Friday 2 March 2012

The Friday Column - The Photograph

The Photograph - A Fictional Tale

Lauren sat clutching the black and white photograph of the handsome young man in his Army uniform.  The soldier’s eyes appeared to be looking right at her, his smile full of warmth.  He must have been around 21 here, she thought.  His life was just beginning and yet heading off to war it could have been just about to end.  If he was frightened he kept it hidden well, stiff upper lip or naivety, Lauren wasn’t sure.

The photograph was of Fred, Lauren’s Grandfather who she affectionately called Grandpapa.  He had returned from War, in one piece and to everyone’s relief seemingly unaffected by the horrors he had witnessed.  His stiff upper lip served him well in public but in private he would sob inwardly for the friend’s he had lost and the memories that could not be erased. Life had been a struggle before the War but he had many a funny tale to tell and his knowledge of London was unsurpassable. He knew the intricacies of the many lanes and nooks and crannies. He knew the best watering holes, he knew where to go to pick up fresh food at no cost. A cheeky chappie he had found himself in trouble with the law but each time would be let off having charmed his way out of retribution. Oh yes, he was sure he had had a book in him about the pre war years. He had wanted to share these stories but no one had ever taken time out of their busy lives to ask, and it seemed a bit self indulgent to offer a tale or two.  Of course after the War people just got on with their lives as best they could, he married Rose soon after landing back on British soil and set about working hard and raising a family, so never got to share those wonderful snippets.

When Lauren and Sam, his grandchildren were born, Fred was delighted and finally felt that he could retire and spend his days taking them around the City and showing them all the sights, each one with a story behind it. Aged 6, Lauren loved jumping on a Routemaster bus, grabbing the seat at the front, the one that everyone knew had the best view, swinging her legs in anticipation of which stop they would be getting off at and never quite knowing where they would end up. Such fun times she reminisced.

Aged 8, Lauren’s mum visited Fred and Rose and broke the news that the family were moving to Australia. At the time Rose and Fred smiled and said ‘Whatever you think is best dear, you know you have our support.’ As the family waved and said their goodbyes, tears were shed all round.

Now aged 25, Lauren sat in Fred’s living room, tears pouring down her face, just like that fateful day when she had last seen Grandpapa.  She had missed Grandpapa, but in her early teens had been busy with life in Australia, school and friendships. In her late teens she had returned to the UK to study, choosing to go to University in Manchester, she had always intended to visit but somehow life had taken over and she had made excuses as to why she hadn’t been able to get there.

In her early twenties, Lauren made the odd phone call to Fred and Rose and visited occasionally, usually for ten or twenty minutes before heading out again. By now they were frailer, so she would fetch them a tea and check they were ok, there was no time to sit and just chat.

Lauren now regretted putting her own life ahead of spending time with her grandparents; she sat staring at the photograph, at Fred the young man who had never experienced the carefree and pampered life she now enjoyed. She had time now, she had so many questions to ask Fred about Pre-War life, wanted to hear his many fantastic stories, just like Fred had wanted to share them all those years before.  Unfortunately she was just too late.

An original work of fiction - all rights reserved

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