Monica shares her 1950’s UK love story
It was April 1954 when I finished form at a protestant nun school. I didn’t have an idea of what I wanted to study or learn in school but in this school we learnt about baby care , cooking, knitting and a lot of other skills that in those days a housewife needed to know.
The job market at that time in Germany was difficult especially for under18 year olds. At the time, a lot of German girls went to the American or British offices to become translators. I was interested in getting into this but my English speaking skills at the time were far from ideal.
To be able to stay in Great Britain at the time, one needed to find a family that was willing to host you during your stay and look after you. There was still a food rationing /coupon system at that time. In return ,you had to work for the family who gave you pocket money.
I searched through the Embassy and found an address for a family. It was a family with 2 boys and they were looking for a girl/ young lady to host. The house was located near London which was useful as I could easily make my way to the evening English school.
My father was not really thrilled with the idea of me going abroad at the time. I had lost my mother when `i was 13 years of age and he was a pipeline engineer who travelled a lot for his work and had seen a lot of stuff.
On 2nd October 1954 I got on a ship called ‘Magdeburg’ from Hoek in theNetherlands and travelled to Harwick in the UK. Then, from there I went to London Charing Cross station by train Where I was picked up by Dr. E . Parker, my host. He was waiting for me at the station and had bought a teddy bear as a welcome gift as he thought flowers or a newspaper were too common. Thinking about it now, what I did was rather risky and I don’t know if I would consider letting my daughter or granddaughters do the same. especially after the uncertainty of post war. Because of that however we were all more mature and ready for what life would bring.
I met a German lady on the ship to the UK who was travelling to Newcastle and worked there as a secretary. We exchanged addresses and she told me to visit her if I ever felt homesick and needed a German person to talk to and hangout.
The Parker family were very nice to me. They were both doctors and had two boys one 4 and the other 6 years old. I felt very welcomed right from the start. The two boys got used to me very quickly and we often played together. Thanks to the parents, I got used very quickly to the British everyday life and I soon found an English school of 10 people where I could learn English as a German in London.
London is a very big city so I had to make plans of where to go and visit and what to do while i was there. I went to Trafalgar square for example where Lord Nelson’s statue is and took a lot of photos . Around that time the film ‘Modern Times’ had come out starring Charlie Chaplin which was going to be a classic and groundbreaking film. I found out that I could go to the cinema as many times as I wanted and watch the films and they also served food, ice cream,soft drinks, chocolate etc.
Around that time was the first time I had taken a double decker bus which also had no roof on. The British were so friendly and they were referring to me as love, dear sweet, honey etc. but it wasn’t always easy to understand them as they spoke differently to the English I had learnt so far. I thought it might be cockney which i remembered from the films ‘My Fair lady’ and ‘ Mary Poppins’.
2 years in Great Britain and I had already taken off and found myself in a world I never dreamt of. It was my 18th birthday and I got 2 wonderful presents from the family I was staying with which was a big German – English dictionary and to be in London for the state visit of Haile Selassie the 1st , emperor of Ethiopia. I had a place in the front row of the street where they were passing with the Queen’s carriage behind Charles with the Duke of Edinburgh. I took a lot of photos. My birthday was a success and the start of a new life which began in the UK. I had no idea that the following birthday I would be celebrating it in another country.
After two months I had seen more of London and the royal family queen’s mother returning from a visit in the USA and now I was going to a football match.. I always was a football fan as my father often took me to matches of our local football team on Sundays. I was familiar with the rules and knew the good football players. On 2nd of December 1954, Germany played England in Wembley stadium and I was lucky to be there. One of the players of Germany to play was Uwe Seeler who was 18 years old at the time and was going to become quite famous later on.
My life became part of a dream when I decided to visit the German lady I met on the boat who lived in Newcastle. When I had lunch with her I met a lady who wanted a girl to stay with her and her family of two boys 10 and 12 years old. I was lucky that this happened as the Parker family told me that when I got back to London that they would move to South Africa to find a better job.
This is how I left London but I was still excited about the things to come.
I arrived in Stoke -on- Trent which is in the area of the UK called Black country because of the many chimneys (this is what I was told at the time). I was not in London anymore but this was my fate. The family I was going to stay with were called the Lovatts and the two boys were called Mark and Peter. . From the first week they advised me to go to the English – German club. I thought it was a good idea. I can still remember that it was a Wednesday afternoon when I went to that place and to the event that would make my life so different and would mark my future. I remember now but then I could not even imagine that would happen.
Well I got to this club which was a bit like school (classes) and I hung my coat outside the room on a rack. I was quite shy entering the room which was full of young people who were laughing and joking, standing opposite each other in 2 rows kicking a balloon to each other and so I joined them and did the same which was quite fun. A after a while a very nice looking guy started to kick the balloon to me and then a bit later changed his position so he could be closer to me. The game ended and he asked for my name, , where I lived and I blushed as I felt shy. It was the first time in my life that a stranger was interested in me like that. I was eager to tell him the information he asked for as well as the house phone number of the family I lived with.
We left together when the meeting in the club was over. I can’t remember any other person I talked to there. Never went to the club again as my life took another direction.
George is the name of the guy I met in the club and he told me that he is Greek and that he came to the club to learn some German. He was a student in North Staffordshire college of Ceramic and he was in his last semester which would finish in April. From then on, I gave him private lessons in German, he took me to the bus stop and asked me what I like to do when I go out and I told him I like to go to the cinema. He said he liked the cinema too. I had already stepped my one foot on the bus when he felt brave enough to ask “ why don’t we go together?”.
After our third date he asked whether I could think of living in Greece. For Christmas. with his friends from Brussels where he studied 4 years before going to Scotland and he gave me a beautiful present. A bottle of perfume called ‘Je Reviens’ by Jean Patout.
So we were nearly 4 months together. We travelled to Chester, Trentham Gardens to a university dance/ party “in and out, in and out , shake it all about “ I met his friends from different countries.
In April, we had to say goodbye as George was going to meet his Father and his uncle for a tour to go visit different ceramic factories. We met up after 2 months in Liege station. He wanted to come and meet my father before going back to Greece for his army service which would last for 2 years.
We got married on 2nd November 1958 and had 3 beautiful daughters. My happy life began in the UK. I was blessed so much that it’s like an unreal story for me.
PS. Here is a poem which is one of the numerous poems George wrote to me in the letters I got from him.
The happy life is based upon the law of give and take
You cannot expect to have this all your way
other people have their claims
and so you have to make allowances
for what they do and say
It is sometimes worthwhile
to thank your point of view
when tempers rise and
there is so much at stake
A lot of trouble could be saved if only
we’d pursue the simple creed of give and take.