Anna's Progress through Life

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Birth / Moments that shaped my life / People who impacted / My passage through life / Je ne regret rien

Fact 00001 - I was born in the 20th Century in 1952 in my parents home across the road from a cemetery (and importantly a lido) in Carrington. It was a dark and stormy Sunday when I arrived and my sister had been banished to Wollaton Hall! My birth was a life-changing experience for my sister, not me though, I hadn't known anything different and so my family was always made up of those three most important people.

Fact 00002 - I was born into a a loving Polish family and didn't speak English for the first few of my formative years. I was baptised and raised in the Catholic faith and was educated in two English Convent Schools until my 16th birthday. I also attended Polish School on Saturdays, was a Polish Brownie and eventually Girl Guide. Living in two cultures, which were honoured, fêted and given the same value, but nevertheless kept strictly apart was preparation-in-waiting (little did we know it) for the purest kind of 'political correctness'.

Fact 00003 - I know exactly the moment I discovered and fell madly in love with Ballet. IT was a pivotal moment in the late 1950s/early 1960s at the Theatre Royal in Nottingham where the Bolshoi was gracing us with a rare post-war visit. A love that would carry me through Sandy Wilson's adventures in 'The Secret Ballet School' in the comic Judy, through copious visits to see live performances of Coppélia and Giselle, (the other great classics I watched on television) until today. But it was in that very first moment that I knew I had come across something very special, with the very special person who had taken me, when the curtain went up and out of the dark leapt a ballerina, dressed all in red, moving faster than a flame! The image below is what I remember distinctly, a solo ballerina, entering the stage (from right to left looking at the stage) at speed performing a series of grand jetés across its at the speed of lightning - she was in a classic tutu but I could not find the right image to fully illustrate the grandeur and beauty of the movement! The image below shows an image from the Royal Opera House of a more classic view of the same ballet.

Solo from The Firebird

American Ballet Theatre - Natalia Osipova in Firebird. Photo:Gene Schiavone. © Copyright 2017 Ballet Theatre Foundation, Inc. All rights reserved.

Duet from The Firebird

Mara Galeazzi and Edward Watson in The Firebird. © Dave Morgan, by kind permission of the Royal Opera House

So who was the very special person who took me to see this ballet? I can only have been about 8 or 9 at the time. It was our lodger, Pani (Mrs) Pieńkowska who lived in the 'granny flat' on the second floor of the terraced house we lived in at the time. There were two decent sized rooms up there, a box room and kitchenette and a storage area (behind a curtain). I never saw her use the bathroom, but, of course she must have done. I can't remember there ever not being a Pani Pieńkowska living with us and her son Jan(usz) who visited about six times a year, he was very charming (I seem to remember) and an illustrator who lived in London. Pani Pieńkowska was someone I always felt comfortable with, she always wore black but that didn't bother me because she embellished it with wonderful strings of beads and bangles, there were always bangles which held down long sleeves. If ever a sleeve freed itself she became agitated until she had clamped it down again, it was the only time I ever saw her agitated and once I saw what it was she wanted, not so much to hide, but rather not to be seen - it was an ugly tattoo of a number. Pani Pieńkowska was a wartime heroine, a patriot, a freedom fighter - she survived the Warsaw Uprising but did not escape its consequences, she was sent to Oświęcim (more familiarly known as Auschwitz) where she received her tattoo and suffered unimaginable horrors of which she never spoke. She survived that place and made a new home for herself with us. Thankfully she did not forget kindness and beauty both of which she shared with me and especially in that instant that she shared the ballet with me for the first time.

Fact 00004 - Returning to the illustrator Jan Pieńkowski who, as stated in the previous fact, was charming and easy going (often reflected in his 1960s work) and very conscious of paying deference to the females in his life, his mother, obviously being paramount. Because of that I always remember his visits with fondness and on particular occasion I think he became my knight in shining armour for EVER! I was in a four year olds strop, mega strop not to put too fine a point on it! I had discovered that I had this amazing first name that wasn't being used! I think I was particularly incensed because I had just begun learning Polish history and the name belonged to a Queen of Poland, a very important one at that! As far as I knew, the British Royal family only had a princess with a similar sounding name to the one I was known as (with apologies in my more mature understanding of the situation to the Princess Royal) and she hadn't achieved anything yet being only a year or so older than me. I therefore devised a plan (as any bright four year old would do) and announced to the world that henceforward I would be known as and only answer to 'Panna Jadwiga'. The family occasionally remembered to humour me but it wasn't that convincing let me tell you! Then, Jan came for a visit and on being apprised of my newfound situation, made a great point of greeting me by taking my hand, kissing it, bowing to me and calling me Panna Jadwiga - you can see why he was so likeable! Mama (my mother) not to be outdone, dished out her own form of lesson and retaliated by referring to me as 'Anna Jagiellonka' (a lesser queen in the Jagiellonian dynasty of which Jadwiga was the first and only queen regnant). However, Anna Jagiellonka was obviously a true patriot and loyal servant of Poland as well as being a good seamstress - the Polish national symbol is a white eagle on a read background and Anna Jagiellonka produced a wonderfully rich variation pictured below.

White Eagle, Polish national emblem as created by Queen Anna Jagiellonka

Provenance of the White Eagle

Sixteenth century book cover embroidered in gold and silver thread and seed pearls by Queen Anna Jagiellonka and held at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków - image courtesy of interia.pl

Fact 00005 - Theatre and spectacle were ever in my blood from an early age, not necessarily from choice, but at school and in the Polish community we always had Nativity tableaux every Christmas and in the Polish community, sometime in the Autumn we always had a fancy dress ball for which my mother always made the most exotic costumes for my sister Marysia and I. One year I represented 'Autumn' herself, at another I was a embodiment of Królowa Jadwiga (after whom I am named) and Marysia was an exotic escapee from a harem one year complete with wonderful pantaloons and anklets - quite risqué all in all! But I wonder what it was that led me to shield myself from the limelight and seek to work 'backstage'? Last year (end of December 2016) I found a picture of a 1950s production of children in Shirebrook performing some sort of Nativity play and was struck by the 'resemblance' to Wilson, Keppel and Betty and reminded of my own personal memory of a special moment in my life.

The Magi School Play Image

Children perform a Nativity Play, Shirebrook - The Three kings pointing at the star of Bethlehem" - Image courtesy and © of Picture the Past

I placed the picture on Fb with a comment about them not being quite WKB which Alan Stafford quickly picked up on and my response (verbatim) was as follow - "Now, funny you should notice that Alan - reminds me of one of those piercing memories from my infant school days. It was the very first time I was directly involved in an English School Nativity play and was the understudy for Caspar (very progressive really if you think of the time, early 1960s - probably Christmas 1962 as I started at Loreto in 1963) although the original casting of the Magi was all boys. Without warning or even a rehearsal the original Caspar withdrew and I was ON! (See it doesn't just happen in Hollywood) anyway I knew the lines and the moves and being a kid was, I suppose, fearless to a degree. All went well until the Magi's big scene, we are travelling and using the stars to guide us, we stop atop a mountain and each of us has to pronounce some planetary configuration that will help us, of course each had a different course of action or direction and my line would have been something (meant to raise a laugh) like 'my word the stars/planets are very restless tonight' but that was the moment I froze. Luckily Alec (first real ginger copperhead I'd ever come across) came to the rescue said my line, had to then follow with his own so seemed to be a genuine lead and the rest must have gone down ok. So, maybe these three were doing the same play?" Could it have been the suddenness of being thrust into the limelight that made me determine never to go through the experience again? It's a possibility I suppose, but more likely the fact that I loved to 'create' art. It was nice to remember some of my (then) peers - I always got on well with Alec and there was also a pair of mixed-gender twins and I remember Jamie because he had wonderfully Byron-esque curly hair. Our form master that year was Mr. Ball who used to throw the blackboard (oh nuts to political correctness, that was what it was called then) eraser at us if he felt we warranted it - he also scared us into passing the 11+!

Fact 00006 - Friday, 22nd November 1963 - the assassination of President Kennedy; and yes, I do remember that whole evening. It was a Friday night and I was washing my hair between 7.30-8.00pm because I was forbidden to watch 'Emergency Ward 10' as it was deemed too adult. I can say, hand on heart, that I have never to this day seen an episode although my sister loved it and 'Dr. Kildare'. 'Bonanza' was to follow at 8.00pm which I was permitted to watch, because together with the rest of the world inhabited by girls of my own age I was, of course, in love with 'Little Joe' and his Palomino pony. Not this night however. As I was in the process of lathering up my hair in our spacious bathroom I heard my mother shouting up to me from the ground floor - all I heard was 'President Kennedy is dead'. Not really sure what I should do - finish washing my hair (I was old enough to do that on my own but not yet to make decisions that fell out the norm for a Friday night) or go downstairs and ask what I should do? I ended up completing my hair and personal ablutions and descended to await the next step. As I entered the room, the television screen was black - not switched off, just black. In deference to the terrible news which had come via a 'Newsflash' all programmes for the evening had been cancelled. I cannot remember what followed, but I do know exactly where I was when I heard the news!

Fact 00007 - In 1966 I had a fantastic year travelling to Rome as part of the Millennium celebrations where I represented 'Poland' in the tableaux, celebrating 1,000 years of Polish Christianity, that was put on for our hosts. I met Erwin (a Frenchman) who was considerably older than my 14 years and who treated me like a princess and kept me out after curfew. I returned to England a virgin. In the summer I attended a Jamboree at Lilford where I met Rysiek from Cardiff, re-acquainted myself with two Brummy twins (who had also been in Rome) Eddie and Stan and came across a couple of guys from Manchester who were quite cute - there were plenty to choose from! We spent quite a lot of time dodging Rafał's night patrols to meet up - I returned from Lilford a virgin, but I had had an accident whilst there - I fainted. It was ignored.

Me and Mrs Kaczorowska

Lilford Park 1966 - 'Poland' being fêted by the wife of the Polish PM in exile - Mrs. Kaczorowska

In September of 1966, just as I was becoming aware of my sexuality I became a victim of bone cancer - this event was the first great shaping in my life. I would never be the same again, I would never again be normal. A bitter pill for a 14 year old to swallow.

Fact 00008 - I discovered the duplicity that existed in the world and came across my first conscious experience of discrimination and prejudice in British society. My family GP was Polish and a dermatologist by specialism. I believe he had a vocation despite a somewhat (occasionally) brusque bedside manner; nevertheless I hold his memory in the highest possible esteem. On returning from summer camp in 1966 he took one look at my leg which was beginning to exhibit specific deformities and without hesitation arranged for me to be seen by a bone specialist at the Nottingham General Hospital. As 'luck' would have it, I got the 'main man' - well, 'luck' is maybe an irony too far. It was fairly apparent that although I looked the part of a nice white English child and spoke fluently in his language, he obviously had misgivings about my origins and gender, it boils down to the fact that he discriminated against non-British and was a misogynist - needless to say, I didn't see him in this light as a 14-year old but I did form an opinion of immense dislike of this individual and how he treated me. I remember his appearance to this day, he was balding, had slicked down hair, dark rimmed glasses, very ruddy cheeks and always wore a white coat which, of course, made him look large, looming and wide. He confirmed what the x-rays showed and despatched me to Harlow Wood Hospital. After a biopsy which identified my particular ailment as a giant cell tumour he calmly informed my parents that amputation was the solution. My parents refused to accept this pronouncement and contacted the surgeon who had operated on my father during the war and who happened to be working in Leeds. He in turn, and much to my consultants 'incandescent' anger had me referred to Professor Smithers at the Royal Marsden. After my visit to the Marsden I was returned to the 'care' of the Nottingham consultant who was to make no further independent decisions on my treatment and would remain under direction of the Professor. Unbeknown to my parents or sister, I had read my hospital notes and knew about the potential amputation so it was somewhat of a relief when the pronouncement given to me by the consultant was that I would have (he then paused for an interminably long time) to stay in hospital for at least 12 weeks. That then started my next period of hell on earth! For four weeks, I received deep irradiation treatment on a daily basis, being transported by ambulance from Harlow Wood to the General. By the end of the 4th week I was semi-conscious and bleeding from every orifice imaginable in the female body. I don't remember being seen by the consultant until after the treatment, I can't remember whether or not he told me the tumour had been successfully dealt with, I know for a fact that he didn't tell me that the bone as well as the tumour were dead! I discovered that years later in 1984. X-rays confirmed that the hole left by the tumour in the base of my femur (just above the kneed cap) was slowly filling in. And so it was decided that I would be returned home in time for Christmas. I was placed into a non-weight bearing caliper and given wooden crutches with butterfly screws for balance. The caliper would be taken off at night and my leg placed in a cradle to keep it straight and stiff. I was therefore returned to the 'real' world and with that came a return to school. I was a freak! I was 4 inches taller than I had been as the non-weight bearing caliper meant that my shoe had to be built up on my right leg so the left would be left 'dangling. I used crutches and most mortifying I was ferried to school by taxi where I had to lie across the back seat to accommodate the added length. After six months the non-weight bearing caliper became a weight-bearing version, the stilts were taken off my right shoe and the caliper drilled through the heel of my left shoe and the crutches shortened by reducing the notches held in place by the butterfly screws. A year later my consultant decided I should try to walk without the aid of the caliper - as I was stealing myself for the 'leap (or rather step) of faith' he pushed me forward. It's a miracle I didn't fall over and break something - it was brutal, thank goodness my mother was waiting for me to reach her and somehow between us we kept me upright. Satisfied with his actions and obviously itching to get back to his more lucrative work, he was after all the consultant to the more important football team in the city, he told me that as the leg had healed I would now need to attend physiotherapy to start building up the strength in my muscles to reach full weight-bearing in due time. He also told me as a parting shot not to try to claim any disability benefits as he would not endorse my application. With that ringing in my ears, knowing my mother had not understood a word, he departed. The first time I told anyone about his final words to me at that time, were to my sister a week ago (November 2016). At the time however, I told my mother how the remainder of my treatment would look as he, the consultant, had outlined to me.

Fact 0009 - This then constituted the start of the rest of my life and in celebration of being freed from the constraints of this appalling consultant, in 1968 I travelled to Poland to stay with my family, to experience the fleeting friendship of a remarkable woman, see the mother of all storms which caused a total electrical black-out in Zakopane whilst watching Angélique Part II, to have a truly narrow escape and to experience the greatest potatoes ever!

Fact 0010 - June 1970 - Hooray, the end of 'A'-levels, Clarendon College of FE and the 'deflowering'! Cry 'shameless hussy' if you like but hey, it's a rite of passage and this page is all about influences on and how they shaped me. So here goes. The nuns wouldn't let me progress to 6th form at Loreto, until I had repeated the 5th because I had missed so much schooling during the cancer years. Luckily, Clarendon accepted my application with the proviso that I would re-sit any 'O'-levels in my first term of studying for A-levels. Because of the extra curriculum impacting on my A-levels I was only allowed to take two subjects, English Literature and Art (non-academic). On passing the lower level examinations, I was upgraded to Art (Academic) and had History of Art 'A'-level added, thus giving me three potential academic qualifications. I was also advised to take typing classes to boost up my hours. By the end of the first year I had licked the Art 'A'-level and was ready to take it early and gone through all the levels of typing I would ever need, leaving me with plenty of time to complete my two remaining 'A'-Levels. Just as well really as our half of the English Literature class were given an new lecturer from the second year. As with all change, it was unsettling, especially as my curriculum had already changed three times and now someone new whose style, would of necessity, differ from our dear old 'Clarkie'. The new guy didn't help matters by being a bit of a hippy, obviously gorgeous and if I didn't know better I'd say Johnny Depp styled himself on PL in the 'Ninth Gate'. Mind you, having just found some student ID cards of myself, I was pretty gorgeous too!

Me at about 18

Me when I was with the Johnny Depp lookalike - pretty gorgeous eh?

Johnny Depp in the Ninth Gate

Johnny Depp (without round horn rimmed glasses) in the 'Ninth Gate' - image Celebrityorcelebrities

Me at 19 or 20

And me after I got dumped - blonder and even more gorgeous and looking a lot happier - eat your heart out PL!

Yes, he really looked like that although the hair was a bit longer and flopped more, he also wore boots which invariably caught the hem of his trousers (never jeans). It never dawned on me that I might have caught this man's eye. In the second year, there were so many things going on. Having become accustomed (now) to the mature students I wasn't in awe of them any more. I became close friends with David, who incredibly asked me to be a bridesmaid at his wedding, in actual fact he chose both of the bridesmaids and I hadn't even yet met his fiancée at this time. I celebrated my 18th birthday in April and was taken, legally, to the pub by my classmates and it was David who looked after me as I got drunk as a skunk for the first time! Two of our group, the real movers and shakers had decided that they would get engaged on her 21st birthday and invited me to the do at a very posh out of town restaurant. I remember them well, Carolyn wore a great big silver ring on each finger and as she had large hands they looked very well, Phil was always a bit of a beatnik and had an impressive moustache. Caroline (and I) had always been the babes of the group. My other close friend, Linda, was in the other English group and we kept close because my mother was tailoring her wedding dress (I was to be a bridesmaid at that wedding too!) for her. She went on to work at Debenhams between end of college and her wedding and I bought my 'mosaic' cutlery there which I still possess today - beautifully made and still as fresh as it was then. Towards the end of the second year and after the exams, 'Clarkie' asked me to baby sit for him one night. Weird or what? But as he had asked and was a lecturer I couldn't very well say no could I? I think he must have picked me up as he lived on the other side of town. Anyway, they showed me where the tv was and obligingly provided a Radio Times, the kitchen and the slumbering babes. I had no idea he had young children. I was beginning to get bored as the music selection wasn't great and the kids were fast asleep every time I looked in and I was on about my 4th coffee when the doorbell rang. OK, we hear a lot about 'grooming' these days, and I certainly would not append that to this incident but it was a classic 'set-up.' In all honesty when I realised who was at the door I had no intention of letting him in, this was not my house, the children were entrusted to me and I dreaded what the Clarks would think on their return. But PL was not about to give up and nearly gave me the proverbial 'foot in door' treatment and I relented but told him I had a duty to the children. When the Clarks returned, there was no hint of a surprise on 'Clarkies' face and he immediately offered both of us a lift home. So anyway, that was it, the start of the pursuit and I was quite happy to be caught, being a naive but sensible 18 year old. We did the social rounds so that people got accustomed to us as a couple, he took me to see M*A*S*H which despite everything has always been one of my favourite films; the only fly in the ointment was the divorcée PL threw over in his pursuit of me. He had to get out of her house quickly and found a nice little flat behind some shops not that far away from where we lived. There were scenes and unpleasantness but I didn't really appreciate the trauma - but even today I wince a bit when I hear Rod Stewart's 'Maggie May'. And so, having waited an appropriate time, we sealed the deal in his new flat on a mattress on the floor. As I was completely naive about the sex act I looked to him to be my teacher, all I remember him saying was that he was only 'a once a night man' whatever that meant! Later he criticised my technique ....... anyway, I went away to Lancaster and although we wrote and I saw him on the weekends I came home, by the following summer it was all over and I had had my 'Dear John' letter.

Fact 0011 - 5th July, 1975 Arthur Ashe wins Wimbledon Mens Singles title. Link Well yes, I did predict the win!

Fact 0021 - Sometime in 1977 (TX date 22nd December - in production in the summer) - Meeting Louis Jordan - IMDB | Blog (and pictures)

Fact 0013 - 1st March 1980 - My first marriage to David (note the date - St. David's Day - he was no saint but it was definitely his day) and an exercise in 'no regrets' at the end of 13 years - but I think we both would probably have agreed we had rather it had not happened - but there's always benefit with hindsight isn't there, oh isn't there just?

September 1980 - Forming of Solidarity

Fact 0014 - 13th October 1984 - Honestly, fancy this not being at the top of my list! I'm remembering it today because I've just done some work on my '6 Degrees / Coincidences are Signposts' page which is still under construction as is this one! Anyway, having lived with the aftermath of the 1966 diagnosis of a 'giant cell tumour' this day (Saturday) and date really started shaping the remainder of my life. My first husband and I were both actually at home on this day, he had not travelled to a home match in Sheffield and as he was not employed in the theatre at the time actually had time off that the weekend. I had just changed my car from the ever faithful Teal Blue 'Thibault Charlie Brown' (named after Charles M Schultz's characters) to new boy Opaline 'Brucie Baby' (named after Bruce Johnston of the Beach Boys). The number plate also influenced the choice of name. Brucie had come with a factory fitted alarm which was ultra sensitive and for the umpteenth time that day had decided to go off - I went to switch it off (again) and as I stepped off the pavement my leg gave way and I must have fainted. I knew instantly that something was very wrong even though I wasn't in any pain that I remember - as a Supracondylar femur fracture there was no trauma associated with it, not that I knew that at the time. A neighbour noticed me, raised the alarm with David and they carried me into the house. The doctor duly arrived, I refused to have my jeans cut off and he was astonished that a) I was able to wriggle out of them without passing out and b) that Taree was able to bounce around the bed, again without me screaming in agony. She had been asleep at the top of the wardrobe and as was her wont dropped down from on high using the bed as a landing pad. Once the trousers were off I could see the egg was at a peculiar angle, well at least more peculiar than usual. The ambulance men arrived, both were enormous and filled the room with their presence and a very orange splint - I was informed that it was a new invention used for the first time the preceding day in the aftermath of the Brighton Bomb attack on the Conservative Party conference. Once in hospital and on the ward, my Registrar and SHO (Tweedle dum and Tweedle dee) showed me the x-ray of my leg) the morphine and shock of the day's events precluded my registering what I was looking at - I could identify my bone (very distorted since the treatment in 1966) but I told them it couldn't be mine because it was broken - I had never seen my femur other than intact.

Fact 0015 - 14th May, 1998 New Orleans, Louisiana, United States of America - during our second visit to the city we had both instantly fallen in love with, staying in a hotel close by the Louis (Satchmo) Armstrong Park, enjoying the daily trek down to the Café du Monde for Beignets and listening to the sounds of Jazz and Blues which surrounded us as did the the NOLA colours - green, purple and gold, we heard the announcement that Francis Albert Sinatra had died. I have adored Frank Sinatra and many of his contemporaries such as Dean Martin, Judy Garland and in time their daughters Nancy and Liza most of my adult life. Sinatra was special however - born the same year as my father and in their prime both men shared specific characteristics.

Frank Sinatra

For me - this is Francis Albert in his prime.

I started listening to Sinatra on vinyl and black and white tv (films and Christmas Specials only then), then graduated to CDs and televised concerts. Only recently did I discover that Sinatra and Wilson Keppel and Betty shared a playbill at one time! So it was fitting that I should be in the City of Music when this great man shed his mortal coils. We spent the day wandering about the City seeing images of him with the Rat Pack or from his films on all the obligatory screens in the bars that litter the city.

The Blacksmiths Arms NOLA

Exterior of the Blacksmiths Arms - image courtesy and © of Ideal Magazine

Interior of the Blacksmiths Arms

Current pictures show the interior as a lot more upmarket but this was our favourite seating area - no frills, the jukebox was further back on the left hand side wall.

When we decided to return to out hotel, we stopped off at our 'local', The Blacksmith's Arms (frequented by Charles the Vampire) which claims to be the oldest public house in the United States and I played every Sinatra record on their Juke Box. We were lucky enough to visit NOLA again in May 2000 before 9/11 but did not travel again before or after 'Katrina' hit the city with such devastation. That too was a turning point and we support New Orleans by whatever means we can. I should have loved to visit again - but the circumstances of my disability have long made that a dream. I do, however, keep up via Virtual NO on Fb.

Fact 0016 - Meeting Anne Golon for the first time - 19th October 1999

Fact 0017 - Dated, 11th September, 2001 - forever 9/11 in our minds.

Fact 0018 - Dated, 17th January 2015 - forever Je suis Charlie minds. It was just one of those mornings wasn't it, like 9/11 - there was a whisper there was something unclear for on goes the tv searching for the 24 hour news channel to find out what was happening - another tragedy in Paris, the last time (when Diana, Princess of Wales was involved in a fatal car crash) I had rung my friend Anna at 3am or thereabouts as I needed to speak to another human being as events unrolled. I'd have really wanted to talk to her while this was unfolding at a less unforgiving time of day but I knew she was in hospital, what I didn't know is that she would die two days later. What I did know was that she would have hated knowing what was happening in her beloved Paris and in particular who it was being perpetrated by. In the meantime I still had friends there who could well have been in the thick of it - a journalist with young children and married to a man who practises the Muslim faith, a web designer who lives alone and is, like me, suffering from mobility restriction and a 90+ mother and her daughter with Jewish blood in their veins - all at risk, all vulnerable .....

Charlie Brown evoking despair

Because I think this is so fitting and a cartoon character I have empathised with and loved for several decades.

The Charlie Hebdo car attack

Mirroring images to come in London two years later!

Crowd holding Je Suis Charlie posters

What a shot - you couldn't have staged it - Solidarity is such a unifying word!

Monday, 30th January 2017 - Today's fact (not yet numbered as it will be way after anything else I remember and add). I am working on my parent's tribute page and at this very time am working on my father's medal collection. He has always been our very own hero and the world will know him as a hero of Monte Cassino. I was hoping my sister, who is a repository of knowledge about my parents, having had them to herself for 6 long years before I came along, would make it simple and provide the facts - instead she gave me a photograph of his medals - better that than nothing at all! As I was painstakingly attempting to identify them I came across an anomaly. Why is father in possession of the France & Germany Star - is there a part of his history hidden from us?

My Fathers life medals

Take a look at the third row and emerging from the left is the United Kingdom: Italy Star | Ribbon: White with green central stripe and red edges. | Awarded: For service in Italy, Sicily, Greece, Yugoslavia, Corsica, Sardinia and area between 11 June 1943 and 8 May 1945. This is followed by the United Kingdom: France and Germany Star | Ribbon: White with red central stripe and blue edges. Awarded: For service in France, Belgium, Holland and Germany between 6 June 1944 and 8 May 1945. (Should this have been the 39-45 Medal?) As I progressed in my research I discovered that many a Pole awarded with the Italy Star and UK Medals had also been awarded the 39-45 Medal whose ribbon is Pale Blue, Red and Navy (the colours adopted by the 'Help for Heroes' campaign) in three vertical stripes of equal width so where was Dad's? Then the penny dropped but I had to check in with my sister. I phoned her and went on and on about how much work I had already achieved (I could hear her yawning) and took her through what I had found and then asked her what she remembered about the British medals - so she started reeling them off and got three out of four right. I asked her if she had missed the 39-45 medal, she said she might have, then mentioned the Africa Star - but although Dad was there, it was more as a patient than in active combat to which she concurred. Then I dropped the bombshell (pun intended) - had Dad had a secret life in France and Germany as well as Poland, Russia, Siberia, Afghanistan and Monte Cassino? She was dumbstruck, then I asked her if she had any recollection at all of his mentioning that at one distribution ceremony of medals, they had run out and been handed an alternative. Yes, she remembered that (we had a habit of listening at keyholes if there was nothing better to do) she had heard that too - so, after laughing heartily at our earlier 'naughtiness' we decided that the reason our father had been awarded the France and Germany Star is because the powers that be had run out of the 39-45 medals and probably reasoned that no-one would ever know the difference - well we do now!

Friday, 10th March 2017 - I'm not sure how this is going to shape me, but apparently I have been declared dead. Do I go on?

Sympathy Card

Dated 7th March 2017 - "Andrew, I shall toast Anna with a Mermaid's Kiss cocktail in the Palm Court tonight. I had no idea she'd gone. Gary Cole was in the Pilchard yesterday and told me. A few endearing stories were told - some of which I knew - over a pint of Eddystone (ABV 4.8). I got your card at Xmas but it didn't click as your signatures (like mine) were always unintelligible.
So sad that she's gone. Many a night was spent in the Palm Court, wearing her Biba dresses; the time she came with her sisters; the beery summer days with Denzil down at the Pilchard; we even met in Tavistock once - all before the defection to the Midland at Morecambe!
She will not be forgotten. Hope you are well. I am still on the Island. I shall put a stone on my cairn for her up near the Hewer's Hut. Give me three more years and then I shall be retired. Another phase beckons. There was always more to life than Burgh!
All best and many happy memories. Gary McBar"

I'm happy to say Gary McBar and I caught up with each other last Sunday (12th March 2017) had a long chat and laugh, reminisced a bit, nearly cried and parted, as always, the best of friends. The person who 'misled' Gary shall remain nameless, although I did name and shame him on my FB profile, is a former colleague of mine of whom I have no particular good thoughts and I trust our paths won't cross again. However, on the positive side, not many people get to hear what others think of them once they've shed their mortal coils, I did!

Dated 22nd March 2017 - one year on from an atrocity on mainland Europe and London is subject to a vile attack by a 'lone' wolf rather in the style of Cannes a few months ago, only this one didn't stop at killing and maiming people by driving into them, he then launched personal attacks on Police personnel with long bladed knives. The carnage was appalling! Daesh have finally claimed responsibility, maybe they were hoping for greater numbers? The images of the car against the Westminster railings is so reminiscent of the morning of 'Je Suis Charlie.'

Car driven into gated wall at Westminster

Newspaper headlines following Westminster attack

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Page updated : 23rd March 2017

Background image : The Anemone range by Lalique the only design-house to regularly use an anemone in its original creations. The anemone is my favourite flower. The colours used here which are red, white and blue reflect my joint Polish (red and white) and British (red, white and blue) heritage.