My Life Story

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I start my life story with a place in Switzerland called Uerkheim …

…a small quiet village, surrounded by hills, with one weaving factory where my Grandfather was a director. My father with his two brothers had to walk to school over one of those hills every day, no bike, no car, no bus, no train. He served some time in the 1914/18 war and later entered Bally shoe factory in Schönenwerd as the cashier/accountant.

My mother’s family ran a joiner/cabinet maker business. She had one sister and one brother and worked for a while also at Bally’s.

My parents married in 1920 and settled in Schönenwerd, a nice village with an old church and cloister, dominated by the famous Bally shoe factory, founded in 1851. Sadly, our dear mother died after a serious illness in 1950.

 

HanneliI was the first born, and with my two younger sisters, Dorli and Liselott, I spent a wonderfully happy childhood, with long Sunday walks on the hills with father, but often returning home with blisters on my feet! Unforgettable are those three college years with student balls in long gowns dancing the night away, so very care free whilst war raged all around neutral Switzerland.

For a year I worked in French-Switzerland but eventually I had a good job as secretary at Bally’s Schönenwerd. It was an honour for me when the firm sent me for a year to the Norwich’s Bally firm, on an exchange base.

 

Fate … after my return to Switzerland, love had entered into my life with many letters flying across the channel from Norwich to Schönenwerd and back! Until in 1955 the great day arrived and Cliff and I got married in a lovely old church on a hill near my home place. Blissfully happy, I was ready to start a new life in good old England.

Cliff was born in Norwich on 22nd September 1920 having two sisters and one brother. He worked at Bally’s for 50 years from 1934 to 1984 and served in the RAF from 1941 to 1946.

In May 1955 a brand new bungalow awaited us in Thorpe, named Rhätia by Cliff after our holiday hotel in Davos, Switzerland, and our home became our castle. I soon got used to the English way of life and sense of humour, and loved the City of Norwich with its beautiful Cathedral and St Peter Mancroft Church, and all the other sights. Over the years a lot of hard work with plenty of enthusiasm improved the Rhätia inside and out.

I was back at Bally’s in the office for 4 years, made a lot of friends, and was happily welcomed by Cliff’s family and all our neighbours. We used to hire a car when my young Swiss cousins one by one came to visit us over the weekends whilst they were over in England as ‘au pairs’, taking them to the Broads and the coast. Also some young people sent over from the Swiss factory to Ballys Norwich used to love looking in at ours for an old fashioned rösti or schnitzel and noodles, which was such a change for them from the every day meals with chips of their landladies!

However the highlights were the rare visits of my dear sisters. Unfortunately my father could never be persuaded to come and see how we lived over here.

 

And then … I was already 38 years old, to our greatest happiness we were blessed with the safe arrival of Christopher William on 1st April 1960, a healthy little boy, a real ray of sunshine.

It was said in Switzerland ‘it needed an Englishman to present my father with a Grandson’, as up to then there were only girls within the families! With great pride we saw our beloved son grow up into a good scholar and a fine young man. The sparkling of his little eyes at the first Christmas tree made me forget any possible thoughts of homesickness over the festive season, forever. The many, many happy memories of those times will always remain with us. Together father and son loved going to watch their football team at Carrow Road, true faithful fans, hence the title of this, my life story.

Our annual trips by car to Switzerland through France had to take place always on the hottest days in August during the annual factory holidays.

Over there we were always welcomed with open arms, Christopher being the centre of attraction among his girl cousins and of course the only Grandson of father. For many years I enjoyed being at home, looking after family and garden, visiting Cliff’s relations and meeting up with friends and Swiss compatriots. Then, when Christopher was 16 and still at Grammar school, I was called back by Bally’s for a part time job in the office until my retirement in 1982.

 

Our dearest wish was for Cliff to retire at 64, a year early, and so many happy contented years of togetherness followed, ‘team work’ we called it, playing bowls, enjoying every day anew.

Meanwhile Christopher, working in insurance, met the love of his life and in 1986 married Jenny. Happily Cliff and I used to drive over to theirs to be of some help in their new home, stables, paddocks and garden. Cliff could put his hand to almost anything and how he loved it on the ride-on lawn mower!

What a shock to us when on 29th November 1988 Cliff suddenly suffered a stroke, thankfully without damage to brain and speech, just lame down one side. However, with terrific willpower and the help of therapy and above all special care at Mundesley, he gradually got mobile again. He enjoyed a daily walk around the block chatting all the neighbours up, and his confidence came back to drive the car again and play bowls. In October 1993 the doctor allowed him to fly once more to Switzerland, which he thoroughly enjoyed. It was to be his last visit to his beloved, respected second home country.

His heart was getting weaker and he dearly wanted to spend Christmas day just quietly and peacefully at home, and in the evening he thanked me for such a very special humble celebration of just the two of us. Over four years he hardly ever complained, gracefully accepted his illness, but I am convinced that in his heart of hearts he realised his time on this earth would soon be up. After a few more days in hospital he suddenly passed away in the evening of January 22nd 1994, to our greatest sorrow and grief for losing such a good devoted husband, Papi and father-in-law. A very special man who meant the world to us. May he rest in peace.

 

Daniella, Matt and NanaUnfortunately he never could enjoy the very special happy event two years later when I became the proudest Nana in the world. Daniella, my adorable little princess was born on 8th November 1995 and our lovable little fellow, Matthew followed on 25th April 1998. Cliff would have been a most devoted doting loving ‘Papa’. Thank you, Chris and Jenny, for such lovely grandchildren giving me much joy and happiness, keeping me young, even having a little dance with Matthew on Daniella’s fifth birthday party!

Although life has changed for me and will never be the same again – ‘time doesn’t heal, it just makes it milder’ – I like to think that I am doing my best to cope, living on my own, taking things day by day. The highlight is always a visit to Chris and Jenny’s with their two lovable loving children. To quote Maurice Chevalier, ‘Thank heavens for little girl(s) – and boy(s)’!

 

Looking back on my long life, I do thank God for all the many blessings over the years – good health, most of the time – a very happy childhood with most loving parents and sisters – good education – an interesting working life – a very devoted husband with all his understanding and tender love and a wonderful son, with his loving caring family. Thanks also to all my dear ones in Switzerland who have kept in regular contact – my old roots will never be forgotten. My appreciation also to all my friends and neighbours for having been good and kind to me, treating me as ‘one of them’, and so bless you all for letting me be ‘one of yours’. After all, I have lived much longer in Norwich than in my old ‘home country’.

 

With all these thoughts, memories and appreciation I remain always,

your Hanni