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Thursday, 31 December 2015

The German Lady

It was in October 2005, about the time of his 87th birthday. My father Kevin was spending a few days with us in Geelong. He and I went to a local bakery to buy some meat pies for lunch. There was a queue so we waited our turn patiently.

A tall lady, much taller than both of us, turned to my father and said in heavily accented English, “You know, I like to come to this bakery. You can see where the baking is done and it’s always spotlessly clean.”

Kevin picked up on her accent and responded in German. I was a little taken back but wasn’t completely surprised. It had been years since I’d heard him speak German. Even then, I thought that his German language skills were limited to the pleasantries.

The lady, however, was less than impressed. Offended by my father's approach, she braced her shoulders and stood even taller. Her bosoms rose over my head. "I have been in this country for thirty-seven years. You can speak to me in English! I have been in this country 37 years.

I took a step back but Kevin held his ground and continued to speak to her in German. He spoke to her politely, softly and fluently, not even stopping to search for an occasional word. I was gobsmacked!

Just when I thought the German lady was about to king-hit my Dad, she suddenly went quiet. She calmed down and, surprise, surprise, her bosoms deflated and she resumed her normal height. She responded to my father, now speaking in German herself.

They chatted in German for a minute or so but then stopped and returned to English.

“Wait a minute,” she said. You are Dutch, yes? No. I think you are from Switzerland.”

“Nah,” said Dad. “I'm from Wangaratta.”

Kevin Byrne, June 1941.

V

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