WITHIN a few years a lot of new souls had gravitated toward the sun and landed on the beach.
Mostly English and then South African and an influx of Germans showed up. By the mid seventies we had become international.
You didn’t have to be too bright to see many English resented the intrusion of the Germans. I wasn’t bothered.
One of the adversaries was a good friend and tennis playing émigré from South Africa. His wife was very sophisticated and was never seen in public unless she was dressed to appear at the opera. A classy lady, she spoke perfect English.
My last sales conquest was an Englishman who would not be seen in public unless he wore a tie and jacket. Funny, his wife too was a glittering lady and loved to dress for people’s admiration. She wore it well and with her natural English charm won over everyone she encountered.
Well, somehow, I got the idea that they could fit together for an evening out—in public. Worried I consulted my ultimate oracle. “Well, they both seem educated and from a similar social background, let’s give it a whirl, but make sure they all arrive in separate cars in case someone needs to leave.” My wife always erred on the side of caution.
So the invite went out for eight that Saturday; drinks and dinner out and I hoped no fireworks. They both bumped into each other exactly at that hour coming through the door together. The introductions were made standing. “In this corner from Germany via S.A. my friends Gretchen and Gerry. And in this corner my new friends from England Sidney and Millie.” I immediately called for a gaggle of drinks and tapas. I had gotten through the worst (I hoped). The Englishman got the first repartee in when he suggested to his counterpart, “do I detect a slight accent in your English?” Why yes, replied his German acquaintance, it is tainted with an American accent that I picked up during the war when I was a POW. Therein followed a civil natural flow of questions concerning warrior related events. The women chatted gleefully about their glad rags and jewellery while I circled the affair like a boxing referee.
And then a most odd thing happened. I can’t say why, the Englishman reached his two hands across the table and took the German’s hands and both bowed their heads mutually to each other.
Their respective stories led them both to Caen wherein they had calculated they had shot at each other. They both remembered ironic details that confirmed the fact. The men became closer and drank more, and I let my guard down considerably. Toasts a plenty were made of mutual respect and embraces shared.
Gretchen and Millie remained aloof and unperturbed by our men’s noise and fluffed it off with the admonishment: “boys will be boys”. But tonight I was witnessing men becoming real men.