WARTIME MEMORIES (or How I Met Your Grandad).
I met Kerry, my wife, when she was with several other girls tumbling out of a nightclub worse for wear in the early hours and literally fell over me, or at least fell over my feet as I was walking past. I helped pick her up and take her home, and the rest, as they say, is history. From that inauspicious meeting blossomed a romance that we are certain is destined to last forever. Strange how chance meetings can change your life, isn’t it?
When we had discovered we were both serious about each other it was time for us each to meet the other’s families, and Kerry particularly wanted me to meet her maternal grandmother before it was too late as we all knew that the old girl hadn’t much longer to live, bless her. This story is her story, Irene’s story, told to Kerry and repeated here by me because I had the privilege of listening to it with Kerry, and because I think it’s important that the words of ordinary working folk aren’t always lost to us when they die. It’s not quoted word for word, for one thing I wouldn’t be able to recall it that accurately, but it’s my interpretation of what she said. I’ve translated some of the dialect and slang she used, mainly because a lot of it would be unintelligible to most English people let alone anyone else, but where I’ve used her voice I’ve left enough in to give a flavour of the way she spoke and of her very big personality. I only met her the once, but I took an instant liking to her. Why do people like her, the salt of the earth, have to leave us? I wish she could still have been around to see Kerry and I marry, but then maybe she was looking down and smiling on us anyway. I’d like to think so.
Anyway, enough of that. Irene, Kerry’s gran, was born in Derbyshire in 1919; arriving a few weeks before her mother departed in the ‘Spanish Lady’ influenza epidemic. Her father, a less than reliable miner, then took work wherever he could find it and dragged poor Irene around most of the coalfields of the midlands and the north until by the mid thirties they had arrived in Hull, where he promptly died. That at least gave Irene some stability in that she could now fend for herself without having to tear up her roots every year or so. Her upbringing having instilled a great deal of self reliance, along with a very mixed dialect and a colourful vocabulary, so being on her own was no real difficulty, except when a young woman living on her own was seen as obvious prey to local Romeos. But as she said, ‘a swift kick in the wedding tackle soon cooled ’em down a bit’, and just to be on the safe side she soon took lodgings with a retired couple in their sixties who needed the rent more than the room.
For those of you not familiar with English geography Hull, or Kingston upon Hull to give it its full name, is a port city standing on the Humber estuary about twenty-five miles from the North Sea and roughly opposite Holland. The geography is important, because that was the reason why the place took such a pounding from German air raids during the Second World War, and that’s relevant to the story.
Kerry and I, and most of the rest of her family, live near Southampton on the south coast and so it was a bit of a trek to go and see her gran, but Kerry was adamant that we should and so one day we made the journey, pulling up a few hours later outside the little terraced house that Irene had called home for the past half a century. We didn’t have to knock, the door flew open as if on springs the moment we got out of the car and there stood a tiny grey haired lady with a smile bigger than she was.
‘Come in, come in, the pair of you. You’ll be ready for a cup of tea after coming all that way I’ll be bound? Sit yerselves down and I’ll put the kettle on.’ Irene bustled out into her little kitchen and Kerry hd porno and I grinned to each other as we heard cups and saucers rattling onto a tray.
A few minutes later and the tray was placed carefully on a side table while I was placed under scrutiny by the clearest blue eyes I’ve ever seen in an old lady.
‘So you’ll be the young man that our Kerry’s taken up with then, I suppose?’ She asked me directly.
Before I could answer Kerry had done it for me. ‘Gran, this is Dominic, my fiancé.’
‘Dominic, is it? Now that’s a posh name if ever I heard one. But I’m sure Dominic could have answered for himself, couldn’t you lad?’
‘Yes Gran.’ I was going to say more, but I never got the chance.
‘Gran? I’m not your gran, I’m Kerry’s gran. So it’ll be Irene to you, if you don’t mind!’
That was my introduction to Kerry’s grandmother, as forthright and honest a woman as has ever been my good fortune to meet. It’s also why I tend to call her Irene in this story – because I still daren’t do otherwise.
Of course I got the third degree as to what my intentions were regarding Kerry. Was I serious about her, did I want a family with her, what did I do for a living – which is code for would I be able to support her the way she’d want me to, and so on. Then Kerry got the same interrogation in reverse, including the old favourite, where did we meet? She said we met through mutual friends, which wasn’t really true, but it satisfied Irene that I was genuine. Then, having past our test, we were invited to tea, which naturally included the tinned peaches that old people tend to think is everyone’s favourite treat. It isn’t, but God bless her for trying.
Afterwards we settled in the ‘best room’ — lounge to you and me — with cups of tea and talk. And that was when Kerry asked the question that she’d been wanting to since having been asked it by Irene.
‘Gran?’ She asked. ‘How did you meet my grandad? You never have said.’
Irene looked Kerry up and down for a long silent thirty seconds and then ‘harrumphed’ as if something was stuck in her throat.
‘It’s a long story, luv. You don’t want boring with that.’
‘Yes I do, Gran. I’ve often wondered.’
There was another long silence which only served to heightened our curiosity, then Irene shifted uneasily in her chair, complained vaguely about ‘rheumatics’ and eventually and apparently reluctantly began.
‘Well I met Jim in ‘thirty-eight, and we got married in ‘thirty-nine, about three weeks before the war broke out. He were a merchant seaman you know, on them colliers carrying coal down the North Sea to London, or at least he were when the war started. Them men in Whitehall soon changed that though and he found hisself on the Atlantic convoys, fetchin’ stuff from America. It were dangerous work convoy work were. He had two ships torpedoed out from under him before they finally got him. But I’m getting ahead of meself.’
Kerry glanced at me with the look on her face that said ‘shut up and sit back, you’re in this for the long haul and don’t you dare interrupt.’ I wasn’t thinking of interrupting, as it happens I find listening to people reminiscing about their past quite fascinating. Yeah, I know that makes me a bit strange, but there it is.
‘Hard times, war times, don’t let people kid you. Me and Jim, well we’d taken rooms with the Collins’ at the back of Trinity St and we swore blind to the council that we’d divided the house into two separate flats so as to get two separate coal rations, but we shared really. It worked out just fine. I had people around me when Jim was at sea and I could give old Mrs Collins a hand in the house when she needed it. Anyway, it were cheaper that way and we wanted to save for our own place when the war was over. Not japon porno that we needed to bother ‘cos Jim got sunk somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic.’ Sadness and anger flitted across her wrinkled face before she carried on. ‘And I did two jobs, what with all the men being away fighting there was plenty of work for them that wanted it. I worked in that old haberdashery shop in the town centre all week and then did three nights a week as barmaid in the ‘Lost Traveller’.’ She laughed briefly, a short bark of a laugh. ‘And never were a pub better named, what with all the signposts having been taken down. They thought it’d confuse the Jerrys if they invaded, but all it did were to confuse every bugger else.’
She settled back in her chair, took a sip from a cup of tea and then continued.
‘It weren’t a lot of laughs when they started bombing us though. They were aiming for the docks of course, but aiming then weren’t what it is now, they just tipped ’em out and hoped. We all used to hide in the cellar, until one day a family got drowned when their house got hit and then the water main burst and they couldn’t get out. After that we thought sod it and just carried on as normal. It were funny one night though. A bomb came down and hit the street behind in the middle of the road, and it shook our place pretty bad, in fact it were so bad that it shook all the soot loose in the chimney. It all came down in a bloody great ‘whoomph’ and it went everywhere, over the furniture, over our supper and all over us too. We looked like we’d all blacked up for the Keystone Cops, and the best of it was that it had broke the water main again, so there were no water to wash with, until we went round and dipped buckets into the crater.’ She chuckled at the memory.
‘Me and Doreen White, who worked at the Traveller same as me and lived a couple of streets away, used to walk home together. You needed somebody with you in the blackout, ‘cos you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face and it were easy to trip over bomb rubble and break a leg, or even fall into a crater. You were always trying to find you way around piles of bricks and fallen walls, or crunching across broken glass. Now and then we had to go right out of our way to avoid streets where there were unexploded bombs, and sometimes there’d actually be a raid on when we came home, and then we were supposed to shelter. But we didn’t have time ‘cos the bloody raids could go on all night, so we used to risk it and walk home. The Jerries had fitted these things to their bombs to make them whistle when they dropped, thinking they’d scare us, but really it just warned us what were coming so we could duck into a doorway or something.’
‘Anyway, one night when we were going home we got talking to this army lad who were home on leave, and he walked along with us. And then a bomb dropped and we all dived into a big office doorway. Now you’ve got to remember that there were no lights at all, no street lights and everybody had blackout curtains over their windows. So we could only make out the doorway in the bomb flashes, and when we dived in we ended up all of a tangle and his hand ended up on my titty. He apologised right enough and moved it, but it had been six weeks since Jim had sailed and I hadn’t had anything in all that time, so his hand had been right welcome.’
She stopped and looked at us. ‘You know what I’m talking about, don’t you?’
We nodded out understanding and she went on.
‘Well anyway, that stick of bombs all missed us so we started off again, with me feeling as randy as hell. That bloody hand had really set me off I can tell you, and I began to wonder what this soldier would be like in bed, but knowing I couldn’t have him what with being married to Jim. Then we left Doreen at the end lezbiyen porno of her road and me and him carried on, and I’d have been all right if it weren’t for another bloody bomber unloading its bombs just as we passed the Methodist chapel.’
‘This time it sounded even closer and we dived into the chapel porch. It were a nice deep porch, about eight or ten feet front to back, and we slung ourselves into the far corner out of the way of any shrapnel. Now you can guess what happened, can’t you. His hand landed on my titty again, and I could tell that it wasn’t accidental this time ‘cos he squeezed it as well.’
‘It’s funny you know, but when you’re in a position like that with bombs making the earth move, you want to do the same, so this time I didn’t even try to stop him. I’d got to the point where if I was going to die, then I wanted to do it with a nice hard dick up me.’
‘Gran!’ Kerry scolded, astonished by her grandmother’s language.
‘Sex isn’t new you know. I used to like it just as much as I bet you do, so don’t look so shocked. Anyway, there we were huddled in this chapel doorway, him with one hand down my front and the other working its way up my skirts. I’ll admit to you now that I helped him. I pulled my jumper up and let him suck my titties, and then I took my drawers off for him to get in down below. And it felt very, very nice too, I can tell you. I was wet through down there and his fingers just slipped straight in. Well, we both knew what we were going to do, and I was as bad as him. I soon had my hand on his fly, undoing his buttons and pulling his thing out. He were bloody big too, and hard, and I couldn’t wait any longer. I pushed him onto his back and straddled him, and the feeling when I sank down on him was bloody lovely.’
‘Now, I was on top bouncing up and down like a good ‘un and he were lying underneath grabbing hold of my titties that were jumping around in front of his face, when an Air Raid Warden came past.’
Irene stopped and giggled girlishly.
‘He must have heard us or something, because the next thing we know there’s a torch shining on us. But I was too close to stop so I just sat down hard on my soldier boy and waited to see what he’d do. I didn’t look at him because I didn’t want to be recognised. I thought it would make trouble for me when Jim came home, although Jim was already drowned by then, but I didn’t know. So I just sat still with this dick inside me and waited for the warden to say something. Mind you, I don’t suppose I expected him to say what he did say. He flicked his torch off and said. “Well, I suppose with Hitler trying to reduce the population it’s only right that some of us try and make it go up again.” And then he walked off leaving me and my soldier boy staring at each other in wonder.’
‘Now I was so randy that as soon as the warden had gone I was straight back to bouncing up and down on the soldier’s dick and I could feel that I was going to come pretty hard. He’d gone a bit soft after us being interrupted, and I suppose that slowed me down a tad, but he soon got hard again and I carried on bouncing. Then he shouted that he was going to come and I should take it out. I thought not bloody likely, not and spoil my bloody climax as well, and so I just rammed myself down on him until he came. And while I were shouting and shaking on top he were shouting and jerking from underneath, and he were shooting load after load of spunk up inside me, and I can still remember how bloody good that felt with both of us coming a the same time.’
‘And that was all there was to it. Afterwards we both tidied ourselves up and went home. Never saw him again, and that were the last shag I had until after the war, what with me being a widow.’
Irene fell silent and smiled quietly at her memories, until Kerry gently prompted her.
‘But Gran, you were going to tell me how you met Grandad?’
Irene looked up and smiled more broadly, almost proudly.
‘I just did luv. I worked out the weeks and it were him. I never did know his name, but that soldier were your grandad.’