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Easter, without the resurrection

23/04/2014 07:26

A bittersweet time of year in my house.

colour

School is awash with colour (predominantly yellow, to be fair).

The children hunt for eggs and share their spoils, most of which are furtively consumed before breakfast.

egg hunt

Like a pseudo Hansel and Grete, they create a brightly coloured trail of silver foil wrappings for me to retrieve and dispose of.

The school children make their bonnets and parade them for mums and dads.

nest

But it also marks the time of year when the two greatest women in the world passed away.

Lil, my nan was truly magnificent, as was her endless scrubbing of the kitchen lino. Easter Sunday marks the anniversary of her loss.

lovely Lil just as I remember her

And her youngest daughter, Jean. My mum. As if complying with a long held appointment, 8 years ago this week she went off to join Lil. I can’t think of a better place to go.

I don’t feel sadness today; there are no tears. Grief does not necessarily sail in to shore on birthdays or anniversaries.

me and mum early 80s

Mercifully, there have been no ‘second comings’. That kind of thing can put the willies right up a person. I have placed a large bunch of flowers on the kitchen table in their memory, and each time I pass it draws my eye and elicits a little smile.

The birds are singing like crazy today. Happy Easter girls.


Joe’s Letters, WWII: “Vohwinkel doesn’t ‘Voh’ any more!!!”

18/04/2014 16:57

One of my Uncle Joe’s letters will be posted to this Blog each and every Friday until they are done. Please see below for a link to Joe’s full story and the other letters in this series so far.

At the time of his last letter, Joe and crew have experienced their first bombing raid over Germany but had ended in disaster. The crew and their Lancaster came under heavy fire and were forced to ditch in the middle of the North Sea. In this current letter, Joe has been home on survivor’s leave for a few days, and has arrived back at Chedburgh just before Christmas.

 Letter 94; 31st December 1944

family stories letter 85 page 2 letter 85 page 3 letter 85 page 4 letter 85 page 5

Letter transcript:

Chedburgh, December 31st..

Hello Mom,

Well, here I am again. Hope I haven’t scared you by not having written for the last 2-3 days. I started to write this letter to you last night but it was getting late so I gave it up. I had to be up early this morning as we were on Ops. We went to ‘prang’ a place called VOHWINKEL in the Ruhr. It was a nasty target right between Dusseldorf and Dortmund. Anyway, that’s enough of that, we got back safe and cheated the North Sea too!

I haven’t had any mail from you since I came back but I guess you are pushed for time. I had a letter from my one and only yesterday and she gave me all the ‘gen’ of what happened over at Gran’s at Xmas. Gosh! How I would have loved to have been with you all too. Still, it’s no good wishing now is it?!

Jean told me how she was caught (or dragged!!) to the mistletoe about 10 times by the ‘Three Stooges’ Tom, Cliff and Horace!!! I can’t see Horace taking it lying down especially when Cliff goes into action aswell! Too bad I wasn’t there; that mistletoe would have been working overtime. YOU would have had to watch your step too!!!

I was not at all surprised in yesterday’s letter (from Jean) to see that Jean had NOT gone back!! She seems to like Northfield (which isn’t a bad thing either!) She had a bet with me that I would forget something from my kit when I went back so I can look out for ‘gloating’ on my next leave!!!

Well there isn’t a lot more to say so I’ll finish off for this time. By the way I had some bad news today; ‘Kilty’ and Nick those two Canadians I knew at Barford are dead. I also lost a good pal today, from THIS station. I’ll be getting morbid at this rate!! So here’s to the next time and mark January 23rd on the calendar our Mom!

God bless and cheerio. Keep smiling, I DO!!

Your loving son, Joe xxxxxxxxxxxx

P.S. Vohwinkel doesn’t Voh any more! I know!!!”

family stories

And so he’s back in action. He seems really fine (or resigned) about it, and sounds as though he’s enjoyed hitting the target. Missing Jean and that mistletoe though!!

family stories, joseph To read more about Joe’s letters please follow this link. There you will find the full selection of letters to date, as well as more information about his fascinating yet ultimately tragic story. He was our family hero. He IS our family hero. If I knew how to complete an effective RAF salute, I would salute you now, Joe. Long may your memory live in our family stories. I hope to post a new letter from Joe’s correspondence with his Mother here every Friday until they’re done. It will be a turbulent and heart-wrenching journey. Subscribe to the Blog to make sure you don’t miss any of it.

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Joe’s Letters, WWII: “Beaver bristles & Christmas cake”

11/04/2014 09:43

One of my Uncle Joe’s letters will be posted to this Blog each and every Friday until they are done. Please see below for a link to Joe’s full story and the other letters in this series so far.

At the time of his last letter, Joe and crew have experienced their first bombing raid over Germany but had ended in disaster. The crew and their Lancaster came under heavy fire and were forced to ditch in the middle of the North Sea. In this current letter, Joe has been home on survivor’s leave for a few days, and has arrived back at Chedburgh just before Christmas.

 Letter 93; 29th December 1944

letter 84 29 december 1944 page 1 letter 84 page 2 letter 84 page 3

Letter transcript:

Chedburgh, Thursday.

Hello Mom,

Howa re you? Hope I haven’t scared you for not writing for 3-4 days. We have done quite a bit of flying these last few days, NO, NOT on Ops!!

Talking of Ops, we are now fit for operational duty as from today. I can’t write a great deal tonight as I want to get to bed in case we are ‘on’ tomorrow.

I don’t know if I told you before but Jean’s mom sent me a cake and it was wizard too. A Xmas cake, you know with almonds on. I’m not giving you idle talk when I say I’d rather have your Xmas cake any day! All the same, that one I had was alright. I wrote a few nights ago to thank her for it. Jean has sent me a new shaving brush and it is a ‘beaut’ too. I happen to know it cost about 3 3/- in a shop!! Real ‘Beaver’ bristles as well.

I’m saving a bit of money to have a photo taken in Bury St. E!! All I have to do is get INTO Bury!! That;s easy (I don’t think!)

Well there isn’t much in the way of news so I’ll sign off for today. Till the next time God bless and keep smiling; (I am!!)

Lots of love Mam,

Joe xxxxxxxxxxxx”

family stories

Christmas is over and New Year approaches, but Joe is at least reaping the benefits of two doting bakers who are sending him cakes! It’s hard to imagine how nervous the boys must be about getting back to Ops after their first incident!

family stories, joseph To read more about Joe’s letters please follow this link. There you will find the full selection of letters to date, as well as more information about his fascinating yet ultimately tragic story. He was our family hero. He IS our family hero. If I knew how to complete an effective RAF salute, I would salute you now, Joe. Long may your memory live in our family stories. I hope to post a new letter from Joe’s correspondence with his Mother here every Friday until they’re done. It will be a turbulent and heart-wrenching journey. Subscribe to the Blog to make sure you don’t miss any of it.

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Photo pride

09/04/2014 07:32

This is one of my favourite images of recent years.

family stories

It was taken in 2010 on ‘our’ beach, when the boys were still relatively small, and bare feet in the sand were still a novelty.

I love it because it reminds me how, at the end of a long walk, we discovered this incredible secret place just waiting for us, and how the boys just ripped off their shoes and ran.  Their footprints were the first in the sand, somehow acting as the perfect metaphor for their innocence and freedom.

I am more proud of the fact that our amazing British Isles can provide beaches such as this, by way of a backdrop for our photography, than I am of the image itself.

Where is it? Let’s just say Wales. Any more precise than that and you’ll all want to go, and that just wouldn’t do.


Joe’s Letters, WWII: “Merry bloody Christmas”

04/04/2014 08:25

One of my Uncle Joe’s letters will be posted to this Blog each and every Friday until they are done. Please see below for a link to Joe’s full story and the other letters in this series so far.

At the time of his last letter, Joe and crew have experienced their first bombing raid over Germany but had ended in disaster. The crew and their Lancaster came under heavy fire and were forced to ditch in the middle of the North Sea. In this current letter, Joe has been home on survivor’s leave for a few days, and has arrived back at Chedburgh just before Christmas.

 

Letter 92; 25th December 1944



family stories letter 83 page 2 letter 83 page 3

Letter transcript:

Chedburgh, Xmas night.

Hello Mom & kids,

Merry Xmas! (Or is it?!) I’ve done OK for food if nothing else. We had chicken soup, chicken, turkey, pork, spuds (roast and not!) and damn good plum pud! I’ve eaten ‘farzands’ of nuts, oranges and mince pies and apples! But none of ‘em seemed to taste quite right if you get what I mean? I would have given anything to have been with you and Jean and all the ‘Woodcock clan’ for Xmas as you know full well. But I have found that wishing doesn’t get one any place. At least, not in the RAF!!

raf xmas dinner menu

I was to have been over Germany today as you were all sitting down to your Xmas dinner but the ‘Op’ was scrubbed at the last minute. Yes, we raid on ANY day!

By the way if Jean is there when you get this tell her my next leave will be on the 23rd of January. I forgot to put it in her letter.

It seems there isn’t anything else to do except write letters, even though it is Xmas day. There is a dance and general booze up in the mess again tonight but neither Joe, Tom or I are going. I’m going to bed in a few minutes ‘cos I’ve got that ‘cheesed off’ feeling!! It just wants some dim person to say something wrong to me and that will put me in a beautiful mood!!! “What a war!!”

This is about all for today so God bless and see you on the 23rd Jan!

Lots of love, Joe xxxxxxxxxxxx”

family stories

Cheesed off indeed. Christmas Day away from home, with the fear of Ops lurking and a bunch of guys to spend time with who are in equally sombre spirits. Poor Joe.

family stories, joseph To read more about Joe’s letters please follow this link. There you will find the full selection of letters to date, as well as more information about his fascinating yet ultimately tragic story. He was our family hero. He IS our family hero. If I knew how to complete an effective RAF salute, I would salute you now, Joe. Long may your memory live in our family stories. I hope to post a new letter from Joe’s correspondence with his Mother here every Friday until they’re done. It will be a turbulent and heart-wrenching journey. Subscribe to the Blog to make sure you don’t miss any of it.

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How to spoil a ‘selfie’

03/04/2014 08:47

  Ah yes, the old ‘rabbit fingers’ move is well rehearsed in these parts.

howtospoilaselfie1

 We’ve all done it.

nerd family

 Sometimes on purpose…

ruined

 Sometimes  just to annoy our parents…

silly

 Occasionally because we’re on a high and we just can’t help ourselves.

sulking

Sometimes we’re on a low (and we just can’t help ourselves).

Here’s to rabbit fingers. Sometimes the worst out-takes capture the best essence of who we are.


Joe’s Letters, WWII: “Missing Christmas”

01/04/2014 09:02

One of my Uncle Joe’s letters will be posted to this Blog each and every Friday until they are done. Please see below for a link to Joe’s full story and the other letters in this series so far.

At the time of his last letter, Joe had written to his mother telling her that he had embarked upon his first bombing raid over Germany but that it had ended in disaster. The crew and their Lancaster came under heavy fire and were forced to ditch in the middle of the North Sea. In this current letter, Joe has been home on survivor’s leave for a few days, and has arrived back at Chedburgh just before Christmas.

 

Letter 91; 24th December 1944

family stories letter 82 page 2 letter 82 page 3

Letter transcript:

Chedburgh, Saturday.

Hello Mom,

Well I got back okay. The train to Euston was 310 minutes late!!! It saved me having to wait about in a station so long anyway. I got back at about 9.30 and a couple of hours later was flying!!

We went to Mildenhall to fetch a new kite down. I can hardly keep my eyes open at the moment. It is about 10.30pm and I’ve missed some sleep. I must say I seem to have lost all further interest in Xmas. As I left you and Jean at New Street my inside seemed as though it was tied in a knot. Still I guess I shall get over it!

When you get this you will have had Xmas. Hope you all enjoyed it. I can say now that I DID NOT!!!

I got your parcel and the mince pies, although in pieces, were eatable. Jean’s parcel is not here yet. It may have been sent back or hasn’t arrived due to the Xmas rush.

As I expected there are Ops on in the morning, and probably Xmas Day too. If there is good flying weather I guess it can’t be wasted.

There is nothing to answer from your letter in the parcel which I’ve not already told you, so I’ll close for now.

Til tomorrow, God bless and Toodle-ooo.

Lots of love, Joe ssssssss

Tell our Joyce not to get too drunk on whiskied tea!”

family stories

Joe is clearly feeling very down about having to leave the comforts of home the day before Christmas, especially after his ditching. The separation from his girl and his family is clearly affecting his mood, and it must have been so hard for these boys away from home, imagining their loved ones enjoying Christmas whilst they sit in a sterile military environment.

family stories, joseph To read more about Joe’s letters please follow this link. There you will find the full selection of letters to date, as well as more information about his fascinating yet ultimately tragic story. He was our family hero. He IS our family hero. If I knew how to complete an effective RAF salute, I would salute you now, Joe. Long may your memory live in our family stories. I hope to post a new letter from Joe’s correspondence with his Mother here every Friday until they’re done. It will be a turbulent and heart-wrenching journey. Subscribe to the Blog to make sure you don’t miss any of it.

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Me & Mine 2014; March

31/03/2014 09:23
March came and went ruthlessly.
family stories
We shook off the jetlag and went back to school.
lifting
We got back in the home renovations saddle, and spent much of the month with paint in our hair.
DSC_5395a
We tried hard not to think endlessly about the potential newcomers to our family unit. We’re still trying, and waiting.
g and d
The kissing drought which has taken grip in recent weeks finally ended on Mother’s Day. Thank goodness.
three
The trees have buds, and the evenings have light.
dear beautiful

Bigger, Faster, Stronger

25/03/2014 18:15

The journey from boy to man is fraught with danger.

First you have to eat, like, a LOT because you keep growing. Sometimes you come home from school taller then when you left that same morning.

family stories

Secondly, you have to turn your body into some kind of temple, apparently.

This requires a lot of effort and will mean that on a Sunday you need to be out of your bed BEFORE 9am. This shit is not for lightweights.

You may get stinky ‘pits and your hamstrings will hurt like a b*****d, but it will all be worth it when you start to look ‘hench’.

g hench

Eh girls?

family stories


Joe’s Letters, WWII: “First raid ends in disaster”

21/03/2014 12:00

One of my Uncle Joe’s letters will be posted to this Blog each and every Friday until they are done. Please see below for a link to Joe’s full story and the other letters in this series so far.

At the time of his last letter, Joe had written to his mother telling her that he was to make his first bombing raid over Germany the following day. The raid took place on 12th December 1944 and ended in disaster, as the crew and their Lancaster came under heavy fire and were forced to ditch in the middle of the North Sea. I have included the official account of the incident which preceded Joe’s letter. It was not the start that they would have wished for, but each and every crew member, thankfully, survived the ‘ditching’.

joe 12 dec ditching edit

Letter 90; 15th December 1944

family stories

Letter transcript:

Chedburgh, Thursday.

Hello Mom,

First of all, excuse the writing material, I’m in a hell of a rush!! I’m coming home in a day or so on survivor’s leave! We were shot up over Germany  on our  first op and crashed in the North Sea.

We were picked up after 3 hours. We all got out oK and are well. Try and imagine swimming in the North Sea in December?!! Cold ain’t it?!!

We slept 14 hours after being picked up!!! I’m alright so don’t worry Mom. It looks as if I will get Xmas at home after all, at least I HOPE so!

God bless and see you soon,

Lots of love, Joe xxx xxx xxx

P.S. I may beat this letter home!”

family stories

family stories, joseph To read more about Joe’s letters please follow this link. There you will find the full selection of letters to date, as well as more information about his fascinating yet ultimately tragic story. He was our family hero. He IS our family hero. If I knew how to complete an effective RAF salute, I would salute you now, Joe. Long may your memory live in our family stories. I hope to post a new letter from Joe’s correspondence with his Mother here every Friday until they’re done. It will be a turbulent and heart-wrenching journey. Subscribe to the Blog to make sure you don’t miss any of it.

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