On VE day most people down our street got out their deckchairs and sat outside their front doors. There was bunting strewn between houses, and we toasted each other with tea and scones. The kids rode up and down the street on bikes, scooters and skateboards, mostly social distancing, but very occasionally not when a rare collision occurred. No one could bear to tell them off. It was like a scene from my own childhood where every front door stood open, and packs of kids ruled the road, not cars. People cried to see each other in a way we never would have done before Covid. It made me realise the myriad of ways we humans find connection. Even those little everyday chats with neighbours on the street in passing, are strands that make us all feel part of a bigger piece of fabric. I talked with my Bulgarian and Israeli neighbours about how the war is remembered in their own countries. Later on a chap who does regular pub gigs got out his guitar, and even later a family of morris dancers jingled and hopped in formation. That bigger piece of fabric is so full of colour and pattern isn’t it?
The thing I missed most about VE day was talking to my mum and dad about family memories, and going through old photographs. I made up for it by reading about other people’s families, and there were so many wonderful stories. Today these photographs arrived in the post from my mum. My grandma was in the WAAF. The tale goes that she was conducting a parade in the market square of the little Welsh village where my Grandpa was from (he was a mechanic in the RAF). Being a shy girl she couldn’t really bear to shout, the parade descended into chaos, and then she got the giggles. I can well believe this because my grandma’s giggles were notorious. She was helpless to them, and generally infected everyone within earshot, until the whole room would be writhing around in uncontrolled mirth. My Grandpa saw all this and thought she was wonderful. Later on he spotted her on the top deck of a bus, and the rest was history. Don’t they look young? The picture of my Grandpa is from the beginning of the war, when he was 18.
These frothy, light-hearted tales are the ones they were happy to tell us but I know the reality must have been much darker. On my dad’s side, there were pilots shot down and POWs in both Germany and Japan. My nan nursed in London. People say it puts Covid into perspective but it doesn’t really. What they went through is unimaginable. The elation when it was finally over must have been enormous