Home Fires – SoCS June 11/16

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Reconnecting with times gone by, my growing up years, the comforting rhythm of a warm and welcoming family home, the transistor radio on the kitchen table providing a constant, mellow-voiced background to my life, my parents, my sister and brother.

I listen now, some voices familiar, some new, the rhythm of their families entwined with mine. Rolling countryside, lives dictated by sowing crops, milking cattle, harvesting when the weather dictates. I can see, in my mind’s eye, the sun, the rain, the laughter, the tears, as if they were mine.

It feels like coming home, this fictitious place, this Ambridge. Fifteen minutes a day, six days a week, the longest running drama in history. It’s been a part of my life for decades. Thank you, Radio 4, for reminding me of home.


Here’s my entry into the lovely Linda’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday, where this week she invites us to write anything including a word using the letters ‘mb’. I was listening to The Archers on BBC Radio’s iPlayer when I saw her prompt and it just seemed to fit. For those of you outside the UK, The Archers, a radio drama, has been running since 1950 and the first producer, who had originally worked on agricultural programmes, hoped that farmers in particular would pick up ideas on how to feed a country that was still subject to food rationing post World War Two. It continued with this heavy emphasis on education until the early 1970s, when the drama began to take precedence. Personally speaking, I still learn a lot from it, and I can hear the echo of farming news in the storylines (Radio 4 also produces Farming Today at the crack of dawn, and many of the issues discussed in  this news programme are reflected in The Archers over time).

The Archers has a loyal fan base, of all ages. There is a blog here, if you are interested, and the lovely Stephen Fry has an introduction to what it’s about here.

Anyway, thank you to  Linda for hosting this prompt again this week. Do hop on over to her blog to read all the other entries – they are guaranteed to be extremely varied!

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Tikvah

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There I was just standing there, when what I wanted to do was forbidden.

I wished I had more strength, wished I was more brave, wished I had the strength of my grandmother. Even now I could feel her downy cheek on mine as she had grasped the back of my neck with her surprisingly strong fingers, pressing her lips to my ear.

“Don’t let them break you, Esther. Do what is right.” She had kissed my forehead, the remnants of the perfume she always wore enveloping me in its warm familiarity.

They had dragged her away, a useless old woman, of no benefit, just a drain on finite resources. Dispensable.

I had hated them for that more than anything else. It burned in my chest. And yet…

I stared through the hole in the wall at the shop across the street, a street alien to me now even though it was only a moment away from where we lived. It was brightly lit, swarming with gaily dressed people like so many butterflies dancing above a wildflower meadow. The smell of freshly baked bread teased my nostrils and my stomach yawed and ached with hunger.

“If you don’t take chances,” said the man in the striped pajamas,”you might as well not be alive.”

I had seen him many times before, crouching in the gutter, holding his hand out for anything that a passer by might press into his cracked palm. I doubted he had the strength to stand. Every time we met, I tried to give him something that could be spared without Mutti noticing.

He was leaning against the wall, legs shaking with the effort. “Don’t be like me. Don’t let them break you.”

The words echoed bell-like.

“You have a child?” he asked, his voice barely a croak.

“Yes.”

He beckoned me towards him, pulling me close with surprising strength, whispering in my ear.

“Let me distract them when the gate opens. Get food for your child, for you. Survive.”

The gates were creaking open, the lorry was entering, my heart was thumping. I had to decide, had to decide now. He pushed me away, towards the gate.

“Do it!” he hissed, the potential for his last good deed setting his eyes aflame. “You have half an hour and then they will be back. Do what you must. Do what is right!.”

I remembered my grandmother, the way she lit the candles on Erev Shabbat, the flames illuminating her eyes.

I nodded and ran. I didn’t look back, not even when the bullets ricocheted off the walls, not even when jackboots rang on the cobbles, not even when I heard him scream.

He had just been standing there, and still fought back.

There was still tikvah.

Paix – Magpie Tales

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My father is staring at me, hard.

It has been years since we spent any time alone. I had been a judgmental daughter, belligerent, unable to accommodate the shades of grey in a life that I was convinced could only consist of black or white, right or wrong

I had grown into an adult, still believing my teenage views.

The past few months had ripped the rug from underneath my feet.

“Not a traitor? Not a traitor?”

I see him with new eyes. He is just a man. Just a human being like the rest of us. He is not a monster, just like my mother was not a traitor. They had paid high prices for living through times when making the right decision depended on so many inconceivable and unimaginable horrors.

And I had judged them both with hindsight.

“No. Not a traitor.”

His body sags. I can’t tell if this is with relief, or despair.

He reaches out a hand, an old hand. He has aged since we last met. I take his hand and my index finger caresses the thin gold wedding band he still wears despite everything.

“Thank you for telling me, Celine. It will never bring her back and you may never forgive me for taking your mother away so brutally, but at least she never betrayed us.”

Semantics, I think. It is all but semantics.

——

Here’s my latest entry to Magpie Tales. This is the finale in my six part story which began in the midst of World War Two. Here are the fiveprevious instalments in order, if you want to indulge! Croix de Guerre, Collborateur, Oubliette, Verité and Honneur.

I hope you enjoy this week’s entry- and please do visit Magpie Tales for amazing poetry and prose!

 

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