Letter: August 2010

Well, folks,
the first bit of news that I am simply dying to tell you is that I have found my grandfather - and not only that: I may be Welsh on one side but on the other I am German and Danish, so in future I shall be known as the Welsh Kraut.

The route by which I traced my ancestry was fairly complex and could not have been managed without the able assistance of my friend Mark Dunton, who is one of the principal archivists in the National Archives in Kew. Suffice it to say that he found my father through the Divorce Records. I know this is going to sound a bit strange to any of my relations who read this, but my father was married in 1915 to Elisabeth Hannay Wyatt, whom he divorced in 1920. I had a baby half-sister, Petrea Elizabeth, who died four hours after she was born. On the marriage certificate he gave his real name Edgar Robert Koehling (not Daniels, who was a complete fiction) and his father as Wilhelm Friedrich Walter Koehling, a fur merchant. My grandpapa. I then contacted a German archivist based in Hamburg who looked up my father's birth record for me and duly sent me a copy with translation. Robert Edgar (not the other way round) Koehling was born at 4 a.m. in the morning of June 16th, 1890, to Walter Koehling (this name was underlined showing that it was the name he used) and Petrea Charlotte, his wife, née Lindhard, a Danish woman. One of my readers then found the church in which they were married, which was in Copenhagen.

So there you have it: Ena Hardy was his second wife. The name Daniels was plucked out of the air and so was Christopher Daniels, Gentleman, who was purported to be his father on the wedding certificate.

It is strange but I somehow knew I was different even when I was a child. I had always felt a foreigner and could never quite relate to the other family, much as I wanted to. If only Petrea had lived things could have been so much more exciting.

Which brings me to my final point. Elisabeth Hannay Koehling (nee Wyatt) went on to marry the co-respondent, Ernest German, in December 1920. I have searched Ancestry.com trying to find if they had any children but it is difficult as I do not know any forenames. If anyone should read this who is related to them in any way, please . I would so love to know.

And now on to my holiday. As I told you in an earlier letter, my first attempt to get to Bavaria was with Mark Dunton but we were victims of the volcano and had to retum home. I could not go again until July, but Mark could not get leave then and so my old friend Maureen Lyle stepped into the breach. We had two days in Munich, an extremely beautiful city with fountains everywhere and a huge clock in the main square with life-size figures which came to life on the hour to the loud applause of the foregathered tourists. We went into the Bibliotheque which had book upon book of ancient crests and found the one for the Koehlings. But of the crest my father used there was no sign. It was a lion rampant in a buckled belt with the words Nunquam Retrorsum round it. I have a horrible feeling he just made it up but, again, if anybody recognises it could they please.

After two days in Munich we took the train to Fussen which is set in the heart of the Alps and made our way to our dear little Gasthaus which was built at the foot of the mountain on which Neuschwanstein was built. We went everywhere and did everything so I think I'll conclude the Bavaria sequence with some photographs. Click on any photograph to see a larger version - or click the arrows on the large photos to follow the whole sequence.

Deryn Lake in the Bierkeller Maureen Lyle drinking a litre of beer Waitress dressed in traditional Bavarian costume

The first is of me, looking reasonably alert, in the Bierkellar where Hitler made his first famous speech. Apparently it went down really badly and he was hissed and booed, chairs and steins were thrown at him and there was a general rowdy uproar. He finished speaking, however, and next time came back with his gang of heavies. So much for democracy.

Photograph two shows Maureen Lyle in the same place and drinking a litre of beer which she is clearly enjoying, and photograph three is of our waitress who is dressed in traditional Bavarian costume.

The view across our road One of the towers in Hohenshwangau Fountain representing a black swan The view right outside our Gasthaus, with Neuschwanstein at the top
Two horses pulling the droshki which took us to the castle A view from the castle window, with Hohenschwangau and the rest of the stunning scenery below A picture from a boat trip shows the wonderful setting

The next set of photographs were taken in Hohenschwangau, where we were staying. It starts with the view across our road and shows Schloss Hohenschwangau on the top of the hill and the mountains beyond. Next, a close up of one of the towers in Hohenshwangau and one of the beautiful fountains, representing a black swan. Then comes a view taken right outside our Gasthaus with Neuschwanstein at the top, two horses pulling the droshki which took us to that castle, and thirdly a view from one of the castle's windows with Hohenschwangau and the rest of the stunning scenery below. Finally one from a boat trip we took which shows the wonderful setting and the beautiful colours of the water. I must just mention a daring ride in a cable car to the top of the Alps and the totally dramatic landscape we found at the top, complete with an abundance of beautiful wild flowers.

I want to end the Bavarian saga with my impressions of Neuschwanstein. I felt I could almost picture the sad and lonely figure of Ludwig II in the years leading up to his arrest and mysterious death, wandering endlessly through the beautiful rooms with no-one to talk to and nobody to confide in. Ludwig was a homosexual who lost his looks in later years and became so shy of being seen in public that he made most of his trips by night, often by sleigh. How exciting to have been a villager seeing the entourage pass by in the darkness.

Home again, home again, clickety click. I had one day's turn round time before I headed for Devon to see John Elnaugh performing in two plays at Sidmouth. On the way down I had a wonderful experience on the train, the sort that leaves you breathless and feeling twenty. Enough of that. John is quite one of my favourite people because he makes me laugh, long and loud, and it seemed to me that the entire time was spent having fits of the giggles.

The first night I saw The Creeper, made famous by being the last play performed by Ian Richardson before his untimely death. John was extremely good in a charmingly sinister performance. The play is about two gays and a homicidal maniac and was one of the most powerful I had ever seen. The next night I saw The Gioconda Smile, slightly less good because some of the supporting cast were rather weak. John was still excellent though.

We went away for the weekend to see the Bolams - Jeff and Diana - and the laughter and fun continued long into the night. And then eventually came Monday morning and heading for home and the sorrowful realisation that the holidays are over and it is back to work time.

Having said that, I have quite a lot of social bookings in the month of August and will be writing to you about them in due course!

So so long, my friends, and don't forget to keep reading.
Deryn Lake

August 2010