Friday, 2 September 2016

Pork Butcher Descendants' Reunion part 3: A journey of reflection

This is the third part of Andrea and Carol's trip to the Great Pork Butcher Descendants' Reunion in Hohenlohe, Germany. Parts 1 and 2 can be found here:

In a manner similar to a group of suspects flung together in an Agatha Christie murder mystery, we slowly said goodbye to new-found friends one by one. Some left the train we caught from Schwabisch Hall back to Stuttgart, departing at stations along the way. Part of our journey was an end to theirs. Along with a couple of others, we eventually travelled into Stuttgart city centre - overground then underground, wombling free with our luggage in tow.
Schawbisch Hall, photo by Carol and Andrea
Schawbisch Hall, photo by Carol and Andrea
Determined not to experience late night hunger of our first night, we went to the ominously named but absolutely tiptop Graaf Zeppelin restaurant where we encountered a lovely waitress from Nigeria, who provided excellent service and several laughs along the way. She too had her tale of economic migration to tell: she had relocated to Stuttgart, met her German husband and settled down there. For once we were able to get a relatively early night and had plenty of time to prepare for our return to the UK.

We were well in time to catch the train to Paris. Unfortunately, the SNCF transit system was not ready for us, as for some reason many of the trains were delayed or cancelled altogether. Frustrating though it was, we passed the time till the next Paris train window shopping, chatting over coffee and iced water, and even shared a currywurst in a baguette – German/French fusion fast food, no less!

We established quickly that our missed Eurostar train was no problem, and after being allocated new seat bookings (albeit by the distinctly non-tech method of a green post-it note stapled to our original tickets) we went through passport and customs checks. I was asked if I had in my bags a variety of potentially dangerous items including First World War shell cases. Fortunately no-one asked us whether we were up to any pig-foolery, the time had come for us to do a little livestock smuggling.

Sir Scratch-a-lot and Sir Scoff-a-lot were sitting in Carol’s tote bag, as quiet as could be. We had told them that any grunting, however quiet or even essential, was strictly verboten (fortunately, their understanding of Dinglish was growing by the hour). Once we were on our way we got them out for a feast of chocolates and other sweets, and a frothy latte each.
Pigging out, photo by Carol and Andrea
Pigging out, photo by Carol and Andrea
On our first full day back, we had sad news from Kunzelsau by means of a text message from Gertrude. Frau Franz Bolzinger, a distant relative of ours by marriage, had died the previous day. She was 93 and for our German cousins and friends was one of the last links to the past – someone who had known our great grandfather, albeit when she was a small child. While we were there, we had visited her in Kunzelsau, and sat for a while chatting in Dinglish through Gerti and Frau F-B’s daughter-in-law. Now years of smoking had caught up with her, and she was suffering badly with breathing problems. Nevertheless, she was alert, offered us brandy and chocolate, and showed us some of the fabulous mementos she had collected over the years.

As a young woman, Frau F-B had never wanted to join her father’s business as a trained pharmaceutical dispenser, and had hoped that one of her siblings would do, and allow her to go her own way. However, she was chosen by the Nazis to join the Lebensborn programme, a means of potentially providing Third Reich Germany with an Aryan future – she still had the German Certificate of Aryan Descent which qualified her for this role. Horrified with the prospect of marriage to a Party member and a brood of Aryan children, she chose to study as an apothecary, and so avoided Lebensborn. As we left, she held our hands and said, ‘give my love to Britain’. Her grandmother had been born in Bradford.

She was a link to a diminishing past – but during our trip we had realised this applies to us and the other extended members of our family, not equally but in in a very similar way. By visiting the place from where our mother’s family originally came, by making contact with distant relatives and setting down a marker with them and with other pork butcher descendants, we understood more about ourselves and have become part of the story, two generations further on. Newspaper articles have been written, friendships made, and connections forged that will always be an important part of each of our lives. Living proof that, despite all that happened in the world wars, despite the inevitable animosity between economic migrants and an indigenous population, life not only goes on but flourishes.

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