Monday, 11 January 2010


The story so far: Eva is little girl living in post-war Germany. Because she might be in danger of contracting TBC she is sent to a children's home, which is also used as a sanatorium, on the island of Norderney in the North Sea.  She is away from home, on her own,  for the first time in her life. 

Eva Goes on Holiday #  4

When I left home it was summer, I am sure it is summer here too; Miss Manfred says there is a cold wind coming off the North Sea, so we can’t go to see the sea, because the weather is bad for us. Then why did Mum send me here I’d like to know; I can be indoors at home where I have my books and my doll. We have weather at home too and sometimes the wind blows ever so fierce and makes my skirt blow up into my face but I am still allowed out. The other girls in the ward aren’t allowed to go to the sea either, we must all stay here in the sanatorium. There is a sandpit in the courtyard, Miss Manfred says there’s real sand in it, from the beach, and before lunch we can go out and we can build sandcastles there. There is supposed to be a shelter which stops the wind from blowing but I don’t know what that means because the sandpit is outdoors and it has no roof over it. We asked if we could have a bucket of water but that is supposed to be bad for us too. But then they make us have a bath and that’s full of water.

Playing in the sandpit is boring but I suppose it is better than nothing.
All the other children in the home have been to the sea lots of times; when they’ve been they show off about it and get all excited and they tell us how they had their shoes and socks off and  ran in the sea and splashed each other.


Today we went to the swimming baths. Miss Manfred promised us that we would get proper waves and that we could put our swimming costumes on and play in the water and that the water would be made of seawater. But the water was really in a big house which smelled funny, like nasty medicine in a hospital, and it was flat, with stones around the edge, not sand.

The man in the white trousers asked us if we could swim. I don’t really know what swimming is so I said nothing, in case I got it wrong and he’d tell me off for fibbing. I looked at the other children in the pool but I couldn’t tell if they were swimming or jumping up and down. They were making a lot of noise and I was hoping they’d let me have a go too.

The man put a rubber ring round my tummy, and took me to the stairs at one end of the water. He let me go down the stairs by myself. The water was a bit cold but I went in anyway.  He was still watching me but he nodded so it was all right and I could stay and play with the other girls from the isolation ward.

Susie and Birgie said they could swim and I watched them to see if I could learn too and they waved their arms about in the water and pretended to lie down on the water and took one leg off the floor and sort of kicked and hopped with the other. I tried it and I could do it too after I practiced for a bit. I swallowed a lot of water, which tasted very salty, but then I just kept my head up and tried not to scream so much so the water wouldn’t run into my mouth. It was lots of fun. I really enjoyed swimming.

Then the man in the white trousers blew on a very loud whistle and we all had to come out. There was another man and some of us had to have a really long string tied to our rubber rings, like very long leading straps, and they made us go back into the water while the men held the string. They got long poles, like fishing rods and they dangled us from the rods and pulled us into the middle of the water. I didn’t want to go, because I nearly couldn’t put my foot on the bottom any more and I coughed  because of swallowing lots of water which made even more water come in my mouth but they said, it’s all right, we won’t let go of you and you want to learn to swim, don’t you. Well, I didn’t want to learn to swim on a rod, I was quite happy swimming with one foot on the bottom, so they let us come out again after a bit. They took the string off  again which was good because we knew we didn’t have to have another lesson like being a fish.

Miss Manfred said we could have one more go in the water, a very quick one, but to stay near the edge by the stairs and not to lie on the water but to stand up. When she said that she scrunched up her face and opened her eyes very wide, like gown-ups do when they are trying to trick kids and go all pretend-serious, so we knew something was up and we waited by the edge to see what would happen.

And what happened was that the biggest, fastest, foamiest wave of water of my whole life came rushing through the pool, from one end to the other, and we all screamed and screeched and fell over.

It was brilliant.

I hope we can go again, even if they make me dangle from a pole.


  1. I can feel that childish insecurity with a small little rebelousness hiding inside her. She is truly a delight. And seeing grown-ups through such childish eyes is fun.

  2. I forgot to add that I am so sorry for your locked-in weather and ours is starting to thaw just a little, so maybe your warmer weather is not far behind.

  3. I do like these child's point of view pieces.

  4. Amzing isnt it that they still teach swimming like that today! I hadnt realised that wave machines were around then though!

  5. How wonderful to be treated to some more of Eva's Tale. More please!

  6. I love that little story of Eva. Is it a book that you've written - a true story? Yes I would like to read more Eva tales too. Thank you so much for sharing it. Beautifully written.

  7. When I was little, I was enthalled with the idea of a time machine, but since I couldn't have that, I settled for books. They were wonderful, of course and your Eva stories have the same effect.
    You have a real knack (have I said this before??) for taking the voice of a little girl without making her precocious in her sharp observations. Well done! And I'm a little curious as to how much of this is autobiographical, too.

  8. A wonderful worms eye view of childhood, if you see what I mean? :)

  9. A bird's eye view would be too tall...

  10. This is such a well written story! It reminds me of "Ballet Shoes" which I'm reading to my daughter right now. Stories from children's points of views are so much fun to read.

  11. Dear Friko, hadn't realized I had not posted any snow pictures. I will take care of that. Love that story of Eva. Watched Joyeus Noel and wanted to ask if you had seen it? I was enchanged by that story and to know it tryly happened.

  12. I liked Eva and wanted to know what she thought. Friko you created a character that pulled me into the story and made me want more. Thanks for that.

  13. Such a huge responsibility - to be a big girl, to try to understand what's wanted, to try not to make a mistake, to try to please and maybe even to have a little fun. I'm so glad that there was fun, because the whole learning-to-swim episode sounded awful.

  14. Brilliant! Took me back to being about 9 years old and being terrified of swimming out of my depth. My teacher, Mr Stone, held onto the back of my costume and patiently swam up and down with me until I conquered my fear.

  15. Hi Friko

    Thanks for your message - i have not left you. If i have disappeared from a followers thingie then it can only be some kind of error.

    Will rectify the situation. Keep up the good work

  16. Tabor - you are seeing what I meant to convey.
    no thaw just yet, life's still a bit of a struggle.

    Fran - thanks Fran

    her at home - and I didn't realise that they still teach swimming like that today, I thought it was all floats and armbands and babies in swimming pools.

    Martin H - thanks for your encouragement, Martin; Eva still has a tale or two up her sleeve.

    mollygolver - thanks very much; this is Eva's 4th tale. If you are interested you'll find the others by clicking on Eva's tale in the labels column on the left.

    Deborah - most of my stories have an auto/biographical kernel. I write easiest about what I know and then embroider it a little.
    And yes please, you may go on encouraging and complimenting me until the cows come home. (is that an expression in Canada to?)

    Jinksy - why do you always have to be so much funnier than me?
    I'd go for the three-cheeses-high view; after all, Eva is/was German.
    Kennst du den Ausdruck: drei-Kaese-hoch?

    Shattered - thanks J, I am glad that you are reading stories with your daughter; she'll have lovely memories. I had to make up my own.

    QMM - no, I didn't see that story. was it on TV and what was it about other than Christmas.

    maggie - thank you, Maggie. I am glad you like little Eva. I came over today and found your poem but no place to leave a comment. Looking forward to visiting.

    Cloudia - if I did, then I succeeded in doing what I wanted to do.

    Pondside - My goodness, you do understand, don't you. Quite amazing, the feeling you have for this little girl and others like her.
    I think Eva had learned to be very careful and not to take any pleasures lightly or on trust.

    Twiglet - Not a good way to learn to swim, I prefer the method used on Eva.

    Hungry Pixie - I am glad to hear it, funny, that you should have disappeared. You too, I am also pleased that your worries about not posting any more came to nothing.

  17. Hello Friko,

    I've never heard of swimming being taught in such a manner - it seems a bit barbaric to me. Eva's longing for the sea reflects her longing for home and for familiarity - poor little thing.

    I am a follower and since I don't have a picture, I'm one of the faceless ones at the end of your blog followers - lorriedolores.

    I hope you are digging out from under all the snow!

  18. It is indeed, although it's not part of the younger generation's vernacular!

  19. I remember being excited going swimming as a kid - you've caught Eva's sheer glee beautifully. I really love her very logical observations and question too.

  20. 發表,是一種抒發:好的心情可以一再的回味發酵;壞的心情就讓它留在文字裡吧!加油!........................................

  21. I have a brand new granddaughter called Eva so I love these tales.

  22. Eva is a delight. She writes so honestly and you know exactly how she is feeling. When I have more time I will return and read more Eva stories.' Thanks for letting us see things through the eyes of a child again.

  23. Dear Friko - That little Eva, though alone and trying hard to fit in and understand the world around her, was so brave. Nothing was going to conquer her!! I bet she turned into a complex, empathetic and feisty woman......what do you think?

  24. This is a great tale and you write it so well that all your blogging friends are ready to read ‘the rest of the story.” This made me recall my days in primary school. My best friend was Régine and she had to go to a sanatorium in Normandy for a few months. We were desolate to be separated. I asked my parents if they would send me to the sana as well, but since they would not we wrote to each other every other day. So I like Eva very much, it reminds me of Régine.

  25. Lorrie - Somebody earlier said that it is still being taught like that in places.

    Deborah - Oh dear, my age is showing!

    go - thank you for visiting (I think), I must find a way of translating your comment. Any ideas?

    Cait O'Connor - congratulations, grannie!

    Darlene - she was quite a sad little mite, but feisty with it.

    Bonnie - Hm, I haven't met her lately. All I know is hat she's still trying to understand the world. And not always succeeding or liking what she sees.

    Vagabonde - I am glad Eva reminds you of your friend. There were lots of litle, children then who were not strong physically. I hope Regine grew up to be a healthy woman.


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