"Cowardice asks the question...is it safe? Expediency asks the question...is it politic? Vanity asks the question...is it popular? But conscience asks the question...is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but one must take it because it is right." ~Dr. Martin Luther King

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

An Addendum

I read the post about my grandparents again and it brought back a few more memories. So, I went back in and added a thing or two. (Keeping The Record Straight)

My family like the personal Blog better than the political. The more I write the more they want me to write. So every time I remember something else it seems sensible just to go back and slip it in. That's the beauty of Blog.

I work on some stuff for hours. I go over it again and again , tidying and tweaking, hopefully to make it flow and read better. Then there comes a point when I have to end it and post it or scrap it. Then I read it again days later and realise there was more to tell.

If James Joyce can ramble on in his endless stream of consciousness prose, I can round out memories in my own Blog. Check it out.

Heather Sisman says I'm wasting my time because people won't read it again. Well, now I'm telling you. If you liked it the frst time you might like it better the second time. What can it hurt? It's all between friends, isn't it?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A Moment in the Lives of.....

Sometimes, when I waken from a night's sleep, the clarity of the image in my mind is startling. This was one of those moments.

A flashback from my childhood: My mother standing in our doorway in a one-sided conversation with a neighbour also standing in her doorway less than two feet away. In his chair, behind the door, my father, mimicking my mother and silently mouthing her occasional responses.

“Uh-huh... Uh-huh.... Hm-Hmm...… Hm-hmm.” In my memory it seems the exchange went on for a very long time.

We were a family of six: Mother,(Annie) Father(John), Annie, Patrick, Kathleen and me I was the youngest. My little brother Terry was not on the scene yet.

Mrs. McNab, our neighbour had three sons and a daughter. Donald was her husband. She was a plain thin woman with dark eyes and dark hair done up in a bun at the back of her head. She wore flat shoes , put her feet down hard with toes pointed outwards. She always carried a basket over her arm for messages when she went out. They were fairly well off. They had Sunday clothes and books. Wee Donald was a tradesman at the shipyard. He worked all the time. In Scotland and Northern Ireland only a Protestant could get into an apprenticeship.

Her name was Maggie. but people addressed each other by the title of their status. . For all the years they knew everything about each other, my mother was Mrs. Finnigan and Maggie was Mrs. McNab. It's how things were. Less familiarity seemed to mean more respect.

Mrs. McNab was a good kind soul who had lots to say about everything. When she stopped for breath my mother would fill in with an Mm-hmm or an Uh-huh.. All the while, behind the door, my father sat with arms crossed, one hand raised with a finger touching his chin. mouthing my mother's small sounds. . .

Television was unknown. Only well-off people had "the wireless". In the evening, families clustered around the fire in the light of a gas mantle. We sang boy scout songs or played guessing games like "My Mother had a Sweetie Shop" to amuse ourselves. The only warmth was in that small space around the fire.

We had a room and a kitchen. Both had fireplaces but only the one in the kitchen was ever lit. The door to the room would be kept tight shut to keep the heat in.The space never seemed small but the rooms were likely not more than eight by ten feet. There was an armchair but the weans sat on stools around the fire. They were small stools. It was a small fire
We had no such thing as popcorn, chips or any other treats. Occasionally there might be apples but never a whole one each. They would always be sliced in half. The apple would be meticulously scraped down to the skin with a teaspoon.

At the week-end, we might have a jug of ice-cream with wafers. The ice-cream man wasn't the only street vendor but he was the only one with a car. The ice cream churn sat beside him in place of the front passenger seat.

Before the war, Pepini's son had an ice-ream coloured convertible. It was magnificent. It played a jingle to announce his arrival..

Ice cream parlours were the brightest, cheeriest places in town. They had big shiny, gurgling urns for coffee. Shelves on the back wall were lined with tall beautiful glass jars filled with chocolates and toffees pastilles and satin cushions and big butterscotch-covered brazil nuts .Ice cream churns topped with heavy, shiny screwtop lids were embedded in the counter behind glass-fronted shelves filled with a wide variety of chocolate bars in colourful wrappers and fancy lettering.

Ice cream could be sandwiched between plain biscuit-coloured wafers, shell-shaped wafers, cones of various sizes or coloured double wafers with marshmallow layers between and sealed with chocolate edges. They were called nougats. The ultimate luxury and delight was a double nougat sandwiched high with ice cream .

Only Italians made ice-cream. They made it fresh every day. Serving styles were only limited by the number of ice cream parlours. It was always vanilla. In a dish, with raspberry syrup spooned over. That was a penny McAlum in Big Bob's shop. . His son was an albino. For a little more money, you could have a sprinkling of shaved chocolate or some other delicious topping. Big Bob kept his head shaved. . Like Mussolini.

Big Bob's shop was in the Halfway. It was a street halfway between the main intersection of the town, (The Cross) and the sea.

Every town in Scotland had numerous ice cream parlors and fish and chip shops. I think the craving for sweets had something to do with limited sunshine, dreary grey skies and rain.

When it came time for Italian boys and girls to marry, an envoy would go off to Italy to find a spouse. That has changed. It hasn't been altogether like that for a very long time.

Did I ever tell you about the night Italy joined Germany in the war. Apparently the announcement was expected on the news. Thugs with clubs were waiting in closes and entries and other dark places for nine o'clock. . They smashed plate glass windows and tore out equipment and supplies. What they couldn't move, they battered. I don't think there was a hint that was going to happen. It was the same all over Scotland.. Come to think of it think of it, it seems to have been spontaneous . That's weird isn't it. After the war we saw films of Germans doing that to Jewish establishments. Much like the KuKluxKlan burning crosses in the American South.

They pushed Pepini's beautiful ice-cream coloured car into the harbour. On our way to school, next morning , we found boxes of wafers and cones at the side of the river. They must have been too light in weight to fall straight into the river where they were probably thrown from the bridge.Until now I never understood how they came to be at the side of the river. .

Italian families had to hide in neighbours' homes until the rampage was over. Even their homes and personal possessions were vandalized.

At school, we were asked to contribute whatever our families could spare to help the Italian families.That was ironic.The Italians were always much better off than we were. They had their own businesses and they tended to keep to themselves.

Husbands and sons over a certain age were gathered up and transported to internment camps.We thought the camps were in Cahada. Apparently a ship taking Germans and Italians to Canada was torpedoed by the Germans and thousands lost their lives. After that they took them to the Isle of Wight instead. A lot of silly things as well as terrible stuff happened during the war.

The shops re-opened but with none of their former glory. Women and children carried on. That's what you do in the face of the terrible and the unthinkable. There isn't much else you can do.

During the war, an Italian prisoner-of-war camp was established in the sandy hills on the edge of town. In the evening, the young prisoners would sit at the side of the road playing accordions and singing or playing cards. Like young people the world over, lthe girls would promenade past to check out the talent.

Nobody I knew ever thought about Italians being enemies.