Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The More Things Change..

Flora Nicholson, second from right. The Twenties.

The next time I get an unsolicited marketing call at 6 pm from God Knows Where to buy Who Knows What, I won't be rude and say "No, Thanks" and hang up abruptly.

I'll be like my husband, who says "Thank you for the call, but I am not interested." He feels sorry for these workers.

You see, today, I read a chapter from The Great Silence, Juliet Nicolson's follow up to her book the Perfect Summer (about 1911). The great silence is about after the war. I am reading the chapter on how the boys who managed to return were rather poorly treated, despite promises to the contrary. Especially the wounded ones, in body and soul and mind.

One such young man, apparently from a good family, was left to peddle magazines home to home to women.

According to the book, he said that this form of work took more courage than being in the trenches.

My book, Flo in the City, which I am writing on this blog, is about a young woman, Flora Nicholson of Richmond, Quebec coming of age in the pivotal 1908-1913 pre war era.

It is based on the letters of my social studies website

On the website I have also posted some letters from WWI, from a man, Herb Tucker to Flora. These letters, 3 in total, are kept separately from the other Nicholson letters. They are tucked into a used shell brought home by my husband's great uncle on his father's side from the front.

Herb isn't killed in the war, but his brother is. I have other letters where Edith writes that she visits the family at that time in Montreal and first they hear he is dead;then they hear he is alive; then that he is dead. Percy is his name. Herb writes in his letter from Belgium that he wonders why he is spared. His only battlefield wound is a hurt pinky finger. His brother didn't have to die, He was de-mobbed but re-enlisted. As it was, he was killed but a few days before the armistice.

Nicolson writes of the many men who were seriously disfigured and how masks were made for them. These men, for the most part, stayed in hospitals. They were often told to stay out of sight, so as not to upset people.

I suspect a similar thing is going on now. A soldier's death makes, headlines. One Canadian was killed recently in Afghanistan and McKay commented on it. But that's all window dressing. I imagine we aren't taking care of soldiers and their families once they return. Indeed, another news item this week says that it's hush hush, but the Department of Veteran's Affairs is being scaled down as WWII veterans are dying off.

My father in law is still waiting to get in Ste Anne de Bellevue Veteran's hospital. (He's ninety and has just had a debilitating stroke.) The paperwork is done, and we're waiting for a space. Apparently, there's a long waiting list.

He's with us now, but the stroke left him unable to process information from the TV and Radio. He loved watching sports, especially football. So he could use a place that would provide him with alternate modes of stimulation. But who knows...

So many young men were killed or wounded in WWI that I read somewhere else there were 10 women for every eligible man. That's why the flapper dresses came into style. Women were competing for men's attention and needed to shake their booty. (I think I heard this on BBCRadio 4 from a book by Virginia Nicolson.)

My husband's grandfather, Hugh Blair, and my grandfather, Robert Nixon, didn't fight in WWI. I imagine most of us are here because our grandfathers, or great grandfathers, etc, DIDN'T fight in WWI.

In Canada, being married gave you an excuse not to go. Hugh Blair married Marion Nicholson, Flo's sister, in May 1913. My story will end there, with that wedding.

My grandfather was off in Malaya in 1914. I imagine that's why my grandmother went off to marry him. Lack of men in England. That, at least, would be a good guess.

Oh, and the book The Great Silence has another relevant anecdote. The Nicholsons are from Isle of Lewis stock (who came to Canada in 1850's). Well, apparently Isle of Lewis sent a huge percentage of their men to WWI and at the end, there was to be a great celebration when the survivors returned, except that the boat sunk just off the Isle, killing 200 of the men.