4 Sep 2010

"Homecoming."

This is another story. I imagine that the stories I will be posting at the moment could be organised into some kind of collection.

Life continued exactly as if a war had happened. Husbands returned to wives who had lived new, independent lives for six years. Pretty, quiet girls who liked reading and listening to the wireless had turned into beautiful women who smoked and drove vans and worked salvaging war-torn London. Whereas once they had been happy to practice recipes they had learned at a cookery class on their husbands, they'd got used to cooking meals for 10 families at WVS Shelters on rations. When they tried (and they did try, every single one of them) they discovered they couldn't go back to a life before Woolton Pie and careless talk costing lives and air raid sirens. They'd seen horrors too. They might not have been in Africa or Italy but they'd seen children lying dead in the street after bomb blasts. They'd spent nights sitting awake in Undergrounds listening to aeroplanes and doodlebugs. They had had their own war.
Their husbands, their men, their boys, their heroes - they were having trouble too. Blighty had been so idealised in their absence it could never match up to what it really would be; tired, grey, damaged and altogether older than it had been when they'd left. Some of them returned to houses without rooves. Others returned to houses without wives.
It was hard to explain why they had been changed irrevocably. When you are asked across the dinner table what's wrong, how can you tell your wife that the reason you feel sick and dizzy is because burnt pork fat smells exactly like a burnt man in a plan? How can you explain why you don't want to go to church and plays God's benevolence anymore? How can you lie in your marriage bed and admit the nightmares you have are about the man you killed?
It wasn't just the memories of war, either. It was the routine of civilian life. Men who had flown spitfires and left with a perfect record were rewarded by returning to bank jobs. Where were the card games, the dirty jokes and where was the adrenalin? Living every day for six years with the fear of dying had given many men an edge and a hardness that couldn't translate back to life in England. If boredom was depression then the whole of the country was suffering badly.
Yes. The war changed everything all over again when it ended. Life continued as if it had happened.

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