Sorrow

Tonight’s insomnia ear worm is the wonderful Mary Black’s Bright Blue Rose. I can’t help but think about my dad tonight. Though I may believe in Asgard as much as I believe in heaven, it gives me comfort to think he’s out there above me, dancing with the stars.

Forget me nots amongst the snow, It’s always been and so it goes. To ponder his life and his death eternally.

Grief strikes at the oddest times.

“Sonny don’t go away, I’m here all alone
Your Daddy’s a sailor, never comes home,
Nights are so long, silence goes on,
I’m feeling so tired and not all that strong”

Slump

Call it post holiday blues.

I’ve got major slumpage going on. The respiratory infection I’ve picked up along the way isn’t helping much.  Add to this the fact I have asthma which is often affected by weather and the wind outside is 50-60mph, then my cup is definitely less than half full. I can’t leave the house because I find it hard to breathe, and if I don’t get a daily walk I get majorly crabby.

Time to crank up the music and re-energise whilst house cleaning. There’s much to look forward to next week – goth gig on Friday (Bad Pollyanna + Ashes to Angels + William Control), followed by a free local music festival on Sunday headlined by the amazing Bridie Jackson & the Arbour. Him Underfoot invariably cries when he sees Bridie, I invariably cry when BP play Invincible Girl. Oooh that’ll cheer us up!

I suspect part of the downward mood is caused by my recent research for my current writing project based in World War 1. There are nights when what I’ve been reading renders me incapable of sleep. I’ve had to put all research to one side after 6pm and switch to innocuous urban fantasy (currently reading Anne Rice’s Blood and Gold). I’ve also been visiting various WW1 exhibitions which are leaving me an emotional wreck. I’ve scheduled a year’s work for this project, and if this is how it leaves me in month one, then heaven help me by the end. Still, I believe in the story I’m crafting; when the bones of something you’ve written make people cry then you know you are onto a story that deserves to be told.

There’s something quite soothing about blogging these thoughts out of my system (though the reader may not agree!). It’s been a bugger of a year, and emotionally I’m only just beginning to deal with some of the fallout. Scotland helped me to see a way forward; I think I underestimated just how much of an emotional journey it would take me on.

Take care, gentle folk.

Private 48169

Private 48169.  My Great Uncle Michael Maughan Renwick. Died aged 17 in Ypres, on the 11th April 1918.

Until two weeks ago I had never heard of this young man. Never knew that my grandfather’s brother had signed up for the war aged just 16, lying about his age to go and be a man for his country. I don’t know how long he fought for, but I do know his body was never found.

I recently signed up for 2 writing sessions at my local library, connected to a competition they run for which they are seeking stories of the Great War. Up until the day I attended the first session I’d assumed I had no relatives who’d fought in the conflict. A comment to my mum about the theme of the session provoked the recollection about Michael, who would have been her uncle.  My grandfather – one of life’s gentle souls – never talked about the loss, although he would have been just 10 at the time. That generation simply didn’t discuss loss.  He and my grandmother – one of life’s feisty souls! – also never talked about the death of their only son aged 8 days old. Instead they were content to adore their two strong willed daughters who are 11 years apart in age. I am glad I’ve had the opportunity to learn about Michael.

Sadly I have no photographs of him, but I have discovered a few mementoes, such as where he is memorialised amongst the missing dead at Ploegsteert Memorial in Belgium, a Commonwealth War Grave Memorial for those who fought at Ypres. It is a beautiful memorial – as Wilfred Owen would have perhaps said, Dulce Et Decorum Est. What is staggering to me is that he is just one name amongst 11,367 missing dead from the Great War who died in Belgium memorialised here.

Ploegsteert Memorial to the Missing

Ploegsteert Memorial to the Missing

I’ve written a story in memorial for him. I found doing so led to a very emotional journey for me, and I was aware that I needed to be respectful to his memory. We know so little about his motivations for signing up at the age of 16, for lying to become a soldier like so many young men did then. He was destined like both my grandparents to be a miner, in fact was already working in the pit and as an essential worker would have been exempted out of military recruitment even had he been of age. It’s been a strange couple of weeks, trying to imagine his journey, and the hopes and fears of this young man as he set out on what would be his last journey.  To imagine the sadness and the grief that my great-grandmother must have felt, especially after losing her husband – Michael’s father – at a very young age. Here’s an excerpt, though it is still in second draft stage and needs a little more development:

The names have gone, receded with the night sky as the clouds clear and leave the light of a thousand silver stars to play on your face as your breath becomes shallower. There’s mud in your mouth, on your face, in what remains of your clothing. There is no rescue. The white knights are all dead or diseased and their noble steeds are frozen in mortis all around you. The artillery is getting closer, the battle field has no name. Ypres, Somme, Maretz, Ploegsteert. They’ve all been fought; all have their unknown soldier whose earthly remains have simply been absorbed by the land they fought for. A thousand, tens of thousands of young souls forever lost to their grieving families.

So this is where I’ve been, lost in the trenches of another man’s war. I’ll keep remembering though, keep thinking of the sacrifices made by so many – not just then but of all wars, all conflicts.

And on the 11th April 2018 I know where I’ll be. In a forgotten field in Belgium, to show that nothing’s forgotten.

Farewell

Mid summer. The perfect evening to take my Dad home to Rowlands Gill, where he is now under the watchful eye of the Red Kites in the Derwent Valley, in a beautiful grass meadow filled with pink clover and buttercups, bordered by holly and oak trees. Sweet and fitting that he lies within the holly’s protection.

Requiescat in pace et in amore.