19 – TWO BIRTHS IN WARTIME

19 – TWO BIRTHS IN WARTIME

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson
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THE LIFE AND LOVES OF ANNIE GRABLE - 19

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Annie was intrigued by the sight of a second thrush joining her friend she had now decided to call Mr Thrush on the window sill, both of them easily within her view as they ruffled their feathers next to each other.

Is this the misses then, Mr Thrush?” she asked softly as the addition bobbed her head up close and intimate to him.

She thought, I suppose he might have answered, but his girlfriend was needing his full attention and so in deference to her he ignored poor old Annie completely.

Maybe she’s laid you a nest full of nice blue speckly eggs?” she asked, and winced as a memory came hurtling back into mental focus.

Not eggs, but Daniel.

Even a small egg, she thought, was quite a large thing compared to a feathery thrush body, and the whole idea of the bird laying them brought back memories of Daniel coming into the world. There had been a great deal of pain involved. And Mrs Thrush would probably do it several times in order for her nest to be nice and full.

You poor dear,” she whispered, hoping she would understand her though knowing she probably wouldn’t on account of her having no idea what words were even if she could hear them, which she certainly could not. “It must be quite a trial for you, producing one egg after another and each one big as a … as a … as a coconut!

Painful. I was going to say painful, but painful’s not quite the right word. you see, I was remembering that time in my bedroom, the one upstairs and not the one in what used to be the front lounge but which has been converted into a bedroom for me, together with a sweet little en suite, on account of the stairs. It was either that or have a stair lift but the staircase is so narrow it presented problems.

So it was that Daniel arrived on this world in my bedroom upstairs. Mrs McGiver was there, all gentle words and push, push, push harder when it was appropriate. She was the sort of woman that imbues her patients with confidence. She makes them feel as thought they can do anything, but first, just one more little push…

Karl was on Farmer monk’s East Field, the one closest to their home, but he couldn’t get the time off because farming, he was told by a geriatric overseer, was a twenty-four hour job and he must keep his mind on what he was doing. He would have loved to be there with Annie at the birth, he told her times many, but no matter what he said to miserable old Tom Lobcott he was told it wasn’t the done thing, babies are women’s business, and to get hoeing or whatever he was doing, and let nature take its course without him interfering.

He was unpopular on the farm, and he hated it because he’d never been used to being unpopular. But it was war time and to start with, he was young and fit and ought to be offering his flesh up to be shot on the battlefield and not wasting his life on the land with girls fresh from school. And he was doing just that which meant he was a coward until he mentioned his German ancestry and nationality, which made him the very worst of enemies even though he explained he hadn’t had a say as to where he was born.

But it meant that in the eyes of the other workers he was German. An enemy, maybe even a fifth columnist spying out the land for a German invasion.

It’s all to do with being tribal and having a flag. Flags are the very devil. They bring out the worst in folk,” murmured Annie as her mind played out the past.

The end result was the half dozen girls working there made his life a misery whenever they could. And the overseer, an elderly bloke who had been the farmer’s aged retainer and well in his seventies, down right refused to give Karl a moment to help Annie. The farmer, Mr Monk, was doing military training and would, in due course, join the expeditionary force on the continent and get shot at.

There was nothing as excruciating or wonderful as Daniel’s birth, but it was all over and done with and Mrs McGiver long gone by the time Karl arrived back home.

I was waiting there with the little lump of angelic flesh sleeping like an angel in the crib by my side,” whispered Annie, “I tried to get to sleep myself but couldn’t because every time my eyes as much as closed I got the weirdest of ideas that something dreadful would happen to my precious Daniel while I slept, and I couldn’t let that happen! Are you like that with your eggs, Mrs Thrush? Are you frightened that the manky old cat from next door would come creeping along and gobble them up while your back’s turned.”

And as if it had heard every word she had whispered one of the two birds fluttered off towards where Annie guessed its nest must be.

I’ll bet your good lady’s tired, Mr Thrush, because I was! That first night and with Karl by my side and promising to wake me if there was the least stirring in the crib I went straight to sleep. That’s probably what your female’s going to do when you go back to her, sleep, sleep, sleep, until, half an hour into the first of forty winks you wake her because the baby’s crying!”

She remembered and smiled.

It’s a good thing I had loads of milk,” she smiled to the window and attendant thrush, “because Daniel knew how to suck right from the word go! He was a greedy little devil and no mistake! It’s a pity Mother Nature didn’t put milk into men’s little n*****s! It would be a great help.

Then a week or two later when I saw mum again she had Daphne with her, Daphne my half sister and aunt to my son who was born within a few days of her! I’d walked to the big house with my little man in my old pram, the one mum had pushed me around in when I’d been a little creature, proud like a new mum always is and talking non-stop to you as we went to the big house where mum and Ralf lived, to visit.

Talk about doting! I thought Klaus was bad enough when he doted on Daniel, but Ralf was a whole lot worse! I suppose it’s because the arrival of little Daphne had demonstrated for him that at least part of his plumbing was finally working properly after years of him believing it to be defunct! Mum told me that he was like that all the time. Daphne was a sweet little thing and right from the word go her grey-blue eyes seemed to smile when she looked at a person.

Daniel was still a little thing, maybe a month or two old, when things starting looking up for Klaus. The situation on the land to start with was upsetting him more than he showed.

Then one day there was an accident on the farm and one of the girls, a ditzy long-haired thing by all accounts, called Trudie, and the one who had been unkindest to Klaus, got her long hair somehow caught in part of the plough. How she could manage to do that nobody could explain, but it was being pulled ever tighter every time the horse (it was a horse drawn plough) moved the least little bit even though it was supposed to be standing still, and her screams could be heard across half the county.

It was Klaus who went to her assistance, Klaus who freed that lovely long hair of hers when the geriatric overseer wanted to have it cut off to save her. Klaus told Annie later that it was really quite easy and there had been no need for old Tom Lobcott to send for the sheep-shearing scissors!

After then Trudie changed her attitude to Klaus. He might, she believed, still be a German, but maybe not all Germans were bad.

You might find that,” whispered Annie, and her eyes twinkled, “when you next have cause to moan about that blackbird who likes to pinch your bit of the fence for sitting on. You might find he warns you, one day, about the proximity of that half blind cat and saves your life. You might get to believe that not all blackbirds are bad!”

© Peter Rogerson 18.05.20



© 2020 Peter Rogerson


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Added on May 18, 2020
Last Updated on May 18, 2020
Tags: wartime, enemy alien, farm work, babies, birth


Author

Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom



About
I am 76 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..

Writing