I have found that as I am writing down one story, I am reminded of another. An instance such as this floated across my mind recently. The first one was the terrible sight of London burning, but the second is a very nice memory.
I am with my brother Bernard, which itself is quite unusual, as I am much younger. Although we are a big family, we rarely do things like this together, I think this was the first time that I have been out alone with Bernard. I had mentioned to him earlier, that the squirrels always knew the very best day to strip the trees of hazelnuts and have them buried for the winter, before we had a chance to gather a single nut. He has decided to show me one of the best places to find some nut trees, he said only the bigger boys are able to get to them because they are hard to reach..
Here we are standing on the bank of Dummies stream outside Pyrcroft House, the water is as clear as crystal and very shallow, which is just as well, we are having to go upstream a little way, hopping from bank to bank through the blackberry brambles. Bernard is just standing still and taking deep breaths.
“Autumn is my favourite time of the year, do you know Alan, each season has its own special feeling and smell”.
I must admit this notion had passed me by, and this was the first time that I had noticed any difference, but today I can see what he means, I stand next to him, we are both now taking deep breaths and I can actually smell the air, it’s not unlike that of a nice apple. After what seemed quite a long time, I start to worry that one of my mates will come along and find me doing this deep breathing, I would never hear the end of it. Then he says something that I hadn’t thought of.
“It’s hard to believe that just twenty miles away, there are people in London who can hardly breathe at all, the German’s are using incendiary bombs to burn the city to the ground”.
It makes me think how lucky I am, even if my mates do see me breathing deeply. At last Bernard has had enough fresh air and we jump across to Mr. Stanfords fields and pick our way along the bank until we come to a couple of nut trees hanging over the stream at the back of Pyrcroft House. They are beyond view from the road, so the trees are untouched and loaded with these golden nuts, ready I thought for picking but Bernard tries a couple.
“They are not quite right yet, but if we don’t pick some now, in a day or two the squirrels will have taken the lot, but always remember Alan, we must never take more than we need, leave some for the birds and squirrels, they really belong to them after all”.
I have often thought about what he said that day, Bernard was a very quiet and thoughtful young man, I wish that I had known him better, but everyone has their own friends and the five years between our age’s would have made all the difference.
He and several other boys made out they were older than they really were just to get into the Army, he was in The Royal Armoured Core and served in France, Germany, and Italy. When he returned from fighting after the war, he hardly spoke about it. The only thing he said was that he was injured when his armoured car was hit by a German shell, and he was the only one of the crew not to be killed, although he was hospitalised with shell shock.
Like a lot of servicemen returning from the warzone, it took Bernard a long time to adjust, he stayed indoors for weeks, only leaving home to go to work. Eventually he did go out and met his future wife, they married and had two lovely girls. They lived happily in a new home in the centre of Chertsey, but my poor brother fell seriously ill and died quite young.
Life is so unfair, after fighting for his country and seeing things that nobody should ever see, leave alone by such a young man.