Friday, March 30, 2007

Thet Dang Phone!

Sometimes I just hate early mornings, today was no exception. I had just started out with the usual COPD routine when the phone rang. The call was from my oxygen supplier with some information. All of a sudden there was static on the line and then nothing! The line went completely dead. To say I was somewhat ticked off wouldn't really cover it, for this was the second time we've had a breakdown with the phone lines in two weeks!.

I was thinking thank goodness that the internet connection is still intact, for we still didn't have a cell phone. I have always had this thing about cell phones and all the surrounding controversies associated with them. I figure it is unsafe for people to be driving around with one hand on the wheel and that thing growing out of their ear! I refuse to accept that people can concentrate on safe driving, whilst talking on a phone. More so if they were into some heavy discussion or argument with somebody!

Since I have developed this COPD and my health has gone down somewhat, I have had to rethink my attitude to the cell phone. Commonsense now dictates that we need one in case of any emergency, especially with my health situation.

I got on the computer and hammered out an email to the phone company asking for help, seeing as this was the only form of communication we had now. I explained the situation and the seriousness of my position with my health, plus the fact I was disabled and a senior at that. An hour later I got one of those Robotic replies telling me someone would contact me in 2-4 days time!! That's when I really exploded!

You don't really want to hear my profanity laced description of those Blah blah numbskull's, and a company that obviously just employed idiots!! It took two more ranting emails before I finally got someone who actually breathed real air, to respond to us. In the meantime I had seen a friend who lent us his moblie phone to use till we got things sorted out. After talking to the phone company guy, I was left with the thinking, that I had been far better off with the robot!

All he did was come up with all kinds of company bureaucratic BS, meanwhile I personally levitated three feet off the ground Grrrrrrrrr!!
To say I ate him alive would have been very much within my realm of possibility. Here I was trying to explain the urgency of the situation, all he could do was go into a sales pitch. I was livid, for no matter what I said, he stuck with his Robotic company chatter about selling me more phones and services. I swore at him and told him in no uncertain manner that they couldn't even service the phone I already had!! I hung up the phone in disgust.

Early next morning there came a knock at the door, and there stood the most cheerful faced guy one could wish to meet! It was the telephone repairman! After going over what had happened at this end of the wire, he went to work. I guess by now and after a few hours sleep, you could say I had mellowed out and my feet were no longer defying gravity.

Of course when the guy came back indoors to finalize everything, I was chattering his ear off about what had happened. All the time he had this happy smile on his face, you couldn't help but melt and forget the upset. Then he said that he would just make one last test to make sure everything worked now. He dialed our number and then said the strangest thing! As the phone started to ring once more he said.

“Isn't that the sweetest sound!?” After what we had endured, I guess it really was!

We have since bought ourselves a cell phone! Using a different phone service for that this time!!


Thursday, March 29, 2007

Blue Jay

There used to be a little old lady where we live, she was 84 years young. Clara was thrilled when I wrote this poem for her, it speaks for itself.

Blue Jay

The old lady refills the bird feeders each day
She feeds all the birds so they don't go away
There are all kinds of birds that belong to her flock
They hover around her, like the hands of a clock.

There's one in particular, that's there all the time
Regular as clockwork, magnificent and fine
He's hungry and greedy, most every day
Yes you have got it, it's the greedy Blue jay.

You should hear his screech, if the lady is late
Worse than a horse that is last out the gate
He is my alarm, at the suns early rise
The Blue jay is hungry and noisy -- but wise.

Eric Valentine Aug 31/98

Monday, March 26, 2007

The First Bicycle

It was the late 30’s and war had broken out with Germany, that event would change the lives of everybody from that point on. Of course being a kid sometimes had its advantages, for the adults had to do all the worrying. Kids just did as they were told.

So after being evacuated out of the bombing zones, a new life was started in a new town. Life was pretty tough in the beginning with three families to a small house. Food and clothes were very scarce because of the rationing. There certainly was little money left over for anything other than necessities.

Rick was a scrawny kid of seven years going on eight, the eldest of three boys in the family. It wasn’t always easy because it seemed that with two younger brothers to keep an eye on, there wasn’t always enough time for any fun. As it was, he regarded himself as the man of the family even at that young age, for their father had died when they were mere babies. So with the advent of the times it was very hard in those days.

Anyway, not one to be deterred Rick had set his sights on a bike. Even at that young age he had a newspaper route. It didn’t pay a whole lot but after giving his wages to his mom to help out, she always gave him an allowance. All he had to do was save up whenever it was possible, it was a slow process but he knew eventually he would have enough.

Knowing that he could not afford a new bicycle yet, Rick had decided that the best way to go was to visit the local scrap yard. Equally as important to Rick though, nearby on his route, there was a bicycle shop that sold new bicycles. He had been in the store more than once, talking to the shopkeeper about how one day he would be buying one of those beautiful machines. The man would just smile and allowed Rick to browse around and sniff and touch the machines. Who knows, maybe one day the kid would have enough money to fulfill his dream. Anyway it was always nice to have such an enthusiastic potential customer. Besides, the paper always arrived on time and that pleased the storekeeper.

Near where Rick lived there was the scrap yard with all kinds of wonderful things in it. He had been there on a few occasions before taking a look around. Sometimes picking up anything that was of interest that he could maybe find a use for. The man who looked after the yard was used to him dropping by from time to time, so it was never a problem. It was amazing really just what kind of things one could find in there. For a kid it was a virtual treasure trove, for there was all kinds of household junk, old bikes, gas stoves, cupboards even some parts of cars and stuff. One time Rick had even found an old pair of roller skates that just needed a few new bearings, needless to say Rick had snapped up his find pretty fast. The scrap yard was where he had found the old wheels and axles, that he used to make his little wagon. He would use it sometimes to carry things home from the store for his mom so it was in constant use doing a variety of things. Besides having soapbox races with some of the other kids at times, he got lots of enjoyment from the wagon.

So all of this was his incentive to work at his project; for every day when doing his papers, he would take a look in the shop window at the bikes and wished. He could almost detect a new smell to the shiny bikes. For like most things that were new there always seemed to be that freshness odor about them, that made them seem almost delicious. The bikes with the sporty frames and new clean oiled chains riding over new gears. The pedals with their toe grips, so your feet wouldn’t slip off when you were pedaling. Brake cables that looked so resplendent along with the grips mounted on the drop handle bars. He just knew one day one of those beautiful machines would be his own.

So it was that one day not long after, Rick had enough money saved to go to the scrap yard. Entering the yard, he spoke to the man in charge and told him what he was looking for. He directed Rick to the area of the yard where there were all kinds of scrap bikes. Looking things over, it didn’t take Rick long to realize that one bike alone would not do the trick.

Rick started hunting through what was there. Finally he picked out three bikes that he figured he could strip down and use the parts to build one reasonable cycle. He then went to see the man again and struck a deal with him. I think the guy took pity on Rick and maybe was impressed at the way Rick had approached how he would achieve his goal. Having succeeded at the scrap yard, Rick went happily on his way home with half of his prizes in tow piled on his little wagon. It took two trips.

It was a couple of days later before Rick started to work on dismantling the scrap bikes. It sure was hard work at first, for a lot of the parts had started to rust over and some were no good at all. Piece by piece, the parts were taken off and assembled in a pile set to one side. Rick finally decided which frame he would use, then started to work at getting all the old finish and rust off it. That took a lot of painstaking work and not something that you would accomplish in a day. He then put it aside ready to be painted. It would sure look good with a nice shiny coat of red paint.
On checking the brake pads and housing mounts, he figured he could salvage a set that would do the job okay. He would have to buy new cables and pads. Fortunately the calipers were still pretty good.
Two or three of the wheels were in reasonable shape, with the exception of a couple of broken spokes that would need changing and new tires. All in all, things weren’t too bad, so Rick was quite happy with the results. Heck he even had a few spare parts over just in case anything went wrong later.

As it turned out, it was almost three more weeks before Rick was able to finally assemble his bike. The tires and cables had cost a bit more than he had figured they would be, so he had had to save a little more money.

Finally the great day came and Rick stood looking critically at the finished bike. It wasn’t brand new but it sure looked pretty good, so all excited he set off for a test drive. Gingerly, he took off down the street turning left past the stores and school, then carried on around the block of houses, finally arriving back home after a good workout of a couple of miles. All things considered, everything went okay for a first ride.
He just had a couple of minor adjustments to make to tighten up the chain, and one of the brakes slipped a bit, but an adjustment on the cable fixed that up fairly quickly. Finally, he had to lower the handlebars slightly.

There! Success!

He went to tell his mom, grinning from ear to ear for he was so pleased. Now all he had to save up for was a pair of new mudguards and the bike would really look something.

It sure was going to be a lot easier going to the paper shop to do his route, now that the bike was running okay. There would be no end to the things that he could do, using the bike. Of course, one of the first things he would do, was go to the bicycle store to show off his work to the storekeeper for he had told him about his project. The man had said he would like to see the bike when it was finished and Rick was proud of his achievement. Next he would call in at the scrap yard and show the man there what he had created out of the scrap bikes. Rick was looking forward with excitement to all the places he would be able to go to. Also, all the errands he could do for people to earn a little extra money.

Time to eat!


Friday, March 23, 2007

Migrating Geese

Every morning, through the day and again each evening we always get a whole flock of geese flying overhead. You get that way, that you start to listen and wait for them to fly over. You certainly notice if they don't. This is where this poem came from.

Migrating Geese

Living out here in the country
In the hills all lush and green.
Each day I see the geese fly east
To a place I have not seen.

In the evening as the sun sets,
I hear that haunting honking cry
Heading west, to where they know best
And in passing they say - Hi!

I have often wondered why it is,
The geese do this every day
Then I remember it’s that time of year,
Soon they’ll be gone and on their way.

Eric Valentine Sept 19/03 ©

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Spring Starling

Last summer we were blessed to get a visit from some Starlings. They not only had young ones; but they brought them around to our feeders and taught them how to feed themselves. We had many a chuckle at the antics of the young babies as they tried their best to learn, all the time fighting and squabbling amongst themselves for perching rights!

This year so far, because of the lateness of the snow still being around and old man winter being somewhat stubborn, we still had not seen our usual Robins. So our first new bird this spring was The Starling! This picture is from last summer.

~ Delightful Bird ~

It had started as a dismal day
O’er-cast skies and limp damp air,
Snow laden clouds, feet like clay
No sign as yet of the Robin fair.

Depend on a bird to brighten the morn’
But today the Robin lost his distinction.
On the suet did alight, a new one born
A Starling! The first spring perception!

Eric Valentine March 19/07 ©

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Ears & the Bush

It has not been a very long winter here, but for awhile it did get pretty darn miserable. For someone like me the weather can make things a bit awkward getting around, so I don’t get out too much. Today though the wife said, we should head out to the mall for some much needed window shopping. I like that for it’s the best kind, other than just hanging around waiting. You know what women can be like!

Elizabeth had been bugging me for some little time now to get my hair cut. All of this has arisen ever since she recently lost her favorite hairdresser.
I have to tell you about my honey. She is one of those people who at times can take this togetherness a bit far! When she first came down here to where we live now; she had to give up her regular hairdresser, believe me, a thing I never heard the end of for the longest time!
So it came to be that after much searching she finally found one that would be okay for her. I soon discovered that this also had to be okay for me too! She sincerely believed that we should both use the same hairdresser! Grrrrrr So goodbye to my barber who I usually went to at the mall, of course I would see him working away, once in a while in passing.

The new hairdresser’s name was Peggy, and if you ever met her you would swear she looked and behaved just like Peggy from ‘Married With Children’.

Great! A bubbly hairdresser! That alone was a sobering thought!

After a few visits though you kind of get to like her, I even got round to thinking that she didn’t do a bad job with my locks. Let’s face it; when your hair gets as thin on top as mine has become, you really can’t do too much damage!

The first hint that disaster might strike should have been when she and her family moved further away to live, even though she continued to work close by to us. One day though the inevitable did occur and Peggy moved on. Once more, we were looking for a replacement for the wife. The new one eventually, actually turned out to be right there in the same salon, so that suited Elizabeth just fine. I had thought about what we went through before, so I finally said ‘not for me this time!’

Sometimes the way women do go on, one would think that I looked like a shaggy sheepdog! I don’t have enough hair to even come close to that, more like a shorn sheep I reckoned!

So finally off we go to the mall. Like the dutiful hubby that I am, I trundle along. Me and my oxygen bottle in my walker, and the thing on my face attached to my schnozzle, to do some shopping and get my ears lowered.
Things went alright at first; as we wandered around the mall and got into some stores, eventually ending up at the barbers shop.

It was busy when we arrived so I sat on my walker watching everything. My old barber was still there working snipping away. It wasn’t very long before he spotted me sitting there, he smiled. So I decided I would wait until he was available and give him my business. Sometimes payback is a crock!

I sat in the chair and he went through his routine of putting the sheet around me, to keep the cuttings off. Right away he started into the talking bit, I know that it is all part of the business and being sociable, however; I often wonder why it is that barbers and hairdressers assume a customer wants to talk!

He ran the comb through my hair, then picking up a handful of my locks, scrutinized them. With a quizzical look on his face, and in that well polished English accent that some love to hate.(He was mimicking me) He uttered,

“Have you been cutting your own hair Sir?!!” “Knife and fork was it?”
I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry! Then we both burst out just a roaring, the rest of the customers must have thought we were mad!

Payback complete!

So the moral of this story is:

When you have a bird in the hand, don’t let the other bird cut your Bush!


Monday, March 12, 2007

Mom ~ In Out of the Cold.

Today I thought I would write another little episode about ‘Mother’. This is back by popular demand for all those who want to be Mom!.

Do you ever wonder just what it is that produces characters like mom, I know I do. Heck, one day I hope to reach that same 81+ year plateau myself.

We were just finishing supper last night when the phone rang. You guessed it, it was mother. “How are you and what are you up to? ”The opening remarks came over the wire. ‘Well mom, we are just finishing eating, I wish I could say we had won a lottery or something but’ ~ Mother burst out laughing which was a good sign. Then she burst the bubble with “Don’t give up your day job,” now it’s our turn to chuckle. She’s one sharp cookie alright!

We usually have this kind of contact with the MIL, that is when she has not gone away for the weekend. She is very happy where she is now; mind you it took a few moves from city to city over a number of years, for her to decide, that where she really wanted to live was right where she grew up! I guess that it is because you have to test the waters sometimes before you finally decide to go home to where all your friends are.

Mother’s life is very much one of routine these days. Like a lot of folks, she has her days when she takes care of things like grocery shopping, (she’s still not driving! LOL) Then she will take a walk and chat with anyone who happens to come by through the lobby of the large seniors building she lives in. This way I know for a fact, she is checking out any ‘prospects’ for a possible encounter. I have to say one thing about mom, she never gives up hope or looking. So some poor guy out there had better watch out!! Mom’s name is Vi, short for Viola, unless a guy is around then Vi is short for Viagra!

It used to be that when mom phoned she always needed to know what’s on TV? Lately she had not been asking that question. We did well to get suspicious. A few days ago it seems, she was at the library; this itself is not unusual for she is an avid reader and can go through a book in no time flat.

There is an old cliché that says. “If you don’t want to hear the answer, don’t ask the question!” In trepidation, I decided to take the bull by the horns and ask anyway. ‘How come you never ask about the movies anymore mom?’ Maybe she has taken to buying a TV guide.

It has been noted I’m sure by many; that as a person gets older they seem to get tight with their money, though I much prefer to use the word thrifty.
Well good old mom never ceases to floor me, given the opportunity and I did open the door.

She launched into this story about how she goes to the library each week.

Apparently she spends some time there browsing the books and reading the ‘Newspapers’ (I smell a clue here somewhere!) Mother rarely read the papers before. Sure enough, I detected that ‘smile chuckle’ tone in her voice as she related that “Nobody seemed to be using the TV guide” so she brought it home!! I said ‘Mother! That’s stealing, you’re stealing from the library!!’

Making a beeline for the bathroom before I really lose control and wet myself. I handed the phone to Elizabeth, who quizzically said ’My Mothers a thief?' Then mom, putting on her best 81 yr old manner, goes on to justify what she did, “They don’t mind an old lady taking it “. They don’t even know she takes it! She smuggles it into her purse when nobody is looking! Really!

On Friday nights of each week she now goes out to the local church hall. This in itself when I first heard of it, was a revelation coming from mom. (I smelled a rat!) If you ever saw mom, she would remind you of that actress who plays “Mrs Marples” in those detective movies, so small, sweet and demure.

Whenever you pull mother up on a point or some remark, she always gives off a little laugh that cries out for attention, you just know something else is coming! It turns out that the church where she attends each Friday has a program that they put on at certain times during the late winter into spring months, they call it ‘Out of the cold’ I believe. In this program they put on a very good free meal every Friday evening. Basically it is more for the homeless and poor people of the area from what I gather.

Again I decided to open a door; you would think I would learn? Right!

‘ Well mom you do surprise me, going in there to help.’ “Oh I don’t help” came back the response, “Not really, I just go to say hello to all those poor homeless people and it is nice to meet and talk with strangers, make them feel welcome." Then she added, "They do feed me while I am there“. Ah, Ah!! I knew it!
On came the Mrs Marples demure manner accompanied with the laugh again, as she finished that part of the tale. Then eagerly she gets into a gushing account about how good the food is, “You can’t get food that good even in a restaurant these days” she concluded. I just about died!
She really didn’t see the harm in it, or if she did she wasn’t giving up the food!

Now when she phones on a weekend, we just ask if she ate and what did they serve, she always enjoys her visit there so much and readily gives a glowing account of the fare. I gave up any other approach on the subject, after all, it’s not that she is exactly poor herself, 81 or not!

Lately she has started to say “ There are too many poor people!” I sincerely hope she means in the World, and not at the supper for fear she doesn’t get her serving!!
God Bless you Mom!


Saturday, March 10, 2007

Poems Not On my Site.

In reflecting on my poetry writing, I doubt there is one piece I’ve written that doesn’t have a small story to it and why I wrote a particular poem. Today’s blog is about a couple of those poems. .

I used to have a very dear old friend who lived out on the west coast of Canada. The last few years he moved to live in the mountains. A smarter and intelligent man didn’t exist in those day’s, he was 78 years young. Amazing now looking back, just how many of my friends were pretty good at writing, John was no exception. When He passed away in February last year, it marked yet another increasing widening circle, a void of depleting friends. I lost three good friends in 2006. As a result of that and my contemplating life’s losses I wrote this poem:

Fading Ghosts

I gaze upon the empty space.
Once filled with missing friends-
No longer dwelling,
In the valley of the past.
All that is painfully left,
Are ever increasing
Miles of ghosts,
And wasted plains.
With rivers all run dry.

Eric Valentine April 3/06 ©


Last summer I and many, many people World-wide spent most of the spring/ summer season taking part in a unique happening. ~ At least I thought so.
Some of you may have been part of that event. ~

Hancock’s Wildlife Channel set up web-cams at a number of Eagles nests, in different areas of British Columbia Canada, Saanich and Hornby island being two. The general public were treated to quite an online show. In the one we watched there were two baby eagles born. As is sometimes the case, one was more dominant than the other, but that’s nature. It provided for some unique entertainment.

We were treated to a daily feast of the coming and goings of the Eagles parents and the feeding and raising of the offspring. I admit that at first I scoffed at the idea of spending so much time watching this stuff like the wife did just glued to the monitor, then I got hooked.

I found myself being worse than Elizabeth, I was up at the crack of dawn almost daily, my computer on at the ready! I wasn’t going to miss one bit of all the excitement if I could help it! I would still be watching again at the end of the day, as the last of the suns rays, disappeared over the horizon.

When the end of the season arrived and the Eagles had finally departed, the cams were still left on for a while longer. I along with millions were heartbroken at the thought of never seeing the babies again. With the cams still on I kept to my routine of watching the nest, even though now the eagles were long gone. Still I hoped that just maybe one would just drop by. I watched that nest at differing times of the day and night until the sun went down once more. This is a poem I wrote about that time. The nest, the sun and the ‘Shifting Shapes‘.

Shifting shapes

It has been a few days that I’ve sat here,
The Eagles, mom and little one, finally left.
Soaring away, off into the night-time sky,
Little one, still squawking ‘feed me!’

I sit and gaze at the empty nest, with the
Moving shadows, in the changing light
And I watch in awe at the shifting shapes,
Cast by the sun - Horizon bound.

Often I watched as you lay and slept.
These tired old eyes. Playing tricks?
Was that an eagle! I thought I saw?
The shadows move - Yet once again.

Eric Valentine Oct 30/06 ©

Lunch is up!


Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Change Of Pace

After all the stuff that memories are made of, it’s time for a little change of pace. When I first started out writing a million years ago, it used to be eight page long letters. Then somehow I ended up writing a little poetry. I guess I must have been a little soppy over some gal at the time, something we all do at one point in our life. Soon I started to just like writing, period. Poems were my first love and success, short story stuff came later. Since those days I now do whatever comes along, stories, poems and lately lots of professional type letters.

A number of times I have been requested or challenged to write something, usually a poem. Last week a friend of mine who is a great writer, laid down a challenge. We were discussing poetry, life in general and the effects of circumstances that can make one depressed. I hate to keep referring to COPD, but for me that is the one thing that destroys me at times.

It doesn’t take too much imagination to realize that whatever effects me is also capable of shattering both our lives, that is the wife and I.
With those thoughts in mind, it wasn’t too difficult to reach the mindset I needed in order to create. This poem is the result of that exercise, in a true moment of misery. Understand that this is not our state of mind....just a weak moment...

Ultimate Finality

Strange how life can please, and yet punish so much.
In strife it seems, people do find each other,
Like moths around a flame, we dance.
Finally to alight, reach out, then dance yet again.
The music is the beginning, and still the eventual end.

Feelings and emotions swelled within my breast
Fear and anguish can tear a hole in your soul!
You wrestle with the inevitable, and still lose.
Yet again you try the resurrection routine,
One more time, struggling with fate, you fail.

She sat at my feet on the living-room floor.
Clutching, almost desperately at my hand,
She murmured, tears filling her eyes.
‘I just wish I could make you better.’
A vision of our beginning, an image of my end.

Slowly down my cheek, trickled a tear
Such words of seemingly finality came out,
As I uttered ‘I will never get well enough again.’
Then holding each other close and tight,
Sobbing fiercely, we both broke down and cried..

Eric Valentine March 4/07 ©

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Eyes Of A Child ~ part 2

I don't remember much of the next few days, except that the old man seemed to be so grumpy and mean towards me, at least that was my impression. I was heartbroken in my quiet moments, and I spent some very upsetting nights laying in bed wondering, if I would ever rejoin my brothers and mom again.

Now when I look back I realize that as a child filled with the trauma and heart wrenching events of the times, it’s normal to just remember the bad things. The tendency is at such a time of upset, to not even notice the normal every day happenings so easily taken for granted. A warm bed to sleep in, food on your plate, not to mention the ever watchful eyes of the people who unknowingly to me, ministered to my needs. Yes indeed, things were not really so bad with the old couple after all.

The one thing about that time period with the old couple, things were still quite unorganized and chaotic to a point. I believe that for the first week to ten days, someone would show up from an organization that I learned was called the W.V.S. (more on that later) They took us around to give the old couple a break, hold meetings and also get things more laid out, explaining things for children and families to ease any concerns.
I think of it now as more like a ‘Show & Tell time‘. It gave people a chance to get used to what would now be part of a regular system routine, regarding the measures that had been put in place. Also it gave some a feeling of being involved, and belonging at least to something, anything. It was also a time of interaction between people, children and the authorities, much like a cloud of busy little bees buzzing around in a veritable hive of activity.

It was about six weeks later that my mother came and took me away from the old couples house. As a child it’s hard to comprehend why things have to happen like that let alone why it takes so long. Small wonder you can feel like you have been deserted, but still I sobbed my heart out, even then.

I was so relieved when I saw my mother again I think I must have cried for a week, all the time mom was assuring me that everything would be alright from now on. We arrived at a house in Clevedon Rd and once again, it was a terrible feeling going into a strange house with strange older people. The recent memory of my last stop still fresh in my mind. All the same it was a nice cozy house, nicer than any I had seen before. We were welcomed in and introduced, then Mom showed me where I would be sleeping. At that time I rejoined my two brothers and believe me that was a happy tearful re-union. I don’t know who was the happiest for finally things felt a little more normal again.

It didn’t take too long for me to start feeling secure again, for I saw and was around, my brothers and mom once more. I started to learn from my mother just a few of the things that she had had, to become involved in because of the wartime circumstances. There was an organization called the W.V.S. (Women’s Volunteer Service.) That service covered a multitude of things that they did to assist in the effects of the war such as catering to children and family needs, services for the fighting men and much more.

There were responsibilities to address whenever an air-raid siren sounded, for drills were in place that had to be marshaled and body counts taken. One of the things that I enjoyed for I found even I could help, was believe it or not, knitting!
My mother had taught me how to knit, and so I used to sit on the steps and knit balaclavas and scarves for the soldiers, perhaps seventy items over 5 years. Closer to the end of the war, I had attempted to knit socks on four needles, but failed miserably when it came to turning the heel. One thing about growing up in wartime, you can learn such amazing things in an awful short time.

My recollection right after that is a little sketchy. I do know that we stayed at that house for quite some little time, and that these old people were very nice. I had made friends with a colored kid who lived up the street and he used to invite me round to help him. The people where he lived had a backyard with a shed full of tame rabbits, I guess they bred them. Here again I found myself settling down. The smell of the rabbits was unmistakable and watching the babies when they came along was typical kids fun stuff. It was a great time trying to imitate that movement they had with their noses.

I also spent some time helping with the war salvage; that is, going around the houses door to door on a paper salvage drive. In to-days world we call it recycling. That's the time that I got my very first old Bible.

I had knocked on the door of a house and this little old lady answered. She recognized me I think for it was on the same street where I was living. She knew right away why I was there and had some books and magazines ready for the sack I carried. Of course, nice old ladies are always pleasant and talk to small kids, so we chatted a while.
It was whilst I was putting the books into the sack that I noticed this old worn leather bound Bible. I had never had one before and just couldn’t think of a book like that going into the sack, not even for the War effort! I asked her if she would mind if I kept it for myself and she seemed quite pleased that I had asked, telling me she would love me to have it. Her name, Mrs Thompson, was written inside the cover of the bible. I left her smiling and I was just so happy at my new found treasure. I still had that bible forty years later.

Teas up!!


Friday, March 2, 2007

Through The Eyes Of A Child

In thinking further about the “Reflections” blog a little more detail wouldn’t hurt I’m sure. So many times we see and read about war and the effects of it. The casualties to the forces, including death and damage done to property plus the resulting fallout effecting everyone. I think that the first largest change to register as a result of the times, were all the restrictions that had to be put onto the people. The most obvious being the Identity cards, food ration books, even ration books for simple clothing and shoes. All of that pales by comparison to the heart wrenching events for families being separated and dislocated.
Not often enough do we hear of the other casualties of conflict, these are the people with no voice, children and civilians, the list is endless.

I was very young, when on Sept 3 1939, the second world war broke out, of course we were all too young to really understand what this really meant. What it meant was a major change that would have drastic consequences for the rest of our lives. Because of the threat of bombing from the Germans, we were told that as a precaution most all children in the whole country would be evacuated. I realize now we were so lucky; in the sense that we were to be evacuated from Manchester to a place called Blackpool. This place was the seaside holiday resort of England, situated on the west coast.

Believe me it surely was a big adventure for little kids such as my brothers and I. Of course we did not realize the implications or the seriousness of the whole thing, but we would come to realize things pretty fast.

The departure from Manchester remains slightly vague in my mind. There was just so much confusion with all the milling around going on. Oh so many children in lines that stretched forever, five or six children wide. The trains in pre-war days were still in the old steam engine stage and as I remember it quite different from what we have today.

The thing that always stayed with me as a child was the sounds and smells of the trains engine as it went along. I know that today it may sound a little crazy but I used to love the smell of the steam the most and then there was the steam billowing out and towards the rear as the train moved along down the tracks. I remember opening the small side windows in the carriage. I had to stand on the seat to reach them, but that way I was able to stick my face close to the window and sniff this smell of the engine. There was no mistaking that aroma, for when you got a whiff you knew exactly what it was.

I remember walking down the railway platform at the Blackpool Central station, after we arrived, along with so many other kids. We all had to carry a little square light brown box that contained our gas masks. These were a general issue that everyone in the country had to carry at all times. We also had on our clothing a large name tag, so people could identify who was who. All the same we still just looked like packaged meat waiting to be shipped. ~ This was the first time I had ever seen the ocean, believe me it really took my breath away to see such an expanse of water with no land showing on the horizon.(It was a sight I would learn to enjoy for many years. As I grew older I would learn to love a walk along the promenade in the driving winds and rain.)

All of the evacuees were marshaled into an area and delegated onto buses. We were then dropped off at different houses in various parts of the town. To me being so young, it was a bit bewildering and frightening, yet a mixed feeling of so many emotions. It really did feel very strange, almost like a dream for as kids we didn't really know what was going on. I guess it could have been looked upon as the start of a big adventure but, there was something about it all that took the excitement away. Instead I was apprehensive and scared, which even then bothered me I guess. I think I was aware that I was the eldest and had to be strong. Unbelievable as it was, I was at that time a mere 6 years old. I knew my two younger brothers must have felt even more scared , just by the way they clutched at my hands and the youngest was crying incessantly. You learn as you are growing up; especially as you get older, that you as the eldest in a family with no father, somehow seem to assume that role and assist Mom at least that’s the way it went for me. I had to grow up fast for so many reasons.

We pulled up at a house in Ashburton Rd, then Mom and I went into the house. It was a huge big boarding house, run by an old couple. In the summer season it would normally be filled with holiday makers, right now it was an emergency dropping off point, and more families would be re-located shortly. I really couldn't understand why only I was being taken there; but the thought had to be at the back of my mind, for I was terrified at even the idea of being split up from my family.

Well that’s the way it turned out, strange how at times like that one can lose all sense of rhyme or reason and sheer panic sets in. Mom told me she trusted me to be good boy, as it would only be for a short time until more permanent housing could be found. With that she gave over my documents and ration books to the old couple, for while I was staying there they would be responsible for that kind of thing. They had to use my Ration book to augment their own material needs, after all they couldn’t be expected to use their own meager supplies to feed another hungry mouth. Maybe things weren’t that bad there after all.

To Be Cont'd Tomorrow!