Friday Fictioneers: Through the narrow window of the sky

PHOTO PROMPT © Sandra Crook

When the house and her parents became too much to bear, when the tide was neither out nor in, Molly would run to the beach and the ruined pier.

She’d counted the perfect distance from the rusted beams, one foot in front of the other, toe to toe – nine feet.

Standing just there, with the beams cutting off the endless sky above, snapping short the sand below, she could pretend.

Pretend barrage balloons weren’t jostling the clouds, that barbed wire didn’t loop back and forth amid the dunes and marram grass.

Pretend Charlie was home, safe.

***

Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers. See the lovely pic (this week supplied by the very talented writer Sandra Cook), write a story and join the fun. See here to find out how.

During the Second World War, many of England’s lovely beaches were strewn with barbed wire to combat an invasion from the sea. Fortunately, such an invasion never occurred, but still, that sight in itself must have been disturbing for residents, a sign that we were vulnerable, that only the narrow strip of the Channel stood between us and possible defeat.

For a child’s perspective from the time, see here.

Friday Fictioneers : What Hanne did after the war


PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

His war work often took Klaus away for days, occasionally weeks.

On his return he would give Hanne a package of dazzling white tissue paper, tied with fine red string. Inside, a glass flower.

Roses, their petals furled and gilded; daffodils whose golden trumpets captured the sun; lily of the valley, crocuses, celandine, all spun and blown, Klaus said, to imitate the garden she’d sacrificed when they moved from Bavaria to an apartment near the Reichstag.

After the war, after the trial, Hanne bought a granite mortar and pestle, took each flower in turn and ground them to powder.

***

Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneer’s. See here to join in and be inspired.

After reading Rochelle’s moving story this week, I got to wondering how other women spent the war. Thanks for the inspiration, Rochelle.

Books in the Blood # 10: The Diary of Anne Frank

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I remember being a very self-righteous teenager. I believed that on many subjects, and despite their obvious advantage of years and experience, my parents had no idea what they were talking about – ever.

They didn’t understand how I felt about school. They didn’t get my lack of motivation, or why I became disruptive, abusive to teachers and somnolent in class after being such a hard worker until the start of my O Levels. (For those of you too young to know, that’s what GCSEs were called before they passed through the fiery furnace of Educational Restructuring and were reincarnated into their present, much-maligned form.)

To be fair, I don’t think I really understood why I became such a revolting specimen of smoking, drinking, lazy insolence either. I’d like to say I’d entered the chrysalis of my teen years and would emerge transformed into a colourful adult butterfly. But I’ve never felt like a beautiful butterfly, so that’s codswallop. I’ve occasionally felt like a caterpillar, and on really bad days a slug – but never a butterfly. Oh, and I was once convinced I was made of glass  – but that’s a story for another day.

My parents didn’t understand my relationships either. I had a best friend – a local beauty queen no less – who was the epitome of self-confidence, tall with a waist small enough to meet your fingers around, while I was shorter and wider and preferred to grovel in her shadow whilst simultaneously harbouring a slight resentment for all the attention she absorbed. She was smiley and ballsy and she used her assets to full advantage and my mum didn’t understand why I was happier to grow – mushroom-like – in her peaty shade.

But on a certain level, my friend ‘got me’ – she understood my moods and my sense of humour and my loves and loathings and being understood when you feel like an alien changeling in vaguely human form is not to be underestimated.

When my parents gave me advice, I’d shrug it off and make my own mistakes anyway. Maybe with hindsight they were right, but hindsight has been a long time coming – thirty years or so – so a little too late to be of any practical use.

My stepmother once told me

‘Youth is wasted on the young.’

She may have been right, but

‘glib clichés are also wasted on the young’,

so my only response was over-dramatic eye rolling. Although, inadvertently she taught me one thing – never tell a young person how lucky they are to be their age, how they should make the most of it and enjoy their youth. Maybe they should, but telling them won’t make them climb Kilimanjaro or go and build schools in war-torn areas of the world if they’d rather be playing Halo.

I was self-obsessed as a teen, filtering the world through my own experience. The only way to judge phenomena was on how it impacted on me. ‘Why is she such a bitch when I’ve been such a good friend to her?’ ‘How could he talk to me like that? What have I done?’

I was too egotistical to realise that the world spun on its own axis, not mine.

I was lucky. I had people who loved me and I didn’t get into the kind of trouble that killed or maimed me or changed the course of my life towards some scary, dark alleyway filled with dead cats and bin bags filled with bio waste. I may not be a high flyer, but I survived.

And there was a book that punctured my self-obsession just a little.

Today’s Book in the Blood is:

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank.

I’m sure many of you have read this, probably when you were a similar age to Anne. It’s the diary of a Jewish girl, kept whilst she, her family and four others were in hiding in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam during World War II.

The main thing I remember about the book is that in many ways, its preoccupations weren’t with the war, or even being discovered. Anne’s main concerns were her relationships with her parents and her sister Margot, the practicalities and irritations of living with other people. She talked of movie stars and her own developing sexuality, of falling in love – with Peter, the son of the other family in the house – and becoming a writer.

I guess I identified with her on some level.

You know from the first page there is no happy ending, that the families will not be saved, that of the eight people in hiding in that space behind the bookcase, only one – Anne’s father Otto – will survive the concentration camps.

Anne was  a normal girl caught up and eventually destroyed by global events and because of that, this book should never be allowed to go out of print.

When we watch the news and the real life horrors unfolding across the globe, we should remember that each of those victims is an Anne, a Margot or a Peter and each had plans for the future which were denied them through other peoples’ actions.