Martin invited us to talk at his small, semi-detached home, which is located in idyllic, peaceful countryside approximately ten miles’ distance from MERL. He shares his home with his wife Jo, a retired Science teacher whom he met at a fencing club in Reading town when they were teenagers.
Jo is of Japanese descent, and holds a strong connection with this aspect of her matrilineal history. They have lived the entirety of their long married life together in this place.
We arrived in the village by car, a clunky grey VW Beetle with gaffer tape holding down the petrol cap. The village centre is marked by a war memorial, which is also used as a landmark for drivers. Here, the couple’s daughters Kimiko and Hannah also live close by with their very young children. The houses are not numbered, so it took us a little while to find the right place, to the annoyance of some drivers behind us.
The house is set away from the road, and Martin’s black Mazda MX5 was parked in the driveway, near a larger, burgundy family-oriented vehicle. Once inside, we encountered Martin, Jo, their two daughters, four grandchildren and tall American friend, Steve, who was over for a visit. Mack the young rough collie was around somewhere, possibly in a small space, and tasked with containing his brilliant canine exuberance.
The atmosphere was vibrant and festive, and more friends were eagerly expected for dinner later that afternoon. Indeed, the house seems primarily arranged for the reception and integration of guests and friends.
After greeting everyone in the kitchen, we were shown to a narrow white room looking out onto the back garden. This more functional space was somewhere we could make our recordings with greater ease and focus, and we were served much hot coffee. We interviewed – in turn – Hannah, Kimiko and Steve. There was a greater formality to these conversations, which took place while children played and people bustled in the kitchen.
Each conversation, though wide ranging, organically acquired its own emphasis. Kimiko focused particularly on her concern about the archive’s boundaries. Should her father die before her, how would she decide which evacuee-related items remaining in the family home to keep, and which to deposit at MERL? Hannah spoke warmly from her perspective as a teacher and student of history, reflecting on her youthful experiences supporting her father’s ongoing research. Steve spoke of his long-standing, transatlantic friendship with Martin, and considered how geo-political conflict is memorialized in different cultural contexts, one of the key preoccupations of his own research. Later, we were kindly invited to stay for dinner, but on that occasion were unable to do so. This probably meant that, sadly, we missed out on Martin’s Malt Whisky collection.