Monday, 12 July 2010

Manfred and Hannah

Manfred and Hannah, Hannah and Manfred - they were an inseparable couple. Both in their 80s, when I knew them, they had been together since they were teenagers.

Manfred was a tall man, with an incredible head of thick long dark grey hair, hanging almost half way down his back, with a thick droopy moustache and tinted heavy lensed glasses. He strode purposefully around the village, still upright and without the aid of a walking stick; not that he would ever have needed one because by his side always was the diminutive Hannah. Slim, with her long jet black hair, huge sunglasses and trendy leopard-print trousers Hannah was always on the end of his arm. Hannah never went out without completely co-ordinated outfits or her make-up applied immaculately .

Each day they would take the mid morning bus into town and wander around, taking coffee, meeting friends and enjoying each others company. Later in the day they would walk on the Heath - he in his sensible all weather boots, she in a pair of silly shiny shoes, and he would tell her about the plants that were in season, what the bird calls were that they could hear and what wild life had recently visited the ground they stood on.

Manfred claimed (and it might even have been true) that he was a prince of a long-forgotten Romany tribe, at village functions he needed no prompting to offer strange Romany blessings. Hannah, his gypsy Queen, would look upon him adoringly as he uttered his great words of wisdom - still entranced by him after all those years together.

They lived in one of the little cottages colloquially known as "Death Row" on account of them being solely occupied by pensioners. From the outside their house looked just like everyone elses - a lovingly maintained garden, clean well kept pathway leading up to the front door. But once the door was opened and you stepped inside the difference was unbelievable. Every season Manfred and Hannah would change the decor of their home. In the spring the furniture covers were yellows and blues the pictures on the walls were spring scenes, most Manfred had painted himself - in the summer light greens and yellows were in abundance - scenes on the walls of picnics and wild animals cavorting in the summer sunshine. The autumn saw the change to deep oranges and browns, again Manfreds art-work on display on the walls - in the winter stark white and grey with splashes of red, to reflect the conditions outside.

Their tiny bedroom was covered with animal prints and pictures, the ceiling was painted with all the consellations. Manfred said it was to remind him of the days he had slept under the open skies as a young man.

Hannah and Manfred loved inviting people in to admire their home and would explain why and where they had purchased, or been given every item on display. Like Hannahs carefully co-ordinated outfits, attention to every detail was the essence of their tiny home.

They had one son who lived in the next village and visited them a few times a week. I only met him three times; the week after Manfred died suddenly in his sleep his son came around to book the Village Hall for his fathers funeral. The day of the funeral Hannah was dressed immaculately in black with a little leopard skin trim on her hat, gloves and coat; the son came in to ask us if we wanted to join them for a glass of sherry. The last time I saw him was just a few weeks later when he came in to put up an advert in the shop window - poor Hannah had gone mad with grief and had been committed, the son was selling all their furnishings.

9 comments:

  1. A sweet but sad tale. Thanks for sharing :)

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  2. Thank you Sue - they were a sweet couple

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  3. So lovely and tragical story....

    Is their house still there or have they been sold off too?

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  4. Hey ur sister who married to a Muslim...she hs converted?

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  5. Jon - the house was part of a Trust which reserved all the houses in that street for pensioners.

    My sister that is married to a muslim is still a Christian. Her mother-in-law finds that all a bit hard but it works OK for my sister - her daughter is a muslim though. When she married it is something she had to agree to.
    Before I married my husband I also had to agree that any children would be bought up in the Catholic faith. I am thinking long and hard before I write the post about religion, there is so much to say!

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  6. Most of the strife in the world can be laid at religion's door. I am spiritual but not religious. It's all the dogma I can't stand. A lot of people seem to think that if you don't practice a religion you are in some way lacking in values, which is totally stupid. I treat everyone as I would like to be treated.

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  7. Dear Madame Butterfly,
    I love your story. Tragic and yet contains a sweetness that is no longer common.

    Dear Sue J,
    When I was young, Mom and Dad were students and we were living in Australia. Our land lady, Mrs Bowling, did not believe in religion...and yet welcomed all to her home - Muslims, Christian, Asians, Europeans, Chinese Indians...I was brought up in this lovely environment.

    Mrs Bowling travelled around the world and visited us until I was married, and knitted dolls for my children. Mum continues to tell stories of her unique outlook of life.

    She is no longer with us, but I like to think I learnt values, acceptance and appreciation of all under her great influence.

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  8. I have mentioned to Jon before that my mother was a Welsh Baptist, my father a practising Buddhist, I married a Catholic, my sister a Muslim - fundamentally all religions preach love and tolerance, its just the hot-heads who twist things. My father used to say "There are many paths to Nirvana - each must choose there own way there." Sorry thats a bit deep for this time of the morning. Thank you all for looking in. Manfred and Hannahs love affair was one I will always remember!

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  9. What a lovely couple! Thank you so much for sharing their story.

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