Box Brownie

 

One day last spring I opened the brown canvas case that had lain gathering dust in a corner of my study.  From it I took the camera I had as a Lancashire lad in the late-50s, my Kodak Brownie Flash II.  I was a keen young photographer back then, proud of my “Box Brownie”, the first camera I’d ever owned.  The funny thing was how familiar it still felt as I ran my fingertips over its black leatherette skin.  Looking through the viewfinder for the first time in over half a century brought a lump to my throat and sent me in search of old albums…

 

BOX BROWNIE

 

My old Box Brownie, parents young I clicked.

Tenderly still, in black-and-white, they cling;

Penmaenmawr sunsets for my album picked.

My old Box Brownie, parents young I clicked,

Barely out of short trousers, my quiff slicked.

Viewfinder clear, I feel you near and sing.

 

My old Box Brownie, parents young I clicked;

Tenderly still, in black-and-white, they cling.

 

Paul Beech

 

Copyright © Paul Beech 2014

(Previously published on Linkedin and the author’s own blog, Grandy’s Landing.)

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The Brave

 

 

I shall be wearing a poppy with pride today, and observing the two minute silence on the stroke of eleven, for it is Remembrance Day in the UK, when those brave men and women who sacrificed their lives for us in the First and Second World Wars, and later conflicts, are remembered.

 

THE BRAVE

 

Paul Beech

 

Extracts from the diary of an Old Soldier, long since deceased:

 

Tuesday 16.vii.18, Netley Hospital

 

So many times have I followed the bayonet, Gerry bullets singing in my ears, the thunder-rush of shells bursting orange in mud & guts, yet nary a scratch sustained. Oh, the irony of it, that a micro-organism should have caused my languishing here, in the company of one whose injury – as confided to me, & contrary to the official findings – was not so much accidental as self-inflicted, a contemptible “Blighty Wound.”

Aye, but I am guilty too, despite my citation and Military Medal: guilty of surviving good pals on the line. So when, this morning, with a broken piece of cup, the wretch did hack at his wrists, it was with some rage I stopped him.

“Nay, laddie, that is not the way,” I bellowed. “Give o’ ye best & be a man, damn you!”

The nurse came bustling at my summons, so pure of countenance and gentle her brogue that I thrilled as my pals in Picardy will no more. Her name is Bridget & between us, surely, we have an understanding of sorts…

Tuesday 30.v.44, Larkin Lodge

 

So long has it been, I am almost beyond hope. Oh Rosslyn, dearest daughter, with your lovely face pure as your late Irish mother’s, your gentle voice musical too.  Seven weeks – aye: seven weeks, three days, six hours, thirty-two minutes.  The rain came pelting earlier; now each passing second is marked by the slow drip of the gutter.

I press your knitting to my face, your every loving stitch a wonder. They wanted you away, didn’t they?  France again, of course, to work with the Marquis by moonlight, with stealth & purpose, a fortune in francs on your head no doubt, that volume of poetry your constant companion & talisman.

It is time – time to summon my courage & open the package that arrived this morning by some mysterious means. I fumble, the brown paper rips…& nay, I am not mistaken: it’s the Rimbaud.

“Elle a été trahie en Picardie,” runs the anonymous note enclosed. She was betrayed in Picardy.

Mrs B brings watercress sandwiches on a tray & tucks a napkin under my chin.

Oh Rosslyn…

 

***

 

The Old Soldier received official word exactly one week later, on Tuesday 6th June 1944 – D-Day.

 

-oOo-

© Copyright Paul Beech 2012