13 October 2007

War Tales from Henri

I attended the funeral for my Grandfather on Thursday and met all of my relatives and their children. Henri had 5 children, 13 grandchildren and 22 great grandchildren and other than Lana and our children they were all there with their spouses, as well as many familiar faces from my past. It's a pity it takes this type of occasion to see one another again. My cousin had collected a great collection of photos of Henri and I thought this would be a good chance to post a couple more tales of Henri during the war. You can click either photo from more details.
The first photo is of Henri and others in front of a Threshing machine he used when he was hiding from the Germans in France. Henri is the one on the top right. Notice how his dress is different from all the real farmers? He was a city boy and the only place to hide was on a farm in France. When he met his first French farmer and asked for work the farmer asked Henri if he had any experience.
"Yes, lots," replied Henri confidently.
"Show me your hands," said the plain spoken farmer.
"Ah," stammered Henri as he showed his city bred hands.
"I am hiding from the German work gangs. My wife and three small children are at home in Belgium and I need to help them."
"Hmmm," murmured the farmer with his hands on his chin, "We'll see how you go."
Finally Henri overcame the innumerable blisters and he wasn't too much of a hindrance to the farmer after all.
Once the Allied troops had entered Belgium Henri quickly went home. His home had been liberated, but the front was only a few miles from home and his parents were still in enemy territory. Henri wanted to see how they were and went towards their house. An Allied soldier stopped him and told him, "The Germans are that way. What are you doing?"
"I want to see if my parents are OK."
"You'll have to wait until it's safe." the soldier told him.
Henri wasn't patient so snuck around and approached his parents house. Allied soldiers were cautiously approaching the little village and some armoured cars were leading the way. Henri followed a short distance behind when the lead armoured car suddenly exploded with the turret flying into the sky amidst flame and smoke. Henri quickly dived into the nearby ditch and decided he might wait after all!
This second photo is of Henri working on the British Spitfires. Once Belgium was liberated he was quick to help the Allies in maintaining their planes. He is the one in the middle leaning jauntily against the fuselage.

Family Meal Economics

We are often asked, "How much does it cost to feed all those kids?"
I have kept accurate records of our family finances for over the last ten years and know that our costs have actually matched inflation, even though our family has grown faster than inflation. (Inflation is around 3% per year) We spend around $1,100 (US $880) per month on all grocery shopping, food, cleaning products and whatever we get from the supermarket.
The reason I am revisting this topic is Lana was concerned how much we were spending as she made today's lunch of Vegetarian Meat Lasagne. (This is one of our classic Vegetarians For a Free Choice recipes).
"I was just concerned when I demolished my 4th pack of Lasagne sheets and saw all the empty packs surrounding me," Lana explained.
As you can see by the photo, Lana bakes in quantity! The dish is 37cm x 28cm (15" x 11.5") and the pot is correspondingly large. The resulting dish actually makes dinner for two meals. It incorporates over 3 packs of Lasagne sheets, 1 kg (2 lbs) mince, 1kg cheese, about 2 kg of vegetables and other bits and pieces. Total ingredient costs are about $30.00 ($24.00 USD) which equates to about $15 a meal for 8 people, or around $2.00 ($1.60 US) a person.
For comparison of bought food for the same price, this would equate to about 1.5 pieces of pizza, half a fried fish or half a meat pie.
Once I had calculated the numbers Lana felt that maybe it was all worthwhile after all.

7 October 2007

Pater has passed away

This morning my Grandfather, Henri, passed away. He was known to us as "Pater", our way of saying grandfather. The nursing home staff had brought him his breakfast and when they returned he had died. He was 93.
Henri was born in Belgium. During WWII he was helped by the French and Belgian resistance to avoid the German work gangs which would have sent him off to work camps in Germany. One time he slipped back into town to see his wife and three small children. He was talked into staying at the pub a little longer than he should have ("You'll be right!") when a truckload of German soldiers parked out the front and guarded all exits. The sergeant and his troops lined up all the men along the bar and checked their papers. Henri had forged paperwork saying he was on vacation from his work camp. Once the soldiers arrived someone went and summoned my grandmother and my dad and his two older brothers who were all under 5 years old at the time.
The Sergeant read Henri's papers and said, "These are expired. Your holiday is over. It is time for you to return to work."
Then my grandmother came in with the three boys gathered around her legs, crying pitifully.
The Sergeant, standing firmly with his men pointing their submachineguns at the men in the bar, looked at my grandmother and then Henri.
"Right. Return to work tomorrow."
He knew full well that Henri would never be seen again but like many German soldiers was a decent man.
That night Henri was whisked away by the resistance back to France to hide out and work on a farm.

In the early 1950's he had the opportunity to go to Australia - on the other side of the world - and be factory foreman for a tapestry company. It was a five year deal. At the end of the time he could come home (back to civilisation). He stayed.
His five children all married in Australia and he left behind 13 grandchildren and lots of great grandchildren.
This photo was taken a couple of years ago. He had a walking stick but in any photos the stick was whisked away behind his back. "It makes me look old," he liked to remark.
Please pray for the repose of his soul.

2 October 2007

Dear Toooth Fairy

Dear Tooth Fairy,

My tooth fell out but I lost it.
Can I still get the money?


This was written by Lana when she was about 10 on the back flap of an old envelope. Lana's mum kept it in her keepsakes area and we learned about it today.
Just another great benefit of living with grandparents.

(This is an old photo we scanned in to do this post justice. She hasn't changed at all.)