Back in Germany

The Cathedral of Worms, grand-duchy of Hesse-Darmstadt , Drawing by Stroobant   The Picturesque shop (1862) - Private Collection

It took me a long time to awaken from the spell food had cast over me. I did not come round by having a shock of some kind nor through gaining insight – I gradually drifted away from it once we had left Belgium to return to Germany. Another gentleman of the preceding generation, a little younger than my father, our family doctor, exerted his influence gently and imperceptibly. He did a lot for our youngest child and for me. He returned me to a more normal life. I nearly fell in love with him, but he did not let me.

The five years that followed our departure from Belgium were spent in Germany. Things went smoothly, but seriously. We dived into a nearly contemporary philosopher and were looking for ways leading to “higher” places. We have not found them so far. We were also looking for an “alternative” life. Steve was being worn out and eaten up by merciless German-American business surroundings of unprecedented brutality. Ideally he would have liked to turn his back altogether on the sort of work he was doing and go into farming and similar things. We went to England twice in search of a small farm. I could just see myself as a farmer’s wife. I was making all our own bread already as well as sauerkraut and a basic cheese. I loved a lot of physical work in house and garden – a farm would have suited me fine. As for Steve, he had no farming experience whatever, but was willing to try. He had a desire for a more “natural” life, exercizing in fresh air, making things for the family, instead of being wasted on other people’s behalf. In view of his lack of experience I was slightly concerned that he thought about us living on our own. I would have much preferred to live in a community. We then saw a farm we both liked, but could not afford to buy it. I was relieved in the end, being afraid of possible problems.

Steve’s desire to leave Germany became more urgent. He applied for jobs in Britain, was shortlisted several times, but never quite made it. I was still looking around for the “alternative” life. Something came our way at last in a most beautiful part of Germany. It came at a time when Steve had just been given notice by his company who were aware that he wanted to change and had found a successor for him already. Something else happened at the same time : Steve was shortlisted once more for a job in England. I was overcome by the coincidence of all this and felt like at a crossways in life. Here was our chance. We had to choose the sort of life we wanted. Steve had a definite offer from England, now.  We had also been to see the place in Germany which theoretically suited our philosophy – but practically, Steve hesitated. In fact he refused to embark on the venture. I was in despair and took a long time to accept that I could not have my way. I found Steve so inconsistent. Why all this talk about a new life ? Why did he not want it after all ? There was a risk, agreed. I was obviously more prepared to take it than he.

Our doctor told me that I had to accept England, if I wanted my marriage to continue. It sounded terribly serious. There was no denying that Steve and I had become estranged over the last few years. We had the same view of life, aimed for the same things, but the personal level of our relationship had become difficult. He went on holiday on his own for a week or two each summer, I finding it simply inconvenient, with limited finance, to take our young children to places like the Greek islands – this was where he went. I encouraged him to go, if he enjoyed it, and I suspect he was glad to get away from me for a time.

In the end I accepted England. Once the decision was taken, everything became easy and the overall situation improved. There was more food fadism, among other things, in store for me – strict vegetarianism, raw food – I did not know this when I packed the cases.

We crossed over on a beautiful September day.