16 October 2010

Careful, you'll have someone's eye out

'Mum was 15 when the war started, and started work in an office. By the age of 18 she was also an ARP warden. I've never been able to understand how risk-averse my mum is. She hated conkers, pea shooters and anything that could have someone's eye out: skipping, swinging on your chair, talking with your mouth full. I think there must have been something deficient in the diet in 1920s Portsmouth and people were born with very weak eye sockets, so that if you burped a baby over-zealously, there was a risk its eye would pop out over your shoulder. I understand Mum grew up in a time of danger and that she wanted us to be safe, but I did sometimes wonder how she got through the war at all. How did she function as an ARP warden, venturing out during the Blitz in a tin hat, looking for fires, injured people, unexploded bombs and possible German paratroopers? She could cope with all that, but if a Jerry had crept up on her with a snowball, she'd have panicked because there could be some grit in that and that can have someone's eye out'

- Jeremy Hardy, My Family And Other Strangers, 2010

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