I am remembering my Uncle Iolo with a bitter-sweet chuckle. The letter dates from 1940, as does the photo, I’d guess. It begins: “Now that our British Winter has set in, campaigning is less than ever a picnic. Well keep your bowels open and keep as dry as possible. A good motto for the dark days . . .”
imo 18 January 1981
Jay Bernard’s ‘Surge’ was shortlisted for the 2019’s prestigious TS Eliot Prize for Poetry. The book tells the story of the New Cross fire where 14 black kids attending a 16th birthday party were burned to death. Another 27 people were injured. It’s historical significance deepens because of the care-less response of police, press and other authorities to evidence suggesting that racist arsonists were involved. This is ‘Songbook.’
This is the Wikipedia entry: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Cross_house_fire
The deaths in the fire were commemorated or mentioned in a number of reggae songs and poems at the time, including Johnny Osbourne‘s “13 Dead and Nothing Said”, Benjamin Zephaniah‘s “13 Dead”, Linton Kwesi Johnson‘s “New Crass Massakah” and UB40‘s “Don’t Let It Pass You By”.
Dada was in the Army at Alamein;
also at Rye and Monte Casino.
I have his cap at home gathering dust,
the dust he went to fourteen years ago.
There’s other stuff in the trunk in the loft,
mementoes of more settled times post War:
letters, certificates and photographs,
sundry notes made on work trips to Tehran.
Memories, he’d say, are lost to common
consciousness after two generations.
His legacy of strong, patient, wisdom
is getting older, harder to recall.
I think of Guernica, Dresden and the Blitz;
Nagasaki, Stalingrad and Auschwitz.
ilmo JA Cole 10 Jan 1920 – 29 Dec 2005