A Mother questions her son's early departing.
This story is dedicated to Bradley John Schmidt, 25.05.1985-17.02.2010.
Sadly missed, always loved.
Emily Charlotte Day thoughtfully gazed out of the window.
‘It’s nearing Winter. I can tell because the shadows of the trees are
getting longer in the late Autumn as the afternoon sun begins to lower
itself in the west. Autumn shadows, the ending of the nice sunny days to
the nearing of winter. The nights slowly closing in.
A bit like my life, the ending of Autumn to the Winter, the colder, darker
But I don’t mind…I’m curious. I want to know, if we are dust to
dust, ashes to ashes…or something more. Something tangible which we
go onto, and know the truth about what really lies ahead.
You see, I not only want to see if this really is the end, to which I
will know nothing more or sense much else. Or will we really face our
maker, and see the ones who have passed before us. Either way, I don’t
mind knowing or understanding, I know we can’t stay here forever.
Re-incarnation? I hope not. I’m not sure if I want to come back to
this earth, where we as fellow-humans, can’t seem to live together as
civilised human beings, no, no…I hope not.
I want to see if my son awaits me when I arrive, should the latter
thoughts come to being. Someone once told me, my son, John, had been
here before. You see, my Grandfather, had an unhappy life, and always
regretted living, when his mates were taken in the Great War.
He always said he would like to come back, just for a short time, have a
happy-carefree life, hope his friends lived longer than him, and no wars.
Well, my John, named after my Grandfather, certainly did just that. Oh
yes, there were wars, but none he had to fight in.
My boy always told me it was best to live fast and die young. I hoped he
It was no joke when the news came of his passing. Part of me died as
John Charles Smith 25.05.1896-17.02.1972 aged 76.
John had just returned home from a long day at the Garston gas
works in Liverpool, was eighteen years old.
His Mother, Charlotte, pointed to the sideboard, ‘There’s a letter for yer’,
and yer can do yerself a favour and throw it in the fire’.
John took the telegram annoyed that his Mam had read something which was addressed to him.
I’ll remind yer Mam, I’m a man now’.
‘Yer not twenty-one yet, yer not going’. she retorted.
‘MAM! I put me name down when I turned eighteen. Owen next door is goin, an’ ‘is Mam is pleased about it, why can’t you be ‘appy I’m doin’ somethin’ for the Country?’
‘This bloody war shouldn’ be ‘appening, we need to mind our own business and let Germany and who knows who, sort it themselves. We don’t need to be involved Yer not goin, do yer ‘ear me?’.
John stormed out the room, and stomped up the stairs. Early the next morning, he materialised with a knapsack.
‘I’m sorry Mam, I’ve got to go.’
‘Yer get some breakfast inter yer’. But John was out of the door.
Charlotte chased after him. ‘You come back our John, d’yer ’ear? D’yer ’ear? Yer as stubborn as yer Dad’.
John disappeared around the corner and jumped onto the next bus.
He thought life at sea had to be more exciting than the boring life here.
‘Let ‘im go Lottie, our Owen is leavin’ too. They all want to go.
Come in an ‘ave a cup o’ tea’, Mary her neighbour took Charlotte‘s hand and led her indoors.
Liverpool was a depressing, grey, often smoggy place, and he wanted some excitement away from this dreary place. He could already taste the salty, sea air as he walked towards the Pier Head.
Arriving at the Port of Liverpool, then ferried across to Birkenhead.
A cold chill ran down his spine as roll-call came to board the ship. He had already had some training in the Sea Cadets Corps, so he was no stranger to the barking Commands of the Officers, was waiting to take the sailors out to sea. John was a plumber at the gas works and this prepared him for fixing pipes and artillery on the ships.
‘Aye Sir‘, and saluted.
The evening was cool and early fog was seeping across the Mersey. The ship rocked to and fro out of Liverpool and was heading down through the Celtic Sea around to Exmouth. Once there, he went through some days of training before boarding a Dreadnought, the ‘Ironduke’, out to the North Sea.
Charlotte was relieved every time John would come home. Especially, when he would be home for Christmas. She didn’t like to think too much about it, but wondered if it could be their last together.
John had met a lady, whom he loved very much. Ellen also served with the navy, but on land and worked in clerical section of the Port in Birkenhead.
One day he stepped off the ship at Birkenhead, and noticed a young lady, back turned to him, with golden curls swooped in a messy bun. She turned, and with sea-green eyes, asked if she could help?
‘Help me? He thought, oh my lord, she is a beauty’.
‘Err, no, I’m just checking out for leave’.
All she noticed was soft brown eyes under his cap, and dark wavy hair’. ‘Oh right-oh, I’ll just locate your name and when are you back?’
‘Oh, ok I’ll make that note’. Pity, that’s four days away, she thought.
They both stood there in awkward silence.
They both said in unison.
‘Sorry, ladies first’, said John.
‘I haven’t seen you before, are you from Liverpool?’
‘Jus’ near Garston, and you?’
‘Oh, not far ‘t all. What time do you finish?’
‘Me Dad will be waiting for me at the bus at five oçlock’.
It was half past four and already getting dark in mid-November. ‘I would like to walk you to the bus, idis’ getting’ dark’.
‘That’ill be very nice, thanks’.
Mr Scott, Ellen’s Father, was a big man, but seemed kind. He regarded John in his naval uniform, respectfully nodded, and thanked him for walking his daughter to the bus stop.
A few weeks later, John took Ellie to a Christmas dance in town. He always made sure she got home before her Father, Frank Scott, became worried. Being early days, he wanted to do the ‘right thing’ for her and her
There were days on the ship when it rocked and rolled with lashing freezing rain, and waves almost coming over the edge of the deck. After a couple of days of nausea, sometimes his head over the ship’s edge, he found his ‘sea legs’.
Other days were clam, and made it easy being on deck, always observing for enemy ships. All the time thinking about his ‘Ellie’.
Lottie was always pleased to her son home again, for some ‘Mothering’. She regarded John one day, ‘Well son, yer growin’ into a man’. Do yer have t’ go back? What about Ellie, when are yer marrying the girl?’
‘Mam, I do have t’ go back, when this war ‘is finished, we’ll marry then’. he kissed his mother, and was out the door again.
Lottie wondered when this awful war would be over, seemed to be dragging on. Each night she prayed to God and St Michael for the protection of her John. Her Husband, Charles, was working on the Liverpool docks and took care of supplies from the Merchant Navy.
‘E’ll be alright Love, ‘e’s a strong lad’, anyways, you‘ve got our Liza to worry about, she’ll be ‘havin‘ ‘er baby soon, an‘ our Emily at the Liverpool Infirmary Hospital, see ‘er on ‘er day off’. Charles felt uncertain for his son too, but tried to comfort Lottie.
It was May 1916, with sixteen Dreadnought’s, battle cruisers and other combat ships. John found himself sailing toward Jutland. The over-inflated confidence in the ability of the Dreadnought’s, the British thought this battle might be a winner.
John’s adrenalin was soaring and his heart quickened as he could see what was ahead.
There was suddenly loud artillery bangs, roars and smoke and fire everywhere. His ship rocked violently from side to side with the ricocheting of the shelling. Suddenly, a blast sent the ship on it’s side. Men shouting and calling for help, sent John in a panic. His ears were ringing, and his salty eyes watered. The icy water pricked his skin. He could swim, and pulled one of his crew by the arm, and told him to kick his legs whilst John supported him, they grabbed onto a part of the ship which was still above the water. Red seeped into the green-grey water. A smaller rescue boat picked some of the men up. The one who took John’s arm, was a man, Micky, who he recognised from school. He was pulled to safety, but later, that ship was fired upon, and Micky, who saved him, lost his life.
John would ponder the irony of that event later.
The noise, smoke and slaughter would continue for some hours.
Eventually all ships which were left, retreated back carrying wounded and shell-shocked boys and men, led to believe they had won.
The ‘Battle of Jutland’ was a pyrrhic ‘victory’ for both sides.
News about Jutland and other battles had spread.
‘Oh our John, please be safe’, Charlotte heard herself say.
Her heart flipped when the door knocked.
It was her neighbour, Mary, sobbing, telegram in her hand. This time it was Charlotte’s turn to make a cup of tea. Their Owen will not be coming home.
John turned up with his arm in sling. He greeted his Father at the door, ‘Yer Mam ‘as gone to our Emily’s she ‘ad a boy, Samual, you’re an uncle lad, an’what’s ‘appened to you’? he hugged his son, very grateful to see him again.
Charlotte came back later, hugged her young man and made a pan of scouse for tea with bread. Some food items became scarce or expensive because ships bringing in food to Britain were attacked by German submarines. But they got by on what they could. She wanted to ask questions about where John had been, but he deflected the questions and Charlotte thought her son seemed a little morose. He brightened a little when Charlotte talked about little William, and asked after Ellen.
‘I’ll go ‘an see Emily tomorrow, then catch the ferry to Birkenhead to see Ellie’.
He held little Sammy with one arm, and talked to him gently, whilst chatting to Emily.
He then caught the ferry to Birkenhead to see Ellie. After the pictures, they walked and talked about the war and families. That night, their passion for each other became physical. He had never experienced anything like it, and wanted and loved her more. She became upset, and said she shouldn’t have done such a thing.
‘Aye, don’t worry, we are going ‘t’ marry alright?’
Ellie smiled through moist eyes, she really did love him.
‘You alright?’ he asked gently.
‘Yeah, of course I am’, and hugged him.
She cried when he was leaving again. ‘Wha’ if yer don’t come back?’
‘Aw, don’t say tha’ of course I’ll be back, you know, you’re startin’ to sound like me mam’. This didn’t alleviate her fear, but it made her smile.
‘Good, then yer better ge’ used to it’, she retorted.
‘I d-don’t know what to do’, Ellie cried.
‘Wha’dyer mean yer don’t know wha’ t’ do?’
‘I ‘ave’t told me Mam, and me Dad will kill me’.
‘Well if he’s going t’ kill you, ‘e can kill me first, we’ll go together and tell them we’re gettin’ married, alright?’ soothed John.
Jimmy Scott eyed John, Helen Scott was crying, not with tears of shame, but with happiness for her daughter. She really like John, and knew they would marry anyway.
Mr Scott spoke, ‘Well, young John, it could’ve been a disgraceful tragedy if you didn’t come back. What would’ve ‘appened to our Ellie and the baby?’ He rose to his feet, ‘but welcome to the family’ and shook John‘s hand.
Ellie rose and hugged her Dad.
They married at St Joseph’s Church, not telling the Priest she was with child. The families and friends had a simple supper at the Scott’s house. It was a small but nice wedding. Ellie being a small girl, did not show her swelling belly. Her dress was simple, with white lace and flowing from the waist. No one knew any better.
John still had to go to sea, but at least they were married.
March 1917, after a long, exhausting labour, John and Ellie’s daughter, Emma arrived.
‘She’s perfect’, a beaming John said to his sleepy wife.
November, 1918, little Emma was eighteen months old, WW1 ended.
They had settled in Liverpool, and John still went to sea, with the Navy.
After a while, he resumed his work at the Garston gasworks. He wanted to be closer now there was a son, Thomas, added to their family, and keep them safe.
Ellen noticed at times, John seemed moody, and she encouraged him to go and have a pint at the local pub, to drink and chat with others who have been away to war.
He always came back a little merrier. He was a kind and caring man, but sometimes would say, ‘Why did I come back and not some o’ me mates?’
But life was starting to pick up after the war, and more food seemed to back on shelves, especially bananas available, at a cheap price, meat was still costly.
But sentiment had changed too. There were race riots, a backlash from the slavery trade in Liverpool, and arrivals from the Banana Boats.
Emma and Thomas, would seem noisy and fight over a toy, when it would grate on John’s nerves, ‘Would you two be quiet’.
Ellie tried to assuage the two children, and try to keep everyone calm, but children even tried her patience at times.
John would work long days and sometimes nights at the gasworks, come home, have tea, and read. But Ellie noticed some days, he seemed withdrawn. He dreamed at being back at sea, but wanted to be near his family.
One day he took Emma to school, her light chatter brightened his mood on this grey smoggy day. He glanced down at her trusting blue eyes, rosy cheeks, and tasselled golden strands around her face. He imagined Ellie, must have looked like their daughter, when she was a little girl. His heart warmed as she waved at the gate.
He returned home, Ellie’s light laughter met him at the door. She was playing on the floor with Thomas.
John got to his knees and said, ‘Wanna horse ride?’
Thomas mounted John’s back, whilst he rocked on all fours backwards and forwards. Thomas squealing. Ellie felt happy and content, but feeling a familiar feeling in her belly. All she wanted was for John to be as happy as she felt.
Ellie kissed John goodbye as he set off for work, and got Emma and Thomas off to school. By ten o’clock it was time to call the Midwife. Rose next door came in and held Ellie’s hand.
Simon was born just as Thomas walked in the door. ‘Mum, I’m home’.
Rose went downstairs to Thomas, by the time Emma came home, Simon was ready to be introduced to his brother and sister.
John made them all some supper of corn beef, potatoes and peas. Ellie rested in bed.
John turned to the older children who were playing snap, ‘Ave a banana or some bread if yo’re still ‘ungry’. Then went upstairs to his wife and new son.
Emma now at senior school replied, ‘Alright Dad, we’re alright’.
John liked it now his children were getting older, now with a new baby, the cycle begins again.
‘It’s alright love, Simon ‘ill fit in’. John smiled at his wife and suckling son.
Emma would come home from school and care for Simon and help with tea. Thomas also played with Simon, Ellie felt blessed.
To John the days and nights seemed long. Grey days, lot’s of people looking for work, food on the shelves were limited. The economy was stagnating. He worried for his children.
Thomas and Emma were at school one day, Ellie was out shopping. On the way she chatted Rose who lived next door. Rose was shovelling the snow away from her front door.
‘Yer know, me Danny still can’t ge’ a job, lyin’ on the couch all day, ‘e’s drivin’ me nuts’.
Unemployment was becoming a way of life in Liverpool in the 1930’s, due to less demand of exports, and a rise in immigration to Liverpool, adding to population growth.
One day Rose confided to Ellie, ‘I donno’ know Ellie, I’m worried about Germany again, ’ave yer ‘eard what’s ‘appening over there. I ‘ope the’ don’ expect us to fight again’.
Ellie’s heart sank. She had heard on the radio Hitler had moved his troops into Czechoslovakia claiming German’s had been killed there, when they were absorbed into the country after the divisions post world war one.
In bed one night Ellie cuddled up to John, ‘I’m afraid, and I’m scared for the kids, Poland has been invaded. Emma was asking questions about it, talkin’ about it at school’.
‘They’re already calling up, no choice this time, we all ‘ave to go’.
‘Oh God! Please keep us safe’, said Ellie.
Then came Chamberlain’s address to the nation: "This morning the British Ambassador in Berlin handed the German Government a
final Note stating that, unless we heard from them by 11 o'clock that they were prepared at once to withdraw their troops from Poland, a state of war would exist between us….
Ellie cried, ‘Oh John what’ll I do without you?’
‘I’ll be back before you know it, keep the children safe and get into the air raid shelter as soon as you here the siren’, he turned to Thomas, he was a young man too and was afraid for him, he too had been called. ‘Son, he gave Thomas a big hug, ‘God keep you safe Son. Emma, look after yer Mam’, and he was out of the door.
Emma came out of the kitchen with a pot of tea, ‘Oh Dad, there’s somebody ‘ere I want you to meet’.
Robert rose respectfully and shook John’s hand. It was his daughter’s hand he wanted, in marriage.
It was the proudest moment walking his beautiful Emma down the isle. Thomas was home for the occasion, and John and Ellie were happy to be altogether at this time.
Their wedding was simple, with material hard to find, they found some lace from a tablecloth, and an old silk nightie to sew a dress together, and friends and family combined food rations for a shared supper. A cake without eggs and jam filling, topped with cleverly made icing from ground sugar, dried milk powder and some butter. They ate corn beef fritters and corn beef hash and spam sandwiches.
He prayed every day for the safety of his family in those dark, uncertain times.
John was home during a Liverpool Blitz, they lost half of their house, part of the street was a mound of rubble. A land mine was found in
the Gasworks, 6000 people were evacuated, while an off-duty Lieutenant, Harold Newgass, successfully diffused the mine. Thus saving a massive explosion.
John and Ellie returned to what was left of their house. ‘Yer can’t stay ‘here’, so he made Ellie go Emma’s house away from the carnage, while he stayed to clean up where he could.
John was on the HMS Havelock which played out in the Battle of Taranto off the coast of Italy. News of the Christmas Blitz on Liverpool spread. No ships could get in or out of Liverpool. John prayed for his family. There was no news of anyone from Liverpool. A bomb had hit an air raid shelter killing several people.
There was talk of rockets falling from the sky, undetected because they didn’t fall from a plane, causing wide spread fear in Britain.
Then the Hiroshima bombing and defeat of Germany.
The War was over.
They had no house and had to share accommodation with another family, and Thomas. The destruction, lives lost, families torn apart, made John grateful he still had his. They had all lost, friends, neighbours they knew and their homes as they knew it.
Thomas had a shrapnel wound to his stomach and leg, but was safe. There was much to rebuild.
John was morose some days, always saying, ‘When I come back to this earth, I only want to live a short, enjoyable life.
No war to go to, and perhaps me mates ‘ill live longer than me next time’.
‘Oh Dad, yer mustn’t talk like that!’ chided Emma. ‘You ‘ave us all ‘ere and your grandchildren, and your great-grandchildren. And our David and Eva ‘ill ‘ave one soon’.
Emily was John’s favourite grandchild. Perhaps because she was like her mother, Emma, and she was a Liverpool supporter like him. Her brother, David, was an Evertonian.
‘Aye, Grandad, coming to the match? You have to see Everton beatin’ Liverpool’.
‘Go’way! We’ll see who’s rubbish!’
‘That’s right, you tell ‘im luv’. Ellie added. Ellie had chose to ignore his moods, living through two wars, had not been easy.
Liverpool was starting to rebuild, and becoming a vibrant city, in spite of a lot of rubble to clean up.
A young girl from Scotland Road became famous for singing ‘Anyone who had a heart’, and changed her name to Cilla Black. John Lennon who lived around the corner, became noted as part of ‘The Beatles’. Music was changing.
‘’We were just listening to them at the Cavern a couple o’ years ago’’, Thomas said one day, feeling amazed at changes to music in Liverpool.
John and Thomas were at Anfield at a Liverpool game when everyone started singing ‘You’ll never walk alone’.
One evening Thomas came over with some cider and crisps, ‘Aye Dad, want ‘t’ watch the Moon landing with me?’ So all night they sat up in the July of 1968, watching the historical event.
‘I don’ believe it, from bombs to rockets, now space,’ said John to whoever was listening and not mesmerised with the television.
Liverpool’s economy was beginning to downturn, factories were closing. The docks were under threat from closure.
‘I dunno why we wen’ inter the common market. I blame tha’ for our trouble’, John said. He wasn’t the only one who shared his sentiment.
One morning Ellie was in the kitchen making a cup of tea.
John entered and sat down holding his stomach.
‘What’s up with yer this morning’.
‘I dunno, I ‘ave a pain in me stomach, and feel sick’.
‘Right! We ‘ad better ge’ yer to the Doctor’.
Ellie caught the bus and called in on Emma, ‘Yer Dad’s in ‘ospital, they dunno what’s the matter with ‘im’. Ellie felt afraid, she didn’t what she’d do without her John.
John was diagnosed with cancer, one day he went into Bootle Hospital and never came out alive. Ellie went to live with Emma and her family. She enjoyed the company of her grandchildren when they came over, with her Great-grandchildren.
Emily was visiting them with her latest baby, John Charles, named after his great-grandad.
Ellie was cuddling him when he looked up at her with deep eyes. ‘Oh my, you do look like yer great-grandad, you’ve been ‘ere before’.
Emily knew it was a common saying people stated about babies, who has a knowing and awareness in their eyes. But for some reason, her grandmother saying this, sent disquietude throughout her.
The year was 1974, Emily was in her 30’s. ‘That’s it form me, three’s enough.
‘So much has changed over the years, I wonder what lies ahead for them all’. Ellie said, referring to her great-grandchildren.
One day Emma went upstairs to see if Ellie wanted a cup of tea.
‘Aren’t you up yet?’
‘Ellie seemed tired, ‘I dunno, got a headache, I’ll lie-in a bit longer’.
Ellie went up later, thinking it was unusual for her Mother to be up so late. When she went into the room with a cup of tea for her, she was not breathing, but looked peaceful.
‘A stroke I think’. The Doctor said after examining her.
Emily went on look in on her Mother, and be with her when she could as well as raising her three children, Sarah, Joe and John.
John was the most strong-willed out of the three, but would learn very quickly from his older siblings.
He eventually started school, and seemed to befriend others easily. As he became old enough he played football for the school team, as did his brother. Sarah enjoyed dancing.
Emma sometimes caught the bus to watch her grandchildren play in their activities, and have dinner with the family. She was closer to Emma than her other children.
She particularly loved little John, who looked so much like the photos of his great-grandfather.
Sarah and Joe tried to accommodate their little brother, ‘I want to go out with yer’, John would pester.
‘Not this time, I’m seeing me mates’.
‘Aw take ‘im with yer can’t yer’, Emily would say.
‘No Mum, I’ll be home after’.
John would sometimes follow Joe, so he would have to take him with him to kick a ball around, or play the guitar with his friends.
John befriended some boys down the road, and from school, and needed his brother less.
One day Emily was out and Joe, who shared a room with John smelt something strange, which wasn’t tobacco. ‘What are yer doin’, he yelled at John.
‘Ere try it’, and handed the bong to Joe.
Joe grabbed it from John, ‘You’re not ‘avin’ this stuff, what d’yer think mum and dad will say, what’s it doin’ to yer brain?’
John grabbed it back, ‘It’s ok, I don’t do all the time’. Joe opened the window to let out the stench, and stormed out of the room, not knowing what to do.
Joe was in the last year of school, and hoped to go to University to do Science. He hoped it was a passing phase with John.
John excelled at mathematics and languages, and was good at sport.
Joe was becoming more interested in Uni and girls.
Sarah was pre-occupied with dance and was learning to teach it.
Emily thought to herself one day sipping a coffee, ‘My kids seemed to be going along ok, and Robert seems happy, life for me, is ordinary but nice’.
Although Emma hadn’t long passed, and she missed her terribly, she concentrated on her children, who were not children for long.
She worried if they would even find a job in Liverpool. Things had picked up a little after Thatcher closed down a lot of industry and abandoned this God-forsaken place.
She lost friends to moving to find work, some immigrated to Australia in per-suit of work. There had been protests and riots, which she tried to stop her children getting involved, but Joe took some interest in events.
She worried about John, ‘ Why are you going out, ‘aven’t you go homework to do?’
‘Don’t worry mum, I’ll get it done’.
‘There won’t be a job for yer, if yer don’t’.
‘Don’t need one yet, do I?’ he replied as he shut the door behind him.
She felt exasperated, his mates were always more important than family.
His teachers all told the same story year in year out ‘bright boy, won’t apply himself and distracts others, but very likable’.
What could she do, he was getting too big and strong to force him to do anything.
‘Live fast, die young’, he told Emily once, during an argument.
Finally his final year at school was over.
Emily felt relived she didn’t have to worry about school days anymore for her children.
Her other two were doing ok, Joe got a job near London with an engineering company, and Sarah was teaching dancing and was soon to marry.
But John? What was going to happen to him? She worried.
He began an IT course, seems now computer technology was happening. One day, John came home in the middle of the day.
‘Wha’ are yer doin?’
‘Don’t wanna do tha’ anymore. Mum I don’t wanna be stuck in an office all day, I don’t wanna have to do everything to work on a computer’.
‘What will yer do exactly?’
‘I dunno’. With that he went out the door, ‘Just goin’ to me mates ‘ouse’. And he was gone. Emily made her self a cup of tea and was pensive the rest of the day.
‘I dunno Luv, times are different now, I’m sure ‘ell sort ‘imself out’. Jimmy, her husband tried to reassure her, but feeling apprehensive himself.
John came into the living room where Emily and Jim were watching television, ‘Guess what? I’m going to London’, he announced.
‘What?’ Emily replied.
‘I’m going to work at a pub in London’.
‘I have a job, and I want to travel, so I’m going t’ ge’ some experience in work so I can travel, d’yer know how many jobs there are everywhere working in pubs and hotels?’
‘Well, it’s a job I suppose. I’d rather him do tha’ than join the Army like Frank next door’, replied Jim.
Emily agreed, but was sad that John was leaving town, ‘but it was only in London. At least he’s doing something, he could always go back to University later. Lot’s of older people seemed to be doing that, she reasoned to herself.
She did had their Joe, who is seeing a lady, and hoped they would marry soon. Sarah and Mick are expecting their first baby, so I suppose I will be busy helping her’.
‘You’re deep in thought’, Jim interrupted her.
‘Oh just thinking’.
Emily, Jim, Joe and his fiancee Janet, Sarah and Mick were all at Lime Street Station seeing John off. Emily hugged her son tight, kissing him, and running her fingers through his dark wavy hair. Being six foot, she had to stand on her toes to look into his deep brown eyes, ‘I’ll be alright Mum. I’m staying in Birmingham for a couple of days with a mate, then off to London. I love you all’. Then he boarded the train.
Emily couldn’t stop the tears dropping.
‘E’ll be alright Luv’. Said Jim.
‘Don’t worry mum, ‘e’s a big boy’. Joe put his arm around his mum.
John arrived at Southwalk, London. He arrived at the pub, the Manager, Alex, liked John straight away.
‘Where are you staying?’
The truth was, John didn’t have much money and was going to sleep rough until he got paid.
‘We have a room out the back you can have for a few nights until you find somewhere, pay when you get paid if you like’.
John really liked Alex, he was soft spoken with a different accent, to what he was used to. Over the next few days, John learnt to serve drinks, and operate tills. He worked extra hours for more money.
‘Hi mum, just calling to say hi and tell yer I’m alright. Ow’s everyone?’
‘Sarah had a boy last night, you’re an uncle. His name is Cory James’.
‘Óh, well tell everyone I’ll be home in a few days time, I’ll come and see yer’ all. Love yer Mum’.
‘Love you too’.
Emily loved it when John came home, she cooked his favourite food, but as always, he was there to see his mates.
‘Haven’t you met a lady yet?’ she asked her son one day.
‘I have mum, but none who I want to marry yet, gimmie time’.
She knew he was now sharing a flat with a man, Alex, but hadn’t met him yet. ‘He seems happy enough’, she said to Jim one night when talking about their children.
Late one evening, Jim and Emily had just retired to bed, á knock on the door came.
Emily flew out of bed, ‘Who the hell…’
The Police were there. A car accident.
He was only 25 years old.
Emily can’t remember much of the following days, she felt numb.
Lot’s of people at his farewell, some from London.
‘He was a great lad…’
All Emily remembers are a sea of faces.
‘That all seems so long ago, in another way, seems like only yesterday. But, my John, he didn’t go to war, he had a short but happy life. He probably partied hard in London. But he went before his mates, just as my grandfather would have wanted another life here.
So, those Autumn shadows are getting longer. I know I don’t have long to wait for my turn to come.
But, I will have my answer’.
The late golden light suddenly got brighter.