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For real – and regrets

Day after day we read headlines about the invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces

There are headlines, there are in depth analyses and reflections, there are pictures and films- every day. Now, less than two weeks into this I am thinking about my dad and mum, newly married in 1939, they had placed a deposit and begun to pay a mortgage on their house in an unmade cul-de-sac between Bradmore and Merry Hill. The 26 year old former schoolboy, sometime pattern cutter and most recently ‘Man from the Pru’, who would become my dad, volunteered for the RAF in 1939. He would be away apart from short leaves until 1945 – six years – Six years at risk of injury or death in places foreign to him and unknown to others in his family.

For both of them the experience equivalent to that we have suffered these two weeks went on and on through series of two weeks after two weeks after two weeks. Letters took a long time to come. There was no internet of course and little use of telephones by ordinary households. No-one wanted a telegram.

I have some sort of recall from 1948 onwards – how we were and some events. It would be worth writing down. The act of writing makes it necessary to discipline the mind to bring together and to the surface, matters which otherwise drift as barely secure foundations.

But just now it is to wonder just how little he and she and we ever talked about those years. There was a photograph of dad in uniform on the bureau in our front room. A room kept for best until we used it in the sixth form for nightly homework – on that bureau. We held it in reverence – he never expressed pride. There were stories of friendships with others of the same rank and above. Stories of driving big posh cars for the high-ups and motorbikes to deliver messages. There were the lorries carrying soldiers or equipment – right into Germany.

The day that the convoy was strafed by German planes. Dad jumped to the right, others went to the left – they were all dead when he went to look for them. Little more said. The whole business was absurd, just awful, and those mates were dead- The lives they might have had would never be.

He hardly ever talked about it.

But now with all this we think of how it must have been and wish that we had spent more time and given more respect, and shown more love.

And all of this will be with others too as the guns and bombs and fires and deaths roll out again.

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