Why I am what I am (2)

Last time I mentioned a number of things that linked me to my Dad insofar as interests, hobbies and sports were concerned. I soon discovered that that was really only the beginning of the story.

I rather think that I studied Russian because Fred used to speak so frequently of the Russians during the Second World War. In the bookcase at his parents’ house, he had a pamphlet borrowed from an RAF library. It was entitled “Our Soviet Friends”, and it had pictures of the dam at Dnepropetrovsk:

He told me how, in the RAF, anybody wth knowledge of Russian could name their own price for helping to liaise with our new surprise allies, once the Germans invaded the Soviet Union. Towards the end of the war, Lancasters, on rare occasions, used to bomb the Germans and then carry on to Russia to land. When they came back they brought more bombs and often, one or two souvenirs.  On one occasion, my Dad had had a drink from a flask of coffee made up for the aircraft’s crew in Leningrad. I had to satisfy myself with my early attempts to learn the language, with the woman of my dreams…..

I may like French because, in 1940, Fred had wanted Britain and France to merge into one country just like Churchill had said. Fred was a keen European and, like Churchill,  he wanted a “United States of Europe”. As members of Bomber Command he told me, though, that the French could often be difficult to work with. Here is a Bristol Blenheim of the Free French Air Force in North Africa…..

I have always had great regard for the Poles because Fred said they were great blokes, and that he had joined up so that Poland could be freed from the invading Germans. A few years ago, I was in hospital for a operation, and there was a Polish van driver there that nobody would talk to because he was Polish. Except me, and if Fred had been there, he would have spoken to him, too. Racism can be amazingly petty.

I try to like poetry, because I know that Fred had claimed so often that poetry was an integral part of his life. He liked to read peoms out loud to his classes at school, his favourite being “Flannan Isle”.

I did a series of five blog posts about the mystery of Flannan Isle, as portrayed in the poem, and the first one is here. The rest can be found by merely searching for  “Flannan”. And when you’ve done that, don’t forget to watch this film with its own, made-up, explanation of the three men’s disappearance….

I’m sure that I became a teacher because Fred was a teacher and I felt that a teacher was a good thing to be. In the mid-1970s, the money was excellent and I didn’t automatically have to live in London.

I always worked hard as a teacher because Fred told me that at the end of each day, you should always ask yourself the question, “Were you just given your wages, or have you earned them ?”

I worked all my life at the High School, 38 years, because when he took me there for a job interview in 1975, I could see that Fred was enormously impressed by the school. To him, and to me, it looked like something out of a film, such as, perhaps, the old version of “Tom Brown’s Schooldays”…….

In actual fact, after his death, I found that, when he was a boy in the 1930s, Fred’s Uncle George  had bought him a present, the book of the film “Tom Brown’s Schooldays”.  They didn’t shoot this film at The High School, but if they had wished to, it would have been entirely appropriate from the architectural point of view….

Fred read a lot about the Second World War, and one of his favourite books was a German doctor’s story of Operation Barbarossa, a book called “Moscow Tram Stop”. The High School has its own tram stop, called “High School”. That fact has always reassured me that I had made the right decision to work there for so long.




Filed under Film & TV, History, Literature, military, my Dad, Nottingham, Personal, Russia, Wildlife and Nature

24 responses to “Why I am what I am (2)

  1. Clearly a profound influence

    • Thank you, I’m so glad that you enjoyed it. There’s just one more post to come, and hopefully, they may have encouraged people to think just who it was who helped them to become who they are today.

  2. GP

    Your research stands out in every post, John!

  3. We are what they were before us.

    • Indeed we are, although many people don’t realise it, and a good number will try to break the mould if they don’t particularly want to be like their father or mother, for example.

  4. A lovely post John, full of sentiment and adoration for your father. I love the line:
    “Were you just given your wages, or have you earned them ?” How well that’s stands even today.

    • Thank you so much for your kind and generous words. My Dad was no saint but he was certainly “on the side of the angels” as our American friends say.
      I certainly used to remember his words about earning your wages when I worked as a teacher. My wife had worked in many more schools than I had, and she always told me that “They get their money’s worth out of you!” which always made me feel I was on the right lines!

  5. Role models are so important in our young lives. You were blessed in having a father such as Fred.

  6. John, one very important point you brought to our attention that humans are NOT what the “narrative” describes. We are all brothers and sisters and there is NO division among us. We need to put aside the “lies” that have been drummed into our heads in order to realize even though we speak different languages, overall we are decent beings who know how to care about one another. LOVED this post!!! Thank you so much ….. and as for you knowing how to speak Russian, my hat is off to you!! I’m impressed!!

    • I wouldn’t quarrel with that in any way. If you see somebody in trouble, you help them.
      The people who drum all those lies ino our heads are invariably people who have something to gain from our believing them. I always think that they have a factory making bullets!

      • I’m applauding you!!! You are a good man! I disregard the rhetoric that is spewed all over the place and I act accordingly to others in kindness, in firmness when needed, in truth, and in love.

        Love your analogy of a factory making bullets. That is RIGHT ON!!

  7. Thank you for sharing!!.. you have a wonderful Father that shared his knowledge but allowed you to follow your heart, “The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind.” ( Kahlil Gibran ), and he is no doubt looking on, proud of his son at what he has become and still getting better… you are still teaching, by sharing your knowledge of the past so we can better understand what part the past played in what we have become…. 🙂

    Job well done!!!!.. 🙂

    Hope all is well in your part of the world and until we meet again..
    May the dreams you hold dearest
    Be those which come true
    May the kindness you spread
    Keep returning to you
    (Irish Saying)

    • Thank you. You are very kind. I always hope that in some of these blog posts I may teach people something, if only that war should be the last resort not the first.
      And if, at the same time, I can show people how history often shows us what should have been done in the first place to avoid war, or the possibility of war, then so much the better.

  8. Chris Waller

    It’s interesting that your dad was pro-European. The war had exactly the opposite effect on my dad. He hated the Germans for starting the war, the Italians for Mussolini and the Spanish for Franco. He admired the French Resistance and the Norwegians. I imagine that your dad, given his experience, saw a united Europe as a guarantor of peace – which it has indeed been, notwithstanding Putin’s current adventure in Ukraine.

  9. Hello again, Chris. My Dad was definitely pro-European but I do think that he envisaged a Europe unified under British leadership. It would have been a re-creation of the British Empire, but with a lot more baguettes and a wider choice of wines and cheeses.
    He hated the Germans and would never buy any product which was either German or Japanese. Even his video recorder was a Phillips from the Netherlands! He really loved the Poles and the French, the ones he had come across in the Free French Air Force.
    He had quite a lot of admiration for the Russians, and I think, like me, he would have been ashamed of what Putin is doing in the Ukraine.

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