Saturday, November 07, 2015

Self-indulgent Saturday-Sunday #1

Regular commenter "Sonny" suggested I should, occasionally, tell stories of my life. So...

This first episode is longer than most others in future are likely to be, because in a few days' time it'll be

11 November, Remembrance Day - a date when Britain remembers those lost in two horrendous World Wars. This first part of my story relates to one of those wars.

January 27 1939 – Adolf Hitler orders Plan Z, a 5-year naval expansion programme intended to provide for a huge German fleet capable of crushing the Royal Navy by 1944.

January 27 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt approved the sale of U.S. war planes to France.

January 27, 1939 First flight of the Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighter aircraft.

AND...January 27 1939 some time around 3 pm or just before or maybe just after, in a house in a Yorkshire city on the East coast in the North of England, I struggled into this world of ours, almost killing my mother in the process, so much so that she was unable to bear more children.

I couldn't be aware of it at the time, of course, but I made my entrance as the world was gearing up for one of mankind's most horrendous wars: World War II; by September, when I was barely 9 months old, it had begun.

To live in a world totally without war is a dream most people cherish. I've hoped and dreamed to experience this for as long as I can remember, from a very young childhood in wartime England. I may not have appreciated fully what awful risks we faced in Hull, a city port on the northern East coast, where we then lived. In later years I came to understand, and to realise how lucky we had been to survive. Hull had suffered the most significant bomb damage of any city outside London during World War II. The city had spent more than 1,000 hours under air raid alerts, had been the target of the first German daylight raid of the war and the last piloted air raid on Britain. More than 5,000 houses were destroyed along with half of the city centre. Until mid-way through the second world war more women and children in Britain had been killed than soldiers. Over three-quarters of the total housing stock in our city was either destroyed or damaged. Some families were "bombed out" of their homes two or even three times. Like many others of my generation (John Lennon from another port, Liverpool, is a famous example), I grew up hating the very word "war".

We lived in a house attached to a bakery shop. My father was bakery foreman, and later manager of a local bakery chain in the city; my mother managed this particular store, located next to a lovely big park with a boating lake, gardens, fishing ponds, swings, slides, etc and grassy areas. The big boating lake was a mixed blessing during the war. To German pilots entering the area at night the large expanse of water was sometimes mistaken for their target, the city's docks and port area, a mile or two away. Consequently, streets around us were bombed. Miraculously we weren't among the afflicted. The worst we suffered, on one occasion was when I lay asleep in my pram in the living room, a bomb dropped nearby, without the usual warning of an air raid siren. The blast sent soot billowing down our chimney (which had probably not been cleaned for years), covering me and the pram. Later on it seemed funny - a wee me covered in black soot. It wasn't unusual, though, to venture outside in the mornings and find half the houses in one's street had disappeared overnight.

My father, being a craftsman baker was in a "reserved occupation", so wasn't drafted into the forces. He did try to join early on, but was rejected on some health ground. He also tried to obtain a catering or bakery position in the NAAFI (Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes) - cafes for the forces, but was unsuccessful (he blamed the owner of the bakery chain where he was employed for that). So, while my mother was thankful Dad didn't have to leave us, he was recruited into the Home Guard. Several nights a week he donned the army uniform and headed off to a place, not far away, where anti-aircraft guns were located, and did whatever had to be done by the Home Guard there. Another part of the war effort my parents engaged in was taking in "lodgers", men and women who were temporarily seconded to the area for some war-connected reason: engineers, technicians, government workers. My memories on this must come from the last years of the war. I recall several "lodgers" billeted with us for short periods, and one, a young customs and excise officer seconded from Northern Ireland to the city's docks, who stayed for a much longer time, became fast friends with my parents. His own parents were so thankful that their son had found a kindly home-away-from-home that they sent us a ready-dressed goose from their farm every Christmas from then on for many years, until their deaths.

We had an air raid shelter in our back yard, similar to the one in the photograph - small, brick built, heavy concrete block for roof, some bunks inside. I'm not sure how much protection such shelters would have afforded. I remember several times being rushed into the shelter with the air raid siren blaring out eerily into the night (the sound still haunts me, even now, when they test the tornado warning siren here in Oklahoma!) On occasions when there was no time to rush to the shelter, we'd hide in the little space under our staircase until the all-clear warning sounded. All family members were provided also with gas masks. Thankfully, those were never needed.

Rationing of all food items, including sweets (candy), and clothing, was severe. Ration books and "clothing coupons" were part of life for many years. Fresh fruit, unless grown in one's own garden, was non-existent. I didn't see my first orange or banana until well after the war had ended.

Horrendous stories were reported, stories of which I was unaware until much later on. One in particular I recall was that an air raid had happened one evening, just after dark, when some 20 or more people were waiting in line to buy tickets outside a city centre cinema, the Dorchester. A bomb dropped nearby, the blast from it killed that queue of people - as they stood - and they remained standing, all dead, but just as they were before.

My Dad's younger brothers were all in the forces, one in the Royal Air Force, one in the Army, one in the Royal Navy, one in the Merchant Navy. My Merchant Navy uncle visited us in Hull during the war a couple of times when on leave or in port. I was very young then, but Mum and Dad told me that he said he'd far rather be on his ship than staying in our city, which had proved to be a more scary experience for him! My mother's younger sister, my Aunt Lil, ran away to join the ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service - women's branch of the British Army), much to her mother's horror!

War continued for 5 years. I was evacuated, at some point, to live with my maternal grandparents for a while, out of danger, in a small country village some 22 miles away from the city. No air raid sirens there, though we often heard our own planes taking off and landing from a nearby RAF station. We sometimes saw the sky glowing red in the distance where the city lay, being bombed again. There was a prisoner of war camp in the vicinity of Grandparents' home. It mainly housed Italian prisoners who made wicker baskets to sell to locals. I was bought a small basket made by the prisoners, beautifully made too it was, in very pale wicker, I remember it well.

 Around age 5, I think.
Children of the village could often seen watching the small amount of traffic driving through on the main road to York. They could well have been collecting registration numbers - I tried to do that too, when I could read and write sufficiently, after attending the tiny one-room village school when barely aged 4. Once in a while a "Yankie" troop truck would drive through the village, we children watching knew to call out to the American lads, "Got any gum chum?" On a good day we'd be treated to packs of chewing gum thrown from the back of the truck. On a bad day, maybe just a wave and a "Hi there!"

The war ended at last, at least in Europe. My clearest memory of that exact time is of not having to feel frightened any more. We young schoolchildren were given small Union Jack flags, and for the girls, red white and blue striped hair ribbons.

To be continued.....


Sonny G said...

ohhhhhhhhh Annie..
My sincere gratitude for your willingness to do this series.. Thank you so very much.. Could ya hear me hoot with joy when I opened blogger this morning:) lol

I'm sure those early years are what made you who you are today and that's a very special person to me.

I'll be waiting with bated breath and rapt anticipation for the next installment.

this is sooooooooooo Great..


mike said...

Thanks for your memories! I like your biographical presentations, too, so I'm glad Sonny successfully encouraged you to put your fingers to the keyboard, transposing your recollections.

It seems that children are more plastic and adaptable toward malfeasance and transgression of this magnitude, though instilling irreparable, emotional damage for the future years to sort and contend. I'm pleased that in your particular case you were left with most of your life fully intact. I can't imagine losing a child(ren) for any reason, but especially to the human-induced insanity of global conflict...or a child suddenly without family and now in an orphanage.

Most nations on Earth have been (or are) murderous aggressors. The great provider of safety and freedom, the USA, is a prime example. Just this week, I saw on the national news a segment regarding the famous photo of the napalm girl, now in the USA receiving laser scar treatment 43 years later:

Conflict and hostility are readily evident within human interactions, from the very intimate on up to global, and for any variant of rationales. Murder is only a moment away for many individuals and usually through no fault of their own.

I remember a "Star Trek" episode where two warring planets have evolved to the point that actual combat is no longer an option. The two planets play-out their war on computers and the computerized loss-of-lives result in each planet randomly culling individuals from their populations for termination. I suppose that would be a step-up from our current situation. I don't see an end to this insanity and it's one of the reasons I suspect our Earthly existence to be a hell of our own creation.

mike (again) said...

P.S. - Given the right circumstance, most of us can portray Madame Defarge...LOL.

Sonny G said...

its odd you should say that about hate , Mike.

I have had a scorpio friend for 27 years and he has said many times--" the only Hell that exists is the one we ourselves make"...

again Annie, I truly thank you for this GIFT, to us who read here..

ps= Glad you like this idea Mike cause when Annie's done I plan to ask- hope- plead that you would grant us a look into your life and memories:) like maybe on a sunday when Annie doesn't usually post.. hint hint... then I can start working on AJ, via Annie..
yes yes I am shameless in my requests:)

mike (again) said...

Sonny - Well, I doubt that I'll provide my biographical's tinged with the "American Horror Story"...LOL. The nice thing about bloggersville is the freedom by virtue of anonymity, though at this point in my life, I don't really care who knows what about me. As a reader-commenter here in Twilightland, I'm not the subject, so the details of my life are irrelevant. I do forfeit glimpses into my being all too often, so I'll leave it to you to copy-paste into a cohesive whole, over time. However, do allow me to reverse your request and glance at you, Sonny. Perhaps you are ripe for submitting your life to the blog world?

BTW - I'm still not convinced you saw my last comment, the very last comment to which you did not reply, on the October 30th post, "Arty Farty Friday ~ Oleg Shuplyak, Master of Eye Trickery." Also, I left a comment for you on November 5th's post regarding your solar return and I don't think you caught it.

Sonny G said...

Mike I did see and read the taurine links.. By that time I'd already come back to thank you and tell you I'd ordered and was on day 2 or 3 of the 3ml dose..

might have replied to that Monday.. anyway I looked and my response is there..

and YES.. thank you for the transit link.. I tried to look it up as it was on the side chart with symbols. unfortunately I'm uncertain I did that correctly.

I also saw you say it was going to be a Good one for me so I trust your opinion and will do what I usually do- plan as best I can and hope for the very best..:)

I have seen you show glimpses as it related to different posts of your life, Mike.
I wasn't trying to pry into your personal stuff, please believe me.
I just find others lives so interesting and especially folks I like. Reading what Annie is willing to share is helping me see how she grew into the person we like and come to visit daily whether we always agree or not.
She's Fair and that's tough to come by in people these days
I wont bug ya about it anymore..

as for my own story I'd have to do that on my own blog and you've mentioned you aren't able to see it.. not sure why as I have no restrictions as to who can read or not. its open and public listed. I even accept anonymous comments lol..

mike (again) said...

Sonny - Not to beat a dead horse, I'll have to assume you DID open these two links, but I'll double-check to ensure you've read them...I won't ask again:

I provided an link for your solar return calculation-interpretation, as well as a transit link for that day.

I wasn't offended by your suggestion or felt that you were prying, Sonny. I can read your blog, but I have not been successful posting a comment, whether by "anonymous" or "Name/URL", which are the only two methods available to me. I refuse to obtain a Google account...I don't like that conglomerate and their creepy tracking offenses. Disqus makes it impossible to post comments without an account, also...they were allowing "anonymous", but removed the option.

Sonny G said...

Mike.. this was the part of the ncbi link that caused me to go and order the Taurine , Friday night..
"There is a long list of diseases that are impacted by taurine, although the precise biochemical mechanism of action is often not entirely clear. A case in point is its role in diabetes. Numerous studies have indicated that taurine plays a significant role in overcoming insulin resistance and other risk factors in animal models of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes [39-47]. "
I remember the altmed link because I couldn't read it till I updated my adobe reader- it was out of date:)

but thank you again for both..

I'll go back to the astrotheme link and see if I'm able to read about my solar return. The page I landed on only had the symbols in the circle. I'm not adept with those:)

Twilight said...

Sonny and Mike ~ Many thanks for reading this and commenting on it. :-)
Any time either of you - or anyone else - feels like revealing any bits their life stories, do please do so in comments under this type of post. I'd love to read about y'all. I think comments have limited length, but doing it in 2 or 3 separate ones would be possible if needed. Or if preferred, what about a "Guest Post" from ya? I'm not sure whether these "Self-indulgent" posts will turn out as weekly, monthly or just random whenever the feeling takes me - yet.

As mike wrote: I suspect our Earthly existence to be a hell of our own creation. Indeed - our human nature, the darker side of it overcomes our better side again and again, the pattern doesn't change. Yep -"we are what we are", whether due to Earth's position in the Solar System, or other reasons yet unknown.

War, World War especially, has been the ultimate exhibit of the depths to which we can sink, yet, at the very same time, of the heights to which human courage is capable of reaching. We are a strange, ugly yet wonderful species, unlikely to change even in the face of such horrors as have already been perpetrated.

Anonymous said...

We are the Dead.

Short days ago ... We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie In Flanders fields.


Twilight said...

Anonymous/kidd ~

"Where have all the young men gone?
Gone for soldiers every one...."

Kaleymorris said...

This is very interesting! Thanks for sharing. What a cute kiddo!

Twilight said...

Kaleymorris ~ Thank you kindly! :-)