At the conclusion of the series of lengthy and seemingly unpredictable stops and delays involved in the marathon coach journey to Maulach, many of the party felt that a similar means of transport ought to be avoided in the future. Once we had arrived and were largely independent of the heavy hand of 'organisation' our entertainment was in our own hands and progressed in the fashion well known to all school vacationers (Belgian footballers please note). The atmosphere generated by a successful Monoux gathering in a tolerant local hostelry together with the comaraderie involved in 'mutual support' up the icy slope to the hotel is a phenomenon which defies literary comment. Our charming (but expensive) courier Helga went largely unlavished by the 'responsibility' we took with us, for the various excuses of: "saving myself for the summer", occupe ailleurs". Fyson became the first person ever to break his leg whilst actively sliding uphill and Alan Gilbert seemed to be unable to get started when helpfully pointed downhill. As evenings got later so did the time skiing was started by the more active travellers the following morning. As the better skiers progressed to more advanced teaching groups and tired of these in their turn, it was felt that a few days free skiing during the week would have been a welcome break (as long as the venerable M.H. could be cured of his habit of sliding too near imposing precipices). Our thanks must be expressed to all those concerned with the initial organising and good luck goes to next year's party.
For the third successive year, December 27th saw a group of Monovians, Old Monovians, parents and staff on Victoria Station, ready for the long-awaited holiday in Austria. This year, however, there was one difference, Monoux was to become a pioneer, the first school party ever to stay in Wiesing. And as we left Victoria, none of us could guess what a magnificent time lay ahead. It was only 750 miles later we found out, a delightfully unspoilt village, a warm, comfortable hotel, a friendly, cordial atmosphere, surrounded by a ring of picturesque mountains. But this was only the beginning. Relationships with the villagers began to develop rapidly, and a real "entente cordiale" was soon established. It was soon discovered that the village lacked one thing, females. So with the aid of our guide, Christine, a special New Year's Eve party was arranged, and 20 girls (unfortunately for us, they were English) were imported from nearby Maurach. Needless to say, the locals, and Monovians, were delighted, and it seemed that nothing could go wrong. The evening (or was it now morning?) ended with a firework display outside in the -10°C atmosphere, and to warm everyone up, a conga which led the imported girls, Monovians and locals on a conducted tour of the hotel and its immediate environment. A good night was had by all, but not much skiing was done the next day. The party had a series of accidents, ranging from broken skis and batons, to a lacerated arm and a dislocated knee. But despite these mishaps, many amusing incidents occurred, David Birdseye falling off the drag-lift half a dozen times; Mr. McGuiness's daily rendezvous with a wood-shed; Hoggin's nocturnal rendezvous who-knows-where; and, of course, Michael Charles's perpetual rendezvous with the floor! Our instructors were extremely patient and helped to liven up the days teaching by organising sing-songs and races. Our hosts at the Pension Sonnhof were most helpful and generous. All in all, this was one of the best holidays I have ever been on. Much of this was due to the willingness of the boys to help with any problems and to assist Mr. McGuiness and myself whenever we needed something doing. We shall be returning to Wiesing next Christmas, and look forward to renewing the acquaintance of the many friends we made there. Roll on December 27th!
A party consisting of the Headmaster, some Old Ealonians with their friends, and ten Monovians left Victoria Station on Saturday, July 27th, for Dover, en route for a fortnight's holiday in Bavaria and the Austrian Tyrol. Those for whom this was a first venture had some misgivings, as rumour had it that travelling comforts on the Continent were of a minimum quantity and quality. However, the fine sunny morning kept spirits high, and all were full of anticipation at plunging into the "unknown." Although sleeping in carriages fitted with wooden seats is by no means luxurious, it is practicable, which is surely all that matters; and spirits still ran high when we reached our destination, Immenstadt in the Bavarian Alps, on Sunday, with the savour of lunch and the fragrance of cigars blending in the summer air. Immenstadt is picturesque and typical of most small towns in that part of Germany, with its clean cobbled streets and healthy looking inhabitants, neatly dressed in Tyrolese costumes; with its noble, finely sculptured churches and numerous signs and banners. It was this town which was our home for the next six days, and it was here that the most fastidious could satisfy their taste, with facilities for hiking, climbing, swimming, boating, and the more sedentary sunbathing all at their disposal. Having settled down to our completely new mode of living, we ventured next day to climb Stuiben, a mountain about 5,400 feet high, but as Immenstadt is not at sea level, the task was not so formidable as would be imagined. When we reached the summit, the view of the snow-capped Alps to the south and Lake Constance to the north-west aroused great enthusiasm. Although our activities continued, enthusiasm for this particular diversion waned, and our next excursion took us to the Breitachklamm, a beautiful gorge, and through Oberstdorf to Lake Freibergsee. At the Freibergsee a few us were fortunate enough to meet some members of the Hitler Jugend. A short conversation with one revealed that he worked eight hours a day in a factory at Chemnitz, where reckoning and typewriting machines were made. He appeared perfectly satisfied with his job and gave the impression that it was carried out under ideal conditions. As the time for our departure from Immenstadt was drawing near, the two following days were spent in exploring the town and its surroundings, and on Saturday morning we left it by 'bus for Pfronten Ried, where to our great dismay we had to wait four hours for the train to take us to our destination, Reutte, a town in the Austrian Tyrol. However, eight "stout" fellows walked the distance of fifteen miles and were ungraciously rewarded with a drenching. This was the beginning of a downpour that lasted two days, which time was spent in eating sparingly and drinking moderately, playing indoor games and 'writing letters, going to bed early and, in our opinion, rising early; all of which were successfully achieved at our hotel, ideally situated overlooking the town. After the second day the rains stopped and the sun shining brightly gave us the first opportunity of taking our bearings. On Wednesday we took advantage of the brilliant weather to make the ascent of the Zugspitze, the highest mountain in Germany, by cable railway. This engineering wonder has, however, destroyed the natural ruggedness of the scenery, and now thousands "rush" where once the experienced climber "feared to tread," and, moreover, that feeling of victory enjoyed by a climber after achieving his objective is not kindled within the bosom of one who pays a fabulous price to make an effortless ascent. This excursion was undoubtedly the climax of the tour. With Thursday dawning our thoughts were directed homewards, and at 10 o'clock we left Reutte to have an enjoyable ride back to Immenstadt on the first stage of our return journey, which we continued next morning by rail to Mainz, arriving there in the late afternoon. This was our first glimpse of town life. Certain trivial and almost amusing municipal statutes are administered in these prosperous parts. One was brought to the notice of a few of us when we entered an ice cream shop. Each bought an iced wafer valued at approximately 1.5d., and we were preparing to leave when the salesman informed us that eating ice cream in the streets is forbidden after seven o'clock in the evening. Trivial though it may seem, we had to adhere to it. It was here too that the activities of the Nazi regime took our eye. The Storm-trooper is a prominent but not a dominant figure. When greeting, he clicks his heels, presents a palm, and murmurs but two words "Heil Hitler!" While still dressed in his brawn uniform he is sometimes to be seen puffing a cigarette. A battalion of Stormtroopers on the march does not display great uniformity of action, but this is skilfully counteracted by singing, which although not always harmonious, does represent a united effort. On Saturday we steamed down a most beautiful stretch of the Rhine to Coblenz, where we took train for Cologne. Unfortunately, little time could be spent in this historical city, and soon we were rattling across Germany and Belgium towards Ostend. Here we bade the Continent farewell and arrived at Dover just at the sun was rising above the harbour. Few interruptions were necessary in the Customs Office, and before long we were gliding through the Kentish Weald towards Victoria and an English breakfast. At Victoria we said goodbye to our friends from Ealing after a thoroughly enjoyable fortnight, and, for many, a completely new experience.
By R. JAMES (VI Lit.)
The Headmaster was at Liverpool Street to see us off. After having our photographs taken we bade farewell. On board the comfortable single funnelled Parkestone we deposited our lug-gage and returned to the deck to watch operations in the har-bour. At about six o'clock our syren sounded and we set out to sea. Among the interesting people aboard was "Dick" Sheppard, whose recent death has been mourned by so many. We arrived at Esbjerg in the evening, and the first things we saw were a Ford car and some labourers smoking cigars. Here we saw our first Danish train. Immediately it had come to a standstill, charwomen rushed out of the waiting-room to the locomotive and turned on a tap at the side to fill their pails with the hot water. We were struck by the enormous number of bicycles of weird types, none racers, none with hand-brakes. Many shop-keepers have cycle-racks outside their shops for public use. Old- fashioned farm-type horse carts rattled over the cobbles past quaint buildings and modern shops. In the Youth Hostel at Esbjerg, the rooms were very large and the designs on the walls very simple and colourful. I woke up rather early the first morning, and with a few others walked to the fish-harbour. Although it was raining, it was worth while seeing the auctioneer, hammer in hand, step-ping uncertainly over the boxes of live fish he was selling. We took the ferry to the village on an island called Fano, a place of narrow lanes, boasting on its west side a very at-tractive seaside resort with excellent sands and up-to-date hotels. At Silkeborg we had our meal in a ramshackle shed, with sanded floor, windows without glass, and walls papered with newspaper. Our sleeping-quarters were even stranger: long sheds, or small huts for pairs, thatched with mosses, twigs, and leaves. Taterhutten is owned by a man over 60 years old, well -known in Arrhus. He came in 1920 when the land was entirely barren and uncultivated. He persevered with gardening, and now he has grounds excellent considering the sandy soil. He has persuaded the local inhabitants that the land can be culti-vated, and now many of' them have gardens of their own. In his grounds there is an old thatched museum. We were guests at a camp fire at which members of the hamlet were present. We marched round in a circle with tarred sticks flaming. We discovered that we were expected to sing. We were surprised when, after we had sung Pack Up Your Troubles, the Danes sang a version in Danish. We concluded our recital with the School Song. The Youth Hostel at Ry was new and very pleasant. We had a dormitory to ourselves. Various eatables could be bought on the premises, but as none of the young women at the coun-ter knew any English, we had endless fun in buying things. They were quite helpless while we were taking the goods and paying for them. The muddle became more involved when we gave too little money for an article. Aarhus is a fine city, the second largest in Denmark. We were told that it was a short walk to the Youth Hostel; but our guide's only failing was his poor judgement of distance. It was a stiff walk uphill. Among the more interesting things we saw were an automatic hedge-cutter, a tram-driver with trilby hat, and an ambulance with two discordant hooters which are sounded as loudly as possible. Outside the King's summer residence, the guard, as sluggish as most Danish soldiers, stopped for us to photograph him. Policemen smoke cigars on duty. At breakfast one morning the 23rd Psalm and the Lord's Prayer were said. An example of the Danes' hospitality was given by the wife of the Hostel Warden at Esrom, who entertained us during breakfast with songs with lute accom-paniment. We must compliment Mr. West very much for the organisa-tion of a glorious holiday for us all. All who went with him now realise what a tremendous task it is to manage thirty schoolboys in a foreign country.
D. H. BAYES (Vb)
They may ironically, even bitterly, ask you how many polar bears have you seen prowling the streets of Helsinki; they may frequently sacrifice you up as a burnt offering to the great god Sauna Bath; they may even, sin of sins, contemptuously dismiss cricket and cheer for Germany in the World Cup but, throughout all, the Finns remain absolutely charming and friendly and for this you can forgive them almost anything. It is, in fact, this completely natural friendliness combined with the intensely peaceful beauty of the Finnish countryside, with its great still lakes surrounded by silent pine forests, that comes most vividly to mind when I remember the holiday that, last summer, I spent in this part of Scandinavia. Most of my happy memories can be traced back to the time when I found myself at a sports camp 400 miles north of Helsinki, having been changed, rather unexpectedly, from a uniformed sixth former to a "teacher" attempting to explain the intricacies of the English language to about 35 students from all over Finland. With the atmosphere being completely relaxed and unschool-like, however, and with the surroundings at Vuokatti being one of the famous beauty spots of a beautiful country it was certain that we would all thoroughly enjoy ourselves despite the lessons in English grammar. The sports' camp having been described (along with the definite if unique pleasures of Sauna Bath) once already in "The Monovian" (Xmas 1965) suffice it now to say that the surroundings were for making firm friends. Each day would pass all too quickly being spent alternatively in eating, teaching and sporting with the absolute minimum of the latter as far as I was concerned. Certainly I never became as eager as one well known member of the Monoux staff who would be seen, every morning before breakfast, prancing around the race track perhaps with more enthusiasm than style. The evenings passed in sitting for hours on end in the cafe just talking or listening to the radio, or organising folk song sessions down by the lakeside where sausages were roasted over a bonfire and the pacifist convictions of the protest songs conveniently forgotten whenever a mosquito ventured near enough to the swatter. If it was a matter of two's company, three's a crowd then there was nothing more romantic than going for long walks into the forest, awe inspiring in its absolute silence and the night, because of the nearness to the Arctic Circle, strangely calm and tranquil in its continuous dusk while the moon stared out blood red mirroring itself in the lake and forming the "bridge of the water". While this thoroughly beautiful, peaceful, almost utopian picture is obviously not completely representative of Finland as a whole, it certainly did reflect many aspects of Scandinavian life as I saw it not only at Vuokatti but also when I spent some three weeks with a Finnish family in the industrial town of Valkeakoski. It is interesting to note that this ideally situated camp with its adequate cabins, large television/lecture room, and well equipped gym and sports' room, containing everything from a shooting range to ping-pong tables, is in fact owned by the State which then allows private organisations to hire out these excellent facilities. That the authorities are not in power just grudgingly to provide the minimum requirements demanded by the people is an attitude apparently shared by factory managements, if the two factories visited are at all typical. There the workers were not just the means of turning out the end product but rather each was an individual with the right to clean canteens, on-the-spot doctors and a number of small shops actually on the premises. It is perhaps typical that while many of the youngsters I spoke to regarded themselves as "right wing" they naturally accepted attitudes and policies which in Britain would be condemned in the correspondence columns of "Time and Tide" as "creeping socialism undermining the country's morals." Although large and modern the camp blended well with the surrounding countryside just as the numerous restaurants and cafes set in beauty spots, did not feel compelled to construct huge neon lighted hordings advertising Coca Cola. Although the great majority of Finland is still forested and in its natural state the people don't needlessly spoil one acre of their land either by dropping litter or by hideous architecture. Certainly the friendliness of the students was typical for any Finn would go out of his way to make you feel at home. At one railway station, for example, I spent half an hour in happy if stilted conversation with a sailor who knew half a dozen words of English to my nix of Finnish. Indeed friendships at the camp were such that some of the teachers, after the English course was finished, spent part of the remainder of their holiday staying with different students and their families; one person even cancelled his trip home and is, as far as I am aware, still travelling round living off the families to the apparent satisfaction of both host and guest. Obviously, however, the 60,000 lakes, beautiful blondes and sauna baths are not all there is to Finland. While Helsinki is a very modern, pleasant and remarkably clean city it is not a place to stay during the summer for in the months of June, July and August, most people desert it for the countryside. There seems to be very little night life outside of the bars and the funfair. It is also in Helsinki that you see most clearly one of the most worrying problems in Finland-drink. Whether it is 10 o'clock in the evening or 10 o'clock in the morning there will always be seen large numbers of drunks reeling their way down the streets or sleeping it off in doorways. Despite, or perhaps because of, the slack liquor regulations most Finns just don't seem capable of putting a bottle down once they have started with the inevitable result! Finnish youths are just as restless, if not more so than many of their European counterparts, and every morning, in the industrial town of Valkeakoski where I stayed, 1 saw great masses of youngsters just hanging around the streets for lack of anything else to do. Their television is swamped by cheap American "comedies" which even I.T.V. would spurn in England.Finland is in the unenviable position of sharing an English summer with a Russian winter. How my love for the forests would bear up with everything covered by great snow drifts I am not quite sure! Despite all this I hope that if a Finnish trip is arranged next year other Monoux boys will take advantage of this opportunity to travel in and round this country and, by actually staying with a family, see how the people live and work. While some of my friends were not so lucky, the friendly reception I received and the things I saw made this one of the most enjoyable holidays ever, and to miss this opportunity would be to miss a great experience.
J. A. Weinstein
The facts and statistics made relatively easy reading. Between 25th July and 27th August, a party from Monoux travelled approximately 3,600 miles: from Gatwick to Helsinki by jet, north by train to a sports centre at Vuokatti, a small village in Central Finland, where we were to take part in t holiday course aimed at improving the English of the Finns of our own ages. who had travelled there for that reason from all over Finland: then, after three weeks south again to be guests of Finnish families near Helsinki for 10 days: finally the last sightseeing week-end in Helsinki before flying home. But to summarise our impressions of a different country, a different people, and an unforgettable holiday, is a very different matter.
Those of the party who stayed at the Vuokatti sports centre (a few of us spent the entire holiday with a Finnish family) arrived, after journeying for a total of 15 hours by train, impatient to compare the much heralded camp with reality. The word camp is deceptive. The sports centre is laid out around a football pitch, and an encircling running track. On a bank, standing back from one flank of the pitch, is a long building, which combines the offices of administration centre, gymnasium, accommodation centre, washrooms and showers, and, in the basement, shooting gallery, launderette, drying rooms, electric generator and ski repair workshop. At the end of the football pitch lie the dining hail and library, and set well back from the pitch are chalets. The party from Monoux was accommodated in a chalet at the crest of a small wooded hill under the supervision of Mr. M. Elliott, to whom we are all grateful for hard work of administration and organisation. The view from one window was across the sports centre and from the opposite windows out over a lake. So great is the prestige at the centre that it has an exclusive station on the railway line running nearby.
Initial hesitance, surprisingly more evident in the Finns than the foreigners, was soon overcome and the three weeks rushed past, lost in the making of new friends, the discovery of new beauties of scenery, and the enjoyment of the widest imaginable range of sports. No description of Vuokatti is complete without the revelation of Sauna. Indeed it seems to a foreigner that Sauna is the Finnish way of life. When a Finn builds his home, he builds sauna first, where he will live until minor details like bedrooms, dining rooms, bathrooms, have been sorted out. In order to bake a Finn to his satisfaction, the fire in the boiler which heats a large (three feet diameter) cylinder of pebbles, must be lit some hours before it is required. One enters a medium sized wood-lined room, and sits down naked on one of the wooden benches that stretch tier-like to the ceiling, facing the imposing black boiler, which radiates heat. In a temperature of around 100° centigrade, one sweats. At first sweat quickly evaporates but it gradually accumulates and drips off one's toes, fingers and nose. One's hair is soaked after five minutes. Any ideas about the ease of toleration of this temperature are dispelled as a glistening pink Finnish masochist begins to ladle water into the hissing black cylinder, with the apparent effect of doubling the temperature. At this point, Finns present will begin to make polite conversation, but even the most determined Finnophile leaves for the lake. Saunas are built, where possible, on the sides of lakes. One runs down a short jetty and plunges into the icy cold lake water. And sauna, despite our pessimistic expectations, produces an incredible sensation of well-being and a tingling which lasts for several hours, probably the result of wholesale destruction of nerve endings.
But whether we were rowing on a vast lake which stretched over the horizon in two Directions, struggling breathless towards a rugged peak, participating furiously with cracking voices in a camp fire sing-song by the lake, playing football against another team of foreigners--Germans from a nearby camp, dancing late into the summer twilight that the Finns call night, driving around the battle grounds of the Finno-Russian war, or just lying in the hot sun which hardly left us during the whole stay, we succeeded in escaping from time, there in the north of Europe.
The next stage of the holiday was with a family in South Finland. I stayed in a tiny farming settlement near Tampere. Others of us were nearer Helsinki. These ten days, 1 think we are agreed, provided a greater insight into the Finnish way of life, and in every case were unforgettably enjoyable.
The entire Monoux party met up again at the Students' hostel in Helsinki for the last weekend. One of us had travelled far north beyond the Arctic Circle, into Lapland and over the Swedish border. Others, after five weeks in Helsinki, now knew the streets of the city better than they remembered those of Walthamstow. We had been into radio stations, up towers, down mines, on combine harvesters, and across vast lakes.
Under the highly efficient guidance of Reijo Olander, to whom we owe our sincere thanks, we toured Helsinki and suburbs, with memorable visits to the ancient island fortress of Suomenlinna in Helsinki harbour, and the famous amusement park of Linnanmaki, high above the capital. Our last meal in Finland, prepared, I must think, in our honour, was sausages and chips with tomato sauce, flavours which most of us had forgotten.
What did we learn about Finns and Finland? The Finns belong to an ethnic group, which is neither Slavonic nor Nordic, yet they have a long history of foreign domination. They have been self-ruling since 1917 yet enmities remain: they are strongly anti-Russian: and some Finns, with motives stretching much further back into history, feel hostility against the Swedes. Finns have a very distinct national character, which they take great delight in probing. There is a large number of anecdotes in circulation, each purporting to show one aspect of this character, or the character of the people of one particular region, famed perhaps for slowness, or tight-fistedness. Foreigners are informed with mock seriousness that Finns emerged long ago from the ubiquitous lakes of Finland, a myth alluded to by the famous statue of the Maid of Finland on the Helsinki waterfront. Finns are very proud of their work and their importance in the United Nations peacekeeping force, and of their achievements particularly in design. Yet there is an element of reservation in every Finn, even verging on shyness as those of us who tried to hitchhike discovered.
Even so, the foreign visitor is greeted with a rarely encountered wealth of kindness. The months and the years pass by, but warmth of memory will always remain.
Patrick R. Humphreys, 6iR
" Qu'est-ce que to fais malheureus, les oeufs sent la-bas," said the storekeeper patiently. Well how was I to know where the eggs were kept? There was I, an Englishman, serving behind the counter of a provision store in a French village, and it was no easy task. You may well ask how 1 came to be there, and the answer is, the War. France had been calling men to the colours for three weeks now, and she was almost fully mobilised. There were no reserved occupations and no exemptions; the whole male population took leave of their families and departed almost at a moment's notice, leaving their jobs to get along as best as possible. Everything was allowed to collapse, postal system, transport, newspapers, etc. that France might be able to put her whole strength into the field. Any hopes I might have had of starting for home when war was declared were immediately squashed by the fact that all the trains were being used for military purposes, so that I spent the first week of the war in Locquirec filling the place of a Frenchman who was now in the Army. At 5 o'clock each morning, as soon as it was light, I could be seen on the quayside with a party of fishermen mending nets and preparing for another trip. Mackerel were plentiful in the bay and we had an average catch of five hundred, which brought quite a good price in the neighbouring villages. Fortunately the weather was magnificent, and the sea was kind to me.
Then came the news on September 10th that there would be a civilian train going to Rennes. I hastily took leave of my friends, and as luck would have it I got into a carriage containing half a dozen half-drunk soldiers and two nuns. One of the soldiers gave the nuns a lecture on why England and France were at war, during the course of which he very emphatically expressed his opinion of Hitler and what he would do to him if he could only get near enough. I must admit that some of the words he used baffled me completely, and upon further investigation 1 discovered that they were nowhere to be found in even the best French dictionary. He then turned his attention to me, and having decided by my accent that I came from Marseilles, he muttered prophetically "Ah malheureux, vous serez bon pour remplacementl" When the train stopped at Rennes the eloquent soldier staggered down the platform, whereupon the guard asked him where he was going. "Moi," he said, "je vais a Berlin, allons a Berlin!" The cry was taken up by his friends: "a Berlin, a Berlin." The same spirit was evident in St. Malo. The French people were obviously prepared for this war, and would have attacked Germany long ago had it not been for the restraining influence of Great Britain.
At St. Malo I reported at "La Gare Maritime," only to learn that the next boat was in a week's time, and that it was only going as far as Jersey. I imagined that I was the only Englishman in the town, and was thankful for my slight knowledge of French, which enabled me to put up at a hotel (after convincing the landlord that there was nothing German about me at all). However, at the "Consulat Brittanique" next day I found that there were at least thirty Britishers in St. Malo. Some of them had travelled all the way from Turkey, Greece and Egypt, and had been turned away from Calais and Le Havre, for St. Malo was the only open port by now. One lad from Yorkshire had been engaged in a dock-hand fight at Bordeaux and had been hit so hard that he was unconscious for three days, while another youth from Cornwall had crossed half Europe in a cattle-truck. During the week quite a number of British colliers unloaded in the wharf, the Ferryhill, which was sunk in the North Sea not long ago, was one of them. While we were sight-seeing, however, a new difficulty arose. As it was war time, we had to have special permission to leave France. At first the French authorities insisted upon our going to Paris to obtain military visas, but after some gentle persuasion on the part of the British Consul we were spared the journey. The boat, which arrived painted with brilliant colours, was transformed during the night to a dull grey spectre gliding through the water. As we slid out of the harbour, and France was slowly swallowed up in the mist, we began to speculate on the chances of seeing any submarines. But as a French soldier had assured me "Il n'y a rien dans la Manche, pas un sousmarin." After spending the night in Jersey, we continued first to Guernsey and then on to Southampton, where we were greeted by a squadron of bombers and a fleet of mine-sweepers.
So ended a very interesting holiday, which might have been even more interesting had "Monsieur Hitler" so desired. For me the war began in a strange and rather bewildering way. It was an interesting experience to see our ally preparing herself for the struggle ahead, and although I was lucky to have such an opportunity, I was glad to set foot in England. The very next day after I arrived home I was in Ampthill. R. D. Barry (VI Lit.).
I have been asking my friends what England, or rather Great Britain, means to them. There have been a great variety of answers. For some of these friends the word "England" invariably calls forth the picture of Pennistow Craig lashed by the north wind, which they saw in the film Wuthering Heights. For others, it means the Highlands and the Scottish lakes, but, generally speaking, most of them imagine England as a cold, grey, misty country, where sunshine is a thing unknown. Opinions on the English people are also very divided. Some envisage a race of very matter-of-fact, very stubborn, and very austere and self-centred people, who are always at loggerheads with other nations because of their over-developed national sentiment. "Their politics are selfish; they believe themselves too superior to others. They are capitalists who have no sympathy with us; they are our allies but not our friends, for that matter, they have nearly always been our enemies. We know that we owe them a great deal, but that is all." But if many hold this opinion, the others, and they are the majority, believe that the friendship which unites our countries is real, firm and able to stand up to time. "The English are brave and loyal, and, even if they are a little insular in their patriotism, they are not selfish because of it. On the contrary, they are courteous, young in heart, sensitive, and more sentimental than the French. Moreover, they are more seriously minded, their young men do not whisper the sweet nothings of love to the girls, as often as ours do, less easy of manner, and much more active in the type of life they lead." This is how the majority of us esteem and love England, although we do not know it very well, and sometimes, even, not at all . . .
What is my personal opinion? Oh. I shut my eyes to all the little defects, which, like all nations, the English possess, in order to see that great England which I hope I shall soon get to know, that great England upon whom we may always rely.
College de Jeunes Filles de Nevers
It was at the beginning of March that J. and I decided to go on the tour. It was organised by the Historical Association, and we were to stay at Avignon and visit many of the surrounding towns. The tour began during the last week in August, and in the two months before this we accumulated some cigarettes, soap, and some packets of saccharines, which we, thought we could sell or exchange in France; however, except for a few cigarettes which proved extremely useful as tips, we returned home accompanied by this same merchandise, having discovered that there were already adequate saccharines in France, and that although inferior to our own, cigarettes were just as abundant in France as in England, and also far cheaper.
At last, after over five months of patient waiting, the day of departure finally arrived. Our first night was to be spent in Paris, and it was about half-past eleven when our train drew into the well-lit city. Because it was my first visit to Paris, we decided to go out and see some of the sights. The whole city was celebrating, for the day marked the liberation of Paris: in every square were fairs: there was dancing in the streets; and every cafe along the boulevards was full of rejoicing Parisians. After a ride on the "dodgems" at the fair in the Place de 1a Bastille, we made our way to the metro, and finally arrived at the Cathedral of Notre Dame, where J. wanted me to see the famous flying-buttresses, which I had so often admired in photographs. (Returning to England we spent another night in Paris, this time arriving an hour earlier, at 10.30. We saw the Arc de Triomphe and the Unknown Warrior's tomb and from there walked down the Champs Elysees with its numerous cafes, as far as the Place de la Concorde,where the public executions used to take place. It was there that I met the only humiliating experience of my holiday. In the darkness neither J. nor I could see the metro station. In my very best French accent I asked a passer-by : " Ou est le metro, s'il vous plait?" The obliging Frenchman answered promptly: " Over there, behind that light!"
It takes eleven hours to travel front Paris to Avignon, eleven hours not of the usual boredom of travel, but of sheer delight. Between Paris and Lyons the most interesting tract of the country lies just north of Dijon. Here the train passes through masses of high thickly-wooded hills, among which an occasional village or building can be seen, and between which lie narrow, cultivated valleys.
As soon as one reaches Lyons, one is struck by the sudden change in landscape. The Saone joins the Rhone to form a river of great expanse, which Daudet describes in Le Petit Chose, as "si grand qu'on voyait a peine ses rives;" the meadows gradually merge into vineyards; melons become abundant; well-forested hills soon disappear, and instead hills are seen covered in maquis with large, protruding, pure white rocks; barren earth dotted with gnarlcd and stunted olive trees, takes the place of orchards; mules and oxen replace horses; and the towns assume a white character caused by the stucco walls of the houses. Perhaps the most outstanding feature of this part of France is formed by the barriers constructed, always in an east-west direction, to form a protection against the mistral: these are usually constructed by growing a row of tall trees and by afterwards filling any gap with dried reeds, sometimes the entire barrier is built of these reeds, which grow in plenitude along the roadsides. From the windows on either side of the carriage we could clearly see the hills bounding the Rhone valley, where the most beautiful and picturesque scenery of the whole of France is found.
It is impossible to give a detailed description of the many places, which J. and I visited, for our party had at its convenience a coach, which took us to several different places on each day. We saw many Roman amphitheatres, magnificent structures, which are used even to-day for bullfights; and, indeed; the one at Nimes is used as an open-air cinema. We visited the Pont du Gard, an aqueduct built by the Romans, and one of their most remarkable feats of engineering: it is tall and graceful as it crosses a river valley, and is completly surrounded by maquis-covered hills. Another remarkable place is Les Baux, an old medieval town, which like many towns in this part of France is semi-deserted and mostly in ruins. It is situated high in the hills bounding the Rhone valley, and from the ruins of the old castle there one can see for many miles around, even as far as the Mediterranean. Under the bright blue sky, we saw, hundreds of feet below us, vineyards, fields of olive trees, and acres upon acres of barren land, all stretching out as far as we could see. In the other direction rose masses of maquis-covered hills, whose dark brown colour presented a startling contrast to the blueness of the sky.
Another day we went as far south as the Mediterranean. We traversed miles of swamp, where we saw herds of bulls, which are bred for the bull fights, flamingoes, buzzards, numerous and colourful
wild flowers, cicadas, and emerald-green frogs, whilst lizards and magpies were exceptionally abundant there. We visited Aigues Mortes (" Dead Waters "), a picturesque old town, whose entire walls together with a watch-tower are still standing complete and in perfect condition. We also saw Les Saintes Maries and while we were there, J. and I took the opportunity of swimming in the warm, blue water of the Mediterranean. The most interesting feature of the town is its church, which is very strangely constructed. For a few days every year, the Catholics give this church over to the gypsies, who go there from all parts of France for their heathen worship. In the crypt we saw piles of gypsies' clothes, for it is their belief that by leaving an article of clothing there for a whole year they receive good fortune.
A word must be said as to the food, for though we feared there would be a shortage, never have we eaten more. We were lucky enough to arrive in Avignon just after the fruit-harvest, and every-day we bought at least one kilo of grapes, and some peaches, fresh figs, or a melon. We both ate snails during our stay there, although J. was not impressed by them, for the taste of the snail, a small leathery piece of meat drawn from its shell by a large pin, was smothered by the flavour of the many herbs in which it was cooked.
Unfortunately, the two weeks of our holiday flashed by, and we soon found ourselves seated in the train returning home. But still, is the apparent swiftness of time not a proof that it was a wonderful
As instructed by the organiser of the "Seventh Paris Cultural Holiday," the four of us, Hall, McColgan, Whiter, D.J.Wilson, arrived at Victoria Station on the morning of April 17 with our baggage, but, contrary to instructions, without our "distinctive, light-blue" rosettes. Judging by some of the others on view, the general tendency seemed to be one of trying to sport the biggest "bloom" of all, and the varying colours and sizes would have put a florist's window to shame.
After much ado about nothing, we left at 10.30, arriving at Newhaven just before mid-day. After a calm crossing, notable only for the fact that "D.J." threw the lens hood of his camera instead of the customary crumbs to the seagulls, we docked at Dieppe, there to learn that owing to the railway strike then in force, we would travel to Paris by coach. Discomfort is tolerable: when it lasts for three and a half hours, it is pretty awful; but when it costs twenty-four shillings each, it is unprintable, for that is what it cost us (extra)) to stand all the way to the French capital.
Nevertheless, we quickly settled down in the primitive conditions of the College Stanislas, which was our resting place and restaurant for the length of our stay. Having viewed the "horse-trough" wash room (running cold water laid on), we decided to make its acquaintance as infrequently as possible. (This was one of the few resolutions we kept.) The dormitories were adequate, but the prevailing atmosphere was that of a Borstal institution, this being in no degree lessened by our presence. Indeed, the eagerness to create general, nocturnal pandemonium was blunted only by the infrequent inspections made by a master in charge. Having thus made ourselves at home, we proceeded to assimilate the beauties of Paris in the Spring, even if it was merely through the windows of the lecture room, and the coaches, which, when they arrived, took us to all the renowned beauty spots, the "musts" in the city, as well as to the Palace of Versailles, which, together with its extensive gardens, provided us with an extremely interesting, if tiring, afternoon.
The work involved in this "Cultural Holiday" consisted of lectures and "cours pratiques," in which we practised translation and conversation. This occupied most mornings, the afternoons generally being used for organised visits. During the mornings, which were usually free, we were supposed to escort the young ladies in the group, which was made up of 800 girls and 300 boys, around the town, in order to protect them from would be assailants (whose number was perhaps smaller than the girls would have liked). Though refreshing and stimulating, this experiment usually left us much lighter in pocket than was desirable, but who were we to resist the charm of the fair sex?
One of the most notable features of our stay was the guidance we received from "Hampstead Harry," a young French student with relatives in Hampstead, an intimate knowledge of Hendon Greyhound Stadium (gained at the age of twelve) and of most of the "pubs" in North-West London, and possessed of an extraordinarily good Cockney accent. This latter attribute (?) caused us a good deal of amusement, particularly in the museums and palaces, whose treasures he would dismiss as "a lot of ol' junk." These lapses into the London vernacular were very frequent, and often led listeners to believe they were hearing a genuine Eastender, rather than a well-educated Parisian electrical engineer.
At the end of our ten days we left Paris behind, and brought back only happy memories and a few bottles over of the duty-free limit imposed by the Customs. We were all agreed that our time in France had been well spent, as had our pocket money, and that the educational value alone made it wholly worthwhile. Our sincere hope is that we can make use of these advantages in our exams., and prove to Mr. Hyde that his efforts have not gone unheeded and unrewarded in enabling us to enjoy our Easter in a far less mundane manner than would have been possible in the "Dodgems" at the Fair on Chingford Plain.
Part of our work at the Sorbonne included a competition which entailed the writing of a French essay on the subject "Preferez-vous le Paris des musees et des monuments ou le Paris des boulevards?" McColgan's natural modesty prevented him from mentioning in the above report that he was awarded the "Louis Themoin" first prize, which consisted of a cheque for five pounds, a magnificent book and a medal to commemorate the occasion. The true immensity of this achievement is not fully realised until one remembers that he was competing with eleven hundred sixth-formers from all over the country. It must also he recorded that Whiter was awarded a consolation prize. Both McColgan and Whiter deserve the heartiest congratulations.
After a very boring journey through Belgium, the majority of us were too tired to stand in the corridor to look at the Rhine, and we were all very thankful when we arrived in Frankfurt.
We were very warmly greeted by our hosts-to-be and their friends, and then whisked off to tea, a hot bath, and bed.
The following day we were officially received at the Romer, or Town Hall, by the Deputy Mayor, after which we were allowed; nay, requested to write our names in the Golden Book, a signal honour for us. Then we were taken for a walk around the city, finishing in a wine tavern, where we made our first acquaintance with the famous Apfelwein.
The next few days were spent in exploring the city, risking our lives on unexpected cycle tracks, tram crossings, and one way streets This old but ever youthful city, seat of the old Emperors, and birthplace of Goethe, is a wonderful example of the mingling of old and new, with, on the one side, its Town Hall, cathedral, museums, and churches, and on the other the building of the Chemical Trust I.G., the Zeppelin station, and the marvellous sports stadium.
A drama festival is held here every year, and we went to see one of the plays, Faust, performed in front of the Romer, with its great doors and its lofty Gothic balcony silhouetted against the stars, with a soft breeze blowing over the Square, and the gnats dancing in the light of the arc lamps, and all within a stone's throw of Goethe's house. It is as unique an experience as Hamlet at Stratford or Tristan at Bayreuth.
We were greatly impressed by the hospitality shown to us by the Germans on our tours around the city, especially on the occasion of a farewell evening in a building built for foreign students m Germany. In the country this hospitality is even more noticeable. At Rudersheim, the famed Rhine wine town, we visited a wine-tavern. The whole street, of which taverns formed the main feature, resounded with laughter and singing. Everybody was in garrulous mood and through the evening mists came the songs of the people on the gay little Rhine steamers. Returning home in an open car, the lofty black heights of the hills on one side, the Rhine on the other, we were hailed. merrily by all and sundry, to whom we replied. We conversed with an S:S. guard once, and then on every possible occasion he saluted us. We went into shops and were shown a motley collection of wares, one person going so far as to demonstrate for our benefit how a canoe could be packed and unpacked in half an hour.
There is great respect in this, the third Reich, for the British, and a general desire for a strong Anglo-Germanic peace movement.
We have no space to enlarge on the monster multi-flavour ice-creams, the Apfelwein, the steps, to the top of the Cathedral, the super open-air swimming bathsin the parks, and the friendliness and kindness of our hosts, so, now we say to you, as we said to Frankfurt: Auf Wiederschen!
As 1933 recedes farther into the past, it becomes increasingly difficult to impress upon English visitors to Germany that they are looking upon an imposing edifice whose doors are locked and barred.
The Monoux School party in Frankfort was treated with kindness and consideration everything was done towards their complete satisfaction, but anyone who expected an informative account of modern Germany from a member of the party would be sadly disappointed.We looked upon a bright surface-good food, comfort, smiling faces, and the Reichsautobahn. There seemed to be a degree of material prosperity and general well-being far above that known in Germany at any time since the War. But four weeks of holiday-making give no opportunity for more than surface observation.
Frankfort was shown to us in all its glory as the Goethestadt and as one of the historically important towns of Germany. The Musterschule opened doors and hearts. Several Monovians were highly commended by boys of the School on the standard of their German. In school routine, likeness was more frequent than difference. English schoolboys, however, are not obliged to manifest their political persuasions a dozen times a day. It was discovered that despite their great enthusiasm, German boys are not brilliant footballers, judged, that is, by English rules and standards.
Sight-seeing expeditions had varying success. A walk in the Taurus mountains afforded excellent opportunities of mixing with other German boys, and of admiring typical German scenery. A subsequent and smaller expedition by steam-launch to the Rhine Valley was marred only by rain and the unrestrained use of Rheinwein by passengers other than Monovians.
The whole party, save Mr. Hammer and two boys who had "been there before," greeted everything with the approved wide-eyed admiration or blank scepticism of the Englishman abroad.
We did our best to strengthen the link of friendship between our School and the Musterschule. The irony of history came near to ruining it. I should like to quote from a letter received during the crisis : " Here there is complete confidence, and no appreciable fear of war. I cannot believe that war should come, and certainly not between our two countries which have always been bound by such strong bonds."
The Germanophil is not now in high favour. But is it too much ~to hope that by maintenance of goodwill and of personal links such as these with Germany, over and above the official protestations of Governments, the growth of this awful barrier of racial pride may be effectively checked ? The future, it is said, rests with youth. It is still not too late to keep the head of the German ostrich out of the sands of isolation.
On the morning of August 22nd, 1939, I got up at 6.30 and after the inevitable coffee and rolls, left the little town of Immenstadt with its towering mountains and cool green lakes behind me. The three hour journey to Munich was not very interesting, corn fields, a few woods, an occasional village, and only the fast disappearing peaks of the Allgau were evidence of that last happy fortnight. On my arrival in the Bavarian capital a tram took me to my lodgings where, after a wash and a short chat with my landlady, a buxom Frau with the plebeian name of Schmidt, I unpacked my bags. And then it happened! I had already seen the announcement in that morning's Volkischer Beobachter that a Non-Aggression Pact had been signed between the Reich and the U.S.S.R. but had not stopped to consider its international significance. But when, just after 11 o'clock, Frau Schmidt came to me with the words, " Ein Telegramm fur Sie, Herr Thompson," I knew instinctively that my holiday was over. My fears were justified. "Return immediately" the telegram read.
When, after lunch, I returned to the station I found that my train left at 5.10 p.m., which gave me just four hours in which to see as much as possible of one of the largest towns in Germany. After buying some photos and other souvenirs I jumped into a taxi and told the cabby to show me the chief sights. I believe he thought I was mad. As the taxi crawled through the sun-drenched streets the driver pointed out, among other things, the Isar with its bridges and terraces, the cathedral, the famous Brown House, and the new House of German Art with its Grecian columns and glaring white concrete. He was a confiding soul, that taxi-driver, and in the intervals from one building to the nest, he told me he was learning English. I remember smiling at the thought of the typical London cabby struggling with German Adjective Declensions or with French irregular verbs! By mutual consent we stopped at the renowned Hofbrauhaus and, over tankards of beer we discussed subjects varying from the Bavarian dialect to National Socialism. The latter he found rather irksome and wished that it were he and not I travelling to England that afternoon.
When we arrived back at the station there was only time to find a seat and buy a few magazines before the train steamed out to Ostend. Until then it had seemed like a dream, but, as mile after mile of German countryside was left behind, I realized at last that I was going home.
The hours went by slowly. I glanced through my magazines, went into the Restaurant Car for dinner, returned to the magazines. When it grew dark I stretched myself out on the seat and tried to get some sleep, no easy matter, for third class passengers on the German State Railways must be satisfied with wooden seats. When I woke up the train was in darkness, every blind had been pulled down, and the only light in the corridor outside was given by two small blue lamps.
Rather mystified I raised the blind in the compartment and peered out. The whole countryside seemed dead. Not a light anywhere except for an occasional signal and the scarlet glare from the engine firebox. There was no moon. Only a few stars were mirrored in the swift-flowing waters of the Rhine and the vine-terraced hills were barely visible against the night sky. Fascinated by this strange scene I remained standing by the open window while the train thundered through the Rhineland towns and villages, through Koblenz, Godesberg, and Bonn, towards the frontier.
The next I can remember is the train stopping in a station. The platforms were in darkness and were completely deserted except for two or three officials and a wheel-tapper doing his work with the light of a screened hurricane lamp. It was Cologne.
After that the time soon passed. Dawn was breaking as we passed through The Ruhr, and at five we reached Aachen, the frontier station where there was a long delay while the frontier police examined passports, luggage and money. At last the train began to move again, it steamed out of Aachen, out of Germany, into Belgium. On through the monotonous Belgian countryside to Liege, Brussels,
Ostend, and the end of a train journey lasting almost twenty hours. Then followed a four-hour journey on a crowded boat, another hour and a half in an equally crowded train, Liverpool Street in the rush
hour. At 6.30 p.m. on the 23rd 1 was in Leyton. Home once more.
H. A. Thompson (Late VI Sc.).
It was somewhat with a feeling of apprehension that the twenty of us boarded the train for Dover that afternoon in April, 1958. We had been perfect strangers until the previous evening when we all met together at the German Institute for tea with the Educational Interchange Council. We were informed that we were being used as guinea pigs, for although Germans had for some time been coming to England to study for a term in an English school, we were the first to work the idea in reverse.
Hessen was the state chosen for us to stay in, and we were to be concentrated around Frankfurt-on-Main. Actually the word "concentrated" proved a slight exaggeration, for twenty-two people attended schools as far apart as Konigstein and Darmstadt, and not more than four in fact attended the same school. I went with another boy to the Immanuel-Kant-Gymnasium in Russelsheim.
The journey took us along the Rhine, between Bonn and Mainz, and though the night withheld much of the beauty of this area, the gay lights of Rhenish towns and the sunrise over the Taunus hills more than made up for the lost pleasure.
We were told that representatives of the Lehrer-Schizler Austauch, the German organisation responsible for our trip, and German Customs people, would meet us at Mainz. This sounded like "V.I.P. treatment," but any illusions were soon shattered when the customs officers demanded that all our cases should be opened.
Anyone who has gone on a sea-trip when the ship has rolled continuously for three hours and who has experienced that horrible sensation of imagining that the solid earth is rolling, can realise my feelings when presented with my "last English breakfast for three months" by a beaming waiter at one of the most exclusive Wiesbaden hotels. This was certainly V.I.P. treatment, but with seventeen hours of sea and train journey behind me, I was hardly in the mood for the German idea of a typical English breakfast: porridge, two eggs, two rashers of bacon, tomatoes, toast and marmalade, biscuits and coffee.
After a short coach tour of Wiesbaden, we were finally driven to the towns and houses where we were to spend the next three months. Russelsheim struck me first as a new town, which it most definitely was, completely dominated by the enormous "Opel" car factory. No matter where you went in Russelsheim something would remind you that this was Opelstadt. A stroll along the river Main? wonderful if you don't go too near the Opel car-jetty; a walk around the park?-yes., but you must see one of the three monuments to William Opel; a ride on a bus?-but do read what it written on the side: "Opelstadt-Russelsheim"; a trip in a police car?-an Opel of course. Everybody worked in "der Opel'"; everybody owned an Opel ; everybody revered the name Opel ; and why not? Since the war American investments have brought the Opel factory back to its maximum production. Prosperity reigns. New flats, new housing estates, new civic departments, new theatres, new cinemas, all indicate that prosperity has returned. If Opel slackens, Russelsheim suffers. A good maxim sums up the situation: "Russelsheim is the town that works to a factory."
Family life, I soon discovered, was very different from that in England. The house-proud hausfrau, helped by her daughters, does all the housework. Father never thinks of washing up and indeed would not be allowed to do so. The English joke about the henpecked husband has found its way into German magazines and newspapers, but from what I saw, has no foundation whatsoever in German life. There the husband is lord of the manor whose sole job is to bring home a wage packet so that the rest of the family can eat. The woman's job is to cook and keep the house clean, with the daughters helping. When there are girls in a family, the boys must not even sew a button on a jacket or boil an egg and wouldn't dream of washing up. Of course, it is easy to criticise, but one expects to find different customs abroad.
Education is a subject widely debated in Germany. In the Gymnasium I attended, much of the work was done orally. Notes were neither given nor taken, and if necessary they had to be made up at home. Such a teaching system requires continual repetition, creating boredom, which in turn causes a buzz of conversation to be found in each and every classroom. To reach the necessary high level of education, under the present system, far more repetition to ensure a real grasp of the subjects is needed.
But this is impossible with the strict curriculum now given to the teachers by the authorities. Specialisation in education is not so extensive in Germany as it is here. Little emphasis is put on the particular school to which one belongs and no uniform is worn. Inside the school no "Quintaner" (second-former) knows what an "Unter-Schunder" (fifth former) is doing. The unit in the school is a class, hardly a form for one group of boys and girls makes up a class of Sextaner and that group stays together into the "Ober-Schunder" or even higher. It is not surprising that these classes several times during the summer term should go together on outings which can be most enjoyable and relaxing.
Russelsheim is well situated for such excursions, and since the term from Easter to summer begins the school year it is not surprising that during the fine summers children go on "Klassenausfluge" seemingly each fortnight. I was lucky enough to go on three. The first was soon after I had arrived, when we caught a steamer from Frankfurt which made a routine stop at Russelsheim (on the Main) and went down the river to where it flows into the Rhine near Mainz; from there to those two famous wine towns, Aszmanshausen and Rudesheim, familiar names to those who have been to Weilburg. The second trip was into the Rhineland, from Pfalz to the very beautiful spa of Bad-Munster am Stein. The third outing took us south into the Odenwald and the strangely English-looking Michelstadt, with its fourteenth-century Rathaus and church.
I found the general temper of the whole country one of relaxation and prosperity. There is great pride in the past-war recovery economically, their "Wirtschaftswunder." Friendship is never lacking, especially among young people; one glass of beer drunk in "Bruderschaft" and you have made yourself a life-time friend. Never have I been more grateful for friendship, so readily given, in those first few weeks alone in a foreign land with only the rudiments of the language at my disposal. Yet the experience was exhilarating, and I would recommend such a visit to anyone, to understand particularly the German people and their way of life.
D. J. HOLM.
Four Sixth Formers of our School parted from their parents at Victoria Station, London, in August, 1950, to go to live with a family in Alfeld, Hessen, Germany, for some weeks. They did not know they were pioneers and would be followed by many others. It was five years after the end of the war. "We were rather surprised at the kindness of the Germans", they said on their return. It was a venture for them to go to a foreign country. It was a venture, too, for their parents to receive a young guest with a foreign tongue in their family. Nor, to be fair, was it a matter of course for the guest. Exchange visits were a novelty at that time. But for at least two of these boys in the first batch, that venture has shaped their lives.
We had thought of building up the exchange visits with Alfeld. But in the next year, a group of our Dramatic Society under Mr. Brobyn, went to an international drama festival of youth groups in Weilburg (not far from Frankfurt), and the contacts made there turned our obligations in that direction. We have never regretted it. The Weilburg families and the masters of the Gymnasium Philippinum (a Grammar School like ours) responsible for the exchange of their pupils with ours, have been a decisive help.
Without their understanding and patience, we could not have established the co-operation which for years has given our boys, and theirs, a new experience and in many cases new friends. Weilburg, a small country town, by a small river, the Lahn, and surrounded by a pleasant countryside, is the right sort of place for a Londoner to visit; while the Weilburg boys are keen on getting to know London, one of the centres of international life. The German people had been living in a fortress for years, deprived of contact with the outside world. So many from the Weilburg Grammar School wanted to go on exchange that several schools in North East London joined to meet the demand. It was at this point that Mrs. Moore came in and set up a kind of clearing place and an all round organisation for transport between London and Weilburg, and who added to the enjoyment of the exchange itself by organising excursions and social events.
At our School the number of exchanges has been steadily rising in the past years. To some extent this has been due to the fact that bays are not content with one exchange only, but go again. There are now veterans who are able to record three or four exchange visits, and their enthusiasm has been infectious. We need that kind of infection. The exchange, by its nature, is restricted to those who are interested in Germany and in German. But another limitation is inadequate housing; many boys who would like to go an exchange cannot accommodate a guest. Some parents do not feel easy about accepting a guest from abroad and therefore do not take part. But most are only too willing to undertake the venture. And I think the decisive and courageous part which parents play in this event should not be taken for granted. There are parents who sacrifice their holidays and stay at home in order to make the exchange possible; fathers who take the guest sightseeing; and mothers who have sleepless nights at the thought that their German guest might not like their cooking. This hospitality has made the exchange the success it has become. Of course, the same must be said of the German parents. Praise to all of them whatever language they speak.
The crux of the matter is, of course, to find, and make possible, the right "match". The range of "exchanges" in age, ability, and interest offered to us is very wide, and often not the exact counterpart of ours. Naturally, this has to be sorted out. It needs a good deal of correspondence, of deliberation, of questions, alternatives and alterations before the lists are closed. Yet I have experienced only a few cases where misunderstandings had to be cleared up and frictions smoothed out. If here and there one cannot say with certainty that everything was perfect, one can confidently rely on the sociability and common sense of our boys. And the development of the exchanges does appear to speak for itself.
Times have changed since our boys went to Germany far the first time. During the last four or five years, the Germans have found it progressively easier to go abroad during their holidays; they organise parties to other countries, too. This affects the numbers of the Weilburg party, though they are still high, and the selection is not as easy as it was in the early years. On our side, too, holiday travel abroad has become far more widespread for adults and young people alike, so that our boys tend to choose the easier way of going on group or coach or cycle tours, rather than the more difficult one of a proper exchange between families. It is not realised that these exchanges can give them close contacts with the people abroad, and far more than the knowledge of roads, youth hostels, hotels and the countryside, contacts which often survive the actual holidays and lead to a more lasting connection. We are always sorry, therefore, when boys do not seize the opportunity of getting an experience, which will not be offered to them in later life. Admittedly, these exchanges demand some devotion from all concerned. To look upon them as nothing but cheap holidays would not do justice to the importance of the event and to the needs of those who take part in it. All human contacts require ability to adjust to others, and enthusiasm. Of course, there must be fun; but then, there always is, on these visits, as everybody who has taken part will confirm. And perhaps it is right to say that exchange visits are fun, though of a deeper and more lasting kind. Let us look forward to the next ten years of it.
At the end of the summer term fourteen boys from the Gymnasium Philippinum, at Weilburg, spent a month in London as guests of the Monoux (Weilburg was the town the Dramatic Society had visited earlier in the year) while a similar group of German boys stayed at the Wanstead County High School. The Monoux party, which arrived on Saturday, 30th June, was accompanied by Dr. Mainzer, whilst Dr. Krieger was responsible for the general arrangements. Everyone who saw these masters realised how friendly and polite they were. Most of the boys were between sixteen and nineteen years old but the youngest, a charming boy, was only twelve.
A dinner was held in the School Hall for the official welcome of the guests. Lord McEntee, the Mayor of Walthamstow, was present together with the Headmaster, the hosts of the visitors, and members of Staff. Dr. Krieger answered the speech of welcome in exceptionally clear and fluent English. Later the Headmaster and Mrs. Stirrup gave a tea for the leaders of the German party.
It is pleasing to note that the hosts and their guests mixed together to their mutual benefit instead of staying in two separate groups as so often happens. The older visitors were interested in the day-to-day events in the running of the School and eagerly attended lessons with our boys in the class-rooms; the German boys even went so far as to have lunch regularly in the dining-hall!
On a visit to the Town Hall our guests were received and conducted round by the Mayor. The Member for East Walthamstow, Mr. Wallace, met the party on their trip to the Houses of Parliament. On another occasion our guests went by bus to Windsor Castle and Hampton Court; they stopped to visit Eton, where they saw the names, of famous men such as Canning engraved on the desks. The development of the new town at Harlow interested the visitors but the German masters were kept fully employed in explaining the various maps and translating specialised terms such as "neighbourhood unit."
During their tour of Tate and Lyle's sugar factory our guests were able to walk round eating as much unrefined sugar as they wanted. Other visits included a trip round the London Docks and an inspection of the war-time cabinet rooms at Westminster. The hosts had good reason to be envious of the German boys' fine cameras on all these occasions. Many of our guests were interested in athletics and on Sports Day they competed in a relay against a Monoux team.
Before they left the German visitors generously presented three delightful picture books about German art and landscape, which are greatly treasured in the School Library. A tea was held in the Library to conclude the visit and the Monoux gave their guests an illustrated book about London as a token of friendship. The German party returned home on the 26th July.
Without the willing help and co-operation of parents the visit would have proved impossible, for they readily came forward to accept the German boys and staff as their guests. Now that contact has been established we look forward to welcoming many more visitors from Weilburg and we are anxious that more and more of our boys will join in establishing a bond between the two countries. It is to be hoped that these exchange visits with Germany will become a normal part of our School life for they give experience in friendly contact with a nation abroad which is both delightful and profitable.
If you ask anyone of those who went to England last summer which event of the visit made the deepest impression on him, you will get the answer that it was the Sports Day at Monoux. Through the kindness of our hosts, those who were keen on it had been given the opportunity to join in the competition, and the event thus took on something of an international aspect.
The many coloured flags of the "Houses," the dazzling white lines on the track and the brilliant weather combined to make us expect an exciting event. In the early afternoon the boys' relatives and friends arrived at the sports ground. We saw that the School consists not only of pupils, but of their parents and friends who take a vivid interest in its life. The "Old Boys" who wear the School badge and colours with the same pride as those at School at present also are an integral part of Monoux.
Soon a merry and festive atmosphere developed. Everybody tried to get a good place in order to follow the events closely. We were looking forward to the beginning of the competition with keen anticipation. We had learnt in the preceding days that our English friends had pursued their training with real endeavour for their "House," their Form and the School and with a keen sense of responsibility towards them. One could feel that that day was to be the climax of the School year, an opportunity to render account of the achievements in physical prowess, team spirit and personality gained in the course of the year. However, we had got the impression that this practice had been going on for centuries in England. For the development and cultivation of those excellent sports grounds and fields are only possible where sport and games play such an important part in education.
We had soon found out that the competition would not make it easy for us to gain a victory. We were therefore especially proud when H.E.Geiss won the 100 Yards. We applauded him enthusiastically, but we saw the same appreciation and pleasure in the eyes of our English hosts. Knetsch competed in Putting the Shot, but every time he made a good throw he stepped outside the circle. It was hard luck really, for otherwise he probably would have made a win. Our expectations concentrated on the Relay for which we had managed to form a German team. I think our boys had been rather too optimistic about it on the day before; that is always a mistake. Their performance was good; Geiss especially as the last runner reduced the English lead considerably. But it could not be helped; the English team as a whole was better and more consistent. We were sincerely glad about their victory, all the more as some of our good friends were among the runners. No one of its showed ill-feeling; we must be able to be good losers.
In the middle of the field were the distinguished guests with their wives. During the afternoon some of our boys were eagerly trying to take snapshots of them, hoping (with success sometimes and sometimes without) not to be noticed. There was Lord McEntee whom we well remembered from the kind reception given to us on our arrival at the School and on the other occasion when he welcomed us to the Town Hall. During our stay in England he had become a Peer in recognition of his political and public services, and now each one of us has his signature on some small possession as a memento. There were also two members of the House of Commons, one of them a Minister. And they were by no means formal, but willingly allowed us to take snapshots of them. And among them, now here, now there, as was to be expected of a good host, moved Mr. Stirrup, the Headmaster of Monoux, in flannels (as the day demanded) with the amiable and captivating smile that he had had so often for us during our stay. We felt ourselves real participants in that stirring day.
It was interesting for us to see the genuine interest with which the English public and the English authorities follow the sports and games of the schools. When Lady McEntee distributed the prizes we all stood round her and rejoiced with the happy victors. Later we received a School lapel badge, which at present, we wear even in our school at Weilburg.
All of us felt at the end of the sports day that it is better to give the youth of all countries an opportunity of meeting in friendly competition rather than to let them fight against each other in a senseless war. We hope for another "International" Sports Day this summer to take place either in Walthamstow or in Weilburg.
Weilburg / Lahn, Hessen.
This year marked the tenth anniversary of the start of these exchange visits with Weilburg and this year's group was the largest ever. There were eighteen boys from Monoux and a large crowd of boys and girls from other local schools-Woodford and Wanstead County High Schools and Stratford Grammar School. One outstanding feature of the group was the relatively high number of people who were making the visit for the third, fourth, or even the fifth time.
In order to avoid the long wait at Victoria Station, which had invariably occurred in preceding years, the decision had been made to make the trip to Dover by coach. There was a wait, nevertheless, at Farnan Avenue instead of Victoria. We also had to wait a long time at Dover, but once on the boat we settled down in canvas chairs ready for the four-and-a-half-hour crossing. The sea was of proverbial mill-pond calmness and some of the more hardened sailors were heard to express disappointment at the lack of rough weather!
We were met in Ostend by Helmut Pfeifer, driver of one of the three buses, who had the unenviable task of driving us to Weilburg. He had recently bought a new coach and there was a rush for places on it; fortunately the second-, third-, and fourth-timers were given precedence.
So far there had been no hitches-most unusual for a Weilburg exchange (incidentally, a certain Monoux fourth-former lost his passport, but this sort of thing happens every year). However, the expected 'hitch" soon occurred: Mrs. Moore, the organiser, was travelling in the new coach and she thought that the other two drivers knew that we were to stop in Brussels. They did stop, but in Liege! While we waited in Brussels they waited 100 miles away.
When we reached the frontier we expected to find the other two "lost" coaches, since Mrs. Moore had all the necessary papers, but they had already left the frontier. Thus we arrived in Weilburg two hours later than the others.
Several formerly regular events were absent this year from the general routine: first, the introductory tour of Weilburg, visiting the castle, castle gardens and museum; second, there were none of those exhilarating Folk Dance sessions which are generally dodged by all except first-timers. Also missing was the Wanderung ins Blaue (Wander into the Blue) which invariably took place after a heavy rainstorm had soaked all the grass and bushes. This was perhaps a sad omission, for it used to end with an Anglo-German gathering during which the respective National Anthems were played and the National Flags were raised under the 'Green E" -- the European flag. This symbolised the purpose of the Exchange, which is to help cultivate a European feeling in the youth of this continent.
Despite these omissions there was a full programme of visits. The first was to Bonn, capital of the Federal Republic, where we visited the Houses of Parliament. These impressive, modern, white concrete buildings stand directly on the banks of the Rhine. They were converted into the Parliamentary buildings from a Teachers' Training College in 1948, when a constitution was granted to Western Germany. The assembly hall of the Bundestag or Lower House was unfortunately undergoing repair, but we were able to see the impressive large German Eagle dominating the whole of the front of the hall. This hall is built on conference hall lines with the representatives sitting in a semi-circle around the speaker's platform and facing the President of the Assembly, equivalent to our Speaker. We saw the hall from the Strangers' Gallery where some of the intricacies of the German Constitution were explained to us.
On our way home from Bonn we visited Konigswinter, one of the most picturesque Rhenish towns. Dominating the whole town is a great cliff called Drachenfels which is the basis of an old legend: a dragon used to live there in olden times and it used to eat (by way of an unusual diet) one beautiful maiden per day. However, a certain young man objected to seeing his fiancée eaten and promptly killed the dragon. The vines were turned red as its blood ran over the fields. To day one of the finest German red wines is produced in this area and is named Drachensblut----Dragon's Blood.
We reached the top of Drachenfels by rack-and-pinion railway: we were afterwards told that a serious accident had recently occurred there when a railcar hurtled down the track out of control and crashed into another car. At the top of the cliff we had an opportunity to sample some of the famous Dragon's Blood wine, and some people later missed the steps of the railcar when re-entering.
The second visit was to Frankfurt, where most people visited the large stores or picturesque coffee bars. In the afternoon we visited the Sarotti chocolate factory just outside Frankfurt. We saw the proccss of chocolate making and came away loaded with very generous free samples. From this factory we went to Feldberg, the highest mountain in the Taunus range, where the T V and VI-IF transmitters of Frankfurt Radio are situated.
The third trip was the traditional Rhine journey. We travelled across Taunus, via Wiesbaden, to Rudesheim, a famous tourist (and wine) centre. In the Drosselgasse, a narrow alleyway, there is nothing but inns and public houses, each with its own band providing dance music. Here we were unable to stop (officially) and we took a cable-railway up to the Niederwald. From Niederwald there was a second precarious journey on a chair-lift down to Assmanshausen. This town is another famous wine-centre and when we boarded the boat there was evidence that coffee is not the only German drink. The boat took us on a superb trip along the Rhine Gorge to St. Goarshausen (yes, another wine centre!) where we refreshed ourselves before getting back into the coaches.
On the night before our return there was a Farewell Party at Braunfels with all the English and German exchange people. This was the most enjoyable part of the exchange and was organised on the basis of a social with dancing to gramophone records. After the interval, during which appropriate speeches were made and gifts exchanged, the group was entertained by "Herb's Hot Five" which played "real hot Jazz, man." The group consisted of "Herb" Whiter (trumpet), Mick McColgan (clarinet), Pete Middleton (piano), Mick Shepherd (drums) and an "unknown German" (guitar). Gerry Wodhams did the vocals. Some people were under the illusion that the group had been rehearsing but this was not true. The party broke up with various people in various stages of happiness due to German lemonade, Coca-Cola, coffee, and so on.
Once again the whole exchange was thoroughly enjoyed by all who took part. It provided an opportunity to combine a little learning with a grand holiday, for these exchanges should be, and are, academically invaluable. They bring people into close contact with the language and, what is more important, with the German people and their way of life. However, there is certainly no "classroom" atmosphere about the exchange and a large amount of personal freedom is enjoyed by all.
There were, unfortunately, always some people ready to criticise the organisation and to be sarcastic when hitches occurred, but this sort of thing is most unfair; a tremendous amount of work goes into organisation and there is nothing to complain of. It must be rather like fitting a jig-saw puzzle when pairing up exchange partners and the worry and difficulty this year has indeed been greater than ever before. We are, therefore, sincerely grateful to all those who helped in organising the event, particularly to Dr. Warschauer who looked after the interests of our own School party. Above all, our thanks go to Mrs. Moore and Herr Riihsam on whose shoulders lay the brunt of the organisation.
P. J. MIDDLETON.
The 25 members of the English party from four schools in our area (Walthamstow High, Wanstead County High, Buckhurst Hill County High and, of course, Monoux Grammar) who boarded the coach to Victoria on July 29th went to Germany accompanied by their German friends who had been their guests for the preceding three weeks and with whose families they were to stay for another three weeks. Those who went for the first time (there are always some "Old Weilburgers" in the English party) may have wondered how they would fare living in a foreign country. They will have forgotten by now that they harboured some apprehension. The hospitality of the German parents, the contact with the members of the German group, the picturesque town of Weilburg almost circled by the river Lahn, and the lovely country-side are enjoyable enough. Those who lived outside Weilburg proper will have noticed that people there are as motorised as their English counterparts. Also the members of the party are together at local events: and at excursions by coach. The same applies to the German group in this country: this year they went to Clacton-on-Sea, to Canterbury, to Cambridge (the last, the English organiser is happy to say, an old Monovian on the spot, Anthony Gable, and Mr. Hyde of our Staff helped to bring about) and on a cruise in the Port of London. The English group in Germany saw the Rhine twice at two different points, went into the neighbouring hills of the Taunus, and had a very impressive, though saddening, experience when visiting the border between East Germany and the West Federal Republic. Of other events we would like to mention that the English group invited their German guests to a tea party in Monoux School, which was most generously reciprocated by the latter with a farewell dance in Weilburg before our return to London. The welcome which the Headmaster, Mr. Stirrup, gave the German group in our school had its parallel in the warm and friendly words which Dr. Brodt, Headmaster of Weilburg Gynmasium Philippinum, addressed to the English boys and girls in his School Hall. All this was an exchange indeed, but not merely out of politeness, but of genuine friendliness. Details of these events will be found on the following pages.
The lion's share of thanks is always due to the organiser on the German side on whose efficiency an exchange depends. For this year's success we thank Mr. Ruebsam, of Weilburg Grammar School (Gymnasium Philippinum), whose thorough knowledge of the members of his party and awareness of the difficulties of the exchange as well as his efforts in organising our excursions over there were a decisive help. Mr. Glockner, his colleague (well known to us throughout the many years of the exchange), though not responsible for this year's event, showed his interest for us throughout our stay. On our side we were supported by the cooperation, essential indeed for the whole venture, of Dr. C.H. Dickson of Wanstead County High and D.F. Shotter, B.A., of Buckhurst Hill County High. We have also to thank the various members of our Staff who took an active interest in the exchange, the Office Staff of the School, and Mr. and Mrs. Swan and the Monoux Parents' Association for helping to arrange the tea party. We cannot close this list without paying a compliment to our boys' parents who ventured to accept a foreign young guest into their home and cared for him with so much success. And may the organiser have the last word in saying that he enjoyed the time he spent with, and for, a cheerful and pleasant English group.
The regularity with which these annual reports have appeared during the last ten or twelve years might lead the casual reader to suppose that the Exchange comes about as automatically as every yearly event in the Monoux calendar. That this is a false impression is clear to anyone who is, or has been, personally connected with the scheme. Planning for the link-up begins in January, and from then on the organisers on both sides are always in touch, as they must be, because the number of matters which have to be arranged is considerably more than one might imagine. This organisation is in itself something which tends to be taken for granted, but it must be pointed out that without the hard work of the organisers on both sides there would be no exchange, and only those involved with the scheme can realise the debt which each member of the party owes to their selfless efforts in this direction.
What does occur automatically, however, is the uncertain feeling and eager anticipation which every member of the Monoux group experiences as the date of the arrival of the German group draws near. This year they arrived on July 8th after the crossing from Ostend to Dover made in a force nine gale. Thus most of them were feeling the effects of this very unpleasant voyage when their coach arrived at Monoux at 9.15 a.m. The welcome given to them by their English friends was all the warmer. The obvious desire of most of them was to get home and to sleep off the effects of the journey, although some of the more resilient of them had still enough energy to venture out into the local area later in the day. It was not long, however, before they found their feet and were soon taking in the sights of London and surrounding area with organised trips to Clacton, Canterbury, Cambridge and the London Docks, and private visits to such places as Brands Hatch for the European Grand Prix, Finsbury Park Astoria for a Ray Charles concert, Earls Court for the Royal Tournament, and the London Pavilion for "A Hard Day's Night". I think anyone who met them will agree that the German boys who exchanged with Monovians were the friendliest and most pleasant to come here for quite a time. So, when the day of departure to Weilburg, July 29th, arrived, the farewell from the "foster parents" was more difficult than ever. Here we think a word must be said about the English parents who so warmly welcome these "strangers" and make them feel at home. I can assure these parents that this hospitality was one of the things their guests mentioned when asked in Germany what their impressions of England were.
The journey to Weilburg was slightly different this year as we travelled to Dover by train from Victoria instead of going all the way by coach. Arriving in Dover we were delighted to find the boat relatively empty and easily got seats together instead of scattered all over the ship as usual. The rest of the trip was uneventful as ever, except for the last part from Limburg to Weilburg. The little train had 66 seats, and there were 70 in the two groups alone, so the local inhabitants had a rather thin time, for anyone who has not slept for 30 hours is not inclined to give up his seat to anyone else be they old or young, male or female.
When the train finally pulled into Weilburg station the platform was crowded with relatives and friends of the members of the German group who welcomed us warmly. Mr. Glockner, a great friend of the Exchange, was there, the mayor, I believe, too, and, as one of the Germans commented, all that was missing was the town band!
The first organised meeting was a tour around Weilburg, a traditional feature of the exchange, conducted as ever by Mr. Glockner. After this there was a trip to a restored Roman fort in the Taunus, the Saalburg, one of the strongest points of the great wall the Romans built to ward off the attacks of the tribes of Eastern Germany, about 30 miles from Weilburg; another to Koblenz and the confluence of the Rhine and Mosel rivers and a third to Rudesheim and the Lorelei rock on the Rhine, both of which included boat trips on the great river. The final excursion took us to several points on the border between East and West Germany. This really brought home the terrible realities of something which we had previously only heard about. This fearful border runs from the Baltic Sea to Czechoslovakia and is fortified by the East German authorities with barbed wire fences, watch towers and a strip of "no man's land". We visited a spot where two villages half a mile apart were completely cut off from each other by this border as if on opposite sides of an actual curtain of iron. We saw another West German border village where a house was split by the frontier, with the side in West Germany lived in and neat and tidy and the East German side filthy and decaying. It was at this spot where we saw a child's ball that had rolled underneath the barrier into "no man's land", lost for ever to its little owner, although only ten feet away. Here too we saw double lines of barbed wire with notices warning about mines by them, and also a tall watch tower from which we knew our every move was being observed. I don't think any of us will forget that day easily, and neither do I think we should.
The previous evening had seen the revival of the Farewell Dance which had not taken place for the past two years. A local group was hired to supply the music and there was plenty of it from five in the evening until a little after ten. Mr. Glockner's highly individual version of the twist was loudly applauded, after everyone else had stopped dancing to watch this remarkable solo effort!
On the day before our departure we were received by the Headmaster in the hall of Weilburg's Gymnasium Philippinum. In a short speech he urged us to keep up our ties with our German friends, for in these days of international struggles and tensions it was more important than ever that such connections should exist. Replying, Dr. Warschauer made mention of the now legendary hospitality of Weilburg and said he felt sure we would keep our connections with the School and the town. Both he and Mr. Ruebsam, the organiser on the German side, were then presented with gifts as thanks from both groups for their hard work which had greatly contributed to this most successful exchange.
When the time finally came to leave, the station platform was once again crowded and confusion reigned as everyone made his farewells with the many friends he had made during the three week stay. The Germans are very proud of the punctuality of their trains but I don't think anyone would have complained had our train arrived late. But no, it was right on time, and we had to take leave, whether we wanted to or not. The long rail journey to Ostend passed fairly smoothly, but when we boarded the boat we were dismayed to find it quite full. Standing at the stern of the boat surrounded by luggage, we soon began to feel rather tired and cross, but we needn't have worried, for thanks to Dr. Warschauer we soon found ourselves politely ushered down to the first class deck by a smiling purser! There it was empty and protected from the wind, and we passed a comfortable three hours-at least as comfortable as possible on a cross-channel ferry. We arrived at Dover just as the sun was coming up, and were unexpectedly soon through the customs, again thanks to Dr. Warschauer. From Victoria we were taken. to Monoux by coach which we reached at 8.15 a.m. on the 21st August, tired and hungry and somewhat surprised at how quickly the past six weeks had gone. In these few short weeks, however, we had got to know many people and many interesting things and places, and I am sure that everyone in the English group enjoyed himself both here and in Germany, and that many of them will return to Weilburg at some time or another, whether with the exchange or in their own time, in order to renew the many friendships made there.
K. J. Burns.
The sight of this picturesque Swiss village of Kandersteg nestling in the Kander Valley amidst the glorious surrounding mountain scenery was that which greeted the eyes of sixty-six tired Monovians. who had traveled for thirty-six hours to spend their holidays here, in a spot which, according to the Swiss, is steadily becoming more popular as a summer resort and a winter sports centre.
We think that here, on behalf of the party, the authors should express their appreciation, first of the work done by the Youth Travel Bureau, without whom the whole tour would have been im-possible, and secondly that of the six members of Staff who had the large task of looking after sixty -six boys. The Youth Travel Bureau people in Switzerland did everything possible to make the fortnight most enjoyable: the guides not only directed the walks, but kept our spirits up by saying there was not far to go (even if in reality there -might be several miles ahead of us).
The lengthy journey itself proved an adventure. The party left Victoria Station at 1.30 p.m. on Sunday the 22nd of July, in fine weather, but by the time we were on the boat a thunderstorm was well on the way-a fine start. But next morning, as the French train sped through the Lower Rhine Valley, we woke in time to see a glorious sunrise.
Many events occurred on the train. The party visited the buffet in small groups throughout the evening and most had the first ex-perience of using foreign money and language. Drinks procured ranged from coffee and lemonade to champagne, red wine and liqueurs. About 12.00 Mr. Nightwatchman" Couch came along the train so see that blinds were drawn and lights were out, so that a little sleep might be attempted. Roy Seaman had the idea of sleeping on the floor, and got more sleep than anybody else in the rather crowded compartment. Others agreed that he had picked the most comfortable p1ace and some followed his example on the homeward journey. At Lille the party were entertained by some French girls saving fond farewells to their soldier boy-friends and husbands --There was about an hour to spend at Basle, so the station buffet was visited. We were very impressed by the Swiss railway buffet. Even the third-class buffet was more like an hotel, with flowers on the tables and waitress service, which cost a little more on top of the price of the drink,
We reached the Swiss capital at about 10.00 in he morning. We spent five hours here at Berne, exploring the city. A stop of seven hours on the way home gave us more time to appreciate the many fascinating sights-the Parliament buildings, the ornamental clock, the bear pits and the many towering bridges over the meandering River Aare. We were, however, almost more im-pressed by the shops set back beneath the buildings above, giving the effect of an arcade to the pavements. In order to make the journey more interesting we left the train at Thun and crossed Lake Thunersee to Spiez by steamer. From the lake a very fine view of the surrounding mountains is sometimes given, but unfortunately the weather broke again and visibility was much reduced. On reaching the boat station at Spiez in pouring rain we had a short walk up a hill to the railway station, from which we started on one of the most impressive journeys of the tour. The train was to take the party up the Kander Valley to Kandersteg. Some of us had seen a splendid Film of this journey, but it was even better to see the real thing. The track went round and round as it climbed, and on alternate sides of the train we had a fine view of the valley.
Two separate buildings were used to accommodate the party, Chalet Belvedere and Hotel Blumlisalp. From the time we arrived the group became an independent unit and followed its own pro-gramme of walks, except for the excursion days: thus a keen but healthy rivalry resulted.
As it is impossible to give a full account of the incidents of each party's doings, we think it better that a general account be given with a few personal reflections. The outings were of three kinds, climbs, walks, and day excursions, involving either boat or train journeys. The climbs were classed as active, energetic or strenuous, but most of the party agreed that more suitable titles would be fantastic, unbelievable and absolutely impossible.
Of all the climbs, the one up Mount First was the most difficult; who will forget Mr. Malyan's. casual instruction, "On reaching the top, turn right". The alternative was a sheer drop of 4,000 feet into the valley below! After the party of thirty or so had success-fully "turned right," we found ourselves on a small area affording just room enough to stand-it was a little terrifying at first. As we reached the peak clouds began to come up and the leader sugg-ested an immediate start down. However, during the descent he hot the path he had intended to take, and we had to make a rather steeper descent, down a grassy slope by a barbed wire fence. Unfortunately Dicky Walker slipped here and sustained a nasty tear in his leg. That was not all-worse was to follow: Mr. Malyan led the party along another path which seemed to end at a sheer rock face, but on looking more carefully we could just see a small ledge, apparently about three inches wide. In fact the path was two feet wide and zig-zagged down the cliff-face over smooth rocks, "lubricated" by rather muddy water pouring from a spring above. This was negotiated, however, by everybody, at the expense of a slight soaking.
Both parties reached the Friedenhutte and Doldenhorn hut, which belongs to the Swiss Alpine Club; here we drank Swiss-made tea for the first time-milkless but very sweet and energising. Ten of the more hardy members of the party, accompanied by Messrs. Couch and Purkis, made a two-day climb over Blumlisaip, 9.470 feet, spending the night in a converted hay loft at Griesalp. The return journey was via Giesengrat.
There were two notable happenings during this two-day walk First there was the ride up to Oeschinensee from which we were to commence the ascent to Blumlisalp. We made this ascent by the chair-lift, and as the chair rose we could obtain a marvellous view of the Kander Valley. Mr. Couch cheerfully told Roy and Brian that they rode up in chair no. 13, and that seemed significant when later on in the evening we descended to Griesalp. On the way down a long narrow gorge was reached which was filled with snow, and Jim, the guide, quite casually said, "You can either go down the snow or down the path; you'll probably get your seats rather damp sliding on the snow, but it's great fun." All but Mr. Purkis attempted the "snow walk." Unfortunately part way down Brian Haley steered towards the edge of the gorge, stuck his head in the snow and rocks rather like an ostrich, and was beginning to wonder whether or not he had broken his neck when Mr. Couch came tearing down the snow at colossal speed to render first-aid. This is one of the incidents for which Mr. Couch will be remembered. Two other little accidents occurred and all but five took the path, while the more adventurous five reached the bottom quite safely. A short walk brought us to a village where the people were very helpful with first-aid, and a large amount of coffee was drunk by all. A further walk brought us to Griesalp where we had a very good dinner and drinks in a rather splendid hotel, before retiring to the hayloft for the night.
Four valley walks were made, the, longest being to the head of the Gastern Valley and the Kander Glacier. En route we gained a fine view of Kandersteg from the Klus, a narrow gorge fifty yards wide, through which the Kander River thunders in a series of rapids, while the road tunnels in and out of the walls of the gorge. The Oeschinen Valley walk seemed pointless and disappointing, whereas the short trek down to Blausee was full of interest. This beautifully clear blue lake-it is forty five feet deep and one can see the bottom at any point-has been developed as a centre for scientific trout breeding, and in addition to the lake there arc many breeding ponds in which the trout can be seen at various stages from the spawn to full growth. The lake is set in beautiful grounds and we spent a very peaceful afternoon there.
Three trips were planned as resting days in the strenuous programme, and the first of these was in the form of a boat trip on Lake Thunersee, visiting Thun, Interlaken and Spiez. Limited time for stops at these three towns made it impossible for us to see everything of' interest, but some of us were able to visit the mediaeval castle at Thun used by Walt Disney in one of his films. The view from the lake was very impressive.
On Saturday, July 25th, we went by train to Goppenstein, at the end of the Loetschberg Tunnel, and while the less energetic spent the day in Ferden and Kippel the rest trudged on to the head of the Lotschental (lost valley) for a swim.
The third excursion was to Stresa, on Lake Maggiore, in Italy. It took us a long time on a depressingly hot afternoon to discover the town centre, and there we found the shop prices beyond our means. There was, apart from the luxurious tourist hotels, an air of poverty and austerity about this town, although the view from the promenade of the quaint buildings on the islands in the lake was most enthralling. Probably the highlight of our trip to Italy was the occasion on which the party was nearly arrested. They decided to bathe along the shore and to change there. Soon two Italian policemen sporting revolvers came along and started gesticulating: eventually they conveyed to us that we were not supposed to bathe from the beach, and that if we did want a swim we should have gone to one of the Lidos. After a little argument they decided that we could stay and finish our bathe, but that we should have to be away in half an hour or be whisked off to gaol. Following this the moneyed members of the Staff and a few of the boys went to an Italian lakeside cafe and had very good coffee with whipped cream. Then we indulged in a real luxury-an ice-cream concoction called cassata, consisting of a large multi-coloured ice cream containing all sorts of nuts and spicy ingredients.
The last day of our visit to Italy was Swiss National Day. And after returning to the chalets a number of Monovians joined in the celebrations. Some of us seemed to follow too closely behind the torchbearers, and Michael Kirby nearly got his hair singed by annoying some of them. An entertaining fireworks display was provided, (-Monoux boys provided another one for the benefit of a rather angry hotel proprietor) and the procession, led by the town band went through the village along a road lined with people carrying Chinese lanterns. This was an opportunity for many of the inhabitants to wear their national costumes, which is rarely seen today apart from festive occasions.
Probably the' most exciting event in the chalet was when we were raided by a party from the other chalet, because we had robbed them of a flag which they rather prized. One bright youth suggested buckets of water as protection, but Roy, the Lancashire cook said in his characteristic way, "You don't want buckets, you want a hose", and so the hose was used and the raiders were driven off. Here perhaps we can say a little more about Roy and his helpers. Roy was a small chap, slightly bald, with a distinct Lancashire accent and at times he came out with very witty, blunt and frequently sarcastic remarks. One thing that there was no doubt about was his ability to cook, and we all shared the benefit of this throughout the holiday. Later on in the holiday Roy was joined by a university student called Roger, who spoke with a pronounced accent and was nicknamed "Roger the Lodger." He amused people by starting up the mountain climbs in plus-fours. a checked shirt, and old cloth cap. After Mr. Malyon had left, another of the Y.T.B staff, Pete, took over and also helped in the kitchen. We owe many thanks to him as a guide.
Altogether we were very impressed by the Swiss people, their kindness and tolerance and, surprisingly enough. their patriotism considering the language differences they have to overcome amongst themselves. The whole tour, the first of its kind since the war the School has attempted. was in our opinion a very great success, not only because it was a holiday, but because it was possible to obtain an insight into the way of life of the Swiss people with whom we spent a most enjoyable fortnight.
Once again a school party visited Kandersteg in Switzerland. The party departed from Victoria on July 26th surrounded by boy scouts. As the train left the station a well known voice was heard to comment "Has anyone seen the boy scout that belongs to this pole ? " With this brilliant touch of wit it seemed the holiday had got off to a good start. However, the Channel crossing was accomplished in mist.
On arrival at Boulogne we were confronted by the promise of twelve hours, as a mathematician worked out for us, in a French train; this we assured ourselves could not be too bad. In the morning, however, we were not so sure. Everybody was tired and stiff, and firmly vowed never again to travel in a French train.
At Basle we drank our cup of "breakfast", on the platform, and then embarked on the last stage of our journey across Switzer-land.
During the journey a certain pessimist among us commented that, "The last time we came it started to rain as we arrived, and didn't stop for the whole of the holiday". By a strange coincidence, as we stepped on to the platform at Kandersteg, it started to rain. Luckily it did not continue for the whole of the holiday.
Kandersteg, I should hasten to explain, is a small town which is situated at the end of a valley and at the mouth of the Lotschberg Railway Tunnel. Kandersteg is the terminus for the car ferry between Switzerland and Northern Italy, and although it is starting to become a tourist resort, with all the necessary evils that entails, it still maintains some of its charm.
Until we arrived at Kandersteg everything had gone smoothly, but then, in the hurry to leave the train, a member of the party left his case behind. This, however, was restored to him after frantic telephone calls the same day, thanks to the prompt efforts of the Swiss Railways.
When we finally arrived at the Chalet Belvedere, our home for the next 12 days, we found a hot meal awaiting us. After doing this full justice we unpacked and settled down to the thought of 12 days of peace and quiet.
Our hopes were rudely shattered. The next morning, at nine o'clock, a deadly hour, we set out for our first walk to the Doldenhorn Hut. This was accomplished after much puffing and panting and for the last section, in the rain. I should, perhaps, explain that these Huts are owned by the Swiss Alpine Club and serve as a base from which climbers can tackle the peak of the mountain. A very sobering thought was that these walks which we found very strenuous were merely considered a nuisance by these climbers.
On Thursday we had a "rest day". We went by train from Kandersteg to Thun and after a look round this city we went by boat across Lake Thun to Interlaken. The crossing of Lake Thun was a wonderful experience. The Lake is almost completely surrounded by mountains and in the bright sunlight the view was remarkable. Interlaken also proved to be an interesting city although it has been spoilt by the tourist trade.
On Sunday we had another "rest day" and had a coach trip through the Three Passes. This was, however, ruined by, the bad weather although the walk through the Aar Gorge was awe inspiring and the Rhone Glacier, for those who braved the high winds, was truly remarkable. A short tunnel has been cut into the glacier and even on that cloudy day the light through the ice was something that I shall never forget. As I have said, however, the bad weather ruined the trip. Because of the mist it was impossible to see any-thing from the top of the Grimsel Pass. We returned to Kandersteg slightly disheartened but invigorated by the rest.
On seven of the twelve days we were out walking and our achievements included the Frunden Hut, the Gemmi Pass, First, the Gelihorn and the Lotschen Pass. By the end of the holiday we looked back with contempt on the Doldenhorn Hut as being "child's play" although, at the time, it had appeared so difficult. During the assault on First a few members of the party were forced to turn back because of fatigue, this seemed ominous. Luckily, however, everybody was able to complete the nine hour walk over the Lotschen Pass( and Lotschen Glacier). A wit of the party remarked that "the only mountain goat I've seen wears corduroy shorts and a yellow pullover".
By the end of the holiday everybody was thoroughly enjoying himself and certainly not wishing to return home, whilst especially dreading the return journey. This passed without event and was, in fact, more comfortable than the outgoing one. We arrived back at Victoria on the 9th August (three hours early) tired, a little sad, and certainly sunburnt, only to find that our Air Mail letters, saying we'd be at Victoria earlier, had not arrived and many of us were forced to make our way home, unassisted.
Finally, we should like, on behalf of all the boys, to thank the members of staff (Mr. Crispin, Mr. Addy and Mr. Haslam) who made the trip possible and especially to remember the amount of time they gave up to the planning of the trip. We should especially like to thank Mrs. Wilkinson for her help in the arranging of the trip. We should also like to remember the staff of the Chalet Belvedere, Nan, Jane, David and Helmut who did so much to make our stay a happy one.
P. J. Story, 6A Lit. G. Howard, 6A Sci.
"Higher the banner of proletarian internationalism!"
The red and white banner blazoned out its message as the Monoux party of nearly 40, including boys, teachers, their wives and two brothers from a Muswell Hill school, filed, to the accompaniment of ballet music, into the reception room at Leningrad harbour-at last we had arrived in the Soviet Union.
In some ways the Russian ship "Baltika", which had brought its here, had allowed us an easy transition between the two factions ~f a split world-the huge hammer and sickle, imposing upon the tunnel, the red flag, anti-Imperialistic Warmongers propaganda and Helen Shapiro records coming over the ship's radio, caviar for breakfast and steak and chips, vodkas mixed with cokes. All these at least gave us a hint of the land of vivid contrasts that was to come.
The boat was quite an experience in itself with comfortable ~i not luxurious cabins, good food and excellent service, comfortable lounges and two (very quickly found) bars. The first day at sea over-when your correspondent, to capture the whole feeling of the mood of the journey, was violently sick twice, we could settle down to long relaxing days at sea playing cards, listening to records or just reading. To stop the monotony becoming overbearing there were two stops off en route, the first at Göteburg and the other at Helsinki.
At Goteburg we had arrived in the dismal greyness of morning when a thin, chilling rain was falling over the great hulks of war ships. The silence was punctuated only by the dull echoes of solitary ship workers. Throughout our short stay there we were unable to escape from the miserable drizzle and rain of this city known as "Sweden's London"-for now obvious reasons.
When we reached Helsinki, we found that these two major (owns of Scandinavia were similar in their countrified aspect of numerous parks and greenery and in their well-sited buildings. Perhaps most impressive about the Finnish capital, however, was the friendliness of the people which so many of us experienced. The group of four that I was in, obviously English and obviously confused, was soon "taken in hand" by two Finnish boys who showed us around the city ensuring that we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. On the dockside, after having exchanged addresses and 'promises to write, there were some rousing choruses of Auld Langs Aine, the School Song and Oh Sir Jasper (English and Finnish versions-some things are international).
Mrs. Cohen and her little party, who had gone for a trip further along the coast, had a similar experience. When they returned home by public transport the bus driver went a considerable way off the normal route and drove right up alongside the ~ ii al boat. Both examples of such extreme friendliness would be almost inconceivable in Britain.
The first sight of Russian land and soon the boat is sliding down the Neva canal between nuclear submarines and cruisers- we a u~ behind the iron curtain-our real holiday has started.
Looking back now the events of the boat journey merge into almost inconsequential memories, they acted only as the "hors-d'oeuvre" to the main course which was to be an examination of one of the most powerful nations of the world, of a country under a system of government which we are taught to hate-communism.
Both Leningrad and Moscow are cities very much immersed in revolutionary feelings and traditions-there is the Winter Palace, once the residence of the Tsars until it was stormed in the October Revolution, within its very walls the new order was established with the meeting of the revolutionary government; there is the Fortress where three generations of rebels were imprisoned, tortured and shot-the brother of one such prisoner fled abroad, and there changed his name to Lenin; there is the Square of the famous 1905 Bloody Sunday where peaceful demonstrators were mown down on the orders of the Tsar; there is the cruiser "Aurora" which had given the signal for the uprising and from whose radio the world learnt of the first socialist state. Everywhere there is the red flag and the hammer and sickle-symbols of either liberty and hope, or horrible repression, according to which mass propaganda one listens to.
Modern Russian communism is an unsubtle affair. The beautiful mosque-like churches of Russia are often barred, with the windows smashed and gaping; at Leningrad's Cathedral "on the Blood" an old woman approached the huge Christ decorating the exterior and reverently kissed and made the sign of the cross before its feet. A young Russian spared the ritual a bemused glance. On entering St. Isaac's Cathedral, also in Leningrad, you find that the interior has been turned into a museum and is filled with a milling crowd of noisy visitors-any semblance of religion has vanished and conceded victory to the worship of communism.
When we enter a church of another denomination and we see the motionless prayers and absorb the atmosphere of silent devotion then we too fall silent-out of respect for others' beliefs. When one enters Lenin's Mausoleum, it is the overpowering sensation of complete reverence which awes one.
The Red Square is an impressive enough place as it is, with the vast enormity of the cobbled square hemmed in by so many strange and conflicting buildings. There, facing us, is the beauty of bulbous fantasy and near deformity of St. Basil's Cathedral; to one side is the store of Moscow-GUM-with its interior fountains and astronomical prices, and opposite this the long lean shape of the Kremlin where the very existence of the world is debated. Squatting at its feet is the shrine of communism, square and almost muscular in its solidarity as it draws, like a multifloored magnet, the long row of people into its smooth jaws. The mausoleum is more than an essential tourists' sight. On our first visit to the Red Square it had had a wonderful atmosphere of life, a spirit of its own given by the great surge of humanity thronging it and massing to see the clockwork absurdities of the soldiers "changing the guard"-then the mausoleum had been closed. Now the long human caterpillar stretched out and beyond the Square and into the several thousand mark. Only a small number would actually see Lenin that day but still they waited and still more joined the long, silent, impressively silent, queue. Then the great moment comes and as you shuffle past the corpse of this once dynamic man you see only a light-bathed and flaking face, eyes closed to the spectacle of so many gawping visitors, hands stretched out before him and there, in his lapel, the inevitable red badge. It is almost in anti-climax yet even for the "non-believers" it is necessary to break the spell by cracking the usual joke about how you could swear Lenin's hand had moved.
The old people of Russia seem the forgotten generation; they idle along-the vast majority of them women, dressed completely in black with headscarves and large shapeless dresses covering their large shapeless bodies. One such woman was crossing lime road when the lights changed and there she stood glued to the spot, trembling with fear among the angry and impatient hoots of he Moscow traffic. She had probably helped usher communism in and now sees it race past her and at her at a pace she is unable to comprehend. Now the Soviet Government puts its emphasis upon youth. Propaganda is cheap in Russia, indoctrination starts v' icing as is shown by the long crocodile lines of small and uniformed members of the Young Pioneer Corps. On our last day in Moscow we visited one of their camps set in 150 acres of land and at whose entrance was the inevitable Lenin - this time his portrait drawn in 25,000 flowers and depicted as a four year old boy. The camp was a veritable children's paradise on a gigantic scale with swings, puppet theatres, libraries, athletic tracks and sport pitches. The uninhibited yet remarkably good behaviour of the children was extremely impressive and their friendliness almost embarrassing. One small boy, having once taken me by the hand, refuscd to let me go except to take part in a Monoux relay race team against a team whose average age could not have been more than about nine (We won while, with the aid of Messrs. Pollard and Hodson, a Monoux Basketball team was ingloriously beaten at the hands of "an older and more experienced team").
In contrast to the black marketeer kids who sneak up to you and offer badges for biros and chewing gum, here the children pressed badges, postcards and stamps upon you. The warmness with which they greeted us, their first English visitors, made this perhaps the most enjoyable experience of our entire stay in Russia.
As you walk along even the main streets of Leningrad and Moscow, particularly the former, the dirty and plaster-crumbling buildings serve only to depress you. The communists claim that theirs is the greatest record for rebuilding and construction-we saw little evidence to verify such a statement except for the new blocks of flats on the outskirts of Moscow. Yet the Russian people are far richer than their English counterparts in a completely different sense. They have an intense and enriching interest and pride in culture and the great achievements that their Government is producing. The Hermitage Art Gallery has one of the finest collections of paintings and sculptures in Europe and the ordinary Russian people come flocking to see the Leonardo da Vincis and Picassos on a scale, 10,000 a day, that would shock the customary visitors to the sedate and deserted Royal Academy in London.
Again they come in their thousands to the great showpiece of Soviet Communism-the Exhibition of Economic Achievements. Here, set amid some 500 acres of artificial lakes, open-air theatres and cinemas, and fields of crops and growing fruit one can spend the whole day examining 73 different pavilions. Here there are the copies of the first sputniks and of the Venus rocket, along with films of the first Russian cosmonauts and here there is illustrated the peaceful uses of the atom, etc. etc. From their small and dingy rooms the ordinary Russian people flock to the Exhibition and learn to take a pride in and glean vital self-respect in what the Government is doing for "their country".
I was asked to write a report of the Russian trip, to capture "the feeling and the atmosphere" of the holiday. One boy stated that the holiday had been too long, another felt depressed by what he had seen in the U.S.S.R.; neither of these has been my reaction and if I have "captured" anything at all then it has been my own personal impressions. My report is very limited in that our trip has been limited, for the most part we saw only what our guides wanted us to see and we had too little time and too little language.
My report is limited just as the size of the "Monovian" is limited-I have had to leave so much out.
Our holiday was made by the patience and guidance of Mrs. Cohen, Mr. and Mrs. Chambers, Mr. and Mrs. Pollard, Mr. Hodson, Mr. Murdoch and our many and very charming young ladies. Ours was a very friendly group and many of us will remember with a smile a sixth form Casanova with literally a girl in every port, our transport expert blissfully lost to the world and enveloped in the folds of a Moscow tramway map, another six former being arrested for trying (quite innocently-or so he claims) to cheat the Metro of 5d., two others for getting drenched in the trick fountains of the Summer Palace and a rather merry Monovian trying to pour out a drink into a glass through the straw. The list of personal reminiscences is endless. For me, however, a horrible realisation was only too dramatically highlighted by the Vietnamese crisis of that August, almost exactly to the day 50 years after the outbreak of the First World War, almost exactly to the day 19 years after the dropping of the first Atom Bomb on Hiroshima. Here we were in the enemy country of a Cold War among a people upon which our government would be willing to commit nuclear genocide. Ours was the first Monoux party to go to Russia; it must not be the last. It is only through contact with the children of the Youth Camp, by more mutual exchanges of books and goodwill between our school and the Leningrad Youth Palace, and by a fuller knowledge and understanding of those people who came up to shake us by the hand that we can see all the futility of dividing the world up into "ally" and "enemy". In this way we may help achieve the international peace and freedom from fear that must, one day, come.
Once again I would like to thank on behalf of the whole party those members of staff who took on the responsibility of organisation. I hope that all those lost cameras and lost boys have not discouraged them-at least, not too much.
J.Weinstein, 6T Lit.
SOME REFLECTIONS ON THE SOVIET UNION
Supposedly, the best way of gaining an impression of a country is to see it for oneself. A ten-day stay in the Soviet Union, however, is certainly not long enough to gain a detailed overall idea of the country as a whole, particularly when Moscow and Leningrad are the only two cities visited. What one sees there does not necessarily reflect aspects of the whole country, yet those two cities, through necessity, must here suffice as my basis for generalisations on life in the Soviet Union today.
Two difficulties face the inquisitive visitor to the Soviet Union who is keen to find what really makes this Communist State tick; the language difficulty and the deliberate restrictions placed on visitors by the authorities. In view of these factors, as well as the need for brevity, this account must be very superficial in its analysis. I have tried to be as objective as possible in my attitude although there are obvious limits to the degree of objectivity one can attain within the short limits of this account. However, I have tried to see things as they are and to avoid any pre-conceived notions that I might have had. But I cannot, I fear, remain neutral. I am against the Soviet attempt to force other peoples of the world into their ideological mould. I am equally opposed to the concept of class warfare, that is, in fact, being used to camouflage the rise of a new privileged group in the Soviet state. I abhor the use of human beings as material for totalitarian planning towards a supposedly utopian goal. The flight of millions of people from the Soviet zone of Germany to the West, the struggle for freedom in Hungary and Berlin, all reinforce my personal contention that the triumph of the Communist regime would be unbearable to nations that have experienced freedom.
Some say there is no such thing as "Soviet man", that the people of the Soviet Union are simply Russians, and that Bolshevism is merely the logical evolution of the Russian character:
at the other extreme are the Soviet leaders and ideologists who contend that "Soviet man" exists and is a type of man the world has never seen before.
I consider that, in the main, the Soviets have not succeeded in creating the perfect Bolshevik idea of "Soviet man", and that as the standard of living in the Soviet Union gradually rises, the chances of success lessen accordingly. No, the ordinary Russian has not been transformed into a new man, a collectivised robot, who in thought, deed and desire reacts exactly as the Soviets want him to react, a being unapproachable by and incomprehensible to us.
Indeed, one of the first facets a foreigner in the U.S.S.R. comes into contact with is straightway contradictory to this conception. The Soviet citizen is keenly interested in foreigners, who are easily conspicuous by virtue of their clothes and general deportment. As a rule the first question the Soviet citizen will ask a stranger is "What country do you come from?" If he can speak the particular language with any fluency, innumerable searching questions will be asked, for he knows that from a "real foreigner" (i.e. from outside the Soviet bloc) he can learn something authentic about the almost unknown, and therefore fascinating, parts of the outside world.
Everybody is ready to make a special effort for a Foreigner- Russian officials or salesmen often brush aside fellow countrymen and turn, obviously eager to please, to attend the needs of a foreigner. It seemed to me that this eagerness was more genuine when the Russian found he was dealing with a "real foreigner" rather than someone from the other Iron Curtain countries.
There may be several reasons for this attitude towards foreigners. First, there is the Russian tradition of hospitality. Then there is the lively and largely unsatisfied interest in the outside world, about which the Russian for decades has heard only the official Soviet version, a version he accepts only with strong reservations. Then again every "genuine" foreigner is regarded as the harbinger of a return to normal international relations-a symbol of the easing of political tension, rather than a potential spy (as the authorities are constantly warning its citizens). But perhaps the strongest motive of all is the Russians' intense love of, and pride in their own country. They naturally want to behave towards foreigners in such a way that the visitors will always remember with pleasure the time they spent in Russia. Indeed, the natural, eager hospitality of the ordinary Russian is one of the most effective means the Kremlin has for making a favourable impression on the outside world.
In political spheres, however, the Soviets have managed make the average Russian relatively "unapproachable and incomprehensible". This has naturally affected the Russian's attitude to truth. Questions by a Foreigner about living standards or working conditions are unlikely to receive entirely candid answers, because adverse criticism may in certain circumstances constitute an offence; remember that in the Soviet Union nothing is absolute except the government, and a man might find it advisable to depart from strict veracity for two reasons: because it might embroil him with authority, or because politeness demands an oblique reply. In political issues, therefore, experience has taught the Russian reserve, unless the person to whom he is talking is either a close friend or a chance acquaintance whom he is not likely to meet again.
Conversely, however, in personal matters the Russian has far fewer inhibitions than we have; the desire to keep his distance from people is foreign to his nature. For example, the sight of men embracing and kissing each other, which is so embarrassing to the English and the Americans, is commonplace in Russia, particularly when friends and relatives are meeting or seeing each other off at railway stations.
One of the items on the Communist Programme is the creation of a "classless society"-whether this is realizable is not here relevant-but there are no signs of its being realized in the Soviet Union today. Indeed the Soviet Union is a country of privilege. The Revolution of 1917 certainly swept away the old order of society, and in its place has grown up a caste system in many aspects more rigid. The fundamental division appears to be that between the ruling caste-the Communist Party (the members of which comprise only about 5 per cent. of the population)-and the rest. All positions of authority are given to Communists, so that few young people can hope to do well, even in the professions, unless they join the Party.
This is a land where the contrast between the proclaimed classless society and reality is blatantly obvious, where the gaping chasm between top and bottom must strike every Soviet citizen- a land whose official "bible" is the "Communist Manifesto" issued by Karl Marx in 1848, many of whose ten points demand that the econornic differences and privileges dividing the social classes be eradicated.
I could not help feeling that perhaps the Soviet Union had entered its bourgeois era (a fact vehemently denied by the Soviet authorities). The "new class" does not constitute a bourgeoisie in the western sense of the world; it is a state bourgeoisie. All its members work for the state and are dependent on it, yet the way of life of this present day Soviet bourgeoisie resembles in many ways that of its flourishing Western counterpart during the Victorian era.
As far as standards of living are concerned, one has only to look about in a busy Russian thoroughfare to see that living standards are much lower than those in the West, which is only to be expected if military and capital equipment has been the main field of concentration up till now. The dress of the ordinary Russian is very poorly styled and of inferior quality, yet prices are exceedingly high. Motor cars, now regarded as a symbol of the affluent society, are not seen in anything like the numbers evident in Western countries-a reflection of the low priority given to light industry and consumer goods. The paucity of advertisements in public places is noticeable to the foreigner. As there is no commercial competition, advertisements are used by the State only for the purpose of stimulating consumption of some commodity which is not selling too well, or to show portraits of workers who have excelled themselves in particular branches of industry. The important thing is that the Soviet authorities, though pre-occupied with heavy industry, are committed to raising the standards of living. Correspondingly, the Russian people are becoming more discriminating and exacting; in the great GUM department store in Red Square one can often see customers complaining about such things as high prices, poor quality and sub-standard service.
However, a 20-year Soviet programme to raise the living standards was introduced (I believe) in 1960; it claims that "at the end of the second decade (1980), every family, including newlyweds, will have a comfortable flat". The programme does not promise to overtake the living standard of the U.S.A., evidently because much of the American private abundance is considered wasteful and pointless luxury by the Soviet planners; for example, they do not want to catch up the U.S.A. in private car production. The age of plenty which the Communist Programme forecasts for the end of the century is that of "controlled abundance", of "socially necessary" Communist affluence. The power and the wealth of the State, however, are to remain first priorities. A slower rise of the living standard would not endanger the position of the rulers, which depends on their successes in raising the standard of power of the nation (and the military might of the nation is, of course, one of the most important components of this "national standard of power"). It will be interesting in the years to come to see just how far the living standard is actually raised.
In a state like the Soviet Union, where private ownership of the means of production is prohibited, knowledge is the surest road to success. What therefore particularly strikes an observer is the naive enthusiasm and thirst for knowledge of every kind displayed by the gifted Russian people, the majority of whom have only learned to read and write in the last few decades. They apply themselves with a discoverer's zest to the tasks confronting them. The belated Industrial Revolution in Russia and then the Bolshevik Revolution released the capacities of the vast majority of the I '1nilation which had till then lay dormant. The Russian people are now going through that early phase of intellectual enthusiasm which the West has long forgotten and which has been replaced by scepticism and sophistication.
Religion, with its great moral force, is ridiculed and rejected by the State. As Lenin wrote: "Marxism is absolutely atheistic and resolutely hostile to all religion". Yet there still appears to be a great deal of deep religious fervour displayed in the Russian churches. It seems that religious indifference and ignorance (the result of atheistic education) and profound immersion in religious feeling exist in the Soviet Union today side by side and it is impossible for the foreigner, perhaps even the Russian himself, to assess the relative weight to be accorded to either of these two attitudes. Does this mean that the Communist doctrines of materialism and atheism should not be taken too seriously, that Cmmunism has become essentially tolerant to religion?
In effect, no. The Communist attitude towards religion is one thing. their treatment of the existing Church at any given time quite another. The position of the Soviet leaders regarding religion has hardly changed since the turn of the century-for them, religion is not a question of metaphysics, but one of sociology and history -- a barrier to progress, or as Karl Marx put it, "the opium of the masses". They believe that matter is primary, spirit is secondary. This thesis is not just an embellishment of their doctrine; it is its very core. The Church repulsed a direct attack by Lenin and Stalin, so that the Communists now proclaim a state of co-existence, assuming that the Church will degenerate and eventually collapse by itself, at the same time, of course, doing whatever they can to accelerate this process. It is interesting to note that such tactics determine the Soviet leaders' policy towards the free world, as well as their national Church.
It appears that the older generation, except for the militant Communists, have preserved a good deal of their religious attachment, and with some of them it has even grown. The middle generation, who have been in the thick of economic and political struggles, are far less concerned with religion, being largely agnostic. The younger people, cultivated to be atheistic in outlook, are perhaps searching for something else to believe in besides Karl Marx-whether they will turn eventually to the Orthodox Church remains to be seen.
These various facets, therefore, represent the greater part of the picture to be drawn from a visit to the Soviet Union, taking nothing for granted and observing everything with a critical eye. The interests of the regime are well safeguarded by exposing only the strengths and concealing the weaknesses, and by releasing information from official sources only, subject to the overriding control of the Communist Party. The fundamental goodwill of the ordinary Russian is constantly being exploited by the malevolence of the Party, hostile to all ways of life save its own.
The Soviet Union's strengths, therefore, are there for all to see; the patriotism and endurance of her people, her growing industrial power, her scientific progress and military strength. The weaknesses are less obvious but nevertheless detectable: the attitude of the Party that it can "fool all of the people all of the time", the vulnerability of dictatorships to winds of change, the relative weakness of the agricultural position; the growing corruption and dishonesty (cases of which are frequently reported in the Russian press as a warning); the addiction to theory rather than practice, and the disinclination to steady, sustained effort.
To the visiting foreigner, the Soviet Union must present itself primarily as a land of contrasts. Industrial and scientific achievements contrast with the shortage of housing, poor consumer goods, and the relative paucity of leisure and recreational facilities. These in turn contrast with the promise of a Communist Utopia by 1980 which will give the Soviet citizen, so the regime claims, material abundance, 2-room flats, free holidays, transport and meals.
Moreover, the regime should bear in mind that the intense effort towards intellectual self-improvement, this natural thirst for knowledge, which it is exploiting, will inevitably stimulate the critical faculties of the Russian people-and this stimulation will be all the more acute if the grandiose promises for 1980 are not substantially realized. For when a man is taught to think he is taught also intentionally or otherwise, to criticise. Perhaps this may result in a beneficial modification of Communism, so that in the future World peace may be based on mutual trust instead of mutual fear, as it is now. In the West, the freedom of the community was won in the fight for the freedom of the individual; in the Soviet Union, behind any struggle for the freedom of the individual citizen there rises, even if only in outline, the image of freedom itself.
Therein must live our hopes-hopes we must cling to as the Soviet Union follows its difficult road.
S .L.Turner, 6 A Lit.