Home Thoughts from Abroad by Robert Browning
A favourite of Dad’s. The day he told us he was coming out of the Army and we would be leaving Germany and moving back to England he quoted this poem:
O, TO be in England,
Now that April ‘s there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
If you Google military children you will come across Ashlee Cowles’s blog and a poster telling you that April in the US is the month of appreciation for the Military Child. Is there an equivalent in Britain? I’ve never heard of one but surely there ought to be. After all these children didn’t actually sign up to live a military life, they are not soldiers, and many of them may well grow up to be civilians, all the kids in our family did ! Love and respect to all children living in military families this month.
For three years I used my holidays to revisit the places we had lived in while I was growing up. My husband Jon accompanied me and put up with me throughout this odyssey.
The destinations in England and Wales were easy enough to arrange but the trips abroad needed a lot more thought and of course, expense. Three of the houses and two of the barracks in England had been demolished but many of the other properties had survived even though some of them had been sold by the Army and were in private or public ownership. For example the house in Wrecsam is now privately owned and our block of flats in Germany are being rented to migrant families from Eastern Europe. The barracks, family quarters and school in Kenya were all taken over by the Kenyan Army after we left.
I felt and still feel great affection for each geographical area and great pride in the attractions of each place. Every one we met was helpful, they got what we were trying to do. It felt like I was rediscovering my heritage, a multi- geographical one. At times it was an emotional struggle because when you take on a journey like this you are confronting losses as well as enjoying yourself traveling but it was one of the most rewarding projects of my life.
It’s been observed that when people brought up in many places are asked the question “Where do you come from?” we don’t know what to say, but it dawned on me as I retraced my steps that it’s more a case of not knowing where to start. We could tell you but it would take half an hour. It’s not that we don’t know, it’s that it doesn’t fit into a soundbite.