Anton's Ideas

Anton Wills-Eve on world news & random ideas

Category: tearjerker

A LIFE OF TRUE BLISS


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/bliss/”>Bliss</a&gt;

 

A LIFE OF TRUE BLISS

How many of you can guess who this is? Very few I suspect, but his connection to BLISS and my life is quite a story. For a start I will put you out of your misery by telling you that BLISS is the main national neo-natal charity in the United Kingdom. It raises millions of pounds every year to help maternity units deal with very premature or seriously ill new born babies, while supporting the parents of such children in every way possible. And the connection?

 

L'immagine può contenere: 1 persona

Well this photograph was taken two years ago when my then 25 year old youngest child, Benedict, was given the national fund-raiser of the year award by the charity. Here he is seen addressing some 750 distinguished health professionals on the role of the charity at the annual AGM after receiving his award. But listen to this.

The young chap you see berating all and sundry about how much more they could do for this cause had a very good reason to feel so strongly about the subject. He was born on the 17th of October 1990 exactly 23 weeks and four days after his conception. Under British law he could just have been left to die, but thanks to truly caring and humane doctors and nurses he wasn’t. He now holds two records. He is the most premature baby born in Merseyside in the last century to have reached the level of academic and public achievement he has, and is happily married. He holds a lst class hons degree in physiology, a Masters degree with merit in the archaeology of death and memory and is currently in the middle of his PhD course in digital humanities. He is on three regional National Health Service committees, including being the youngest member of the panel which assesses proposed medical research programmes to decide whether they merit public funding. But how do we know the exact date of his conception so precisely? Well my wife and I had not long recovered from influenza and we made love for the first time in seven weeks shortly before she became pregnant. The only way we could be mistaken would be if he had been even more premature. The actual birth was an incredible drama in itself.

Three days before the birth my wife had an abscess on her appendix and she was rushed into hospital but they delayed the caesarean section for a day to give Ben one slim hope of life by filling his tiny unborn lungs with an experimental drug so he could breathe outside the womb. I was told that neither of them would survive. But the combination of medical determination and expertise, total nursing commitment to saving a virtually ‘certain to die’ baby, and the prayers said over both of them by the priest who baptised him as the umbilical cord was being cut, combined to perform a medical miracle. My wife and son spent many weeks in hospital but both returned home eventually with no lasting ill-effects of their experience save that we could not have any more children. And the chap you see at the start of my story enjoys his spare time helping look after the  needs of premature children like the baby boy he is playing with here. Indeed he has even written a short book on the development of neo-natal care  in the last 150 years.

L'immagine può contenere: 1 persona

It is thanks to BLISS and all it does that thousands of babies and their parents now have the chance of watching their children grow into the people they always hoped for. I, for one, can never thank all those people who helped us, and are helped by BLISS, for giving my wife and I a measure of ‘bliss’ that we never dreamed we would be blessed with.

AWE

 

 

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A SHADOW OF HIS FORMER SELF


the names changed but the facts kept.

A SHADOW OF HIS FORMER SELF

James was a shy little boy in many ways and for many reasons. He and his twin brother John had lived the first seven years of their lives always getting on well, laughing and playing but even so John thought his brother was often wistfully very sad.

“Hey, Jamie,” he asked him one day when they were seven and four months, “are you all right? You look fed up and frankly a bit frightened. I think mum and dad are starting to notice it too because they asked me the other day if you were being bullied. Are you?” Jamie took an enormous gulp, hung on tight to his twin’s hand and managed to say,

“Don’t be cross, Johnny. Please. I’ve got an awful problem that’s been getting worse and worse for over a year now. Please tell me what to do.”

“Well tell me the problem first,” John said in exasperation. There came another gulp.

“Very well, but you won’t like it. For ages now, Johnny, I’ve kept wanting to try on girls’ clothes. Whenever we go shopping I just look at them and wish they were for me. And I don’t like some of our rough boys games either.” John just stared at his twin. He had heard vague rumours, as one does at school at that age, that some children did not like the sex they were born with. However, he did not understand the subject at all. He was lost.

“But Jamie, how can you? What’s happened to you? Please try and tell me. I will help if I can.” His twin looked very relieved. “Well I’ve already put some of mum’s lipstick on. It felt great, Johnny. But I wiped it off at once in case anyone saw me. It’s the awful feeling I’ve got in my head, Johnny. It feels as though I’ll never be happy until I become a girl. I get so nervous about it too because it may be wrong. Then what will happen?”

John knew he had to do something, but what.”Shall I tell mum and dad that you are ill, would that help? You see you may be and then you really would have to explain your worries to people who can cure you. Dad told me once that people who get very worried always have to go to doctors. But they would understand if they thought you were very ill.”

That conversation was the start of an incredible nine months at the Smiths’ home. Peter and Esther had always been proud of their twin sons and had mapped out all sorts of fantastic plans for their futures. Peter was a successful tax accountant and his wife a leading member of the local SOS  group, an organisation that anonymously helped people in almost suicidal situations. She had already dealt with two such cases. She and her husband had several long talks with James, and Esther became really concerned that he had indeed got a serious anxiety neurosis about his gender and they agreed he should see a specialist in the field. Peter was frankly distraught at the thought of his son evincing such tendencies at the age of seven.

But worse was to come. First a health service specialist was appointed to supervise James’ case and became more and more certain that he should be allowed to cross dress if he wanted to. Peter said no, Esther said yes and the head master at their children’s prep school for mixed infants suggested that perhaps they could start by just letting James dress up at home but not in public. This only made the little boy more anxious and physically frustrated. So eventually, after Jamie had embarrassed his twin at school by telling his friends he dressed as a girl at home, the school relented and said he could change his sex and be legally registered as a girl at school. A special assembly, for the ten and eleven  years only, was arranged at which they were told of James’ illness. They were shown biological diagrams and were told gender change was normal. From the following week James would be coming to school dressed in a skirt and tights and would use his new legal name, Jennifer. How many children understood nobody knew, but they all promised not to bully ‘her’, as he would be, nor make fun of her.

Well, that day at school was called ‘skirt day’ and Jennifer was welcomed by everyone. She was over the moon. John had gradually got used to his brother’s serious mental illness, as the health service was legally obliged to categorise it until she was eighteen, and tried very hard to help her through the ordeal of their first ‘Jennifer’ day. The seven and eight year old girls in their year thought Jennifer was very brave and all wanted to play with her. Esther and Peter had arranged to be at home early to make sure everything had gone all right. Esther picked the twins up from school, and when they got home Jennifer could not help rushing upstairs to the study shouting, “Daddy! Daddy, it was great wearing a skirt at school today.” She dashed into the study, then stopped and looked at her father.

He was hanging from the ceiling light with a rope round his neck, swinging to and fro’, acccompanied by the shadow of his former self. 

AWE

PATRICK FOWLDS’ LAST LESSON


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/quote- me/”>Quote Me</a>

another repeat to keep up the numbers.

RECITATIVE 12

PATRICK FOWLDS’ LAST LESSON

Conticuere omnes intentique ora tenebant.

Johnson! Yes you, boy. Put that mobile phone away and pay attention to the text. This is a Latin class not a computer lesson. These words of Virgil were written two thousand years ago and deserve your full respect. The language may virtually be dead, but I still teach it because of the wonderful stories that have been written in it!”

At this another fifteen year old interrupted, his questioning hand waving loftily above his head.

Yes Mitchel?”

Please Sir, how many years have you been teaching Latin, Sir?” Patrick Fowlds could see genuine interest in the eyes of the pupil so answered him honestly.

Since I was twenty two. That is forty four years ago and I shall be retiring at the end of this year. I only hope my subject does not retire with me. It is full of such super tales.”

The class actually began to feel a little sorry for their teacher, so often the butt of schoolboy humour and even laughed at when his laboured jokes completely misfired. He greatly envied those popular masters who also taught cricket and football and were the heroes of their students. In recent years he also had to compete in the popularity stakes with young female teachers who had even more enticing ways to attract their charges. The staff in general tolerated rather than encouraged Patrick to join in their amusements, but it is probably true to say that hardly anyone would miss him when he left.

How many years had he told Mitchel? Was it really forty four? Well at least he had spent those years in the company he liked more than anything else – his classics books. He cast a glance round the form room before continuing. It was odd, he felt a bit dizzy and his tie was tighter than usual under his collar. He tried to continue the lesson but had to ask,

Sims! Could you open that window by you please? It’s getting very stuffy here.” The boys watched transfixed as Mr.Fowlds suddenly clapped a hand to his chest and almost shouted out the first line of the second book of The Aeneid again. “Conticuere omnes, intentique ora tenebant!” Then he crumpled in a heap on the floor of the dais in front of the blackboard. All twenty three boys rushed to his aid, one of them dialing for an ambulance on his cell phone. Harper tried to give him some cola which he kept in his desk, then just before another pupil suggested trying to resuscitate him, Mitchel asked the dying man, out of sympathy more than interest,

Tell us, Sir. That line you’ve just read, what does it mean, Sir?” And with his last breath he told them,

It says…it means … all gathered round him eagerly waiting to hear the story unfold.”

But the boys never heard the story; not how King Agamemnon sent a fleet of a thousand ships across the Hellespont to bring back his daughter, Helen, who had fled to her lover Paris in Troy. Of how the Greeks entered the city via a Trojan Horse, nor Cassandra’s prophecy, or Achilles dying with an arrow in his heel, and the towers of Illium crashing down and killing king Priam.

They knew nothing of Helen watching as her lover Paris was killed by Hector, or Laocoon and his sons being crushed to death by the sea serpent for foretelling their nation’s doom. And, above all, Aeneas’ flight through secret passages and tunnels to escape and fulfil his great mission, to sail the world, as it was then known, even if it meant deceiving Queen Dido, and finally establishing ‘the city on the seven hills’ that was destined to become the Empire of Rome.

No, Patrick Fowlds took the greatest story ever written in verse to his grave with him. But that evening after school, Mitchel stopped off in the school library and took out an English translation of the book. He felt he owed the old man that much.

AWE

MENDING A BROKEN HEART


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/teach-your-bloggers-well/”>Teach Your (Bloggers) Well</a>

my lesson to satisfy this prompt, orhow to survive against the impossible

 

MENDING A BROKEN HEART

I looked forward enormously to that day outside the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Saigon, South Vietnam’s largest Christian building and a monument to French colonialism. It had been built to accomodate those lazy colonial administrators and worshippers who ruled French Indo-China more than a century and a half ago. They wanted to show the indiginous population the majesty of their imposed adoration.

But on that day in May 1969 it was not that wonderful church and its purpose there that I was adoring as I entered it. No, it was the lovely girl who was about to join me at the altar that we might be married and pledge our lives forever each to each in the sight of God. Anh really was beautiful and I the envy of my friends and journalistic colleagues. I often used to criticise the learned fathers at the second Vatican council in the early 1960s for changing the Catholic liturgy from Latin to the native tongue of each country in which holy Mass was said. I am an Anglo-Australian Catholic. My beloved Anh was pure Vietamese and in her religious practices, such as they were, a Buddhist. But the nuptual mass and wedding vows were said in French thus satisfying all parties. Her inability to learn all the tenets of the Catholic faith meant no more to the priest who wed us than it did to me. We both promised to look after each other and never come between each other and our god, whatever such spiritual experience that might mean to each of us. And the hymns we chose were sung in Vietnamese by the cathedral choir to music in a pentatonic key that I had never realised could sound so beautiful.

Now, what sort of a honeymoon do two young people have when one works daily at an orphanage for blind and abandonned infants and the other spends his time covering man’s inhumanity to man in the form of a war that was neither desired nor understood by either side? We only had two days  but by good luck I had been to University in Paris with the son of the head of state of Cambodia and we became good friends. Although, at that time, journalists were barred from the country on the other side of the Mekong river to Vietnam, I managed to get visas for both of us to fly to the wonderful Cambodian resort of Siem Reap and its jewel, Anglor Wat, a world of a thousand temples set in a forest and surrounded by a moat-like lake. In those days only a few tourists could visit those remnants and ruins of an ancient cult, and the calm and serenity of the spires and trees by the lake in the moonlight was as perfect a setting for a tryst for life as any place on earth. We only spent thirty six hours there as Prince Sihanouk’s guests, but it was more than either of us could have imagined we would ever experience. On our return to Saigon I wrote to the prince to thank him and was later to be instrumental in saving his life when the war spread to his country the following January. I must tell you about that some time.

Anh and I settled down to a daily life of  work and as much family life as we could get, living in a flat over my office by the presidential palace. We often helped each other out in our work and I always loved playing with the poor orphans that she cared for. Her sense of fun and love gave them hope and daily filled my heart with more and more love for her. Shortly after our marriage she became pregnant and I had to cajole her regularly into taking it easy when she worked too long or took on tasks not at all suitable for her condition. But eventually on February the 5th 1970 she gave birth three weeks early to a gorgeous little girl. I was over the moon with my wife and daughter. I chose Gemma, my favourite name, for her and Anh added Tuyet, very popular in Vietnamese. Given the dangerous circumstances in which we lived and worked, though, I  was keen that the baptism and Christening should take place as soon as possible, which it did in the cathedral soon after Anh and Gemma had settled down in the flat.

But we both knew that with a child Saigon, given our work, was somewhere we had to leave fairly soon. My editor in chief in London had written to me about this and I was told that in a month’s time we would be returning to England, first for two months much needed leave, and then I was going to be posted either to the United States or France. I told Anh and even little Gemma smiled as she heard the news. Anh was taking her for a short walk in the park by the palace opposite our flat. I waved to them and watched in unspeakable horror as a mortar shell, I know not from where, landed almost right on them and killed them both on the spot. My eyes could not take in what they saw, and I remembered nothing more about that day. My colleagues and friends both military and civilian did all they could for me but apparently it was obvious I had to get out of Saigon and fast. But I could not leave without burying my family. The funeral service was arranged for the cathedral just two days later. I had to be there.

I looked forward in mental and spiritual agony to that day outside the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Saigon as I walked towards the huge doors. There before the altar was the coffin containing my wife and the tiny immitation of it in which my little daughter’s body lay. A close friend who had worked with me for several months held my arm, well held me up to be honest, as I walked up to the front pew and collapsed rather than knelt in prayer. I did not ask God why, I think for the only time in my life I did not want Him to answer me. But as the Mass progressed I looked at Anh and Gemma and I did ask one Saint to help me mend my heart, lying in shattered shards on the cathedral floor.

“Antonino,” she said. I actually heard her, “stay with those who need you and love you it is the only way you will get over your sorrow. Go across the river to your Cambodian friends and when the war breaks out there, as it will very, very soon, continue Anh’s work helping the poor and the maimed and continue to tell the world how terrible acts of war really are. Just for a few more months until you can live with yourself again”.

The voice that spoke to me, or whatever was happening in my head, was the gentlest Italian sound I had ever heard. So I did as she bid me, and in a relatively short time those shattered shards began to come together normally once again. Every child I helped to laugh again and  deadly engagement  or bombing about which I wrote evoked Anh’s adorable smile or little Gemma’s infectious gurgling chuckle. I don’t know how they got me back to normal. But even after all that time, and another very happy marriage some years later, they are both always with me in my dreams and in my loving, mended heart.

AWE 

 

 

SHE GAVE ME BACK MY SHOE


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/pay-it-forward/”>Pay It Forward</a>

Prompt:Tell us about a time when you responded to an act of kindness with one of your own.

 

SHE GAVE ME BACK MY SHOE

 

The last thing anybody wants to do is make a fool of themselves in front of their friends and peers and especially not at the age of twelve when the whole school is watching. Well I managed to come very, very close to that in the cross country championships that year. We had an immense playing field, big enough for four rugby pitches and four tennis courts and a pavillion, with the perimeter measuring exactly one and a quarter miles. The cross country course was three laps of the fields starting and finishing at the pavillion.

I was among the fancied thirty two entrants for the under fourteens race which was held first at 2.00 pm with the senior race an hour later. So the assembled watchers numbered about 250 boys each cheering for one of the four houses that the school was divided into. Another 100 or so parents and family members also turned out for what was always the highlight of the athletics calendar in the Easter term.

There were eight boys from each house in each race and about half way round the first lap I was in the middle of the leading pack of some twelve runners all bunched together when I went over on my ankle on the slippery grass and my right running shoe came off and bounced into the spectators. Well that was my race over, or so I thought. Suddenly a little girl of about ten came rushing out of the crowd with my shoe which she gave me shouting,

“My brother’s in your house and I can’t physically help you. Get that back on and catch them up.” She could tell which house I was in from the colour of my running top. I have never re-tied a running shoe faster and although some 25 yards behind by then decided to pace my way back up to the leaders if I could. A lap later I was up into sixth place but still had four good runners some 15 yards ahead of me. Still I refused to sprint and just gradually increased my pace until I was up in third place with only some 300 yards left. The little girl who had rescued my shoe was racing round to the finish and never took her eyes off me. I was never more glad I had kept my head because I knew I had the best sprint finish. I caught the two boys ahead of me and still waited until we were all only fifty yards from the end with the finish line and pavillion in my sight. I forgot my opponents and just ran flat out until I felt my chest breasting the tape and collapsed in a heap.

The girl who had really won the race for me was cheering and in tears at the same time. I had no idea who she was although I assumed I must know her brother well. I did, it was James Marshall and he came in fourth. As a team we won the overall under fourteens cup as well as my individual one. He clapped me on the back laughing. I only realised his relationship to my saviour when he said, “You lucky so and so, Anton! My little Angie certainly saved that race for you.” After changing and waiting for the senior race he took me over to his family and introduced me. They lived miles from the school and I only knew him as a fellow pupil in my year. I shook hands with his parents and then went up to a very shy Angie and shook hands saying,

“Thank you more than I can say. You certainly saved my race and if I can ever do as much for you in the future you can be certain I shall.” The poor girl was blushing furiously and after a few more chatty words I said goodbye to Jim’s family and went back to watch the main race. Jim and I went on through school together for the next six years and were good friends when the last term of all at last came round. I was just eighteen that spring and would be leaving for university in September.

It was customary for the sixth form leavers ball to be held in the school and all of our year were keen to show off our latest girl friends. However, I had a flaming row with my current girl in February and was with no one five weeks before the dance. I hastily wondered who to ask. My own sister would have been a real downer in the eyes of my friends. Then an idea struck me. I had never met Jim’s sister since that cross country race and I suddenly thought that Angie might like to come. So I asked her brother if someone else was taking her as I hadn’t even met her since that race all those years ago.

“Heavens, didn’t I tell you, Anton, she was diagnosed with a rare form of blood cancer several months ago just before her sixteenth birthday and is still in hospital. She’s had a hard time poor thing as she never lost her shyness and gets really lonely and depressed. The family have been badly shaken by her illness even though the doctors are confident she’ll be able to make a full recovery. But it could take ages.” I was shocked by Jim’s news and asked him to do me a favour. I said I wanted to drop her a line and get well card and asked him if he’d give it to her. He was delighted and said she’d be really pleased. The next day I gave him an envelope addressed to her and when she opened it that evening this is what she read.

“Hi Angie. Sorry to hear you’ve been so ill and even sorrier that we’ve not been able to keep in touch since I kicked a shoe at you. But I was hoping to give you a late sixteenth birthday surprise and invite you to the sixth form dance at the end of June. I don’t suppose there is any chance you could come with me, is there? If you’re not up to dancing I’d still love to see you again and take you with me. I’ve put my mobile phone number on this note so you can ring or text me to keep in touch and let me know if you could come. If not at least can I come and see you?”

From all Jim told me she was amazed to receive my card and invitation. She deperately wanted to ring me but was too shy and asked her brother to give me her number. She also asked her doctors if she would be strong enough to leave hospital and have an evening out by the time of the dance. When Jim told me this I rang Angie and we had a really long and enjoyable chat. The doctors had planned to discharge her that week anyway, so they thought a night out to look forward to would do her the world of good. But she was told she had to take it very easy.

I waited until she was home before arranging to visit her and was surprised at how pretty she was, especially suffering from that type of illness. She was going to come to the dance but said she couldn’t do more than sit quietly and watch. Not what I thought. When the evening arrived I collected her in a taxi and several of Jim’s friends were very glad to meet her. We had to have a quiet time, naturally, but when it came to the last dance I just looked at her and said,

“Angie stand up. Come here, put your arms round me and even if we can’t dance properly I can at least hold you close to me for a few minutes. I’ve been wanting to all evening.” The joy that lit up her face was all we needed to spend the next few minutes just holding each other close . In the taxi on the way home I kissed her and thanked her. “Not for being so lovely tonight, Angie, but for returning my shoe all those years ago.” She laughed and had tears in her eyes as she hugged me before going back indoors at home.

I had all sorts of plans to give her little trips out for the odd day during that summer, but on July the seventeenth I received a phone call from her mother to tell me she had had a relapse and died early that morning.

“But thank you for making the last few weeks of her life so enjoyable and such fun, Anton. None of us can ever thank you enough for that”. And nobody can ever make me forget her and what might have been.

AWE

LOOK AT ME, NO DON’T TURN AWAY.


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/festivus-for-the-rest-of-us/”>Festivus for the Rest of Us</a>

A poem first the medal later.

 

LOOK AT ME, NO DON’T TURN AWAY.
Where were you going when I stopped you yesterday?
Guilt written on your half hidden face avoiding me.
Where had you been that you did not want me to know?
Most of all why me, what am now, I just can’t see?

We first met twenty one years ago when you were only twenty two,
With your first degree, so full of hope you could do anything.
I too had mine. I cried ‘look out world there’s a changer coming’!
Yours was in chemistry, in history mine. My heart began to sing.

That night at the student ball you were so lovely and so pretty
We melted away across the quod where none could see. Your chemistry
Deserved its degree for all it did, clinging to the chemistry in me.
In my gothic rooms,lost in the love which only you had ever found in me.

When I awoke, you were no longer there.Was I so little in your life?
You fled our halls the very next day, never to let me see you smile again.
Have I changed the world out of bitter revenge for the way you left me there?
And by re-writing history, which brought me fame through my digital pen.

Was this the way I chose to tell both friend and foe ‘Yes, my only lover went!
You didn’t have to, but I gained fame, a T.V. celebrity, writer. “Celebrity”
Oh, ghastliest of ghastly words. It turned me away from every putative lover
For twenty years, my heart just sees your face, saying ‘You must love me.’

I shall only be here for two more days, I’ll walk along that street again.
“At half past ten, there you were and I shouted,”Jennifer, please. Wait”.
Full face on you turned and I realised my mistake. I blushed, just a hope
I was keeping in my breast in case I saw your face, but it’s too late.

A woman was hurrying up behind the youngster, holding her degree. Given to her by me.
As the woman got nearer the girl approached me and asked for my autograph.
But It was her mother, tears streaming down her cheeks, who softly called out ‘Lucia’
Please don’t ask him for his autograph, you already have it, and began to laugh.

I didn’t move. Just stared at my daughter.Twenty one years of Lucia’s life gone.
Then at her mother, still crumpled with remorse.”Jen, I love you and forgive you”.
Then I turned to Lucia and asked for one quick father’s hug. She was lost
But could not help holding me as her mother had. I looked at Jen, again. “Why?”

“I was told you were the lover of half our year. I ran away distraught.
Eight years later the lyer confessed as she was dying, I forgave her.
I sought you everywhere but as Lucy got older I told her all about you.”
Then Lucia broke in, “but she’s still yours if your not married. She couldn’t bear
To look on any other man and she’s been very ill. She lectures here too.

I have a degree in history just like you. Can I call you dad? We hugged again.
I walked up to Jen and held her as I did all those years ago. “I do love you so”.
We went back to my hotel to tidy up and prepare for a reunion luncheon, but Jen collapsed
Her heart gave out she was dead. Lucia clung to me,”Dad, don’t leave me, I’ve still got you.

But she meant more. No one would know.Forty three marrying twenty one. Why not?
“Lucy I’m your dad! You aren’t serious. My Lucy was. This time it would be for every day.
All alone, I drove off and live alone now lecturing and broacasting in the States.
Lucia committed suicide. Her last words to me were, “Look at me. No don’t turn away.”

Anton Wills-Eve

THE FAR FLUNG FIELDS OF BEDFORDSHIRE


A Mystery Wrapped in an Enigma

 truth will out, but names had to be changed

                             THE FAR FLUNG FIELDS OF BEDFORDSHIRE 

Well it really is nice to be back amongst my blogging friends after a very strange two weeks journey into the unknown. What a journey too! I did not even have time to pack.

    I can remember looking at my watch and seeing it was fourteen minutes past nine in the morning. I had promised to take a fruit cake round to old Mrs.Winters, a miracle at ninety three, blind as a bat but with a mind still as sharp as a razor. I had promised to read to her for an hour. Then I suddenly sat up, supported on my right elbow and wondering who the five people were gathered round my bed. My wife looking like death, my son and daughter-in-law concerned and frightened, and two ambulance people speaking coaxingly to me to try to get me into a wheel chair.

     “What’s going on? Why are you two here at quarter past nine? Who told you to come?” And while my tear stained wife’s face smiled at me in sympathy I looked at my watch again and it said half past one. Gone lunchtime!. “Did anyone take Mrs. Winter’s cake round to her?” I was greeted with stunned silence.

       The ambulance woman asked who Mrs.Winters was but my daughter-in-law, Jane, said none of us had ever heard of her. Of course they had. I couldn’t believe this. “Jane, don’t be silly you know the path through the copse behind the stables well she lives in the little white cottage three houses down the road to the right.

hols sept2011 011

Then I started to walk along the lane past the harvest decorated village church and smiled at the stupid mistake everyone at home had made. What did they think had happened? Had I had a stroke or something? Nonensense. It was a lovely day as Chloe and I strolled across the recently harvested land, hand in hand and every bird in Bedfordshire singing to see us so happy. The love of two youngsters, I was eighteen Chloe just seventeen, and the late afternoon sun drawing us ever closer to each other. If we were not actually in Heaven, we were very close. Third path to the left were the gates with Saint Peter smiling at us, his keys were jangling softly on the cord round his waist. The whole rural scene was perfect in every tiny detail.

    Each leaf was moving so softly in the light breeze as Chloe sat by the foot of the oak tree and beckoned to me to sit next to her. “You been waiting for this moment, John? Chloe intoned as though making a rhetorical statement rather than asking me a question. I’ve been needing you for more than two years, my lover.” And a silken arm, bare from just below the shoulder, slowly crept up and its fingers played a fairy tune on the back of my neck. I knew what I should and what I shouldn’t do. I had never wondered what I’d do if things ever came to this point. But Chloe seemed in no doubt what the twilight was going to give us. And given my poor Chloe’s living hell how could I not give in to my own physical need of her?

    It must have been about two hours later that the phone call came from her mother and  I set off walking slowly up to Chloe’s front door and her sister Mary let me in. She was slightly younger than me and squeezed my hand as we climbed the stairs to her bedroom. Just before entering the room she smiled through her tears and said, “she’s not it pain John, and it won’t be long now”.

      It was very brief as it turned out, some forty minutes, and then each of us kissed her although her eyes were already shut. I shuffled my way back down the stairs, my coat pulled tight round me as the early autumn sky filled me with a sad and hopeless chill. Then, as I slowly ambled back across the Bedfordshire farmland in the full moonlight, I heard running footsteps behind me trying to catch me up. Finally a slightly breathless Mary caught up with me and we wept there under the oak tree unable to stop hugging and holding on to each other. Mary closed the evening with the most unexpected pensee.

     “You know John I never thought my twin would die a virgin. Not our bubbling Chloe. Life’s cruel in what it robs us of, isn’t it John?” I just held her tighter as I cried for my sin and prayed that God had forgiven Chloe. He couldn’t have refused her Paradise. It wouldn’t be Heaven, without Chloe, would it?

good night moon

  “Matron, sister the gent in number three has woken up.” And so I had. I looked at my watch it was eleven am. But the date couldn’t be right. It was Tuesday and I had lost four days of my life. But what was that compared to the lovely summer with Chloe in those far flung fields of Bedfordshire some fifty years ago. A whole life lost. Funny how it took a stroke to recall it so vividly. I’ve never told anyone before, so please don’t you do so either. It would break my Mary’s heart.

  • ANTON WILLS-EVE

A SCHOOL PHOTOGRAPH OF AN OLD GIRLFRIEND WHO HAS JUST DIED


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

a photo of an old girlfriend who I have just heard has died

ON A SCHOOL PHOTOGRAPH OF AN OLD GIRLFRIEND WHO HAS JUST DIED

Oh my Glen. I miss you so.

Why oh why did you have to go?

In your photo, so shy and pretty

You fill me still with love and pity.

As I recall each innocent kiss.

Was I always the one you missed?

Empty hearted I still ache for you.

Look! You’re smiling at me, too.

With your brown check school dress

And those fair hands, whose soft caress,

Always left me lonely and broken hearted,

Your hair on my cheek, each time we parted.

Then that April night, under our twilight tree,

What happened to make you stop kissing me?

Did you keep my love with you as you went,

Leaving all the coin of our realm unspent?

So very young.

So smiling bright.

My sun by day.

My moon by night.

My singing wren.

My snow white dove.

My own sweet Glen.

My one and only love!

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

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!

THE GREAT ESCAPE


Take a quote from your favorite movie — there’s the title of your post. Now, write

I’ve used the title instead.

a href="https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/silver-screen/">Silver Screen</a>

                        The Great Escape


I remember the helicopter being hit,

Forcing us downwards in a spin.

Six of us on board, all scared to death,

Each one feeling his fear begin

To take control of heart and mind,

About to discover who was brave or yellow

Or just a normal, petrified young man,

Voice barely heard above the engines’ bellow.

Jim, the pilot, gave in to his panic first

As we brushed the jungle trees below.

He screamed “ I can’t, I can’t just let me out’,

Undid his harness and jumped. I’ll never know

Whether he lived or died because all I cared

Was whether I could fly the chopper in his place.

The others pushed me into Jim’s empty seat

As I tried to focus on the controls before my face.

Fred, the comic of our little band,

Then lost the plot as he deliberately blew

His brains out and slumped across his gun.

Willy tipped his body out continuing to chew

Relentlessly on his soft, cool mint gum.

Somehow I kept us flying straight, though now

It was more by luck that we made it to a clearing

With room to land. “Someone, please tell me how!”

Side to side we swayed among the branches

Then Jeff screamed “Fire. Look, at the back.”

A burning stench took the breath from all of us.

Tony and I, in front, saw the oncoming attack,

Shells shattered our windscreen, blinded, Tony fell

Sideways into the jungle. My best buddy. Dead.

In hell I ceased to care about the guns or fire,

Save the others! But I ran out of time instead.

The chopper lurched smashing, side-on, into a tree;

Sheared in half, the rear exploded leaving me alone

Swinging from a branch by only my parachute cord.

I Looked down, the ground was miles away and a bone

Stuck crookedly out of my lower leg. “God take me,”

I remember praying out loud. Agonising pain and fear

Accompanied me, sliding downwards through the jungle.

The earth rushed up, and the ground was deathly near.

Vision blurred,

The last sound I heard,

Maybe the last word,

Was, “Nurse. Absurd!

“Not even a bird

Could survive that fall”.

But I did. After all,

All the dead can recall

Is a flag for a pall

And a lone bugle call.

Anton Wills-Eve

_____________

Peter and Jacqueline


Getting Seasonal

Peter and Jacqueline loved every minute of their Christmas and New Year when their parents took them to see Auntie Jill and uncle William and their new baby. He was born on Christmas Eve and his parents called him Nicholas after Father Christmas. It was a wonderful nine day holiday and they especially enjoyed helping their aunt settle in at home with their new cousin. Mummy and daddy were also thrilled and the whole family festivities were among the best they had known in their eight and a half years. Being twins they somehow always enjoyed the same things which made times like Christmas even more special.

By February the next year they were already looking forward to another Christmas but of course they had a birthday in June and they also wondered what to ask for for birthday presents. Whatever they wanted, however, they were disappointed because what they got was tragedy. They had little memory of the accident when the car was struck side on by a lorry on the motorway in April. Peter was concussed and sustained two fractured legs, a broken collar bone and worst of all was paralysed down his right side from the shoulder to the knee. Why the paralysis stopped there the doctors never knew but at least it meant that once they had mended and strengthened his legs he would be able to walk.

Poor Jacqueline was a much worse case. She had no serious physical injuries but the blow to the side of her head had left her in a coma and she still had not regained consciousness a couple of months later. As their birthday approached. Mummy asked Peter,

“Darling what would you like as a birthday present? I know it won’t be much fun this year with Jacquie so ill but you mustn’t be forgotten.” The little boy just stared at his mother in disbelief;

“You mean you think I want a present with Jacquie so bad? Of course I don’t. Don’t let anybody give me anything. Do you hear. Nothing from anyone. All I want is Jacquie able to speak and play and be happy again. That is the only thing I want. Understood?!” So vehement was his tone that his parents had a long chat and decided to cancel their twins’ ninth birthdays until Jacqueline was better. But that was the tragedy. The doctors had no idea when she was going to recover, or even if she was.

Her poor parents were distraught at the agony that had hit the family. They even felt guilty about the crash as they had escaped unhurt and only the back of their car was smashed in. But soon Peter’s legs started to mend and by the end of the summer holidays the doctors let him return to school as his paralysis had also eased almost totally and he could walk and write. But then came the real problem for the family. Peter had no interest in school any more. He could not play football or pay attention in class and, when asked by his teachers, was only able to say that he could not stop thinking about his sister. Half term passed and soon Christmas was looming with Jacquie still unable to move or communicate with anyone. She had a special ward to herself and was wired up with tubes and drips that were just about keeping her alive. Even a visit from Nicholas, now ten months old, registered nothing with the little girl. But Peter felt sorry for his little cousin and found himself at Jacquie’s bedside having a long talk with the baby and telling him all about how great life was going to be when the family were all restored to health. The grown ups and the doctors heard a lot of this and started to worry seriously about Peter’s mental state. How on earth would he cope with Christmas.

Again the little boy only asked for one present and refused anything else. At nine and a half years, though, he was able to realise how much some things mattered to his parents and aunt and uncle and decided not to spoil their Christmas. He helped decorate the house and the tree and told his mother that he had the oddest feeling that everything would be right. But he surprised her even more by asking for just one gift after all.

“Mummy, on Christmas Eve, in the afternoon could I have an hour to myself in Jacquie’s ward with her? Just the two of us and no adults or anyone interrupting us. You see I know it may be my last Christmas with her and I so want to tell her how much I’ll miss her if it is. But we’d have to be alone. I couldn’t do it if other people were in the room.”

His mother realised he wanted to say goodbye to his twin and she just managed to promise him he could have his wish before getting to her bedroom, shutting the door and crying her eyes out. She told the hospital and the family what Peter had asked and added that she would be dreadfully upset if her son was not allowed to say goodbye to his sister. Nobody even thought for a minute that he should be denied his wish and so it was all arranged as he asked.

At three o’clock on Christmas Eve afternoon they shut the ward door on Peter and Jacquie and a nurse sat outside the door in case she was needed. The others waited in the hospital coffee bar. Then at ten to four the ward door opened and a beaming Peter came out. He was glowing with happiness, joy such as nobody had ever seen in his face before. He walked slowly up to his parents and just almost whispered to them.

“You can go in now. She kept her word. As I asked her very slowly, in case she had difficulty understanding, if she would like to give me a present before she died she answered me. Yes she did, she answered me. She said, “Peter who said I was dying? I’ve been asleep, that’s all. You know you only had to ask to wake me up.” Parents, doctors, relatives and nurses rushed into the ward and were amazed to find Jacqueline half propped up on one elbow asking what all the tubes were for…..

Some said it was expected, some a miracle, some couldn’t make sense of it at all. But Peter just slowly walked in behind them wondering what all the fuss was about. As he told the family as they celebrated Christmas round Jacqueline’s bed the next day,

“We’re twins. I’d have known if she was going to die. Wouldn’t I?”

Anton Wills-Eve