Thursday, October 01, 2020

Learning about hardship

"I've decided to read some eye witness accounts of life in the UK during the war and see if I can absorb some wisdom and stoicism and learn how to get on with it and stop moaning."

That was me writing on the blog in August. Well I have finally got round to it: I'm  reading a war memoir to inject some mettle into my soul. I've started with A Chelsea Concerto, a vividly written memoir of living through the Blitz. I've never read much about WW2 and this is illuminating. It was written by an artist who lived in Chelsea. She was well enough off to have her own housekeeper but when war was declared she seems to have spent most of her time volunteering -  in nursing, communications, teaching English, and translating for refugees.

She describes the huge influx of refugees from the continent, and her work with them. Locals were asked to donate unwanted clothes and household items, and the results reminded me of the first drive for clothes for refugees in 2016-17. In 1940, people donated evening gowns and top hats, just as in our time, unthinking people donated wedding dresses.

But the thing that has challenged me most so far is the willingness of parents to send their children off to unknown destinations on evacuation trains. I have never been able to imagine myself doing that with my three children. I was discussing it with an old friend in the garden the other day and she said her mother's East End house had been bombed in the Blitz, and maybe if mine had been too, I would have been happy to send my kids to safety.

Personal experience is so powerful isn't it?

I wonder if all those people complaining about 'restrictions to their civil liberties' in being asked to wear masks have had friends or relatives who have died of Covid, or who are suffering from long Covid, or who, like Michael Rosen, have had their health permanently damaged by the virus.

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