Monthly Archives: March 2017

London can take it

I’m selfish.

Every time I wonder where my own flesh-and-blood were, and are, and how close.

Today #3 daughter, a lawyer, was due to be passing through Victoria, mid-afternoon. Her case, on the South Coast, was cancelled; and she was — in fact— in the Fleet Street office.

Earlier there was #1 daughter, an accountant , supposed to be with her team in the World Trade Center, 11.11.2001. Her eldest, my first grandchild, had serially soiled his nappy; so she missed two trains. When she arrived at the Hoboken ferry, she was told to forget it.

Even earlier there’d been the 2 a.m. ‘phone call from #2 daughter: “We’re in Bangkok. There’s a revolution going on. If we don’t get on this BA flight, we’re here for a couple of weeks. Can you pick us up at Heathrow tomorrow morning?”

No: it goes far, far further back than that.

I am the first-born son of a London midwife and a London copper.

He was policing the streets of Bermondsey, London SE1, as a neophyte, in the late 1930s. That  means, during the 1939 IRA bombings, he was sent out, the front-line against terror, equipped with the essentials: a police whistle (which I still have), a truncheon and a rolled waterproof.

Mum, not even “to-be”, was a mid-wife who would be called to walk through the Greenwich foot-tunnel and deliver babies in the slums of the Isle of Dogs. Even during the first London blitz.

It doesn’t end there.

Dad, in his third incarnation (after  LMS apprentice, after Met Police), was running an MTB engine-room up the Aegean — and, yes, I have some photos. Mum was back in south London — Penge, or thereabouts.

In later life she told the tale about being invited into the air-raid shelter of her neighbours, “a nice Jewish family, the Solomons”. By her account, she hated shelters; but felt obligated, and accepted.

So, she and her infant brat were taken into the Solomons’ private shelter.

That night a flying bomb took out the street.

Yet, I am here.

Many years later …

When she was peeling potatoes, I felt able to ask: “But how did you cope?”

Her reply: “You just got on with it.”

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