I cannot recall with swelled chest, like you, a grandfather
whose military career included ‘hush hush missions’ in the
who smartly heel-turned on retirement from the military to join
the civil service.
Or speak with catch in throat of a father’s national service
where no cushy number in Aldershot but the short straw of
his basic training no match for hate hardened guerrillas -
buried atrocities on both sides dug up occasionally in whispered
to his father over whiskey, after closing time in the ‘Neptune’.
True, my great grandfather cavalry-charged off to the first war,
but cancelled out his heroics, as every Sunday,
he made my child grandmother bend over and do her duty.
And in the second war, my great uncles, hearing Chamberlain’s
walked out of factory jobs, intent on enlisting as essential
ganged up on my grandfather, to put a good word in with the
only great Uncle Sid, who married in, saw the war through
returning with campaign medals, a canteen of Nazi silver and VD.
Post war they found themselves skilled labourers in demand,
plenty in their pockets for fag-fueled days and evenings in the
Plus, a word in the ear of old school chum Councillor Bones
meant top of the list for social housing in the village.
Sometimes several pints in, they would give themselves airs,
claiming six degrees of separation to the proprietors of a
department store in Folkestone or hint at
lineage with local aristocracy, courtesy of a good-time
So, my fingers itch to go on a genealogical treasure hunt as
by TV ads, dig through old documents and find great uncles who
the Ramsgate -Dunkirk crossing in fishing boats under fire. Or
a great great aunt who cut sandwiches and managed the tea urn
suffragette sisters at Canterbury rallies. Or even settle for a
spoken of in whispers who ran with Ronnie and Reggie’s
But it seems that the sum of all my ancestors’ unused aspiration
has rolled over the years and paid to me -
If you have any
thoughts on this poem, Fiona
Sinclair would be pleased to hear them.