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France - - Contents - Ber­nadette New­man Lon­don

Lake full of mem­o­ries

The pic­ture of the lake at Le Lauzet-ubaye in Alpes-deHaute-provence (April 2017, is­sue 223) brought back mem­o­ries as it matches al­most ex­actly one I took in 1972 when, at the age of 18, I stayed in the vil­lage for two months work­ing as an au pair for a Parisian fam­ily, look­ing after their two small chil­dren.

I be­came friends with an­other young woman stay­ing with her fam­ily in the chalet next door and we spent most of our af­ter­noons down by the lake. We used to take their lit­tle dinghy and paddle it across to the shaded side. The peo­ple al­ready en­joy­ing the af­ter­noon shade one af­ter­noon were amused as we fell in try­ing to get out of the boat (the water at the edge was not deep), but then looked slightly hor­ri­fied as I started to take off my wet dress, un­til they re­alised I was al­ready wear­ing my swim­ming cos­tume un­der­neath.

On a more som­bre note, I learned a lot that summer, es­pe­cially from the chil­dren’s grand­mother. I was a lit­tle con­fused that the chil­dren’s mother, who I had as­sumed was this lady’s daugh­ter, called her ‘ tatie’ (aun­tie). Even though the weather was very warm, I saw the chil­dren’s grand­fa­ther wear a short- sleeved shirt only once, re­veal­ing the con­cen­tra­tion camp num­ber tat­tooed on his arm.

When the chil­dren asked about it, they were told “when you are older”. Madame ex­plained to me later that dur­ing the war, her sis­ter had thrown the chil­dren’s mother as a baby into her arms as she was taken away to a con­cen­tra­tion camp. Madame never saw her sis­ter again. I was very moved when she said: “It is dif­fi­cult to know how to tell the chil­dren with­out per­pet­u­at­ing the ha­tred.”

ABOVE: The lake at Le Lauzet-ubaye

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