Little did I know then, just how ‘mad’ our lives in Germany had become.
Through my child’s eyes, I saw a broken world around me: bomb sites in Hamburg , which I remember vividly; cowed people, ill-dressed and appearing silent and defeated. Obviously, I had no idea why.
But the drama in my own family was equally extreme and intense. In the course of his work travelling across the country, my father had had a very serious car accident, when his Ford had skidded off the autobahn near Bremen, and plummeted down a ravine. He had been very seriously injured, and was left in the freezing snow for hours before he was found and rescued by a concerned German family – named Barock.
His recovery was slow. He had had a trepanning operation on his skull, and now suffered from severe headaches. He was unable to work, and was granted compassionate ‘ leave of absence’ to get well again. I recall him screaming in agony, and threatening to blow his brains with a gun that was in the house. I saw him pick it up and lift it to his head.
No wonder my mother had finally fled. The accident had left him with a complete personality change. He had become disinhibited and would say and do outrageous things.
The final straw was when he went up to his commanding officer’s wife and told her that the hat she was wearing was ‘ridiculous’.
To complicate matters further – he had become emotionally attached to Sonia Barock – the young woman who had helped to save his life. She saw marriage to my father as a way out of Germany. Her passport to freedom. And, also, on the scene, was ‘D’.Obsessed with my father, and hovering in the background.
How and why had she turned up again.
He was eventually released from his employment in Germany. It was the end of what could have become a very prestigious career in the Foreign Office.
The winters in Germany were severe then. I remember the thick snow and icy paths. Snow that reached several feet deep – I would run through the tunnels dug by by Willi, the gardener that exposed the paths in the garden.
While the drama of my father’s agony continued, Elsa and Silly tried to make the coming Weihnachten as beautiful and magical and normal for me, as they possibly could.
It would be my last Christmas in Germany.