I don’t usually get angry like that. Used to of course: just after the war it was understandable but this time I think the bearded hitch-hiker kind of reminded me of it all.
The Union Jack on his backpack started it off. He didn’t make any rude sign when I didn’t stop for him so, after I had delivered my goods, I went back to collect him. He wanted to go up the Trollstigen, the Troll’s Ladder. Many visitors to Central West Norway do: the hairpin bends are extraordinarily tight and the view of the mountains and valleys from the top is fantastic. I thought I could walk my poodle, Freya, up there before coming back down home for lunch.
We walked together, Freya running ahead. And then a group of German tourists started patting Freya and saying ‘what a pretty dog’ or some such inanity. I blew up. I used words in Norwegian they probably wouldn’t know even in German, and I only stopped when the bearded stranger picked Freya up and went back to the car.
I should be ashamed. Innocent Germans, and an Englishman born years after the war – but I think he understood as we said goodbye. He knew I had come back specially to pick him up and must have guessed only the Union Jack could have persuaded me. My country owes a lot to the British, and a short lift was small thanks. He had noticed my reaction to the Germans of course. I saw his eyes put two and two together as he said thank you and shook my hand – or what was left of the fingers following what the Nazis did to me.