Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Blitz Spirit

I'm feeling a bit emotional today. Partly this is due to being very, very tired, both mentally and phsycially, and desperately in need of a few days off with no work hanging over my head. This situation has not exactly been made better by the tube strike this morning, or a minor family emergency last night or the fact that I am seriously behind with my work or the migraine that has been lingering since Sunday evening.
But it's also because this morning the streets of London are peppered with elderly ladies and gentlemen in crisply presented navy blue jackets and hats with rows of shiny silver medals on their breast headed towards a service at St Pauls to mark the 70th anniversary of the Blitz.
I think I've mentioned before that as a young teenager I was a little obsessed with the Home Front and the stories of World War II. 'What did you do in the war?' is still one of my favourite questions, although every year there are fewer and fewer people to ask.
But seeing the remaining war survivors today I can't help thinking about my much missed and loved grandparents. I especially miss hearing my paternal Grandma's stories of servicing as a fire fighter in Maidenhead and getting locked outside her bedroom window in her nightie.
Although my maternal Grandpa  never felt able to tell me the full version of his own war story of escape and loss - he escaped from what was then Czecheslovakia and lost almost his entire family - it too has had a big influence on my life and cast a shadow of sadness over our family that is dissipating down the generations but remains terribly important. I miss them all very, very much today.
In London, thanks to terrorism, we still seem to be expecting the next attack. It is really not that hard to imagine how terrifying the sound of a bomber flying overhead would be, especially as the Imperial War Museum has done its best to replicate the experience for generations of London school children. It's a strange a strange and particularly scary kind of war when there are no obvious enemies to fight on the streets. But in this city we just get on with things regardless - the Blitz spirit has become something of which we are immensley proud
And the thing about the Blitz is that along with the terribly sad stories of loss there are incredible tales of heroism, joy and a strange kind of freedom. It is amazing what an extreme situation can do to a normal person. Which makes me feel more than a little guilty for complaining about my life.

In the rush to work, battling through the swarm of commuters around waterloo station, I spotted a group of war front heroes waiting for their transport to St Pauls. Sadly I forgot to take down their names and didn't have time to hear their stories, but they were gracious enough to allow me to take a very quick photograph. Frankly, I want their hats. But I also want to say the kind of big thank you that you never really know how to express.

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