On Friday, Virginia, Audrey and I went to some of the delicatessens in the Saint German area. We found cheeses and meats and a flower shop, and laid for ourselves a really fantastic lunch. I was also on the hunt for gifts for the English reatives. I found Auntie Isle and Uncle Tom a bottle of French Champagne extra dry, salt infused chocolate fondue, Rose preserves, and a piece of heart shaped cheese.
Promptly after reigniting my taste buds (we decided had been sorely neglected for most of a lifetime) I took the metro to Gare de Nord, mazed my way to the Eurostar, through customs and out of France! I slept through most of the Chunnel trip to Ashford where I then transferred to head southwest to Eastbourne and Polegate. I arrived in time to take my aunt and uncle out for a pre-anniversary dinner. Saturday, was their 65! Phew! I have visited them a number of times in the past, although it had been about 4 years since I saw them last. It was a piece of fortuitous serendipitous luckidousness that I was in proximity to them for their anniversary. My mother’s first cousin Penny, is young at heart and so warming and welcoming. We took mock pictures of Isle and Tom cutting their cake, making a proper fuss over them on the big day. It was fantastic to see all the family, especially having grown so drastically and hurtfully apart from my dad’s side of the family a few years ago. My second and third cousins (Sara, Greg, Simon and Heather by marriage) are totally awesome. Sara has the family travel bug and has lived abroad for many years in various parts of Asia, Greg is a total sweet heart, very thoughtful and fun. Simon and Heather are obviously very much in love and living in Portsmouth. I found family again, if even half a world away.
me and Uncle Tom
There was one particular moment this weekend that I'd like to share. It requires just a bit of back-story. My family is originally from Austria and originally Jewish. Like so many, this combination is dynamite in the most deadly of ways. In 1939, my 18 year-old grandfather escaped to Shanghai. His sister, Isle, was able to reach safety in England through the Kinder-transport, where she was placed with a hosting family. She was thirteen at the time. Before working with soft sculpture and pleating, my work was overwhelmingly based on my family narrative and its relevance to a broader social and historic narrative of the Jewish people and the children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors. In an attempt to avoid getting totally side-tracked, there are more details on my website (www.laurenpressler.com). Where, my grandfather and his sister were able to escape, much of the family was not so lucky; my great-grandmother being one of them. For the party, Ilse had on a charm-bracelet loaded with charms that she had collected from her travels. Her and Tom have been all over the world. Sara, me, Penny and Ilse stood in the living room, as Ilse fingered aside charms, untangling the mix at her wrist, pointing out a little enamel and gold chimney sweep charm. She said, “My mother sewed this into the helm of my coat when I left for England, just the one charm and the bracelet. Someday it’ll be yours, Sara.” I had a strong feeling of reparation; of participation as an essential but single link in a chain so much bigger than myself. Much of my research into my family’s story felt lonely almost. And yet, here we women of the family stood, remembering our matriarch in a genuine, unexpected and real event.
The rest of the weekend, Ilse and Tom just spoiled me . Heating pads in my bed, tea and scones by the coast in Eastbourne, a visit to Beachy Head, the new art gallery in Eastbourne, home-grown tomatoes to take back to France, watching Downtown Abbey, a walk up in the Downs by their house and my favorite meal of all time, lamb with gravy and mint sauce. Spectacular. Tom supplied aperitif, dinner wine and port to end, we had a starter, dessert, and a cheese plate to end. What a treat. I left England in the early morning on Monday and arrived back in Paris around 1:30. Audrey and I went out for a tasty sidewalk café lunch in the Marais, and then went to the Galleries Lafayette to ogle the shoes and haute couture designs. We had a coffee sitting around the mammoth stained glass dome, looking out over the cosmetic and perfume stations. Dinner was at one of my favorite restaurants within walking of the Cite, The St Regis I’lle St Louis- Black and white tiles, warm light, real white orchids, a beautiful couple making love through kisses at the next table other, and a bottle of white wine. Lovely conversation and pear flavored L’eau de Vie to end. I woke up early despite the late night, and Audrey and I went to the The Hunting Museum.