Saturday, November 12, 2011

Remembering stories

This was where my parents had reached that evening...
I've been reading Rev Ruth's remembrance memories (if that's not tautologous) and found some of the memories that were part of my childhood flooding back. I was born just after the last World War ended, as anyone who's followed my father's Wartime Letters will know, so the memories are not my own, but they were among the first stories I ever heard. Stories, for example, of a time when, because they'd heard the All Clear and it was a beautiful evening, my parents went for a walk up Novar Drive in Glasgow. Just as they reached the top of the hill, the sirens sounded again and shrapnel began falling all around them. They clutched their tin hats to their heads and ran, apparently, laughing at the horror of it, back to their flat. This was a top flat in a red sandstone tenement, and their custom was to sit out the raids in the lobby press which protected them from flying glass (it was windowless) but precious little else. My mother calmed her nerves by doing the crosswords in old copies of the Glasgow Herald which were stashed in the cupboard, and her stomach with Rennies.

The rest of the inhabitants of 66 Novar Drive apparently congregated in the same cupboard of the bottom flat, four floors beneath them. History does not relate how they reacted my my father's assurance that they were all doomed there because if the building collapsed my mother's piano - now mine - would land on their heads and crush them all. (There is a full account of the worst action to hit Hyndland here.)

Tales like this, and that of the woman found carting her front windows out in two buckets and telling them that she now had a diamond-studded piano, made it all sound somehow exciting to a small child, but even then I could sense the horror of my mother's lone vigil in that same house after my father had gone overseas with the RAF, to live in a tiny tent in the Western Desert. Her own parents lived only 10 minutes' walk away, and she often stayed with them, but every now and again had to return home to look after it and ensure that it wasn't requisitioned for rehousing in her absence.

When the war was still a recent memory and the gap sites from demolished buildings still somewhere to play and the underground air-raid shelters even better, I used to wonder how anyone coped with being normal while it went on. I still wonder - just as I wonder how the families of serving soldiers do today. I think they were made of stern stuff, my parents - and I can't help thinking their life together after it was all over must have been an unthinkable joy for them.

And that's worth remembering too.

1 comment:

  1. It is fascinating to read the account of the air raids in Hyndland. We grew up with the gap sites and heard vague snippets but I had no idea about the terrible loss of life. I wish I'd asked more....