Saturday, 28 November 2009
My old Dad is 87 now and lives with me since my Mum died 6 years ago.
He's at that time of life where he spends much of his time reflecting on the past and those of you with elderly relatives will know that they can be somewhat repetitive.
However it is always good to be patient at these times because every now and then he comes out with some little gems.
Dad was born in 1922 in Kensington, which is in West London, his father had been an officer in The Durham Light Infantry during the Great War and was invalided out after the Battle of Passchendaele.
At the age of about six the family moved to Stevenage in Hertfordshire, at the time a small market town on the Great North Road.
At the age of eight Dad had a fall which resulted in him experiencing severe pain.
He was taken to the doctors and after many tests, it was established that he had tuberculosis of the bone and he was despatched to an infirmary in Stamford, Middlesex for what would turn out to be a series of operations over a four year period.
At the time TB was a killer and it was fortunate that it was not in his lungs.
The little laddie grew up fast in that institution, suffering not only personal physical pain, but emotional stress from the loss of friends who were in hospital with him.
He has recounted to me one particularly bad six month period when he was in plaster from his chest to his ankles.
The diseased bone was in his right hip and so a hole was cut in the plaster so that each morning the nurse could put an aluminium spike in the wound, to break up the puss.
This was done every day for six months, without the aid of any pain killer.
The old fella has a permanent tan since in those days they believed the best cure was fresh air, and so he was pushed outside in his bed irrespective of the weather.
In the end they stopped the spread of the disease by grafting bone from his shin into his hip and as a result he has no joint on the right side and his leg is four inches shorter.
All his life he has steadfastly refused to accept disability and he can be more than a little short with people who moan about pain!
During the Second World War he joined a thing called the Home Guard and if any of you have ever seen a BBC comedy series called Dad's Army, the old boy says it was just like that!
He has told me some very funny stories of that time, including one involving the Australian Army.
At the outset of hostilities the Australian Army Pay Corp were billeted at his local golf club and many was the time that Dad played golf with these fellas.
He says they would carry their golf clubs but also have a golf trolley to carry the beer!
One day a sergeant scored a hole in one and that was the end of the round, they had a party in the clubhouse that lasted a week!
Another time Dad was standing guard duty on the top of a water tower close by the main railwayline from London to Edinburgh.
A table was welded onto the top of the tower which had an engraved map of the local terrain as well as profiles of German aircraft.
One night Dad was on duty when a plane appeared from the South and checking the profiles he realised it was a German Ju88.
Armed with his trusty First World War Canadian Ross rifle, he started taking pot shots as the plane was heading towards him.
As it passed, he received a burst of cannon fire, puncturing the water tower, which made him bounce up and down.
To this day he believes the German gunner was simply saying,' don't be a bloody idiot!'
There are many more tales from his younger days that I am collating and I will relate them to you over the coming months.