First Meeting With Our English Friends
I told you about the life-long friendship between my mother, Ruth and her English friend Josey. The summer of 1962 arrived where Josey and her family would come to stay in our house for ten days, and do sightseeing with us in Copenhagen. My twin brother and I were eleven years old and had not yet started to learn English at school. I don’t remember if that was a problem though I would have loved to be able to understand the details of the conversations. Somehow children learn, to compensate and watch and imitate each other.
To be able to find our friends at the Copenhagen Central Station, Josey had sent us this picture from some year earlier. They had very few photos taken. Sixteen years had passed since Ruth and Josey had met in London.
My brother and I were used to be quiet as our father had traumas from the war and suffered from a chronic headache and insomnia. Josey’s three children were vivacious, and they unknowingly changed the atmosphere. We had a shower, and the three boys were asked to take their weekly bath. It turned out to be a noisy seance where the water was gushing up in the ceiling. To my surprise, my parents’ didn’t react. At home, they were used to a bathtub with two cranes, one for hot water and one for warm. The boys wanted to test our shower, and there was not a dry spot left in the room.
The parents mentioned that we had double glazing. At that time it was two sets of glass in a frame to protect the house from the cold at wintertime. This summer, I met John in Copenhagen, and he admired our Danish open-faced sandwiches. His mother had tried to make them after their visit. He didn’t think she knew how to make them exactly as they should be.
My father was at the hospital nearly the whole time as he had an acute gall bladder operation. At the time, it was not yet known that you have to mobilise patients after surgeries, and he had emboli in his lungs. He was not with us on any trips to Copenhagen, and one evening we and Josey’s family went by two buses to visit him at the hospital. The youngest boy, Adam five, was fascinated by the large modern hospital with the many lifts. He said
I wish I would break every bone in my head to become a patient here!
A little later on our way to my father’s room on a particular floor, Adam managed to get lost in the elevator and cried when we found him. He had changed his mind about the hospital. The last days of our friends’ stay, my father had been released from the hospital. He is seen behind in the group.
We went sightseeing in Copenhagen and a few other places outside of Copenhagen by bus and train, and I imagined that I was English too, hoping that my friends would speak loud enough for the passengers to hear them. We brought with us lunch packages. It was unimaginable to eat anything at a restaurant.
In Denmark, we have small stalls where you can buy bread and sausages. It could be true that we once got something from such a place as we did a lot of walking on our tours. In the Fifties and Sixties, we could visit the breweries Tuborg or Carlsberg, and we would be served as many fizzy drinks as we could manage. Before getting that we had to see the whole brewery though. On a hot day, we went to Tuborg with the family after seeing The Little Mermaid and an amusement park in a forest outside of Copenhagen.
Tivoli is the world’s oldest amusement park, and we were there. Opposite to that is a famous art gallery called Glyptoteket. Carl Jacobsen, the founder of Carlsberg brewery, was an art collector and donated the building and the art to the State. Every time I see that building, I imagine the three English boys running after each other around one of the big marble lions in front of the museum. I had never got the idea to run around a statue.
Before we set off on our daily trips, Josey, on her knees, would polish all the shoes belonging to her family in our cellar. It was an unusual sight for me.
An evening at home was a highlight of the visit where John recited “The Daffodils” by Wordsworth, and he also played the moonlight sonata by Beethoven. We, on the other hand, sang one of our treasure songs “Green is the hedge of spring” which I forever connect with that evening. I once wrote about that song. We ended by singing Robert Burn’s “Should auld acquaintance be forgotten.”
Our English friends would recite English poetry by heart. I was impressed by John, ten years of age was able to perform as he did. After that time we got television which became the dominating factor in the family and stole real fellowship.
Without the pictures that my twin brother took from the English visit to our home, I would not remember a lot.
The last day before leaving was rainy, and Josey asked her two big boys to do gardening work as my father was too weak to do anything yet. We had hedges all around our garden. Wet leaves had fastened on their foreheads and arms, a burdensome task for boys of their age. Saying goodbye at the station was unbearable, and the house was very empty for a long time. My mother wrote in a letter to Josey that I didn’t smile for days after.
Seeing John this summer 2018 in Copenhagen, we revisited some of the sights from their trip in 1962. I had the feeling that John was a refound brother to me.