I’m sort of getting on, I suppose, but still quite fit, and I propose
To look back over the years I’ve spanned and see if this, my own homeland
Is better for the march of time,
or is it in some slow decline
Despite advances in all spheres of humankind these many years.
Well, the first thing that I recall
was running with Mum, joining all
In the mad rush, just helter-skelter to the nearest air-raid shelter,
Seeing all the searchlight beams probing skyward catching gleams
Of aircraft, glowing silver shapes, vainly trying to escape.
Then sat inside and listening to the throb-throb as the engines grew
With sinister, foreboding sound, and then the whistle as the ground
Beneath our feet shivered and shook, yet I sat there reading my book,
For this was just a normal night
for young children, we knew no fright..
At last, as things did not improve,
my Mum decided we must move
and so with label tied to my lapel and stood beside
My sister, we went to the station, waiting for evacuation,
Wondering what the future held, but al my fears were soon dispelled.
It was my lucky circumstance to be taken in by chance,
By an old couple on a farm, a small one, but so full of charm
Was Auntie Mary, Uncle Ted, that as they showed me to my bed
My undue fears faded away, and I knew that I was there to stay.
And through the next two happy years, trouble free, my infant fears
Were dissipated, pushed away, to be replaced by childhood play,
Helping with the farming chores, milking cows, sat on the horse
While pulling, ploughing, reaping
corn, starting out from early morn.
When, at last the war was done, and
all the soldiers returned home,
Life reassumed normality, but as a weary, tired country,
We had to face restrictions worse than in the war, and so perverse,
When we had thought that all was fine, we still had years of toil and grind.
But every lining on a cloud has silver in it, and we found
That with the strict supply of food our general health was very good
And whippet-like our population, profiting from some starvation,
Found themselves quite well and fit, although
not really liking it!
And so, in time, recovery took place so back
to school went we
learn the three ‘R’s, discipline, for our schoolmasters did not win
Respect by being soft and nice, hard work was all that would suffice,
And they knew what it all was for, why most of them had fought a war.
We learned, for we knew we would gain a few well-aimed strokes of the cane
If we should shirk our daily tasks and do exactly as they asked,
But in the process we learned well, as competence to read and spell
Showed in our general education,
to our advantage, and the nation.
At last when reaching fifteen years
and leaving school, there were no fears
Of being without work, I found, apprenticeships were all around
For craftsmen were in constant need for as a nation in the lead
Of manufacturing quality, skills were needed urgently.
Like many others that I met, I had been an army cadet
For some years, as it was the way at camp for a cheap holiday,
So after trying Civvy Street for a short time I chanced to meet
A friend who said I’d be a fool if I didn’t join Apprentice School.
And so I joined this brotherhood of boys, who wanted to make good,
Choosing a military career, to learn a trade with very clear
Promotion prospects much in mind, a lifetime venture where I’d find
The travel, action I’d enjoy,
and dreamed of when a little boy.
Well, er, it wasn’t quite like
that I found, as I discovered to the sound
Of raucous bellowing each day, while earning seventeen and six in pay,
While six bob, which was pocket money was all we got - it wasn’t funny,
And as a sum it wasn’t vast, but did teach us to make it last!
This was the time when conscription was in full swing, and anyone
Of eighteen years or thereabouts was more than likely singled out
For two full years to serve the nation relinquishing
an army staffed with more veterans of the last world war.
Therefore, the discipline was tough,
and as I found out soon enough,
When told to jump I leapt about, to every lance-jack’s urgent shout,
Harassed and bullied at every turn, but quickly urging me to learn
How to survive this life I led, but learned, it stood me in good stead.
For three years I was taught and trained in soldiering, to use my brains
In trade and technicalities, unknowing, as I did all this
That I was forming lifelong ties of brotherhood that never dies
Though years may pass along the way,
that which is born will always stay.
And so into the army, where I served
twelve years and watched, aware
Of massive changes undergone, the dying phase of conscription,
Where young men would no longer be required to serve their home country,
With no disruption in their lives, not having to leave homes and wives.
And yes, I did travel the world, well, Middle East, twice, with my lovely girl
Whom I had married in ‘sixty-two, and she’s been there all the years through,
At the sharp end in Cyprus and later in
Aden, this faithful and steady Berkshire maiden
Who gave me two children the best in the world a fantastic son and a beautiful girl.
Returning from Aden in time for demob, we settled in Derbyshire; plenty of jobs
Were available then for time served engineers, and while still abroad we had no real fears
Of finding a place to live, for we had seen a house which was under construction and been
Affordable, so we put down a deposit to
save it for when we returned - though a move – somewhat brave!
Adapting again to civilian ways was
quite interesting, finding in those early days
That the work ethic wasn’t as strong in the main, and restrictive practices were a real pain
In achieving a level of work satisfaction – the objective aimed to be one of inaction,
As it seemed that the workers were far from forgiving, assuming the world really owed them a
But at last I found a job that I enjoyed. As an engineer with a van I was
service and maintenance of forklift trucks, plenty of freedom and on big bucks,
So in the materials handling trade I remained, engineering and eventually made
The transition from blue to white collar employ, and politics that I didn’t really enjoy.
And through all the years from the Seventies on, as a service technician I’d often gone
Into all sorts of places where industry thrived, and others where workers often contrived
To do little or nothing for maximum
gain, with unions and management in mutual disdain
Of each other and failing to see where it led, until ultimately their death rites were read.
I watched hopelessly at industry’s slide, as one by one they headed for suicide
By striking for pay which they scarcely had earned, and weak management, which neither had learned
Was a gift for the other industrial nations who stood by, while sneering at our ‘industrial
pocketing contracts in the consequence of those whom had been failed by our incompetence.
it did seem that we, as a nation succumbed to the notion that all of the world would assume
That no one could do things as well as we did, and consequently we waved good-bye as our bids
For the contracts, which we’d always thought as our right, vanished without a trace of competitive fight.
For we, as a nation had no thought
of giving, thinking the world had still owed us a living.
And now as I sit in my foxhole and
peer at the things which surround me, I reluctantly fear
That this modern world isn’t really a patch on the one I grew up in, it can’t really match
The quality of life that we enjoyed then, much gentler, less strident, more disciplined, when
We could speak up in public without second thought, and manners, respect
were the things we were taught.
We were quite lucky, our Dads were away
fighting hard for our freedom, while we had to play
In the wreckage of houses that lay on the ground from the previous nights bombing, and often the sound
Of the wail of the sirens got us out of our beds, scampering to the shelters to lay weary heads
On the musty, damp pillows and quietly pray that we’d be alive to see
a new day.
But life was quite simple, we knew who we were, and though we were poor, not
it, everyone else being in the same boat, austerity being quite normal, we thought.
And a phrase which was commonly quite often heard, was, “It’s a free country”, these were the words
That we all believed, for a war had been fought for our freedom and liberty - or so we thought.
Not now though, it seems, and you don’t hear it said, for thoughts that we harbour must
stay in our head,
offence is so easily taken, it seems, and that freedom we knew is now the stuff of dreams
As the burgeoning populace of this great land stifles that which our fathers had fought for and planned
As place where their children could live as they had, a stable, safe country, now fading, so sad.
Reflecting on ‘progress’, it does seem to me that it is not advancement, necessarily,
For instance, I seem to recall, as
a boy, on birthdays the anticipation and joy
When the postman would leave lots of cards in the door and then after lunch no doubt, many more,
For the mail very early, in the morning would come, then another delivery, the same day was the norm,
And all without fail, weather sunny or damp, for the one single price of a two-penny stamp!
So call me an old misery if you will, I’m one of the last to see life when it still
Was dependent on cart horses, steam
engine power, when poverty was very real, and the flower
Of manhood in our nation was lost yet again to war’s callous ledger of suffering and pain,
But they fought and they died to prevent the invasion of others that wished to subjugate our nation.
I now look around and, inclined to compare what I see, with all that I well remember,
See a sloppy, dumbed - down world, no manners, no ties, restrictive and selfish, I really despise
The ambulance chasing part of our
nation seeking unjustified false compensation
For imagined insult or injury brought, which in those bygone years would be laughed out of court.
And as for the Westminster shower that rule – most seem to have only lately left school,
Now rejoice in the title of ‘Professional Politicians’ whose sole aim in life is naked ambition
To climb to the top of their own greasy pole, not one measures up to the members of old
Who were patriots, worldly, successful,
before they entered this world to attempt to give more.
There are some oases of hope that
I see in this shallow world of inane celebrity,
It isn’t all self-serving negative affairs, there are still a great many people who care,
And maybe, just maybe, we’ll get to return to those values remembered and sincerely yearned
For. For Britain has fought many things which beset her, and does deserve really, to be so much