Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Remembrance Day - Kindertransport


  This Remembrance Day I skype my Royal Marine mate, Stacks, and he asks me to sing, as always.  Follow link to hear Stacks's first request today
  He especially remembers Harrison, I Luke McCulloch. We cry. 
  I remind him of the only time I've had the last word with him ever - when he was tearful at the Nelson Supper in 2010.
  'Look at you,' I'd said. 'What's the quote?  "The colonel, like most military men, was really abnormally sensitive".'
  Thumbs pressed to his eyes Stacks had guessed, 'Laurence of Arabia: The Seven PIllars of Wisdom.'
  'No.  Miss Marple, The Body in the Library.'
  He reminds me of my first tour entertaining in Iraq when I was lippy to him onstage, and he upended me, ran out of the venue with me over his shoulder and dumped me on a strategically placed tank, refusing to let me down again until I had sung the song he asked for. Me, above the wire in the wilds of Um Qasar, in a white frilly tutu - a conspicuous target, has to be said - while insurgents were shelling away in the desert. 
  'Stop panicking,' Stacks had shouted up at me. 'I'd hardly be standing here leaving you up there if that was something going on to be concerned at. I told you - they're busy with weddings just now. They're just making a bit of noise. Maybe in response to us sending up a warning shot or three to encourage them to cool it with the all night mix of Demis Russous's "Forever and Ever". Anyway, don't change the subject, Little Miss Quaking.  Sing.'
  We don't mention him getting shot in Afghanistan, though I suspect he's thinking of this when he's scratching his cleavage, just where the now almost completely faded bullet wound would be. If he's going out on the pull in Manchester, and thinks the wound is too faded, he will enhance it with make-up. 
  Today I tell him about what I saw on Sunday, on my way back to Suffolk. 

  Walking through Liverpool Street station I noticed a girl in a red dress, her shoes on the floor at her feet, clutch-bag on the Kindertransport memorial.  She was staring post-muntedly in the direction of the Bishopsgate exit, echoing the girl statue in the memorial staring across at platform six. 
  Two women in their sixties walked towards the memorial.  They had greying finger-primped hair and were wearing virtually identical blue anoraks, woolen trousers and hiking boots.  
  ‘We’ll just wait for her to go from in front of it, actually,' one of them whispered. 'You’ll have noticed that her dress is dyed?  The filigree work hasn’t got any light or shade to its colour.’  
  They walked exactly parallel with each other in the direction of the Barbican.
  A few minutes later a boy hurried up to the girl in the red dress.  Out of breath he opened a carrier bag and took out brown knee socks, black calf-boots and light-grey crocheted cardigan.
  ‘Not this one, obviously,’ the girl said, huffily; but she put on the poncho, socks and boots and shoved her evening shoes into the carrier bag, which she handed to the boy before walking off.  He looked irrelevantly into the bag, then followed her. 
  The two women came back.  Again exactly parallel they stood together at the memorial, the one who had commented on the girl’s dress being dyed directly in front of the inscription, the other to one side.  They read about the ten thousand Jewish children fleeing unaccompanied in 1938 and 1938 from Germany on trains, eventually arriving in Liverpool Street to be taken in by foster families.  
  ‘This was how mum was saved,’ said the only one to have spoken.  'She never saw any of her real family alive again.  Hardly any of the kids did.'
  She nodded briskly at the inscription, then looked up at the little girl statue.    
  ‘Oh…’ she said, and reached up to the front of the girl’s jacket, gently tweaking the bronze it as if to smooth away a crease.
 Then they walked away, still exactly parallel, paces matching, except closer together now. 

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