Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Christmas Quotes: What Will the Neighbours Think?

One of the things that made this quote interesting to me was that is took place in December of 1915 when anti-German sentiment was rising, and this played a big role in the lives of the characters.

The day before Christmas, Auntie Eveline and her husband, John, arrived, staying at an inn just up the road in Blackheath. In what had been a gloomy year, it was a rare patch of sunlight. Angie noticed how much Freya's mood lightened in the presence of her sister; she seemed younger, sunnier, more carefree. They sat on the cottage veranda with their mugs of tea, laughing at shared memories of their parents, singing snatches of lullabies and songs from their childhoods, telling stories of the grand balls and parties before their mother died. It had been a long time since Angie had seen her mother mile. Her father also seemed happier, less agitated, partly because he, too, could see the change in Freya.

On Christmas Eve, after a light dinner of bockwurst and roast potatoes, Aunty Eveline treated everyone to a concert in the cottage garden. Freddie had hung paper lanterns in the trees and they rocked gently on the breeze. Eveline possessed a bright lyrical soprano voice and delighted her small audience of John, Freya, Freddie and Angie with traditional German carols followed by airs from Mozart's Magic Flute and Lehar's Merry Widow.

"I wonder what the neighbour's will think?" mused Freddie at this unapologetic performance of songs by German and Austro-Hungarian composers whose music, in more civilised days, had been recognised as a gift to the whole world.

"Tonight, my dear Frederick, I don't care what anyone thinks!" laughed Freya, dancing around her husband and kissing him repeatedly.

John and Eveline had come bearing extraordinary news. Eveline was pregnant with their first child. And John was enlisting for the Fifth Division, AIF, which was being formed in Egypt in February next year. Freya's joy at hearing about her sister's pregnancy was quickly overwhelmed by the shock of learning that John was going away. Freya struggled to hide these mixed feelings but Angie saw the clashing emotions in her mother. Angie also noticed how conscientiously Eveline tried to reassure her sister that she had plenty of support from friends in Sydney. "If you visited whenever you could, I would be grateful," she told Freya. The sisters hugged, and cried with happiness, and hugged again.

The following day the family enjoyed a Christmas dinner of roast goose, red cabbage and more roast potatoes, followed by wedges of Dresdner Stollen. Their fruitcake had been made for them by Chef Muntz from his hometown's historic recipe as a discreet gesture of solidarity with this German colleague. They all sat our on the cottage veranda afterwards, digesting. The women sipped cherry brandy while the men downed brown bottles of Resch's from the crate Mr Fox had given Freddie as a gift.

Interesting that the word auntie was spelt two different ways which is how it was in the book.

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