Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I’ve got to the stage now where I have to stop and wonder if I am repeating myself in my Blogs, though if I don’t remember I’m sure no one else will either, so maybe I worry unduly but suddenly I notice on Google that this Blog is number 402! That’s a whole lot of Blogging. The first 230 I lost when my computer crashed.
Vicky has arrived for her annual holiday and was off to the beach first thing. She’ll spend most of her time there. She brought with her a CD with the title of ‘Give Me A Smile’: Songs and Music of World War ll. I haven’t had a chance to sit down and listen to it yet but on reading the list of numbers I was immediately taken back in memory to the tour of Sweden many years ago with a show devised and produced by Dudley Stevens of blessed memory called ‘When The Lights Go On Again.’ The tour which naturally started in the capital then went on to play twenty six towns and the reception everywhere was rapturous. I’ve written all about this in my autobiography so I really am repeating myself but there is so much nostalgia connected with songs such as ‘When The Lights Go On Again’, ‘I’m Gonna Get Lit up’, ‘When They Sound The Last All Clear’, ‘Bless Em All’, ‘London Pride’, etcetera.
Of course during the war itself I was only a schoolboy in South Africa and was hardly touched by it. There was a certain amount of rationing, nothing that really created any great hardship, and blackouts at night in case the Japanese descended on us. There was no white bread available (oh what rapture when it finally reappeared) and my sister tells me she remembers it was illegal to sift flour but our mother wasn’t going to have her scones spoiled with whole wheat flour and secretly sieved away in the kitchen. Other memories? Well I remember my parents sending crateloads of avocado pears to an aunt in Wales (what did she do with them all?) and I remember my mother’s concert party, all the ladies in their patriotic costumes of red, white, and blue giving of their best for the war effort. I still have a photograph of them, all dead many a long year now. The hall called ‘The Shellhole’ in a district of Durban called Umbilo where we lived at the time was where they performed and I do believe it is still in existence all these years later. I remember it was more or less a tin shack and around the walls were memorabilia from the First World War. It was also used for dances where we indulged in the conga and The Lambeth Walk and, the last thing played every time, The Anniversary Waltz.
Of course, apart from the diehard Afrikaners who were against South Africa’s involvement from the very start, the atmosphere was pretty jingoistic and General Smuts a hero. Dad was too young for the first world war and too old for the second so wasn’t called up but I remember my Jewish schoolboy friend Peter Lasker losing his father with the Eighth Army in North Africa and I believe a boy who was at primary school with me (but obviously older), one Wiggy Moore, was also killed. Otherwise fatalities never touched me, and my final remembrance was sitting in a cinema watching the films just released of the liberation of Belsen and other concentration camps and finding it almost impossible to take in the horror of what was going on.
My last memory of Peter Lasker was his saying to me as he, his brother, and his mother were preparing to move to Zimbabwe, then Southern Rhodesia, ‘That’s the country of the future.’ I wonder, if he is still alive and if he is still there, what he thinks of Mugabe’s Zimbabwe now.

PS: Douglas has designed me a fantastic new website. If you’re interested you can find it on

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