History Echoes #dadsprose #covid19 #1939

In 1939 my father was twelve; at the time war was declared he was staying with his uncle and aunt in Linton in Cambridgeshire, helping on the farms and enjoying a lot of freedom. It was, in his mind an idyllic time: of trout tickling and nights with Sid Seeley the poacher; of huge meals courtesy of his Aunt Mabs; of the ribald humour of his Uncle Edgar, the Post master; of playing with his cousins which, as a single child of a smothering mother was both bliss and a nightmare. He knew of the impending horrors, of the fears that leadened the conversations, of the adult infatuation with the radio news bulletins, but still he would have gone back in a heart beat. His life changed that summer, in some ways for the better given that it was wartime circumstance that brought him and my mother together.

Today, as we stay indoors, avoid people, we wonder what things will look like for us when we emerge on the other side of this pandemic, and we talk of a war against an invisible enemy whose defeat we are told is certain though the date of that victory is unknown and unknowable and the cost..? We speak of how things haven’t been like this since those five and something years from 1939.

Years later, in his sixties, my age now, my father cast his mind back to that September day and wrote the piece below. Like then, today in the UK nature is playing her mischievous games: the sun shines, after the deluges of recent months and the gardens and green spaces are bulging with life: a cherry tree throbs with bees; apple blossom explodes with early expectation; wall flowers stand tall and cry ‘look at me’ with no irony; daffs, tulips, forget-me-nots all splash their tarty show. What do they care of our problems, of this species cleansing we face if we fail to take it seriously, if we fail to put all we hold dear on the line? How will we look back? How will our children consider this life changing event? Will they remember the sombre tones of Prime Ministers and Presidents and Mayors and experts galore and our nervousness and twitchy horror and the latest lurch into the future or the glorious spring of 2020?

This how Dad remembered it. Let’s hope our children can do the same and maintain perspective; it’s all we have.

September 1939

A slight breeze stirred the topmost twigs of my uncle Edgar’s Victoria plum. The old tree was laden with fruit, rich and rosy-yellow, hanging like swollen raindrops along a gate bar. Overburdened branches sagged, and wasps, already gorged stupid on sweet juice, sluggishly shouldered their way into soft, ripe flesh.

On my own, in the long grass I gazed upwards, squinting against the flickering sunlight. Leaves rustled, and a plum, half-filled with wasps, thudded quietly into the grass. For a few moments the disturbed occupants stopped eating and murmured crossly.

Now only the sun seemed to move, warming my face as it rose higher above the trees. I daydreamed, in a world all green and golden and fragrant with the perfume of my aunt Mabel’s Sweet Williams.

My eyelids drooped.

I heard the kitchen window being opened and my uncle saying, ‘Turn on the wireless, Mabel.’ There was a peculiar whistling sound. The wireless set was warming up. Atmospherics scratched and crackled, then a tinny voice said ‘__ no such undertaking has been received and consequently this country is at war with Germany.’

I lay still. Down in the orchard a wood pigeon was cooing drowsily. Near my head there was another squashy thump. It was a marvellous year for plums.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published three anthologies of short stories and a memoir of my mother. More will appear soon. I will try and continue to blog regularly at geofflepard.com about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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37 Responses to History Echoes #dadsprose #covid19 #1939

  1. Ritu says:

    Beautiful thoughts there from dad, and you, His Geoffleship 💜💜💜

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Darlene says:

    The best post about this crisis I´ve seen for a while. Yes, we´ve been here before and survived. We will be OK. Thanks. Stay safe and well.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Beautiful writing from you both. Stay well, all of you.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. M. L. Kappa says:

    Strange days indeed… I’ve been working on a memoir about my parents, and consequently doing some research about the German Occupation in Greece etc. (They didn’t talk much about it). The things they went through are not comparable to our problems…yet. We need to wise up. I really enjoyed your post, and the photo.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. good post Geoff. My Dad was 10 in 1939, so of a similar era. He was brought up by his grandparents, uncles and aunts.
    Keep safe and well Geoff. We intend to as we want to sample our homegrown cucumbers and peppers this year!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Great post, Geoff. Lovely writing. Super photos. Hope all’s well with you and your family.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. trifflepudling says:

    Vg read and lovely photos. I keep reading it as Corvid too, but it’s Covid. I think Corvid is more apt – a big black threatening crow!
    At least in the war they could go to the cinema and shows etc, although not much fun in an air raid and hopefully this won’t go on for six years! Yes, it’s the biggest communal experience since WW2 and will definitely be on all the world history syllabuses in the future.
    Retaining sanity is something I worry about for everyone. I look forward to continuing reviews of any films, shows tv series you can pick up! Hope all the family is well and safe.

    Liked by 2 people

    • TanGental says:

      Thanks for the correction. Now made though the Freudian nature of it is compelling.
      The restrictions on us are more severe than the war though despite the panic buying we’re unlikely to run out of food as they nearly did. What strange times and yes the side effects will rattle along for a good while after we pass the initial crisis.
      Look after yourself.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. willedare says:

    THANK YOU for this beautiful post! I love the opening photo (is that really your dad with feather in his hat and what appears to be a pet ferret on one arm? Delightful!) and your use of language (“a cherry tree throbs with bees…”) And then you give us a photo of what (I think?) is a cherry tree later in the blog post. Your father’s prose is also sublime. I remember how wasps would feast on ripe pears falling from a bunch of old (but still very productive) trees where I spent many summers as a child in upstate New York… Please keep musing and writing and blogging!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Thanks Will. Yes that’s my dad though what the occasion was I don’t know. As you say he is holding a ferret so I’m pretty sure he would have been with his uncle and aunt in the deep countryside of pre war Cambridgeshire. And he really did have a delightful way with words.

      Like

  9. Your dad had a way with words, Geoff. Thank you so much for sharing this sign of hope.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Tears! It’s also clear you didn’t fall far from your tree! Your dad somehow captures beautifully every poignant moment of that first day – and we all know how the world changed in that war. It is day 1 of our countrywide lock down. I woke this morning early, I want to experience this different world.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      The streets are quite around here, dogs bark with impunity and we humans invoke a sort of ‘after you Claude’ dance as we approach along a narrow pavement. I wonder how it will all end?

      Liked by 1 person

      • I hope we are here to find out…. I read this morning about the need to assimilate the virus and procure immunity for future generations – which I kind of guess might have been what happened with all the other dreadful flu’s that have assailed us over the years – hence the ‘disappearance’ of certain strains. I don’t know how accurate that thought is, for, as we all know, I have a far from scientific understanding of life – but it made a certain sense to me. But, whatever, as I said before, I hope we are here to find out 🙂 And in the meantime we can wave and duck and dive like erratic Morris Dancers as we go about our daily walks 🙂 I also like that thought.

        Like

      • TanGental says:

        Herd immunity I think it’s called. They usually talk about it in relation to vaccine effects hence the worries about the diminishing take up of measles vaccines.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Erika says:

    That is very poignant to read from your dad at that age. It is true, we are facing an invisible enemy but looking out of the window everything looks like always and nature is continuing to blossom even more. Very scurrile.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. willowdot21 says:

    Thank you Geoff🌹

    Liked by 1 person

  13. JT Twissel says:

    What a vivid memory he had. And a poetic mind.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Widdershins says:

    Excellent wordsmithing from the Dad. 🙂 … glad his son keeps the tradition alive. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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