Monday, 12 December 2011

Encounters: loss

The cheese straws I manufactured yesterday morning in catering quantities – for a Christmas soiree – were a little saltier than they should have been. I was listening to journalist Eve Pollard on Radio 4's Desert Island Discs, and moved to tears more than once.

Her parents fled Vienna in the 1930s, but her grandparents died in a concentration camp. Her mother could never speak about them. When the war was over, she had the chance to visit Vienna, but couldn't do it. Jews' houses were routinely looted when they were deported, and she told her daughter she couldn't bear to see another woman wearing her jewellery. It was a small personal detail – a story I'd never heard before – that revealed so much about the lives of ordinary people at the time.

Pollard dedicated one of her songs, the beautiful aria "O mio babbino caro" ("Oh my beloved Father") by Puccini, to her mother, who would listen to it quietly, lost in memories of her Dad.

Like I said, salty cheese straws.


  1. hi hannah,

    that's a really striking image. and like you say, it's that small detail that makes it so incredibly poignant. thanks for sharing. i will try to catch it on iplayer. sad i missed the salty cheese straws. had to do some sofa surfing by last night.

  2. Hi Hannah, hope I can still get this on iplayer sounds like a lovely one to listen to. Reminds me of the book I read called "The Hare With Amber Eyes" about Edmund de Waal's family history that went back to Vienna in the war. Blubbed away a whole bucket load of salty cheese straws by the end of it!