Anton's Ideas

Anton Wills-Eve on world news & random ideas

Month: March, 2015

A COWARD’S BRIEF ENCOUNTER


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/tagline/”>Tagline</a&gt;

to tag or not to tag, that has almost nothing to do with this question

A COWARD’S BRIEF ENCOUNTER

This earthly life in which I spend all my time is not even a drop in the ocean of eternity. So how can I measure the tidal rise and fall of Heaven’s boundaries due to my existence if it has neither physical nor temporal limits? This question is what theologians call a supernatural mystery, atheists call a cop out, and people like me, who love God, his saints and his sinners, are happy not to call anything at all. I give my existence no name, I just live it. But what fun to be asked to give it a tagline, particularly if I have I to be honest as well! You can see what I have chosen; would you like to know why?

For me the most important quality a man should have, and one which I lack in so many different ways, is courage. Courage to do what I instinctively know I ought to do no matter how difficult, apparently painful or mentally depressing. But why should I impose such conduct upon myself when I have freewill and do not need to display valour whenever it is called for? Quite simply because when others are in need, and by being courageous I could help them, then I would not think much of myself if I just ignored them. This is no attempt to be holier than thou or the saviour of my nation or the rescuer of my loved ones. No it is nothing like that. It is trying to find the guts to live with myself when I know what a basically selfish bastard I so often am. I look for excuses, but there are none. Reasons, oh yes there are always reasons for not facing up to fear for the sake of others when one should, but excuses? I don’t think so. I want to be explicit here.

In many blogs I have discussed an illness from which I have suffered all my life. It crucifies me and I hate it, yet I still blame myself for not having overcome it. No, I merely find devious, dishonest and dangerous ways round it and above all use it as my excuse for being what I have called myself, a coward. In case you haven’t the faintest idea what I am getting at let me explain that I have suffered from a terrible anxiety neurosis for as much of my life as I can remember. It takes the form of a phobic panic when confronted by nothing at all. Open  spaces with nobody in them; oceans, I cannot swim; streets of closed shops from which I cannot escape and worst of all crowded stadiums and public meetings  in which I cannot find any way out from the irrational fear of not being able to control my movements. This in turn reduces me to breathless, perspiring fits of  a feeling I can’t describe, only the way the symptoms torture me. I invariably try to run away, anywhere, until exhausted I either reach a sanctuary or quite simply faint and am helped by some kind passer by. But earlier I referred to the ways I get round this awful phobia. I call my method of defnding my sanity, “The three P’s”

Briefly this is an acronym for Pills, Prayers and Pernod.  For the past 48 years I have been on a daily dose of benzodiazapine tranquilisers which would knock most people out if they took only ten per cent of the dose I need. The prayers I say every day and night are a mixture of begging God and one saint in particular to release me from the daily prospect of being reduced to a frightened mental wreck. But I also know that I don’t deserve to be spared this ordeal and they help me accept this, and even cheer me up when I am at my lowest ebb. And the final P? well if you drink a bottle of Pernod a day it does help keep you full of false courage, at least enough to struggle through the horrors that confront you. But if I really am this ill why do I call myself a coward?

Cowardice is the failure to do what  we should because the prospect scares us in some way, I have said this before. But in the case of an irrational fear it follows that I should be able to face up to the stupidity of my nonsensical phobia and behave like everyone else. Like a normal person. But for some reason I can’t. Why can I not walk by myself to the end of the street in which I live when it is only some eighty yards away? I don’t know. I can do it if I have someone, my wife for instance, to hang onto who knows what I am suffering and can help me. But even this does not always work. And why have I had it all my life? It has stopped me doing many, many things I enjoy so it is not some subconcious way of getting out of things I don’t want to do. I had to give up golf and cricket before I was eighteen because the fields and courses were simply unmanageable. Heavens know what the masters at my school would have done if they had known I was drinking half a bottle of scotch immediately before a match when playing cricket for the school, and this at the age of thirteen! But illnesses such as mine make you behave in some very odd ways. I loved travelling and my career as a journalist, especially as a war correspondent, but the company never knew what I was fighting. It was never a part of the war I was there to observe. No My pills, prayers and Pernod kept me going for three years and more in Vietnam and Cambodia when I could hardly cross the road in some places.  It was also an expensive way to live. I mean I had to take taxis everywhere I went, but I never told anybody. I loved my work too much.

But there is a limit to how long one can keep this up. I was warned by a doctor whom I consulted in London at considerable expense why no cure for my illness was known. He said it was but depended on the patient. In my case he told me I had settled for living with it and handling it as best I could, and I was either deliberately or subconsciously refusing to let other people, doctors especially, interfere in how I treated myself. I told him I did not agree with him, told him I would never wish the illness on my worst enemy and that in short he was the one who had made up his mind about what could or could not be done for me and refused to take any notice of me at all. That is where we left it. But at what cost?

Firstly at the cost of the happiness of at least four people who suffered terribly from being excluded from my life, and by me too. That hurt. It really did. I have never forgiven myself for what I did to them and I never will, but was I being a coward? I thought so at the time, but I also had a reason in each case for doing what I did. A girl I had wanted to marry for 16 years, since she was nine, I finally had to tell I could not see again. Why? She thought it was because I didn’t love her. I thought it was because to inflict someone with my illness on her for the rest of her life would have been downright cruel. I would have been spending half my income on just paying for ways round my phobia instead of looking after any family we so dreadfully wanted to have. That was cowardice, or was it?  Without going into details I can say now, 41 years after I last saw her, that her life would have been far, far happier if we had stayed together. We still keep in touch. But anyone who hurt someone like I hurt her deserves to end up as I have. The others were less dramatic partings, but severed ties of love and affection that I still dream about in nightmares you couldn’t think up. I got what I deserved with one exception. I fell in love with my wife of forty years now and have loved her for every minute of our marriage.

But read the tag again. I may have explained the ‘coward’ part but why would I tag my life a brief encounter? Simply this. All our lives, whatever we believe, are incredibly brief while on earth. But if we are then loved by God for ever, and in a paradise that we cannot even start to imagine, we are not just fortunate but also know we are eternally loved. So you see I would tag my life on earth as I have, and for the reasons I have, but the next life is one I could never, never tag. Why? Well if I ended up seeing again all those people I hurt, I would also see them happy. I would be so overjoyed I would not know how to describe God’s ultimate gift to me as he forgave me. It is worth going through the hell I have seen for that, though while others on earth still suffer because of me I can only accept the price of my awful pain and terrible illnesss. Maybe that is why ‘a coward’s brief encounter’ was actually necessary in my case. But, as I was not the one who gave me my phobia in the first place, I’m afraid that doctor was completely and utterly wrong!

AWE

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STARS AND STRIPES


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/the-show-must-go-on/”>The Show Must Go On</a>

to film or not to film?

STARS AND STRIPES

The first, and last time I was offered the lead part in a film my parents would not let me take it. I think what annoyed me most was that I was going to be paid a very large sum of money and  I was really flaming mad that I would be denied this. We lived near the studios in Pinewood, west of London, so travelling was no problem. Also the shooting of  my part would start on July the tenth and last two and a half months, so I would not even have missed much school. We did not go back until September the tenth.

How did I get the part, unknown, at the age of 14?. Easy, back in the 1950’s all such casting was not a case of what you could do as who you knew. As my mother and aunt had starred in seventeen films between them by then, a nudge in the right direction was all I needed. I had just one inherited gift going for me. I was a great vocal and linguistic mimic and could speak five languages fluently. My sister, who was not quite sixteen, had made her TV debut a month earlier and said she never wanted to see the entertainment business again. Nor did she. But this just annoyed me more. I complained bitterly.

“Mum, look I know you are too ill to act at the moment and may have to pack up for good despite being only 49, but why shouldn’t I have my chance? It’s a great script and a good plot. Seriously what have you got against  the offer?” It was a stupid rant because I knew what was coming,

“At your age you will be at the mercy of every pervert, male and female, in the business. I know I’ve seen it. Sorry but no way. Your father agrees.”

“But why did you let my sister have a go and not me. Surely girls are even more vulnerable.” Mum shook her head.

“It’s remarks like that that prove you don’t know what you’re talking about. Sorry, but no. No son of mine is being exposed to that profession while I have any say in the matter.” The real tragedy was that I hadn’t a clue what she was afraid of. After all my Uncle, who was co-starring in the film, would be with me and could keep an eye on me. It was really unfair. Are you wondering what the part was, and what sort of film? Let me tell you.

I was cast as the lead character, a fourteen year old boy, who was the victim of bullying and sadistic teachers but who would not let them get him down. He had a gilfriend of thirteen, I think we kissed,  like a rubber pen on a tablet, three times in  one hundred and six minutes. But It was a black and white tear jerker in which my Uncle played the teacher who hated me. We actually acted really well when confronting each other. The plot explored all the ways youngsters were maltreated at lower class schools in those days,including one terrific scene in which I was thrashed until stripes came up on the backs of my legs. After the original rehearsals through which I got the part, I also got rave reviews from  everyone on the set. It was an absolute hammer blow when I was pulled out. The boy who took my place was lousey and was blamed for the film’s failure. That would not have happened if I had kept the role. But I never did it so we’ll never know.

Mum died when I was in my twenties  and I was involved in a completely different career in journalism, taking after my father, by then. But One thing happened at her funeral that did make me wonder about mum’s heart breaking decision in 1956. As we were filing away from the grave, some seventy odd mourners turned up, one of the older character actors in the film recognised me and came over to offer his condolences on mum. But he went on to add, “I’m glad they kept you out of that business. You remember the mincing pederaste who was directing that film? Guess why he isn’t here today. He’s doing five years for child molesting, and you were very high on his target list. He was livid when you disappeared.”

I wonder how I would have repulsed him? I know one thing. If that was the price of starring in a film I’d take being shot at in Vietnam any day. I was returning to Saigon, where I was a war correspondent, the next morning.

AWE 

A RANDOM KISS


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/what-a-twist/”>What a Twist!</a>

after a prose twist a poetry twist

 

A RANDOM KISS

just a groupie at the big gig
hoping only for a kiss
laden with spring flowers
to say thanks for random bliss

soon the features I had prayed for
were close to me, oh so divine,
those lips needed no seduction
they knew already they were mine

we crept away into the darkness
the blaring music fading fast
locked together,tongues caressing
may our ecstasy, forever last

for breath our lips briefly parted
and I heard a sweet voice say
“You do realise I’m a fellah?”
“Of course, can’t you tell I’m gay?”

 

AWE

THE I OF THE BEHOLDER


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/what-a-twist/”>What a Twist!</a>

 

THE I OF THE BEHOLDER

Beauty was in the eye of the beholder as he beheld her across Piccadilly Circus with a dumb and gasping awe. Now Cupid, being at that moment in a whimsical mood, drew his bow at this adventure and also pierced Beauty’s heart, making her equally struck with a heart beating  passion as she glanced sideways to be sure he was looking at her. I can assure you not even Romeo or Juliet felt a passion such as theirs as they stared at each other.
  But, as with the Italian lovers, our hero and heroine suffered from parental problems. His was that, to his knowledge, he had none. He had had a hard and orphaned upbringing in the lowest class of society and only his philosophically resilient attitude to his lot had allowed him to mature as he had. Nevertheless, he was still extremely handsome in her aristocratic eyes.
  Yet she too had a Cross to bear. The darling of her family, she alone was worth every penny of £750,000, but still life was extremely cruel to her. What use were refined manners, unimpeachable ancestry and a beautiful coiffure when one was never allowed to spend an unattended second with a member of the opposite sex? Strong indeed was the family hold on her when any undesirable beaux were present.
  So, as he crossed Piccadilly Circus, a sad but adoring look was cast at him by his inamorata. Sad, because even as she blushed at him she was bundled into a Rolls Royce and hastily driven away from the object of her desire leaving him in no doubt as to the futility of his quest.
  And as he strolled into the middle of the Circus, he sighed saying silently to himself, “And sod you too mate!” as he lifted his left hind leg and urinated on the base of Eros’ column.

Anton Wills-Eve

THE PRESENTS


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/food-for-the-soul-and-the-stomach/”>Food for the Soul (and the Stomach)</a>

still not hungry so another poem

 

 

 THE PRESENTS

 

John & Jane

 

Their birthday tomorrow, what would they get?
They had to survive that afternoon yet.
“Wouldn’t it be fun”, said Jane
“If we could run a race again
It’s such a lovely afternoon
Mum’s tired, she won’t wake up soon.”
“I’m game”, brother John at once agrees
“Twice round the pond then to the trees”.
“I’ll beat you easy, just you wait.”
His sister adds, “Then make the gate
The winning post. Oh do come on!”
Soon both are ready, now they’re gone
John’s off first but then slips up,
“Oh Jane, I’ve broken your fruit juice cup”.
“Well my arm is caught in a prickly gorse bush,
“But I’m leading, sure you don’t need a push?
Oh John you really are hopelessly slow.”
“We’ll soon see”, replies John, “watch me go!”
Now he’s catching her again, to and fro’
And passes her on the second pond lap,
But she pushes him in, they’ve started a scrap.
“Oh be serious Jane, I’m trying to be fair”.
So she helps him out and they re-start from there.
Now it’s into the trees, pear, apple and oak,
Jane’s trapped by a root, John laughs at the joke.
“But I’m totally stuck now, can’t you see?”
An apple falls on John, Jane giggles with glee.
John starts to spurt, Jane’s still in the fight.
The finish is reached as the gate’s in sight.
“I’ve won!”, “No it’s me!”, a voice shouts, “A tie!”.
“Oh mummy, you were sleeping”, they guiltily cry.
“Shshsh you two, dad’s got a surprise,”
She tells them both to shut their eyes.
John just gapes, and wide-eyed Jane stares
At their first ever pair of racing wheelchairs.
And two moist eyed parents clasp each other really tight,
Their handicapped twins filling them both with delight.

Anton Wills-Eve

Faith’s Explanation


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/food-for-the-soul-and-the-stomach/”>Food for the Soul (and the Stomach)</a>

couldn’t face the food so putting up a poem instead:  for the soul not the tum.

Faith’s Explanation

Hope and Charity were both great fun
But Faith was very much more serious.
I asked her why the frown and furrowed brow,
The look so sad, and deleterious.

Hope chuckled, “Poor Faithy never grins or laughs
Like Charity and I. Just sits and sighs, as though
Every woe of the world was on her shoulders.
But we love her, we could never let her go.”

“Of course not,” Charity added “we’re the helpers.
Hope makes people think everything will be alright,
And I give what is lacking to the needy.
They smile, so do we.” And her smile shone bright.

“So Faith,” I asked again, “What worries you,
You only seem to see the darker side of life?”
To which she answered,” I deal with the despairing,
All I can tell them is how to fight life’s strife.

And trust the souls I try to point to Heaven
Will make it one day if they follow my advice.
For, unlike my sisters, I never see my labourers
Walk smiling towards the gates of paradise.

“No, all I do is offer love and trust, while
Begging God to give me more of what I am.
So I can give myself to doubters and to sinners,
But never knowing if they will die a wolf or lamb.”

Anton Wills-Eve

OUR CUSTOMARY CODE.


I Walk the Line

   OUR CUSTOMARY CODE.

My somewhat unusual family do not so much live by ‘codes of conduct’ as immediate reaction to the customs of the people among whom they find themselves. My adorable wife, Francesca, I couldn’t live without her, seems to keep them in some sort of order but freely admits she cannot always follow their dialogue. This is odd too because she is a university lecturer in English, French and Italian and has an MA at one of the foremost universities in Europe. It was where we met some fifteen years ago.

The children were messing about so badly as we got off the plane that I was starting to get very cross with them. I had been called to a meeting at the UN in New York and  so we had to cut short our stay in London before returning to Geneva where all of them went to school. Our youngest, Edgardo, or Eddie as most of us called him, was looking forward to the middle of September because at last he would be starting at the same school where his brothers and sisters were studying. It was an elite and expensive Catholic school which took children from the age of five, if their fifth birthday was before September the first in the year they started. They could stay there through to University age, that is they would usually have their eighteenth birthday in their last academic year.

Well for the eldest, Maria, it was just a normal back to school as she had had her twelfth birthday the previous April. Giovanni, John or Jean, depending on how he wanted you to address him that day,was eleven, born exactly one year after Maria, and the twins, Lucia and Violetta had celebrated their ninth birthdays in June this year. Of the others Dido, was seven the previous December, Aeneas was a year younger than her exactly and the last, Eddie, a year before Aeneas on the previous  thirtieth of November. I stress these years and dates because they have a lot to do with what happened that day in New York. They were not exactly behaving themselves as we disembarked at Kennedy airport. I think it was Giovanni who started it. We were just about to go through customs, nationality visas and security checks, even though all nine of us has had diplomatic passports. My Italian wife Francesca was eyeing a last chance duty free bottle of her favourite perfume  before catching up with us. But as I say I think Giovanni went up to the customs gate first.

The official smiled at him and, catching a glimpse of the diplomatic passport, politely asked him “And what is your name please young Sir.” My eldest son wanted to enjoy himself.

“Eh , ba, vous savez j’ai tant de nommes que je ne peux pas les souvenir. Attendez un instant.”

The stunned customs official had not realised we were French. Well we weren’t, but as the children were all born in diferent countries, save the twins, problems often arose. Giovanni seemed dumb and puzzled but the official saw a god given opportunity to show off his French. “Je m’excuse, Monsieur, mais je pensais que vous etiez Anglais. Pardonnez moi.” To which he reeled from the reply,

“I really cannot see why I should pardon you when I am not French, nor English for that matter. My name is John, if we must speak in this pompous language. Personally I prefer to talk in Spanish!” The official was starting to get a little annoyed, but as he did not yet know what status I had and therefore my children too he held himself in check.

“Okay then young man, why don’t we speak in Spanish?”

My son looked bored.”We don’t speak in Spanish, my good man, because I don’t understand a word of the language. It just sounds nice and I would prefer to speak it. That is all I said.” The officer was starting to lose his control.

“Alright then sonny, I think…..”

“WHAT did you call me? Do you know who I am? ..” he got no further because Maria saw what was happening and rushed up to the official and in a tone of genuine apology said ,

“Oh is my poor brother having one of his turns again? You know it is a strain, but we do try. If you wish to know he is Italian by birth and on his mother’s side, but Australian on his father’s. He suffers from mental hyper egotism and breaks out in the strangest sentences from time to time. His name is Jean Thomas.”

“Oh, poor kid I am sorry. I had better talk to your parents about him, Miss Thomas. Now what is your name please?” My oldest child must have started it all because in many ways she had the best sense of humour in the family. She decided to carry on the exercise in driving the customs official insane.

“Do you mean my full names?” The uniformed man nodded. “Well they are Maria, Cecilia, Gemma, Margarita, Jane.” He wrote all the names, spelling Gemma with a J only to be told that she did not intend to force open any safes while visiting America. The officer didn’t realise what she meant so she had to explain the spelling of her name and saying she thought her linguistic joke had been rather good. He nodded again. Then he asked, as a formality he claimed, my daughter’s nationality. A simple request for most people but he soon wished he hadn’t.

“Well there you have me, my good man. It is a rather complex subject. You see I was born in Paris, that’s Paris France not Texas, and so I can claim French nationality when I am sixteen. But I have not yet decided whether I shall. You see dear Papa is Australian so I have that option and with Mama being Italian I can also claim that nationality as well. But a new and glorious possibility is currently being dscussed at The United nations, though it is not the reasons why Papa has been summoned there on a matter of such global importance.

“You see it is trying to be made possible for any child to choose the nationality of their brothers or sisters and in my case that adds up to quite a few. I have written personally to the secretary General, a good friend of the family, suggesting that I should be allowed to choose the nationality of any country visited by Mama while she was pregnant with me, but as that comes to thirty four he has not yet replied!” The official was at the hair tearing out stage and merely showed Maria the form and asked her to sign it to say it was correct. He had taken other details, like age etc, from her passport.

“Yes that seems in order, but you have got my surname wrong. It is not Thomas, you must have misunderstood. That’s my brother’s second name, the family surname depends on which passport Papa is travelling on on any given day and he hasn’t told us who he is today. You had better ask him.”

Most people would have resigned by this time but not customs officer Smith. He thought he might continue with these kids and their mother. “And who are you two young ladies?” he asked the angels now staring up at him. He might have known something unusual would happen when Violetta handed him her passport and said, “Guess!” Smiling she added, “I am an identical twin. But am I the person in that photo or am I the little girl in this one?” And she whipped Lucia’s passport out of her identical twin’s hand. Officer smith looked at them both and said,

“You do look mighty alike, but surely your name is on yours, isn’t it?”

“Of course it is,” replied Violetta. “So is Lucia’s. Look, there, see in that lovely digitally reproduced font. It says L U C I A that proves it’s her. Of course it doesn’t prove it’s her passport, nor this one mine, but then you only have our words for it that we are who we say we are. But look, ask our mother, there she is, that tall lady just over there.” Officer Smith followed her finger’s pointing and went up to the lady and asked,

“Excuse me, M’am, but which of these two young ladies is which?” The aristocratic lady with an aquiline nose looked at him in amazement.

“Are you drunk young man? I have never seen them in my life before. What made you think I had?” He was starting to explain but when he pointed at the twins he found they had been replaced by two even younger children a girl of about seven and a boy some twelve months younger. He took a deep breath and asked “Are you members of this important diplomtic family?” Dido spoke first.

“From the way they tossed me on that funeral pyre you wouldn’t think so would you? Not even my beloved teeny weeny Aenee-us here did not try to stop them, did you teeny?” Smith was starting to get a headache. He let her continue. “I saw you interrogating my siblings. Such an interesting job. Do you use thumbscrews?” here she was interrupted by Teeny who hated being called by this name,

“No the civilised United States immigration authorities do not go in for that sort of thing, Dido, you should be ashamed of yourself. I apologise for my sister, Sir, she has no sense of decorum.” Aeneus had only recently learned this word and hadn’t a clue what it meant, but officer Smith cetainly seemed to like him using it. “I must tell you as well that she was born in Geneva so is from a country  that has avoided getting involved in any major conflicts in modern times. I am still trying to work out whether this is or is not a good thing. Now I am a Spaniard, well born in Spain, so I can boast a long history of gallant bravery in the face of many mortal enemies. Do you have this problem in America?” By this time the poor official suddenly remembered he had to look at their passports and gave them only a perfunctory glance. As he was waving them through Aeneus turned and shouted to a small straggler behind him “Hurry up Edgardo, this chap here wants to torture you to make you tell him all about our secret mission to the land of the free.”

Poor Eddie looked tired and a bit bedraggled by the time he was interviewed at the customs desk and the officer felt sorry for any child who was the youngest in a band of seven such terrible children. “Hey don’t worry sonny, it only takes a minute”

“I believe that’s what Al Capone used to say before shooting people,” Eddie answered and as the customs officer posed his final question he was ready for anything. He asked Edgardo where he was born. “South Bend Indiana,” came the reply. Smith could not believe that such a small child could come out with an answer like that. But there was a good reason. For once it was true!

So finally Francesca and I presented ourselves before the flagging customs’ man and said we hoped our children had been helpful. He just looked at me, seeing from my passport that I was my country’s roving ambassador to any places of diplomatic emergency in the world and placed me about as high on the diplomatic ladder as one could be in his eyes. But then he’d never seen what my job actually entailed. “No trouble at all Sir, but it must be hard bringing up such an interesting family with the work you have to do.” I replied as honestly as I could.

“Well yes it is, but I could not do it without my wonderful wife here. She is responsible for the children’s basic manners and behaviour. I don’t know how I’d manage without her.”  I think officer Smith knew and finally had to check Francesca’s passport. Now her English may have been fluent but she had never lost her Tuscan accent, so it was with a very definite hint of the mafia in her voice that she leant over towards the  poor man and said,

“Thanks a lot for letting the kids through. I try to make them follow my example in all they do. By the way do I have to declare this bottle of perfume, or can we toss it into the diplomatic bag with all the other family loot?”

Anton Wills-Eve

THE SUN, THE CLOUD AND THE SILVER LINING.


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/but-no-cigar/”>But No Cigar</a>

a rewrite and corrected version of yesterday’s post, ‘run that past me again’.

THE SUN, THE CLOUD AND THE SILVER LINING.

 

Nguyen Oanh Anh had been warned by her family not to mix with Americans, especially the military, as they were rich, boastful, amoral and selfish. They really had it in for the US because they could think of nothing pleasant to say about the race that had taken over their capital city and were seducing every Vietnamese girl in Saigon. Anh was told they were off limits and no exceptions. But to be fair to her parents, they had a reason. Her elder sister, Tuyet, had become pregnant and in her shame had run away. A month later one of her friends told the family she had killed herself. So nine years later in May 1968, on her eighteenth birthday, Anh went to work in an orphanage for blind, abandonned children.

In early 1968 the Chinese new year was also the signal for a new Viet Cong Communist offensive against the American military in South Vietnam which rocked the anti-communist government. This turn of affairs involved many news organisations increasing their staff in South Vietnam and it was the worst thing I could ever imagine happening to me. I had worked for The largest British news agency for just over a year and was doing well for my age. I had been sent to the Middle East during the six day war in 1967 and then returned to London at the end of August. I was promised a permanent overseas posting in the new year and my fiancee, whose family I had known since she was a little girl, was hoping we would get married when she got her university degree in June 1968. I would be twenty six in May that year and she would be twenty three the November after we married. Everything looked great and we were both very much in love with each other.

The following January I got an awful shock. I was offered an overseas posting, as promised, at the end of January. I was to join the staff in Singapore, the office from which we ran all our news operations for Asia. This was great as it would double my salary. But there was a horrible caveat attached. As I was unmarried I would probably be sent to Vietnam fairly soon and might spend as long as a year there. The full posting to Singapore was for three years. But the condition was that I would not get married while in Vietnam. This was company policy. I had not told them that I was engaged but now I had to. They were very understanding and said they would send me to Saigon immediately and after a year would pay all my fiancee’s expenses to come out and join me to get married. I was distraught.

We had a long family discussion during which my fiancee, Lucy, told me in no uncertain terms that she could not stand a year without me. Not from the point of living together, but because she would not even see me in all probability. So we hatched a plot unknown to either of our families or my employers. We agreed that Lucy would join me in Saigon in June at the end of her exams and we need not tell my company. This was the best solution , but as we said goodbye at London airport she insisted on one thing, “Sebastian. I cannot go a year without marrying you and as we are both Catholics could you arrange for us to get  married in Vietnam as soon as possible after I arrive. I’ll have all the documents I need on me and get yours from your family.” That one promise made the rest of my parting possible.

Well Vietnam turned out to be a strange mixture. Being bombed and having mortar shells fall on us most days was far from fun. Flying around a war torn country in helicopters that were often overloaded was terrible. And finally, after four months of near hell it was all capped with two of my closest colleagues being killed in an ambush. If Lucy did not arrive soon I would be a total nervous wreck. I could feel it starting already. Early that May in the major worsening of the war in which my friends were killed, I was caught up in a street fight in the riveside area of Saigon and had to take shelter as best I could in a bombed out building. As a non-American correspondent I never wore military clothing of any type, just ordinary summer shirts and slacks. Several of us did as we thought it safer if we ever got captured. Well as I crouched down in what was left of  that building I saw a girl who looked about ten or eleven wandering around, shell shocked I presumed and seemingly unaware of where she was. I raced over to her and in my extremely basic Vietnamese asked her was she alright. I understood enough to know she had asked me if I was American and then I wondered if she understood French. Many Vietnamese did as their parents were brought up speaking it as the country had been a French colony. So I replied in French that I was British and asked her if she understood, She was unable to let go of me.

She grabbed hold of my arm and  told me in halting French, it was no problem for me as I had been to university in Paris, that she was lost and worse still was blind. She had no idea where she was. I have never been so grateful for aything as I now knew what to do for her. One of the secretaries at the British Embassy helped out at an orphanage for the blind and she had shown me where it was. I wrote an article on it. The girl told me her name was Marie because her mother  wanted her to be a French lady. I smiled and bet she could not say Sebastian. She pronounced it perfectly. “Oui je parle assez bien.Tu vois, Monsieur, she suis gatee d’etre aveugle!” What a beautiful thing to say. “You see how lucky I am to be blind,Sir. it makes me speak better.”

Naturally I made my way across town with her and after more than an hour I made the orphanage where a couple of the staff remembered me. Marie told them how we had met and what  I had done. The stiflingly hot, dusty building where they were housed was little better than a shelter, but one of the helpers, she introduced herself as Anh, said how kind and thoughtful I had been. Marie did not want to leave me but I explained what I did and why I had to go back to work. But I promised to see them all from time to time and asked Anh if there were any provisions or medical requirements that I could get them. She was delighted but did not hold back, giving me a very long list. We both smiled as we shook hands and I couldn’t helping noticing how very pretty she was in her flowing, white Ao Dai, the Vietnamese national costume.

Well I visited them all a couple more times by the end of the month and then came the minute I had been waiting for. Lucy had got a visa from the South Vietnamese embassy in London and was able to travel straight to the Vietnamese capital. I had got to know one of the US army chaplains, a Catholic like Lucy and I, and he was sure he could arrange an acceptable marriage. I will never forget the scene at Tan Son Nhut airport where Lucy just seemed to appear out of a haze of dust, cigarette smoke and armed soldiers everwhere. As she saw me she staggered towards me with two large cases, dropped them at my feet and threw her arms round my neck unable to let go for what  seemed like a lifetime.

“Oh darling, I don’t know how I’ve got though the last five months. I wouldn’t have credited that one man could miss one woman so much.” She didn’t reply. She couldn’t through the tears that would not stop flooding down her cheeks. She was fascinated by the street scene of speeding mopeds with whole families on them as I drove our office car back to town narrowly missing half a dozen poeple. “You’ll get used to it, Luce, you will. But I must warn you. You haven’t come for a luxury holiday, more a little glimpse of hell.”

Father Timothy and several of my fellow journalists took to Lucy right away and everyone told me how lucky I was. I had a bedroom above the office but of course I had never slept with Lucy and was at a loss what to do. I needn’t have worried. “Darling, before leaving London I did something I didn’t think you’d mind. I changed my surname to yours by deed poll so that from now on our passports would look as though we were married. Your friend, that nice chaplain, will marry us in the Church as soon as he can, won’t he?” I nodded on realising what was happening. That was the first night I slept with her and I loved her so much more that I knew beyond any doubt that we could not have done anything wrong. At least that was how I felt. I am sure we both did.

The two things facing us now were how quickly we could be married and secondly what Lucy was going to do while she was in Saigon. Well Father Timothy and about twenty journalist friends, as well as few of the British embassy staff, made it a lovely wedding. But sadly it was only in the eyes of the Church. As we already had the same surname the civil authorities said they could not legally marry us. We did’t care a bit. But it was Anh who solved our second problem. On discovering that Lucy’s degree had been in French and Spanish she suggested she should work with them at the refuge for the blind. It was the perfect solution.

Our set up lasted really well for a couple of months. I even got a letter from my company saying they thought it was very clever of us only getting married in Church as that meant, for insurance purposes, they did not have to consider me married. I hadn’t thought of this before. But life is never what you hope. Well not in my experience. It was in mid August that a mortar shell hit the refuge and literally flattened it while also setting fire to to the building. Chaos!

Many journalists who knew my connections at first tried to keep me away from the scene which I found odd, but when they did not join me in looking for Lucy I knew something was very wrong. They found her body, hunched over  two terrified children. Half her head was blown in, but nobody would let me see this. All I was told was that she had died saving the lives of two blind nine year olds. I was lost. No, I mean totally lost, my world in tatters and my heart just the shattered remains of my former self.

“Hey, come on Seb. I know it’s tough mate, but we’ll help you through.” An Australian chap who had become a good friend had his arm round my shoulder and he was crying as much as I was. But, if possible, worse was to come. As the ambulance took Lucy to the military morgue chapel and Father Timothy was everywhere at once trying to help and console people, I flopped down on the remains of a stone wall and could not get my mind straight. That is until a little brother and sister, or so they looked, slowly approached me and tapped my arm. There was somethng wrong about them and I soon realised what it was. They could see. Who were they? I soon found that out too. In our broken, slow Vietnamese, they had no other language, they managed to ask me.

“Where is out Aunt Anh? We can’t find Auntie Anh.” I was so overcome with the fear that she too had been killed that I could not even reply. Eventually I said I didn’t know and would start looking. As all three of us were scrambling through the rubble I saw Marie sitting by herself, blood stained and weary. The two children ran up to her. “Marie, Marie where is Auntie Anh?” Marie knew their voices at once and opened her arms for them. Of course she had not seen me. But I knew just enough local language to realise she was telling them their Aunt was dead. I was almost too afraid to approach them. But thank God I did.

“Marie? C’est Sebastian. Comment va tu? T’es pas blesse?” I had asked her was she hurt. But her reply was the biggest shock of all.

“No, Mr Sebastian, but Anh is dead. I have been told. These two twins are her nephew and niece. They will soon be looking for their mother.”

“They know who their mother is? But they aren’t blind, does she live near the  refuge?”Then I almost wished I had not asked. She told me they were the children of Anh’s elder sister who also worked with Anh. She thought I must know her. Her name was Tuyet.”

I knew her all right and had in my mind the picture of a pretty, hard working, lovely girl who looked almost exactly my own age. I exclaimed to Marie,

“But I was told she was dead, that she had killed herself!”

Marie shook her head. No, Anh’s family were fooled by some foul tongued gossips  and when she heard the truth she searched for her sister and brought her here. The twins  were her life, and she provided for all three of them. I think a lot of the things you gave her she passed on to them.

“Mr.Sebastian, could you take these two back to their mother and break the news of Anh to her as gently as you can.”

All that was five years ago. The twins, now aged thirteen, are a happy, smiling pair of rogues beloved by all at the good school I got them into in London. It’s not very far from the large house where Tuyet and I live and where we also look after Marie who is making great strides despite her terrible handicap. But she loves helping us look after our two youngsters, a boy and a girl aged three and one.

God, the cloud of  war’s a bastard. But it has its silver lining too!

WHY I WRITE AS I DO


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/third-from-the-top/”>Third From the Top</a>

 

 

                              WHY I WRITE AS I DO

  I have never expected that anyone I knew personally, and who did not know that I had a word press site, would inadvertently pick up my writings. Yesterday I discovered that several people I knew well had discovered my digital secret and were fascinated at what they thought I was revealing about my family and amical circle. As a result I felt it necessary to post this article to clear up any assumed misunderstandings. So ears back everyone, here comes the truth!

  The most difficult thing about blogging, as daily posting of stories articles and jokes, is usually called, is remembering that there are readers out there who may wonder what is fact and what is fiction. Well in my case it is about 50-50 as far as biographical, spiritual, humerous and personal stories and articles are concerned. But a lot of my writing is obviously not about me, or true, because the characters are completely incompatible with those versions of themselves which have appeared in earlier posts or stories.

  But when it comes to expressons of opinion, morality, my Faith and comments on current affairs it is straight from my inner convictions and I never lie to myself. About myself yes, I am a born ego-hyperbolist, but never in any seriously stupid or unpleasant way. My chronic anxiety neurosis from the age of six is totally true in so far as I have always suffered from it, but the way in which I often recount anecdotes about how I deal with my mental illness, or the situations in which I have found myself, everything from hilariously funny to literally depressed beyond belief, are as likely to have been understated as overstated. What I never do is write about my own family without asking them first and always, with one obvious exception if you have read it, changing the names of people who are still alive. 

  It is true that I am currently being treated for five major illnesses, including cancer, but I leave all that to God, Saint Rita and my doctors to sort out.They are currently doing a very good job.The worst side of this type of suffering is how it upsets my wife and sons, though my wife’s prayers have played a large part in making it possible for me to get by. But again I never mention real names when talking about people who I know and whose suffering I discuss. This is a big ‘no, no’ for any blogger. So how should my readers approach my writing? If I post an obviously fictitious story, no matter how obviously much of it is based on things I have experienced, then the whole thing should be taken with a pinch of salt; especially if it is riddled with bad jokes. Also my poetry and verse is always no more than an exercise in doing something I enjoy. The one exception which I think I have posted is ‘an Ode to my Wife’, a heartfelt and a genuine expression of how I feel.

  The main important point I would like to make is the reason why I write. The nature of my health is such that this is now about the only way I have of talking to the ‘outside world’. Having been a journalist since the age of two and a half, really my pram was just missed by a bomb I shall tell you about that soon, but there was a break of 13 years in the middle, resuming when I was hired as London classical music critic for an American news agency. This augmented my pocket money enormously. Soon sports were added to my freelance writing and included tennis, rugby and motor racing between the ages of sixteen to eighteen, so I had an enviable start to what was to become my career.

  But the most important things that can be seen from everything I write are that I have been an anomaly amongst my peers all my life. Also whenever I have decided to take a particular path in life something has happened unexpectedly to turn all my expectations on their head. Only my love of God has remained with me as I wanted it and that because it is also the source of my most enjoyable love. Also I am convinced that God has a really good sense of humour. Well just look at us all. He must have!

Anton Wills-Eve

MADRE DE DIOS Y LOS TRES ANGELES


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/weaving-the-threads/”>Weaving the Threads</a>

MADRE DE DIOS Y LOS TRES ANGELES

There follows a collection of three stories which appear at first to have nothing in common. But they do. What do you think it is?


1)  Have you heard the joke about the Irishman who bought a paper shop? It blew away.


2)  “Knock, knock!”

“Who’s there?”

“Isabel.”

“Isabel who?”

“Is a bell necessary on a bicyle.”


3)  Jaime was a self admitted failure as a husband and a father. It eventually became too much for his wife, Rebecca. One day she said to him.

“Jaime. Jaime you are the greatest loser I have ever known. There’s nobody to touch you. Nobody. Do you know something, Jaime? Jaime, listen to me when I’m looking at you! Jaime if they ever held a competition to find the biggest loser in the world, you would come second!”


So what do these rivetting tales have in common? They are all dreadful jokes? Well that’s debatable and anyway is not the right answer. They all have a feeling of ethnicity about them? Yes, you could say that although Isabel is not just Scottish. My Czechoslovakian oncologist is called Isabel. But still it is another nationality, but is that an ethnic difference? No. Look you’ve all obviously got no idea so I will tell you.

None of them has anything to do with the title, which is not even in the same language.

Happy now, post setter? Gee that was tough!

AWE

A WRITER TYPE


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/ghostwriter/”>Ghostwriter</a&gt;

A WRITER TYPE

I am in no doubt that  I would choose William Shakespeare to write my biography. But I would insist that he wrote it as a play. It would go something like this.


SCENE: A nursing home at High Wycombe, a town in Buckinghamshire where a mother has been rushed in from her mansion on the Thames at nearby Bourne End: She is a very well known theatrical celebrity and the staff at the hospital are disputing who should have the honour of delivering her second child. She already has a daughter: It is almost midnight on May the ninth, 1942 with German bombers in the sky overhead, but the fearless unborn baby has not yet been told of this. This is why he is fearless. The curtain rises on the ward where his mother lies still waiting for him to appear, and two nurses, Mabel and Jane are watching over the scene:

Mabel: Ho, varlet, who goes there?

Jane: I’m not Violet, she’s doing the bed pans with Clarrie. Look there they are approaching each other from yonder doors at each end of the ward.

(cue to audience for loud laughter at upcoming really awful joke)

Mabel:  Yea, verily I see them as they meet adjoining each to t’other and then separating as off our stage they truly do take their exit. An I mistake me not they were but two shits that passed  in the night.

(look I warned you. It gets worse, and I’m not even born yet).

Jane: Indeed, great Mabel, to either end of this new babe we must attend. I the famous surgeon shall announce that he might with his stout scalpel outward force the heir to this long liege line of laughter makers and forthwith make this merrie England merrier still. Whatever the hell all that means.

Mabel: It doth forebode the victory of this sceptered Isle over the Jerry and the Hun who do this very night drop death upon us from the skies. But look, the cock doth crow twelve and being now the tenth day of the month as Churchill hath believed the babe may now be born. Let pomp and splendour rain upon us as we watch the imminent nativity.

All: (a lot of people who come on the stage from God knows where). “A boy, a boy let all our firkins of ale and vats of wine be drunk full well this most auspicious night. But hush, the babe doth speak !”

Male babe:  I am come our realm to free of all her enemies and with the last drop of my family’s blood I shall smite down the nasty Nazi who to his bunker flees. There proud Eva Brick doth him await to ‘eave a brick at him. Oh mother, thou has endowed me with a wicked wit of the west, that I may send them rolling in the aisles with the best.”

Scene ends with babe giving a strong hint of his true purpose in life by downing a whole bottle in one swig.

Land of hope and glory can be heard from far off Windsor Castle where the news has reached the palace. Our author turns to his wife as he lays down his quill and says. “I’ll make a fortune out of this one, I know I will. What sayest thou, Anne?”

Scene two starts tomorrow when the Babe is named. Don’t miss it, or the following 500 acts. Will has drafted them already.

AWE

EXCUSE ME, MISS GOLDILOCKS I PRESUME.


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/daily-prompt-4/”>Hello, Goldilocks!</a>

EXCUSE ME, MISS GOLDILOCKS I PRESUME.

That time in the life of any young boy, if he has happy expectations of his future and finds joy in the romantic ignorance of his mid-teen years, which stays with him for the rest of his days, is the period during which he tries to choose his first girlfriend. Is this mental Venus a purely physical delight or has the dayspring of heartfelt love begun to burgeon in his breast? It differs, oh how it differs, for all of us. She is so unattainable that invariably a mental list of all her putative attractive qualities turns into a list that might even rival the catalogue aria in Don Giovanni. Mine never actually reached ‘une mille tre’ Spanish syrens, but then I doubt that anybody’s thoughts ever spread as far afield as that. No I was lucky, well for wordpress I was lucky, because at the first sixth form dance I went to when I was sixteen I had to select someone to take and it would be my first formal date.

Four weeks before the dance just three fifteen to sixteen year old girls still remained in my mind. That is three who knew my reputation for probably having a vocation to the priesthood and saw me as a challenge  for this very reason. Firstly, as for all of us, there was the ‘unattainable’. Madaleine Dubonnetemps, daughter of a ranking French dipilomat, was known to many of us as she went to the nearby convent, as did my sister. I thought this was a good way to get an early introduction. But sadly the ravishing Mademoiselle, and she really was ravishing, could not fit me in higher than sixteenth. Well I was always a determined suitor and at least got my sister to get me an introduction and I actually persuaded the French beauty to accompany me to a concert at the Royal Albert Hall. I adored the music, and dad’s contribution of two press seats in the best cricle also helped make the evening, but Madeleine seemed bored to tears. She explained, as her father’s chauffeur dropped us at the embassy afterwards, that she hated the music but appreciated the evening. The best she could say of it was, “You know how to select seats where everyone can admire you at least.”

I was begining to think that my last two choices would have to be more carefully considered before I actually approached them. Red head Sally Carmichael was known among many of my year to be a ‘goer’ whatever that meant in 1958. Certainly not what it means for that age group today. In fact I had often had a coffee with her and a few other friends after school, and we had much the same sense of humour which I knew was a must if I was to enjoy myself. However, I had never kissed a girl properly and suddenly, whenever I saw her,  I realised I did not  know how to rectify this. She LOOKED approachable, but what did you do then? In the films the heroine always hid her mouth from the camera at the last minute in those years of hypocritical censorship so I could never quite see what was going on. One evening on the way to the bus I actually summoned up the courage to hold her hand and give it a meaningfulful squeeze. She seemed quite pleased and snuggled up to me on the back seat for much of the journey. But sadly as as we reached her house she just waved at me and said, “You should have kissed me. I gave you enough time and chances!” This was in a very cross voice and naturally she was scrubbed from the list. That left Jane.

What do you say to a monosyllabic straight laced brunette who nevertheless had a pair of incredicbly seductive eyes and seemed to enjoy using them. She could put an incredible amount of expression into her facial gestures in general and would often seem pleased to be the centre of attention to any group of boys without having to speak to them. This proved the stumbling block in our friendship. On two consecutive evenings when we went out for a spaghetti or a film she assumed that I knew what she would have said if she could have been bothered to say it. Then, worst of all, she never laughed at my jokes. This I really could not take and with six days  (and no weekends) left to the ball it seemed as though I was going to play Cinders or at best some wilting wallflower who couldn’t have danced even if he had a partner.

My sister looked at me hopelessly. She had captured our school head boy and was very pleased with herself. But she did feel sorry for me. “We’re going to have to find you someone aren’t we”, she said  “look, you wouldn’t do me a favour and commit an enormous act of Christianity would you?” I asked her what she meant. Well it’s Nick Johnson’s sister, do you know her?”

“Only by reputation and the very occasional silent meeting,why?” I felt doomed because Linda Johnson had mid length straight hair. Linda Johnson also had an odd shaped snub nose. Linda Johnson wore glasses which did absolutely nothing for what looks she had, and most important of all it was known Linda Johnson had a stammer which greatly embarrassed her and also made conversation difficult and devoid of any hope of spotineity. I also had another awful thought when my kind hearted sister asked her favour. I said, “Sis. How do you think it is going to look if I make some feeble excuse for not asking her earlier, you know as though I actually wanted to take her, and wouldn’t it just make her feel like the object of an act of charity?”

The answer, to my surprise, was ‘no’. But the reason was terrible.  “She happens to be one of a lot of girls who think they have heard that you want to become a priest and so they would be only too happy to be your partner. If I told her that you were very worried because you felt you had to go but didn’t have a girlfriend, and I also thought you’d both like each other, I could make her think she was doing you a favour! That will please her and teach you not to appear so holy! But it will also explain why you can’t dance.” So two days later I rang Linda and asked her if she’d like to be my date, though not in those words. She stammered out a really gratfeul acceptance and a lot of my own friends wondered how I had been reduced to making such an invitation .

But where does Goldilocks come in? Well on collecting her at her house on the night of the school do I suddenly thought of the children’s story and smiled to myself. Who in their right mind would have taken one of the three bears? So I introduced myself very gently and with a big smile on my face. As she opened the door I said to her, “Excuse me, Miss Goldilocks, I presume?” She was lost, but not so much for words as the ability to say them. A lovely appreciative grin filled her much prettier face than I had remembered as she replied,  “Heavens! Y-y-yyo’re n-n-ot D-d-dadd-d-dy  B-b-b-ear are you? ” It was the best evening of my life and we could hardly last more than a couple of days at a time without seeing each other for our last two years at school.

The only reference she ever made to the stories of my presumed vocation were when we took the dance floor for the first time and she stammered, y-y-y-you c-c-ertain-n–ly d-d-dance l-l-ike a p-p-riest!” The kiss on her doorstep, then a cuddle on her sofa as her mother cleverly kept out of the way while we had a goodnight coffee, beat anything on the films. I mean I didn’t even know you could DO that, but Linda did. She still does.

Anton Wills-Eve 

THE NIGHT MY MOTHER MET A SAINT IN HER PYJAMAS.


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/daily-prompt-4/”>Hello, Goldilocks!</a>

when I first posted this  blog wordpress were having a lot of ping problems and I have found that several of my followers never read itso, as it means a lot to me, I decided to post it again. I shall attend to Goldilocks after that.

 

THE NIGHT MY MOTHER MET A SAINT IN HER PYJAMAS.

 

in reply to  “which post would I most like to be remembered by.”

The date is forever engraved in my memory. It was the 18th of October 1961 and our family was enjoying probably the best holiday we ever had together. My father had spent the summer covering the Franco-Algerian peace talks in Evian on the banks of Lake Geneva, or Lac Leman as the French call it, and he and mum deserved their three week break. My sister managed to bunk off university in London for a few weeks and I did the same from the Sorbonne in Paris. Mum was terminally ill and we all knew it could well be the last time the four of us would get a proper vacation together. We planned a drive down to Rome, via Switzerland, Milan and Florence and were returning, first south to Positano for a week’s stay and returning via Pompeii and up the Mediterranean coast to take in Pisa, Genoa, Monaco,  Nice and the Rhone valley. Five days were to be spent in the Italian capital. The third of these was the most memorable day in my life.

Although an Australian, dad was the chief correspondent in Paris of a major American news agency and my mother was a retired entertainer of considerable fame in Britain whose health had cut short her career when she was thirty five, just after the start of the second world  war. Indeed my birth in 1942 was the last normal act on her part in her life. Being born and brought up a staunch Catholic in Glasgow in Scotland she made sure that my sister and I were educated at the best Catholic schools we could be. My agnostic father always kept his promise to bring us up as Catholics, making sure we never missed Mass on Sundays, but then as often as possible none of us missed a couple of hours at our local pub on a Sunday lunch time either. Mum was often bed ridden and had to spend her drinking hours with friends at home in our thirty seven room mansion near Richmond Park. You can see we were a rather unusual quartet. But the greatest thing about my formative years was that all the family had terrific senses of humour and, I can honestly say, really loved each other.

I grew up a Catholic who was wonderfully close to their  Faith and served Mass as often as I could. I quite shocked the monks at the Abbey which ran our school when I turned up at the sixth form ball in 1959, I would have been seventeen I suppose, with Teresa, the most stunningly beautiful girl, on my arm. She is still one of my closest friends although we were never sweethearts, but she did enough to dispel the certainty amongst many of the school staff that I was going to become a priest. Indeed she singled out the headmaster, she knew him because her brother was at the school, and said to him in a little louder voice than was necessary, “Yes, Father, Anton really loves God more than any boy I have met. But boy, Father, does he also love me. I think God’s got a battle on his hands with us!”

My mother was told of this story a few days later and phoned Teresa to thank her.  It was with this type of family background, both religious and public, that the four of us set out for Italy in the autumn of 1961. When we drove off from the family home on the Ile Saint Louis in Paris we were all determined to have a really good time. I was nineteen and a half and my sister not quite twenty one. The drive down was wonderful as we went both over and under various Alps, attended a concert at La Scala in Milan and swooned at just about everything we saw in Florence. But my sister and I could see the journey was starting to take its toll on mum. She had seriously advanced emphysema and used an inhaler most of the day. As the weather became hotter and the air less pleasant she began to find walking any distance at all very difficult. Indeed she had to miss the meal we had out on the first night in Rome with dad’s counter part there an American journalist who had known him for several years in London. He was a Catholic and told us that he had been keeping a really super surprise up his sleeve for us all. He turned to dad during the meal and said,

“Paul, you’ll all love this. Did you know that in two days it is the fiftieth anniversary of the overseas press club in the Vatican and a very select number of correspondents have been invited to meet Pope John and have an informal audience with him that evening? They desperately wanted a Catholic family to be part of this and I told the Bishop organising the audience that you, as an Australian journalist of note, your two English Catholic children and your well known Scottish Catholic wife were all in town and thanks to your job could represent the international media family. What do you think?”

In all honesty I thought he was joking. He knew how I would react and was quite right. We all said yes but asked if we could not tell anyone about mum because there was no way she would want to miss what would be one of the greatest days of her life. We were right. She said she would go if it killed her and the three of us genuinely feared that it could.  As the time to leave the hotel got nearer mum was getting worse, She donned a black evening coat and black lace veil saying she could hide her inhaler up her sleeve and not be seen as she used it. My sister also wore a black head scarf but refused to cover her face, not that anyone asked her to. Dad just wore a grey suit. Then came the real penance of the night.

Our taxi dropped us by the papal gate entrance to the Vatican palace just by the colonnade, but we were told we had to walk up to the ante room where the Holy Father was receiving the foreign press. Mum had got ready in extremely quick time and we were only concerned in helping her manage the stairs to the small hall and room where we were invited to wait for Pope John to arrive. How mum made it I will never know, but she did. Then came the high point of the evening, indeed for me, of my life.

A jovial, smiling octogenarian literally beamed his way into the room and the fifty or so papal guests were astounded at the informality and good fun that pervaded the whole forty five minutes we were with Pope John. But just as he was scheduled to leave the Holy Father cast all four of us into a state of almost disbelieving happiness. He did the most wonderful thing. Speaking in fluent French he asked if he could meet Paul, Sarah, Michele and Anton the Catholic family from all round the world who had come to see him. He approached us and in a few brief words told us all how glad he was to meet us. HE was glad to meet US! If he only knew. As he blessed us and let us kiss his ring I cast a glance at mum, the tears streaming down her face, and realised she would have climbed Mount Everest to go through that moment in her life.

Then came a lovely scene of real humour. The apostolic delegate to the media asked if any of us needed the lifts as the stairs often proved too much for elderly or sick people. Mum turned to dad and my sister and me and said, “It may have half killed me but I’m glad I walked up those stairs. It was worth it just to be able to say that I had met a Saint in my pyjamas. I was so ill I didn’t have time to dress tonight, that’s all I’m wearing under this coat.”

Dad and Michele laughed and she said, “Mum you mean the Pope, not a saint.” All mum replied was,

“I know what I said.” And the proof that she did is that on the 27th of April last year, on the 108th anniversary of mum’s birth, Pope Francis Canonized Pope John XXIII, officially raising him to the highest dignity possible for a human being to attain. I will never know how mum knew!

Anton Wills-Eve

CUSTER’S FIRST STAND


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/ha-ha-ha/”>Ha Ha Ha</a>

 

CUSTER’S FIRST STAND

 

His mother said, “George, you’ll go blind!”

 

AWE

THE FLY ON THE WALL


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/fly-on-the-wall/”>Fly on the Wall</a>

a fly on the wall at a historically important event.

 

The fly on the wall.

 

It was a bright summer’s day in  the garden by the side of the little wooden house. There on its wall a fly settled to watch what was going on. He had to admit that he greatly admired the effort the really handsome young man had put into building the little house  and he began to wonder what it was for.

Just at that moment  the man put the finishing touches to the building and opened the windows to let the smell of paint waft away outside on the breeze. The window swung wide and just touched the branch of a tree nearby.

The good looking chap then sat back in a garden lounger to take some well earned rest after his labours, when the most gorgeous girl the fly had ever seen wandered in. The insect, now rather puzzled, turned to a friend, who was crawling along the branch, and said,

“Well, bugger me Snake!” To which the asp retorted,

“No, I think that young chap’s got a better idea.”

 

Anton Wills-Eve.

THE YEAR’S RESPONSE TO CLIMATE CHANGE


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/we-built-this-city/”>We Built This City</a>

and :  if this is the land

in which I am daily fed. 

to it no praise : do I proudly raise.

No, In sad verse I weep instead.

 

The Year’s Response To Climate Change

 

January’s white snow drifts have forever gone,
Its trees’ branches are ice-tipped no more.
Warm breezes scatter the unsheltered sheep alone,
As climate change re-colours the woodland floor.

February heralds spring, not March’s gales,
As sunny clouds cause birds to mate and court.
Taking on the tasks of two months, February fails
To cheer the children,  bereft of winter sport.

March has lost its power and all that force
With which it brought rainy storms to April’s gate.
And nature’s seasons have had to change their course
Lest spring should come too early or too late.

Dan Chaucer, where has the Aprille you knew gone?
Its birds, its showers its first budding flowers?
They flew past, wrapped in March’s early sonne,
That brought forth buds too soon in glades and bowers.

Oh May! The lovers’ month, is now all too brief.
And Romeo has scarce the time to know
The Juliet he cherishes in love, she him in grief,
Upon our merrie stage they step, but straight must go.

Ah, June at last, at least some balance does restore,
As fledglings and blossom maintain their proper days.
And, though early, summer sun still glows once more,
On gardens, orchards, and fields it shines its rays.

But stay, what does July bring in high sunny season?
Thunder and floods and hot and much too soon!
This is the month that has surely lost its reason,
For summer will never again serenade  in tune.

Sad August can no longer find Phoebus its place
In all the chaos of the wet and soaking sun.
In truth, for shame, it has lost its summer face,
And is impatient for its thirty one days to run.

Thus, by September, winds start to howl again.
Yet summer still keeps pace with searing heat,
While showers keep their own counsel when to rain,
Ensuring no Indian summers give one last treat.

October, shamed and beaten into submission
By the prior seasons’ self appointed weather,
Can neither help nor hinder the Autumn vision
Of its hibernating friends or emigrating feather.

In November, anything can be expected now.
The year it knew is turned upon its head.
Fruit, which fell early from the orchard bough,
Lies rotting still, in the ochre grass, quite dead.

What can December make of its climate’s uncivil war
Which has laid waste the pattern of its year?
No hope of Christmas being white with frost of hoar.
No hope of anything being normal. It sheds a tear.

 

Anton Wills-Eve

YOU ASKED FOR IT


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/ha-ha-ha/”>Ha Ha Ha</a>

I’ve been told to tell you a joke.

 

                       YOU ASKED FOR IT

 

When given a command like the one above I always dive into my seventeen anthologies of appalling  jokes by Bennet Cerf. Unusually for an Englishman I was more familiar with his writing than anyone else by the time I was four years old. I could even tell some of his stories in Irish.  But I have decided to give you all a treat instead and made up an original joke specially for ‘word pressers’ which I promise you is 100% all my own terrible sense of humour. Here goes.

Two parrots were walking through Central Park one sunny summer’s day when the first parrot turned to the second and said ,

“Nice day.”So of course the other  parrot replied. ” Nice day”. Two hours later the first parrot died of exhaustion, at which the second parrot thought to himself, ‘Lucky I didn’t speak first’.

 

Anton Wills-Eve

A Waste of Time


 

 

 

A Waste of Time

Not a sound, not a peep

From the baby asleep,

While the cat and the dog

Both rest like a log.

And the afternoon sun

Is too tired for a run

Round the clouds in the sky,

No one knows why.

SDC11299
The warm summer breeze

Makes the leaves in the trees

Flutter calm and serene,

Speckled yellow and green.

Adding tranquillity and peace

To the ducks and the geese

As they float on the pond,

Where each lily and fronde

Are too tired to float

To the children’s toy boat

Left to bob or to sink,

While the kids have a drink,

the pond

And mummy’s new tan

Gets as dark as it can

Without burning her skin,

The cream round her chin

Stops it hurting all night.

The whole scene, so bright.

The sun, getting ready to set,

Thinks there’s time enough yet.

The birds, wasps and bees

The mosquitoes and fleas

All bask in the hot afternoon.

late afternoon

But it’s surprising how soon

Cool evening descends

And the afternoon ends.

One more day passes by,

Waving cheerio to the sky,

Because time’s daily run,

Round the moon and the sun

Can’t be started or ended

Shortened or extended.

good night moon

Anton Wills-Eve

HOW DID THEY UNDERSTAND?


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/i-have-confidence-in-me/”>I Have Confidence in Me</a>

March 7th’s prompt.

HOW DID THEY  UNDERSTAND?

I once told my readers, at least I hope they are plural, about the inability of my five year old  son, Edgardo, to master four languages at such a tender age. It really was a shame because his four sisters and two brothers were all promising linguists and I am sure Eddie was merely attention seeking egged on by his nine year old sister Lucia. Let me tell you of his latest prank.

My wife, Francesca, and I were going out for the evening to see an opera that she particularly enjoyed, Don Giovanni one of Mozart’s greatest works. At lunch that day, we were in England for the summer holidays, he asked his mother.”Now you have got your libretto, haven’t you, Mama? Lucia tells me you need to thumb through one when you go to operas, whatever that involves, but I expect you know”. My adorable Francesca had long since given up trying to understand anything her seven children said to her. Within seven years she had given birth to Maria, eleven months later Giovanni, sometimes known as John or even Jean depending on which member of the family was talking to him. Two years after that came the twins Lucia and Violetta, a year later Dido and six years after Maria came Aeneas.  Finally a year later the seventh addition to our beautiful collection, little Edgardo was born in late 2009.

You will notice their names all had strong Operatic connections. Also they were born in different countries, France, Italy, England (the twins), Switzerland, Spain and America, this last appropriately for Eddie who was a typical Chicago gansgter. But after his arrival the doctors told us that no more children could be conceived by Francesca following surgery that was necessary at the time of Eddie’s very difficult birth. Tears were shed at first but soon my lovely wife realised she had more than she could cope with already. How she ever got a masters degree as well in two languages I will never know. But she was now lecturing at an on line  distance learning university which suited my peripatetic work and our over populated family perfectly.  I  took her on holiday to Salzburg shortly after Eddie’s birth,  a much needed holiday for both of us and a very necessary period of clinging onto each other for a while as our first love returned to us in all it’s wonderful tenderness. If anything, by the time of this story I loved Francesca more than when we met at university in Pisa in 2000 at a second milenium celebration student dance. We married in April 2001 and Maria was born in May 2002. Eddie came along in the early winter of 2009.  But to return to our opera night out.

When we took our seats in Covent Garden Francesca smiled at me and sighed with contentment as she relaxed to enjoy her favourite music. She knew the score and the main arias backwards but always liked to follow them when at an opera. If it gave her more pleasure so much the better, as long as she did not try to sing along with the performers. I got her out of this habit at a performance of Tosca at Verona where she was blushing puce with remorse as people sitting near us tut-tutted. But this night she was on her best behaviour.  I hoped everything was fine, but then I did not know what Lucia had planned for Eddie. Famous aria after famous aria had little notes scribbled in the margin.

Take two examples. “La ci da rem la mano”, ‘Put your pretty hand in mine’, a seduction scene, had the annotation , “Mama, what a naughty man! Don’t let daddy see you reading this!” Then the famous aria where don Giovanni’s romantic conquests all over Europe are recited to discourage Donna Elvira, had the notes, ‘ he had 1,003 lovers in Spain? How did he keep it up?’ That was the first time Francesca had ever stuffed a hankey in her mouth in public much to my horror. I thought she was ill. In the interval she showed me the libretto and score.

“Lucia! But Francesca, it is funny. But she couldn’t know all that by herself and none of the older children would have told her!” My wife nodded and started to look worried. she asked me,

“David, isn’t it more worrying to try to work out what Edgardo was thinking as Lucia wrote this for him? He must have been curious”. We both left the opera house very concerned.

The next day we summoned Lucia and Eddie and asked why they had written all over mummy’s lovely libretto. Lucia tried to look innocently puzzled and not understanding what we were talking about, but not Eddie. “Oh, it is easy. Don Giovanni was a dirty old man, you know he never had a wash, or so our Giovanni told me, and Violetta said he held Elvira’s hand up in the air as they walked off at the end of that scene, but so many encores were called for on the first night that everyone wondered why her arm muscles did not give way she held it up so long.”

It was Maria who solved the whole mystery for us. It was just the three of us now. “Well, Mama and Papa, you see we did not think this was a suitable opera for a good Catholic family to be allowing their mother to see, so we decided to distract Mama by making her laugh and in such a way that the very youngest members of the family would not be corrupted.” I couldn’t believe her at first, but I did when she added,

“It was our embassy chaplain who told us what to write as he thought all of us were too young to understand the story, but was very pleased at how pious we were in wanting to preserve our parents’ moral standards.” Francesca wanted to talk to Father Richard but I stopped her. Darling, they are all seven of them in this far too deeply already. We are the ones who would be making our children lie even more by taking the matter any further. Let it drop. ” She nodded but sighed as she concluded,

“I’m still worried about Eddie, though. If he made up that explanation he could become a really accomplished liar, but if he undertstood the joke, who told him?”

I kissed her as we left the sitting room and said, isn’t it fun having seven children to worry about all at once! Are you sure you once wanted another pair of twins?”

 

Anton Wills-Eve

THE MISSING LINK


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/32-flavors/”>32 Flavors</a>

reply to prompt for March 17th.

 

THE MISSING LINK

 

There are thirty two flavors in chewing gum alone,

And in candy there must be many hundreds more.

Doubtless in cakes, chocolates and toffees

There are thousands with your teas and coffees,

While your dog says he’s got millions on his bone.

Alas, in England, we haven’t any flavors. No not one!

But that’s because we live across the ocean blue.

Where we are forced to spell them flavours,

And so miss everything a Yankee savours,

Daniel Webster, where did you put that bloody ‘u’?

 

Anton Wills-Eve