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France 1950

Margaux from Holland Park School has kindly sent us an account of her Grandmothers experience of growing up in post-war France…..and it’s true what they say, you don’t know how lucky you are!

My maternal grandmother lived in a small town near the south of France. She spent her childhood growing up in the countryside with her parents who were farmers and her three sisters. Recently I asked her a few questions about her childhood noticing many differences between the two of our lives. For example, nothing she got in her life was easy to gain whereas I  believe that in my generation we are able to obtain things pretty easily.

What was your relationship like with your parents?
I spent my childhood in the countryside where my parents lived off the revenue of their farm (through the animals and various other farming). They were always present in my childhood so we were very close.

Did you go to school?
The school was in the nearby village at a distance of 3.5km and I walked to school. When secondary school started, I began going to school by bicycle. I was very happy at school but there was a firm discipline that had to be followed and in secondary school the head teacher was very strict about our clothes.

What did you do in your free time?
When I was not at school, I read, I walked through the countryside or invented bits of situations on cardboard. I had to use things around me because we barely had any toys. Sometimes our parents asked us to help with work around the farm that we could do like picking up apples.

How did the war affect your parents?
My dad did not go to war because he had a stomach operation and therefore could not fight. I just remember stories that were told between adults. We only talked about the Nazis but it was not very well explained and we told each other about the Resistance.

What was the most difficult thing you faced in your childhood?
I do not remember any difficulties that I faced.

What was your biggest success in life?
My biggest success was marrying your grandfather and having two amazing children, your mum and your uncle.

Do you still know anyone from your childhood?
I don’t know anyone from my childhood because very early when I was 16 I left the village and I never really had the occasion to come back.

Can you tell me any stupidity that you did when you were young?
I was in year one and my teacher had grey hair. She was sitting down to correct our workbooks and we were in a circle around her waiting for our turn. I saw her neck and I saw a small curl. I gently touched it and all the other students smiled quite amused. Encouraged, I did it again but this time she ordered me to go outside and shut the door behind her. There, she yelled at me and slapped me. I stayed at the door crying and the teacher that taught the younger kids came to comfort me saying it was not that bad. I can tell you that I never did that again. Also, another time I went to the hairdressers and I remember coming home with extremely frizzy hair and my dad was very angry.

I now understand how lucky and easy my life is compared to hers and I admire her very much. She did not have the easiest life but she still managed to have fun and enjoy herself. I have learnt many things from her and I believe that all grand children should admire their grandparents like I do. For example, she taught me to never take anything for granted. My grandma is a really calm person but she is respected.

Margaux

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