The next few days are all jumbled up, the house was strange and none of the familiar cups and saucers, chairs,or beds; the cupboards had none of the familiar buckets, brushes and dusters inside. One thing is clear in my mind, one morning my sister Jean and me and Mum got the tram into town to go to the Housing Office. A lot of other people, mainly mothers and children had the same idea. The year was 1943, the previous night had been one of the worst bombing nights of the war, Hendon the area around the docks was one of the most devastated areas. Shipyard workers lived close to their work on the river and the ships were the principal objects of the German bombers. The ships in the River Wear  were the main source of the coal required by the industries in the south and the midlands which formed a large part of the war effort. My father had already  been called up into the army as he was a very recent starter as a shipyard worker and the forces by this time were running very short of men.

   My mother, my sister and I waited for what seemed a wearisome long time, at last our details were noted but no accommodation was offered. We caught the tram back to our relation’s kind hospitality. There was another matter to be sorted out, in September of that year I was due to start school, mother was looking forward to it almost as much as I was. The next day our little party was out looking for the nearest school, luckily within in few streets we came upon a large brick built school. The school yard was enclosed within a wall and the whole impression was of something permanent and solid. Mother  looked at the nearby streets, were there any uncurtanned windows. Directly opposite the school she spied two blank windows upstairs, made brave by the cramped conditions of her present accommodation, she knocked politely on the front door. It was opened by a neatly dressed woman who assured mother , yes, there were three empty rooms upstairs. She agreed to let us have a look, the largest room contained a coal fire-place, the room at the back looked big enough for a double bed. There was a smaller bedroom at the front       and amazingly there was a bathroom with an indoor toilet. In addition there was a back yard in which to hang the washing. Perfect! The woman had a son a couple of years older than me.  Mother was reassured, clearly a respectable household.

    Clearly some bureaucratic routines had to be gone through but some days later mother was given the key and our little family could move into our new home. I’m not sure how the furniture was obtained, I have the feeling some was our previous furniture and I think the council maintained a store of second hand chairs, tables and kitchen equipment. Soon we had beds and bedding, all the necessary equipment for family life to go on.  A few weeks later mother took me into the school and suddenly there were lots of boys and girls filling a room. A pretty young woman appeared, sadly I don’t remember her name, she took me to a table, on the table was a piece of orange paper and a pencil. In my memory I began to draw perfect circles and squares. There is probably some fault in my memory, at the moment that’s what I have.

     School was place I enjoyed, indeed I think the big idea was that children should be happy in school.  I don’t remember learning to read or count,  both were accomplished, it has to be said I was stronger on the words side and rather weaker on the numbers. My biggest creative achievement was playing the triangle, I was making my own special noise, music might be putting it too strongly! There was a huge chart covered in different coloured notes, memory tells me my notes were blue. The concentration required to keep time with the rest of the class was enormous and total pleasure. There was also singing, with my voice something seemed to be slightly amiss. Stories I loved, nursery rhymes too and most importantly I met my best friend. At first I didn’t know this kind blonde girl would become my best friend, I soon discovered it. To this day I remember her name, her first name was Joyce, her surname began with W, I think I will keep the rest to myself. I haven’t been in touch with her for over sixty years, however my memory is still bright.



                          PBS    AMERICA.

The variety of television channels available now is seemingly without number, my Radio Times is full of them. I do record programmes, the most interesting items are usually on at nine o’clock in the evening, yes, clearly that is the time more people are sitting down to relax.  The iPlayer  and the ability to record programmes are an essential part of my media. One channel I’ve discovered recently is PBS America, it is staggeringly good, of course the Americans have been making moving pictures for about a hundred years. There is a cultural heritage and enormous respect for the ability to tell a story using the medium of film.  In Britain we are still wedded to the book as the principle means of understanding our own cultural history.

    PBS America is, dare I use the word, an educational channel ( yes that reminds me of the Open University).  It is the combination of still pictures, the words of influential actors in the story and the words of those caught up in events over which they have no control. The Civil War in the 1860s is the programme which to me expressed vividly the tragic pity of war. It was told as if we were in the middle of the events narrated so clearly, as if they happened yesterday. I have watched war stories before but usually the killing and the dying are somewhat in the distance. Even the Second World War, during which I was a child, has seemed apart from ordinary life, something of another time, another place.

    An extraordinary large team of people, under the producer, Ken Burns are responsible for a brilliant series of programmes and all the sources used are listed. These programmes should be part of the academic curriculum  in universities and sixth form centres in Britain. I would guess they already are in the USA. I have been interested in history as long as I can remember, it is not an old irrelevant story. It still influences the way we think and behave today. There was a time when girls were thought to be beyond education, their brains were different, this was accepted as the rational truth. Also the cost of educating ordinary working people was seriously considered  to be a huge expense and therefore quite unnecessary.

    The last episode dealt with the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, this battle resulted in the largest number of casualties in the entire war, forty-six thousand deaths, the most costly battle in US history. Women worked behind the lines on both sides. There is still considerable disagreement  as to which side won. Lincoln fought to maintain the Union and to free the slaves, the Confederates fought for their independence and for the right to own slaves. The UK is geographically a small cohesive country, America is a huge continent containing different types of climate and different economic systems, the Gulf states are very different from the New England states on the north-east coast.