Tag Archives: World War II

Four Things

8 Sep
An used toilet paper roll

Image via Wikipedia

Have you noticed the date?  8/9/10 

That’s all I have to say about that.


Sad news for us: we lost our littlest fish: she who must not be named because I named her after a friend and I don’t want to say ‘X is dead.’  She was just a weak fish, we think; though she had a hearty appetite.  I gave her a worthy burial with the crisp packets and apple peelings.


I was going to write that today marks the seventieth anniversary of the start of the Blitz but I got it confused with the fortieth anniversary of the founding of Saatchi & Saatchi; don’t ask me how.  The Blitz anniversary was actually Tuesday 7th September.  1000 German planes flew across the North Sea to see us off. And failed miserably.


I’m still enjoying Vivinfrance’s war memoirs; they are fascinating.  She told a story about her Dad and some black market sugar, and it reminded me of my Dad and the toilet paper.  When we emigrated to South Africa in 1982, we had no money (one of the reasons for emigrating in the first place).  Dad was working for Sasol, a huge corporation that turned coal into petrol.  To help our grocery budget, my father the usually honest would come off shift with a toilet roll taken from the men’s loos.  One day, he heard from a colleague that the company was cracking down on staff pilfering – stationery, equipment, and so on – and he went home in a panic and he and Mum spent an entire night ripping up a hundred half-used toilet rolls and flushing them down the toilet.  What really made me laugh was that it was unmarked paper and the company couldn’t have come in to the house asking to see it.  The price of a guilty conscience, I guess: a huge water bill.



Of This ‘n’ That

12 Aug

You may recall I wrote about the Hub’s trip to Madagascar a while back, and the awful poverty he witnessed, particularly amongst the street children.  I just read a cheering article in earthtimes which reports on things being done to give them the tools to improve their lot.


I get quite a few hits from people looking for information on how life was lived during the Second World War, so I’m going to direct you to Vivinfrance, who has started posting her memories of life as a child during the Blitz.  Highly recommended!


The Big Tent prompt this week was ‘possessions’.  I did write something which isn’t very good, but I thought this one I wrote a couple of years ago about the run-up to the first free & fair elections  in South Africa was better.  

Pre-Election Jitters 

Civil war is on the tip of the country’s tongue.
You might have to flee for your life:
what do you pack in your truck?

Dried goods
Canned food
Can opener
Two 25 gallon drums of petrol
Ammunition for the firearm
you keep at your hip
A map to Zimbabwe

The things you need to survive.

You fear the day is coming soon.
You might be one of the lucky few
to be airlifted out of the country
by your former government.
What do you put in your tiny suitcase?

Family photographs
Video tapes of your baby
His first curl
The battered jewellery box
that was a gift
from your parents
on your 11th birthday
The jewellery in it
(inexpensive; sentimental)

The things you need to survive
to make surviving matter.

16 July, 1906

16 Jul

My Granddad – my Dad’s dad – was born on this date, so he would have been 104 today, if he hadn’t died in 1964 at the age of fifty-eight.

I never knew him; I was six months old when he died. I do know that he had pianist’s fingers, because my Dad and one of my brothers and I have them too. Only Granddad actually played the piano, though.

My Mum once told me that when I cried as a baby, Granddad would rub my knee and it made me stop.

He was an abandoned child: he was found on the steps of Liverpool Workhouse and later adopted.

He fought in World War Two and didn’t get on – in later life – with my Nan. He would go out in all weathers to collect money; I think he was what was once known as a ‘tally man.’

And that’s all I know. It’s kind of sad, isn’t it? It’s one of the reasons I blog: at least my boys will know as much as I can share with them.

Sorry; I’m not in a laughing mood today.




I had this from my elder brother:


If I remember Dad correctly he was in the 3rd Cheshire Regiment during the war and finished as a Sergeant Major . He was one of the first British troops to enter Belsen and the things he saw there affected him for the rest of his life. My own memories of him are very dim, I was only eight years old when he died, but I liked him a lot. The night Dad told me he had died I ran up the stairs to my room and cried for hours.
Kevin has his medals, if I remember correctly they are all campaign medals, but something, and someone, to be proud of anyway.


27 May

I have two anniversaries coming up this month. On 30th June thelaughinghousewife will be one year old. Look forward to an exciting post: I’ll share my statistical analysis with you to celebrate.

That’s the last day of June; on the first day of June I will have been married to the Hub for twenty-five years. Look forward to a…umm…post: I’ll share my autopsy with you to celebrate.

Today, however, is a real anniversary: it is seventy years since the evacuation of Dunkirk began. I don’t know if this story is known anywhere except in Britain, so let me give you a brief summary:

In 1940, the Germans forced British and French troops back onto the beach at Dunkirk in France. British Navy ships couldn’t get in close enough to rescue them so Churchill sent out the call for everyone with a little boat on the coast of Britain to sail over the English Channel and help out; around 900 responded. In just over a week, almost 340,000 men were saved. We consider it a victory, despite losing all of our heavy equipment. Whenever Brits pull together in a crisis, we call it ‘Dunkirk spirit’.


Wikipedia has this interesting fact: The St George’s Cross

flown from the jack staff is known as the Dunkirk jack and is only flown by civilian ships and boats of all sizes that took part in the Dunkirk rescue operation in 1940. The only other ships permitted to fly this flag at the bow are those with an Admiral of the Fleet on board.

I was privileged to once meet a Dunkirk survivor. As a teenager, I went to visit my Nan and she was out. Her neighbour invited me in for a cup of tea while I waited for her to return; I spotted a framed certificate and he told me he got it because he was at Dunkirk, and proceeded to give a first-hand account. I was fascinated but this happened thirty years ago and I very much regret that I don’t remember anything of what he told me; I wish I had kept a notebook in those days.

Sky News is showing the flotilla of original Dunkirk rescue boats setting off for France this morning to commemorate the anniversary. Sky News is getting on my nerves at the moment. They need to sack the person in charge of the news ribbon at the bottom of the screen because their spelling is dredfu. I almost lost it yesterday when it came up with, ‘Should there be more academies?’ I started to write a snotty email to them saying, ‘Yes, there should; then you might be able to employ someone who can spell “acadamies” properly…’ and I realised that the Sky spelling was, in fact, correct. I have sworn the Hub to secrecy and after twenty-five years he knows better than to disobey me, so I think my error will remain unknown to the world. If it does get out, he better hope somewhere there’s a little boat waiting to take him to a safe harbour.

PostScript: You can read all about it here:


The Pianist

29 Dec

I was going to blog about Boxing Day and after, but I have just watched The Pianist and I’m afraid I don’t feel lighthearted.  It is incredible to think we only have to scratch the surface of civilisation and all of that wickedness is bubbling beneath; and heroism, too.  It teaches me to be grateful for what I have and the time I am living in, imperfect as it is.

Remembrance Day

11 Nov

I read about something called a snowball poem at the weekend: first line has one letter, second two, and so on.  I’ve had a go but it was much harder than I expected to write something with those rules that made sense.  Given what day it is, I have gone with a remembrance theme.



Remembrance Day













Remembrance Sunday

8 Nov

War Memorial


I place my hand on

a name – any name – and pray.

I give thanks to a


God they despaired of;

thanks for their grave sacrifice.

So many lost faith.  


They died.  I live. My

freedom to pray, to believe –

or not – their great gift.







%d bloggers like this: