Friday, May 09, 2008

the fantastic fusiliers

‘I got stationed to Berlin. The west of it. Nineteen forty eight. Christ, what a mess. It was the Russians, see? They came in. They looked at the map, at their bit. They thought Right – that’s got to go, and that, and that. Flattened the lot. Drew a ring around the rest, nothing in or out without their say so. We had to fly supplies in. Or come in on a train – which of course the Russians stopped, and searched, front to back. They were young, a lot of them Russians. boys really. They would look at you – stare at you – like this… not say a word. But we was all cockney boys. We were just the same. We stared right back at them – like this…. So it went on. Funny, really. The Fusiliers. Fantastic.

‘When I came back, I got a job working the railways, but then Margaret Thatcher came along and that was that. The only job I could get then was at the Coroners. People thought I was a policeman, with the black suit and everything, but no – I was a glorified usher, I suppose. I met a lot of famous people. (…) came up to me and said “I must say you’re looking good after that fight” and I said “What d’ya mean? What fight?” and he said “That fight. You’re whatsisname aren’t you? What you doing here, anyway? I didn’t know you knew (…)” And I realised he thought I was (…)

‘My wife met a lot of famous people when she was younger, you know. That’s her in the photo. What a looker. She was an usherette at the Academy. All the famous film stars would come in for the first night and what have you, and she’d be the one who’d hop on stage and give them a bunch of flowers. Oh yes. She met them all.

‘Sixty years we’ve been married. Well, this year – sixty years. One child, Peter, but he’s gone now. We could only have the one, you see.

‘And of course, since she got ill, it’s been difficult. For both of us. You know, she’s been stuck in this flat six years. Six years. Not even down the stairs for some bingo. It’s her nerves, mostly. She gets all het up, it’s a job to know what to do. Things play on her mind, especially at night. When she’s reading the paper or watching the telly, she’s all right. But when she’s finished doing that, she just kind of sits and stews. But you do your best – what else can you do? It’s difficult, though. No question about it.


Tsitsi said...

Old people have the best stories. I love old people! And I have a sneaking suspicion you enjoy these types of calls too.

Spence Kennedy said...

Hi Tsitsi
It was an interesting call. His wife was in a bit of a state, but she calmed down and the crisis passed.
I was going to call the post 'Berlin' because I was struck by his description of the city, its isolation and struggle, and the self-imposed isolation of his wife. It all seemed to tie in somehow. I called it 'fantastic fusiliers' in the end, because despite all he'd been through he'd remained quite chipper.

It's true, I'm just a sucker for those wide-ranging monologues. It's like eating fruit cake! (?)
:) S

loveinvienna said...

Talking with older people is fun, they have some great stories to tell. Interesting what he said about the Russians - they had evidently already been informed that the 'West' was the fountain of all evil, "capitalist scum" and all that.

Shame about his poor wife though. Hope she gets the help she needs, it can't be easy for either of them. Sixty years though :o) That's a special kind of love.

Liv xxx

cogidubnus said...

Funny isn't look at some aged wrinkly and rarely see below the surface...old fart you think...and then something happens, you find out a little more, and a history emerges...sometimes a mundane thing, (but still a fascinating reminder that they once knew youth too), sometimes something special, occasionally incredible.

We befriended an incredibly proud and independent old dear across the road from us, and although we knew she was nursing a bedbound husband, it was only after some years that we were admitted to her confidence, and met him...

He was a lovely old chap, and after we'd been dropping by (only occasionally you understand, because they were a VERY independent couple) for a couple of years, we discovered he'd been in the RAF and was in fact one of Churchill's "few"...and she'd been a WAAF on one of the Battle of Britain stations he'd served at.

They'd walked out for a couple of years, but had only just been married when he'd been seriously wounded in 1942, and although he hadn't originally been bedbound, he'd been almost totally housebound ever since...they were totally devoted to each other...she'd uncomplainingly nursed him for well over fifty years

Sadly he died in 2000 and she lingered on for just a couple of years after...depleted and reduced, but still fiercely independent...

Just a couple of white-haired old wrinklies...but what tales to tell...

loveinvienna said...

So true Cogidubnus, people often forget (myself included) that they were once were in their teens. Where I used to live there are lots of former WW2 airbases and a lot of the "old boys" moved back up there to retire and be near their mates. Some fascinating stories to tell. The Dambusters flew from around there and I've spoken to a few of those who worked on the missions. They're so proud of their mates and what they did, even if they didn't actually fly as everyone was part of the team who got 'the birds' off the ground.

Liv xxx

Anonymous said...

I'm a little late with my comment, but I love to talk to the seniors. One of our volunteers flew 20 missions over the Himalayas to China. Just an average guy. My uncle was a flier and prisoner of war in Germany. Another uncle was in a boiler explosion in the Navy. Sixty years on they have to be prodded to talk about it but the stories are fasinating

tom p said...

Jeez Spence, this post is like Pinter.
You're brilliant.

Spence Kennedy said...

Thanks, TP!
Funnily enough I was thinking about a film by Pinter just the other day (all in the context of good films that Ben Kingsley's been in). Betrayal - have you seen it? Excellent.
Another good one he did was Sexy Beast!

tom p said...

I haven't seen those, but I do have sexy beast on video at home. I think I bought it from Oxfam and haven't got round to watching it.
I think I shall try and do so this weekend.