Today, February 11th, would have been my Mother's 100th Birthday! Fancy that. She was born in 1910 (of course) and had a life so different from mine that we could have been a couple of hundred years apart. She had to leave school at 14 (though she loved it) and go into service in a rather grand family in the country. She was allowed to go home once a year! And she had to send her wages home to her Mother. She had one afternoon a week off, started work every morning at five a.m. and was not allowed to speak to her employer. It sounds like the Dark Ages doesn't it?
My Mum was one of eight children and the family lived in Tottenham (we are all Spurs supporters). She had a lovely singing voice and whenever she was at home she went to church regularly and sang in the church choir. Of course she lived through two world wars too. She was only four at the start of WWI and 29 in 1939 as WW2 began, with me as a six-month-old baby. I can't imagine what that might have been like. She was very lucky in that none of her family died in either of the wars. My father had only one eye as the result of a childhood accident, so he didn't get to go to war. He was an Air Raid Warden instead. My only memory of that war is of standing on the back door step of our house in the pitch dark, yelling for someone to take me down to the air raid shelter. I was very small, and probably very frightened, though I don't think I was in any immediate danger - we only had one bomb drop locally in Hornchurch, and that left a very neat hole in the ground which was just the size of the house it demolished. I can't remember anything about casualties. But I do remember that we were only allowed 2 ounces of sweets a week - when I was older of course - and we had to queue up for them at the corner shop. Happy Days..
The other Anniversary today of course, is the 20th anniversary of Nelson Mandela's release from prison. What a great survivor he is, and what a wonderful example to us all in this gritty old world. He embodies the triumph of hope, truth and a fine trust in the goodness of humanity. He is, amazingly, 92. Let's hope he makes it to 100.