After the war we moved to Beirut where my father got a job with a firm that imported French cars. His advantage was that he was fluent in French as well as Arabic.
Our house was an old building with a garden, a big water fountain in the middle and an empty chicken coop. I can smell the jasmine across the entrance door to the garden. ( I have planted one outside the door in Wembley – only a few reluctant flowers every year.) The Frangipani was right at the unkempt back and I only realised its wonderful fragrance before we moved. Our mother fought with us to take an interest in the beautiful scented garden and clean it but to no avail…. Her favourite flower was the Souci (Marigold). Souci means worry in French and we the children always commented on how appropriate it was for our always worried mother.
The surprise early on arrival was the big box full of matching crockery – something I had never seen before. Mum did complain about the waste of money but I remember dancing at seeing such a luxury.
We had no furniture and only one room for me and my brothers. The whole family remembers how my elder brother (Mony aged 14+? at the time) carried and installed a heavy wardrobe in order to separate us from him. Of course I considered this gesture as an insult as I was two years older than my brother. It is in this house that our youngest brother was born.
Mony (Sebastien now) was forced to take me to the seaside when he used to meet his friends. He never allowed me to walk with him, I had to follow him a few steps back. At the seaside he abandonned me. I spent time eyeing the muscly young men training lengths while my brother and friends were playing in the Mediterranean waves.
Our baby brother was born. Mum was not in her bed one night and she appeared in the morning with a big parcel in her arms. My father asked me to babysit one day. I had decided that I would have nothing to do with this baby. My rebellion got me the first and only hard slap. I had escaped to the terrace of the house and my father came and administered the one and only slap that I have ever experienced.
While the boys went to the mixed gender school I was sent to the girls’ school. No way of finding out how long we lived in this beautiful house but surely a few years. I recall it with love.
Thank you for sharing this reminiscence. In this time of non-travel, I am grateful for this glance through a window into another world!
Really enjoying your early memories Rina. Beautifully written. Bon courage judith x