Snapshot: A visit from Germany to Oban in 1948
This photo shows me, aged seven, my mother on the right and my new aunt behind me. The year is 1948, we are in Oban, Scotland, and we have come from Germany. My aunt, my mother’s sister, had married a Scotsman after the war and invited us to stay with her new family. They welcomed us with open arms.
It was a big adventure for me – starting out very early on a dark August morning from Bonn railway station, and travelling through bombed-out towns via Belgium to the Channel.
I can’t remember much about the crossing, only that someone gave me a banana and that I ran to my mother to ask her what to do with it.
We were going to meet a family friend at Victoria station who was supposed to take us to Euston and give us some English money. But my mother and the friend had become so thin and haggard during the war that they didn’t recognise each other.
But a lovely thing had happened on the boat. A stranger asked my mother how we were to carry on to Scotland. When he heard her plan he gave her £1 in case it didn’t work out. What a godsend and what a wonderful gesture he made to an “enemy alien”. Needless to say, my mother sent him the money once we arrived in Oban.
My aunt worked as a receptionist in a big hotel on the seafront. Having seen only ruins and blackened buildings, I was astounded when I saw the hotel – it was all white.
Finally, as you can see, I was wearing white shoes. They came from one of the Care packages distant relatives in the US kept sending us, and without the food in those parcels we would have starved. My sister had a pair also, but because she stayed behind, my parents thought they would be too “showy” in bombed-out Bonn and hers were dyed black. She was very jealous and upset.
After that trip to Scotland, I always wanted to marry a Scotsman in a kilt with a castle. In the end, I married an Englishman without either, and it was the family friend we missed at Victoria station on that trip who subsequently became my father-in-law!
Playlist: The Fab Four single we couldn’t wait to buy
She Loves You by the Beatles
“You think you lost your love / Well I saw her yesterday / It’s you she’s thinking of / And she told me what to say”
In the summer of 1963, I was really looking forward to a family holiday in Cornwall, as we were to be joined at the hotel by my cousin and her parents. We girls had remained close, even though my parents and I had moved south in the mid-50s, leaving the rest of our family in the north-west. Two weeks together, sharing a hotel room, would be a great opportunity to swap north-south gossip, clothes and makeup. The hotel reservation, made deep in the winter, was for the last weeks in August. We couldn’t wait to meet.
However, a few days into the trip, our enjoyment was threatened when we realised we were in a remote location and our beloved Beatles’ new single was due out during the holiday. Fortunately, a catering assistant we had befriended in the hotel was a fellow fan and told us where we could find a record shop – 30 miles away.
We pestered my uncle to take us, but he was somewhat reluctant, sensibly pointing out that we would be unable to play the disc until we got home … he failed to appreciate that for two teenage girls consumed by Beatlemania, it didn’t matter that we couldn’t play it.
To keep the peace, he agreed to take us to the shop, on the proviso that we behaved impeccably for the remainder of the holiday. We agreed, of course.
So, on the release day, we bought our copies of She Loves You, and when we returned to the hotel clutching our precious vinyl, we found a note slipped under our door, from our fellow fan, to say she had the evening off, and if we went to her room in the staff annexe, she would let us play the disc on her Dansette.
What followed was a great evening, listening to the Fab Four, eating cakes she had got from the hotel’s afternoon tea service selection and quaffing West Country cider. Hearing the tune now, it takes me back to that happy holiday, much improved by my uncle’s indulgent response to our pleas. And yes, we did behave … well, most of the time.
We love to eat: Mum’s chocolate splosh
A pint of milk
One packet of chocolate swiss roll or chunk of leftover chocolate cake
Two tbspn cocoa or drinking chocolate
One tbspn cornflour
One tbspn sugar (to taste)
Cream to serve
The basic splosh is chopped-up cake with chocolate sauce. Heat a pint of milk to nearly boiling. Mix the cornflour, cocoa and sugar into a smooth paste with a little cold milk, then add to the hot milk, stirring constantly. When the sauce is thickened, pour over the cut-up sponge. Leave to cool (the splosh develops into a blancmangey consistency). Sprinkle with walnuts and serve with single or double cream. The recipe will make enough for four to six hungry people.
My mum devised this pudding in the 70s, when my brother and I were teenagers, and we have eaten it ever since. Mum was a single parent, running a busy B&B, and always looking to produce cheap, quick meals.
I think this was probably served to the lodgers, too. It has been called over the years, by a variety of family members, poor man’s chocolate trifle, chocolate thing, and chocolate splosh. It was designed to use up stale cake, but was also made successfully with chocolate swiss roll.
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