn’t seem to be very sure of the answers. And she had Jakob and Josette to look after too. However, there wasn’t really anyone else. Both Fraulein Rosalie and Fraulein Grizel were working at the school now, and we weren’t seeing much of Frau Doktor Maynard. She hadn’t been going out much lately. It was apparently because she was “busy”, but busy doing what I didn’t know.

Within hours of war being declared, we’d heard that a British passenger ship, the Athenia, had been sunk by the Germans. Over a hundred people had been killed. It was terrible. Soon afterwards, Frau Doktor Russell explained to the Bettany children that, because the war had made the seas dangerous even for passenger ships, Herr and Frau Bettany and their two new babies would probably have to stay in India until it was all over. Although at least Jakob and I had our mummy and daddy with us, I sort of understood how Rix, Peggy, Bride and Jackie might feel, and when Peggy cried about it in the nursery I cried too. But at least they could still get letters to and from India. We had no idea at all what was happening to our family in Austria.

British troops were sent to France. One of them was Herr Doktor Maynard, who’d “joined up” along with a lot of other men from Guernsey. We were very worried about him, and we all wrote letters for the Russells to send to him. Jakob couldn’t write yet, so I put “from Gretchen and Jakob” at the bottom of mine instead of just “from Gretchen”. The Herr Doktor wrote back to say that it was lovely to hear from us all and that he was quite all right. It was so frightening, though. Only a few weeks earlier, he’d been safe at Les Rosiers, and now anything could be happening to him.

We had to have things called gas masks, in case the Germans dropped poisonous gas on us. You had to take them everywhere. All the cinemas and theatres in Guernsey were closed down, and the lights that helped you to see where you were going if you were out in the dark weren’t put on any more. We had to put dark cloth over the windows at night, and a bossy man came round to check that we were doing it properly. That was so that any German pilots flying over Guernsey at night wouldn’t be able to see where they were going. I was terrified at the thought of German planes flying overhead and dropping bombs and poisonous gas on us, but I didn’t see any or hear any

In fact, we didn’t really see anything out of the ordinary. Within a couple of months, the initial panic had died down and life was pretty much going on as normal.

#183:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Mon Sep 11, 2006 8:31 am
The initial calm before the sttorm - poor Gretchen - understandable that she would feel so upset.

Thanks Alison.

#184:  Author: kerenLocation: Israel PostPosted: Mon Sep 11, 2006 9:30 am
This is very interesting
I do not realy have time to comment but read it every day
I like how you are telling the story from a different point of view, and not missing any details.
What about internment of enemy aliens........................

#185:  Author: LizBLocation: Oxon, England PostPosted: Mon Sep 11, 2006 12:43 pm
This is absolutely gripping.

Thanks, Alison

#186:  Author: ChairLocation: Rochester, Kent PostPosted: Mon Sep 11, 2006 1:01 pm
Thanks, Alison. It is really interesting to see this from the point of view of a girl so young.

#187:  Author: FatimaLocation: Sunny Qatar PostPosted: Mon Sep 11, 2006 2:22 pm
Thanks Alison. I feel so sorry for Peggy, crying when she knew her parents couldn't come home. You never really get a sense of that from the books, but she must have missed them so.

#188:  Author: TaraLocation: Malvern, Worcestershire PostPosted: Mon Sep 11, 2006 10:13 pm
I was wondering about internment, too.

Love Gretchen wondering what Jo is 'busy' doing - and signing her letters from little Jakob as well as herself.

Thanks, Alison.

#189:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Tue Sep 12, 2006 6:51 am
There was no internment on Guernsey until May 1940, by which time they'd already left for Armishire. According to some stuff I was reading on the internet on Friday afternoon when I had nothing to do at work Wink !

On November 5th, something happened that almost made us forget about the war altogether. Three babies arrived at Les Rosiers, all at once. I knew that sometimes two babies arrived at the same time, but I’d never known three be born together before. They were all girls, and they were named Len (stupid name for a girl, I thought!), Connie and Margot. Daisy and Primula were very pleased that one of the babies was to be called Margot, because that had been Frau Venables’s name. It was sad that Herr Doktor Maynard wasn’t there to see them when they were first born; but he was allowed to come home soon afterwards, even though it wasn’t for long.

Whilst he was home, we got a big surprise - three people we’d known in Austria turned up! With Rufus, Frau Doktor Maynard’s dog who’d had to be left behind when we’d come to Guernsey. They were Herr von Gluck, Herr Doktor von Ahlen who’d worked at the San, and Fraulein Mensch who’d been in Frau Doktor Maynard’s year at the Chalet School. And it turned out that Fraulein Mensch and Herr Doktor von Ahlen were now married! I was pleased about that. They’d both always seemed really nice whenever they’d come to Die Rosen; and they seemed happy together.

I was shocked when I actually saw the Herr Doktor, though. He’d gone very thin, and his hair had started going grey. Herr von Gluck was the same, but I’d only met him a couple of times before and didn’t really remember him, so I thought that maybe he’d always looked like that. Herr Doktor von Ahlen certainly hadn’t, though. I was quite upset about it. “He must have been very poorly,” I said sadly in the nursery a few days later. “He looks awful.”

“Oh, that’s not because he’s been poorly,” David said. “Keferl von Gluck told me about it. He said that his dad won’t say much about it, but the Nazis put both him – Keferl’s dad, I mean - and Dr Bruno in some really nasty sort of prison called a concentration camp. They’re only here because they managed to escape. Keferl said that his dad said that…”

“David, shut up,” Bride said suddenly.

“What’s up with you?” David glared at her indignantly. Then Bride looked pointedly at me, and he looked awkward. “Oh right. Sorry. I didn’t think about that. Er, anyway, they’re all right now; and they’re talking about joining the French Foreign Legion, like something out of a story, and …”

“What were you going to say?” I asked suspiciously. “Before. Tell me.”

David looked at the floor. “Keferl said that his dad said that some really bad things are happening in Austria,” he muttered. “Only to some people, though. I’m sure all your family’ll be all right. I mean, nobody’s going to bother anyone in Briesau, are they? It’s just a little village. Nothing much ever happens there.”

“Too right,” Rix added. “They’ll be okay there. Anyway, the Nazis are hardly going to want to put everyone in prison, are they? They’re going to need men to go in their Army and Navy and Air Force; so they won’t want people locked away. Everything’ll be fine.”

How had that never occurred to me before? I didn’t know; but somehow it hadn’t. Of course the Nazis would want people to go in their Armed Forces. Grandpa was too old, but my uncles weren’t. They were all the same sorts of age as the men who were joining up in Guernsey. Where were they now? And what on earth was a concentration camp? And just what exactly might Herr von Gluck mean by “really bad things”?

“Rix, you idiot!” I heard Peggy exclaim. “What did you have to say that for? If that’s your idea of helping then don’t bother in future. And you’re even worse, David. Of all the stupid things to say! Oh, come on Gretchen; don’t cry. Your family’ll be safe.”

“How do you know?” I sobbed. “Anything might have happened to them and I wouldn’t even know.” I put my head in my hands, and I cried and cried, until eventually Auntie Rosa came in, saw the state I was in and took me off for a mug of hot milk and early bed.

By the next morning I’d calmed down. And, like everyone else who felt as if their lives had been turned upside down by the war - children and adults alike - I got on with things. We didn’t have any other choice, did we?

#190:  Author: ChairLocation: Rochester, Kent PostPosted: Tue Sep 12, 2006 9:28 am
Thanks, Alison. I'm sorry that Gretchen had to find out in that way.

#191:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Tue Sep 12, 2006 9:33 am
What a terrible way to find out - and of course the children wouldn't automatically think about what the conditions would mean for Gretchen's family - that Bride and Peggy did is very impressive. Liked Gretchen's little aside about Len! Also interesting that she noticed how much Bruno von Ahlen had changed.

Thanks Alison.

#192:  Author: francesnLocation: away with the faeries PostPosted: Tue Sep 12, 2006 10:34 am
Crying or Very sad Poor little Gretchen - worrying about her family

Thanks Alison

#193:  Author: LizBLocation: Oxon, England PostPosted: Tue Sep 12, 2006 11:03 am
How horrible for her Crying or Very sad

Thanks, Alison

#194:  Author: MiaLocation: London PostPosted: Tue Sep 12, 2006 11:06 am
Thanks Alison, poor little mite! Crying or Very sad

#195:  Author: FatimaLocation: Sunny Qatar PostPosted: Tue Sep 12, 2006 1:24 pm
That's another worry for her, about her uncles joining the army or navy. Thanks Alison.

#196:  Author: MiaLocation: London PostPosted: Tue Sep 12, 2006 1:39 pm
Please excuse my ignorance, but would Austrians serve in Austrian regiments within the Germany army or would they have been assimilated into a 'Great Reich' army or something different entirely? I suppose Austria doesn't actually have a Navy of its own!

Edited for clarity - I hope!

#197:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Tue Sep 12, 2006 3:02 pm
Mia wrote:
Please excuse my ignorance, but would Austrians serve in Austrian regiments within the Germany army or would they have been assimilated into a 'Great Reich' army or something different entirely? I suppose Austria doesn't actually have a Navy of its own!

Edited for clarity - I hope!

Wasn't Captain Von Trapp a Naval Captain?

#198:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Tue Sep 12, 2006 3:15 pm
Yes, Captain von Trapp was a naval captain, but he'd served in the old Imperial Navy - quote from Liesl in the film Wink , "he was even decorated by the Emperor" - before 1918.

Austria, AFAIK, hasn't had a navy since the dismemberment of the Austro-Hungarian Empire - the ports ended up in Slovenia, Croatia and Italy, which I think was done deliberately to deny Austria direct access to the sea, so it hasn't really got anywhere to put a Navy, so to speak!

Not very well up on anything that happened after the First World War Laughing so not sure if Austria had its own army from 1939 to 1945 or not. Hmm, must check that!

#199:  Author: MiaLocation: London PostPosted: Tue Sep 12, 2006 3:27 pm
Thanks. I knew about the Austro-Hungarian Navy and the corridor to the sea - Admiral Horthy was in the same situation as Captain VT, how interesting! - but really wondered if when you wrote that Gretchen's uncles could join the navy if they actually could - if for example they reformed it? Sorry to be a picky annoyance! Embarassed I should look it up myself.

ETA: See how your fine drabble has got me all interested!

#200:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Tue Sep 12, 2006 4:03 pm
I just tried putting "Austria armed forces Anschluss" into an search engine and it came up with a load of testimonies from Nuremberg war crimes trials Shocked ! I went to Nuremberg once en route to somewhere else and the place seriously gave me the creeps! Anyway, the answer is that the Austrian armed forces were merged (for lack of a better word) with the German armed forces after the Anschluss, which is what I thought. I don't know how Austrians went about joining up and if they could choose which force they joined or were just conscripted into whichever one the authorities said, though!

*Has worrying images of Gretchen's uncles waiting in Bremerhaven for Christopher Plummer Rolling Eyes .*

#201:  Author: MiriamLocation: Jerusalem, Israel PostPosted: Tue Sep 12, 2006 6:56 pm
Mia wrote:
Please excuse my ignorance, but would Austrians serve in Austrian regiments within the Germany army or would they have been assimilated into a 'Great Reich' army or something different entirely? I suppose Austria doesn't actually have a Navy of its own!

Yes, Captain von Trapp was a naval captain, but he'd served in the old Imperial Navy - quote from Liesl in the film , "he was even decorated by the Emperor" - before 1918.

He was also invited to take command of one of the new submarines, and help in establishing a submarine base 'in the Adriatic Sea, and later in the Mediteranean'. It was this that made it clear to him that the Nazis were definately planning on war, and his rejection of this offer was a significant factor in thier decision to flee Austria. (This is from the book, which is a lot more historically accurate than the film.)

To get back to the original question, this would probably indicate that the Nazis considered that there was no such entity as Austria any more, and thise men would have been in the German Army, or maybe the Army of the Reich.

#202:  Author: TaraLocation: Malvern, Worcestershire PostPosted: Tue Sep 12, 2006 10:14 pm
I think this is what EBD would describe as 'going deep'!

You certainly make us think, Alison. Thank you.

#203:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Wed Sep 13, 2006 6:53 am
Next stop Armishire ...

Christmas came and went; then New Year; then my birthday. And it was announced that people would no longer be allowed to decide exactly what food they bought. Things called ration books were introduced; and Mummy explained to me that from now on each person would only be allowed so much of certain types of food. She and Cousin Anna, and especially Auntie Karen who had a whole school to cook for, were very worried about it at first; but the food they made still tasted delicious to me, and I hoped that other people appreciated just how hard they worked to keep us all well-fed.

Most of the fighting still seemed to be a long way away. Poland had now been taken over by the Nazis, and the Soviet Union had invaded a country called Finland. But then a German plane crashed on to Guernsey, not far from the school, and that seemed to change everything. Suddenly all the adults were going on and on about how close Guernsey was to France. And then, one evening, Herr and Frau Doktor Russell and Mummy and Daddy all came to the nursery and said that they had something very important and serious to say to us all. We’d heard that before.

We’d been in Guernsey for less than two years, and now we were told that we’d have to leave it and go somewhere else. And so would the school and the San. In case the Nazis came to Guernsey. But we’d come to Guernsey because they weren’t supposed to be able to get anywhere near there. What if they came to the next place we went to as well? We’d have to move again. Were we just going to have to keep on and on moving, again and again, to stop them from getting us? What if one day they were everywhere? What would happen to us then?

I felt a bit better when the Herr Doktor said that the place we were going to was well away from the Continent. It was a village called Howells. The name was Welsh, he explained, but the village was actually in the county of Armishire, in England. I was actually quite excited about the thought of going to England. I’d never heard of Guernsey before the Russells decided to go there, but England was somewhere that I’d heard loads and loads about. Even Sybil was excited about it. It was strange – although she and David never thought of themselves as being anything other than English, neither of them had ever actually set foot in their “home” country before.

We tried to imagine what it would be like, and we were so busy comparing ideas about it all that we completely forgot that we’d been told that the seas were dangerous – until the time came to get on the boat. Then we got very worried; but thankfully the journey went all right. We didn’t even see any German boats. Mummy kept feeling sick, which worried me because it wasn’t like her to be ill; but she was soon all right once we were on dry land again.

Auntie Rosa told us all to try to get some sleep once we were on the train to Armiford - the nearest city to Howells - but none of us were tired, so we spent the journey playing I Spy and looking out of the windows to see if we could see anything interesting. I was thrilled when we finally got there: I’d never seen a city before, apart from one brief visit to Innsbruck when I’d been too little to notice very much. It looked lovely. There was a beautiful cathedral, although of course it was a Church of England cathedral and not a Catholic one. And, as we drove away from Armiford towards Howells, we could see some mountains. They weren’t nearly as big as the Alps, but they were still mountains.

The area didn’t look too bad at all, really. Nor did the new house, which was called the Round House. It was just that it was all strange. We’d only just got used to Guernsey, and now we were going to have to get used to somewhere completely different.

Herr Doktor Russell was staying behind at Bonne Maison until he’d sorted out what was happening with the San; but Frau Doktor Maynard and her three babies, along with Frau Doktor von Ahlen who was staying with them, were going to be coming to Howells very soon after we did. I assumed that Cousin Anna would be travelling with them - but I assumed wrongly. I could not believe it when I heard what Frau Doktor Maynard had done. She’d arranged for a man called Mr Willoughby to bring her, Frau Doktor von Ahlen and the babies, along with Fraulein Wilson from the school, to England in his own boat, whilst poor Cousin Anna would have to travel on her own - with a load of luggage and even the babies’ pram! And this was the person who was always accusing Sybil of not considering other people’s feelings! I was really annoyed about it.

Auntie Karen, who was better at sticking up for herself than Cousin Anna was, said that she’d travel with Cousin Anna and the school would have to manage without a cook for a bit. No-one was happy about that, so it was agreed that Cousin Anna should wait and travel with the people from the school, which suited her much better than Frau Doktor Maynard’s original plan had done. Daisy and Primula were travelling with the school as well: I don’t know why they didn’t travel with us. They all left about ten days after Frau Doktor Maynard did, but got to Armishire before her, because she’d felt ill on the journey and stayed somewhere near the coast for a few days until she felt better. In the meantime, Mummy and Cousin Anna cleaned her new house from top to bottom.

Well, so now here we were again, in yet another new place. Life had got so weird that I just kept wondering what on earth was going to happen next.

The Joey-bashing is a bit off topic but it really annoys me when Jem asks her if she's taking the pram and she says that it'll come on the boat with Anna!

#204:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Wed Sep 13, 2006 8:25 am
Can understand Gretchen's concerns, especially as she had been told that Guernsey was safe and now it's not. Hadn't realised the bit about Anna - good for Karen!

Thanks Alison.

#205:  Author: ChairLocation: Rochester, Kent PostPosted: Wed Sep 13, 2006 2:52 pm
Thanks, Alison. I'm glad that Karen stood up for Anna.

#206:  Author: ChangnoiLocation: Milwaukee, USA PostPosted: Wed Sep 13, 2006 9:45 pm
I detect some Karen-worship here! Very Happy

Poor Greta, her thought process is very natural--if you said Guernsey was safe and now it isn't, why will this place be any different?


#207:  Author: TaraLocation: Malvern, Worcestershire PostPosted: Wed Sep 13, 2006 10:31 pm
Being hounded from one place to another was horrible. And catering for a school under rationing conditions must have been a nightmare.

I'd never noticed that Anna got lumbered with the pram, either! Really!

#208:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Thu Sep 14, 2006 6:53 am
Soon after arriving in Armishire, we got some good news. Herr Laubach, who’d taught art at the Chalet School in Austria and had stayed in the Briesau area after the school closed down because his wife had been too ill to travel, turned up in Howells. I’ve no idea how he’d found out that the school was there, but somehow he had. Sadly his wife had died; but he was able to tell us that, although my uncles had had to go into the German army, all our family in Briesau were alive and well. Mummy cried and said that she didn’t know how we’d ever be able to thank him for telling us. Most people thought that he was short-tempered and grumpy, but from then on I refused to hear a word against him ever again.

Then the wish I’d made when Josette was born came true – a little sister arrived for Jakob and me. Her name was Josefa, and she was lovely. I was so excited, and I couldn’t understand how come Sybil had been so upset when Josette was born. The only sad thing was that Grandma and Grandpa and everyone else at home couldn’t see her. They didn’t even know that she existed; and we had no way of telling them.

Meanwhile, the Frau Doktor was very worried about the Herr Doktor still being in Guernsey. I didn’t really understand everything that was going on, but I knew that the Nazis were now in a lot of different countries. I’d never heard of some of those countries before, but I knew every one of their names now. Denmark. Norway. The Netherlands. Belgium. Luxembourg. And then France, which I knew was very close to Guernsey. Everyone started talking about one particular town in France. It was called Dunkirk and there were a lot of British soldiers near there. They all had to be brought back home. I was very glad to hear that nearly all of them had got away safely, but I didn’t understand how they were going to keep on fighting the Nazis now. I couldn’t help thinking that they must be expecting the Nazis to come to Britain … and then what would happen?

It got worse. Italy joined in the war, but on the same side as Germany. So now the Nazis had the Italians to help them. And then they did get to Guernsey and the other islands near it, and they took them over. Thankfully the Herr Doktor had managed to get away in time, but how scary it was to think that the Nazis were now where we’d been living peacefully only a few months earlier.

Some children from big cities like London arrived in Howells, without their mummies or daddies. They were called evacuees, and they’d been sent away from their homes because the Nazis were dropping bombs on the places where they lived. It was all so frightening: we could move to different houses, to different countries, to try to get away from the Nazis on land, but we couldn’t get away from their planes dropping bombs out of the sky - and an awful lot of bombs came out of the sky that summer. In the big cities a lot of people were killed by them. Not soldiers or sailors or airmen, just ordinary people.

Even in Howells there were some nights when we had to leave our bedrooms and go and hide from the bombers in a place called an air raid shelter. Mummy said that we’d be safe in there, but it didn’t feel very safe to me. I didn’t feel as if there was anywhere that was safe any more.

It wasn’t only the bombs that made me feel like that, because I knew now that it wasn’t just in Austria that people got taken away. It happened in Britain too, and it could happen to anyone who’d come from Germany or Austria or Italy. The Austrian staff at the school were taken away, including Auntie Karen. I cried and cried when she went. I couldn’t stop myself thinking all sorts about what might happen to her; and when I heard stories about people who’d been taken away being sent to Canada and Australia I panicked completely and wondered if we’d ever even see her again.

She wasn’t away for very long; and I suppose she was lucky in that. Frau Doktor von Ahlen, who was taken away even though her husband was fighting against the Nazis, was gone for much longer. I don’t know why they didn’t take us, or Cousin Anna – none of it made any sense to me – but I do know that, all through that summer, by day I lived in fear of someone knocking at the door to take us away and by night I lived in fear of a Nazi bomb landing on Howells village and blowing us all to pieces.

In September, Mummy and Daddy said that I had to go to school. Howells Village School. I wasn’t sorry about it. It got very boring in the Round House nursery when just Jakob and the two babies and I were there; and all the others were about to go back to school for the start of the new academic year. Herr Doktor Russell had said that it was time for Rix and David to go to a boys’ school, and so they were going to be starting at the Cathedral School in Armiford; the others would all be going back to the Chalet School; and they were all going to be boarders during the week and only come home at weekends, so most days I wouldn’t see them at all.

Maybe at the village school I’d make lots of new friends, I thought hopefully.

(Seeing as the Austrian staff - I think just Herr Laubach, Frau Mieders and Karen - aren't mentioned much during this period, so I thought it was OK to say that they'd been interned too. Given that people who'd been in the country for years or were obviously refugees were interned, it didn't seem realistic that Frieda should have been the only internee from the CS universe.)

#209:  Author: ChangnoiLocation: Milwaukee, USA PostPosted: Thu Sep 14, 2006 11:10 am
Is Josefa the "Jose" mentioned in Gay? I know that you said you'd changed Jacques to Jakob to make it more Austrianized.

"Marie had wedded Sir James Russell’s servant, André Monier, and the two had remained in the service of the doctor and his wife, having their own rooms in whichever house the family occupied. The Monier babies had been among the earliest playfellows of the Russell children, and Greta, Jacques, José and Petit André had been brought by their parents to England when the Chalet School and the Sanatorium had been forced to leave Tirol after Hitler had marched into Austria."

Thanks for the story! Somehow I doubt that little Greta will have a good time as an Austrian child at the Howells Village School.


#210:  Author: FatimaLocation: Sunny Qatar PostPosted: Thu Sep 14, 2006 1:13 pm
I'm also worried about her reception at the Howells school.

#211:  Author: DawnLocation: Leeds, West Yorks PostPosted: Thu Sep 14, 2006 10:55 pm
I've just read all of this Alison and really enjoyed seeing it from a different perspective - thankyou

#212:  Author: Kathy_SLocation: midwestern US PostPosted: Fri Sep 15, 2006 4:40 am
What an ordeal, all the moving and constant fear. This really brings it home. And taking away Auntie Karen! Shocked It might well be hard to distinguish the British from the Nazis in Greta's position.

Nice reaction to Josefa though. Very Happy

#213:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Fri Sep 15, 2006 6:52 am
Yes, Josefa is José - I ... Austrianised? Austrified? Austrocised Rolling Eyes ?! the name!

My first few weeks at Howells Village School were a nightmare.

Maybe, however hard I’d tried – and I did try; I really tried - I wouldn’t have found it easy to make friends even if it hadn’t been for the war. Most of the other children lived close to one another and knew one another’s families, and, although a few of them lived on outlying farms, no-one except me lived in the area where the Round House was. The Russells’ neighbours just didn’t send their children to the village school. Plus there was the problem of where I lived not actually being “my” house. I’d watch other girls and boys in my class going off to each other’s homes to play together after school, and I’d wonder just what on earth any of them would make of the idea of coming to play with me - in my family’s corner of a house that belonged to another family altogether.

As it was, no-one would have wanted to be friends with me wherever I’d lived. I was the one and only person in the entire school who wasn’t British. At first, people assumed that I was French, because of my French-sounding surname, but word soon spread round the village that the Russells’ domestic staff were Austrian. And that, as far as many people were concerned, was the same as being German, which was the same as being a Nazi. Some children made Nazi salutes whenever they saw me, and others would shout “Hun” or “Jerry” as I walked past. There were several evacuees at the school and some of them spoke to me as if it were my fault that they were separated from their families; and several children made it clear that they’d blame me if anything happened to daddies, brothers or uncles who were away fighting.

There was nothing I could do about it. I couldn’t say anything to the teachers because I knew that you weren’t supposed to “tell” on other children, and I couldn’t say anything at home in case it made everyone think I couldn’t stand up for myself. It might have gone on for months – had it not been for my lovely, lovely teacher, Miss Williams. She must have seen what was going on and decided to do something about it. I think that before I'd started school Mummy had told her a bit about what had happened to us and how we’d come to be in Armishire; and one day she asked me to stand up and tell the rest of the class about it.

At the time I was horrified. There was no way that I wanted to stand up in front of all those children when some of them seemed to hate me so much. But Miss Williams gently persuaded me to do as she asked, and so I stood up, walked to the front of the classroom, and told the whole class all about the Nazis coming to Die Rosen, our flight from the Sonnalpe at dead of night, and then our journey across the dangerous waters of the English Channel from Guernsey.

I have to admit that I made it sound an awful lot more daring and adventurous than it actually was; but it worked. The bullying died down, and I actually found myself being regarded as something of a heroine in the school. As much as possible I steered clear of the boys and girls who’d picked on me, but I began to make friends amongst the other children in my class. I understood that they’d been scared that the bullies would pick on them too if they’d been seen to be nice to me, and I suppose I also accepted that, sadly, people who didn’t know anything about Austria might well not realise that there were some Austrians who hated the Nazis as much as they did.

And so I settled down. I worked hard and I played hard, and before long I was enjoying life more than I’d done at any time since we’d left Austria.

#214:  Author: FatimaLocation: Sunny Qatar PostPosted: Fri Sep 15, 2006 7:46 am
Thank goodness for Miss Williams! I'm so glad that she managed to get the chance to make friends in school.
Thanks Alison.

#215: In the presence of fate Author: Fiona McLocation: Bendigo, Australia PostPosted: Fri Sep 15, 2006 11:23 am
I just wanted to say how much I'm really enjoying this story. I'm curious as to Gretchen's view of the whole Josette/Sybil accident is especially as her Auntie Rosa was the Nanny. It's good to see the other perspective of the family life. Thanks Alison

#216:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Fri Sep 15, 2006 8:36 pm
Pleased that Miss Williams sorted out the bullying.

Thanks Alison. Laughing

#217:  Author: ChairLocation: Rochester, Kent PostPosted: Fri Sep 15, 2006 9:47 pm
Thanks, Alison. I'm sorry that she was bullied but it's good that the bullying has died down.

#218:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Sat Sep 16, 2006 7:49 am
Although I was happy at school, there was a limit to how settled and normal anyone’s life could feel whilst the war lasted. In the same month as my seventh birthday it was announced that from now on there’d be ration books for clothes as well as food. It didn’t really affect me much but a lot of people were upset about it - although it was a very minor problem indeed compared to the bombs which carried on raining down on Britain until well into the spring. And the names of more and more countries became familiar to me as the Germans and Italians moved through the south east part of Europe.

Obviously I already knew plenty about Belsornia – later in the year, the Crown Princess and her children, after a journey that made our travels to Guernsey seem easy by comparison, would come to live near us – but now I also learnt the names of several other countries in that part of the world, as they were attacked one by one. Bulgaria. Yugoslavia. Albania. Greece. It wasn’t even just Europe: there was fighting in North Africa as well.

We were not only frightened, but also convinced, that Britain would be next on their list. And then they attacked the Soviet Union instead. Terrible though it was, in some ways it made life easier for us. There were no longer air raids night in night out, and with so many German soldiers fighting the Soviets we stopped being so afraid that an invasion of Britain was just round the corner.

There were times when it felt as if the war wasn’t having much impact on the Round House at all. I’d hear children at school talking about what their mummies were doing to help the “war effort”, but Frau Doktor Russell didn’t seem to be doing anything. Nor did Frau Doktor Maynard. I knew that they both had little children to look after, but so did other ladies and they didn’t have Auntie Rosa or Cousin Anna to help them. Neither of them even took in any evacuees, although they lived in such big houses and had plenty of spare room. Frau Doktor Maynard did have two Scottish girls to stay with her, but that was only during school holidays so I didn’t think it really counted.

In the autumn, my second little brother arrived. His name was Andreas, like Daddy’s. He was known as “Little Andreas” until he was about ten and got fed up of it! For a few days I was wildly excited and I think I briefly forgot about the war altogether; but then something horrendous happened. Frau Doktor Maynard received a telegram saying that Herr Doktor Maynard had been drowned at sea.

I knew that it was wicked to hate anyone, even your enemies, but I couldn’t help it. The Nazis had taken my country and done terrible things there; because of them thousands of people across Europe and North Africa were dead; and now Herr Doktor Maynard was dead too. I had no idea what to say to the Frau Doktor when I saw her; and, every time I thought of those three little girls who didn’t have a daddy any more, I cried.

#219:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Sat Sep 16, 2006 8:03 am
Oh how sad. Crying or Very sad Love her thoughts and ideas about the war effort.

Thanks Alison.

#220:  Author: FatimaLocation: Sunny Qatar PostPosted: Sat Sep 16, 2006 8:58 am
I like her observations about Jo and Madge not helping the war effort!

#221:  Author: LizBLocation: Oxon, England PostPosted: Sat Sep 16, 2006 10:33 am
It's fascinating seeing this all from Gretchen's viewpoint.

Thanks, Alison

#222:  Author: ChairLocation: Rochester, Kent PostPosted: Sat Sep 16, 2006 12:57 pm
Thanks, Alison. I agree that it must have seemed strange that Joey and Madge didn't do very much to help with the war effort.

#223:  Author: TaraLocation: Malvern, Worcestershire PostPosted: Sat Sep 16, 2006 9:39 pm
I didn’t feel as if there was anywhere that was safe any more.

Not for Gretchen, not for anyone. Tragedy came even to the seemingly untouched Madge and Jo, and the tentacles of hate were spreading even amongst little children. Very sobering.

#224:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Sun Sep 17, 2006 9:05 am
Grandma had always told me that sometimes miracles really did happen, even today; and she’d been right. It turned out that the Herr Doktor hadn’t drowned after all. He’d been rescued. I couldn’t believe it at first, but it was true. He was safe, and he came home and didn’t go away again. It really did seem like a miracle, and I said a special thank you in my prayers on the night we heard that he was alive. But things like that didn’t happen very often. There were so many days when someone didn’t turn up for school and one of the teachers told us quietly that that boy or girl’s daddy or older brother had been killed. No-one ever knew what to say to them when they came back. There was nothing we could say that would make it any better.

Then the war spread to the other side of the world - Japan attacked America. All of a sudden, we were at war with Japan as well. The Japanese took over a place called Singapore, which belonged to Britain; and the Bettany children all went very quiet when a man on the wireless started talking about the possibility of India being attacked. At least now we had the Americans fighting on our side, though. Surely the Nazis couldn’t defeat the British Empire, the Soviet Union and the United States of America, I told myself. One day our side would win this war. Then we’d be able to go back to Austria. Back home.

For a good three and a half years after we left Austria, I never even doubted that we’d go home as soon as the war was over. When Cousin Anna started seeing a young man called Tom Evans, from a nearby village, my initial reaction was to wonder what would happen to her after the war if they’d got married in the meantime. Maybe he’d come back to Austria with us, I thought. He was very nice, and I hoped that he and Cousin Anna would get married. Partly so that I could be a bridesmaid! I was rather disappointed when she stopped seeing him.

Frau Doktor Maynard - who by this time had four children, a baby boy called Stephen as well as the three little girls - seemed to think the reason Cousin Anna and Mr Evans didn’t end up getting married was that Cousin Anna couldn’t bear to leave her! I thought it was just that Cousin Anna decided she didn’t really like Mr Evans enough to be married to him for the rest of her life, but I supposed it wasn’t really any wonder that Frau Doktor Maynard thought what she did. Cousin Anna had left Austria to follow her, after all, just as the rest of us had left Austria to follow the Russells. But one day, I knew, we’d be going home. With the Russells and the Maynards or without them.

But then, gradually, I began to realise that Mummy and Daddy weren’t taking it for granted that one day we’d go back to Austria. Not any more. They even started to say that maybe we should apply to become British citizens, which meant that legally we’d be classed as British rather than Austrian. It turned out that it was too difficult to get all the paperwork done because of the war, which I was extremely glad about; but it really got me worried. Didn’t they want to go back to Austria, even when – when, not if, I kept telling myself – the Nazis weren’t there any more? Armishire was all right, but I didn’t want to stay here for ever. It wasn’t where we belonged. It wasn’t home.

By the time I was nine, I’d realised that our life was really very weird compared to most other people’s lives. We were living in a foreign country; and we were even living in someone else’s house, constantly having to worry in case we disturbed them by talking too loudly or accidentally damaged something that wasn’t ours. Even if we couldn’t go back home – yet – I wished so much that we could at least have a place of our own to live in, like other families did. I was fed up of living with the Russells.

In particular, I was fed up of Sybil.

#225:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Sun Sep 17, 2006 10:00 am
Yes it was a strange existence really, wasn't it? I always thought that Marie and Andreas had a place of their own on the Russell estate.

Thanks Alison.

#226:  Author: LizBLocation: Oxon, England PostPosted: Sun Sep 17, 2006 10:57 am
I guess it'll be a long long time before she can return to Austria Sad

Thanks, Alison

#227:  Author: ChairLocation: Rochester, Kent PostPosted: Sun Sep 17, 2006 11:14 am
Thanks, Alison. I'm sorry that her hopes are being dashed about going back to Austria.

#228:  Author: JennieLocation: Cambridgeshire PostPosted: Sun Sep 17, 2006 12:48 pm
Thanks, Alison. You make the problems of their situation so real and vivid. I like the idea that Madge and Jo are slacking in their war efforts.

#229:  Author: ChangnoiLocation: Milwaukee, USA PostPosted: Sun Sep 17, 2006 3:05 pm
It will be very interesting to see how Gretchen's and Sybil's interactions continue!



#230:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Mon Sep 18, 2006 6:49 am
Sybil had always been a pain; but she’d been even worse since, nearly two years earlier, Herr Doktor Russell had been made a baronet for being a very good doctor. That meant that he was now called Sir James Russell, and the Frau Doktor was now called Lady Russell. It did sound rather grand, I had to admit. Sybil had been very disappointed when she’d realised that it didn’t give her the right to be called “Lady Sybil Russell” or even “The Honourable Sybil Russell,” but even so she looked down on most other people even more than she’d done before. Especially members of our family.

Unfortunately, of all the Bettany, Russell and Venables children (apart from little Josette), she was the one I saw the most of. By this time Rix was off at a big school called Winchester, in the South of England, so he only came home during the holidays, and the others often stayed at school over the weekends because they didn’t want to miss sports matches – David and Bride were both sports-mad! - or Saturday night “entertainments”, but Sybil came home every single weekend. I suppose it was because she wanted to see her parents, which was understandable; but Sir James was often at the San even at weekends; and, on one particular Saturday, Lady Russell had gone to the Chalet School herself, for a meeting.

That day, I had some very nasty maths homework to do. I shut myself in my bedroom to try to get on with it, but after a while I felt thirsty and went to the kitchen to get myself a glass of water. I was just about to turn the tap on when Sybil came in, with Josette following her. I quite often saw Josette trotting about after her big sister, despite the fact that Sybil always made it clear that she thought she was a nuisance. Josefa followed me about like that sometimes, but I quite liked it. Sybil very obviously didn’t.

“What on earth do you think you’re doing?” she asked loftily.

“Getting myself a glass of water: what does it look like?” I said crossly. Why did Sybil always have to be so nasty to me? I smiled at little Josette. “Would you like a drink as well, Josette?” I asked her.

“I think I’ll have a cup of tea,” Sybil said. “In fact, I think I’ll have it in one of Mummy’s china tea cups: I don’t see why I should have to use a mug like a baby.” She giggled. “Really, you ought to make it for me, seeing as I’m the daughter of the house and you’re just a servant.”

“Shut up, Sybil,” I snapped. She was really getting on my nerves now. “You can make your own stupid drink. And you’ll have to stick to water or milk or juice - you know very well that we’re not allowed to use the kettle because it’s dangerous. If you really want a cup of tea then you’ll have to wait till Auntie Rosa comes back in.”

I could just about see Auntie Rosa through the window. She was in the hen yard, with Jakob and Josefa and Little Andreas. Earlier in the year, she and Mummy, after a long conversation about the problems caused by food rationing, had got some hens from one of the local farmers, so that at least we’d have some extra eggs. Sybil always said that the hens were dirty and smelly, and refused to go anywhere near them. I supposed she’d said that she’d stay inside whilst Auntie Rosa gathered today’s eggs, and Josette had insisted on staying inside with her.

“Don’t you tell me what to do, Gretchen Monier!” she snapped back at me. “You shouldn’t even be calling me by my first name. You should be calling me “Miss Sybil”. And if I want a cup of tea then I’m going to have one. So there.” Defiantly, she filled the kettle with water and put it to boil.

“Don’t be an idiot,” I said uneasily. “We’re not supposed to use the kettle. You know we’re not. Just wait a few minutes until Auntie Rosa comes in. I’m sure she’ll make you a cup of tea if you really want one. You can wait till then, surely.”

But Sybil just laughed. She got the teapot out of the cupboard and put the tea in it. The kettle bubbled and sang as it came to the boil.

#231:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Mon Sep 18, 2006 7:13 am
Oh dear! Knowing what's going to happen doesn't make it any easier to read about. Shocked

Thanks Alison.

#232:  Author: kerenLocation: Israel PostPosted: Mon Sep 18, 2006 8:50 am
I am too squeamish for you to give us the details, please spare us.

#233:  Author: VikkiLocation: Sitting on an iceberg, freezing to death!!! PostPosted: Mon Sep 18, 2006 1:17 pm
*hides behind the sofa wibbling* Shocked

Thanks Alison.

#234:  Author: ChairLocation: Rochester, Kent PostPosted: Mon Sep 18, 2006 1:22 pm
Thanks, Alison. I'm sorry that Sybil didn't listen to Gretchen.

#235:  Author: FatimaLocation: Sunny Qatar PostPosted: Mon Sep 18, 2006 1:43 pm
It's so sad that Josette had to pay the price for Sybil becoming a decent girl.

#236:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Tue Sep 19, 2006 6:55 am
Hope this isn't too gruesome!

“You see. I’m quite capable of using a kettle,” she said scornfully. “You might not be, but I am.”

Josette was tugging at her skirt. “I want a cup of tea too,” she pleaded.

“Don’t be so stupid,” Sybil said. “You can’t have tea. You’re only a baby. Gretchen’ll get you a glass of milk: that’s what babies drink.”

I glared at Sybil, but I smiled at Josette. “Come on, Josette. I’ll get you a nice glass of milk,” I told her. “I’ll get you a biscuit as well if you like. Auntie Rosa won’t mind.”

“I want a cup of tea,” Josette said stubbornly.

“Well you can’t have one, so shut up about it,” Sybil snapped. She lifted the kettle to pour the water into the teapot, and Josette stood on her toe.

Sybil obviously hadn’t seen that coming. She moved backwards sharply, gave a startled yell and, as she did so, the kettle slipped from her hand … and the boiling water went all over Josette.

Josette screamed. And Sybil screamed. “Oh dear Lord,” I gasped. I thought that surely everyone in and around the house must have heard those screams – Auntie Rosa in the yard, Mummy dusting the bedrooms, Daddy cleaning the car before going to collect Lady Russell from her meeting – but they can’t have been as loud as they seemed to me because nothing happened. No-one shouted back to ask what on earth was going on: there was no-one to take charge. “I’ll go and get Auntie Rosa,” I said quickly. “Stay here. I’ll be as quick as I can. Just don’t move.”

It could only have been a few minutes before I’d raced across to the hen yard, yelling my head off about Josette and boiling water and kettles, and Auntie Rosa had raced back to the house with Jakob and Josefa following her and me coming along behind with Little Andreas. But, by the time we reached the kitchen, Sybil had taken Josette to the nursery bathroom with the idea that putting her in a bath of cold water would help, and pulled all her clothes off. Half the skin on Josette’s tummy and on one of her legs had come off with them. It was the most horrific thing I’d ever seen. I turned away at once – I couldn’t bear to look - and I was so, so glad that I’d told Jakob to take Josefa and Little Andreas to Mummy and that none of them were there to see those terrible scalds.

Auntie Rosa told me to go to Mummy too, to ask her to ring Lady Russell at the Chalet School and Sir James at the San, and then to find Daddy and ask him to go and bring Lady Russell home. I did as I was told, then I went back to the bathroom, not sure what I’d be able to do to help but feeling as if I ought to be doing something.

Auntie Rosa and Josette were no longer there. They were in Josette’s bedroom, I realised: I could hear the sound of Auntie Rosa’s frightened voice and Josette’s whimpering coming from that direction. The only person still in the bathroom was Sybil. She was sitting on the floor, curled up in a ball, sobbing her heart out.

#237:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Tue Sep 19, 2006 7:15 am
Poor little Sybil. Crying or Very sad

Gretchen did extremely well there as she must have been terrified herself. And Sybil had a halfway good idea - if she'd just put Josette in the bath of cold water she'd have done well - it was only taking the clothes off that was wrong - and how was an eight year old supposed to know that? Shocked

Thanks Alison - not too gruesome at all.

#238:  Author: FatimaLocation: Sunny Qatar PostPosted: Tue Sep 19, 2006 1:10 pm
Poor Josette and poor Sybil. Sad

#239:  Author: LizBLocation: Oxon, England PostPosted: Tue Sep 19, 2006 2:38 pm
I'm so glad we know that ultimately Josette is alright!

Thanks, Alison

#240:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Wed Sep 20, 2006 6:48 am
Why did I have to be the one to find Sybil like that? I was probably the last person she wanted to see; but I could hardly just leave her there, so I sat down awkwardly beside her and tried to think of something to say that might make her feel a bit better. “Josette’ll be all right, you know,” I said, hoping that it was true. “Your daddy’ll be here soon and he’s a brilliant doctor: even the King must think so, or he wouldn’t have made him a baronet. He’ll be able to make Josette better.” Suddenly I remembered something Auntie Luise had told me once. “Mummy spilt boiling water on herself in the school kitchen in Briesau, the first year the school was open, and she was absolutely fine after a while. Josette’ll be fine too.”

“But it’s all my fault,” Sybil sobbed. “I knew very well that we weren’t meant to touch the kettle, and if I hadn’t boiled it then Josette wouldn’t have got hurt. But it was an accident. You know that it was an accident, don’t you? You saw what happened. I didn’t mean for it to happen. I only wanted to make a cup of tea; but then she stood on my toe and the kettle just slipped out of my hand. I didn’t do it on purpose. I know I’m not very nice to Josette sometimes, but I wouldn’t do something like that to her deliberately.”

Much as I disliked Sybil, it had never occurred to me for a minute that anyone might think that what had happened had been her fault. All right, she shouldn’t have gone anywhere near the kettle - we all knew that we weren’t supposed to touch it - but Josette getting scalded had been an accident. Accidents happened. There was rarely a week went by at school without someone accidentally getting hurt in the playground or during a P.E. lesson; and it wasn’t that long since David had fallen out of a tree which he shouldn’t really have been climbing in the first place. Not to mention the time Frau Doktor Maynard had managed to tip green dye all over herself. Nobody meant for any of these things to happen.

“Of course it’s not your fault!” I exclaimed. “No-one’s going to think that. You shouldn’t have been messing with the kettle, but I suppose I should have tried harder to stop you from boiling the water … and Josette shouldn’t have stood on your toe when you were holding the kettle ….and maybe Auntie Rosa should have made Josette go to the hen yard with her …and … oh, it was just an accident. No-one meant for Josette to get hurt. She won’t think it was your fault. No-one will. It’ll be all right. She’ll get better, and that’s all that matters. Come on. Don’t cry.”

Well, Lady Russell, although of course she was very upset, and very worried about Josette, accepted that it was an accident - but Sir James either couldn’t or wouldn’t. I’d never seen him so angry. He raged on and on at Sybil about how her little sister was badly hurt and could be scarred for life all because of her disobedience; and in the end he made Daddy drive her back to school straight away, and said that she wasn’t to come home until half term because he couldn’t bear the sight of her after what she’d done and he didn’t want her anywhere near Josette.

Frau Doktor Maynard, who stuck her nose in as she always did over anything involving Sybil, was even worse. She said that it was entirely Sybil’s fault, and she tried to make out that it had all happened because Sybil was vain about being pretty. She was obsessed with the idea of Sybil being vain: it was probably because nobody thought she was pretty! And she said that Sybil must be a really bad person to be such a horrible girl when she had such a wonderful mother. Wonderful mother? Hah! My mummy had a full-time job and I still saw more of her than Sybil had ever seen of Lady Russell. And as for being a really bad person – what sort of auntie said that about her own niece? Especially when that niece was only nine years old and very, very upset.

Josette was very sore, and badly shocked; but she got better, although Sir James and Lady Russell fussed over her for years afterwards. And the whole thing did seem to make Sybil realise that she shouldn’t be so horrible to people; and she was a lot nicer in future, especially to me. We started to get quite friendly. I rather missed her that summer when she was packed off on holiday with the Maynards and some of their friends, and she seemed genuinely pleased when her second little sister, Aline Elizabeth, arrived at the beginning of September. Grandma always said that sometimes something good could come out of something really bad. She was right. I wished I could tell her so.

#241:  Author: ChairLocation: Rochester, Kent PostPosted: Wed Sep 20, 2006 10:07 am
Thanks, Alison. I'm sorry that Gretchen wasn't able to talk to her grandmother.

#242:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Wed Sep 20, 2006 12:02 pm
Gretchen was so lovely there - especially as she had born the brunt of Sybil's temper in the past. Also love her opinion of Madge, Jem and Joey.

Thanks Alison.

#243:  Author: kerenLocation: Israel PostPosted: Wed Sep 20, 2006 12:33 pm
maybe it made a bond between them
will be intereseting to see future relationship between the 2 of them

#244:  Author: Ruth BLocation: Oxford, UK PostPosted: Wed Sep 20, 2006 1:00 pm
Thank you Alison, that's a lovely take on the situation. Gretchen is a very perceptive little girl!

#245:  Author: FatimaLocation: Sunny Qatar PostPosted: Wed Sep 20, 2006 2:17 pm
Grechen is very sweet. I am looking forward to seeing how she gets on with Sybil in the future, too.

#246:  Author: ChangnoiLocation: Milwaukee, USA PostPosted: Thu Sep 21, 2006 2:22 am
That was very moving, Alison. Thanks.


#247:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Thu Sep 21, 2006 6:57 am
Thanks for the comments Very Happy .

Another year passed; and once again summer ended and we all went back to school. By then, even the most cautious of people were saying openly that the Allies were winning the war. Allied troops had landed in northern France in June and liberated Paris at the end of August; Italy was under Allied control; the Soviets were advancing through Poland and the Balkans; and the Japanese had been pushed out of parts of the Pacific. In the first week of September, the Allies drove the Germans out of most of Belgium. The new school year started with everyone feeling that, after five long years of war, the end might finally be in sight.

The Chalet School took pupils from kindergarten age right up to the age of eighteen, so there was no need for Sybil to change schools when she was eleven; but it was different for me. Plans had been announced to change the school system completely, so that everybody would take an exam when they were eleven to decide which school they’d go to next, but it hadn’t all been sorted out properly yet. As it was, every year only the top pupils in the age ten to eleven year group at our school would take an exam, to try to win one of the free places available at Armiford Grammar School.

One afternoon, Miss Mills, who taught our class, asked some of us to stay behind at break time. I tried hard to think of something bad I might have done, but I couldn’t think of anything very terrible, so I thought that maybe she just wanted to discuss the Christmas concert or something like that. Then she told us that we were the pupils whom she and the other teachers thought might have a chance of passing the exam.

I was so excited. I was usually at or near the top of the class and I’d been secretly hoping that the school might think that I was good enough to have a go at the exam, but I certainly hadn’t been taking it for granted: you were never sure what the teachers were thinking. Miss Mills went on for ages about how we’d all have to work really hard if we were to have a good chance of passing; but I knew that, and I was more than prepared to put in as much effort as I possibly could. If I didn’t get a place at Armiford Grammar, I vowed to myself, it certainly wasn’t going to be for the want of trying.

I tried not to imagine myself in a crisp new Armiford Grammar uniform, nor to imagine myself getting into one of the sports teams, maybe even playing against the Chalet School. I told myself sternly that pride came before a fall and that it was tempting fate to imagine things before they happened; and I knew that the exam was hard, that free places were limited and that even my best efforts might well not be good enough. But it was hard not to dream. I associated the Grammar School with all my hopes for the future. I associated it with opportunities.

I’d heard Rix and David and also Daisy saying that they wanted to be doctors; and I’d heard Bride saying that she wanted to be a librarian or a teacher and Bride’s friend Julie saying that she wanted to be a barrister. Robin was at university – I’d seen pictures of the beautiful university city of Oxford and been absolutely enchanted by them. And, what was more, so was Biddy - whose family background wasn’t all that different from mine.

I was only ten and I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up, or what I’d be clever enough to be; but I had it in my head that, if I could get to the Grammar School then all sorts of things might be possible. If I worked hard enough, which I certainly intended to do. Of course, I didn’t think that we’d still be in England when I was old as Daisy, or even as old as Rix; but I assumed that the school system would be similar everywhere and that I’d be able to transfer to a similar school in Tyrol once we got back there.

I practically danced home from school that evening. Jakob asked what on earth was wrong with me, but I just smiled and smiled. I told Mummy and Daddy that I had something very important to tell them, and then I handed over the letter which Miss Mills had given each of us to give to our parents, and sat back to watch their reaction as they opened it. I hoped that they’d be very proud of me, and very pleased that I was going to get this chance.

#248:  Author: Ruth BLocation: Oxford, UK PostPosted: Thu Sep 21, 2006 9:35 am
I hope so too! Gretchen is obviously very intelligent and deserves a chance at this.

#249:  Author: MiriamLocation: Jerusalem, Israel PostPosted: Thu Sep 21, 2006 11:37 am
She's intelligent - but I'm not sure that the daughter of a servant will get a chance to prove it. I think she could be pinning toom uch on the exampe of Biddy. Still, from the way she is speaking now, she sounds fairly well educated, so maybe there is room for hope.

#250:  Author: MiaLocation: London PostPosted: Thu Sep 21, 2006 11:40 am
Fingers crossed then...

Thanks Alison

#251:  Author: LizBLocation: Oxon, England PostPosted: Thu Sep 21, 2006 12:36 pm
I hope they are encouraging and that she gets in.

Thanks, Alison

#252:  Author: FatimaLocation: Sunny Qatar PostPosted: Thu Sep 21, 2006 3:33 pm
I hope they agree that she should try for the grammar school; however, I'm worried that they'll think Grechen has ideas above her station and should be content to follow in her mother's footsteps. Please prove me wrong, Alison!

#253:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Thu Sep 21, 2006 6:05 pm
I also feel that she is going to get a bad reaction from her parents. Crying or Very sad

Thanks Alison

#254:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Fri Sep 22, 2006 6:51 am
I waited expectantly for Mummy and Daddy to say how pleased and proud they were; but they didn’t say anything. They just sat and looked at each other. Then they looked at me. Then, finally, Daddy spoke. “I’m sorry, Gretchen,” he said awkwardly, “but there’s no point in you taking this exam. Even if you passed, there’s no way that we could afford to send you to Armiford Grammar School. We just don’t have the money. The school should have checked with us before saying anything to you about it.”

I just couldn’t believe that they’d managed so completely and utterly to miss the point. Honestly, grown-ups could be so stupid sometimes! Mind you, their English was still a bit faulty, especially when it came to reading things: maybe that was why they’d misunderstood. Or maybe the school’s letter hadn’t been worded very clearly. Anyway, I’d soon put them right. And then they’d be pleased.

“It’d be free!” I said. “That’s the whole point of the exam! We wouldn’t have to pay. The people who pass the exam get free places.”

I beamed at them both and waited for them to laugh at how silly they’d been and to say how wonderful it all was; but Daddy was shaking his head again. “Gretchen …” He stopped. Then he bit his lip and tried again. “Gretchen, I know that we wouldn’t have to pay school fees, but there’d be the uniform, and all the sports equipment, and they’re always going on excursions here there and everywhere …Gretchen, it’s out of the question. I’m sorry, I really am, but we don’t have that sort of money. I wish we had, but we just haven’t.” He looked down at the floor. “I’m sorry,” he said again. “I’m very, very sorry.”

“Cheer up, liebchen,” Mummy said. “I’m sure most of your friends won’t be going to Armiford Grammar, and you wouldn’t want to be separated from them, would you? The children at the Grammar School might be … well, you probably wouldn’t have much in common with them. Anyway, you’ll be leaving school in a few years’ time, so it won’t really matter that much which school you go to between now and then, will it?”

I couldn’t believe that she’d said that. I could not believe it: I was absolutely fuming. I wanted to yell out loud that just because all she wanted was to spend her entire life running round after the flaming Russells didn’t mean that that was all I wanted to do either, and that if that was what she thought then she thought very wrong indeed. Later, when I’d calmed down, I was glad that I’d managed to stop myself from saying it; but at the time I was so angry that I don’t know how I kept the words back.

“Of course it’ll matter,” I stormed instead. “Of course it matters what school I go to. I’m nearly eleven: Bride’s only two and a bit years older than me and she’s already talking about School Certificate and Higher School Certificate and university. I’ll have a far better chance of being able to do all those things too if I go to Armiford Grammar than if I don’t. It’s a brilliant school. Miss Mills said that I had a good chance of getting a place there. Why won’t you even let me try?”

I looked at them desperately. “I’ll help,” I said. “I’ll … I’ll get a paper round or something. I’ll help with the money.” I didn’t know how old you had to be to get a paper round, but surely there had to be something I could do: there had to be some way round this. But Daddy was still shaking his head, and I knew without him having to tell me that getting a paper round really wasn’t going to make any difference. Nothing I could do was going to make any difference. “Don’t we have any money saved up?” I asked miserably. “Anything at all? I’ll pay you back when I’m older and I’ve got a job. I promise.”

“Oh Gretchen!” Daddy tried to put his arm round me, but I pulled away. “Please don’t get yourself worked up like this. We just can’t do it. It’s not just you: we’ve got your sister and brothers to think of as well, remember. And as for whatever you’ve heard Bride Bettany talking about, I hate to say it but you really do have to put ideas like that out of your head. You’ve always known that we’re not the same sort of people as the Bettanys and the Russells, Gretchen. People like us don’t go to university. The world just doesn’t work like that. Now, Mummy and I will write your teacher a nice letter saying that you won’t be taking the exam, and I’m afraid that that’ll be the end of the matter. I wish things could be different, but they can’t: they really can’t. It’s just the way life is.”

He looked at me sadly as I wiped the angry tears out of my eyes. “We do our best for you and Jakob and Josefa and Little Andreas,” he said. “It might not seem like much, but we do do our best.”

I knew they did. Maybe they didn’t have much ambition in life, but I knew how hard they worked. I knew that it wasn’t their fault that I couldn’t have my chance of going to Armiford Grammar School. But it wasn’t fair. People like Peggy and Sybil, who openly admitted that they weren’t very good at their lessons, got to go to a school like the Chalet School just like that, whilst I wouldn’t be able to go to Armiford Grammar even if I slogged my guts out to get through a difficult exam. It wasn’t fair. Life just wasn’t fair.

#255:  Author: FatimaLocation: Sunny Qatar PostPosted: Fri Sep 22, 2006 6:55 am
Poor girl. I'm not surprised, as the extras required on top of the scholarship would be expensive, but what a disappointment and a shock for her. Thanks Alison.

#256:  Author: KarryLocation: Stoke on Trent PostPosted: Fri Sep 22, 2006 9:07 am
This was the reason that my mum did not go to grammer school - she had passed the exams, but then, before the war, if you had to leave early then a fee had to be paid. Gran and Grandad just couldnt afford the uniform etc. Mum then went to the local school and left to go into service at the age of 14. this is why she and Dad always made sure that my sisters and I had every chance going!

#257:  Author: MiaLocation: London PostPosted: Fri Sep 22, 2006 9:17 am
Poor Gretchen Sad

Couldn't the Russells pay for her uniform?

Thanks Alison

#258:  Author: Ruth BLocation: Oxford, UK PostPosted: Fri Sep 22, 2006 9:32 am
You'd have thought the Russells could help out! Mind you, I expect Marie and Andre would be too proud to ask them.


#259:  Author: RroseSelavyLocation: Oxford, UK PostPosted: Fri Sep 22, 2006 9:58 am
Poor Gretchen! Unfortunately I guess the "not for the likes of us" attitude was all too common in those days.

The thing that worries me here is that both of her parents are earning money in stable jobs and have been for the past 12-13 years or so. So while I can understand that they wouldn't be able to afford extras such as excursions, music lessons etc etc, how can they not afford the uniform? What on earth are the Russells paying them???

#260:  Author: LizBLocation: Oxon, England PostPosted: Fri Sep 22, 2006 12:46 pm
Poor Gretchen Sad

I can't help hoping that the letter to her teacher goes astray somehow ...

Thanks, Alison

#261:  Author: AliceLocation: London, England PostPosted: Fri Sep 22, 2006 1:15 pm
I've just read through the whole of this. It's very good. Thanks Alison.

#262:  Author: ChangnoiLocation: Milwaukee, USA PostPosted: Fri Sep 22, 2006 2:49 pm
My thought is:

Gretchen has obviously grown up to be a very well-written and articulate woman. Smile So perhaps she manages to go to grammar school after all. I CERTAINLY HOPE SO, ALISON.

Poor girl.


#263:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Fri Sep 22, 2006 6:21 pm
Poor little girl - and so mature too - because if that had happened to me I would not have been able to hold my tongue.

*Why can't the Russells help? They looked after Biddy, didn't they?*

Thanks Alison.

#264:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Sat Sep 23, 2006 7:04 am
They had 3 other kids to support as well, and seeing as they got bed and board for 6 people I don't suppose they got paid very much in actual cash. When the school moved to the Oberland people seemed shocked at how high wage levels were there (making the girls dust their own cubicles etc to avoid employing more maids!), which suggested that they paid their own domestic staff fairly low wages - we're told from early on that standards of living in Briesau weren't very high so maybe Marie and Andreas didn't expect to be paid as much as they might have done. Anyway, moving swiftly on ... Very Happy !

On May 7th, when I was in my last term at Howells Village Junior School, Mr Churchill - the Prime Minister - announced that the war in Europe was over. The Allies had won. Germany had surrendered. The Nazis were defeated: their leader, Adolf Hitler, had killed himself a week earlier. We’d won. We’d won the war. Daddies and brothers would be coming home at last – those who’d survived. And Austria, my Austria, was free.

The following day, May 8th, was declared Victory in Europe Day; and for once everyone forgot about who lived in the posh part of Howells Village and who didn’t and we all celebrated together in a huge street party. I found myself being hugged and kissed by people whose names I didn’t even know. Everyone was laughing and crying, eating and drinking, singing and dancing - all at once, or at least that’s how it seemed! I’d never known anything like the celebrations that were held that day. The war in Europe was over: the Nazis were defeated!

We celebrated good and proper that day, but of course the declaration of victory in Europe didn’t suddenly make everything all right. It had been five years since we’d had any news of Grandma and Grandpa and the rest of our family in Austria, and we had no idea what had happened to them in the meantime. And the war in the Far East was still going on, and Herr and Frau Bettany still couldn’t get home. There was talk of an Allied invasion of Japan and the war there going on for months and months yet.

In August, after two terrible bombs were dropped on Japanese cities and tens of thousands of people were wiped out in a matter of seconds, Japan surrendered. On August 14th, 1945, the war was finally declared to be over.

Herr and Frau Bettany began to make plans to come home, with their two youngest children whom Peggy, Rix, Bride and Jackie had never even met. I thought that that must be so weird for them all– imagine never having met your own brother and sister! They had somewhere to move to and plenty of money to live on: Herr Bettany’s godfather had left him a big house and estate, in Devon in South West England where the Bettanys were from originally.

Things like that always happened to people like the Bettanys. They never happened to people like us. Mummy and Daddy worked so hard, but they didn’t even have enough money to have let me go to Armiford Grammar if I’d taken the exam and passed … and then Herr Bettany got a great big house and estate just because he happened to have had a rich godfather. I couldn’t help thinking to myself how unfair it all seemed.

“I wish someone would leave me a big house,” I said dolefully to Auntie Karen when she came round to see us one Sunday. “Even a little house would do!”

She laughed and put her arm round my shoulders. “I doubt that I’ll ever have a big house, or even a little house, to leave you, Gretchen,” she said, “but I never forget that you’re my goddaughter; and, if you ever need me for anything, I’ll be there for you. I promise you that.”

I was glad that the Bettanys were coming home, though, even if I did feel a little bit resentful about the new house. The Quadrant, it was called. I knew that Peggy and Rix had really missed not having their parents around all this time; and Peggy in particular was very excited about it all. Bride and Jackie both seemed a bit nervous: I think they were worried about what it’d be like when they were all living together. They didn’t really know their parents, after all. At least I didn’t have that problem. I’d had both my parents with me since the day I was born: I was lucky there. I had Auntie Rosa and my brothers and sister too. But how I longed to see the rest of my family again! It had been so long - over seven years.

I prayed every night that they were all safe. So many people had been killed in the war and, although we didn’t learn the full horror of what had happened until the war crimes trials started later in the year, reports were appearing in the newspapers of things that the Nazis had done, things that were terrible beyond anything I could ever have imagined. At eleven, I was considered old enough to be told some of what had happened, and I don’t think any of us were ever quite the same again once we learnt what the Nazis had done. And I knew that neither Austria nor anywhere else the Nazis had been would ever be quite the same again either.

But Austria was still home, and, now that the war was over at last, surely we’d get news from our family there before long – and surely, soon afterwards, maybe even by the end of the year, we’d be going back. Mummy had been right about one thing, I thought when I started my new school in September. It didn’t really matter all that much what the place was like, because I wasn’t going to be there very long. The war was over now. We could go home.

This'll be the last post for 10 days or so because I'm away next week - thought the end of the war was a good place to leave it. Thanks very much for reading Very Happy !

#265:  Author: FatimaLocation: Sunny Qatar PostPosted: Sat Sep 23, 2006 7:15 am
Have a good holiday, Alison!

Poor Gretchen, I forsee another disappointment for her, too, regarding the return to Austria.

#266:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Sat Sep 23, 2006 8:20 am
Yes, wasn't there a major problem with Austria so that even in 1949 they couldn't consider moving the CS back - the reason why they went to Switzerland instead?

Poor Gretchen.

Thanks Alison.

#267:  Author: LizBLocation: Oxon, England PostPosted: Sat Sep 23, 2006 11:12 am
Poor Gretchen. Even if they could go back, it's not that simple, because it would be an expensive journey and would mean her parents leaving their jobs etc.

Thanks Alison - have a fantastic holiday Very Happy

#268:  Author: ibarhisLocation: London and Hemel Hempstead PostPosted: Sat Sep 23, 2006 5:58 pm
I hope that Gretchen's parents didn't simply refuse to allow her to take the exam because "people like us" don't go to Grammar Schools, even without knowing what it might have cost or, indeed, what the scholarship covered.

On the other hand, I seem to remember, the Education Act of 1944 changed the funding of education anyway so that you didn't need to pay to go to Grammar Schools anyway.

#269:  Author: Cath V-PLocation: Newcastle NSW PostPosted: Sat Sep 23, 2006 11:42 pm
I haven't been commenting on this Alison, but I have been doing catch-up reads at intervals, and this is a fascinating take on the CS world - Gretchen's in it, but not of it, so to speak. And it's sobering to remember that there were so many Gretchens, limited by means and opportunity rather than ability....

#270:  Author: JennieLocation: Cambridgeshire PostPosted: Sun Sep 24, 2006 1:15 pm
Poor Gretchen, being denied her chance on those grounds.

BTW: with parents on a low income and with three other children, Gretchen would have been entitled to a uniform and equipment grant from the County Council. Part of the provisions of the 1944 education Act.

#271:  Author: MiriamLocation: Jerusalem, Israel PostPosted: Tue Sep 26, 2006 6:40 pm
It could be that her parents didn't know that though. THey probably didn't read newspapers, and there wouldn't hasve been a radio in the kitchen at the Round House.

RroseSelavy wrote:
The thing that worries me here is that both of her parents are earning money in stable jobs and have been for the past 12-13 years or so. So while I can understand that they wouldn't be able to afford extras such as excursions, music lessons etc etc, how can they not afford the uniform? What on earth are the Russells paying them???

They probably lost any savings they had when they left Austria. THeir position as refugees, dependent on the Russels for everything could have meant they didn't feel it was safe to lay out so much money on one child,

#272: In the presence of fate Author: Fiona McLocation: Bendigo, Australia PostPosted: Sat Sep 30, 2006 5:49 am
I've been reading this from the start and must admit I'm baffled as to why she can't go to the Grammer School. She would have got a scholarship which would have waived the fees. I know there's the extras but surely her parents would have paid for all that at the local school anyway? Or is there a huge difference between the school types in the UK? They could have allowed her and just said school excursions and music would be not available to her and if she could accept that she could go. I know I didn't go on a lot of school excursions as there were a lot of us and my parents couldn't afford it and there usually are second hand uniforms you can get which they would have had to buy for her local school anyway. I really like this story Alison.

#273:  Author: ChairLocation: Rochester, Kent PostPosted: Sat Sep 30, 2006 11:03 am
Thanks, Alison. I'm sorry she didn't have a chance to take the exam for the Grammar School. I'm glad the war is over, though.

#274:  Author: leahbelleLocation: Kilmarnock PostPosted: Sat Sep 30, 2006 3:30 pm
Thanks, Alison. Have really enjoyed catching up with this. Gretchen's story is compulsive reading!

#275:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Wed Oct 04, 2006 6:51 am
I wasn’t in when the letter from Briesau came: I was at school. I got home that afternoon to find Mummy waiting for me at the door. She was usually in the kitchen when I got home and so I knew that something important must have happened; and when I saw the envelope in her hand I felt suddenly sick with nerves at what I might be about to find out. But then I saw that her face was all smiles and so I knew that it was all right. It must have been horrible for her, opening that letter with no idea of what the news might be; but for me, knowing in advance that all our family had survived the war, it was nothing but a joy to take that envelope from Mummy’s hand and take out the letter from inside it. I started to cry when I saw Grandma’s handwriting on the small, thin piece of paper, and Mummy cried with me; but they were tears of happiness.

Uncle Eigen had been badly wounded during the war and had taken a long time to recover, but he was on the mend now, Grandma wrote. Uncle Fritzl and Uncle Hansi were both married, and had four children between them; and Auntie Luise and Uncle Johann had a son and a second daughter. Six new cousins whom I hadn’t even known existed! I couldn’t wait to meet them all.

And Grandma and Grandpa were both well, thankfully, and so were my younger aunts. However, the guest house had had very few visitors during the war years: Grandma didn’t actually say that they were struggling for money, but I realised that they must be finding it difficult to manage and resolved that I’d try to find some way of helping out when we moved back to Briesau. I didn’t know what, but I was sure there’d be something I could do.

In fact, from what she said, it seemed that things were hard for everyone there. I felt really bad for moaning about the rationing in Britain, because it was clear that the situation in Austria was an awful lot worse. Still, the war was over now, I reminded myself, and surely it couldn’t be that long before things got back to normal. Anyway, we could cope with things like food shortages. What mattered was that we were all alive and well. Mummy, Auntie Rosa and I all wrote back at once. I had so much to tell everyone that I didn’t know where to start: I kept remembering more and more things to add in and my letter probably made no sense at all by the time I’d finished it!

Lady Russell wrote as well. I was quite touched by that. “I’ve known your family since long before you were born, Gretchen,” she said smilingly when I said shyly that it was very nice of her to write to Grandma and to send her best wishes to Uncle Eigen. “I can’t tell you how glad I was to hear that they were all safe.” Just at that moment, I really did feel that there truly was some sort of bond between our family and the Russells. It did happen sometimes. Not very often, but sometimes.

However, although Lady Russell seemed to understand something of how we felt, Jakob, Josefa and Little Andreas were utterly bemused by it all. They couldn’t understand why I cried when I read the letter, and they couldn’t understand why I was so excited. I suppose I’d expected them to feel the same as I did, and I had to keep reminding myself that it was different for them. Jakob had been so little when we’d left Briesau that he had very few memories of our family there, and Josefa and Little Andreas had never even met any of them. They’d heard Mummy and Daddy and me talking about them, but they hadn’t even had letters from them to read like the Bettany children had had from their parents in India: we might as well have been talking about people out of a story book.

I told them how wonderful Grandma and Grandpa and all our aunties and uncles were, and how much they’d love them all when they got to know them, and how everyone in Briesau knew our family, and how beautiful the Tiernsee was, and I thought they’d be thrilled by everything I was saying. But they just looked at me as if I was very strange; and when I started to talk about leaving Armishire and going back to live in Tyrol the boys pulled faces and Josefa started to cry and said that she didn’t want to go and live in a strange place.

I didn’t know what to say after that.

#276:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Wed Oct 04, 2006 7:47 am
Of course - to the younger children England would have seemed like home - Gretchen would be the only one to see Austria in that way.

Thanks Alison - good to see this back.

#277:  Author: FatimaLocation: Sunny Qatar PostPosted: Wed Oct 04, 2006 8:03 am
Yes, it must be difficult for her to realize that her family don't feel the same about Austria as she does.

Thanks Alison; it's great to see this back again!

#278:  Author: Ruth BLocation: Oxford, UK PostPosted: Wed Oct 04, 2006 10:09 am
Thanks for the update Alison!

I fear Gretchen may be disappointed...

#279: In the presence of fate Author: Fiona McLocation: Bendigo, Australia PostPosted: Wed Oct 04, 2006 11:08 am
Am really glad this is back. Thanks

#280:  Author: ChairLocation: Rochester, Kent PostPosted: Wed Oct 04, 2006 11:46 am
Thanks, Alison. I'm glad that the family are safe.

#281:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Thu Oct 05, 2006 6:46 am
Some of this overlaps with my last drabble but one because I've kind of got used to that universe now - hope that's OK!

Auntie Karen was the first one of us to go back; but only to visit, and under very sad circumstances. She’d also had news from her family in Briesau, but in her case the news had been bad. Her only brother had been killed early on in the war. He’d been gone for more than five years and it was only now that their parents had been able to let her know.

I wanted to give her all sorts of messages for Grandma and Grandpa and everyone else, but it didn’t seem right somehow. Mummy and Cousin Anna were both doubtful about whether or not she was up to making the journey – she hadn’t been well lately, after a nasty accident in the Chalet School kitchen in which she’d tripped over something one of the maids had left on the floor and spilt a pan of boiling fat over herself, not that anyone at the school had seemed very concerned – but she said, in a flat voice that was nothing like the way she usually spoke, that she was going and that that was that. Mummy asked her quietly if she had the money for her ticket, and she just said, in the same flat tone of voice, that she’d manage.

She came to see us – including Cousin Anna, who managed to come round the same afternoon - as soon as she could after she got back. She had a lot to tell us. She’d seen all our family, and she told us that that my grandparents were in good health, all the new little cousins were lovely, and Uncle Eigen was doing well. She also reported that Briesau had escaped the worst of the bombing and didn’t really look all that much different - although Innsbruck was in a terrible mess and it was likely to take years to rebuild it properly.

I was sorry to hear about Innsbruck, but I’d only ever been there once and I hardly remembered it. It was Briesau that I was interested in, and it was sounding as if not much there had changed. I wriggled with excitement at the thought that everything there would be just how I remembered it. But I’d got excited too soon. Auntie Karen had no sooner made the comment about Innsbruck than she was saying sadly that her own parents seemed to have aged fifteen years since she’d last seen them; and, after she’d said that, she came out with a list of names of people from Briesau who’d been killed or injured in the war.

Maybe it wasn’t a long list in the general scheme of things, but when you thought about what a small village Briesau was it seemed like a very long list indeed. Most of the names were names I knew, and I couldn’t quite take it all in at first. Later on, I cried, remembering all the faces that went with the names. Some of them can’t have been much older when we left Briesau than I was now. And now they were dead. Oh, how, more than ever, I hated the Nazis for starting the war and for everything they’d done.

“Were people … all right? With you, I mean?” Cousin Anna asked, a little awkwardly; and I didn’t realise what she meant at first. I thought she was referring to Auntie Karen losing her brother and people not knowing what to say to her about it - I never knew what to say to people after someone in their family had died, and I always felt that I was saying the wrong thing. But that wasn’t what she meant at all.

I only realised what she really meant when Auntie Karen shook her head, bit her lip and said quietly that some people in Briesau had been downright hostile towards her. She didn’t actually say as much, but I got the impression that even her own parents hadn’t been particularly pleased to see her. She’d even been called names in the street a couple of times. Briesau was a small place and most people there knew each other and knew all about each other’s business. They realised that she, and we, had left Austria with the Chalet School, the “English school” as it had so often been referred to there; and some of them, especially people whose relations and friends had been killed in the war, had turned on her because of it.

It had never once occurred to me that anyone might feel like that. I’d always thought of Britain and Austria as being on the same side, with the Nazis as a mutual enemy. I’d never thought for a moment that anyone might think that we were somehow betraying Austria by going to Britain. I’d never thought that some people might not welcome us back.

Suddenly, all the images I’d had in my head about our glorious, joyful return to Austria were starting to seem more than a bit optimistic. Josefa and the boys thought of Armishire as home. There were people in Briesau who’d be actively hostile towards us when they saw us. And that was before even starting to think about all the problems that Austria in general was facing. It wasn’t going to be all glorious and joyful at all, was it? It was going to be fraught with problems.

But we’d cope with the problems. It’d be all right. We’d coped with moving to Guernsey and moving to Armishire, so we could certainly cope with moving back home. Once we got there, everything would sort itself out. I was sure of that.

#282:  Author: ChairLocation: Rochester, Kent PostPosted: Thu Oct 05, 2006 12:01 pm
Thanks, Alison. I'm sorry about Karen's brother and I'm sorry that people were hostile to her.

#283:  Author: MaryRLocation: Cheshire PostPosted: Thu Oct 05, 2006 12:07 pm
Tragic dashing of all her hopes and dreams. Crying or Very sad

Daunting, really, to think they were classed as betraying thier country. There's more than one view to every action, isn't there?

Thanks, Alison

#284:  Author: Cath V-PLocation: Newcastle NSW PostPosted: Thu Oct 05, 2006 12:12 pm
Oh how painful for Gretchen to realise that the place to which she wanted to return really isn't there any more.

#285:  Author: FatimaLocation: Sunny Qatar PostPosted: Thu Oct 05, 2006 1:16 pm
Poor Karen, having to go back at such a sad time and to such a depressing reaction. Thanks Alison.

#286:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Thu Oct 05, 2006 5:27 pm
How sad - yet how realistic. Poor Gretchen, she's having to face a number of unpalatable facts, isn't she?

Thanks Alison

#287:  Author: patmacLocation: Yorkshire England PostPosted: Thu Oct 05, 2006 9:26 pm
Poor Gretchen. I've just caught up with over a month of this and it's so moving. When you think that there were so many 'Gretchens' left confused by the war and circumstances - on both sides of the war.

Thank you Alison

#288:  Author: ChangnoiLocation: Milwaukee, USA PostPosted: Fri Oct 06, 2006 12:21 am
As I once told Thomas Wolfe, "You can't go home again."


Glad this is back.


#289:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Fri Oct 06, 2006 6:59 am
Afraid this is one of those "very boring but necessary" filler bits Rolling Eyes ! Also, seeing as Sybil seems to be 14 for about 3 years during the St Briavel's years - which she doesn't make up until much later when she goes from 18 to 23 in about 3 years - I'm assuming that "Three Go" starts only a year after the end of the war because otherwise the ages just won't fit in at all Confused !

Sometimes, looking back on those first eighteen months or so after the war ended, it seems as if all I did was spend my time in hopeless daydreams about going back to Austria; but it wasn’t like that. My new school wasn’t the school I’d wanted to go to, but I did my best to work hard and I had plenty of friends, and of course I had Sybil as well. And, yes, I thought a lot about moving back to Austria, but it did genuinely seem as if that was what was going to happen.

It wasn’t as if I was expecting Mummy and Daddy to pack their jobs in and for us to move back to Austria with no money and no home to go to. I assumed that, once everything had settled down, the Chalet School and the San would be going back to the Tiernsee as well. No-one had ever spoken about the School’s move to Armishire and the San’s move to the Welsh mountains being permanent. The school had never stopped using German names for certain things and following certain Tyrolean customs; and I often heard Sir James and Herr Doktor Maynard saying that they wished they could take their patients to the Alps where the air was so much better. And Frau Doktor Maynard was always talking nostalgically about Tyrol and what it’d be like “when” –when, not if - the school and the San moved back there.

As far as I was concerned, “when” meant “as soon as possible”. I suppose I thought that, now that the war was over, it would just be a question of sorting out practicalities before we could all go back. The Nazi occupation of Austria was over now: there was nothing stopping us from returning there. Admittedly Austria was suffering from all sorts of shortages and had an awful lot of physical damage to repair, but Britain was in the same position. So was most of the rest of Europe. All any of us could try to do was to get on with things as best we could. Most countries were trying to put the war behind them and to move on. Britain certainly was - even if Sir James did constantly moan about the new Labour government!

But it didn’t happen like that for my country. At the end of the war, Austria, like Germany, was divided into four parts by the British, the French, the Americans and the Soviets. It was very hard for me to accept that, and the reasons for it. I’d always thought in terms of Austria being invaded and occupied by the Nazis, in the same way as Poland or the Netherlands or any of the other countries affected had been. Now I came to understand that Austria had actually voted to become part of the Reich, and to accept that most people didn’t really see the Nazi occupation of Austria in quite the same way as they saw the Nazi occupation of other countries. It wasn’t something that was easy to come to terms with.

However, from the point of our moving back there, the division of Austria and its occupation by the Allies shouldn’t have caused any real problems. A slight delay, at worse. They were only meant to be temporary measures. But it didn’t happen like that either. And this time it wasn’t really anything to do with Austria. It was to do with the Soviet Union.

As far as I was concerned, the Soviets were Britain, America and France’s Allies. The bravery in Stalingrad, in Leningrad, in Moscow and in so many other places in the face of the Nazi invasion was something we’d all heard about and we all admired. The Soviets were on the same side as us. Of course they were. But, suddenly, everything seemed to have changed. Now, the British and the Americans and the French on the one hand, and the Soviets on the other, having won the war together, were at odds with each other.

And so neither Austria nor Germany could be put back together again and start trying to work normally again, because the Soviets had one part of each and the Western Allies had the other three parts of each. It was like a nightmare. After all those years the war was over and the Nazis were defeated, and now the countries that had won the war had fallen out with each other. Well, that was how it seemed to me. Now everyone was talking as if the Soviets were our enemies. Across Europe, countries seemed to be taking sides. No fewer than four of Austria’s neighbours - Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Belsornia - seemed to be on the Soviet side, whilst Switzerland seemed determined to stay out of it all and Italy seemed to be wavering.

And there was Austria. Stuck in the middle of it all, and split into four pieces by Allies who weren’t allies any more. Out of the frying pan, into the fire. But, still, I didn’t see why the Chalet School and the San couldn’t go back to the Tiernsee, or at least start making plans to go back there. Schools and sanatoria were still going to be operating, weren’t they? Tyrol was in the part of Austria being run by the French and there was no problem between France and Britain. Well, that was how I saw it.

But it wasn’t how the people who made the decisions saw it.

#290:  Author: FatimaLocation: Sunny Qatar PostPosted: Fri Oct 06, 2006 7:11 am
It must have been so hard for her to come to terms with all of this. Thanks Alison.

#291:  Author: alicatLocation: Wiltshire PostPosted: Fri Oct 06, 2006 12:30 pm
alison I have just read this in one fell swoop (really must get round to doing some work in a minute, it's taken me an hour!) and just had to post to say how well Iyou've captured gretchen's thoughts and feelings, and how interesting it is - my modern history is a bit lacking so the post-war stuff is really new to me.
as for the grammar school thing, i thought that was a class thing more than money - if marie and andreas had really thought she could go I think they would have asked madge for help, and got it, I don't think they are quite as scared of her as gretchen feels, but I think they thought that sort of education wasn't for them and theirs. wrong of course but so typical.

#292:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Fri Oct 06, 2006 6:00 pm
Thanks Alison - can just imagine how confused Gretchen must be about it all - especially the fact that Austria is treated as a defeated enemy. Agree with alicat about the class thing being the real reason Marie and Andreas didn't want Gretchen going to grammar school.

Thank you

#293:  Author: leahbelleLocation: Kilmarnock PostPosted: Fri Oct 06, 2006 6:56 pm
Yes, it must have been very difficult for her to come to terms with. Thanks, Alison. That was not boring at all!

#294:  Author: ChangnoiLocation: Milwaukee, USA PostPosted: Fri Oct 06, 2006 10:00 pm
You should really use this as a course for modern European history, it's so good! Of course, you might get pupils confused about what happened to Belsornia, but it's so well-written and just explains what happened and what effect that it had on people at the time.



#295:  Author: Kathy_SLocation: midwestern US PostPosted: Sat Oct 07, 2006 2:39 am
Not boring at all!

Very understandable point of view for Gretchen, for all she seems very mature for her age. Such a complicated stew of events and emotions -- knowing that her home doesn't exist as such any more, that it's not the same to her younger siblings, and now this displacement of nations and attitudes and her own parents from all she's expected.

#296:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Sat Oct 07, 2006 6:59 am
Thanks for the comments Very Happy .

The Russells’ view on it all was that it would be taking too big a risk to try to re-establish either the Chalet School or the San in Austria whilst things were so uncertain, and that parents wouldn’t want to send their daughters to Austria at the moment even if the School did go back there. Reluctantly, I had to admit that they had a point.

So, the way things were going, it looked as if it could be months or even a couple of years before the Russells went back to Austria. I knew that up till now Mummy and Daddy had never even considered leaving their jobs at the Round House, but surely now it was time for a change of plan. We’d never intended to stay in England once the Nazis were out of Austria and peace was restored. It wasn’t as if we were legally bound to the Russells or anything, was it? And I was sure they’d understand our wanting to go home and that we’d be able to leave without there being any bad feeling.

I knew that it would be expensive for six of us, seven including Auntie Rosa, to travel to Austria – it had only recently dawned on me that the Russells must have paid for our tickets when we’d travelled to Guernsey - but surely we could try to save up. It would only be a one-off cost, after all. And I realised that Mummy and Daddy would have to get new jobs when we got there, but they were both good at what they did and I was sure that they’d find something. Anyway, wouldn’t it be worth a bit of hardship for us to be able to go home and be with our family again?

I said all this to Mummy and Daddy. And they said that I was talking nonsense and that there was no way that we could just up sticks and move back to Austria on our own, and that they’d appreciate it if I’d stop harping on about the subject because it was unsettling the little ones. And then I lost my temper, and I yelled that it was absolutely pathetic that our entire lives revolved around trotting about after the Russells and that we couldn’t go anywhere unless they told us to. I shouldn’t have said it, I suppose, but it was how I felt.

As soon as the words were out of my mouth I got the horrible feeling that I’d just landed myself in very big trouble, but Mummy just shook her head sadly and said that I’d got it wrong.

“It’s not just about doing what the Russells want, Gretchen,” she said. “There are a lot of other things to consider too. Things in Austria are very difficult at the moment. You know that: you’ve read your grandmother’s letters. It wouldn’t be easy for us to find jobs there. Anyway, we’re used to the jobs we’ve got: it’d be very hard for us to start working for someone else after all this time.

“You’re not a baby now: maybe it’s time that you started thinking a little bit more about what’s best for other people. Think about it: your sister and brothers are settled here. Josefa and Little Andreas have never lived anywhere else, and Jakob barely remembers Austria. It wouldn’t be right for us to uproot them and take them to live in a strange place whilst there’s all this political uncertainty, and whilst, from what your Auntie Karen said, some people in Briesau might not even be very happy to see us. We live in England now, and for the time being we’re going to carry on living in England. You need to accept that, Gretchen, or you’re going to end up making yourself very miserable.”

I hadn’t really thought about it all like that, and I wasn’t sure what to say next. I asked – in a rather subdued voice – if there was any chance of us at least going there for a visit - but Mummy and Daddy said that, although they both wished we could, it’d be very expensive and that I really shouldn’t get my hopes up.

It was pretty clear from the looks on their faces that there was no chance of us going to Austria any time soon, even just briefly. I felt as if everything I’d be planning my life around was being snatched away from me. We might have a life in England now, but it wasn’t home … and how much longer was it going to be before I saw the rest of my family again? I missed Grandma and Grandpa and everyone so much, and I kept on and on thinking about those little cousins whom I’d never even met.

All I could really do, it seemed, was to hope that sooner or later the Russells would decide that the time had come when it was safe to go back. My hopes rose when Sybil told me that the Chalet School was starting German lessons again and going back to the old system of speaking English, French and German on alternate days. That sounded to me as if a move back to Austria might be imminent.

But the political situation in Austria showed no signs of being resolved, and then something happened which really dealt my hopes a hammer blow. Sir James was offered the chance to go to a conference in Canada. For six months. Lady Russell decided to go with him, and to take Josette and Ailie too. Six months. Well, there was no chance of anything happening about the school and the San moving to Austria whilst the owners weren’t on the other side of the world, was there, I thought dejectedly.

There was one really good thing about it, though. Whilst they were away, we were going to have the Round House all to ourselves! For the first time in my life I wouldn’t have to worry about making too much noise or going into a room I wasn’t suppose to go into! Even if it was only going to be for six months, if we couldn’t go back to Austria then at least we could have a normal sort of family life in England. I couldn’t wait for them to go! Apart from one thing - the effect that the news had on Sybil.

#297:  Author: FatimaLocation: Sunny Qatar PostPosted: Sat Oct 07, 2006 7:52 am
I hope the six months are good ones for Grechen; it would be lovely for her to see the Russells going away for so long!
Thanks Alison.

#298:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Sat Oct 07, 2006 8:00 am
Hmmmm, yes poor Sybil was left back in England, wasn't she? They took Josette and Ailie but left her. Must have felt like a real hammer blow for her. Hope Gretchen can help Sybil.

Thanks Alison.

#299:  Author: Cath V-PLocation: Newcastle NSW PostPosted: Sat Oct 07, 2006 11:24 am
Both are eldest daughters feeling dispossessed and not at home where they are.

Poor Gretchen; to feel so displaced and exiled is a constant painful awareness that is at the back of all she does.

#300:  Author: leahbelleLocation: Kilmarnock PostPosted: Sat Oct 07, 2006 3:00 pm
Poor Gretchen. It must be awful for her. Her whole future is in the hands of other people. Thanks, Alison.

#301:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Sun Oct 08, 2006 8:44 am
It wasn’t just the Russells who were on the move that spring, when I was thirteen. It was the whole of the Chalet School as well. Plus the Maynards. There was some sort of problem with the drains at the school building, and so all the staff and pupils had to move out whilst it was sorted out. It was pretty hard to find a building that was big enough to be used as a boarding school available for rental; and so they ended up moving miles and miles away, to a tiny island off the coast of South Wales.

At around the same time, it turned out that there was something wrong with the foundations at the Maynards’ house, which meant that the Maynards also had to find temporary accommodation. You’d’ve thought that they’d have looked for somewhere near the San, seeing as Herr Doktor Maynard was meant to be taking charge of the place whilst Sir James was away; but instead they ended up moving to a house, called Cartref, on the Welsh coast not far from where the school was going. The Frau Doktor, from what Sybil said, loved sticking her nose in the school’s business: if I’d thought she’d known anything about building, I’d have suspected that she’d made the foundations of her house unsafe by herself so that she didn’t have to stay behind when the school moved away!

I was sorry that the school and the Maynards were leaving Armishire, because it meant that I wasn’t going to be able to see Auntie Karen or Cousin Anna very often until the various building problems were dealt with and they all came back. Nor Sybil. What was more, Frau Doktor Maynard said that Auntie Rosa had to go and live with her whilst the Russells were away, so for the next six months I wasn’t going to be seeing much of Auntie Rosa either. However, on the positive side, it meant that we could enjoy having the Round House to ourselves without having to worry that Frau Doktor Maynard or one of the teachers from the school might suddenly decide to call in to check up on us.

It was going to be brilliant being able to relax in the evenings and at the weekends without having to worry about whether or not we were disturbing the Russells. I couldn’t imagine not being at home in the evenings or at the weekends. When I’d been about the age Josette was now, I’d read quite a lot of boarding school stories – most of them passed on to me by Bride or Primula – and I’d thought that going somewhere like the Chalet School would be really exciting. All those midnight feasts, and all that playing tricks on the teachers! Now, most of those stories seemed rather silly; and I really didn’t like the idea of having no privacy and being told what to do the entire time one little bit.

I knew that sometimes it was particularly difficult for Sybil, because everyone at the Chalet School thought of her as “Lady Russell’s daughter” and that could make things awkward for her. And everyone at the Chalet School thought that Sir James and Lady Russell, and Herr and Frau Doktor Maynard for that matter, were wonderful. From what she said, criticising any of them to anyone at the school was seen as worse than criticising the King or Queen! No-one there seemed able even to imagine that anything that they did might ever not be perfect. I suppose that was why I, the only friend Sybil had who wasn’t directly connected with the Chalet School, was the one in front of whom she broke down and cried when her parents decided to take her sisters with them to Canada and leave her behind.

#302:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Sun Oct 08, 2006 9:21 am
Poor Sybil. Crying or Very sad

As for the Maynards moving to Cartref - yes it was a plot device by EDB - but she should have thought of a more feasible one - having Jack Maynard so far away from the San was not a good idea.

Thanks Alison.

#303:  Author: JennieLocation: Cambridgeshire PostPosted: Sun Oct 08, 2006 11:52 am
Thanks, Alison. That was so cruel to Sybil, wasn't it?

#304:  Author: FatimaLocation: Sunny Qatar PostPosted: Sun Oct 08, 2006 1:23 pm
Yes, it is strange that they didn't take Sybil with them. Thanks Alison.

#305:  Author: leahbelleLocation: Kilmarnock PostPosted: Sun Oct 08, 2006 3:13 pm
It was a cruel thing to do to Sybil. I'm surprised she didn't go off the rails!

#306:  Author: Cath V-PLocation: Newcastle NSW PostPosted: Sun Oct 08, 2006 11:20 pm
I suspect they put it to her so 'reasonably' that she felt she couldn't say anything, especially once the issue of Josette's health came up. Crying or Very sad

#307: In the presence of fate Author: Fiona McLocation: Bendigo, Australia PostPosted: Mon Oct 09, 2006 12:24 am
I'm glad to see Gretchen and Sybil becoming close. It's great that Sybil has someone like that she can talk to that isn't directly related to the school. I always thought being known as Madame's daughter would not have been as bad as being Joey Maynards daughter. Joey was always there and at least Madame let her daughters get on with it at school. I could also understand why Jem and Madge didn't take Sybil initially as they thought it would only be for 6 months. I don't know many parents who would whip their child out of school for only 6 months. 12 months maybe but not 6. And credit where it's due. She did have her come over with Joey and Co when moving to Canada was going to be longer than initially thought.

#308:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Mon Oct 09, 2006 6:54 am
“Six months isn’t that long,” I said, trying to comfort her. “Peggy and Bride and the others were away from their parents for years and years.”

“That wasn’t the same, though.” Sybil looked at me unhappily. “Uncle Dick and Auntie Mollie were thinking of them: everyone says that the climate in India’s unhealthy for white children. There are quite a few girls at school whose parents are abroad and have left them behind, but with all of them it’s because the parents are in India or East Africaor somewhere else where the climate’s not good and they think their children’d be better off in Britain … whereas Daddy and Uncle Jack keep saying that the climate in Canada’s wonderful, nearly as healthy as the climate in Tyrol. Oh, sorry, Gretchen.” She looked at me anxiously. Sometimes, depending on what mood I was in, I got upset when people mentioned Tyrol.

“It’s all right,” I assured her. “And I do sort of know how you feel. I haven’t seen most of my family for nearly nine years.” My eyes filled with tears: I dashed a hand across them angrily; and Sybil touched my arm sympathetically. “We’re a right pair, aren’t we?” I said. “At least I’ve never been away from Mum and Dad or my sisters and brother, though.”

“I just feel like they don’t want me with them,” she said unhappily. “Like I said, it’s not as if they’re going somewhere that they think’d be bad for me. They just don’t want to take me.”

“They’re probably just worried that you’d get behind with your work if they took you out of school for six months,” I said. “I mean, they’re not taking David or Primula either: it’s not as if it’s just you.”

“Primula wouldn’t want to be away from Daisy for six months.” Now Sybil’s eyes were filling with tears, and it was my turn to pat her arm. “It’s different for her. And David couldn’t be away from his school for six months at his age: it’d totally mess up his exams and blow his chances of getting into med school. Anyway, he’s said that he wouldn’t want to go: on top of having the exams to think about, he doesn’t want to miss out on playing for the rugby team and all the other stuff he does at Winchester. But it doesn’t really matter for me, does it? There’ll be schools in Canada, and it won’t matter if I learn slightly different stuff for a few months. Let’s face it: I’m not going to be going to university, am I? David and Josette are the clever ones, not me.”

I couldn’t help feeling slightly resentful when she said that. Sybil got to go to the Chalet School, when she admitted herself that she wasn’t very good at her lessons or even very interested in them, whereas I … but I stopped myself there and reminded myself that what I was meant to be doing was trying to make her feel better. “You’re really good at art and needlework,” I reminded her. “Honestly, Sybil: your drawing and embroidery’re amazing. I wish mine were half as good as yours: I can’t draw to save my life and my sewing’s not great either! And … maybe it’s just that your mum thinks she might find it hard to look after three of you now that she’s decided not to take Auntie Rosa with her.” After all, Lady Russell wasn’t exactly used to looking after her own children, I thought!

Sybil shook her head. “It’s not that. I know that it’s not that, because they’re taking Margot with them. Dad and Uncle Jack think that it’ll do her good, because they think the climate in Canada’s better than it is here. And the climate’s the main reason Mum’s going. She wouldn’t want to be away from Dad for six months anyway, but she’s really keen on the idea of going to Canada, because they think the climate’ll be good for Josette, after…after …”

Her voice tailed off. But I knew exactly what she meant. Personally I couldn’t see that there was anything wrong with Josette now. She’d made a full recovery from her scalding, thankfully; and it had been years since then. But Sir James and Lady Russell still fussed over her sometimes, and blamed every minor cold or cough she got on the after-effects of the accident.

It was very hard on Sybil, who still blamed herself for what had happened. “I’m being really selfish, aren’t I?” she sobbed. “It’s a really big honour for Dad to be asked to go to this conference, and if the climate there’s as good as he and Uncle Jack say it is then it’ll do Josette and Margot the world of good. But I just wish that they wanted me to go with them too. I’ve tried so hard since that day with the kettle, and …oh, I’m sorry, it’s only six months, like you said, and you haven’t seen your grandparents and your aunts and uncles since before the war, but … oh, why don’t they want me?”

I put my arm round her and we both sobbed together. When we’d both calmed down, she told me that she was sure that her parents still wanted to move back to Tyrol eventually, and I told her that I was sure that her parents were only thinking about her education and that the six months would soon pass.

So. A six month interlude without the Russells .. and then life would carry on as it had done before. Was six months a long time or a short time? I couldn’t decide.

#309:  Author: JennieLocation: Cambridgeshire PostPosted: Mon Oct 09, 2006 11:56 am
Thanks, Alison. So unfair to Sybil.

#310:  Author: FatimaLocation: Sunny Qatar PostPosted: Mon Oct 09, 2006 12:44 pm
Grechen is a good friend for Sybil. Thanks Alison.

#311:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Mon Oct 09, 2006 4:30 pm
Poor Sybil - for all her deemed sensitivity Madge doesn't have a clue about her eldest daughter has she?

Thanks Alison

#312:  Author: leahbelleLocation: Kilmarnock PostPosted: Mon Oct 09, 2006 4:41 pm
Poor Sybil. I'm not surprised she feels unwanted - six months is a long time when you're that age. At least Gretchen has her parents around.

#313:  Author: MaryRLocation: Cheshire PostPosted: Mon Oct 09, 2006 8:35 pm
Loved that last line, Alison. It's both, Gretchen!

Poor Sybil, though. Crying or Very sad

Thank you.

#314:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Tue Oct 10, 2006 6:50 am
It was great once the Russells had gone.

Admittedly, it wasn’t quite as great as Jakob, Josefa, Little Andreas and I had been anticipating. Mum and Dad said very firmly, right from the start, that they’d been entrusted with taking care of the Round House for their master and mistress and that they weren’t having any of us using all the Russells’ things, kicking footballs around inside the house or inviting hordes of friends over to play in the huge drawing room or the enormous garden. In fact, Mum kept the place looking so completely immaculate that anyone calling round during the day would never have guessed that a whole family was living there. I supposed that that was fair enough: the Russells could have shut the house up for six months and left us to fend for ourselves until they got back, so we were obliged to look after it all properly.

But it was still great.

We didn’t have to worry that anything we did might be disturbing Sir James or Lady Russell. We could invite our schoolfriends round without either having to confine them to our own rooms or having the cringe-making embarrassment of having to introduce them to our parents’ employers. We could eat our own favourite foods instead of always having to eat the Russells’ favourite foods. And we weren’t restricted to spending most of our time in one small part of the house where we kept getting in each other’s way. I particularly enjoyed being able to have long hot baths in one of the Russells’ bathrooms, without anyone banging on the door and telling me to get a move on!

And, although obviously we had to be careful about how much petrol we used, Dad had the use of the Russells’ car whilst Sir James was away. So, now that both he and Mum had more time on their hands than they’d ever had before in their lives, sometimes we all went on rides out on Saturdays. We went to visit some of the nearby historic towns, such as Worcester and Warwick, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Jakob and Little Andreas moaned about being dragged round historic buildings; but on other days we went out into the countryside, and a few times we went to the seaside resorts on the North Welsh coast, which made them happy and which I enjoyed as well.

The Russells seemed to be enjoying themselves too, or at least those of them in Canada did. We didn’t hear from them directly, but Auntie Rosa and Cousin Anna passed their news on to us from the Maynards. Sir James’s conference was going well, Lady Russell was having a wonderful time and said that she felt better than she’d done in years, and Josette, Ailie and their cousin Margot were all thriving.

Then, in October, the Russells sent the Maynards a letter saying that they’d decided to stay in Canada for the winter and probably wouldn’t be home until May, if not later. They didn’t bother to write and tell us about it themselves, just asking the Frau Doktor to let us know. Personally I thought that that was rather rude, but I supposed that it didn’t really matter that much. What did matter was that they didn’t bother to contact Sybil or David themselves either. They left it to the Frau Doktor to tell them as well.

Sybil was heartbroken. Not only would it now be another six months, if not more, before she saw them again, but they hadn’t even bothered to let her know themselves. Even David was upset, she wrote. He was studying for important exams this school year, and his parents weren’t there to support him. He’d told her that Rix was being a big help to him, and so were Herr and Frau Bettany, but that it just wasn’t the same as having his mum and dad around. Why did life have to be this way, I wondered. Why did so many families end up being split up? Why did things have to be so difficult?

However, the Russells’ decision to stay in Canada suddenly made far more sense a few weeks later, when we heard that Lady Russell had given birth to twin baby boys, Kevin and Kester. The news didn’t half give us a surprise! Not even Frau Doktor Maynard had known anything about it in advance. Thinking about it, I wondered why my own parents hadn’t had more babies. Four children was more than a lot of people had; but Mum came from a much bigger family than that herself, and she was quite a bit younger than the Frau Doktor was. Was it just that God hadn’t sent them any more babies after Little Andreas had been born, or was it that they were worried that the Russells might not want them living at the Round House any more if their family got bigger? I couldn’t very well ask them about it; but I did wonder.

Anyway, Sybil was really excited about the new arrivals - although it was yet another piece of news that she got second-hand, from her aunt rather than from her parents. She was upset that she couldn’t see the babies, and she admitted that she felt rather left out when she heard all about Josette and Ailie and Margot spending time with the babies and suggesting names for them whilst she was thousands of miles away; but she was very pleased all the same. And David was extremely chuffed not to be the only boy in their family any more, even if he was fifteen years older than his new brothers!

Both Sybil and David spent Christmas at Cartref, with the Maynards. I don’t think they particularly enjoyed themselves, and I felt rather sorry for them; but I did thoroughly enjoy our own Christmas, the first Christmas that we’d ever had without Mum having to worry about cooking Christmas dinner for the Russells. I couldn’t help remembering that lovely Christmas back in Tyrol, just before my fourth birthday, when I’d thought that every Christmas would be spent in Briesau with all my family around me; but Christmas Day 1947 was a happy day and I didn’t allow thoughts of what might have been to spoil it for me.

#315: In the Presence of fate Author: Fiona McLocation: Bendigo, Australia PostPosted: Tue Oct 10, 2006 10:10 am
I'm glad Gretchen is enjoying life without the Russells around and that she and Sybil are remaining in touch. I always thought Madge must have thought it would be easier to have the news that they were staying broken to them rather than through a letter. I just never liked what Joey said with it.

#316:  Author: JennieLocation: Cambridgeshire PostPosted: Tue Oct 10, 2006 10:57 am
Thanks, Alison. I always thought it was cruel of Madge for the news to reach her children that way. Time to write to her sister, but to her own children, forsooth.

#317:  Author: FatimaLocation: Sunny Qatar PostPosted: Tue Oct 10, 2006 1:19 pm
And yet Jo could have broken the news in a less shocking way than discovering about it in a letter. She ought to have sent Jo letters to give to Sybil and David when they were told about the extension of the visit.
Thanks Alison.

#318:  Author: leahbelleLocation: Kilmarnock PostPosted: Tue Oct 10, 2006 4:46 pm
Thanks, Alison. Madge could have broken the news better, as could Jo.

#319:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Tue Oct 10, 2006 5:07 pm
Thanks Alison - agree Madge could have broken the news better - why couldn't she have had a quick phone converstion with Sybil? Yes it would be expensive - but she was her eldest daughter.

#320:  Author: MaryRLocation: Cheshire PostPosted: Tue Oct 10, 2006 8:29 pm
Glad that at least Gretchen managed to enjoy Christmas.

Thanks, Alison

#321:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Wed Oct 11, 2006 6:53 am
The Russells were meant to be coming back towards the end of spring, but their return got put off again; and it was decided, at Lady Russell’s suggestion, that the Maynards should go out to join them in Canada after Easter and take Sybil with them. Sybil was really excited about meeting her little brothers and seeing her parents and sisters, and I was really excited about us having the house to ourselves for another few months, so we were both happy. Although I was rather envious about Sybil – and Cousin Anna and Auntie Rosa, both of whom the Maynards were also taking with them – getting to see Toronto. It sounded like a really exciting place. Mind you, so did most places compared to Howells Village – I certainly had no intention of being stuck there for ever!

I was starting to think quite a lot about what the future might hold for me. I was fourteen by this time, and aware that my schooldays were drawing to a close. Quite honestly, I was beginning to lose interest in school and to look forward to leaving. I’d always enjoyed lessons when I’d been younger, but some people in my class kept saying that the stuff we were learning was useless and that they couldn’t wait to get out into the real world, and I was finding myself beginning to agree with them. It had been made clear to me when I was ten that there was no prospect of my going to university, and knowing about things like algebra and which chemical symbols stood for which element was hardly going to be any use to me when I got a job.

It was usual at our school for pupils to leave after their fifteenth birthdays to find jobs, and my friends and I kept looking enviously at boys and girls only a year or two older than us who were earning their own money and didn’t have to put up with wearing stupid school uniforms and being bossed around by teachers. Some people in my class already had definite ideas about what they wanted to do. Susan, my closest friend at school, wanted to work in a shop in Armiford city centre, saying that she liked the idea of being in town and meeting lots of different people, whilst some of the others preferred the idea of working in offices. A lot of the boys wanted to go into various trades, some of them working with their fathers, and a few of the girls from better-off families were hoping to get into teacher training colleges.

Jakob, two years younger than I was, had reached the age of eleven after the new “eleven plus” system had been fully implemented, but he wasn’t academically inclined and there’d never really been any question of him going to a grammar school. However, he had plans for the future even though he was only twelve. His main interest was in cars and engines, and his ambition was to be apprenticed to a mechanic as soon as he was fifteen. By contrast, I really wasn’t at all sure what I wanted to do; but I did know that I had no intention of ending up working in domestic service like my parents. There was no way that I was spending my life running round after some well-to-do family the way that my parents ran round after the Russells. I didn’t know what I was going to do with myself, but I knew that it wouldn’t be that.

#322:  Author: leahbelleLocation: Kilmarnock PostPosted: Wed Oct 11, 2006 12:11 pm
Interesting that she doesn't want to follow in her parents' footsteps!

#323:  Author: FatimaLocation: Sunny Qatar PostPosted: Wed Oct 11, 2006 1:57 pm
I don't blame her! A lifetime of servitude! I hope she gets a satisfying job, though.

#324:  Author: ibarhisLocation: London and Hemel Hempstead PostPosted: Wed Oct 11, 2006 2:02 pm
I hope that she gets her education another way and ends up doing something surprising and splendid! I shall be very disappointed if she simply marries a doctor!

#325:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Wed Oct 11, 2006 5:12 pm
Hope she finds something that she really wants to do.

Thanks Alison.

#326:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Thu Oct 12, 2006 6:46 am
In the autumn, Lady Russell came home on her own, briefly, to support Herr and Frau Bettany when Frau Bettany got ill and had to have a serious operation. I was sorry about Frau Bettany’s illness: she’d been very nice to me on the few occasions on which I’d met her, and I hoped that she’d soon be better. Anyway, instead of either coming to the Round House or going to the Bettanys’ home in Devon, Lady Russell decided to go to Cartref, the Maynards’ rented house in Carnbach; and she sent a telegram asking Mum to go down there and clean the house out before she arrived.

Mum didn’t seem to mind at all, but I thought that Lady Russell had a right cheek expecting her to go chasing down to South Wales at the drop of a hat like that. It was all right for Lady Russell: she got chauffeured everywhere she went. Mum didn’t! Dad was going to have to stay at home to look after Josefa and the boys, seeing as Mum thought that I was too young to be left in charge on my own; so Mum, who couldn’t drive, was going to have to get one train from Armiford to Swansea, another train from Swansea to Carnbach, and then a bus from Carnbach station to the Maynards’ house. It was a long journey to make just to clean a house for one person to stay in. How much could need doing, apart from a bit of dusting, after all? The place had been empty for months.

And then she said that I had to go with her! It wasn’t that I minded cleaning, but I really objected to being expected to run round after the Russells like that. Admittedly, they gave us a home, but they paid Mum and Dad far less than they would have done had we “lived out” so it was hardly as if we were getting a roof over our heads for free. And no-one seemed to care that it meant me missing two days of school. Mum and I had a big argument about it, which I lost, and I have to admit that I moaned all the way there and all the way back. Well, it really annoyed me that the Russells had been so inconsiderate, and it annoyed me even more that we always had to do what they said.

Oh well, at least we got to see a bit of the town of Carnbach. It wasn’t the most exciting place in the world, but it made a change from Howells. Not that we got chance to see it properly, though, because Mum insisted that we scrub the flaming house from top to bottom. You’d have thought that the Royal Family were coming to stay, not Lady Russell! I just hoped that all our hard work was appreciated.

Lady Russell wasn’t back for long: she went back to Canada once Frau Bettany was, thankfully, on the road to recovery, without visiting the Round House. And, as 1948 drew to its close, we enjoyed our second Christmas on our own. My fifteenth birthday was imminent by then, but I was no longer as worried as I had been about what sort of job I was going to find in Armishire because it looked like we were, at long last, going to be leaving!

Not to go back to Austria, unfortunately. It might have been over three years since the war had ended, but a proper settlement at home still seemed to be a long way off. Relations between the Soviet Union and the Western Allies were getting worse and they didn’t seem to be able to agree on anything; and Britain in particular seemed far more concerned with events in India and the Middle East than with the situation in Austria. However, it was looking as if we were going to be moving to Switzerland - only “next door” to Austria, and a German-speaking region of Switzerland at that.

The area in question was part of the Bernese Oberland and – as far as I could tell from the maps in the school library! – it was only about three hundred to three hundred and fifty miles from Briesau. Not exactly round the corner, admittedly, but near enough to allow for regular visits! After over ten years away, we’d finally be able to go back home.

#327:  Author: Cath V-PLocation: Newcastle NSW PostPosted: Thu Oct 12, 2006 8:31 am
Oh, poor Gretchen.

Thank you Alison, this is fascinating.

#328: In the presence of fate Author: Fiona McLocation: Bendigo, Australia PostPosted: Thu Oct 12, 2006 10:07 am
Og no poor Gretchen, she's going to be disappointed that they're not going. Am really curious to see what she's going to do with her life.

#329:  Author: FatimaLocation: Sunny Qatar PostPosted: Thu Oct 12, 2006 12:40 pm
Yes, I can't wait to see where her future lies!

#330:  Author: leahbelleLocation: Kilmarnock PostPosted: Thu Oct 12, 2006 12:55 pm
Poor Gretchen. I can so see why she was so annoyed at her parents always jumping through hoops for the Russells.

#331:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Thu Oct 12, 2006 4:48 pm
Poor girl - can understand why she was annoyed about having to go clean - and her parents are lucky they didn't get into trouble for withdrawing her from school!

Thanks Alison

#332:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Fri Oct 13, 2006 6:52 am
In September, the Chalet School had opened a “finishing branch” in the Bernese Oberland: Peggy Bettany had been one of its first pupils. I wasn’t entirely sure what they did there – I had this vague idea of a finishing school as being somewhere where you spent half your time walking around with books on your head to make you stand up straight – but quite honestly I wasn’t really very interested. However, I was interested in the prospect of the San and the main part of the school moving out there too – because, as I was constantly being reminded, where the Russells went, we went. So, if they moved to within a few hours’ travelling time of Briesau, then so would we!

Auntie Karen had gone out to Switzerland to work at the new finishing branch, the only one of the domestic staff from the school to do so. I’d been very upset when she left; but she’d told me that she was looking forward to being back in the Alps, even though she was going to miss Mum and Cousin Anna and me and the rest of us.

I hoped that the change would do her good: both her parents had died within a short space of each other, not long after the war, and she’d been quiet and sad for a long time afterwards. She’d hardly seen them in the last few years before they’d died, and I don’t think she thought they’d ever really forgiven her for leaving Austria for Britain. In fact, I think she was actually quite pleased that the new place was in the Bernese Oberland rather than in Tyrol. She’d said to me several times that she wasn’t sure that she ever wanted to go back to Briesau. It held too many sad memories for her.

She’d mentioned in several of her letters that, although nothing had been announced for definite yet, she’d heard a lot of talk about both the San and the Chalet School moving out to the Oberland too. Once she’d written that she’d even seen Sir James and Lady Russell out there, presumably looking for suitable premises. Sybil, who wrote to me from Canada as often as she got chance to, had also referred to her parents having made a brief visit to Switzerland; and had said that she’d heard her father and uncle talking about “when” the San moved to the Oberland and her aunt saying how wonderful it would be to be close to the Alps again at last.

“I’m really looking forward to it!” she’d written. “They haven’t said much to me, of course, but it does seem pretty definite as far as I can gather. Won’t it be exciting? We’ll be able to try skiing and skating and all those other things that Mum and Dad and Auntie Joey and Uncle Jack are always talking about – we hardly ever get enough snow in Armishire or St Briavel’s for decent snowball fights! - and of course you’ll be near enough to go and see your family. Maybe I could even come with you one weekend in the holidays: I’d love to see the Tiernsee again.

“I should imagine that it’ll be happening fairly soon, because, although the drains at Plas Howell are more or less sorted out now, I heard Mum telling Auntie Joey that the Howells want to sell the place and that she and Dad don’t really want to buy it. So it looks like it’s Switzerland here we come! I can’t wait!”

“I can’t wait either,” I’d written back!

#333:  Author: FatimaLocation: Sunny Qatar PostPosted: Fri Oct 13, 2006 7:29 am
Poor girl, there's more disappointment in store for her. It's lovely that she and Sybil write to one another, but I'm surprised Madge approves of it, though.

#334:  Author: leahbelleLocation: Kilmarnock PostPosted: Fri Oct 13, 2006 4:21 pm
She's going to be so disappointed.

#335:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Fri Oct 13, 2006 5:24 pm
I wonder if Madge knows that Sybil writes to Gretchen?

Poor Gretchen...and poor Sybil - thay are both going to be disappointed - wonder how Sybil will feel about her Aunt Joey being so close?

Thanks Alison

#336:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Sat Oct 14, 2006 7:54 am
Thanks for the comments Very Happy .

Madge's remarks at the end of this post are based on what she says in chapter 13 of "Changes".

I left school in early 1949 with no qualifications, a few regrets about what might have been, promises to keep in touch with all my schoolfriends; and a job in a high-class ladies’ dress shop in Armiford. It was only a small establishment and not many other people worked there. My job was to run errands, to help with the bookkeeping, and to act as a sales assistant when the shop was busy. Thankfully they didn’t expect me to help with any alterations that were needed: Sybil might have been an expert when it came to needlework but I was definitely not!

It wasn’t bad. I rather liked working in the city centre, and although I gave most of my small wages to Mum I was allowed to keep some of the money for myself, and I enjoyed the feeling of independence that having a job and my own money gave me. So it was ironic, really - just as I’d finally found some independence, I was counting the days until the Russells came home and we could start planning to up sticks and move to another country because of what they’d decided!

Oh well, this time it’d be worth doing what the Russells wanted. And once we’d got to Switzerland I’d be able to start looking for work there. I had no idea what sort of jobs there’d be in the Bernese Oberland and I wondered whether maybe I should ask Auntie Karen for some advice on the subject, but I decided that there was no point worrying about it just yet. We weren’t likely to be going until the summer. The Russells and the Maynards weren’t due back from Canada until around Easter time, and anyway it’d be silly for the Chalet School to move before the end of the academic year.

The last few days before the Russells’ return were manic. Mum insisted on scrubbing the Round House to within an inch of its life - as if it wasn’t immaculate anyway - and Dad tidied up every square inch of the garden and polished the car until it gleamed. Josefa and the boys were threatened with a fate worse than death if they made the tiniest bit of mess anywhere! There was neither a speck of dust to be seen nor the slightest thing out of place when the Russells walked through that front door.

Mum and Dad had made us all line up in the hallway to greet them, as if they were royalty or something. I didn’t half feel stupid. So did the others. Jakob refused to stand up straight and muttered that he felt like an idiot, and Josefa and Little Andreas kept giggling and nudging each other.

Mum kept glaring at us all, but as Sir James and Lady Russell walked into the house she put a big smile on her face and bobbed a curtsy. “Welcome home, all of you,” she said shyly. I hoped she wasn’t expecting me to curtsy. I didn’t, anyway. Instead, I exchanged grins with Sybil, who was following on behind with Josette and Ailie; and then went to hug Auntie Rosa, and to peek into the twins’ double buggy which she was pushing.

“Thank you, Marie,” Lady Russell said graciously. “Andreas, would you bring the bags in, please? Now, Marie - I’d like a cup of coffee, Sir James and Sybil will both have tea, and would you please organise some cold drinks for the younger children? We’ll be in the drawing room. Dear me, I can’t wait to sit down: it’s been a long journey!”

She walked into the drawing room … and then we heard her utter an exclamation of what sounded for all the world like horror. I saw Mummy’s face go white, and her gaze fall first on Jakob and then on Little Andreas as if they might have sneaked in there and somehow messed the room up in the few minutes between her giving it a last dusting and the Russells’ arrival. I felt rather worried myself. What on earth could the problem be?

We all rushed into the drawing room.

“Dear me, Marie, what have you been doing whilst we’ve been away?” Lady Russell exclaimed. “Oh, everything’s in beautiful order, but it’s too beautiful! It looks more like a show house than a home. It’s going to be weeks before I get everything back to rights.”

#337:  Author: FatimaLocation: Sunny Qatar PostPosted: Sat Oct 14, 2006 8:08 am
Shocked It's too beautiful?!
I'm glad Grechen has found a nice job; much better than going into service!
Thanks Alison.

#338:  Author: AliceLocation: London, England PostPosted: Sat Oct 14, 2006 8:45 am
Poor Marie, I know Madge doesn't mean to be insensitive but she could think a bit!

#339:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Sat Oct 14, 2006 11:01 am
Oh well done Madge - throw all Marie's hard work back in her face! Rolling Eyes

Wonder if Gretchen will allow that remark to pass?

Thanks Alison.

#340:  Author: Cath V-PLocation: Newcastle NSW PostPosted: Sat Oct 14, 2006 11:34 am
Thank you Madge; nice to see that you appreciated all the hard work...

And I wonder how Gretchen will react to the newds that they aren't going after all?

#341:  Author: ChairLocation: Rochester, Kent PostPosted: Sat Oct 14, 2006 12:55 pm
Thanks, Alison. I'm sorry that Madge wasn't very sensitive. It's lovely to see Sybil and Gretchen's friendship continuing.

#342:  Author: leahbelleLocation: Kilmarnock PostPosted: Sat Oct 14, 2006 4:26 pm
Or Madge could have just have said thank you for all Marie's hard work!

#343:  Author: MiriamLocation: Jerusalem, Israel PostPosted: Sat Oct 14, 2006 5:55 pm
Cath V-P wrote:
And I wonder how Gretchen will react to the newds that they aren't going after all?

Well if she had gone back to Switzerland the jobs that would have been available would probably have been a chioce betwwen domestic service at the school or at Unter Die Keifern, or maybe some kind of ward maid at the San. Staying in England might dissapoint her, but could be a better idea in the long run. (Unless Madge decides that now they are all home, Mrie could use some more help around the house. Rolling Eyes )

#344:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Sun Oct 15, 2006 9:12 am
Just noticed that today is the 2nd anniversary of when I joined the CBB Very Happy. I have no idea what I used to do with myself before then Laughing!

The ungrateful cow! I couldn’t believe that she’d just said that. I was fuming. I tell you, I felt like telling her exactly where she could shove her furniture and her ornaments. All Mum’s hard work, and that was how Lady Russell reacted. “Too beautiful” – hah! She’d have had plenty to say if she’d arrived home to find muddy footprints on the carpet, scratches on the table and her things lying about all over the house.

I was absolutely disgusted. I opened my mouth to say something, but Dad shook his head at me and so I kept quiet. Sybil looked at me apologetically and Josette was looking embarrassed too; but Lady Russell just sat herself down, evidently thinking that there was nothing wrong with what she’d just said whatsoever.

That incident didn’t exactly get things off to a very good start, and even had nothing of that sort happened it would have been difficult getting used to the Russells being back after we’d had the Round House to ourselves for two years. We’d got used to it being “just us”, and it was very hard going back to using only a few rooms, trying not to make too much noise, and always having to put the Russells’ needs first. Until the new school term started, there were fifteen of us living in the Round House; and, even in a biggish sort of house, that was an awful lot of people, especially when we’d grown used to there only being six of us around. Sometimes I just felt like screaming out loud for somewhere, anywhere, where I could have a bit of privacy and peace and quiet.

Still, now that the Russells were back, presumably the preparations for the move to Switzerland would soon begin in earnest. And then, at long last, I’d be able to see Grandma and Grandpa and everyone else again. It was definite that the Chalet School and the San were moving out there: I knew that. The formal announcements weren’t going to be made until the school’s pupils were back after the Easter holidays, and even the Russells’ own children hadn’t officially been told yet; but Sybil had overheard her parents saying that they’d found premises for both institutions in the Oberland, at a place called the Gornetz Platz. Clearly everything had been decided: it was just a case of waiting for the Russells to tell everyone what was happening.

And then they did. But it wasn’t what I’d been expecting – ah no, it was nothing like what I’d been expecting. Oh, the Chalet School and the San were moving to Switzerland all right. Well, most of the school was moving to Switzerland: a small branch of it would remain in Britain, at Carnbach, but only for the youngest children, plus a few others whose parents didn’t want to send them to the Continent. And a new San was being opened in Switzerland, although the San in the Welsh mountains would continue operating as it was at present. But the doctor in charge of that new San would be Herr Doktor Maynard. And the Swiss branch of the Chalet School would, in practice, be run solely by its headmistresses, Fraulein Annersley and Fraulein Wilson.

Sir James and Lady Russell were staying in Armishire.

When we’d left Austria, I’d thought that it would only be until the Nazis had gone. When the war had ended and we still hadn’t gone back, I’d thought that it would only be until the Russells felt that it was practical to move the Chalet School and the San back to the Alps. Now, eleven years after we’d left the Sonnalpe in the middle of the night to make our way across Europe to Guernsey, I was faced with the fact that the Russells were never going to move away from Britain again. And my parents had told me time and time again that they’d never leave the Russells. This exile was permanent.

It wasn’t the first time that I felt as if my world had fallen apart, but I think it was the worst.

#345:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Sun Oct 15, 2006 9:28 am
Poor Gretchen - must have been a hugh shock for her.

Thanks Alison - and I agree - no idea what I used to do before the CBB! Laughing

#346:  Author: kerenLocation: Israel PostPosted: Sun Oct 15, 2006 10:52 am
so what did sybil say to her

Sybil is now going to be sent right away from home now, before I imagine she had been coming how for more weekends half term etc
what must she think?

#347:  Author: Cath V-PLocation: Newcastle NSW PostPosted: Sun Oct 15, 2006 11:11 am
Oh poor Gretchen, after all that time to find out that it wasn't happening, that she wouldn't be going home, that this exile would be permanent.

#348:  Author: ChairLocation: Rochester, Kent PostPosted: Sun Oct 15, 2006 11:53 am
Thanks, Alison. I'm sorry that Gretchen won't be able to go to Switzerland.

I can't remember what I did before I discovered the CBB, either!

#349:  Author: FatimaLocation: Sunny Qatar PostPosted: Sun Oct 15, 2006 1:16 pm
What a horrible surprise for Grechen. Thanks Alison, and happy board birthday!

#350:  Author: leahbelleLocation: Kilmarnock PostPosted: Sun Oct 15, 2006 2:02 pm
I feel so sorry for Gretchen. She so desperately wants to go home. Will she ever get there?

#351:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Mon Oct 16, 2006 6:42 am
At first I expected the rest of the family to feel the same way that I did. I should have known by then that they wouldn’t. When I tried to talk to Mum and Dad about it, to ask them over and over again why we couldn’t move back to Austria on our own, I got the same answers as I’d been getting for the past four years. They were used to working for the Russells. The Russells had been good to them. It might prove difficult for them to find jobs in Austria. Jakob, Josefa and Little Andreas were all settled and happy in Howells. No, we couldn’t go for a visit: much as they’d like us to, it would be too expensive and impractical. And would I please stop harping on and on about the same thing, as it was starting to get on everyone’s nerves.

“What about Grandma and Grandpa?” I asked Mum furiously. “We haven’t seen them for eleven years: they haven’t even met Josefa and Little Andreas, and Jakob barely remembers them. They’re your parents: don’t you want to see them again?”

She sighed. “Gretchen, of course I do; but sometimes families end up living in different places and that’s just the way it is. It’s hardly as if we’re not in touch with them, is it? And they’re not on their own: they’ve got your Uncle Fritzl and your Auntie Luise and most of your other uncles and aunties living nearby.”

She tried to put her arm round me, but I pulled away and she looked at me unhappily. “Can’t you at least try to be happy, Gretchen?” she asked sadly. “It’s not that bad here, is it? You’ve got your friends, and your job. I don’t like seeing you upset but I don’t know what I’m supposed to say to you. You’ve got to get over this obsession with moving back to Austria, and get on with your life here.”

I got the same sort of thing from Dad, and Jakob said frankly that his main memories of Austria were of being terrified by all the goings-on during those last few months at the Sonnalpe and that he had had absolutely no idea why I’d want to live near there again. I didn’t even try talking to Susan or any of my other friends from school about it, because, even now, people were liable to look uneasy whenever Austria or Germany were mentioned. And, anyway, how could any of them possibly understand how I felt? Most of them were living in the same houses in which they’d been born.

I wished that Auntie Karen were here, but she was thousands of miles away – preparing to leave the finishing branch at the end of the academic year, and once again take up her old job as cook and head of domestic staff at the main branch of the school when it opened in Switzerland in September. The only person I could talk to was Sybil, and when she came home for the half term holidays I poured my heart out to her. There wasn’t much she could say to comfort me, but she was the one and only person who seemed both to understand and to accept anything of how I felt.

#352:  Author: alicatLocation: Wiltshire PostPosted: Mon Oct 16, 2006 9:01 am
couldn't the school find gretchen a job at the new branch?
after all she's got excellent references - and maybe marie would let her go and live with auntie karen?

#353:  Author: ChairLocation: Rochester, Kent PostPosted: Mon Oct 16, 2006 9:42 am
Thanks, Alison. I hope that Gretchen will have the chance to return one day.

#354:  Author: leahbelleLocation: Kilmarnock PostPosted: Mon Oct 16, 2006 12:36 pm
I also hope Gretchen will get to go back one day, but I wonder if she will be disappointed if she does. We often remember places as we'd like them to be and not as they actually were.

#355:  Author: FatimaLocation: Sunny Qatar PostPosted: Mon Oct 16, 2006 3:06 pm
But at least if she went she'd know what it was like. I think it's better to be disappointed than to never know. Thanks Alison.

#356: In the presence of fate Author: Fiona McLocation: Bendigo, Australia PostPosted: Mon Oct 16, 2006 10:52 pm
Maybe Gretchen could save up and go back on her own. Here's hoping she ends up working for her Auntie Karen when she gets married

#357:  Author: Cath V-PLocation: Newcastle NSW PostPosted: Mon Oct 16, 2006 11:21 pm
I am starting to wonder what might happen if/when Gretchen returns and finds that perhaps this isn't the place that she remembers, it isn't home, because after that length of time, you can't "go back". And then she will be truly displaced and exiled.

#358:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Tue Oct 17, 2006 6:54 am
Hopefully she'll get a happy ending! If I ever get this finished - it keeps on getting longer Rolling Eyes !

Sybil wasn’t entirely happy about Sir James and Lady Russell’s decision to stay in Armishire either. “I’ll only get to come home for the three main holidays,” she said. “I know that most other people’ll be in the same boat; but, apart from this term and the three terms I had at St Briavel’s before I went to Canada, I’ve always had Mum and Dad nearby and been able to come home at half term, and even at weekends sometimes. And I’ll miss out on so much with Kevin and Kester: they’re changing so quickly and they’ll probably hardly remember Josette and me when we come home at Christmas.”

“Think of all those lovely places you’ll get to see in Switzerland, though,” I said. “And at least you won’t have your mum and dad keeping an eye on what you’re doing all the time!”

“No – but I’ll still have Matey, Auntie Hilda, the other mistresses and the prefects; and they’re much worse!” she said gloomily. “We even have to show Matey which books we’ve brought with us, so for weeks on end I’ll only be able to read things that the school approves of! And the Gornetz Platz is in the middle of nowhere: there isn’t even a cinema nearby, not that we’d be allowed to go to it if there was one. And, on top of it all, I’ll have Auntie Joey there, swanning in and out of the school all the time and sticking her nose in everything!”

“Surely she won’t be spending that much time at the school!” I said. “She’s got the two babies, after all, and she’s got her books to write. You probably won’t see all that much of her.”

“Don’t count on it!” Sybil said. “She and Uncle Jack’ve bought a house next door to the school!”

I looked at her incredulously. “What – literally next door?”

“Literally! Apparently it’s some huge place that used to be a hotel.”

Which Cousin Anna’ll have to keep clean and tidy, I thought to myself. Oh well, at least she’ll have Auntie Karen nearby for company.

“It gets worse!” Sybil said. “Wait for this. She’s having a gate put in the hedge so that people can just go straight from the school garden to her garden and vice versa.”

“You are joking?”

Sybil shook her head and, despite everything, I just started to giggle. I couldn’t help it. It was so funny! Frau Doktor Maynard was weird: I was convinced of it! Who on earth bought a house next door to their old school (or where it had moved to), and had a gate put in the hedge between the two?! Sybil started to giggle as well and soon we were both rolling around on the floor in hysterics. Every time one of us stopped giggling, the other one would gasp “She’s having a gate put in the hedge!” and we’d burst out laughing again. We only managed to stop when David came in to ask us both to be quiet because we were disturbing his revision for his end-of-year exams!

Sometimes, if you didn’t laugh, you’d cry.

#359: In the presence of fate Author: Fiona McLocation: Bendigo, Australia PostPosted: Tue Oct 17, 2006 10:40 am
This is great. Am loving the relationship between Sybil and Gretchen. I wonder what Gretchen will have to say about the whole Australia thing?

#360:  Author: leahbelleLocation: Kilmarnock PostPosted: Tue Oct 17, 2006 12:32 pm
Sybil and Gretchen have a lovely relationship. Interesting to see Sybil's true feelings about her aunty Jo!

#361:  Author: ChairLocation: Rochester, Kent PostPosted: Tue Oct 17, 2006 4:22 pm
Thanks, Alison. I am also wondering what Gretchen will say about going to Australia.

#362:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Tue Oct 17, 2006 5:05 pm
Love their impression of Joey! Feel so sorry for Gretchen though - I think the whole going to Austria thing is because she feels so deeply the divide between the Russells and her family.

Thanks Alison.

#363:  Author: ChangnoiLocation: Milwaukee, USA PostPosted: Tue Oct 17, 2006 7:20 pm
I love the reaction to Joey's announcement of her plans for the Freudesheim garden! I think rolling about on the floor with laughter really is the only way to handle it. Smile


#364:  Author: MaryRLocation: Cheshire PostPosted: Tue Oct 17, 2006 9:06 pm
That last line was so poignant, Alison. Poor Gretchen.

Thank you.

#365:  Author: TaraLocation: Malvern, Worcestershire PostPosted: Tue Oct 17, 2006 11:24 pm
This is lovely, Alison, but poor young Gretchen. I do hope she gets her happy ending - and knows it is! Who said that one of the saddest things in life is getting your happy ending and not realising it.
I love Gretchen's friendship with Sybil. Funny that a move which spells freedom for G is going to bring many more restrictions into Sybil's life. Chuckling over Jo!

What did I do before I discovered the CBB? Sleep occasionally!

#366:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2006 6:45 am
In September, Sybil and Josette went off to the Gornetz Platz; Ailie – who was below the age limit that had been set for pupils going to the Swiss branch of the school – went off to Carnbach; and David went back to Winchester for his final year there. He was expected to do well in his Higher School Certificate and was planning to go to London to study medicine, as his cousin, Rix Bettany, was doing. Rix’s twin Peggy, by contrast, was going to spend another year at the Chalet School’s finishing branch and then just go home to “help” her mother. Presumably whilst waiting for a suitable husband to come along - she certainly didn’t seem to plan on going to university or getting a job.

How I’d dreamed of going to university and training for a wonderful career, when I’d been a kid! Now that I was fifteen and grown up, I looked back on my younger self and wondered cynically at how naïve I’d been. Look how hard I’d worked at school and how conscientious I’d always been about doing my homework - what a complete waste of time and effort, when I could have been enjoying myself instead! I hadn’t been allowed to take the scholarship exam for Armiford Grammar, and there’d never been any question of my being allowed to stay on at school long enough to take my School Certificate exams, so why had I bothered trying so hard? It hadn’t exactly got me very far, had it?

Mind you, even if I had been able to stay on at school longer, what would have been the point? It wasn’t as if girls usually got very much chance to pursue a career – unless they stayed single for ever, and I supposed that at some vague point in the long distant future I’d like to get married if I met someone I really liked. Look at Daisy Venables! How I’d admired Daisy, who’d qualified as a doctor and won a string of awards for all her research work. Then, a few weeks before Sybil and Josette had left for Switzerland, Daisy had packed in her job because she was getting married.

Incidentally, the wedding reception was supposed to have been at the Round House – but then Lady Russell had got German measles, the reception had had to be moved to Howells Village Hall, and Sir James had decided that none of us could even go to the church to watch the ceremony because we might be infectious. I appreciated that Lady Russell hadn’t got ill on purpose, but it had been very annoying all the same.

Anyway, that was where all Daisy’s hard work at school, at university and in the hospitals where she’d worked had got her. And then there was Lady Russell herself. Although she wasn’t my favourite person at the moment, I had to acknowledge that she’d been very brave in setting up a school, from scratch, with very little money, in a foreign country. And now the main part of that school was thousands of miles away from her, and on a day-to-day basis she had no involvement in it whatsoever - because she was married to Sir James, and he’d wanted to carry on working at the Welsh San and attending conferences rather than set up the new San in Switzerland.

There were times when I found myself wishing that I could find something to do with my days that was useful, and meaningful, and fulfilling. I’d find myself thinking about the better teachers at school, the ones who’d put so much into their work and tried so hard to make a difference to their pupils. I’d even find myself thinking about Robin, who’d recently announced her decision to take the veil. It wasn’t that I ever had any thoughts of becoming a nun myself, but I couldn’t help thinking how wonderful it must be to have a vocation like that.

But, more and more, I just felt that there was no point bothering about anything very much. I couldn’t live where I wanted to live. I couldn’t see all the people I so longed to see. I couldn’t even live in a normal family home in the place where I did live. I hadn’t been given the chance to get any training or qualifications, and even if I had’ve been they probably wouldn’t have been much use to me in the long term. Well, I wasn’t going to drive myself mad about it all any more, I decided. From now on, I was going to concentrate on having fun.

#367:  Author: Cath V-PLocation: Newcastle NSW PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2006 7:45 am
This is rather sad - here she is at what, fifteen, and she doesn't think there's any point to her life - and she's very aware of what she's missing.

#368:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2006 12:09 pm
You can sympathise with her reasoning, can't you? She gets no support or encouragement from her parents, she's continually told she must 'know her place' in differing but obvious ways. She knows she was bright enough to do well at School and University but never had the chance while other, less able girls with richer parents wasted their time. No wonder she's feeling down. Crying or Very sad

Thanks Alison

#369: In the presence of fate Author: Fiona McLocation: Bendigo, Australia PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2006 12:11 pm
I really love reading this, but every time I read something like the last post I get really frustrated with Gretchen's parents. Having met people who pushed their children to suceed against insurmountable odds, I really wish Marie and Anderas wanted more or did more so their children would have a better life and sad to say education is often the only way to get out of poverty and yet they keep crying poor. I really hope Gretchen doesn't let her parents apathy or contentment with their lot in life stop her from doing more. Go for it Gretchen, do night school, do whatever it takes, but go for it. you can do it and never let anyone tell you you can't. (Imagine pom poms here)

#370:  Author: JennieLocation: Cambridgeshire PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2006 12:13 pm
Poor Gretchen. hope she finds someone soon to inspire her to go to night school or something to get some qualifications. Such a paucity of expectation on her parents' part. They seem as stuck in the past as the Russells.

#371:  Author: leahbelleLocation: Kilmarnock PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2006 12:35 pm
Gretchen's really struggling at the moment, isn't she? I think I'd be railing against the hand fate had dealt me too if I was in her shoes.

#372:  Author: ChairLocation: Rochester, Kent PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2006 2:26 pm
Thanks, Alison. I wonder what Gretchen will do.

#373:  Author: TaraLocation: Malvern, Worcestershire PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2006 10:00 pm
I could break my heart over Gretchen - what a waste of so much potential. But at least she's young enough to turn her life around, if only she can find someone who believes in her and can encourage her to think it's worth the effort. And, of course, she's dead right about the choices she will be expected to make as a woman.

#374:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Thu Oct 19, 2006 6:50 am
Thanks for the comments Very Happy .

I might not be going to get the chance to go to university or even to get my School Certificate, but I was a working woman now and that had a lot of advantages. It was certainly more fun than being at the Chalet School: I didn’t know how Sybil stood all the restrictions she wrote about in her letters. Everything they did, for every minute of every day, was regulated. There were even rules about things like what temperature they had their bath water at - although Sybil did say that no-one took much notice of some of the sillier rules, that one being a prime example! And the only place that they were allowed to go without being supervised by a teacher or a prefect, even at weekends, was the Maynards’ house! Through the gate in the hedge, of course!

They never got to go out to the pictures or to spend an afternoon looking round the shops; and they weren’t even allowed to listen to decent music because Herr Denny, who was still the head music teacher there, didn’t approve of it. They had dances on Saturday evenings sometimes, but it was all either old-style country dancing or else the sort of ballroom dancing that old people like Sir James and Lady Russell did at parties, not the sort of dancing that normal people our age did. And the girls all had to dance with each other, because there were no boys there! They never even got to meet any boys outside their own families, other than their brothers’ friends, friends’ brothers or parents’ friends’ sons - and they only got the chance to meet them during school holidays.

I did have to admit that some of the excursions they went on sounded like fun, and I thought that, if I ever got to go back to Austria, I’d like to see some of the Swiss cities and scenery that Sybil described too. But hearing about all the rules and regulations that she had to put up with just made me all the more determined to enjoy myself as much as I could.

Mum and Dad let me keep a fair bit of what I earned, I’ll give them that; so I wasn’t too badly off for money, compared with most other people I knew. Now that there was more stuff in the shops and I didn’t have to wear horrible school uniform any more, I spent a lot of what money I had over after paying for bus fares and other boring but necessary things on clothes and make-up. Of course, Mum and Dad thought that I was too young to be wearing make-up, but it was easy enough to put it on after I’d left the house and wash it off before I got home. What Mum and Dad didn’t know wasn’t going to hurt them, was it?

I travelled from Howells Village into Armiford city centre and back on the bus every day, taking my seat alongside lots of other shop and office workers; and where I worked was right in the middle of the main shopping area. It was great. I felt really grown up, casually wandering round the shops during my lunch break. A lot of my friends from school also worked in town, and I quite often saw one or other of them around during the day, and got to know their new workmates. We saw people who’d been a year or two above us at school as well: they’d looked down on us at school, but now that we were all working the age difference didn’t seem to matter any more. And I got to know the other girls at the shop where I worked as well, and to know their friends. So, one way and another, I found myself mixing with quite a lot of folk.

Most Friday and Saturday nights, and sometimes on other nights as well, I went out to the pictures or to dances. Sometimes I went there with one or other of the lads I knew, telling Mum and Dad that I was meeting a friend from school or work and letting them assume that it was a girl. They’d have gone mad if they’d known I was going out with lads, especially lads who weren’t Catholic; but I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I was only sixteen: I hardly had any intention of getting serious about anyone: I was just enjoying myself. And other nights I’d go out with Susan, or with one of my other girlfriends, or sometimes with a big group of people. We all had a good laugh together.

Mum and Dad did sometimes complain that I was going out too much, especially on those mornings after I’d come in very late the night before, but I’d just point out that I’d never failed to be up in time for work the next morning. And, if they kept on at me, I’d point out that, seeing as I hadn’t got the chance to continue with my education, it was hardly as if I had any studying to do; and that, seeing as we didn’t have our own house, it was hardly as if I could relax and enjoy myself properly at home. They couldn’t really say much to any of that. Anyway, I didn’t see what their problem was. I wasn’t hurting anyone. I was just having a good time.

#375:  Author: Cath V-PLocation: Newcastle NSW PostPosted: Thu Oct 19, 2006 8:17 am
The trouble is that she starting telling herself that she didn't care, and it's a very shorty step from that to really not caring. But, oh that potential and the waste.

Tahnk you Alison

#376:  Author: JennieLocation: Cambridgeshire PostPosted: Thu Oct 19, 2006 8:17 am
Why does that last sentence make me worried?

#377:  Author: Ruth BLocation: Oxford, UK PostPosted: Thu Oct 19, 2006 9:32 am
Poor Gretchen, I do hope she'll be careful!

#378:  Author: kerenLocation: Israel PostPosted: Thu Oct 19, 2006 10:53 am
hope she doesn't get into "trouble"

#379:  Author: leahbelleLocation: Kilmarnock PostPosted: Thu Oct 19, 2006 12:15 pm
I hope she won't do anything too silly that she'll regret later on. I can completely understand her attitude, though.

#380:  Author: ChairLocation: Rochester, Kent PostPosted: Thu Oct 19, 2006 1:01 pm
Thanks, Alison. I'm glad she is making new friends.

#381:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Thu Oct 19, 2006 5:05 pm
Can totally understand her attitude - and the way she replied to her parents - it's obvious that she is still hurting over her missed opportunities. Hope nothing's going to go wrong.

Thanks Alison.

#382:  Author: TaraLocation: Malvern, Worcestershire PostPosted: Thu Oct 19, 2006 10:41 pm
Oh dear, the words 'slippery slope' come to mind. She's not going to do something that will wreck the rest of her life, is she? So sad, and so unnecessary.

#383:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Fri Oct 20, 2006 6:34 am
Hopefully she's sensible enough not to do anything daft!

When Sybil was home for three months for the summer holidays, she sneaked out to a couple of dances with me, telling her parents that she was going to bed early because she felt “bilious”. She got teased a bit because of her lah-di-dah accent, but she said that other than that she’d had a great time. She picked up the dances quickly enough, and with her pretty face and lovely hair she was a big hit with the lads; but most of all she just seemed glad to be having a bit of normal teenage fun without having any relatives or teachers there watching her every move.

“Oh, that was wonderful!” she said, as we crept into the Round House after our last night out together before she went back to Switzerland. “David’s so lucky, getting to go off to start in London next week: I know he’ll be working hard but I bet he’ll be playing hard too. I get the impression that Rix gets up to all sorts there, and David probably won’t be far behind him! And I’ve got two more years at school to go yet, and then a year at the finishing branch as well.”

“Oh, it won’t be so bad once you’re at the finishing branch, surely,” I said. “They must give you more freedom there: you’ll be eighteen by then.”

Sybil raised her eyebrows. “Not from what I’ve heard! Don’t tell anyone this - it’s meant to be a secret - but one of Peggy’s friends there got a letter from her boyfriend, and the staff took it out of the post and summoned her to the Head’s study for a lecture on the evils of corresponding with young men! Oh well, I suppose it will be nice to have one more year with everyone, before we end up scattered all over the place. And then, fingers crossed, I’ll be off to the South Kensington School of Needlework. I really do hope that I get to do my course there.”

I hoped that she did too: I knew how much she’d set her heart on it. It wasn’t easy for her, being “the one who’s only average”, sandwiched between clever David and brilliant Josette; and she really was so good at art needlework. And I also knew how much she was looking forward to getting away from the strictures of both the Round House and the Chalet School to live her own life as a student in London.

Sybil went back to Switzerland a few days later, and David went off to medical school the following week. Bride Bettany, who’d been over to stay for a week during the holidays, was also off to university: she’d gone off the idea of becoming a librarian and was now planning to go into teaching after she’d got her degree. At the back of my mind, something was nagging me – something about other people having direction to their lives, whereas I was just living from day to day, with no plans for the future: but I suppressed those thoughts firmly. Yes, I did want more from life than what I had at the moment - but I couldn’t see how I was to going to get it, and I knew very well that dreams usually ended up in tears.

And anyway, I was only sixteen, after all. There was plenty of time to worry about the future, I reasoned with myself. For now, I’d carry on as I had been doing. And I did just that.

Then, one autumn evening, I came in from the pictures – I’d been there with a lad who’d been in the year above me at school, although I’d told Mum and Dad that I was going with Susan and some of her friends from work – and my parents dropped yet another Russell-made bombshell into my life.

We were moving house. That was, the Russells were moving house and so we had to move house with them. To somewhere in the Welsh mountains. On the other side of the San. Slightly closer to the San, in fact, so it would be easier for Sir James to be able to get there and back. But too far from Armiford, so Mum and Dad said, for it to be practical for me to get to and from the city on a regular basis either for work or for nights out. They knew that I wouldn’t be happy, they said, and they were sorry, but what could they do about it? Families had to live where the main breadwinners’ jobs were.

#384:  Author: FatimaLocation: Sunny Qatar PostPosted: Fri Oct 20, 2006 6:38 am
Maybe it's time she got a place of her own!

I am so glad that Grechen took Sybil out during the holiday; it's nice to see her having the chance to let her hair down and behave like a normal teenager.

Thanks Alison.

#385:  Author: leahbelleLocation: Kilmarnock PostPosted: Fri Oct 20, 2006 12:19 pm
Sounds like time she took control of her life and made a stand. Could she share a flat with a friend, maybe?

#386:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Fri Oct 20, 2006 6:56 pm
So sad that Sybil's future is going to be so different. As for Gretchen - I think the time has come for her to leave home - especially as her parents don't seem to even consider her happiness to be important.

Thanks Alison

Last edited by Lesley on Sun Oct 22, 2006 3:51 pm; edited 1 time in total

#387:  Author: JennieLocation: Cambridgeshire PostPosted: Sun Oct 22, 2006 3:04 pm
Not just her happiness, her, their own daughter.

#388:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Sun Oct 22, 2006 4:08 pm
All four of us were distinctly unimpressed when Mum and Dad took us to see the new house. Talk about being in the middle of nowhere! Howells Village wasn’t exactly a hive of social activity, but at least it wasn’t far from Armiford. And it was certainly better than the place that we were moving to: there didn’t seem to be anywhere to go there, other than a pub and a village hall.

Jakob, Josefa and Little Andreas – or Andy, as he’d recently announced he wanted to be called – weren’t very pleased about the prospect of having to leave their friends and change schools, especially Jakob who was in his last year. I couldn’t help thinking to myself that everything Mum and Dad had said the year before about not wanting to move because the younger ones were settled in Howells didn’t seem to be counting for very much now that the Russells had made the decision to move. I did accept that sometimes people had to move because of their jobs, and I knew that it was hardly Mum and Dad’s fault that the Russells had decided to leave Howells, and that the Russells could hardly be expected to plan their lives around what was best for their staff’s children; but I felt resentful all the same.

When we’d left the Sonnalpe, and again when we’d left Guernsey, powerful external forces had been responsible. This time, we were moving purely on the Russells’ say-so, and I hated this feeling that our lives were in their hands.

Lady Russell, to be fair to her, did try to help out over the problem of my job; but her ideas and mine were a long way apart, to put it mildly. She told Mum that she’d heard that the village postmistress – a stalwart of the local W.I. – was looking for an assistant, and that it sounded as if the job would suit me down to the ground. I’d even be able to come home for my dinner, she pointed out. I felt bored just thinking about it – one old biddy keeping an eye on me whilst other old biddies came in to collect their pensions, and coming home for dinner instead of eating in town with my friends. No, thank you! I made some excuse about wanting to work somewhere with a few other people to talk to and luckily the subject wasn’t mentioned again.

In the end, I decided to stay on at the dress shop. It meant getting three buses there and three buses back, but at least I was still in town during the day. It was an awful lot of hassle, though, and the extra bus fares meant that I had much less money left over than I’d done before. On top of that, I had to leave the house much earlier than I’d done when we’d lived in Howells and I got back later. And if one of the first two buses was late then I missed my connection and had to wait ages for another one. I was usually late for work at least once a week as a result, and the shop manager wasn’t happy about it.

Also, if I was meeting friends in Armiford at night I’d have to leave early to avoid missing the last bus back, and changing buses on my own late at night wasn’t very nice. One the older lads I knew gave me a lift home on his motorbike once, and Jakob and Andy thought it was wonderful but Mum and Dad had a fit. To make life easier, quite often I ended up staying overnight at Susan’s, about halfway between Howells and Armiford. Her elder sister and widowed mother didn’t seem to mind. Mum and Dad weren’t happy about it, but nor were they happy about me coming home on three buses on my own late at night or getting told off for being late for work in the mornings. There wasn’t really an easy answer to it all.

#389:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Sun Oct 22, 2006 4:27 pm
If they weren't happy about it they should have considered her needs a little more, shouldn't they? Can see her moving in with her friend Susan.

Thanks Alison.

#390:  Author: leahbelleLocation: Kilmarnock PostPosted: Sun Oct 22, 2006 5:24 pm
It's a shame that her parents only ever considered the needs of the Russells and not their children. I hope Gretchen can find a solution to the problem and be happy.

#391:  Author: ChairLocation: Rochester, Kent PostPosted: Sun Oct 22, 2006 6:42 pm
Thanks, Alison. I'm sorry that Gretchen now has to travel so far to get anywhere. I hope that she can find a solution.

#392:  Author: TaraLocation: Malvern, Worcestershire PostPosted: Sun Oct 22, 2006 11:21 pm
What a life for a young girl. At least she was enjoying some things before. Her parents do have to go where their job is, so perhaps the answer is, indeed, for her to get lodgings somewhere nearer.

The phrase that has stuck in my head is:
other people having direction to their lives, whereas I was just living from day to day, with no plans for the future
I do hope things change for her.

#393:  Author: FatimaLocation: Sunny Qatar PostPosted: Mon Oct 23, 2006 4:56 am
The trouble is, I imagine they'd think it would be difficult for them to get another job in England, so they need to do as the Russells want without complaint in case they get fired. As far as they can see, Grechen can work anywhere and they did make an attempt to help her find work, even if it's not what she wanted. I really hope she decides to leave home and live with Susan, or somewhere else nearer her job. Thanks Alison.

#394:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Mon Oct 23, 2006 6:52 am
To be fair to Marie and Andreas, I suppose a lot of families do have to relocate because the parents' jobs move. I don't know why EBD didn't just leave the Russells at the Round House though!

I tried looking for somewhere to rent in Armiford; but, even accounting for the bus fares that I’d save by living nearer work, there was nothing even halfway decent that I could afford. Even had there been, I’m not sure that anyone would have been too keen on renting a place to a seventeen-year-old girl who didn’t even have the money to put down a bond. I did make a conscious effort to start spending less and saving more, but in the short-term there really wasn’t anything within my price range; except possibly a room in the house of a family looking for a lodger and I didn’t really like the idea of sharing a bathroom, mealtimes and living space with complete strangers.

Something else that occurred to me was to try to find a live-in job. Maybe at a hotel - I quite fancied the idea of working as a receptionist, and failing that I thought that maybe I could find a hotel looking for someone to do the sort of general administrative and bookkeeping work that I did at the shop. But Armiford, being neither a business centre nor a major holiday destination, didn’t really have many hotels. Most of the live-in jobs available locally - and even these had been becoming fewer and further between since the war - were for domestic staff in private homes in the well-off suburbs of the city; and I’d always promised myself that that was one road that I was never going to go down.

So I stayed on at the shop; and I carried on struggling with the buses on some days and staying over at Susan’s on others. I was supposed to ring home to let Mum and Dad know if I was staying out overnight, but sometimes I forgot. They couldn’t ring Susan’s to ask if I was there because her family weren’t on the phone, and they’d end up ringing the shop in a panic the next morning to make sure that I was all right. It was a bit embarrassing really: it wasn’t as if I was a little kid any more. I did always mean to ring and tell them, but sometimes it just slipped my mind because I was busy doing other things.

We were all pretty busy these days. Mum had to do virtually all the housework herself again now, because Auntie Rosa had Kevin and Kester to look after and two small boys were a lot of hard work. And now that we lived so far out of town Dad was spending a lot more time driving Lady Russell to and from wherever she wanted to go than he’d done when we lived in Howells, as well as having his other work to do. Then, although Jakob was nearly fifteen now and old enough to see to himself, there were Josefa and Andy to look after. Sometimes I’d see both my parents looking tired, and Auntie Rosa as well; but I didn’t really have time to think about it much - I was very rarely actually in the house for more than a few hours at a time, apart from when I was asleep.

As for my job, although my main reason for staying on at the shop was so that I could be in town, it was all right there. I liked seeing the pretty clothes that we sold, even if I did feel slightly envious that I couldn’t afford any of them. And I managed all right with the work, although - seeing as there wasn’t really any chance of a promotion as long as the senior bookkeeper/administration clerk stayed there - I have to admit that I didn’t over-exert myself.

I did sometimes think about looking for a job with better prospects, but I’d got used to where I was, and I suppose it was just easier to stay put than to go out and look for a job at a strange place with strange people. Most people stayed in the same job for years on end then, unless they had a very good reason for leaving. So I carried on working where I was during the day, and going out to the same places and seeing the same faces in the evenings.

And so the weeks and months went by. Winter became spring, and then spring became summer. It was my third summer since leaving school, but I still hadn’t quite got used to the idea that I had to work all through the warm sunny days. I felt a pang of envy for Sybil, home for the long summer holidays; but the idea of boarding school was even less appealing at seventeen than it had been at fifteen and I didn’t envy her when she went back for her last year at the main part of the Chalet School.

The next time she was home was for Christmas. Shortly after she went back to Switzerland that time, in the January of 1952, she wrote to tell me of the plans to mark the school’s twenty-first anniversary. Yes, it was almost twenty-one years since Mum and Grandma had scrubbed out that empty chalet and Mum had first gone to work for Lady Russell - Fraulein Bettany, as she’d been then. And it was what Sybil said in that letter that finally began to shake me out of the rut that I’d let myself settle into.

Included in the plans – in fact, probably the main part of the plans – were trips for all the present day pupils to the school’s original home. Briesau.

#395:  Author: FatimaLocation: Sunny Qatar PostPosted: Mon Oct 23, 2006 7:29 am
Yes, she does seem to have got herself into a rut, doesn't she. I wonder what Sybil will have to say about her trip to Briesau.

Thanks Alison.

#396:  Author: MiriamLocation: Jerusalem, Israel PostPosted: Mon Oct 23, 2006 9:24 am
To be fair to Marie and Andreas, I suppose a lot of families do have to relocate because the parents' jobs move. I don't know why EBD didn't just leave the Russells at the Round House though!

I think that when they came to England in the middle od WW2 there was no time to be choosy - they had to take what they could get, and be thankful that there was a nice house available, not too far from the school. Once Jem came to England and the San was opened in the Welsh mountains it was always a long journey for him to get to work, but the advantages of the Round House's location (near the School nad Jo and other friends from Geurnsey) as well as just the fact that they were setteled there outweighed the disadvantages.

After the war was over, most of the La Rochelle families probably moved back to Geurnsey, and a few years later the School went off to Switzerland. The time in Canada would have made a break anyway, so the Russels really had very few ties to Howells Village. Since the Venables and the bettany children were no lopnger living with her, Madge might have wanted a smaller house. When they found somewhere nearer to the San, it made a lot of sense to move there.

Last edited by Miriam on Mon Oct 23, 2006 10:44 am; edited 1 time in total

#397:  Author: ChairLocation: Rochester, Kent PostPosted: Mon Oct 23, 2006 10:30 am
Thanks, Alison. I am still really enjoying this.

#398:  Author: leahbelleLocation: Kilmarnock PostPosted: Mon Oct 23, 2006 12:29 pm
I think Gretchen needs to try to take control of her life a bit more now, otherwise she'll end up getting bitter and blaming her parents. MAybe she could meet a nice young man?

#399:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Mon Oct 23, 2006 6:22 pm
Is she going to try and get a job with the School? Or maybe the San?

Do feel very sorry for her - and it is so easy to get into a rut.

Thanks Alison

#400:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Tue Oct 24, 2006 6:44 am
This bit overlaps with my Karen drabble from the beginning of the year ... except that in that I had "Coming of Age" in 1953 and in this I've got it in 1952, because I've been working off different people's ages and they just don't all age at the same rates in the books Confused Laughing !

“I feel awful that we’re all going to Briesau and you’re not, when I know how much you want to go back there,” Sybil wrote. “I so wish that there was some way you could come too. I’m really looking forward to seeing the Tiernsee again, though. Everyone’s excited about seeing the place because they’ve all heard so much about it, but it’s special for me because it’s where I was born. I wish that David could come as well; but, anyway, we’ll be going in groups, one every weekend during the summer term, and I’ll be going with the rest of the prefects.”

Sybil’s duties as a prefect revolved mainly around arts and crafts, which she enjoyed and she was good at. She and I both knew that her parents were disappointed that she hadn’t been considered “Head Girl material” as her aunt and two Bettany cousins had been, but the position she did hold suited her fine. She also hoped that it would look good on her application for the needlework course that she so much wanted to do.

“The only snag is that we’ve got Auntie Joey and her cronies as our guides,” the letter went on. “Aunt Marie, Aunt Frieda and Aunt Simone are all right; but I just know that Auntie Joey’ll be driving everyone mad with her tales of when she was at school, as if we’ve not heard them all a hundred times before. I can recite the one about her rescuing Aunt Grizel on the Tiernjoch word for word! And she says that I’ve got to go with her and the other three to visit Aunt Frieda’s parents in Innsbruck on one of the days, when most of the others’ll get to go off by themselves! Oh well, other than that it should be wonderful. I’ll write and tell you all about it, and I’ll try to take some photos as well. I wish you were coming with us: I really do.”

So did I. It was so unfair that a bunch of girls who in most cases had no connection with Briesau whatsoever should get to go and spend precious days there, looking at places that couldn’t possibly mean anything to them, whilst I was stuck thousands of miles away in a country where sometimes I still felt like a stranger. “Unfair” was a word that went through my mind a lot these days. Life was very unfair, I felt.

Sybil and her fellow pupils weren’t the only ones who were going to be going to Briesau during the coming months. Auntie Karen wrote to say that, after three and a half years in Switzerland without once setting foot across the border into Austria, she was going home for a visit at last, spending one week staying with my grandparents and then another week doing whatever the fancy took her. It had been Cousin Anna’s idea. She’d been home several times since moving to the Oberland, and she’d finally convinced Auntie Karen, who usually worked through the school holidays, to go to Briesau for a much-needed break over Easter.

What had helped to persuade Auntie Karen to agree had been an incident involving Biddy O’Ryan, of all people. Apparently Biddy had accidentally spilt some oven blacking all over the kitchen floor, and Fraulein Annersley had blamed Auntie Karen for it and really upset her in the process. I hadn’t seen Biddy for years. She’d spent her holidays with friends ever since leaving school, and this coming summer she was going to be marrying a Swiss doctor and then presumably settling in Switzerland for good. After graduating from Oxford, she’d worked in Australia for a while and then returned to the Chalet School to teach history, and according to Sybil she was one of the best teachers the school had. Given that she, like me, hadn’t started off with very much, she’d certainly made a success of her life. Much more so than I’d done so far.

Then again, she’d been given a lot more chances than I had, I thought resentfully. Then I felt guilty for feeling sorry for myself. Poor Biddy had been orphaned when she’d been only ten or so, and here was I living with my parents, my aunt, my brothers and my sister. Not that I saw much of them most days.

In fact, what did I do most days? Got through the working day with as little effort as I could get away with, and then spent most of my evenings out and about “having a laugh”, sometimes not even bothering to let Mum and Dad know if I wouldn’t be coming home that night. I stayed over at Susan’s and had my breakfast and tea there at least twice a week, which, now that I thought about it, was really very unfair on Susan’s mother. I was out so much that I never offered to help look after Josefa and Andy or even help them with their homework, even though I knew how tired Mum and Dad were these days, and I frittered away most of what money I had to spare on clothes, make-up and enjoying myself. And I sulked because I’d decided that life hadn’t been fair to me.

If I could go back to Briesau with Sybil, or with Auntie Karen, what, I asked myself, would my grandparents make of the person whom I’d turned into? What would Grandma, who’d set up her own guest house from nothing, in her struggle to protect her family from far worse conditions than I’d ever had to put up with, think of me now? She wouldn’t be very impressed, I realised. In fact, I admitted to myself, she’d probably be extremely disappointed.

The CBB -> Ste Therese's House

output generated using printer-friendly topic mod. All times are GMT

Goto page 1, 2  Next  :| |:
Page 1 of 2

Powered by phpBB © 2001, 2005 phpBB Group