Friday, 18 November 2011

Flowers in the Window

I woke up this morning to Flowers in the Window by Travis. Nothing remarkable about that, but it brought back memories for me because my mum had loved it. In the weeks before she died, she used to say to me, “That lovely song was playing on the radio again this morning,” and she’d sing a little of it.

I don’t know why she loved it so much, but it really touched her.

The song begins, “When I first held you I was cold.” Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but perhaps it made her think of my dad and his time on the Russian Convoys on the heavy cruiser HMS Kent.

This photograph of him was taken around that time. He would have been in his early 20s. The same age as my youngest son now.

Sometime during this last horrible week I watched a BBC programme about the veterans of the convoys going on a trip to Russia. They really are forgotten heroes. I know my dad used to freeze to his gun, that a hot drink would freeze in the mug before he could drink it, that he had to watch ships going down and countless men dying in those awful icy waters.

Churchill called them suicide missions and the most dangerous of the war. Without those convoys, the outcome of the war could and probably would have been very different.

Here’s another photo from the time. I don’t know who the men are in it.

I just can’t imagine what it must have been like, the unrelenting cold, the knowledge that at any moment they could come under attack from the air or the sea. I can’t imagine it and my dad never spoke of it. All I know is what my mum told me.

The Russians awarded a medal to the men who served on the convoys. What did we give them? Well eventually, after more than 60 years, they were given the Arctic Emblem, a tiny little star, but no medal.

In January this year, David Cameron said that the veterans should receive medals. They endured “Incredibly harsh conditions.” You don’t say? But he’s changed his mind. They’ve already been recognised with the Atlantic Star apparently and that will do. No matter that 95% of the men who went on to serve on the convoys had already earned their Atlantic Star.

And in his election campaign, Cameron promised to order the Tories to introduce an Arctic medal if they came to power. So much for promises. Good job the sailors didn't turn round in 1941 and say "No thanks, we've already done our bit in the Atlantic."

I know they didn't do what they did for medals or recognition or glory - they did it because they had to. Would it really be so difficult to finally thank them properly?

There are about 200 veterans of the Arctic campaign left. My dad is not one of them. Today is the 36th anniversary of his death and I wanted to write this blog in memory of him.

There is a petition on the government website to give the veterans the medal they deserve. So far it has attracted fewer than 700 signatures. It seems a shame.

If anyone would like to sign, here’s the link to the petition.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Today we said goodbye to Tilly.

Such a special, brave, loyal little dog. I am so glad for the time we had with her.

Thursday, 3 November 2011


First of all isn’t the Woman’s Weekly Centenary Special fantastic? I got mine this morning and I can’t wait to get stuck in! I’m going to send for the free pattern and dust my old sewing machine off. It’s years since I made anything.

At a quick skim through I saw Facebook quotes from Karen and Jo and a lovely picture of my friend and visitor to this blog, Sue. And there is a complete copy of the original magazine from 100 years ago inside. How cool is that?

Now for Tilly news. We saw Tom again today and he remarked on how bright she is and how lovely and glossy her coat is, all things considered. Last time her weight had dropped to 17 kilos and this time she was up to 17.1.

Things have been very up and down. At one point I was torturing myself wondering if I was doing the right thing. It was a very bleak day and my mood was the lowest it’s been since this all began. If she turns her nose up at a meal, my spirits immediately go into free fall.

I realised I couldn’t go on like this, waiting for her to get worse or for a new symptom to manifest itself. Her treatment is palliative, but she’s doing okay at the moment so from now on I’m taking one day at a time, enjoying our time together and giving her the best life she can possibly have.

When the phone engineer called she told him to clear off and she’s even turned up at mealtimes with Indy a few times now wanting to know when hers will be ready! Today she was trying to persuade Isabel to share her beans on toast with her at lunchtime. She’s going a bit further for her walks and I’ve noticed a few times that instead of being in here with me she’s taken herself to the bedroom to sprawl out on the bed in the sun.

She had a horribly upset tum for a few days, but – touch wood – that seems to have righted itself. Now we have to try to wean her gradually off the steroids and hope her appetite doesn’t diminish. Then, all being well, back in two weeks for more blood tests. She’s still jaundiced, but as Tom says, not quite as luminous as she was.

Thank you for all the support and lovely comments over the past few weeks. You really have helped more than I can say.