We’re very grateful to one of Audrey’s former students and summer visitors from Heilbronn, Petra Mueller, for the following memories of Mum, penned for readers in Germany and translated here with the help of Google Translate.
Original article in German here – Petra has captured Mum to a T.
1985-86 I was staying at the Friendship Hotel in Beijing, where the so-called experts who worked for Chinese institutions such as universities, etc. lived at the time.
In the dining room of the hotel I watched a 60-year-old British woman with fascination. One fine day (I remember how the sky in Beijing at that time was almost always blue) I spoke to her in front of the hotel bakery:
“You remind me strongly of a woman I know,” I said, “not necessarily by her looks, but how you speak and gesticulate”. She replied: “Let me guess, this person lives in Sheringham”.
In Beijing, some 7000 kilometres from Sheringham (in North Norfolk) und my own home town of Heilbronn, I had met the identical twin of Audrey Brayne, the German teacher whom I so revered at the partner school in Norwich of my own secondary school!
I now have an opportunity to write about Audrey, who died in Sheringham in April 2021 aged 94.
I will always keep her in wonderful memory. She made a great impression on me and influenced me decisively on my path in life. She was for me a role model.
When I took part in my school’s England exchange in 1971, a week before our return trip my host family went on vacation. What luck for me: for the rest of my time there I was able to stay with German teacher Audrey Brayne in Sheringham.
I experienced an open, always present and resolute woman who went ahead of everyone with sweeping steps and pulled everyone along.
I was particularly impressed by the way she ran her household. She didn’t care about excessive order. I thought to myself at the time, that’s how it works, and to this day I consider being a housewife a huge waste of time. Audrey would however get up before everyone else to bake a cake for the trip of the day.
Audrey was extremely energetic. As well as working as teacher of French and German at Norwich High School, she raised four children as a single mother and was involved in various areas of her community as well as running a theatre for young people.
She actively campaigned for environmental protection and, among other things, was a member of “Friends of the Earth”.
She was extremely communicative, and had an open ear for everyone. As a teenager she gave me the feeling that I was to be taken seriously and that my wishes and hopes were worth supporting.
I was a provincial egg myself; that’s why I liked the cosmopolitan aspect of Audrey.
Born in Peshawar (now Pakistan), raised in India and travelling extensively in her youth, Audrey studied foreign languages after the Second World War, with the aim of promoting international understanding and contributing to European reconciliation.
She not only worked for years for the town twinning between Sheringham and Otterndorf, taking part several times in school exchange programmes between her school and a partner school in Muzillac (France), she was also instrumental in establishing the school partnership between the Elly-Heuss-Knapp-Gymnasium Heilbronn and the Norwich High School for Girls.
I owe our meeting to this commitment.
After my stay in Sheringham, she visited my family in Heilbronn the following year, and during my studies I visited her once in Sheringham, and if I remember correctly wrote her a few letters.
At some point the contact was lost, but since she was in close touch with a family of teachers in Heilbronn, I was able to re-establish contact several decades later when I was lucky enough to meet Audrey again on her (probably) last visit to Heilbronn. We went for a walk in the woods looking for birds. Birdwatching was one of her favourite pastimes.
Long live the internet. Because when I searched Google for Audrey Brayne, I discovered her grandson Nick Conrad, a (former) radio host at BBC Norfolk. In 2015 and 2017 he reported about his “beloved grandmother” and her old age.
There you will also find numerous photos from all stages of their lives. Including one from the seventies, as I got to know them back then.
Today I am a Chinese teacher and have accompanied many groups of students to China. I recently started working on the town twinning between Marbach and Tongling. International understanding is important to me.
Without the experience and inspiration in my youth, I would not have taken this path.