Various other British families, connected to the Control Commission, lived in equally sumptious homes nearby.
Just as Heidi had Peter the Goatherd as her best friend, I had six-year-old Peter Howarth, as mine.
We would build wig-wams out of up-turned chairs; play ‘Cowboys and Indians’ ( I was always the put-upon Indian’; he was the lone cowboy); climb trees; fall out with each other; spend our ration coupons on Mars bars at the NAAFI ; and listen to ‘Dick Barton: Special Agent’ on the wireless. Avidly.
We would also play ‘Doctors and Nurses’ quite energetically, in the book-lined study of what must have been a wealthy physcian’s former home, and on his examination table. When we were discovered in innocent, childish flagrante delicto by Peter’s mother, we were banned from ever ‘playing ‘ with each other again. To be fair to her, we had guiltily locked the door, and were found bare-bottomed with our pants and knickers on the floor!
Like a pair of star-crossed lovers, we only managed to glimpse each other, from now on, from the back windows of our respective parents’ cars.
Meanwhile, my head was now full of Grimm’s Fairy Tales told to me, or read to me in the mixture of German and English by my beloved German ‘carers’: Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White, and Hansel and Gretel. All stories now enjoyed by my beloved seven-year-old granddaughter, who reads and watches these same stories in High Definition cartoons on an I-pad; in comic books, or Disneyfied spendour. Her world is richer in colour and stimulation than mine was; but the essential narratives remain the same.
My frustration to read more and more ( now unobtainable) books became almost unbearable. I now had ‘an imaginary friend’ called Paul who accompanied me everywhere, and listened to my chatter and inhabited my interior world. At least I had someone to share my made-up storylines with.