In My Father’s Words

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In My Father’s Words

B.M

03/07/1938 – 18/10/2018

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D Day Plus Eleven

“Damm it!”

“What’s the matter, Grandad?”  The girl looked up from reading Le Monde.

“What’s French for boiling?  This water is bloody tepid.  Whatever else they do, the French can’t make tea.”

“It’s ‘bouillant’.”  She picked up the pot.  “I’ll see if I can find a waiter.”

“If it’s no trouble to them, of course.  Si possible and merci and all that stuff.”

She got up from the table.  “Thanks, I’ll remember.”  She returned in a few moments minus the teapot.  “It’s in hand.”

“Thanks, Claudine.”

She scowled at him.  “You really are a grouchy old bastard, you know.”

He nodded a gloomy agreement.  “At my age it’s about the only option open to you.”

She laughed out loud, causing other diners in the hotel breakfast room to turn their heads towards them.  “Not according to Mum; she thinks you’re an old rogue.  She thinks you will lead me astray.  Illegal substances, boozed out of my head, that sort of thing.”

He grinned.  “She’s quite right of course, and if we weren’t related and I was forty years younger, lots of other things as well.”

Claudine leaned across the table and kissed his cheek.  “And I would probably say ‘yes’.  But you’re not an old rogue, more a old pussy cat.”

“Would you not rather be with your mother and father instead of an ageing feline?”

She shook her head.  “No, I’ve seen the Tapestry before, with the school, and Mother takes just forever shopping.  She drives Dad out of his tree.”

“OK, then, I thought we’d do Caen.  That’s what you say these days, isn’t it?”

“Come on Granddad, let’s get the car, and get going.  That’s what I say.”

They shared a companionable silence as the red XK 120, top down, purred it’s way through the narrow bocage lanes of Normandy, the wind flicking the girl’s blonde hair into a straight line behind her.

“It’s a good job you’re retired.  What would your clients think of you flashing around in a vintage Jag?

He shrugged.  “They’d probably think I’d ripped them off.”  He turned and looked quizzically at her.  “Not the image for a dull old retired country solicitor, is that what you’re saying?”

She nodded.  “Something like that.”

He raised two fingers to where he imagined Sussex lay.  “Balls to them.”

“Were you here, Granddad, in the war?  In Normandy?”

“Afraid so.”

Her eyes shone.  “Did you come across the beach?”

“You have never shown any interest before, Claudine.”

She was dismissive.  “That was before I had been here, to the beaches, and Pegasus Bridge and Ranville and”

“Whoa, stop.  No, I didn’t come across the beach.  That was for real soldiers.  I dropped in on the end of a piece of silk.”

“Oh,” she breathed excitedly, “You were in the Airborne.”

He laughed again and shook his head.  “No, they were the heroes, those chaps.  They arrived on D-Day minus one.  I got here on D-Day plus eleven. I was in the RAF.”

“Why?”

“Why was I in the RAF?”

“No, why did you bale out?”

“I think it was what you would call a no option situation.  I didn’t think there was any flak around, but some Jerry caught me, and the engine stopped working.  So, Plan B.”

“Tell me about it.”  She added ‘Please’, as he seemed to hesitate.

“I was flying a Tiffie, a Typhoon, tankbusting and generally shooting up the Germans.  They had good tanks, big, big beasts.  Tigers and King Tigers.  They were beating the living daylights out of our blokes.  Anyway there I was, upside down and nothing on the altimeter but the maker’s name.  So I jumped, unfortunately behind German lines.”

“Did you get captured?”  She was completely gripped by the story. 

He pulled the Jaguar to a halt outside Caen Cathedral.  “I’d like to visit here.  Do you mind?”

Playfully she punched his arm.  “Of course I don’t bloody mind, but get on with the story, you old sod.”

“Easy,” he told her, “You’re my granddaughter, not my mother.  OK, No, I wasn’t taken.  A brave Norman farmer and his wife hid me in their farm until Monty and the boys punched their way through at the end of July.  Then I went back to England, got another Tiffie and carried on until the end.”

“Granddad,” she said suspiciously.  “You aren’t telling me everything, are you?”

“You are a very perceptive young lady.”  He pushed open the door to the Cathedral.

“Never mind the flattery.  Tell me.”

“The farmer had a daughter.  She was seventeen, about your age, very beautiful, just like you my darling.  We fell in love.”

“And did you come back for her after the War?”

“Oh yes.”

“What was her name?”

“Claudine was her name.  Are you getting the picture?”

The girl put her hand to her mouth and the man continued.  “We were married in this church on this very day in 1946, and lived happily ever after, or till 1957 when my Claudine died, just after your mother was born.”

She flung her arms around him.  “Granddad!  That is so sad.  I am so sorry for you.”

“Don’t be.  Of course it was sad Claudine died, but we had eleven years of being in love.  That’s a lot more than most people, and it is what I want to remember.”

“And you never found any other ladies in all these years?”

“Oh, yes, two of them, but it’s against the law to marry your daughter or granddaughter.”

Written by BM

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