DARKEST HOUR

I was born in 1949 when sweet rationing after the Second World War was still operating. My father gave me his rations and I felt rich.

At that time, with the war so recent, it was not taught in school, and survivors of the fighting did not feel inclined to speak of it much.

The first I heard of the war was the recurrent ‘She was at Dunkirk’ which skipper after skipper of the local fishing boats would say to my mother of their vessels. I asked my mother, “What is this Dunkirk that they keep talking about?’ and she explained briefly that it was a rescue by small boats of soldiers who had been stranded on the beach at Dunkirk and were being repeatedly bombed by German fighter planes. I thought this a dastardly act, was glad the rescue had been mounted, and then thought no more about it.

My father during the years of the war drove steam engine trains from Aberdeen to Glasgow which was a reserved occupation and so the war affected him very little (and this was just as well, for he would not have fitted in at all well to the army and was likely to have been shot by our own side!)

When I was about ten I lived briefly with my grandmother in Glasgow. She had television (which we never had as children because needless to say, my father didn’t approve of it.) There was a series of programmes called Victory at Sea, which were broadcast on an evening when my mother and grandmother were out at some ladies meeting, and my father working shifts, so I watched this alone (I don’t remember where my brother was – perhaps he went to bed earlier). I was enthralled by this wonderful programme; the lines of battle ships spread out across the Atlantic; the whoop, whoop, whoop call; the epic stories of the ships that were pursued and hunted down. This was how I learnt the history of the Second World War.

John and I saw the film ‘Darkest Hour’ earlier this week and greatly enjoyed it. It is a bit gruelling in parts, but you can scarcely avoid this given the subject matter. There was a moment when I waited anxiously to see what the action would be when one of our heroes has been left behind as he is too ill to make the crossing. The German officer who comes across him is kind, and gives him water and a cigarette. And glad that the Germans were nor universally vilified. There are always good men and bad on both sides.

The portrayal of Churchill was possibly the best rendition of the role that I have seen.   He showed some of the integrity and capacity to hold to his own judgement that we know Churchill possessed. In general, I am not an admirer of Churchill. He was wrong about practically everything except the war, but then that was what chiefly mattered. There he was equipped (but only just equipped) with everything he needed. Of course it is mandatory to explore all avenues of peace before you commit to war, but you have to be careful who you pick as your allies.

Churchill was an orator. There are not many of these in a generation. In our own, there is Alex Salmond, George Galloway, Billy Graham, Boris Johnson and a few others. George Galloway didn’t have anything to say; Billy Graham sold fairy stories; Alex Salmond was unable to ignite his audience to action; Boris is too self-interested. But Churchill was able to see what lay in the heart of his people and articulate it for them. We will fight them on the beaches – in other words, even if we have lost the battle and are facing slavery and death, we will fight on to the last man; and we will never surrender, Churchill spoke the words but they were what was in our hearts. The Germans could not understand why we so rated Dunkirk which to them represented defeat and failure, but it was because we all stood together; we did not abandon our colleagues; we would sink or swim together, and we despised the German’s lack of gallantry and dastardly conduct. It is not easy to be an orator. Very few people can do it. Much of the time you just sit around doing nothing much apparently, but you are honing your skills and thinking, so that when the day finally arrives, you can recognise that it has come and write the speech and deliver it.

Churchill wrote the speech that was in our hearts; and for this service alone we are forever in his debt. We forgave him all his sins and took him as one of our heroes.

I recommend the film!

Advertisements

OCELOT HUNTING

OCELOT HUNTING

In my youth, I had an ocelot coat (fake of course) which I had bought when shopping with my mother, in of all unlikely places, Bathgate (a fact I did not reveal to anyone remotely fashionable.) I wore it for about ten years, from approximately aged 19 – 29. It therefore accompanied me through the adventures of my youth and into the first years of my marriage. I had other coats of course: a stone coloured, narrow wool coat with a neat, blonde fur collar; a dark brown maxi coat of Harris tweed; a green anorak that I bought when I met John to walk the dog in; and a red suede coat that was a present from a boyfriend. But the ocelot was my favourite. It attracted pickpockets: I fought them off three times (well, I did not do any actual fighting, but I grimly held on to my bag and made a lot of noise.) Eventually however it would no longer do, and I sadly made the unworn parts into cushions.

For the past 40 years, I’ve been looking for a replacement. There are, in my view, slightly more exacting requirements for a coat than for cushions. Its fabric’s colour and pattern must suit you. Its neckline must be flattering. For me, it should be slim-line and naturally minimalist. It’s buttons must be an appropriate size, shape and colour It must be a style and colour that is suitable.

John goes to Wickes for some DIY tools in Burgess Hill. I elect to go into Miss Mabel’s, a medium sized emporium which has many small sections selling an eccentric collection of stuff.

And there is The Coat. It hangs on a hook, calling to me softly. Beside me in the cafe section, there is tea, fragrant, piping hot in a pretty delicate Chinese patterned cup which doesn’t match. There are gluten free scones – not as good as an exacting scone-maker would prescribe but tasty enough, and I wonder briefly if I should have some first. But I know from experience that in this kind of shopping you have to focus on what you want, and if you see something you want, buy it at once. This is no time for dithering. I go straight to the coat. It is in cool shades of black, white, beige and grey. It is in a style that suits me – straight up and down, no visible pockets or belt. I try it on. It fits. It is very light, warm and comfortable. It is well within my budget and I think, I’ll have it.

(NB No ocelots were harmed during the making of this coat or this story; except perhaps that it reinforces the idea of fur being acceptable to wear, though both of these coats were of course artificial. )

SO?

SO?

I’ve noticed an increase in the number of persons prefacing an answer to a question with the word, ‘So’. It seems to me to be entirely superfluous. I wondered if it is used to give a few more seconds to put together a reply. Yet people were using it who were not under any pressure to make a response.

I find you can frequently use a word quite easily and happily, yet when challenged as to its exact meaning you are stumped. So it is with ‘so’. Applying to the dictionary just confuses matters rather than clarifying them.

So what? So we start many of our sentences with So. Does this change the meaning so much​? Maybe our blogger is just a nit-picky so-and-so. If people feel the need to employ So constantly, so be it.

So I’ll leave you now. So nice, talking with you. So long.

LOVE ONE ANOTHER

2018. Another new year, the 68th I’ve witnessed. I’m glad to see it.

I was reflecting that, in spite of the difficulties that can come with being older, this can be a very peaceful and happy time of life. You just have to accept your limitations, rejoice in what you can enjoy, and contribute what you can. You are old enough to realise that every age of life has its trials but also its joys.

I am continually surprised by the kindness of other people – from one’s nearest and dearest to complete strangers. As an older lady, clearly frail physically and often in a wheelchair, I’m an obvious recipient of offers of help, and I’ve learnt not to resent this. (Officious people insisting on ‘helping’ when you don’t require it can be a real trial, and there is a spurious form of sympathy which is covertly just congratulating itself on not having your afflictions which almost tempts me to unleash the Warrior Queen who still walks beside me but does not often appear. These kinds of people are rare however.)

I like to think that we who have some obvious physical impairment, carry the gift that we enable others to behave at their best.

You have to bear in mind as well that everyone suffers from some difficulty or other, perhaps not as obvious as mine, and you have to be prepared to offer help and support as well as to receive it.

When my 5 year old grandson questions me about my physical difficulties with concern and tact, and draws our conversation to a conclusion with encouraging words which I find remarkably up-building, or our two year old tenderly helps me put my slippers on and carefully moves toys out of my path, or my grand-daughters come and ask if they can help me or do I need anything, I find myself wondering what I have done to deserve such blessings. (And the answer is nothing; We don’t deserve our blessings. ) The kindness of my friends, the thoughtfulness and generosity of my children and their partners, plus the faithful love and support of my husband all make me feel l am undeservedly lucky.

Of course it’s not all plain sailing. Some days I fall off my perch and can’t maintain my usual positive faith in the power of love and the bounty of life. The people who surround one have their off days as well; none of us is perfect and some days the trials of life are just too much for us. We should make allowances for this however. One can always start afresh the next day.

In my fiery youth, my judgement, though I strove to be just and fair, was not merciful, and I could be, if sufficiently offended, remarkably unforgiving. I am not suggesting that I have been somehow reformed into a placid, good-natured creature (the leopard does not change his spots after all), and I do not regret any of my past decisions but I have come to understand that love which does not encompass the capacity to forgive is not love. It is merely a temporary alliance for mutual benefit, and that is unlikely to be sufficient to survive the storms that everyone will undoubtedly meet on their journey.

St John is reported to have condensed the whole of Christ’s teachings into three words. Let us follow his suggestion.

Love one another.