Hands across the sea

Today is the weekend and I digress from the story of a wannabe journalist to look back at the actor’s life.

I don’t know who came up with the idea but Joe Holroyd and Angela Day announced that we were going to take part in a youth group exchange – with a group in Germany.

First of all we had to find out who wanted to go and who could afford to do so. It was only when the numbers were confirmed that we discovered this was to be more than a group exchange.

It was to be a cultural exchange which would involve us presenting a one-act play while we were there.

I don’t remember the actual play but it was to do with a prince who concealed his identity and his foppish brother who tried to steal his inheritance.

Did I get the hero’s part?


I was to play the foppish brother. My costume appeared to be loosely based on a Cavalier outfit with a doublet and wide-hipped breeches tucked into boots. The outfit looked as though it had been cut from a set of 19th century curtains in a russet and gold pattern, with a deep lace collar and lace cuffs.

There was a wide-brimmed hat with a feather (think ostrich not eagle) and – a wig! Plus a shoulder length chestnut coloured wig that would have been the envy of any Cavalier, even Prince Rupert himself.

Now I had always faced a dichotomy when it came to Roundheads and Cavaliers; or Union v Confederates; even the Wehrmacht v the Allies.

My head was always with the “good guys”, those fighting for the rights of the people; the freedom of the individual; democracy etc.

The problem was the Cavaliers had a better flair for fashion; the Confederates made the Union Army look like a crowd of Bowery bums; and, no matter how wrong their ideals were, you have to admit German officers had far sharper uniforms than our boys.

The problem was we were all responsible for our own costumes on the trip and I got an odd look from a customs officer when I opened the cardboard box I was carrying to reveal the carefully coiffured tresses of my chestnut wig being kept in shape by a blow-up rubber ball.

We travelled down to London by coach and stayed overnight at a small hotel as part of the trip included a night at a London theatre.

The following day we were up early to get on the cross-channel ferry to Belgium and then we continued on to Ülm in our coach where our hosts would meet us.

Ülm is a beautiful city but we were scheduled to stay with our hosts in two small neighbouring villages, Donaustetten and Gögglingen.

We performed our play three times during the two-week visit. The rest of the time was taken up with visits to Ülm and other beauty spots. We even spent three days camping in a German forest with old-fashioned nights around the camp fire, singing folk songs in Welsh and German; baking potatoes and drinking German beer (the under-18 rule didn’t apply) and having a great time.

The thing was that we were all post-war children on both sides and this was just 20 years after a war that split the world apart.

Our young hosts were our age but their parents, like ours, had been involved in that war, whether at home or abroad.

We made friends with those people because we put the past behind us. Many of the adults who were our real hosts had been conscripted, just as many of our troops were.

In a way it had not been personal. From pictures we saw in their homes these had been ordinary people caught up in a conflict not of their making but of the monsters who had taken control.

Their children could not be blamed for the actions of their parents. Just as our children and their children cannot be blamed for the many mistakes we have allowed to happen over the past 60 years.

The future belongs to the young. They will inherit the world and they will have to clear up after us, just as we did for the generation before us.

Watch out for tomorrow’s poem but I’ll be taking the rest of the day off.

Back on Monday with the continuing story of a cub reporter.

Published by Robin

I'm a retired journalist who still has stories to tell. This seems to be a good place to tell them.

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