I have had a blissful week in Guernsey with Peterson although it has been quite strange to be staying in my Gran’s house without her being here. It still feels like her place and the memories are so strongly connected with her that it almost feels disloyal to be having such a lovely time.
However, one of things I have been able to do is to take a sneaky look at some of Gran’s letters. When my Mum and my aunts were clearing out the house they found a couple of suitcases stuffed full of old letters, receipts and other paperwork. I found Gran’s love letters to Grandpa which she sent in 1939 whilst she was completing her nursing training at Birmingham General Infirmary. They made me cry, partly because her writing had hardly changed and she wrote such beautiful, gossipy letters about general nursing and the things she had been up to. I always knew she adored Grandpa, but these letters make it clear just how much she loved him and is saddens me that after he died in 1984 she had to spend another 24 years without him before she was reunited with him in heaven.
In these treasure-trove suitcases there were loads of newspapers, ‘Thought for the Day’ cuttings, photos etc. but the things that really interested me were from the German Occupation of Guernsey. From June 1940 – May 1945 the Channel Islands were occupied by the Nazi’s. Many of the children from the island were evacuated to mainland England and the adults and children that stayed lived under unbelievable hardship. This week I took Peterson to the Occupation Museum. It’s an unbelievable little place and would appear to be to life-work of one man who seems to run it single-handedly. The museum is stuffed full of information, memorabilia, German uniforms, guns, cooking equipment, photos and basic equipment that was developed by the local islanders to try and keep their lives running as normally as possible. There are cooking pans fashioned from tin-cans and recipes for delicacies such as Parsnip Coffee as the islanders were on such limited food rations they had to be creative. This period of history fascinates me as I know my grandparents lived through the Occupation years and somehow I feel drawn to try and understand their experiences.
My Gran was dually qualified (midwifery and general nursing trained) and as a result she was asked to go and live in Sark as they did not have any medical personnel over there. So, sometime at the end of 1941, despite the fact that she was in the early stages of pregnancy, she and my Grandpa travelled over to live on Sark.
So, back to Gran’s suitcases of goodies. The suitcases contained some letters from the Dame of Sark, Sybil Hathaway who, by all accounts was a real character and did not take too kindly to being bossed around by the Germans. Over the next few days I will try to share some of these letters, as they are fascinating, the early ones have a distinctly business-like feel to them, but these clearly develop into a fondness for my Gran, or “Nurse” as the Dame likes to call her. I found them to be an interesting perspective on what was a truly horrifying time.
Anyway, here are some pics from the week away.