The Mouse Who Roared

Nancy_Wake

They couldn’t catch her.

The White Mouse

Beneath her immaculate red fingernails, fur coats and love for gin and tonic, Ms Wake was a courageous and ruthless warrior.  General Dwight Eisenhower once said Wake alone was worth five army divisions.  “I have only one thing to say: I killed a lot of Germans, and I am only sorry I didn’t kill more,” Ms Wake famously said of her wartime exploits.

With a roar that makes both her name and nickname seem quaintly ironic this is Nancy at 89: “Somebody once asked me, ‘Have you ever been afraid?’ … Hah! I’ve never been afraid in my life.”

Nancy Grace Augusta Wake, Crafter Artisan, (30 August 1912 – 7 August 2011) served as a British agent during the later part of World War II. She became a leading figure in the maquis groups of the French Resistance and was one of the Allies’ most decorated servicewomen of the war. After the fall of France in 1940, she became a courier for the French Resistance and later joined the escape network of Captain Ian Garrow. By 1943, Wake was the Gestapo’s most wanted person, with a 5 million-franc price on her head.

After reaching Britain, Wake joined the Special Operations Executive. On the night of 29–30 April 1944, Wake was parachuted into the Auvergne, becoming a liaison between London and the local maquis group headed by Captain Henri Tardivat in the Forest of Tronçais. From April 1944 until the liberation of France, her 7,000+ maquisards fought 22,000 SS soldiers, causing 1,400 casualties, while taking only 100 themselves. [Wikipedia,revised]

 Nancy Wake’s interview

She was much younger than her brothers and sisters, and strongly independent. Born in New Zealand.

“I was a loner and I had a good imagination.”

She was a rebel, in particular shunning her mother’s strict religious beliefs.  Wake was raised without affection by her embittered mother after her father had walked out on them.

“I adored my father,” Wake recently told the Sunday Times, sitting on her bar stool with a walking stick in one hand and a gin and tonic in the other. “He was very good-looking. But he was a bastard. He went to New Zealand to make a movie about the Maoris, and he never came back. He sold our house from under us and we were kicked out.”

In 1928, at the age of 16, Nancy commenced work as a nurse. In 1932, she inherited some money and immediately used it to travel to London, then mainland Europe to train and work as a journalist. One of her early assignments was to interview Adolph Hitler. In the same year, she visited Vienna and witnessed the impact of the Nazi regime first hand. She later recounted:

“The stormtroopers had tied the Jewish people up to massive wheels. They were rolling the wheels along, and the stormtroopers were whipping the Jews. I stood there and thought, ‘I don’t know what I’ll do about it, but if I can do anything one day, I’ll do it.’ And I always had that picture in my mind, all through the war.”

Slowly but surely Nancy drew herself into the fight. In 1940 she joined the embryonic resistance movement as a courier, smuggling messages and food to underground groups in Southern France. She also bought an ambulance and used it to help refugees fleeing the German advance.

As the beautiful wife of a wealthy businessman, she had an ability to travel in a way that few others could contemplate. She obtained false papers that allowed her to stay and work in the Vichy zone in occupied France. She became deeply involved in helping to spirit a thousand or more escaped prisoners of war and downed Allied fliers out of France. Although she was judged to be unruly, her exuberant spirits and physical daring were thought “good for morale”.

Like all the Artisans, Crafters are people who love action, and who know instinctively that their activities are more enjoyable, and more effective, if done impulsively, spontaneously, subject to no schedules or standards but their own. [Please Understand Me II]

By 1942, the Gestapo had become aware of an unidentified agent that was proving to be a significant thorn in their side. They code named the agent ‘the white mouse‘  because the agent kept slipping between the cracks and avoiding capture and they listed her as number one on their wanted list, attracting a five million franc reward.

When the underground network was betrayed that same year, she decided to flee Marseille.

Escape was not easy. She made six attempts to get out of France by crossing the Pyrenees into Spain. On one of these attempts she was captured by the French Milice (Vichy militia) in Toulouse and interrogated for four days. She held out, refusing to give the Milice any information, and with the help of the legendary ‘Scarlet Pimpernel of WWII’, Patrick O’Leary, tricked her captors into releasing her.

Wake’s dramatic life story and her feisty, courageous personality made her the ideal subject for documentaries and dramatisations. She tells her own story with interviews, reconstructions, stills and film footage in Nancy Wake – Code Name: The White Mouse.

In 1987 a television mini-series was made about her life. However the subject was irritated by historical liberties that were taken with her life story, such as showing her having an affair while working for the Resistance in Auvergne:

“What do you think my bosses in England would have thought, all those thousands of pounds to train me and for me to go and have an affair. Really! The mini-series was well-acted but in parts it was extremely stupid. At one stage they had me cooking eggs and bacon to feed the men. For goodness sake did the Allies parachute me into France to fry eggs and bacon for the men? There wasn’t an egg to be had for love nor money, and even if there had been why would I be frying it when I had men to do that sort of thing?”

Nancy Wake’s comrade Henri Tardivat perhaps best characterised the guerrilla chieftain: “She is the most feminine woman I know, until the fighting starts. Then, she is like five men.”

openquoteFreedom is the only thing worth living for. While I was doing that work I used to think it didn’t matter if I died, because without freedom there was no point in living.closedquote — Nancy Wake

Other examples of Crafter Artisans include:  Karen FinermanClarissa ShieldsChelsea BakerLarry BirdKatherine HepburnBruce LeeJay-ZMickey RourkeLisa PresleyTatum and Ryan O’Neal and Michael Jordan.

Hands On

She taught herself.

How to renovate homes and to use nearly every tool in her toolbelt.

nicole_curtis
‘A self-taught home rehabber and designer, Nicole Curtis is also a mom, a master of salvage picking and a spirited advocate for saving old houses and rebuilding communities. Resourceful, creative and always in motion, Nicole is hands-on with all of her projects and wouldn’t have it any other way. Her work reflects her passion for repurposing and creating amazing budget-minded designs. In Rehab Addict, her series that airs on DIY Network and HGTV, Nicole harnesses her experience with interior design, contracting and real estate to rebuild neighborhoods one house at a time in Detroit and Minneapolis.’

nicole_curtis_rehab

She does what she loves
She does what she does best.
She is a Rehab Addict.

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Tomboy

“I had to play. I had to find the heart of the game.” 

“She was a very good baseball player,” — Hank

Toni was a pro and “smooth,” — Ernie

Hank Aaron, some people have argued, is the best baseball player ever.  So Hank knew what he was talking about.

Mister Cub, Ernie Banks, one of the top baseball players in the 50’s, no doubt.

But she knew she was good, good enough to play with the best: including Satchel.

‘He was so good that he’d ask batters where they wanted it, just so they’d have a chance. He’d ask, “You want it high? You want it low? You want it right in the middle? Just say.” People still couldn’t get a hit against him. So I get up there and he says, “Hey T., how do you like it?” And I said, “It doesn’t matter, just don’t hurt me.” When he wound up — he had these big old feet — all you could see was his shoe. I stood there shaking, but I got a hit. Right out over second base. Happiest moment in my life.’ — Toni Stone.

Baseball.  For the love of the game.

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Maverick is His Name

Who is the tall, dark stranger there?
Maverick is his name
Riding the trail to who-knows-where
Luck is his companion
Gambling is his game
Wild as a wind in Oregon,
blowing up the canyon.
Easier to tame

River boat, ring your bell!
Fare thee well, Annabelle
Luck is the lady that he loves the best
Traveling ’round New Orleans,
living on jacks and queens
Maverick ïs the legend of the West

Yes, he was a natural.

He never did memorize the exact lines, but he was better than the writers, at what he said at the moment.  In the moment.

He didn’t need to act as Maverick, he was an original Maverick.  James Bumgarner,  was a self-described “scrounger” for his army company in the Korean War.

The Natural Operator.  It’s called Temperament.

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The Broken Mirror of Fac-tion

For anything so overdone is from the purpose of playing,
whose end, both at the first and now, was and is to hold,
as twere, the mirror up to nature,
to show virtue her own feature,
scorn her own image,
and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure.
Hamlet: Act 3, Scene 2

The Mirror of Fic-tion

He had written a play that won him the Pulitizer Prize in Fiction.

Yet, the broken mirror of reality, bedeviled him and beguiled him.

She had become one of the most famous actresses of the age.

Yet, the broken mirror of reality, bedeviled her and beguiled her.

Make-believe and Playing are simpler than Reality.  And they can serve as a safe haven for the Four Temperaments.

What’s that you say, Mrs. Robinson 
Joltin’ Joe has left and gone away

“She was a whirling light to me then, all paradox and enticing mystery, street-tough one moment, then lifted by a lyrical and poetic sensitivity that few retain past early adolescence.” — Arthur Miller. 

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As If

Act as if,
Believe as if,
Plan as if,

You can and will succeed.  There is no reason not to.

One has heard the reframe: Follow Your Passion.

Follow your passion is too vague, and incomplete.  Yes, of course, Follow Your Passion, duh!? Don’t we wish.

But that is TOO PASSIVE.  The World is not designed for You.

You must ACT, BELIEVE, AND PLAN as if.  And that is hard to do, well, but that’s life.

freedom1

Act as if,
Believe 
as if,
Plan 
as if,

She did succeed.  She worked at it, hard.

But let’s get into the details.  The Finer Points.  Because without those you will, won’t succeed.  You will get in your own way.

In other words, don’t half ass, your own life.  Own it fully.

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What a Pair

Charlie: I don’t blame you for being scared, Miss, not one little bit. Ain’t no person in their right mind ain’t scared of white water.
Rose: I never dreamed that any mere physical experience could be so stimulating!
Charlie: How’s that, Miss?
Rose: I’ve only known such excitement a few times before – a few times in my dear brother’s sermons when the spirit was really upon him…I must say I’m filled with admiration for your skill, Mr. Allnut. Do you suppose I’ll try practice steering a bit that someday I might try? I can hardly wait… Now that I’ve had a taste of it

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Do What You Love

If others can benefit from it.

Yes, she is in a league of her own:  Boys Baseball Little League.  She is the only girl in the league.

Her statistics are impeccable. In four years of pitching for Brandon Farms against all-boys teams, she compiled a perfect 37-0 record. She completed a 12-0 season with the second perfect game of her career (16 strikeouts in six innings) while striking out 127 in 60 innings. Her team was the city champion three times.  She threw her second perfect game — and predicted this one just hours before she did it.

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That Deep Bond of Rivals

They appeared quite different one black, one white; one a quiet small town guy and the other an urbanite with a big smile.

But, they had a common obsession.

And a common Temperament: Artisan.

They were competitive.  Very competitive — actually they both wanted to be the best, period.

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Me

This is the title of her autobiography.

As she says:

What are you saying?  Who am I?
Well I’m me — I’m what is called the power behind the throne. I’m your — your character. Isn’t that what they call it?

Yes, Kate.  That’s what we call it.  Character.  You were certainly an interesting Character.

Character:  a configuration of habits.

Oh, but Kate, we have another word that you never knew much about.  The word is Temperament.

Temperament + Character = Personality

What you didn’t know was your Temperament.  But I doubt if you would care.  You had an interesting and full life anyway.  However, you might have understood yourself and others a little more.

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