I had some trepidation going to lunch yesterday. It was to hear an old lady talk about her experiences as a child in France, escaping the Gestapo - because she was Jewish. I wasn't fancying anything too harrowing. We picked up a friend en route to the venue. She had invited us to come along and said it was a Ladies' Group who had fixed the whole thing.
We met in a spacious salle des fetes such as is found in most French villages, and there were about 80 mostly English people. We were offered Pimms, or orange juice and then sat at pretty tables to eat curry. The speaker was introduced - called Yvonne Franklin. She was 12 in 1939, born in England and the daughter of a Polish/French pianist and composer called Roger Jalowicz or Sinclair, living in Paris. The terrifying sequence of events - registrations, deprivations, removals, escapes, betrayals, abandonments, midnight journeys through the forests, having to trust complete strangers, guns, questions, loss.... on and on. The great-aunt who blithely told the police 'Oh yes, I have family - they live a xxx...' The man who stole all their money. The strangers on a train who led them to shelter, only for neighbours to denounce them.... The group of young men taken hostage and shot for nothing. In the end, this little family all got through. A statistical fluke given the numbers of people who vanished. The audience in the hall gave her a full applause, and we were all served birthday cake to celebrate her forthcoming 86th.
Heading home, we sat by our friend's pool and soaked up the sun.
Then back at my sister's we did almost nothing... relaxing at last.
Her pool is now almost finished - all honey-coloured and with salt water, surrounded by blonde stone and tiles. We ate a very English cauliflower cheese out there, watching bats flitter about, and listening to bullfrogs down in the valley. All calm.
How fortunate I have been in my life - no wars, no genocides in my country, no terror to speak of.