Tuesday 11 November 2008

Armistice Day

I always think of my paternal grandfather on Armistice Day. Lying about his age, he signed up at the age 16, lost an eye and a knee a year later at Arras, but was one of the lucky ones and went on to live into his 80s. I often wonder what horrors he witnessed, but he seemed to cope well, and always had a cheerful attitude to life.

Although being close to 40 at the time, family lore has it that he was first down to the Recruitment Office when war broke out again in 1939, but he was sent home after being told that he "had done his bit last time".

When he passed away, I mentioned to my Dad how positive he had always seemed, and my Dad commented that he had only ever seen his father angry once in his whole life. The cause was when a cousin announced he was getting married - to a German girl.

My mother still bears resentment towards Germans, having been evacuated up north to Tildlsey, Lancashire during her formative years, to escape the V2 rockets.

I once brought a girlfriend home, and my mother (think Hyancinth Bucket here, right down to the floral dresses) was making polite conversation while waiting for the kettle to boil. As you do in Surrey.

"So I hear you've been to Europe with your mother - where did you visit?"
My friend responded "We went to Paris for a week, then Rome, and had a week in Germany"

My mother was shocked.

"Oh dear" she said - "and how did you get on with those dreadful Germans?"

A few seconds pause.

"Well, my mother's German"

Deafening silence.

"Oh! Well, er, no one told me. Is that the kettle I hear?" and off she scurried, much embarrassed.

This was in 1997, but the resentment still lingered. Even more recently when I returned from the 2006 World Cup, she was somewhat amazed that I had enjoyed my time there so much.

She doesn't like the Japanese too much either, having lost an Uncle in Burma on Boxing Day 1944.

Our generation are incredibly fortunate really. When you think about what previous generations went through, winning or losing a few quid on a betting exchange doesn't seem quite so important.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


The Gambler.