Ben Wicks and British History

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is ENGLISH

England.David Rock DesignAn ocean of ink wouldn’t cover this topic, but I’m going to tell you about several books I’ve enjoyed. When I was a teen Ben Wicks was a popular cartoon artist, drawing the life of the indolent Andy Capp and his long-suffering wife, Florrie. After he’d immigrated to Canada, Mr Wicks wrote or compiled a number of books centering around World War 2. Great for readers who are interested in British history through the eyes of those who lived it.

Wicks was a boy in London when World War II was declared and one of the evacuees, but made his way back home in time to watch the dogfights in the London skies during the Battle of Britain. He writes about his own experiences during those years, plus he has contacted and interviewed hundreds of other evacuees and shares their stories in his books, No Time to Wave Goodbye and The Day They Took the Children.

The English government feared—and rightly so—that major cities like London would be targeted for heavy bombing. If schools would be hit thousands of children’s lives could be lost. So the plan was hatched: as soon as war was declared all school age children, a number of teachers, also a number of young moms with preschoolers, would be evacuated from London and other southern cities.

It was fruit-basket upset. The children and their teachers marched to the stations one morning, given gas masks, loaded onto trains and shipped into the country. Many inner city children had never seen it before. Small town and country folks with a spare room or two had been ordered to take them in; at the train station it was “come and take your pick” from the weary, frightened lot that arrived. Cute little girls and big boys who could work were picked first. Siblings who clung to each other, refusing to be parted, and children with disabilities had to wait and wait, wondering if anyone would take them in.

I’ve read No Time to Wave Goodbye* and it’s a fascinating collection. The book is written in a positive note, but the stories are frank. Some children made friends for life, while others were starved, neglected, even abused. Some homes found themselves with slum children who’d never learned manners or personal hygiene; some children came from well-to-do homes and found themselves boarded with rustic families in cramped quarters. Many were evacuated to areas where they couldn’t understand the local dialect at all.
*© 1989 by Ben Wicks. My copy published by General Paperbacks, Toronto, ON

Promise Me You’ll Take Care of My Daughter* is another interesting book of experiences, this time those of War Brides who married Canadian soldiers. There were 48,000 women who came to Canada after World War II as wives of Canadian soldiers. Ben Wicks has managed to contact a good sampling of them and has sections of the different aspects of their experiences: meeting their soldier; the wedding day; the good-byes for home and family; coming across; the new home; meeting the in-laws.
*©1992 by Ben Wicks. Stoddart Publishing Co, Ltd., Toronto, ON

He also wrote Nell’s War and When the Boys Came Marching Home, the latter a book about the joy and turmoil returning soldiers experienced after the war was over.

Back When I Was Ten…

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is JIVE

This prompt takes me back many a year, through the winding trails of my memory cells to the CHILDHOOD section and the SUMMER drawer in my mind-files, where I pull out the summer-holidays-at-the-swimming-pool folder. there was a Concession booth, a juke box in front, a large cement pad, and teen girls jiving to the recordings.

Teen boys? I don’t recall any on the dance pad. I suspect few ever attempted to dance with the girls — teen boys are that way. Or at least they were. A few shy attempts maybe.

Back to the dictionary now, where my eyes slip down to another meaning of the word— the #1 meaning actually: glib, deceptive, or foolish talk.

Apparently there’s always been some confusion between JIVE and JIBE, as the following tale indicates.

A nineteen-year-old male was apprehended early this morning inside a closed doughnut shop. Responding to a call from a motorist who noticed a moving light in the store, police officers arrived at 2:10 am and arrested the young man for break & enter. He’d reportedly consumed several doughnuts and a can of pop and was on his second when police arrived.

The suspect maintains that he was passing the drive-through window on the way home from a friend’s house and noticed the window open a crack. Concerned that a thief may have entered and be in the process of looting the store, he climbed in the window to prevent the theft. He claims he was relieved to discover that this was not the case, but admits that he did help himself to some product. “Payback of a sort,” he contends.

Police officers claim that his story doesn’t jive with the facts. Two employees verified that the drive-through window was locked before they left the premises. Also, the officers discovered a crowbar behind a shrub nearby, and evidence that it had been used to pry open the window.  The crowbar is being held as evidence in the case.

The suspect initially claimed to know nothing about the tool, but officers rejected this as all jive. In spite of his avowal that he was attempting to prevent a robbery, fingerprints taken at the scene indicate that the suspect did make some attempt to open the till.

According to prosecuting attorney, Bette B. Have, the young man’s story simply won’t wash in court. “It doesn’t compute,” she stated. “Not with that crowbar near the window and his fingerprints on the till.”


The Ragtag Daily Prompt for today is MAGIC

This bit of rambling can also be my response to Biff’s Whatnot Wednesday, over at biffsockpow, if he’s doing one this week.

Seeing the word MAGIC made me wonder if it’s related to MAJESTIC, since they sound so much alike. However, Merriam-Webster informs me that they spring from two different roots:

Magic comes to us via French, via Latin, via the Greek magikē, which in turn comes from magos, a sorcerer. This word, of Iranian origin is kin to the old Old Persian maguš which means sorcerer. A well travelled word indeed!
Majesty and Majestic come to us via the French majesté, from Latin majestat-, majestas; akin to Latin major, which means greater.

In case you wanted to know. 😉

Magic is definitely a popular theme in our day. Ancient tales give us to think that wishes might come true through supernatural, reality-defying means. I suppose lotteries cash in on this “Cinderella” dream, the magical win which makes a person suddenly rich enough to afford anything they wish.

Fairy tales and stories of magic can be an amusement for youngsters; to some extent they can be used to portray the great conflicts of life, good versus evil. The triumph of love and kindness over selfishness and cruelty. I believe C S Lewis created his Chronicles of Narnia with this in mind, showing Jesus as represented by the all-knowing, all-wise, just but gentle Aslan.


Children also need to understand that, in real life, things aren’t going to get done by magic. To raise happy, well adjust children, parents need to help them grasp reality as it is and deal with it as it stands. Things like math and spelling proficiency or an orderly workspace aren’t going to fall from a twinkling fairy wand; the child must work at them. Victory may involve a constant battle, but there’s “joy in the journey.”

Being watched in my early years by babysitters with no personal investment in my future, I’ve had to learn some of this the hard way myself. No sudden windfall from a long-lost uncle to fill our bank account; no little elves sneak in at night and clean up my kitchen for me. 😉

I remember my father years ago making a comment about prayer in the same sense. We were talking about prayer, how God hears and answers prayer, and great things being accomplished through prayer. Then he looked around and said, “That may be, but prayer isn’t going to get this floor washed. I’d better get at it.”

He was being flippant, but he had a point. Some things happen, people meet “coincidentally”, dangers are avoided by a few minutes, answers to a problem pop into our heads, in quite miraculous ways through divine intervention. But, as my Dad said, the basic work of life we usually have to deal with ourselves.

A Grandchild’s Worldview

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is RETIRE

My response will be this short fiction tale about a grandpa’s morning out:

Murray’s a grandpa a dozen times over and loves all his grandchildren. He especially enjoys being with the youngest ones before they begin their school years. He regrets not having had as much opportunity when the older ones were small, but those were his working years. He’s retired now, but still in good health and can enjoy some playtime hours with the little ones.

One day he was out with five-year-old Amanda, pointing out different interesting things to her as they walked to the children’s park. As they strolled along Murray noticed a cat cross the street in front of them. He pointed it out to Amanda and said, “I wonder where that cat belongs? It shouldn’t be wandering on the street.”

“Maybe that’s the one Grandma was looking for. Oh, Grandpa, we should catch it and take it to her right away, in case it is!”

Murray was puzzled. “But Grandma doesn’t have a cat.”

“That’s ’cause she let it out. I heard her talking on the phone before and she told the other person that she should have been more careful and not let the cat out of the bag. She said now somebody’s going to know about it and they aren’t supposed to. If we catch the cat, maybe everything will be okay?”

Amanda was so serious that Murray swallowed his chuckle and gave her a comforting answer. “I’m sure that’s not the cat Grandma let out of the bag. I’m sure that one is still in our house somewhere.”

“How come she was keeping it in a bag?

“You’ll have to ask Grandma that when we get home.”

“Cats don’t like to be put in bags, do they, Grandpa?”

“No, I don’t think they do.”

“We should tell Grandma she shouldn’t do that. And cats don’t like it when you put baby clothes on them and stick them in a pram, either.” Amanda nodded knowingly. “Our kitty jumped out and ran away. Then she got all tangled up and clawed the doll dress and Mom said I shouldn’t do that again.”

“Your mom’s right. You shouldn’t try it again.”

Soon they arrived at the park and Amanda rushed toward the swing sets. Murray helped her get seated and started pushing her, thoroughly enjoying himself. He grinned as he thought about the explaining Grandma would have to do when they got home — if Amanda remembered.

“Grandpa, I’m sure glad you don’t have to go to work like Daddy does. He can only take us to the park on weekends.”

“That’s one of the good things about being retired,” Murray told her. “I can go for walks and come to he park with you whenever you come over.”

“What’s retired?”

“It means you’ve worked long enough and earned enough money that you don’t have to get up and go to work every morning anymore. You can stay home and you get paid anyway.”

“My Daddy has to go to work all the time. I told him he should stay home with us, but he says he has to work ’cause we need the money to buy food and clothes and stuff.”

“Yes, your Daddy has to work some years yet before he can retire. I worked many years, too, before I got to retire. When your mom was a little girl, I had to go to work every day, too. That’s how it goes.”

“When I grow up, I’m going work just a little bit, and then I’m going to retire like you,” she said. “Then I can stay home with my children and we can all come to the park and swing every day. You and Grandma can come, too.”

“That sounds like a great idea,” Murray agreed. Oh, to be young and so blissfully innocent!

The Elephant

Crimson’s Creative Challenge #64

Plus this morning’s Word of the Day: ASTONISHMENT
and Your Daily Word prompt: DEFINE


“And what’s this?”Amy walked toward the metal sculpture.

Carl studied the thing. “Rather hard to define.”

“You said it!”

“Perhaps it represents some animal,” Carl suggested. “Yes! It’s meant to be an elephant.”

“A six-legged elephant?”

“One prong’s the trunk and one’s the tail.”

Amy sniffed. “But no body.”

“Sculptor ran out of metal?”

Just then the curator joined them. “I see you’ve discovered our war memorial.”

“War memorial?” Carl eyed the sculpture. “Not an elephant, then?”

Her eyes opened in astonishment. “Elephant! My good man…”

“A war memorial,” Amy repeated.

“Quite right. Commemorates British-Danish joint efforts in the Battle of Copenhagen. Isn’t it brilliant?”

Some other tourists were beckoning so the woman left them to ponder the curious representation.

“I was right about animals,” Carl declared. “It must represent Mark Anthony’s “loosing the dogs of war.”

“But one’s missing two legs,” Amy protested.

“War does that.”


Perusing the Prompts

Good morning everyone!

I’ve been perusing this morning’s offering of writing prompts and noting how they might mesh together quite nicely.
The Ragtag Daily Prompt — my choice this morning — is WANDER
The Word of the Day prompt is WISTFUL
Fandango’s One-Word Challenge is WAIT
and Your Daily Word Prompt is OTIOSE
(Had to look that last one up; it means futile, idle, at leisure, or without purpose or function.)

Put these together and you can imagine someone wandering “lonely as a cloud,” as the poet William Wordsworth termed it, going along without purpose, hoping something interesting will present itself. Perhaps he’s rather wistful, pondering something he’s done —or not done. Or maybe he feels a little lonely and wishes he had a friend to walk beside and converse with.

In the course of his otiose ambling through the lovely park he pauses, perhaps to watch the ducks in a pond or chivalrously step aside to wait as a slow-moving senior passes. Shall we give our percipient rambler “a host of golden daffodils” to gaze at? Or maybe the falling leaves of autumn, allowing him to contemplate the brevity of life. But then he continues on his way, thinking maybe a strong cup of coffee at the local bistro will perk him up.

Oh, wait! Coffee and writers go together, so let’s make him a writer puzzling over a plot twist. His wandering isn’t otiose after all; as he walks he’s working out scenes in him mind, hoping he can get fresh ideas for that manuscript he’s been working on. Now we can understand and feel with him in his quandary. Haven’t we all been there, wondering how to make the characters believable or get them out of the mess we’ve put them in?

But wait! There’s one more writing prompt to work in. Daily Addictions has given us the word HOSE.

So, en route through the park, our writer is suddenly smitten by another angle for his book. Driven by his brainwave and no longer perceptive of his surroundings, he trips over a hose the gardener’s been using to water one of the flower beds. He staggers, loses his balance, and lands in a patch of freshly puddled earth. A.k.a. mud.

A small price to pay for a brilliant new angle.