Sunday, 15 December 2013

WordPress Daily Prompt: Festivus for All of Us

You have been named supreme ruler of the universe. Your first order of business is creating and instituting a holiday or festival in your honor. What day of the year is your holiday? What special events will take place? Describe YOU DAY in as great a detail as you can muster: the special foods we’ll consume, the decorations we’ll use…everything. 

Photographers, artists, poets: show us FESTIVE.

Street Party WWII

There are so many festivals and holidays throughout the world, I think the little day of me would disappear beneath the others. Even Italy cancelled many holidays or moved them a few years ago because they discovered the people were spending more time off work celebrating than getting on with the job. Switzerland has the wonderful habit of disregarding holidays that might fall on a week-end. Saturdays and Sundays are generally work free so why compensate with Monday and Friday, just the luck of the draw.

I remember my days in good old England, we were compensating all the time. Bank holidays were always comfortably fixed on a Monday or Friday, and if May Day happens to be a Sunday, then Monday is added for good measure. Yes, they were the good old days of being a British inhabitant.

Now I will take you down memory lane, memories I grew up with so let us look at the photo. What are those lovely ladies celebrating?  At that time they needed no special honour days, they were just glad that after five years of war, the peace treaty was signed and the nightly bombing raids on both sides of the channel were a thing of the past. Europe was celebrating, all in their own way and for their own reasons.

My mum is the lady on the right, wearing her dress of the day. I remember the dress because she kept it. It was made of a sort of shiny silk like material in light blue with flowers in pink and blue and a little bit of brown. The skirt was also a shiny material, in brown. It was one of my favourite “dressing up” dresses when I was a kid. On a rainy day with nothing to do I would dive into the dressing up box. There was also a wedding dress, the same sort of shiny material, but in white and there was even a headdress made of sort of waxy flowers. Of course at that time you wore what you could get, everything still being rationed.

Back to the photo of the day: it was some time in 1945 in a small square in London’s East End. The people were not rich, working class, the soldiers still away packing their belongings together to return after a five year war. My mum was still a single lady, dad had not yet arrived. Who are the other lovely ladies? They are all sisters, Emmy, Lizzie and Ivy Stamford, our neighbours in Norah Street. We lived at No. 45, they lived in the next house and our gardens bordered on each other. I can only remember the days after the war growing up with the neighbours. We were never in each other’s houses, we were all friends. Lizzie was married and lived on the second floor of her house, and the other two sisters lived with their mother on the ground floor. They had chickens in the back garden when I was a kid, which disappeared somewhere on the way, probably after a Chrismas dinner.

During the postwar celebrations: the little street was decorated with flags in all shapes and colours, mainly with a British accent. There was dancing, drinking and eating. Not like the street parties of today where you have to have a police permission and everything nicely organised. Organisation was not a thing when there were still bombed houses near and you just used what you found. I remember the ration books mum had until I was at least seven years old and I believe rationing only stopped in 1954 with meat and bacon, sugar and sweets ending in 1953. She had little books which were marked when she bought something and they were part of my toys for a few years to come afterwards.

During the war the family remaining at home slept in the garden in an Anderson shelter. I remember my mum telling me the story of grandad. He was too old to be a soldier and worked in one of the munitions factories. We even had a rusty bomb shell as an ornament in the garden. I grew up with that one. So the builders came to construct the shelter in the garden with an annoyed grandad looking on and complaining about his tulips being dug up to make room for this metal shelter which were especially for the poorer population. They were free. Mum said his words were something like “crawl into your holes”, but apparently he was the first one to crawl when the alarm went. Mum once spent half a night under the table in the kitchen because the alarm sounded when she was at the movies and did not get home in time.

So the people had something to celebrate:. the luxury of having my day with special food just for the fun of it – no thank you. I have seen enough in the world to realise that this would be an unnecessary luxury, even an insult upon those that do not even know where the next meal is.. A celebration is no celebration without it being earned and the people of Europe earned it after five years of war.
End of World War II

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  1. If we're going to have a 'Pat Bank Holiday', can we have it somewhere between 1st June and 25th August, as there are none in that period in the British Bank Holiday calender.

  2. Terrific post! I love the photo you shared.