In the morning we woke up feeling relieved that the night was over. The human brain can do remarkable things in the dark – turning somersaults and coming up with wild and terrifying tales just because the brightness on the world has been turned down.
We got dressed and went downstairs to where Jean was waiting for us. He seemed somehow dressed up, looking like he had made an effort for us, in his black leather jacket and long blue scarf and flat cap.
He greeted us with a beaming smile and said excitedly – Breakfast in the museum! He strode out of the front door. Pascale opened the kitchen door to our right, which seemed synonymous now with the barking dogs, and slipped outside with a pot of coffee. She gestured for us to follow Jean.
We went outside into the morning, overcast light. Several meters away from the front door on the left, Jean opened another door into the house. We followed him through this door and the sound of an urgent voice from a 1940’s war transmission radio broadcast greeted our ears. I was completely amazed at what was before me.
Inside this room there was a long wooden table running down the center, set up with old-fashioned breakfast crockery. The wooden clad walls were covered with World War II posters, war-time gadgets and memorabilia. A large antique radio played the war transmission that then faded into crackling 1940’s music. There were two large inset windows at the back of the room where life-sized mannequins were posed to create two separate scenes. Inside the left window a man dressed like a 1940’s German soldier was listening in to a radio transmission through an intricate machine of switches and wires. Behind the right window two civilians, a man and a woman, stood in conversation with another German soldier who sat at a desk with a map. He even had authentic 1940’s cigarettes and matches by his right hand! Jean explained that this civilian couple were the husband and wife who owned the house when it was occupied by German soldiers during the war. We stood gobsmacked, and asked him – have you made all of this? He nodded, his eyes flashed – There is more!
He led us back outside and walked further down the exterior wall of the house. The last door on the left was a rickety wooden one. He unlocked this and inside was a perfectly restored WWII motorbike and lots of various antique weapons along the walls. He pointed up a narrow, wooden ladder-type staircase and nodded. Upstairs he had meticulously recreated the soldiers mess room which they had made for themselves in the attic space of the house. There were two bunk beds with mannequin soldiers inside. One was reading a war-time paper and the other smoking an old fashioned filter-less cigarette. Another sat in the corner at a small wooden table playing a game with a deck of age yellowed cards. An ancient looking wood burner sat up against the wall and a slit-throat razor and foaming brush sat on top of it. Little hooks on the low lintels held war-time binoculars, knives and gadgets I had never seen before. I was so impressed. I looked down to my right and on a small ledge coming out from the wall was a very authentic looking, slightly dusty hand grenade. I pointed at it and met eyes with Jean – Don’t touch – he said with a dangerous, twinkly look. I slowly recoiled my hand and put it safely back in my pocket.