Sunday, 31 March 2013



            These are a few extracts from my letters to my mother:  they show some of the difficulties I had on traveling with an Aliens Certificate, reflections on Franco’s Spain and some insights into the character of Allison Peers.

         “Pension Juanista, Sanchez Toca, S. Sebastian   July 1949

         This part of the journey was the worst because we just couldn’t sleep and of course the French kept up a chatter all night long.  We got to Hendaye about 12h  and here I had a nerve racking moment because the man kept my passport for ages,
and finally said I hadn’t got a visa, so I said ‘oui, oui’ and pointed to the Spanish visa, then he said I hadn’t got a French visa, so I shouted ‘oui’ again, which was all I could say, and pointed, then he said I couldn’ go back to France again, so I showed him my transit visa, at which he seemed to agree that I was all right.  By that time I was feeling quite weak.  It was certainly a blessing I went to Birmingham, or I would probably have been stranded.”  (What this refers to I do not know.)

From the same letter:

“The regime here is noticeably strict, there are a lot of soldiers on guard all over the place, they patrol the post office and look at what you’re writing, and there seem to be a lot of them lounging about with nothing to do. I believe
the people don’t like it at all, they have no freedom of
         speech and are repressed all the time.”

         In a later letter I wrote:

         “I think the Spaniards must be about the noisiest race on earth.  Every morning
          about 7 I get woken up by a noise which sounds as if ten thousand cans are
          being thrown onto the pavement.  This morning I investigated and found that
          they were emptying all the rubbish bins which people had left out on the 
           pavement.  How they made quite such a noise I don’t know.  When they talk 
          they absolutely shout, you think there’s a crowd of people outside your  
          window, you go out and see two old women having an amicable 

         And in another letter:

         “Then on Friday, what do you think?  Franco arrived for his summer holiday.  Terrific preparations for his arrival.  Thousands of flags along the streets,
all red and yellow, and on the morning of his arrival a megaphone was set
up in the street, where we went and plonked ourselves about an hour before
so as to get a good view.  The megaphone was blaring away with popular
songs, and every now and then a voice would say Captain General Franco
is now at such and such a place;  he is approaching the outskirts of the city;
he is actually in the city.  It got quite exciting, like a horse race.  Then you’d
get a record of people shouting:  Franco!  Franco!  It was all designed to work
the people up, for although there were lots of people there they didn’t seeover enthusiastic.  In fact when Franco finally arrived we were more enthusiastic than they were.  Apart from a few half hearted shouts of ‘Franco, Franco’ nothing else happened, nothing like the roar that greets our Royal Family, so I don’t think he can be very popular.”

I was very politically innocent in those days.

In another letter I refer to the people in our class and Professor Allison Peers.

“There is one very odd couple, an old woman of about 70, who comes from Malvern, and her niece who is a little dwarf about 4ft high and exactly like a
monkey. She has a dry shriveled up face like a nut, and she seems to have a
malicious pleasure in annoying everybody. In class she acts as if the whole thing were being conducted for her sake, and as she doesn’t know a thing everyone else gets furious.  She has her match however in Allison Peers, the
other day he was saying something in Spanish and she asked him to translate
it;  he just bellowed ‘NO’ at her and cowed her into silence for the rest of the
lesson. We think that being so small she wants to be noticed and so makes
herself a nuisance.

We have found out a few things about Peers since we’ve been here. Apparently he’s a Catholic, for somebody saw him at Mass and he acts more
Spanish than the Spanish themselves.  We think he’s probably been out here
so much that he’s imbibed more of the Spanish spirit than the English.
Anyhow he’s completely different out here.” 

 (In what way I’m not quite sure now.)


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