Ken Veitch reflects on sharing love, fun and beauty
Seventy years on, I am back at school. Under the keen eye of my teacher, my four-year-old granddaughter Emily, alias ‘Miss Rainbow’, I am learning my numbers one to ten. This cosy encounter recalls childhood memories, as joyful as they are salutary.
On Victory in Europe (VE) Day in 1945 I was a two-year-old on my Dad’s shoulder in a celebrating crowd while the bells of Altrincham rang out to mark the end of the second world war. Later that year we met Kurt, a German officer awaiting repatriation from a local internment camp. Dad invited Kurt home for lunch. It was the start of a long friendship. In turn, Dad and I were invited back to the camp where the German and Italian internees, separated for years from their families, gave us a great welcome. I realised only recently what terrible dereliction faced these men when they finally reached home.
I started school in 1948. As Mum registered me, the kind head teacher let me play with her rubber stamps. In 1949 I joined the class of Miss Eccles, whose classroom was like a pantomime set, colourful and exciting. With Miss Eccles I travelled, rapt, up and down every inch of The Magic Faraway Tree, the series of books by Enid Blyton.
At home I loved our garden. Raspberries are my favourite fruit, not only for their taste but also for the memories of ‘helping’ Dad to tie and pick them. Dad made me a tree house and let me dig deep holes. I can still feel the warm sand under my feet and the taste of dandelion and burdock pop as I paddled in the River Bollin, where the sun seemed to shine all the time.
Another treat was the ride – by steam train of course – to visit my grandparents on the edge of Delamere Forest. There were the oil lamps and thick rhododendron bushes at Mouldsworth station, then the walk, hand in hand, along the twisty lane overhung with dark, mysterious trees.
Smells of the past still linger: wallflowers after rain; oil and wood shavings in the mower shed; print and polish in the children’s section of the library; and tar, raked and rolled on the road.
There is a Chinese proverb: ‘Happiness is like a sunbeam which the least shadow intercepts, while adversity is often as the rain of spring.’ As a grandpa of four I am sure that the best insurance, in our troubled world, is to share all possible love and fun and beauty with our little ones, the citizens of the future.
I must stop writing. Miss Rainbow is ready to call the register…
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