Tuesday, 29 December 2009

The third shoe

Anyone living here knows how hot it has been. Working in a kitchen is even hotter, so we took a break and drove over to Warana beach for a swim.
So tired after long days baking, packing hampers and delivering hams, cakes and puddings all over, we dumped our clothes next to the flag and staggered into the cooling surf to loll around, not enough energy for real swimming, pushed in and out by the small waves, luxuriating in the relief, relaxing tired muscles and tireder minds.

I was born at the peak of power of the Third Reich. Hitler was plundering and killing, demonising Jews readying his constituency for the coming genocide while France was still drinking wine in her delightful cafes, not quite believing it was happening again.
Chamberlain still called the mad dictator Mr Hitler and hoped it would all go away. Of course it didn’t and as they say, ‘the rest is history’.

For most Australians of my age, that and the threat of rape and pillage by rampant militant Japanese, systematically gobbling up the Asian land bridge to Australia, was a traumatic time. I use the term in its correct meaning. It wasn’t just extremely threatening. It created a life long fear that still reverberates through people who were children then. Whenever we hear German spoken or see Japanese people we remember. It fades but never leaves.

When guilt drove us back to the beach, nowhere near fully refreshed but feeling better than before, we collected our clothes and returned to the kitchen. An hour or so later we had had enough for the day and headed home. Stopping for petrol, I couldn’t find my wallet.

I remembered having held it in my hand as I picked up my clothes at the beach and was reminded with a pang of fear that it contained several hundred dollars, money I had loaned to IXL that she paid back in cash.

A frantic search of the car drew a blank so we raced back to the beach, arriving just as the life guard was packing up his toys. “No”. No wallet had been handed in.
Back to the sand, looking for a mark where the flag had been. Nothing.

Then we noticed an excited looking lady, waddling her plump frame in our direction and waving her arms frantically with a wide smile lighting her sun burnt face.
Her husband dragged himself to his feet and followed her slowly, clearly the less agile of the two.

He held in his hand my old wallet and was calling out in a mixture of German, of which I understand abut ten words and very accented unintelligible English.
They were so excited we had returned looking for the wallet, we must have appeared unenthusiastic in comparison. The man pressed the wallet into one hand while he vigorously shook the other and the woman hugged LJ in her joy.

I resisted the temptation to look inside to check on the cash until we had thanked them, said our good-byes and were back at the car and out of sight. It was all there as I had expected.

We used to say; “The only good German is a dead German.”
Of course I haven’t thought that for many decades, but the simple honesty of those lovely people who must have suffered so terribly at the hands of Hitler then from Allied bombing and then on through the cold war and the partition of their fatherland were still able to rejoice in such a simple thing as the loss and return a stranger’s old wallet.


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