Much of yesterday's coverage of the commemoration of the Normandy landings was very moving. I'm aware how incredibly fortunate I was to have enjoyed the company of my adored father over a long and happy life. When he was demobbed from the army and returned home he found his young daughter, as he described me, "running wild." His discipline was strict. Who was this stranger who had come to live in our house and was bossing me about? Our characters were very similar and for a while he had another battle on his hands!
At school in the late 'forties some of the pupils had no father and teachers had lost husbands and fiancés. The country was pretty much on it's knees, but my memory is of everyone being very happy. Family gatherings and get-togethers with friends, group picnics or parties with silly games, these occasions were always full of laughter. I realise now that the adults were euphoric just to be alive.
In this photo I'm standing with my father on the old pack-horse bridge in Thornthwaite, Yorkshire, where we had a small weekend cottage. My long hair has been tightly plaited and a Fair isle beret, a present from my Scottish relatives, is crammed down on my head. I've just about out-grown that coat, but in post-war Britain there was still rationing and you hung onto things for as long as you could! And you can tell from my stance that I was a bit of a madam!
The Bell Tent
When war was over
and Dad was free
to come back home and live with me
he bought a bell tent from the army.
Other people thought him barmy.
Huge and dark the space within,
where we could play and make a din,
run rings around the central pole,
emerge to sunlight like a mole
from dark brown canvas, flattened grass,
odour sweet as memory has.
No thoughts from us of men at war,
boots to the pole, heads to the door.
On holidays away we went,
dogs, parents, children in the tent.
My mother would not sleep inside
unless the door was opened wide,
and several times we'd start the day
with a cow's face or donkey's bray.
We'd climb up hills and gaze around,
our home a little mole-hill mound
beneath, and way up in the sky
we saw a golden eagle fly.
No thoughts from us of those poor men
who'd never see this land again.