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.