Sorry I haven`t posted for a while but I`ve been busy with house – builders – children – wildlife ponds and animals etc. Just to back me up as we writers can elaborate, here are a few photographs: There isn`t much writing here I know – but who wants to see a page full of text when the visual element is so much more rewarding. (I know I am making excuses here) I forgot to add that I am also still busy with my novel so I hope you understand the predicament I sometimes find myself in – but I promise I will try – for the few of you who may be out there reading my blog – to post a little more regularly as that is the writers new rule – to connect with readers, (just been told that by an article in Mslexia which gave me the jolt to do this) and my goodness it would be nice to know once in a while that I am connecting! It is also a relief to write freely and not be loaded down with meticulous research which my novel demands. With the builders gone, the animals fed and watered, the wildlife pond completed, my grandson handed back to his parents, even if it is with a few photos here and there – I will keep in touch. It would be nice to hear from you too.
This was part of a soldiers uniform swept up on Portsmouth beach – cast aside from the shores of France. Lying here were all these items – personal items, photographs curled and stained. Some of the photographs portrayed just a single person, others, groups, that Irene assumed to be families. There were letters, never to be read, the ink running as though tears. There were just hundreds of them. Footwear, wallets, clothing, papers. Letters and possessions from all different nationalities washed up on Pompay beach. It was all planned – Irene`s life. But now the evidence of D day was here, the remnants of lives lived – and lost in a moment.
Violet was just about to fetch the trolley to fill with fresh cups and saucers before the WVS ladies came on the ward with the tea, when Audrey rushed up to her. Leaning into her she said in a low urgent voice, “Matron wants to see us in her office right away.”
“Why, what have we done?”
Audrey shrugged, pulled a non – plus face and held out the flat of her palms in reply. But she was already on her way. Violet hurried after her, tucking a few escaped strands of hair into her hat, hoping that her face looked reasonable.
“I have an important job.” Matron declared to the two girls standing before her. “One that, I am afraid, seems to elude some people and one that will not suit everybody. It is a job that will not be an order due to the delicate nature of it, but a job that needs doing nevertheless.”
The two girls exchanged an inquisitive and nervous glance.
Matron placed her clasped hands on her desk seeming to relax a little. Taking a small intake of breath she said, “We are in desperate need of people to help out with the German prisoners who have arrived here.” Violet sensed the definite shift in the tone of Matron`s voice which was, a little more – subdued. “They were picked up off the beaches during the first few hours of the invasion.”
It was Audrey who spoke first. Sideways glancing at Violet she said quietly, “I`m game if you are.”
Violet cleared her throat. “Well it does say in our Girl Guides oath that we should help everyone,” she said with a tremor in her voice.
But even as the words spilled out, Violet was unsure. These were Germans for goodness sake, the very ones who may have tried to kill Jack and Gary – who could have killed Jack and Gary and could also have inflicted the terrible wounds on the poor soldiers she had been tending to. But Matron didn`t wait for any change of mind sensing the falter in Violet`s voice. “Excellent,” she announced with gusto. “Here are the necessary papers to give to the guards on the doors of the Nissan hut where the prisoners are being h…, waiting to be treated,” she quickly corrected.
Both girls dare not look at the other as they in turn took the papers from Matron`s outstretched hands.
But both girls were wondering – what the hell had they done.
The key was in the lock – Isaac managed it despite his hand dancing to imaginary tunes and a dizziness that held his innocence. He was in – the silence and the dank starkness of nothingness hitting him. The thing under his foot – he picked it up, but not without a battle, his boot refusing to give it up until he lashed it out in mid-air. The brown card was held in his hand before eyes that could not focus. “Humph!” He discarded the card, like his life had been. “Who cares – so you`re safe – who cares – go to hell!”
Isaac stumbled to the chair – falls into a luxury that is cold and untouched. He is ashamed. But there is no-one to care. No-one to hear his shuddering sobs. How had it come to this. This loneliness, this emotion so stark and solid it would not leave. But now he dithered – dithered in an eternity of love that he would not allow and when he did? Spurned – sent packing – left with this nothingness and reddening eyes and a sobbing throat that only allowed –
“Go to hell – the lot of you!”
To come upon a tank, a sentiment of war, silhouetting shapes in smoking metal, once a driver,gunner,husband, father, brother or son. Now all that is left of the residue of life are ID discs that would be shipped home with no possessions – possessions lingering in the skeletal pockets of death, just memories of happy faces and the embrace of final hugs and promises of return. New babies cradled and children holding onto trouser legs, misty eyes upward turned to search their father`s face as they kissed mum goodbye entrenched in a crowded platform with whistles – and steam – and tears.
Farewell wasn`t meant to be eternal and no-one prepared them for the finality of it.
Gary was hardened to war, after four years he had to be. But thinking of ma, as they buried them, he hoped she wouldn`t have to carry the burden of a lost child. For he knew, his tears for once defying his hard-edged heart, his ma would not harbour the weight of it.
Despite Eva`s best efforts and motherly nursing skills, Anna was deteriorating. She needed a doctor and Eva had no idea where to find one. She had heard that the two big hospitals in the central and western parts of Berlin had been destroyed by the allies` bombs and the local doctors had all but disappeared, either dead, sent to the front, or transferred to military hospitals.
Little Anna. Eva stroked her sleeping face. She was so pale; the frown now permanent across her forehead, her body hardly making an impression under the blackout curtains Eva was using for blankets, her little stark white hands protruding. She had a sore at the corner of her mouth and her breathing was accompanied by a slight rasp and she coughed intermittently in her sleep.
There had been no raids during the last twenty four – hours so maybe in this lull; today she would take a chance. Eva always put off going out until she had to, the sight outside depressing her with broken water mains, clatters of bricks piled high, cratered roads, smoking skeletal buildings teetering on collapse. People were trying to go about their business, but look closely, and their eyes were dead, their bodies triumphant in neglect of their own humanity, such were the living conditions. Berlin wasn’t Berlin anymore.
The life of a dog compared to ours, is quite short. When purchasing a new dog, we make the decision to endure the trials and tribulations of puppyhood the companionship and loyalty of adulthood and the heartache of illness and inevitability of losing our lifelong friend. I have had dogs for most of my life and tried a brief period of abstaining after losing my fabulous and as I thought at the time, irreplaceable Golden Retriever Sam. After spending nearly all of my life looking after dogs, walking, feeding, training, clearing up the mess and grooming, never mind the expense, I thought it was time for some `me` time. Trapped in the depths of grief of the passing of Sam, I was absolute in my decision. That decision lasted all of three days. Of course Sam is irreplaceable. But why would I want to replace him? He was Sam in his own right and always will be. But what I did need to replace and was missing – was my companion and friend.
Those of you who have read one of my previous posts `Living with Amy` will know what happened next. And those of you who haven`t – please do, as this next excerpt of her life, might counteract all that I have told you before. Although living through all of that was true and is imprinted on my brain – and heart forever, what Amy has become now, is loyal, loving, fun, beautiful and oh – very stubborn!! (She has now decided, for whatever reason, and after months of travel, to take a dislike of getting into the car and a tractor wouldn`t move her!) I will let you know what happens on that score. But for now, please enjoy these photographs of her metamorphose into adulthood. One that is captivating, funny and wonderful. And for those of you about to get a puppy – good luck (you`ll need it). And for those of you who have had the heartache of losing your lifelong friend and have decided not to have another because they are `irreplaceable` – I hope after following Amy – you will think again.
You were gentle, kind, handsome, funny and a real doggy gentleman. You were always around, either splayed out on the driveway enjoying the morning sunshine, or, your huge frame was always under my feet, in my office, in the kitchen, lounge, dining room and bedroom. You were silent in your presence, but always comforting, lifting your head, demanding a stroke.
With your luxurious cream coat, you were admired wherever you went, your thick mane resembling that of a proud lion. The photo above shows you gallantly displaying your rosette for first prize in the veteran class of a dog show. A veteran you may have been, but in your mind you were still a puppy. You ducked and dived trying to catch the ball when the family played, you swam in lakes and the sea, you being so fanatical about water.
You were never any trouble, travelled well and sat firm by the car when you saw us packing for holidays. There was no way you would let us leave without you!! You loved the countryside, the lochs the mountains, any fresh air really and we would often comment that you preferred your walks to your dinner!
When you fell ill, it was literally overnight. When we went to bed you were fine, nothing untoward. When we found you the next morning, it was amidst vomit and distress. Even then, when we rushed you to the vet, did I think for one minute we wouldn`t be bringing you home. I cried as we walked you into the treatment room. Did you know? Because even though you collapsed on the floor, you tried to get up and you looked at me as if to say, “Please take me home.” You hated the vets at the best of times. But you then settled into an almost resigned state, your body full-stretch on the floor, your psyche quiet and forlorn.
The vet pumped you with pain-killers and tried to tell us, as they can only do, that there was little hope, that something catastrophic had happened in your gut. “But how can that be?” I asked. “We took him for a walk only twelve hours ago – he was fine,” I sobbed.
Not wanting to give up. We asked the vet to try everything – anything – without causing you anymore distress. We had to leave you to let them try, and even as they carried you out, you raised your head in question as we disappeared from your sight. My beautiful boy.
But it was not to be. We came back after a few hours and you hadn`t responded to treatment and as I lay with you on the floor, you quietly and gently slipped away, your pain over. Not having been ravaged by a long illness, you were as beautiful in death as you were in life.
We took you home and buried you under the cabin veranda, your favourite spot in the garden where you had whiled away many happy hours sunning yourself.
I told myself, as people racked with grief at the loss of a much – loved pet do, that, that was it, no more dogs, I can`t go through this again!
But the reality of your death, was not to grieve over losing you, but to celebrate you and all you had brought to us. How you had enriched our lives and taught us so much, of humility and loyalty and how, by showing you affection and love, you gave back a love in return, that was so unconditional, it took our breath away.
So, with the house silent and empty and screaming the lack of your presence, I tenuously started to surf the internet. Just to have a look you will understand. After looking at many breeds, my heart began to dither and melt. Life without a dog, was really not a life at all. We live in the countryside, love walking and have a huge garden. We have so much to give a dog that all the past heartache of losing you Sam, was superseded by that knowledge.
We decided not to have another Golden Retriever as I didn`t want to feel we were replacing you, but to have a new dog in its own right. After a lot of studying, trying to find the breed that would match our life-style, we decided on a Flat Coated Retriever. The breed is very much like the Golden Retriever and Labrador in temperament, but the Flat Coats, has the name suggests, has a flatter, sleeker coat and are slighter in frame. But they are fun, happy, loyal, exuberant dogs and love the outdoor life. Just as Sam had. Perfect!
So, that done, it was time to find one! Easier said than done. Flat Coats are very popular and in demand and, because we wanted a liver colour, quite hard to get. There weren`t many around, and as we also decided on a bitch this time, this narrowed our search even greater. We even picked a name – Amy.
Each time I found a breeder, the pups expected were already sold, but as luck would have it, a breeder who had just sold her litter, told me she had another litter due in a few months. So I put my name down with Tracy Ballard from Clock Tower Kennels, and we said we would like a liver coloured little girl. The expectant parents were – mum black in colour – dad a liver colour – so we had a chance of getting our liver little girl. This situation suited us perfectly as I didn`t want to have a new puppy too close to Sam`s death.
The weeks went by and with a few emails exchanged with Tracy to see how things were going, and marking off each week on the calendar when the pups were due, we were on tender hooks. Would we get our little liver girl puppy? I was still missing Sam so much, but I now tried to focus on our `new arrival` and was secure in the knowledge that Sam would have approved of us having a bitch as – didn`t he just love the girls!
Over the next few weeks, we kept in touch with your progress and set about getting all the things we would need. Bed, toys, leads, bowls and blankets. We felt as though we were getting ready for a new baby. Which of course we were. The great day came when we could make our first visit to see you when you were just four weeks old. And what a delight. After a two-hour journey (and a sleepless night full of excitement) we were finally going to meet you, to offer you your new life – as best we could.
Seeing you just melted away all of our pain and longing for Sam and helped us rejoice that his life and the joy he had brought to us and all he had taught us, had now led us to you.
The great day came and everyone in our family and village waited in anticipation for your home-coming. I was nervous as well as excited. It hit me that again, we were taking on a huge responsibility. Not only in caring for you for the rest of your life, but to make your life happy and content and give you all that your breed desires. You would only know one life. And that would be with us. Whatever we decided for you, would be the basis of your existence. I could only hope we would do the best for you.
So here you are – home at last.
You were mischievous from the start. But little did I know just how mischievous you would become!
So my darling as you grow and we get used to each other and are both learning the rules of the household – (me with you in it!) I keep reminding myself that, as you chew through the kitchen cupboard doors, that I must treasure this time. But I can`t help asking, when looking for my slippers for the umpteenth time, or trying to find my sweeping brush, or finding the `poo` bags that I keep in my walking jacket pocket that are now usually full of holes because you keep pinching them,(not nice to discover when picking up poo) where has my quiet carefree life gone? When will I ever get any writing done? Have I done the right thing in having you?
So dear reader. I will now leave you with an inventory of my life with Amy – and leave you to decide!
LIVING WITH AMY
Now, with all the things I have to do today – I would like you to be very good. Where have you got that from? No, we don`t have time to make a pudding.
You are lovely to look at, you can be good at times, but truth be told, you do take up a lot of my time having to play with you and making sure you aren`t up to any mischief when I should be at my desk working. But, the reason you came into my life in the first place was to keep me company and fill the empty void that Sam, your predecessor, left in my life.
Sam of course is a hard act to follow. He was a real gentleman (in the doggy sense) and very laid back and most of the time he just lay around, (well he was eleven I suppose) and as you are only five months old, I will have to concede that to expect you to do the same is asking a bit much.
But Amy my darling puppy, I do have to work sometime. So when you are hanging onto my slippers under my desk, or running off with my notepad that holds all of the precious notes that will never come into my head again in this lifetime, or ripping up everything out of my rubbish bin, or chewing up the most expensive afghan rug that took me an age to persuade my husband to purchase, could you perhaps have a little understanding and sympathy with your mistress and give me a break sometime.
I don`t want to keep threatening you with a trip back to Worcester ( your place of birth and to Tracy the breeder that failed to warn me that Flat Coat Retriever puppies can be hell on earth – shame on her) Only joking Tracy. I do want to treasure these puppy days that will disappear with your fast growing legs that seem to get lankier by the day and I do keep reminding myself, as I dab the blood from my punctured skin as you chew my hands and legs off, that these days will soon be gone forever (thank the Lord)
But please, could you remember that your years are seven times my years – and have a little mercy if I run out of stamina (and patience) as I sprint across the lawn (I wish) to try to retrieve my shoes before they are nothing but shredded leather. Forgive me for always feeling guilty when wishing you asleep so that I can enjoy a glass of wine by the fire, after spending weeks of glorious anticipation of your arrival. It is truly wonderful to see your lithe body laid still in your bed, and my husband and I quickly retreat into the sanctity of the lounge keeping the TV low so as not to wake you.
But my darling little girl, despite all of this, I wouldn`t change anything for the world. Only perhaps to bring Sam back. But his time is done. He had a truly wonderful life and he gave us a truly wonderful life back. I will never forget Sam
But I have to face the fact – no matter how hard it is to lose our beloved pets, it is better to have loved them – then never to have loved them at all.
So little puppy with all of your life ahead of you, let us, as your keepers, give you the richness of life you deserve to make you happy and contented in your life here with us.
So I will keep searching for my slippers, I will keep dabbing the blood from my skin, I will retrieve the shoes from the lawn, the sweeping brush and the car sponge. I will clear away the shredded paper and hopefully rewrite the chewed up notebooks.
Because I know, from you, we will get all of your unconditional love and loyalty – for the rest of your life.