#52Ancestors52Weeks: Gone too soon!
I am now the last of my tribe!
single symmetry silence
the knight remains still standing
life slipping dipping seeps
a lion in shadowed clothing
tilts at windmills and weeps
his cotton wool life floating
eyes watering tearing thin
water splashes not for drinking
long lines fence him in
no punctuation to his rhythm
no wife no house no child
just a wild ride and I his kin
a single life solitary thin
what purpose he asks for his season
why eighty plus years alive
does he endure for a reason
he wishes he knew why
pastimes of darkness no harming
stories unraveled secrets found
minus trappings or calming
he lived in simple surrounds
could he regret or wonder why
no baggage or legacy to squeeze
no harvested things his core I
life meager and small and bereaved
whispered sounds he is hearing
nagging to begin or to end
time to put right without cheering
all the things that we bend
chairs now empty and worn
where once friends might sit
he grieves now for the more
than the less he had bid
no lights for him beaming
he treads mid-cobwebbed debris
among boards wet and shining
paths never taken never free
make haste now it’s moving
from one place to another shared
no treatment he is saying
don’t waste time nothing spare
he might yet be okay fractions
could reach beyond another year
self-loathing his prior actions
body aching from sins tears
pale skinned he sits yearning
no tripping no falling no cheer
small room small life earning
ending not appealing or clear
we two walk together avowed
just to the end of the pier
fond memories moments allowed
waves all around brother dear
Brian’s Birth Story
On September 15, 1940, Brian Cecil and Michael Henry were born during the London Blitz, an event that brought immense danger and uncertainty to the city and its surrounding areas. Their parents, Winifred Edith and Cecil Henry were trying to escape from London in their taxi when they came under attack by enemy snipers. Seeking safety, Cecil drove the cab under a bridge. This was when Winifred went into labour. They were fortunate enough to find shelter at the home of Madam Barishnikov, a Russian immigrant living in Oxford. Despite the chaos and danger outside, Madam Barishnikov provided a safe haven for the family and helped with the birth of the twins. Winifred did not know she was having twins, so it was all quite shocking for her. It was, nevertheless, a moment of great relief and joy for the family, and their arrival brought a glimmer of hope in the midst of a dark time in British history. The fact that Brian and Michael were born shows how strong and tough the human spirit can be when things don’t go as planned.
The London Blitz was a terrifying and devastating campaign of the bombing that took place during World War II. The bombing lasted for 57 consecutive nights, from September 7, 1940, to May 11, 1941, and was carried out by the German Luftwaffe. On Sunday 15 September 1940, the Luftwaffe launched its largest and most concentrated attack against London in the hope of drawing out the RAF into a battle of annihilation. This attack was part of the Battle of Britain, which had been raging for months and was the first major campaign to be fought entirely by air forces.
Around 1,500 aircraft took part in the air battles on that fateful day, which lasted until dusk. The action was the climax of the Battle of Britain, a key turning point in the war. The RAF had been fighting to defend Britain’s skies from the Luftwaffe, and the events of September 15 marked the high point of this struggle.
For Cecil and Winifred, the events of that day would have been particularly harrowing. They were in Oxford at the time, having fled London in an attempt to escape the bombing. But even in Oxford, the threat of the Luftwaffe was ever-present, and the events of September 15 would have brought that threat into sharp relief. They would have been acutely aware of the devastation that was being wrought on London, and the danger that their own family was in.
Even though the attack was very big, the people of London showed a lot of courage and strength during the Blitz. New forms of civil defense, such as air raid shelters and blackout curtains, were introduced, and people worked together to support each other through the crisis. There was a sense of unity and solidarity that emerged in the face of the bombing, with people coming together to help each other in any way they could.
Today, September 15, is Battle of Britain Day. September 15 is now an annual commemoration of the battle in the United Kingdom. It serves as a reminder of the bravery and sacrifice of those who fought to defend Britain’s skies during the war. For Cecil and Winifred, and for countless others who lived through the Blitz, the events of September 15 will never be forgotten. They were a defining moment in British history and a testament to the courage and determination of the people who lived through them.
For Brian and Michael, the tumultuous events surrounding their birth have been a talking point all of their lives.
During the war in the UK, the government set up a strict rationing system to make sure that food was shared fairly and that everyone had access to the most important things.
Cecil and Winifred and their young family would have been affected by rationing to the fullest extent. They would have been given ration books and a limited number of coupons that they could trade for certain kinds of food. The amount of food that each person was allowed was carefully calculated based on their age, occupation, and dietary needs.
Certain foods were particularly scarce and were therefore strictly rationed. Meat, for example, was in short supply and heavily rationed. People were only allowed a few ounces of meat per week, and it was often of poor quality. Fresh fruit and vegetables were also difficult to come by, and people had to rely on canned or dried goods instead.
To compensate for the lack of fresh produce, people turned to alternative sources of food. They grew their own vegetables in gardens and allotments and foraged for wild berries and mushrooms. They also made use of the limited supplies of sugar and flour to bake cakes and bread.
Households were also given powdered eggs to use instead of fresh eggs, which was another popular choice. They were often used in baking and cooking, but many people found them unpalatable and would mix them with fresh eggs to improve their taste.
In addition to food, other essential items were also rationed, including clothing and fuel. People had to make do with what they had and were encouraged to repair and reuse items rather than throw them away.
Overall, rationing was a difficult but necessary part of life during the war. People had to be resourceful and creative to make the most of what they had, and they learned to appreciate the simple pleasures of life. Despite the challenges, the sense of community and shared sacrifice helped to bring people together and create a sense of solidarity in the face of adversity.
On June 12, 1944, a V-1 flying bomb hit London for the first time. This attack caused widespread panic and damage. Even though Kingston, Surrey, wasn’t the main target of the attack, it was close enough to London to feel the full force of the explosion.
In the aftermath of the attack, the streets of Kingston would have been filled with the sound of sirens and the wailing of people in distress. There would have been a sense of chaos and confusion as people rushed to safety, seeking shelter from the blast. The sound of exploding bombs could be heard in the distance, causing fear and anxiety in all who heard them.
Brian and Michael, now aged 4, would have been too young to fully understand the danger that they were in. However, they would have been acutely aware of the chaos and fear that surrounded them. They may have seen their parents rushing around, trying to keep them safe and find shelter from the bombing. Young children would have been very scared by the sudden, loud noises and flashes of light. They would have clung to their parents for comfort. Not so for the young twins, as they would often be caught outside in the street listening to the sound of the doodlebugs.
The twins recall the terrifying sounds of the bombing and are still surprised when they hear the same sounds in movies or museums.
In the aftermath of the attack, the streets of Kingston would have been filled with rubble and debris. Buildings would have been damaged or destroyed, and there would have been a sense of desolation and despair as people tried to come to terms with the scale of the destruction.
Despite the fear and uncertainty that they would have experienced, the people of Kingston showed remarkable resilience in the face of the bombing. They came together to support each other, offering help and comfort to those in need. The events of June 12, 1944, were a stark reminder of the dangers that the people of Britain faced during the war, but they also served as a testament to the courage and strength of the human spirit in times of crisis.
Gone too soon!
They now rest in peace – gone too soon – these twin brothers of mine! Brian passed away at the age of 82 on Thursday 2 March 2023, just one week ago. Michael passed away at the age of 79 on 11 January 2019. My other three siblings, Pamela, John, and Patricia, are all gone too and I am the last of my tribe!
2 thoughts on “Celebrating a life!”
Condolences on the loss of your last remaining brother. The poem is a moving memento.
Thank you Eileen! Much appreciated.
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