Raine - the goose story had me in stitches. Poor old Mammie Goose Wilson will have a hard time living that one down. Congratulations on Collins' second Hun - and taken alive, machine and all! No. 3 strikes again. Excellent stuff. Lovely story about the dinner with the Poiriers, and the kindly priest. Let's hope the war keeps as far out of their way as possible.
Fullofit - No! I really do hope Gaston can find himself on the right side of the lines. As Raine says, he's one of the DiD greats.
Maeran - brilliant story! The way you tell it reminds me of A.R. Kingsford's 'With The Earth Beneath' - one of my favourite Great War books! The old fella in Kent made me chuckle, too.
All the great stories are making me (but not Graham!) long for the front again!
2nd. Lieut. Graham A. Campbell. No. 20 Squadron R.F.C (On Leave), Nottingham, England.
March 26th, 1916.
As the train pulled into Nottingham, I found myself apprehensive. It had been four months since I had last seen my mother and father, and I had experienced so much in such little time. I wondered how much I would have changed in their eyes.
Flagging down a taxicab, I gave the driver the address and we were off, crossing over the Trent and past the old County hall. Eventually we came to a stop outside the small two-storey house where I had grown up, and after paying, I sheepishly stepped up to the door, knocking once and smoothing over my uniform.
The door creaked open, and my mother’s face peered out from the crack. She looked tired, but upon seeing me the door was flung open. She stared at me wide-eyed for a moment, and then threw her arms around me.
Under a creeping barrage of questions (Are you being careful? Are you eating enough?) we stepped into the kitchen, where the broad shape of my father was sat at the table, a pot of tea in front of him. “Look who’s here!” my mother cried, and he looked up. Slowly, a smile appeared on his face. “Well, wid’ye look at him! Sharp! Have a seat, son”. I obeyed, as my mother rushed to pour me some tea. “I’ll make lunch” she chirped. I felt something brush my leg, and looked down. “Aha! There you are!” I crooned, scooping up Edna, our old wiry ginger cat and placing her in my lap. She let out a meow of protest, squirmed a little in my grasp, but quickly gave in and went to sleep.
My mother served up sandwiches with our tea, and after some smalltalk they pressed me for details of France. I talked for hours of all the experiences I’d had so far - playing down the close shaves for my mother’s sake - and finally mentioned my promotion. My father shot out of his seat. “D’ye hear that, Moira! Oor boy’s an officer!” he placed a hand on my shoulder and ruffled my hair. “Don’t think a’m gonny start callin’ ye ‘Sur’, boyo” he joked, and I laughed weakly.
For the rest of the day we idly chatted, as my parents caught me up with the inconsequential neighbourhood gossip and smalltalk. I felt myself begin to relax - here, I didn’t have to be the soldier or the airman anymore. It was a peaceful feeling.
“You are staying the night, aren’t you, Graham?” my Mother asked, as the sun had begun to recede below the horizon. I nodded. “Yes, I’ll stay until tomorrow afternoon, but I have to pick up my uniform from the tailors the day after”. “I’ll make your room ready” she said, smiling, and disappeared upstairs, Edna plodding after her. As soon as she had disappeared from eyeshot, my father’s face turned serious. “What’s it like, really?” he asked, and I sighed. “Dangerous” I muttered. Slowly, he nodded, wearing the look I recognised from my childhood. He was thinking back to the Boer War. After a long pause, he looked over at me again. “A’ wish that A’ wisnae so auld...A’ wish A’ could be there with ye”. I looked him in the eye, but I didn’t see him. I saw the face of the Aviatik pilot, a second before he was lost in the smoke. “No, you don’t…” I whispered. Behind me, my mother reappeared and happily chirped “Your room’s ready for when you want to go up, Graham!”.
I didn’t stay up for much longer. It was strange to find my old room as I had left it - sparse, with only a small bookshelf and a writing desk with some family pictures. The bed felt the same, too. It was more wonderful than anything the Cavendish could hope for. As I slipped into sleep, I told myself that I was home, and France had no place here.