Chapter 6 - Hopes and Dreams

As I'm in the process of writing The Poppy Garden, I'm filling you in on the major points as I go - but I'm not going to bore your with daily updates and word counts.  That's not why you are reading this and I think that would be pretty boring.

Instead I thought I'd fill you in on what I hope and dream for this book, to me this isn't just a novel and by that I mean to me the goal of this book is not just a paper back or e book you pick up read, hopefully enjoy and then move on to your next purchase.  I have different aspirations for this book and at this time I'm not quite sure how to make them happen.

I started writing this book as my way to honour the memory of my Grandfather and the men he flew with.  While I don't have enough information as yet to write their particular story I'm focusing on the methods they used to cope with PTSD when it wasn't recognised as a condition.

The definition of PTSD is;

  • a condition of persistent mental and emotional stress occurring as a result of injury or severe psychological shock, typically involving disturbance of sleep and constant vivid recall of the experience, with dulled responses to others and to the outside world

For my grandfather, whether his personality changed or if he had nightmares I will never know, even if he were alive for my to ask it is the kind of thing a man of his generation would not discuss.  I'm not sure if he would have even discussed it with my nan, after all they had been married less than a month when he was captured and taken POW.

Sgt. Joe Robinson, Tailgunner, LM471 
My only hints at that the man I knew, this strong, quiet gentleman with a Brylcream boy hair style from moment I opened my eyes till the day he died had struggled with his experiences are in the words his brother left me in a letter.  He told me how my grandfather had come home, there had been no word, no time to put out the banners or what have you, it was just coincidence that Edwin was walking along the promenade and saw my grandfather on the pier.  It was in the words Edwin used to describe the way my Grandfather returned home that I felt a great sadness.  I somehow felt this wasn't   the happiest of home comings.  Not that my grandfather wasn't happy to be home or his family to see him, just that he was still coming to terms with what ordeal he had been through.

I remember often asking him as we watched old movies together like 'The Great Escape' if that was how it really was. He would tell me, little snippets about digging tunnels and feeding the guard dogs laced meat. When I asked how he escaped he simply said he was marched out before the could use the tunnels and that he escaped between prison camps.  To a child as I was that was all the answer I needed but now, now i have so many questions.

I know the march he talked of to many was called 'The Long Walk' and was really a way to kill prisoners.  When he spoke of escape he never mentioned details but from what I've read I can only assume how he escaped wasn't very pleasant and I know he may have had to do things he would never have imagined or that I could ever imagine him doing.

Joe Robinson marries Irene Baum with his Crew of  LM471 in attendance 

When he came home I assume life got on the way you would expect, he was married and settled down with his wife, they had my mam and moved in to a council house, he become a foreman for a building company and worked hard from one day to the next.  I don't think his life would be that different from many other returning soldiers.  It's the way in which he managed his memories and experiences that I always found amazing.

If you met my grandfather you would find him a quiet gentleman, I don't ever  recall him raising his voice, he never swore in front of women, he always dressed in a suit and his hair was always immaculate.  He raised money for charity and was well respected by his friends and family.  I never saw him cry and I never heard him speak badly of the German soldiers.  The only time I remember him ever showing any sign of dealing with his memories were on the Saturday mornings when he would take me to the beach at 6am.  He would walk along the sand and just stare out to see as a child you don't wonder what crosses an adults mind but now I do and I do wonder if in those moments that was when he was most vulnerable.

My mam often tells me that my Grandfather was never a gardener initially until he had a house with a garden and then it became a great hobby. I guess his garden was something he could control and pour all his anger, frustration, fear, in to and generate something good.  I remember his garden was always changing, he would redesign, re organise on a whim, something he applied to his home and our too.

He took on project after project and I never remember him being still, he was even working on his garden in the days before he was taken ill.  In all his life I don't thin he ever stopped dealing with what he had experienced.

In my heart I'm glad he had a garden, I don't how he would have coped other wise.  So I guess that's why this book is important to me.  I couldn't make a difference when he was alive so maybe now I can make a difference to those who have been though similar experiences, maybe I can find a way to make his garden in to a real life Poppy Garden and this is just the first step.

Joe Robinson in his garden 


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