Constance Tillyard-Dessecker: Give way to peace in Europa

From my name you can guess that "Tillyard", my maiden name, is English and "Dessecker" is German. My mother who came from Lahr, married an Englishman in 1913 and lived in England. As they had no children, I was adopted as a baby and brought up bilingual. Apart from frequent visits to relations in Germany before the war, the main pastime was music in our family which eventually became my main interest. The first instrument I played was the Bechstein Grand, that my mother played very well. It was bought from a firm in Freiburg, given to my parents as a wedding present - travelled to England, followed my parents from Edinburgh to Birmingham to Cardiff where I grew up. My brother already learnt the violin, mother wanted to play Haydn trios, so I learnt the cello.

While Klaus was called up in 1943 at seventeen to the German Airforce I was learning to be a nurse, in Marlborough and the Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford. In 1944 Klaus became a radar specialist and had to work with the Giant Wuerzburg Radar. He would not have believed you if you had told him: "In 1990 you will be married to an English woman, and photograph her in Duxford under the huge radar disc, the Wuerzburg Riese!"

The big wheel of war

After the war in 1946 I went to the Royal Academy of music, London to learn to play the cello. Marriage, three children and private pupils was my life after that which ended in divorce after 23 years.

So I got a job (at 55) as a peripatetic cello teacher in Milton Keynes which lasted ten years. Klaus by this time had been married to my dear cousin Rosemarie in Lahr who died of cancer in 1989, leaving him a widower again.

Their home in the Black Forest had long been a home-from-home for me. In 1990 I came to Lahr and surprisingly, it didn't take long for us to decide to stay together. We had a Quaker wedding in the Milton Keynes Meeting House, beautifully celebrated with Friends. We decided Germany should be our home, England to be visited frequently. A year later I moved to Lahr officially, but kept my British passport and nationality.

Now where was the piano? Scotland! Pickfords came to mind. The piano did come to Lahr eventually in a horsebox! Now it's restrung and the cracks in the sound board mended and sounds much better.

Only when I began to live here permanently did I feel the differences, and began to struggle with homesickness. I miss my English family and friends, and those happy days playing in the orchestra in Saffron Walden, or the great days under Harry Legge in the Rehearsal Orchestra in London and Edinburgh Festival. I greet anybody reading this who remembers me most cordially.

Some of the euphoria of the first few months in Lahr has remained thanks largely to Klaus and his friends in the Rotary Club Lahr who accepted me at once, also to relatives who knew me from childhood, and a wonderful "home help" who has worked in this house from the first. Sometimes I say something in English and she will come up with some word very like the English in her native "sächsisch", and we have a good laugh.

I did find friends here in Lahr to play quartets with. After problems with my shoulder which took three years to solve, I am now trying to get back to some playing standard. And I have done some private teaching, and with the help of excellent players, have even been playing again - with rests and permission to play Mozart Trios pizzicato. Here the Bechstein has come to my rescue, as I can play for longer periods.

Through Klaus I have an extended family with opportunity for the next generations to get to know each other.

The big wheel of peace

Last year we managed three visits to England together, and I went once more alone. The first was to Seaford to my brother and his wife so that we could all go to Glyndebourne to the Mozart opera. Next came a visit to my son in London so that we could be at a Tillyard gathering in Stella Tillyard's house and garden for her parents Golden Wedding. Twenty five of us were invited to "fly" in a cabin on the giant wheel, the London Eye; as an unforgettable, exhilarating experience.

Our third visit was to Scotland with friends in their car. At the end of September I set off for Totnes to be with my daughter and grandson and then eight weeks old Sam. The time together made me very happy and trusting in the future. When we visit Totnes in May 2001 Sam will be eight month old, and no longer a little baby. Will a week be long enough? We go on to Saffron Walden to my eldest son and his family where his half Japanese step daughter plays the cello I used at her age.

Klaus has one daughter and one son in the Black Forest, one son in Vienna, a daughter in Paris or Berlin. When my children come to stay here they love to meet them. And they love to play on the big black Bechstein.

This story begins before the first world war. My newly married parents experienced the hatred that built up during the war. My father was imprisoned and sent to Ruhleben internment camp. After an exchange they went to England where my mother experienced hostility. During the second world war, there was internment for Germans too, in conversations I took care to keep quiet about my German connections. We made a distinction between Nazis who we were right to fight, and the rest. I have had a far happier experience, a British married to a German. We are the privileged generation that survived the war, and witnessed the hatred of our two nations give way to peace in Europa.