I watched Atonement (again) last night. Today my eyes are all puffy because I cried most of the way through it. And watching it always makes me think of my father. Especially the part where they all go and sleep in the underground train stations. I also just finished a book about the Berlin zookeepers and how they tried to save the animals during the war throughout all the bombing. I can't think of anywhere much worse to have been than in Berlin during the war. They had a terrible time there.
So because I'm all war weary this morning and slightly depressed about the whole idea of war I'm posting the next bit of dads diary. He's just met up with his parents. They decided to leave Guernsey and come to London as well.
What a wonderful experience to be reunited with my mother and father. We found a flat and my mother and father found work in an aircraft factory making lancaster bombers. We had to find a school for me and I was sent to a place called Wharehouseman and Clarkes. A great big forbidding building inside and outside. I hated it. I was a day boy there but they did have boarders and one of my most vivid memories is that on fridays we had boiled fish head to eat. What a ghastly meal. In my life before, fish head were given to fish as bait.
Time went on there and we were moving into winter so I had to have a bike. So did my mother and father. Dad bought a pretty nice sort of bike and he bought me a hercules. It needed hercules to pedal it. It had great big wide tyres and it used to thrum on the road like a truck. Riding to school in a Manchester winter is diabolical. The weather there is terrible. I used to wind my scarf around in front of my mouth to stop the cold air from going down my lungs. It was pretty hard and my health was not too good. When I wasn’t well my mother took me to a place called The Infirmary. Lovely word. Voices echoed all round the place and it was cold as charlie. There didn’t appear to be any heating there.
By Christmas I had measles. I was given a book about Grey Owl, the Indian in Canada who looked after beavers. I still have that book.
The factory where my mother and father worked was expanding and we moved to a place nearer the factory called Cheadle Hume. It was at least out of the city a bit. It was pleasant in a way as it had some countryside around it. We were taken up one day by someone with a car and some petrol, which was unusual in those days, to Alderley Edge. A great high cliff. You could stand there and look right down into Wales. From Cheshire into Wales. It was a most tremendous view. In recent years they found a body that has been preserved at the foot of Alderley Edge. Some prehistoric man who had been thrown over.
Time went on and I think my parents realised that the winter was pretty terrible and the bombing in Manchester was very bad and we couldn’t put up with it. We moved to Gloucestershire to live with my Gran. My mothers mother and my mothers sister and her two children. They were living in an old farmhouse at a place called Maulden Marsh. One of my vivid memories of that place was that the toilet was a three holer. It was sort of built onto the house but it was a pit with a long wooden seat over it with three holes in different sizes. In the mornings I had to sit there with my two cousins, Ted and Murray. We thought it was great fun. It snowed heavily while we were there.
My father was then transferred to another aircraft factory in London. So of course we had to move again and we moved to Jevington in Sussex. A small Sussex village. Dad could come down to se us at weekends. It was only about an hour by train. It seemed peaceful down there. We were soon to discover that where we were was in what they called in those days Hellfire Alley and the german planes came that way on their way to bomb London. We had aircraft guns at the end of our garden and when they opened up it was all hell let loose. We were right near the army camp. Our back gate opened into a paddock and in that paddock was a camp of soldiers and they had search lights and guns. When the german bombers came over they would be caught in the searchlight beam and they would dive down and try to put it out by either machine gunning or bombing. Our house got terribly knocked about. It was a real disaster by the time the war ended. We lost our chimney and most of our windows and the doors rarely opened or closed easily. We had to bang them with hammers.
Sometimes one of the soldiers we think would be killed but we wouldn’t be told. Sometimes one of the villagers would be injured. I was an injury when shrapnel hit me on the hand. I was lying on the ground trying to miss stray bullets when a piece of shrapnel hit me. Gran was blown down. She was standing in the back door and one of the guns from the camp hit one of the flying bombs as it came over and when it exploded it blew Gran straight in through the door and me with her. We weren’t hurt, just scared. They were pretty hair raising days but we had plenty to laugh about. It was really my mothers sense of humour and my grans great spirit that kept us going. Never lost her fiery old temper.