Essential Connections to Germany

Spiero sources high quality homewares from Germany. We deal solely in German products, not just because they are beautifully designed and expertly made. There’s another reason.

My grandmother is German. As a child I wasn’t happy for my friends to know this. Growing up in England in the 80s I was aware that nobody wanted to associate with a German – even 45 years after the war.

At the age of 15, my granny Susanne was forced to leave her home in Berlin and come to England. It was 1935 and her Jewish surname was causing a problem. It was her aunt who anticipated the dangers ahead and arranged for Susanne’s escape. Her aunt’s name was Ella Spiero.

  My grandmother Susanne (on the right) at school in Berlin, 1934.

My grandmother Susanne (on the right) at school in Berlin, 1934.

When Susanne arrived in England she was shunned by her English classmates. In post WW1 England any kind of German was still the enemy. Picking up English quickly she erased her German accent.  

At the age of 17 her unusual looks caught the eye of an English academic and she married him. I never knew my grandfather but I remember granny saying with a smile “he turned me into a real English woman”. Although the way granny takes her tea- weak with no milk- casts doubt on this claim.

  Susanne aged 19, learning to be a housewife in Leicester, 1939.

Susanne aged 19, learning to be a housewife in Leicester, 1939.

Back when Susanne was a young mum thriving in her adopted country she was proud to call herself English.  I think now at the age of 97 she is also proud to be German. The language and culture of her youth seem more accessible to her, and it is the deeper layers of memory that have become the most vivid in her mind.

Susanne had to leave behind her German culture and even suppress it, but some things seeped through.  She sang us German nursery rhymes and always lit a candle for the breakfast table. We had goose, not turkey, for Christmas dinner and she taught us how to make Schürz kuchen (fried pastry with sugar). 

  Granny on her balcony in Parliament Hill with my little sister 1981.

Granny on her balcony in Parliament Hill with my little sister 1981.

  My mum and little sister in Granny's living room where she kept all her German porcelain.

My mum and little sister in Granny's living room where she kept all her German porcelain.

  Laying the table at Granny's house with my little sister, 1984.

Laying the table at Granny's house with my little sister, 1984.

Granny’s cupboards were filled with beautiful German porcelain (presents from her father) and she taught us how to lay a nice table with real linen napkins in napkin rings. We loved eating liverwurst sandwiches on granny’s home-made black bread and Frankfurters with sauerkraut and boiled potatoes. Dessert (not pudding) was always tinned peaches and cream in little china bowls.

  Susanne (on the right) on a trip to Berlin with my aunt (the little girl) 1959.

Susanne (on the right) on a trip to Berlin with my aunt (the little girl) 1959.

Throughout her long life in England (she made homes in Leicester, Balham, Hampstead, Liverpool, and Kentish Town) my grandmother has kept up a connection with her homeland. Thanks in part to aunt Ella- who paid for trips to Berlin when money was tight. 

This is what Spiero is all about. Essential connections to home. 

  Granny hitting 95 in style, 2015.

Granny hitting 95 in style, 2015.