In the 5-11 category…
“The Friendless Jellyfish” by Anneke Henning
Once in the Atlantic Ocean there lived a rather unusual jellyfish. She was a wonderful pink colour with long flowing tentacles but a little too small for her age therefore she found it hard to make friends.
One day she plucked up the courage to go and find some friends, as she left her home, she took a deep breath and was on her way. She swam along, determined in her quest. Casually she glanced to her left and saw a larger fish with long razor-sharp teeth. Her eyes widened as she saw the teeth. She knew that this would not be a good friend but before she could think anything else the shark said “stay calm, I prefer calm jellyfish for my tea.” She panicked and hid in a gap in the coral and watched him speed of.
But just as she thought she was safe she looked down and saw a long scaly green back. Near to the end of it she saw two white eyes and 100 spiky white teeth. She realised this was not coral this was Mr Crocodile. Then the crocodile started to slither around the jellyfish. He said “stay calm I prefer calm jellyfish for tea.” She darted off and anxiously hid in the sand and watched him disappointedly walk off.
When she was sure she was safe she gave a sigh of relief and came out of her hiding place. She turned round for one last look and saw the sand move. She touched it just to make sure it was sand but as soon as she did, she bounced off it and said “ouch! What was that?” She realised it was a sting ray. The sting ray said “stay calm I prefer calm jellyfish for tea”. She slipped out of sight and hid between two rocks. She watched him disappear back into his hiding place.
She turned around and looked at the rock and noticed it had been decorated with driftwood. Then she came across a door with a note on it which said ‘come in’ so she did. Inside she saw a glowing light and a warm dinner on the table of seaweed sandwiches and pink pate. There was a bright orange starfish, it was almost like the starfish knew the jellyfish was coming. She welcomed her in for tea.
As the jellyfish tucked in, she said to herself “now she’s a good friend!”
They chatted all afternoon and became best of friends. Over the years they had lots of sleepovers and midnight feasts. They shared Christmas and birthday celebrations and never (well almost never) fell out.
“The Printing Error” by Claudia Summers
It was a busy night in the Stormie District Maternity Hospital. By the time the morning light stabbed through the blinds, seven hundred baby bugs had hatched.
They squirmed and made little chub chub noises, softly opening and closing their clam like mouths. Their enormous crusty eyes were still shut tight and would remain so until day five.
The old hospital was painted brown, the smell was a curious a mix of blood and custard. An old boxy computer perched at the front desk. Behind the computer slumped an ancient nurse called a Gubgrub, they were like friendly slugs with eyes on stalks. The lack of spine made any sudden movements impossible. It was slowly typing backwards, whilst referring to a steel trolley piled high with egg cases. The once perfect spherical amber jewels now resembled cold apple crumble.
Each baby was placed into a wooden crib. At the far end of the room, a few golden cribs stood waiting, these sparkled in the churning dusty air and were the only clean items in the hospital. Armies of Gubgrubs patrolled the rows of babies and made notes on clipboards whilst groaning every time they had to bend or twist.
All infants received glibber juice by the bottle, they snatched at it with their flappy webbed fingers and you could hear the scratch of their jaggy nails on the plastic as they gulped at the brown fluid.
After feeding, their elastic little tongues would flick out feverishly to explore and whatever it landed on was examined carefully. Sometimes the tongues would slap onto the bars of the crib and wrap around, but mainly they would make contact with their nasal area where they stayed content for many hours just lapping gently in the continual ooze of green opaque slime.
Day five was approaching with great anticipation. This was the day the infants were declared Egnaro or Neerg as the bulging eyes domes crack open like walnuts to reveal glistening globes of green or orange.
The Gubgrubs were busy printing and sorting labels to fix onto the cribs. Everyone knew, Egnaro had orange eyes and Neerg had green. From this day forwards if you were lucky enough to be an Egnaro then you were considered a leader, if however, you were a Neerg you had to fit into the ways of life dictated by the Egnaro. It had it been like this for as long as anyone could remember.
But on day five, there was a terrible shock. The Gubgrub were ready with their labels flapping, everyone could hear the eyeballs creaking. But when the eyes suddenly snapped open, everybody gasped in confusion. They weren’t green or orange, they were RAINBOW! All the eyes were so beautiful, like translucent gems, shimmering gently through the stench.
After a long ten minutes of bewilderment, a Gubgrub rustling through the paperwork, whispered “Wobniar” and slowly turned their jelly body towards the computer to type up more labels.
Then a very old Gubgrub said “STOP that’s enough, no more stupid labels! Each and everyone is amazing!”
“The Truth” by Lyra Ayachi
One sunny morning at six a.m two sisters, Sydney and Zuri, went running out to their farm to see their favourite animals; Zuri went to the horses, and Sydney went to the sheep. For an hour, Zuri would ride her personal horse she named Mia, and then sit and write a story, meanwhile Sydney would make origami and draw, cuddled in to her sheep she named Kile. At seven a.m they would run back inside to eat breakfast, their mum made them toast with jam, they finished their food and went to school. Zuri was in P6 and Sydney was in P7, when Zuri got there she only hung out with one person named Layla, she was funny and adventurous, but not as adventurous as Zuri. She loved exploring and she did great at school, especialy English, while Sydney hung out with a big group of friends and loved Art. Their dad past away a year ago, he was really ill for a long time. After school, Zuri invited Layla over to write their school project, which was to write a factfile about your pet, but Layla doesn’t have a pet so Mr Jiles said they could do it together, so they both wrote a factfile about Mia. When Layla went home, Sydney and Zuri went to bed, in the middle of the night Zuri woke up and went downstairs to get water but she heard the front door close behind her. She went to go tell her mum, but she was gone, she thought her mum left so she woke up Sydney to tell her, ‘let’s go follow her’ said Sydney as she woke up. Zuri said it was too late ‘she’ll be long gone now, we should follow her tomorrow if she goes again.’
The next night they set an alarm for midnight, when it beeped they ran downstairs, they couldn’t help but wonder what she was doing, so they followed their mum into the forest. She ended up at a dead end, she checked if anyone was there; Sydney and Zuri were hiding behind a tree but the mum couldn’t see, she walked through the wall as if she were a ghost. They followed through and saw a whole new world, and their mum ran up to talk to somone, they couldn’t see clearly, but when they saw who she was talking to they gasped as they saw their dad before their eyes. Zuri said ‘he must of faked his death just to come here’,‘let’s go see’ mumbled Zuri, as they ran up and hugged him. Their dad said it was so much nicer there and you live forever, but that he was getting really ill, plus his grandmother made this place and his mom and dad live here too, ‘maybe one day you will come live here, there is even a school’. The girls both said they wanted to stay there with their family; they both brought the animals, and bought a new farm and took their belongings to take with them. Then they entered a new world and had lots of fun doing the things they love. They even made new friends and Zuri saw her best friend in P3 who apparently passed away, but turns out she was there all along. It was amazing, finally seeing their dad again and their mum came too, what they didn’t understand is why their parents didn’t tell them; the girls asked them and they said it was to keep them safe incase people come and destroy their home and a young witch, cursed this place for whenever this place gets destroyed, our family will be miserable for the rest of our lives. The truth is, they were going to tell the girls when they were 18 and 19 years old, the girls didn’t mind because they were just keeping them safe, they were a bit worried about the whole witch part, but they trusted that everyone will look after this world and we will be happy for as long as we know, so all together, they lived happily ever after.
“Perfect Minds” by Mary Broadsmith
Mai hated Law. With every inch of her soul. Hate might have been a strong word, but he deserved it.
It wasn’t his fault. His responsibility was to obey rules – he had to – but she wished that for once he’d listen to her.
“This is the best day of my life, this is the best day of my life,” she muttered again and again to herself. It’s going to be fine. She was so easily convinced by that lie, as much as she wished she wasn’t. She knew it would only shatter her more when reality hit. Looking out of the car window, she sighed, casting a mist against the glass.
The urban cityscape flooded past her unfocused, dark gold eyes like watercolours streaming across a page. If only Law said, “O.K, you can stay home this one time,” she thought, Just once. But she knew he would see through her desperate pleas. Her ability to lie was, honestly, tragically sad. But it was always worth a try.
Still, he knows what’s happening today. And now, when she wanted – she needed – his evasions and excuses and explanations for not taking her to school, he had said he would. Normally, she would’ve been happy he finally took some notice of her. This time was different though.
She suddenly came out of her daydreaming. He’s still talking about what’s going to happen today, she realised, feeling queasy as he spoke. Dad – Law – was saying how proud he was of her; how she was about to undergo the most important disaster of her life. Disaster…
She huffed again. She glanced at him; his dull brown hair ruffled by the air that came rushing in through the partially open window as he talked. She tucked a strand of her long black hair behind her ear, resting her chin on her hand and staring out of the window.
He hadn’t said disaster of course, he’d said something like occasion – she hadn’t been listening properly – but she thought, she hoped, they both acknowledged that she would be a failure. Disappointment was the worst expression Law could use on her. He’d prepared her for this event; even from when she was little. So long as there’s a chance I can pass, I’ll stay positive, she thought, I must make him proud. But to do that, she had to pass the Choosing. She clutched tightly to the few shards of hope she had left. Her mood deflated as she continued to think about the possibilities.
She paused in her trail of thought and studied all the sights she saw every single day on the way to school; things she should be bored of seeing. Things I might never see again.
The massive headquarters of the government – the Pyramid – in the middle of the city, the local park with the cherry tree coming into flower and posters of Love – the head of the government – splayed on every building. The nausea in her gut grew as they neared their destination.
She shifted in her black, leather seat and watched the shops drift past her window. Light danced off the skyscrapers onto people. People who were laughing and chatting in cafes, gripping their morning cups of coffee in both hands. All she could see were smiles from them – the Chosen.
“The Fall of Everdale” by Katie Murray-Smith
Ira awoke to the ear-piercing sounds of bloodcurdling screams. The room was black. She couldn’t breathe. The stench of sulphur dioxide overwhelmed her senses. Thick dark smoke ambushed her. Blinded and confused, she stumbled out of bed to the window. Looking on in horror, what she saw, felt like a nightmare.
Fire devoured everything in front of her. People were running like frightened mice in the streets below. Running, for their lives. Nowhere was safe. Soldiers filled the streets, but not ones she recognised, marching through the city with sword and torch in hand. They were set in heartless rows, upon rows, upon rows, stretching as far as the eye could see from an endless red horizon. All stamped to the same cold rhythm. All had the same destination. All converged to the same location, the palace. These weren’t humans. These were juggernauts. They had a shared purpose, destruction. And that, they were good at…it rained supreme wherever she looked, a swirling storm of bone chilling devastation ‘surely this couldn’t be real?’…
Suddenly, catching her by surprise something sharp and fast grabbed her from behind pulling her back. Ira let out a cry of alarm.
“Shhh!” hissed a voice “don’t worry its me.”
Ira recognise the voice, it belonged to her mother.
Of course, nothing about this situation was comforting, but it paid to know at the hand behind her wasn’t about to kill her.
“Now come on, before he finds you!” whispered her mum as she dragged Ira by her by the arm out of the room.
“Before, who finds me?” asked Ira with no clue what she was talking about. “I can’t explain now, we’ve got to hurry…”
And with that the pair bolted out of the door. Once in the corridor it became apparent that the horrific cries of innocent victims weren’t just coming from outside… who ever these people were, they had breached the castle walls!
Uderania must have noticed it too because for a split second she hesitated. Ira didn’t know what was more terrifying the inferno that surround them or the expression on her mother’s face. Ira had never seen her do it before, but she knew what it was it none the less. Terror. Her mother’s face had always been a as stock as a stone statue but now it was cracking like a china doll. The moment passed as quickly as it came and Uderania sprung back into life.
“We have to get you out of here! Now!”
The two hurtled through the pitch-black smoke in complete darkness, made worst by the ever-increasing onslaught of embers which buried themselves into Ira eyes, stinging like dagger wounds and causing them to bleed salty tears. Turning a corner, they descended a spiral staircase, two steps at a time. Then out into the main hallway, and across towards the castle’s north stables. All the while Ira was clinging to her mother’s hand, her only lifeline in the deadly labyrinth that had once been called her home. Above the roar of the raging fire and
crash of weapons against weapons, Ira could hear voices, orders “spread out and find her! We have to draw her out! She can’t last much longer in here…” Needless to say, Ira already new who they were talking about.
“Stay close to me.”
This was easier said than done, Ira could already feel her grip slipping and if she wasn’t careful, she’d lose hold entirely…
Suddenly a strong blast of hot air shot through a narrow passageway adjacent to their own, ripping Ira’s hair over her eyes for a split second. ‘What in the-’ Ira had no time to react, within milliseconds the flames were upon them. The tight limestone tunnels which connected the castle had become the perfect shafts to channel the blaze, they were activated cannon barrels. the world’s best inferno death-trap and Ira was in the centre of it. With nowhere to go the loaded fire smashed into the stone corridor, a curling mass of insatiable crimson. The colour of blood. One step closer and Ira would have been fried alive.
Flooding their escape route, the broth of swirling hell rattled of the walls. Ira felt the destructive tendrils of boiling heat tearing at her unprotected skin. The shock of the impact caused Ira to topple over. Fear set in. Desperate, she tried to scramble to her feet and run the other way but before she could do so there was a deafening sound of cracking timbers. The wooden rafters which held up the roof collapsed bringing the entire ceiling behind Ira down with them. She was trapped…
“Stars Are Different in that Valley” by Emily Davies
They said it would be impossible to fall in love with such monstrous beast, forever lingering, forever haunting. The drop of a pen falling through the presence of time drowning in my tears, oh please let me understand this world I have drifted out of.
It all starts with me, my name is Adelais. I am currently in class staring into the depths of a wall. Everyone’s voices feel so far away and quiet. I guess I have gone into a trance. When this happens, I normally enter non-existent cities and fields. I sense clips of my past all around me, sounds from when I was a child wondering a forest. A piano playing from another room whilst the rain taps on the roof. I have lost the place I stood, and I now feel free. Visions swirl every which way. Memories.
Until I hear the shot of a gun.
I suddenly gain my focus and the people around me seem to be in distress. I look around and see a girl who has collapsed onto her table. She has blonde hair and green eyes and stares right at me, I see blood pour from her table. Something about her felt strange. And everyone is heading for the door. I somewhat panic, I am not quite sure if now is the right time for me to die. I dislike how trapped I feel but love to wonder the endless possibilities of my imagination. I then consider that maybe there is some sort of chance that if I let the gun point at me maybe in the afterlife, I will feel freedom awake or asleep.
So, I stand and locate who holds the gun. There was no one. There was a closet which had been left half open. It seems I am stuck in this world for now. The walls of this classroom suddenly look so grey, the breeze from the open large glass windows goes through my hair and makes me feel calm in such an unnatural situation. I notice each individual poster on the wall.
I look at an old one which has the alphabet on it in rainbow letters even though this is now a year 11 maths class. It had the name Jack O Powell in the right corner. I felt as if I knew the name. It seemed as if it was the teacher’s son. But the surnames were different. There were flowers on the windowsill, two of them were gifts by a classmate of mine who always remembered the teacher’s birthdate. The white board had the explanation of quadratics on it. I could spend days just thinking about each item in this room. I look at the girl again, her name was Marie. She and I had never spoke to one another but there was a time where we glanced at each other in a French lesson and she smiled. “Why would someone shoot someone so beautiful and innocent?” I spoke to myself. And I remember one day I was sitting out on a bench and I could hear her voice coming from the music room. I heard footsteps and someone had entered the room. And then suddenly a dark voice came from behind me, “Because the most beautiful beings have the evillest souls”. I assumed right away this was the person who shot her. “Who are you?” I asked. “Just a shadow from peoples’ bad dreams” Then they left. I stood there, wondering if I should have turned around. Some part of me stopped me.
I put away all my school supplies into my bag, took my phone out and took a photo of Marie. I then left the classroom.
Everyone runs past me. I have been left behind. The light from the hallway shines around me, the echoing of birds throughout it. Why do I feel so at peace and isolated? I wish I could only live this one moment, so I take my steps slowly. I get to the exit and it begins to rain.
In the 18-100+ category…
“The Four Lords” by Toby Holmes
The Four Lords was one of the hundreds of Victorian-style hotels, you find in shitty, English seaside towns. The kind of hotel where half the staff are immigrants (mostly Polish) and paid a pittance. The kind of hotel where chambermaids come to work hungover, after spending their wages on drugs and alcohol the previous night. The kind of hotel where the waiters dress smartly in shirts and waistcoats – the former they had to buy themselves. The kind of hotel where only the elderly middle-class, who come to Smallchapel every year, still stay. The kind of hotel where an eighteen-year-old with no ambition ends up.
As I turned into the staff carpark, I knew I had just enough time to get ready for the shift. My mind went to autopilot: park the scooter, open the top box, gloves off, helmet off, lock the top box. Enter the hotel, say hi to Amy, down the corridor to the men’s locker room, key in the code, enter the locker roo— damn it, key in the correct code, enter the locker room. Bike gear off, old school shoes on, check my watch, yay time to piss. Empty my bladder, wash my hands, sort out my helmet hair, leave the locker room, remember to use the check-in machine (17:59 cutting it fine) and enter the kitchen.
The industrial kitchen is a furnace. It is designed to produce food and money. Money ignites the fire, but the catalysts, anger, excitement and fear, expedite the reaction. Stress and self-loathing are by-products.
I was hit with the smell of a dozen unfinished dishes. Service wasn’t for another hour, but there was always something happening. The chefs were preparing food, front of house were making coffee. If there was one thing I liked about my job it was the energy. I looked for a manager or supervisor, to whom I could make my timeliness known. Ahmed, the Restaurant Manager, was talking to a nervous looking boy of about sixteen, I hadn’t seen before.
‘Ah, Michael, how are you?’
‘Not bad…’ When you work with the same people, doing the same tasks each day, you get into a monotonous yet safe routine. Sometimes this routine is so predictable that the slightest deviation is cause for alarm. In this case it was the “Ah”.
‘Michael, this is James. He’s having a trial period in the restaurant and I’d like to start him off on mains-running.’ It was clear where this was going. I’d been a mains-runner since I’d started at The Four Lords, nearly a year ago. A mains-runner’s role was to carry the food from the kitchen to the station, and depending on the number of patrons, serve. It was rockbottom for a waiter and I doubted I’d be getting promoted anytime soon.
‘You want me to show him the ropes?’ It wasn’t really a question.
‘If it’s no trouble.’
I turned to James and offered my hand. He shook it tentatively, not meeting my eyes. I’ve never cared for polite smalltalk or any of the social niceties. The handshake was another matter entirely. It revealed a man’s substance, his strength of character. James wouldn’t last as a waiter – he had no grit.
If you’ve never been a waiter, it’s difficult to understand the resilience it takes. You have to be fast enough that you don’t fall behind, while taking enough care that you don’t drop something. You carry out personal tasks as well as assisting colleagues and helping customers. A supervisor may ask you to do something a certain way, only to be told to do it differently by a manager the next day. And on top of all that, you’re an emotional punchbag to all your superiors. In my case, practically everyone.
“The Dust That Clings to Our Feet” by Hillard Morley
Mine’s the spot nearest the boot scraper. Ah, this one ‘ere. Not a bad spot, this. As good as they come round ‘ere at any road. ‘Ard on the bum, maybe, but show me one that isn’t. Sit on this bag if yer like, a sort of cushion. Yer’ll sit next to me today and I’ll show yer the ropes. Then, when yer settled in, yer’ll move down the bottom next to Farkas. That’s how we operate, see. Yer work yer way up. I’m this end ‘cos I’ve been ‘ere the longest. I’m the Alpha.
In a tick the suits’ll start to cross the park, then they’ll stop and scrape the mud from off their shoes. They always do that, ‘specially at this time of year. That’s why it’s pretty good this end. Oh ah, they look after their shoes, do this lot. Always nice leather and ‘and-stitched. Yer can see the quality a mile off. ‘Ere, let me ‘elp yer out a bit, give yer a tip or two, so to speak. Keep a tin of polish with yer, that way yer can offer ‘em a shoeshine. They’ll more likely stop and give yer summat if they’re getting summat in return. Got that off the old Alpha, I did. “Share experience,” ‘e used to say, “a little goes a long way in this game.” Very wise, ‘e was, that man. I learnt a lot off ‘im.
No, I never ask for money. Folk round ‘ere don’t like it if yer ask outright, so we offer services for free. A gesture, sort of thing, to make ‘em feel important. Sometimes they’ll throw down a coin or two, and once in a blue moon maybe a note. If yer lucky.
Stop or not, I always make a point of saying, “Morning”. It never ‘urts to be polite to my way of thinking, though don’t be surprised if they act like they’ve never ‘eard yer. ‘Ere, let me show yer. This one coming, ‘im in blue, ‘e never says ‘ello. Mean-faced bugger, isn’t ‘e? “Good morning, Sir. Nice morning. Glad that wind’s dropped, eh?”
See? Nothing. Not a flicker. Not a second glance. It’s like I’m see through, in’t it? Well, you’ll get that quite a lot, so be prepared.
Schools portfolio - works created during lockdown
“drawing helps to express different emotions which is important during this difficult time.”
A portrait in pencil by S a pupil from Carisbrooke College
Photographed by mr David T of Newport, note the traditional feel to these local island scenes. I’m sure these are familiar places to many of you. These images very much show a snapshot of sunny island life, how lucky we are with all this natural wonder around us along with notable records of history.
By Ines Dali
That is how I felt.
The war had taken everything.
Help me please.
The war so violent.
Run and run and run that’s all we did Run.
What’s the point in life if all we do is Run and Run.
Losing everything along the way.
With no help in sight.
Is never ending in the world.
People might protest but it never helps
People do not care to come and help.
Screaming that is all we hear
Screams of pain, screams of sadness
Screams of regret, screams of hatred.
With no help in sight.
Is never ending in the world.
Why so much hatred in this godforsaken world?
29 May 2020
A family story from the First World War
This week I thought I would share a little about my father’s family with you. My father Robert was the last born (1902) of four brothers and three sisters, to a country family Frank and May (Mary) Randall living in the tiny village of Chilmark, buried deep in the heart of the Salisbury Plain, in the county of Wiltshire. At the turn of the 19th Century life for rural families was hard and work beyond the family’s traditional occupation of shepherding and farming, scarce. So early in the 20th Century, with hopes of finding a better and more prosperous life the young family made the long journey to Alton, Hampshire, a distance of around 60 miles, and there they settled.
The first brother to be lost was the eldest son Frederick, in a tragic accident in young adulthood, leaving Robert and his two older brothers Philip and Douglas. As the older pair came of age Philip decided to emigrate to Canada c1908, to be followed by Douglas. Passports had not been decreed by then, so to do so simply involved travel from Alton to Southampton and boarding a ship. It is unlikely they paid for their passages, more likely each of them worked their passage and both of them ended up in Saskatchawen. As war with Germany loomed Philip left Canada and went to Western Australia.
In 1914 Britain went to war with Germany, and soon the commonwealth countries rallied to her aid, as Canada, Australia and New Zealand all raised expeditionary forces. Canada itself raised an expeditionary force numbering 650,000 Men, an extraordinary number. It has been said many of them were British migrants and it is thought they saw it as an opportunity to visit their homeland. Popular opinion expected a swift end to the war with a glorious outcome for Britain and her allies. Many of the new recruits believed they would be home by Christmas.
At the outbreak of war with Germany both Philip and Douglas enlisted with their respective armies in Australia and Canada, the latter being assigned to a regiment known as the 95th Saskatchewan Rifles. Eventually, to arrive in France and join the allied forces arraigned against Germany.
Between July and November 1917 both brothers were engaged in the Third Battle of Ypres, also known as the Battle of Passchendaele. With the Anzacs holding Messin Ridge exhausted, they were in October 1917 to be relieved by refreshed Canadian infantry of the 95th Saskatchewan Rifles, and so the two brothers found themselves in proximity to each other, and knew it.
Incredibly, they were able to meet up and share a drink in the nearby town of Ypres, and it is fascinating to imagine what they might have shared and said to one another for that brief last meeting. It is said that through the valiant contribution of the soldiers of the Canadian expeditionary force in defeating Germany and its allies Canada became a Nation.
Douglas died in action shortly after that meeting, but he was not interred in a national war grave, instead he was buried in the town cemetery at Wimeroux near Boulogne, not far from where he died. All that I have to remember of Douglas is a sterling silver medal, which is a beautiful cross with Maple leaves (see photo), it has his name and service number engraved on the reverse.
In 1971 my husband David and I decided to find and visit his grave and having located the cemetery we searched for the military section. Remarkably soldiers from both sides of the conflict had been buried there in the same ground. I like to think that opponents in life were reconciled in death and so are laid together side by side.
We have been to Wimeroux twice since then and left a flowering plant on Douglas’ grave on both occasions, and hope to go again soon.
I hope you have enjoyed this long past, if rather sad glimpse of my family history. Keep safe and my best wishes to all.
Hello, I’m Brenda May and I live on the Isle of Wight but Im am not an Islander. I was born in Berkshire in 1936. My Grandchildren have often asked me to tell them what it was like living through the second world war years and here are some of my most vivid memories.
My earliest memory is of a boy coming to live with us. He arrived in one day on a lorry with a number of other young children. They all carried a small case or bag with one change of clothes in it, and each one had a gas mask and an identification card hung round their neck. The children were told to sit and wait until the adults with them had found a family willing to give them a temporary home. It was not compulsory to take a child in, but if you had a spare room it was hoped that you would. My Mother already had two small girls to care for but she was more than happy to look after another child and we had a room to spare if my sister Betty and I shared, and that was how Leslie Cook came to live with us.
He was older than me and about the same age as my sister, we all got on well together and were happy, Leslie was lucky to have been placed in a kind and loving home as not all of them settled. After a time his parents asked if my parents would consider taking his older brother Bernard as well. Bernard had not settled in his placement home and missed his young brother, by chance their cousin Maureen Cook had been placed with a near neighbour, so it was a good idea to bring them all together to help them get over the trauma of leaving their families and living with complete strangers at such a tender age. When I think about it now I’m stunned by their bravery, I don’t recall them crying for their mother, but I expect they did when they went to bed, they must have been very sad and lonely at times.
The Cook’s were a very close knit family from the East-end of London and as the bombing of the city worsened they decided to leave London lock stock and barrel and head for the west country where it was much safer and of course Leslie, ,Bernard and Maureen went with them. This was just as well, as in due course Berkshire became a target for the enemy as well. Incredibly Mum lived in the same house for the rest of her life but sadly we never saw either of them again.
Perhaps, when the war was over they decided to make a new life for themselves in Canada or Australia. I like to think that they did.
After Bernard and Leslie left, we had trainees live with us for a few months at a time, my sister and I enjoyed having different people live with us. We found it exciting and interesting especially as they all had lots of stories to tell us about their families. The trainees came because there was a trading estate nearby. It was built on a site that had been used to dump old army vehicles after the first world war, and was known locally as the ‘The Dump’.
A large number of factories were built on the site at the beginning of the second world war. At that time many were seconded by the government to adapt their machinery to make equipment needed for the war effort. However, they needed skilled people to operate the machines but as most young men were in uniform, they had to recruit men and women from all over the country who had not been called up, and train them to operate the machines. Again, the local residents were asked to help out by letting a room in their home to a trainee.
The first trainee to stay with us was Harriet, she too was from Londons’ East End
and what a character she was. She was happy go lucky and loved to sing, she knew all the old music hall songs off by heart and on Saturdays after an evening at the local pub she would come home in very high spirits and entertain us, she usually ended with a rousing chorus of ‘knees up Mother Brown’ followed by hoots of laughter. Now I’m older and wiser I can believe that because their future was so uncertain the young people of the day made the most of everything that came their way and enjoyed each day to the full. At the time my mother had made my sister and I a makeshift bed under the dining room table which she had pushed against the wall beneath the window. Her idea was to protect us from flying glass should the windows be blown in from the force of a bomb exploding nearby, but the best part of it for us was that we had a birds eye view of the fun that went on and if we kept quiet they forgot that we were there.
Another trainee that I vividly remember was Mr Regal, he was a British naturalised German and was always very polite. He had a grown-up daughter and after a weekend with his family he brought back a big double jointed doll, with real hair, big blue eyes, and teeth, I was in awe, I thought that she was absolutely beautiful, but Mr Regal gave her to my sister who was three years older than me and far more sensible. Betty wasn’t bothered about dolls and wasn’t really interested in her but I couldn’t wait to get my hands on her and I finally did. But Mr Regal was right, I was far too young to appreciate how delicate she was, and in no time, I had managed to poke her eyes and wreck her hair. My mother did her best to put things right by sticking her wig back on, and gluing bright blue satin in place of her eyes, but sadly she never looked the same again. If I close my eyes today, I can still see her with the awful blue satin eyes.
Over the years I have come across many dolls that look exactly as she did when I first clapped eyes on her, beautiful. I don’t know what became of her, but in due course my mother had two more daughters and no doubt my younger sisters between them finished her off, poor thing.
The war changed many things that had been taken for granted; the streets were pitch black at night. No street lights or chinks of light from the widows, the windows had to be blacked out with blackout blinds and Wardens would patrol the streets to ensure that their orders were obeyed, they would knock on the door and admonish us if we did not.
Smoke screens placed on pavements pumped out thick smoke to hide the town from enemy aircraft flying overhead. They were an enormous hazard and must have caused many accidents. Search lights were placed in a nearby field scanning the sky for enemy aircraft.
It wasn’t compulsory, but if you wanted an air-raid shelter to protect you and your family from falling bombs, the authorities buried a corrugated iron shelter in your garden. Thinking about it now it’s hard to imagine that we ever used the shelter but we did use it a few times. Today it would be considered a health hazard at the very least. It was bitterly cold and damp inside, we had an old carpet laid on top of a soil floor, a sack hung over the entrance and there were bunk beds inside that smelled of mildew, also it was home to a very large number of spiders, it was quite disgusting. I can only remember using it a few times at night so I guess Mum and Dad had similar views and decided to take a chance on us being blown out of our beds and let us sleep in our warm comfy beds in the house.
We, like our neighbours planted flowers in the soil on top of the shelter to disguise it from the air and make it less of an eyesore in our garden. In latter years it was removed from the ground and erected again on the surface and we used as a shed, there it stood an ugly reminder of those troubled times until my dear mother passed away in the Nineties and we sold the house.
Towards the end of the war I saw a V1 (Flying Bomb), they were very scary as they had a distinct throb but when the noise stopped the bomb continued to fly, you never knew when it was going to suddenly drop from the sky and explode it would happen in an instant. Fortunately for me the one I saw continued to throb well past our house and finally fell in Cippenham just missing the important trading estate it was meant for.
I also recall lord Haw Haw and his radio messages with his signature ‘Germany calling Germany calling’ he frightened me a bit.
Like most streets in the country the end of the war was celebrated with a wonderful street party. Everyone joined in and made a contribution as there was little money to spare and food was rationed, so little of that to spare as well. Mrs Dickens was a fantastic pianist she had her piano pushed outside and entertained us for hours on end with her repertoire of songs. Those that could, dressed themselves up in fancy dress or made sure that they wore red, white and blue. The horror was over and we could all move on. Years later I was given a photograph of the street party and I can recognise many of our friends and even recall their names, I often wonder how many are still with us today.
The reason I came to write this is because some time ago my daughter was asking me about my childhood and suggested that I made a record of the things in my life that had left an impression on me I have never forgotten, this is my second instalment, I hope that you enjoyed reading it.
What it has brought home to me is that nothing lasts forever, and in time life will get back to normal and the horror of ‘Lock Down’ and Corona Virus will be another memory.
Perhaps you have had many similar experiences, why not jot them down while we are in Lockdown, I’m sure that your family would love to read them one day. Good Luck, and stay safe
Hello, my name is Brenda May, and I was a small child at the beginning of the second world war. Like many older people I have an amazing number of memories locked up in my memory box, and the following was sparked by an innocent question during a telephone conversation with my daughter during ‘lock down’. The subject of back to back houses was brought up. “do you know what a back to back is” she asked. “yes I do” I replied and proceeded to tell her how I came to visit one in the 1940s and learned lessons in life at the same time. This is my story.
Aunty Daisy was my mother’s cousin and a kinder sweeter lady would be hard to find. She was soft and gentle and I never had to eat anything that I didn’t like at her house, which was a major hurdle for me as I was a very fussy eater in spite of it being wartime when food was not plentiful. For all these reasons I loved her and felt very comfortable in her company. So, at the age of ten or eleven having visited her many times with my mother I asked if I could visit her on my own. I assured my mother that I knew the numbers of the two busses that I had to catch, the bus stops and where to get on, and off, and I headed off feeling very grown up. After leaving the second bus I had a short walk to my Aunt’s, on the way I remember passing a gang of workmen, they all looked very forlorn and wore sack like jackets with POW written in large letters across the back. Although I’d never seen them before it didn’t take me long to work out what the letters stood for. I hurried past them but they weren’t interested in me, they were hard at work digging up the road with a hefty gang leader looking over them.
Aunty lived in a beautiful old farm house, it stood on it’s own overlooking Cippenham Village Green. Aunty’s house had a flag stone floor, a massive inglenook fireplace, and a large bowed window. In the window stood a magnificent rocking horse on a stand which I loved to ride on. But my favourite was a very old dolls pram, I can see myself now pushing it around the green utterly content, I loved dolls and prams and we didn’t have either at home, I used to dress my teddy up and pretend she was my doll.
My dear Aunt had three daughters but sadly two died when they were small children and after a time because she wanted more children she decided to adopt a baby boy and called him John, about a year later she had another son of her own and called him Norman.
One day I was asked to take a parcel to a relative who lived in one of a row of cottages that ran down one side of the Green. I was invited in and taken through to a back yard where to my astonishment a number of women were stood at a row of sinks washing their clothes, on the other side of the yard stood another row of cottages the occupants also sharing the sinks. That was my introduction to back to back housing. Until then I had always assumed that everyone had running hot and cold water, and a bathroom, how wrong I was.
As I left the lady gave me one hen’s egg, making it clear that it was for Norman. I came away feeling very sad that one little boy was favoured more than the other and how unjust it was. I was one of four children and brought up to believe that everything should be shared equally, if there was only one apple it would be divided into four and there was never a fuss.
In that short visit I was made more aware of a number of things; that I was growing up and could be independent, but that also the humiliation the men wearing the POW jackets must have felt taught me to respect others. The humbleness of how some people have to live, even now, through no fault of their own, and the injustices we sometimes encounter through life. To be kind costs nothing, and a smile can lift spirits.
Good luck, and keep safe.
A white piece of paper ,
The grain rough under my fingers,
Ready to gain
The marks of our importance
For half of them to be erased
I tried to get them back,
You tried too,
Where is the control z
My edit undo
For this eraser
That smudged lines
and turned this paper to grey
I want to make my mind a film
A projector in a way
So you can sit and watch
All the things we did that day
And the next.
We walk and retrace our steps
The same spaces we’ve passed many times
Trying to find old footprints
that have been washed by the tide
A trace of where we stood
These memories now stories to you
Cleaned from your mind
Put away the disinfectant
Take away the cloth
Drop the polish in your hands
These marks don’t need to be buffed
Fingerprints should linger
Imprinted on this paper
I see it on your face
The hurt you feel
I am coming to terms with
something I can’t heal
I want a code
A trigger to recompute
Don’t empty the bin
Find the resort button
And after all this
I will try and recreate
draw the images
Over the grey smudges
On this white piece of paper