“Cor… them planes don’t half make a racket!” Nan said.
“Yep” I nodded, “They come up the Thames, over us and west to Heathrow. Taking a left up by the east end. Like where you’re from. Right?”
“Parnell Road, Bow , London.” she affirmed, showing me a family photograph.
“True Cockney’s born in the sound of the ringin’ of the Bow Bells. All survived the war. We didn’t have much. But we did have class.”
She was visiting at Christmas. When she could still find the way out of her accelerating dementia.
“Can’t hear the birds here.” Nan said
“Not so many these days Nanny. Haven’t heard Mr. Song Thrush in years”
“Nope. Nor Mr. Wren. Even the Sparrows!”
“No sparrows!” She frowned.“That ain’t right”.
“Mr. Robin’s still about though!” I added. “Watch”.
Pushing open the garden door, with a fork I turned over a patch of soil.
Then I put the kettle on. By the time I was back with our tea, there he was feeding.
“I do love a robin. Reminds me of my Dad. He’d do that when we had to go out to the Anderson shelter when the air raid sirens went off. Mum’s allotment was on top and our robin lived in it in an old welly. That’s all he had in the world! But he was happy. Always singing.”
Her hand on mine, we watched Mr. Robin.
“Dad’d prick the dirt, and we’d peep through the cracks. In two minutes, there he was. Kept us all entertained while the bombs fell and the docks burned. Throughout the Blitz, when the nights turned to days with the fires and the crying turned days into nightmares.”
“He’s here to wish you a Merry Christmas Nan” I told her.
“Oh! Bless him. Bless his little heart”.
She died a year ago.
Looking at her family photo, now mine, I wonder if these people had fixated on that Robin when they’d lost hope for their home, their country and planet. How many turned from the radio wireless sourcing their ‘Class’ and spirit from his enduring example.