Friday, 20 July 2012

I LOVE THIS LIFE ! (WWI, in the trenches)

* My apologies, this is far too long for me to attempt a translation ... so it can only be easily read by those with a lot of experience of UK English. Pat.

In Remembrance ... one voice talking ... 

So cold…I’m bloody frozen…I can’t feel t’end o' me nose
I wish this snow would melt away…afore I get totally froze;
Will Jepson over in ‘C’ Brigade…lost th’end off  ’is ‘beak’
’E got it out at midnight when ’e despritly needed a leak.
When you’re doing sentry duty in your trench ’ere on’t front line
You can’t leave your post to ’ave a pee as it isn’t relief time:
You ’ave to do it where you are…like ev’ryone else ’as to do
It’s a good thousand yards to’t latrines if you want to do a ‘two’,
You’ll need a relief to go there (mine copped ’is lot last night…)
I’ll shit at me post if I must, then ’ide it wi' snow, packed tight !
My God, but it IS bloody freezing…me feet’re going numb
I can’t feel’t bolt o' me rifle cos o' me dead fingers and thumb…
(Me only consolation…Jerries MUST ’ave it as bad)
If any daft bugger orders a charge I’ll say ’e’s blooming mad !

I’ve ’eard say’t Cossacks ’re coming to ’elp us defeat th’ ’Un
All I can see that’s from Russia’s th’east wind that’s freezing me bum !

I ’ad an ’ot meal for supper (’twas cold afore it got ’ere)
A right tasty stew, made from ‘bully-beef’, too (till I found an ear)
Some bugger’s been stretching’t ‘bully’…adding a rat or two…
‘Twon’t be’t first time it’s ’appened…nor’t last, atween me an' you.
If I cop me lot this Christmas I’ll be ’appy down below
’Ell’s as ’ot as me Mother’s set-pot…far away from this endless snow.


It’s spring, snow’s gone and melted (I’m still in me trench, by’th way)
Winter ’as taken root in me bacon…me kidneys is ’urting all day
I’ve lost two toes and a finger but when all’s said and all’s done
I can still ’old a fag, run a cleaning rag round me precious gun.
I’m up to me puttees in wet mud, me feet weigh a good ten pound each;
The smell up me nose ain’t no blooming rose…it’s what’s left o' Corp’ral Beech !
’E copped ’is lot on New Year’s Eve…’e’d stopped by to ’ave a good chat
Then a mortar lit right on ’im and all we could find was ’is ’at.
’E’s kept me comp’ny all winter, well ’idden under’t snow
Waiting to launch an attack wi't lads…if we ever blooming go!
Oh, aye, we WILL take ’im wi' us…well-caked in’t mud on our kit
We’ve all got to walk where ’e copped it, so we’ll all be taking a bit… 
Jones seventy-nine’s arm is still waving out there in no-man’s land…

They carted ’im off last November to’t butcher’s down’t ‘Strand’
’E got ’imself sent off to Blighty…(I ’ope ’e’s as well as can be)
But ’is arm’s still there, stuck in’t mud…I can see it waving at me!
And now’t snow’s gone and melted and th’Old Man up there’s sent us rain:
Acause o’th mud full of shit, meat and blood…we stink like a city drain.
Me, I don’t notice it much, you see…I’ve lived wi' it too long
But when Officers come to inspect our nice trench, they can’t abide’t pong!
Th’ blooming crows, rooks an’t magpies are looking as sleek as can be,
Cos they’re dining on meat…so well do they eat, I fancy one, roast for me tea !
’Midst all this death and destruction, I think more and more ’bout me Mam
She was that proud when I joined up but I’m not sure death’s in ’er plan;
I carry ’er picture round with me…look ’ere now, ain’t she nice?

I’ve got no girlfriend (too young yet) but I kissed a nice lass…twice !


Well, now it’s summer, mid-August an’t sun’s fairly making me yell,
Th’ world is all dust and shimmer, as ’ot as it must be in ’ell…
We fought an offensive in April, moved forward to beat back th’ ’Un
And in all that stinking muck, rain and deep mud we caught a rare sight o’t sun…
’Twas strange just to think o' that same sunshine shining down on me Mam
While she sat on ’er chair near’t doorway eating ’er stale bread and jam.
Now, where was I?...Oh aye t’offensive…well, we all moved forward o' course,
And of all’t ’undreds who died on that day, I mainly remember an ’orse…
It looked like old Goldie’t milk ’orse…it ’ad a kind look to its eye…
It was ’auling an ambulance that day when an aeroplane flew through’t sky;
Th’ pilot threw an 'and grenade, which ’it t’old ambulance a fair smack…
Three bandsmen inside all copped it and t’orse got shrapnel in’t back.
’E lay on’t ground and looked at me…fair begged to be ’elped on ’is way
(There was just no way I could do  it, that ’orse was so lovely and gay)
Th’ Sergeant gave th’ mercy bullet that I should ’ave give, but I shied…
I’d done in six Jerries since Christmas, but that ’orse ’ad ’is eyes open wide.
(Those Jerries ’ad been at a distance, they weren’t sort of…’uman, you see…
Don’t know as ’ow I could do it if they was ’ere, looking at me!)
What with mustard gas and landmines there was not a lot to come back…
And then with disease we was dying like fleas that you’d catch up wi' soap and then crack.
When’t ’Uns pushed ’ard three weeks later we struggled back over our dead
(Atween me and you, it was bloody ’ard to ’ang onto our kit as we fled)
Of th’ ’undred men in our Comp’ny who came ’ere from Blighty with me 
There’s only six left alive (or maybe just five, cos I’ve not seen old Michael McFee)
Oh, there’s been replacements in dozens and just as fast as they come
They go and get shot (or otherwise topped) and I’m left ’ere, feeling glum.

Now I’m a Corp’ral and it’s my job to lead me few men off to ’ell
If I see anyone balk I’ll give ’im a talk and also ’is fortune I’ll tell.

We’re over’t top tomorrow morning, off at th’ first crack o' dawn…
Parson’s said prayers, so we’re sorted ‘upstairs’…we’re safe if we get mowed down.
They’re killing us off by’t thousands (Oh, when will th' buggers learn?
We’re nothing but cannon fodder, some Gen’ral ’is knighthood to earn !)
Those Gen’rals like showing their mates what blooming good fighters they are
And they’ll throw us away like confetti if it gets for their medals a bar.

We’re waiting for’t signal to set off and I’m talking to’t lads (me throat’s dry)
But I’m their Corp’ral and mine’s th’example (and it’s ours just to do or to die).
Th' barrage is doing me ’ead in…four days and nights…BOOM – BOOM – BOOM 
They’re telling’t Jerries we’re coming…they’re signing’t way to our doom.
There – now’t guns ’ave  stopped firing, th’ bang – whistle – boom ’as all gone
Th’ silence is doing me ’ead in cos me ears are still banging their gong !
Us Non-Coms’re signalling silence (Th’Brass don’t want Jerry to know
Thousands of us are ’ere in’t loud ’ush, just waiting for’t signal to go.
 Brass-’eads ’ave told ALL to’t ’Uns by laying that barrage down there
Jerry’s ’ad time to move up ’is reserves…they’ll kill us all off wi' flair!
’Uns ’ave ’ad four days to get ready and set all’t traps that they need
We’ve got arrers, pointing ’im this way and ’e’s ready to do ’is big deeds….)


“Up…up and at ’em…

we’re off on an ’oliday, jaunty…

And when we get there

we’ll pull up a chair

and write a nice postcard to Aunty !”


I was thinking ’bout  Mam yesterday
Then, last night, I ’eard that she’d died…
’Olding tight to me letters
She kept, always, by ’er side…
It’s funny, but Mam’s ’ere, aside me…
She shouldn’t come into a war…
It’s dangerous ’ere…“HEY, MAM…KEEP CLEAR !
You shouldn’t be in a war !”

She’s nursing me, ’olding me to ’er
“Mam I’ve got to get up an' ’ead off…
If’ Sergeant catches me shirking
’E’ll blow me blooming ’ead off !
What’s that? It’s time to pass over?
But I CAN’T…I’m doing a job…
I’ve got to go wi’t  lads over there…”
That’s funny…I’m not moving me gob !

Me Mam’s stood up, now, aside me…
She gives me an ’and to get up
(That’s odd…I look down an' I see me…
I look sort of strange an' cut-up)
The lads ’ave all gone off afore me,
They’re fighting a war over there…
And I should be in there aside them
Doing me own working share !

But Mam’s got an ’old of me ’and now
She’s leading me up some white stairs…
(Well…I can’t seem to remember 
A staircase round ’ere, nowhere…)
“Mam…please tell me, what’s ’appened?
’Ave you seen me Dad anywhere?
What about our Marg’ret an' Bill…
I don’t see them nowhere…
Are you taking me to bed, Mam?
I’ve not been naughty, ’ave I?
(I don’t feel right…an' somehow not quite…)
…’ANG ON…I should be back there…!
Oh ! There’s Bill Thomas in front o' me
An’t Capt’in as well, so all’s right…
Now we’re going through a tunnel, so round…
An' it’s made up of pearly white light…
I’ll climb on up an' ’ave a quick peep…
As long as me Mam ’olds me tight !


I fear they are fighting another war…
So soon after ‘The One To End All’
They’ll be needing staff in ‘Reception’
Because, once more, thousands will fall…

I’ve assembled my boots and my battlekit
(Well daubed with mud to look right…)
Now I’m off to assist in ‘Reception’
Help those poor Souls find the Light….

“I’m ’ere, Tom…take ’old of me ’and, now…
Come along, with me, through this door…
You’ve need for some peace and some quiet…
Far away from that bloody old war.

Now, ’ere we can sit and be ’appy
Wipe all’t racket and din from our brains…
Get yourself  sat down ’ere on’t grass, now
Clear your Soul o’th  ’orrible strain…

Drink th’water from out of this fountain…
It’ll wash all’t bad mem’ries quite clean… 
You’ll soon find that you’re feeling much calmer
An’th  war’ll feel like a bad dream.

Aye, I know you were snatched from’t battle,
I know, well, you’ve got grieving to do…
It’s a shock to find out you’ve passed over
’Midst all of that hullabaloo!

You’ve come ’ere to start getting better
For all that’s be’ind you for now…
You’ve work to do ’ere, now you’ve come ’Ome…
And ’Ome’s where we are, that I vow !

Just for now, take all’t time you want to,
Give your poor Spirit a good long rest,
Just listen to God’s sky larks singing…
You’ll soon find you’re no longer depressed.

Quite  soon you’ll start to remember
That HERE’s the place where you belong…
You were only over there an instant…
THIS is where REAL life carries on…

Well now, you ARE looking happier…
I’ll just put out a ‘family’ call…
It’s time for your ‘Welcome Home’ party
You’re back home…well away from it all!


Well, I enjoyed that…I’ll pop back, now, to ’forty-two…
I’m SURE I can welcome another one…



Scanned photograph of my grandmother Elisabeth W.
All other pictures found in Wikipedia.

Title given to me from spirit,  by my late husband,
WOII  Carthew, W.J. RAMC

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Friday, 13 July 2012

The Nagging Old Wife ...

East Ardsley is a village on the outskirts of Wakefield, West Yorkshire, UK. I recorded Ken, my late third husband, several times, talking about his childhood ... as he sank further into the tales, he sank further into his childhood accent. 
This story, based on fact, is about his very first oil painting, at the age of 61. His mother had been showing me newspaper cuttings of Ken, proudly displaying his special cakes, baked down the years for civic and corporate events in the Leeds area.  I was SURE he had strong artistic abilities and, after a great deal of nagging, I managed to persuade him to sit down one evening and paint a Bob Ross-style picture of a wooded valley with a waterfall. I heard him telling his friend the story below, so I had a try at writing it in verse ... just as he spoke it, LOL  (my apologies for any bad language)

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The naggin owd wife

I've painted a picture; fust in me life
I wudn't 'a dun it but for't naggin' owd wife
'Er nagged an' 'er nattered (near drovve me tu drink)
'Til in't' end I did it, tu shut 'er up, I think.
Now it's 'angin' thee-er proudly, in't room, on't wall;
I sit an' I look: it's best picture ov all!

'Tis a picture o' cats (lions, tha' knows)
Bloody great big things wi' bloody great claws;
Though summat went wrong' cos cats just ain't thee-er:
They've all buggered off, God kno's whee-er!
Now all's left is't watter, 'n trees, all around
No bloody great lions paradin' on't ground.

So 'ere's picture, see, fust in me life,
All tha's botherin' me nah is't naggin' owd wife!
'Er'll nivver gi' up wi' 'er nag an' 'er natter
Jus' goes on an' on, fair makes me eyes watter.
I've done it nah, bloody fool thar I am,
I shudden'of done it (I'm in a fair owd jam)
Cos I want tu go fishin' wi' 'ook an' wi' line;
'Er wants me at paintin' all't bloody time!
So tu shut 'er trap I sed I'd go
Dahn tu't watter t'paint, tha kno's

(I'd hid me fishin' tackle in't boo-it, night afore)
An' I'm tekkin't easel out't door,
'Er shouts "Tekk dog wi' thee, 'e needs sum fresh ai-ur;
An' don't be forgettin t'owd artist's chai-ur"
I nearly towd 'er I'd fishin' box in't boo-it
An' I'd tackle't paintin' if I got tu it ... 

After three or four hours o' fishin' glee
We needed a paintin' for't wife tu see
Wi' true Yorkshire cunnin' I med up a tale
Whee-er't paintin' got lost in an 'owlin' gale
But 'er didn't belaive me, I'd tripped up, tha sees:

I'd left box o' paints in't room on't settee!


I've painted a picture; the first in my life
I wouldn't have done it but for the nagging old wife
She nagged and she chattered (nearly drove me to drink)
'Til in the end I did it, (to shut her up, I think).
Now it's hanging there proudly, in the room, on the wall;
I sit and I look: it's the best picture of all!
It's a picture of cats (lions, you know)
Bloody great big things with bloody great claws;
Though something went wrong cos the cats just aren't there:
They've all buggered off, God knows where!
Now all that's left is the water, and trees, all around
No bloody great lions parading on the ground.

So here's the picture, see, first in my life,
All that's bothering me now is the nagging old wife!
She'll never give up with her nag and her natter
Just goes on and on, (fair makes me eyes water).
I've done it now, bloody fool that I am,
I shouldn't have done it (I'm in a real predicament)
Because I want to go fishing with hook and with line;
She wants me at painting all the bloody time!
So to shut her mouth I said I'd go
Down to the water, to paint, you know;
(I'd hidden my fishing tackle in the boot*, the night before)
And as I'm taking the easel out of the door,
She shouts "Take the dog with you, he needs some fresh air;
And don't forget the folding chair" 
I nearly told her I'd got the fishing box in the boot
And I'd tackle the painting if I got round to it ... ... ...

After three or four hours of fishing glee
We needed a painting for the wife to see
With true Yorkshire cunning I made up a tale
Where the painting got lost in a howling gale
But she didn't believe me, I'd tripped up, you see:
I'd left the box of paints in the room on the settee!

*boot ... luggage compartment of the car.
Picture of lion by  Trisha M Shears and taken from Wikipedia Commons
Painting of river in woodland by Kenneth Eastwood
Photo of Ken, contentedly fishing in the Lake District, taken by me.