Dear God, Make Me Dumb
I reached into my coat sleeve and scratched – almost absent-mindedly – at my forearm. After a moment I was done and I pulled the sleeve back down and tight around my wrist, and cursing myself for not bringing my gloves out I pulled my collar tighter. A futile effort really, against the sub-zero temperature.
The train had got stuck in a deep snow drift some four miles outside of Wells. After nearly forty minutes sat in uncertainty, quietly muttering to no-one in particular, the driver announced that our only option was to walk to a level crossing some three-quarters of a mile down the line where a couple of buses would be waiting to take us into the city. So, we disembarked – jumping, clambering or – as was my case – being helped down from the carriages and into the snow. There were complaints of course – the cold makes people miserable and they’ll naturally direct that misery toward the railway operators – “Wrong kind of snow, my arse! Wrong kind of bloody management if you ask me.”, “Why can’t we just wait for another train?” (this made me smirk)…
Misery – if only they knew the meaning of the word.
So onwards we trudged, feet growing numb, wet trousers, luggage dragged along the track. “Couldn’t we just wait on the train until the track was clear? I’ve got sandwiches and at least it’s warm in there.” Stumbling over sleepers, crunching through the gravel, one or two fell in the deeper snow at the side of the track. I remember a time when if you didn’t get up quick enough a shot would ring out, your fellow travellers would gasp and mutter in shock, but any hesitation in their progress would be countered with sharp words, maybe the thrust of a rifle butt if you didn’t get the message straight away.
Feet numb with cold, breath seeming to freeze in the air, my thin coat unsuited to the biting winter winds. We were led down that line, huddling together as best we could, trying not to move too fast less we create enough space for the cold air to breach our weary, shabby ranks. We didn’t have far to go but that walk, that journey of a lifetime, seemed to take forever. Soon though our destination was in view. My young heart lifted a little knowing that we were nearer a chance for rest and some kind of shelter, but then sank again as the grey gate of the camp loomed into view through the sparse trees.
From time to time I fancy that I feel that number itching under my rough, dirty shirt sleeves. I could have had it removed many years ago but I prefer to keep it – my own personal memorial. Everything it stands for, my mother and father who died with it on their arms, could never be brought back by it’s erasure.
Thank goodness they’ve got the heating on in the bus. I think I’ll get a hot chocolate in Marks And Spencer though, before I go to my daughter’s.