It's become a source of ridicule in some ways, like when Uncle Albert of Only Fools and Horses was always trotting out his famous line of, “During the wa-ahr...” I never used to think about what people actually must have gone through; I'd switch off, it seemed so long ago and irrelevant, boring even. And I'd wonder why some discussed their wartime experiences with a nostalgic relish, as if they were good times, as if they were times to look back on fondly! But I think I get it more now. Those moments of extreme adversity, endured and survived individually and communally, are a big deal. Most of us ordinary (younger) civilians haven't a clue.
I have to remind myself of that when I'm frustrated by the old dears in the charity shop bumbling around and getting in the way of the box of CDs (or knitting patterns) on the floor, and when I'm stuck behind the elderly chap in the supermarket queue who can't find his reading glasses or the right change. It's so easy to disregard older people for all the obvious reasons, isn't it? Especially the ones who can't help talking shite. We've all been there I'm sure, stuck listening endlessly and patiently to someone who tells you the minutiae of their dull daily routine because they just want someone to chat to, but whose lonely desperation to talk has unfortunately become the very reason why people avoid them, and thus that lonely desperation cycle continues. I know it could be me one day, struggling to get to grips with my Google Glass and ducking out the way of Amazon drones. But who knows what they've been through, what they've seen, how they coped? None of it through choice.
I was reminded of this the other day on finding a letter from 30 years ago written by my mum to an ex-teacher from her school who had serendipitously gone into the bookshop where she worked at the time. In it she explained about her first days at secondary school where she started in 1939, amid pupils from several other schools who hadn't been evacuated.
“...It was a trying time as we spent a great part of the day in the sand-bagged cloisters of the school building trying to learn normal lessons with air-raids in progress...
… In 1943 we were still experiencing bombing raids and I have a very strong memory of the day we received news of the death of our classmate, Pauline Egglesfield, who had been suffocated in the ruins of her home in Ilford. I also remember returning home one afternoon and as I neared the long avenue which led to my house I could see a dark plume of smoke. I flew home, that long mile, to discover that incendiaries had destroyed a nearby farm. Ilford received the highest percentage of doodle-bug damage, being at the range where most of the dreaded flying bombs eventually blew up”
Still, it wasn't all about the bombs:
“...Uniforms were available but had to be bought with clothing coupons. I remember going to a very old fashioned drapers store to select the gym tunic. Mother would make the square-necked blouses and summer dresses. But, oh! The terrible little hats. This last creation was jammed down flat on my head nearly over my eyes. Eventually the girls managed to rearrange these little cloth affairs in a more flattering shape – but I almost ran away when I discovered they had to be worn at all times travelling back and forth to school.”
Glad to see my mum had the same thoughts about school uniform as I did.
Radiohead: Bones (not The Bends!)
I'm not usually a big fan of Radiohead, but this.... I think it's stunning.