Monday, 15 June 2015

George's War

Princess Josephine (image courtesy wikipedia)

He woke late. Emily; pregnant with their fifth child, lay heavily in a warm wet glow from a fitful sleep. He'd lain awake wondering if this would be their second boy. They had chatted before sleeping of the void left by the passing of their first son aged only eight months. Emily had the three girls to help but George coveted a son to share his gardens and joys.

“Stay there Emm. I’ll get the girls to keep an eye on things”.

Kathleen was thirteen and managed well. The younger two between them doing all those little things that mum struggled with now her sight was lost. George kissed Emily’s pink glowing belly. ‘See you soon little man’ he said picking his cream leather helmet from a hook on the bedroom door before turning; 'love you Em'.

He weaved the black chromed motorcycle along baked autumn lanes, a Blackfin tuna in a rippling sea. She was glossy, glimmer bright, fishtail exhausts polished to a gleam brighter than a smile in a child’s eye. She wore a jet black sidecar, languishing like a platinum draped Josephine Baker. She was his joy his release his obsession his mistress.

It was late morning, an Indian summer day October 1938. Chamberlain had returned a few days earlier with his fluttering paper promise. His Princess always out on Sundays releasing her from her wooden temple taking her to visit his parents. It was about twenty five miles along the counties byways and he knew the route like he knew the growing phases of his prize rhododendrons.

The sun baked a shimmer into the road, making it uncomfortably warm. Sweating heavily in jacket and pale gauntlets his helmet squeaked with perspiration; pushing the peak back every few miles was useless, He pulled over. George took a coarse grey knitted blanket from the sidecar, brought to wrap plants from his father’s estate. Removing helmet and jacket the blanket was used to dry his nape and forehead before replacing and adding his jacket. He pushed the helmet down firmly onto his crown thumping it down with the side of a clenched hand to get a good tight purchase. The rough wiry blanket combined with sweat and rubbing of chin straps had left his jowl sore so he’d left them unfastened. He was fewer than five miles from his parent’s cottage.

Cooler now cruising winding roads, thinning woodland flowing past. Torrents of rose and sage leaves rose as he reached them lowered as he passed in a wave of branches. Ahead the road bore sharp right it was simple to cut the angle by skirting the inside kerb drifting back across he had done it a hundred or more times. This time an enormous moss green liveried bull in the shape of an army Scammell took the same bend from the opposite direction. George snatched at the brake.

But for his sidecar he may well have avoided impact. It had slapped the bulbous wheel arch of the beast and flicked the bike into the air. The bike remains of the side-car and George had their momentum violently stopped by a stolid statuesque gilt leafed Elm tree. Wrapped around its trunk tighter than puttee’s, soldiers leaped from the lorry racing to the confusion; dangling like a pink grub eaten fruit from the blackened branches. His right leg severely lacerated by torn metal he was trapped, the bike above him. His helmet had burst from his head clattered against the hanging branches bouncing into the road.  A junior crewman mistook it for his head and fainted. Hot fuel and oil leaking from the tanks dripped, blistering flesh from his cheek and neck. A gunner grabbed a piece of blanket cloth wrapped into the branches pushing it over his face to stop the burning. The cloth soaked up dripping fuel. Crew and passers-by helped yank the bike out of the trees. In that moment the heat from the engine ignited the cloth  instantly melting it into George’s face and neck. Jackets were ripped from backs and three men beat at the flames and body aware that the whole might explode at any moment. They managed to peel George from the crumpled metal throwing him across the road away from the danger. He passed out from the excrutiating pain.

Emily was told of the accident in the late afternoon. A baby boy was born later that day, five days early. It would be several weeks before Dad met son. He was a beautiful baby.Everyone said how much he looked like his mum


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