THE BICYCLE GHOSTS

This is a tale that should begin – once upon a time.  For this is a tale of mystery, magic and the unknown.

It was the bewitching hour.  Not quite day.  Not quite night.   Walking our country road I caught a glimpse of something lying on the verge.  A worn, sad looking bicycle.  Cast aside to rust away into the past.  I picked it up and carried it home

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Painted white and graced with a chic seat cover I imagined myself sailing down the road on the way to a great adventure.  But no matter how I tried I could not get the wheels to move or the brakes to unlock.

 Late that night when the moon was a silver thought high in the sky I heard the sound of bicycle wheels moving swiftly down the driveway and disappearing into the dark.  Morning came and the wayward bicycle was back outside my window.

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In the basket I found a neatly folded Paris newspaper.  The date October 31, 1939.   That night I again heard the whisper of wheels fading into the night. In the morning my mysterious bicycle was again outside the window.

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There was a rose in the basket.  It’s petals still fragrant and fresh with dew.  Beside the rose a ticket to the Louvre.  Two people had met.   Admiring the same painting.  Then lingering long –  reluctant to part.  He had given her a rose.

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And so it went.  Night after night there would be a whisper of wheels and each morning the bicycle would return and I would find  something from the past in my basket.

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A wine stained menu.  Hands reaching across the table.  Fingers touching.  Heads close together sharing whispered  thoughts and future secrets.

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She read to him from small, leather bound books found in old bookstores .  He loved the sound of her voice.    She would read until the darkness closed the words and disappeared into the night.

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Around her slender neck he fastened the velvet ribbon with a tiny cameo. A remembrance of a rainy day spent exploring the flea markets.

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 They listened to the medieval tale of tragic love as the music of Tristen and Isolde filled the Palis Garnier.    They lived in the moment.  They did not talk about the future.  They did not talk about the war.

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The morning I found the glasses and the empty wine bottle there was an air of finality about the contents of the basket.

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The next day a faded blue silk rose was fastened to the bicycle.  I knew the story was ending.

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There was a scrap of paper in the bottom of the basket. I read the words.

Au revoir mon ami.

Au revoir mon ami.

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Writers note:  Dear friends, There is a back story to this blog. The lovers really existed.  I was fortunate to have met them and asked that vital question “what did you do during the war?”.  You’ll find bits of their story in the comment section.

REMEMBRANCE DAY . . . We Remember Always.

 

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If I should die, think only this of me:

That there’s some corner of a foreign field

That is forever England.  There shall be

In that rich earth a richer dust concealed:

Gave,  once,  her flowers to love, her ways to roam,

A body of England’s, breathing English air,

Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home

 

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And think, this heart,all evil shed away,

A pulse in the eternal mind, no less

Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given,

Her signs and sounds; dream happy as her day;

And laughter, learnt of friends;  and gentleness,

In hearts at peace,  under an English heaven.

Remembrance Day is one of bitter sweet memories.    We remember those who never returned, and are grateful for those who returned.

 

 

My father-in-law  grew up in a quiet town in Southern Ontario.  He enlisted and his training as a flight sergeant took place in an equally small town in Saskatchewan.  This is where he met and married.    He returned from the war to live in   Saskatchewan.

 

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My uncle,  Bertram Henry Henderson grew up in my home town, Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.  He and his two brothers all enlisted in the Regina Rifles.  He died in action October 27, 1944.  His last letter home was dated October 27, 1944.  It was written in the dim light of a candle in a bottle.  The letter was in his effects returned to the family.

 

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My older sister and myself with my Uncle shortly before he was shipped overseas.

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This document shows the location of his grave in Belgian.  It also identifies the family who would be responsible for the maintenance and care of his grave site.

 

 

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Our Uncle’s grave continues to be looked after by the Belgian Family entrusted in their care more than 70 years ago.  Members of that family continue to maintain contact with our family.

 

My father grew up in a small village in southern England.  He fought in the war to end all wars (World War One).  When war ended he immigrated to Canada to join his older brothers in Northern Saskatchewan.  The only time he mentioned the war was to tell us how  he had befriended some Turkish prison of war soldiers and they had taught him  to make Turkish coffee.

 

 

(  poem  … The Soldier – Rupert Brooke)

BANANA BREAD … a circa World War Two recipe

 

Growing up during World War Two almost everything was rationed, or simply not available.    If you were very young during the war years you would never have tasted marshmallows or chewed bubble gum.   Gas was rationed.  We lived in the small town of Prince Albert, in the northern part of the province of  Saskatchewan.    A National Park and dozens of beautiful lakes were a short drive away.  Our Dad cycled several miles to work  saving  his gas ration coupons  for the occasional family outing.

The annual Pet Parade was a much anticipated event. Cats and dogs were coerced into sitting in small baby carriages, propped up in decorated, polished wagons or coaxed along with a leash.  Patriotic costumes were expected.    I felt quite smart dressed in a red, white and blue crepe dress.  Fortunately it didn’t rain.

This photograph of my sister Mona and myself was taken shortly before our Uncle Bert left for war.  He was one of the many who did not return.

It was important for everyone, young and old,  to do ones bit for the war effort.  We collected string, tin foil (from cigarette packages) metal and even fat.    Once a week the women in our neighbourhood met and knitted socks or rolled bandages.   Tea and only  one kind of cookie or cake was served.    Food was rationed.   My Mother came home from one of these projects with this recipe for Banana Bread.   It was the talk of the afternoon because it didn’t contain nuts, but looked like it did.  Nuts of any kind were simply not available.    This is my Mother’s world War Two  Banana Bread.   The only change I have made is to add nuts.

MRS. BASSETT’S BANANA BREAD

1/2 cup butter ( or very good quality hard margarine)

2/3 cup scant or white or brown sugar

2 large eggs at room temperature

2 cups of flour

1/2 tsp each salt and baking soda

1 1/2 cups generous of VERY VERY ripe bananas.  They should be soft and squishy in the skins

1/2 to 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Have all ingredients at room temperature

Cream butter and sugar until soft and creamy.  Add the eggs one at a time.

Combine the dry ingredients and mix alternatively with the mashed bananas.   Start with one-third the flour, when this is mixed add half the bananas, now add another third of flour mix just until the flour is assimilated, add the rest of the bananas.  Mix briefly, then add the final one-third of the flour.  Add the chopped walnuts and mix briefly.

Pour into a well greased loaf pan and let stand twenty minutes.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour.   Test by sticking a cake tester or a very thin knife, into the centre of the loaf.  It should come out clean.

Banana loaf, like most loaf cakes or breads freezes well.

REMEMBERING ….. November llth, 2016

Remembering …

Our Uncle Bert died in Belgian in a truck accident shortly before the end of the war.  A Belgian family still maintains his grave.

Remembering my Father …

My Father fought in the second  battle of Ypres, and sustained  injures from a gas attack.

Remembering… My Father-in-Law

Carl, my father-in-law,  was a flight Sargent  stationed in Yorkshire, England.

We shall not sleep,  though poppies grow in Flanders  field.

 

THE BICYCLE GHOSTS – REMEMBERED

THE BEAUTIFUL EYE

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There is a back story to the blog THE BICYCLE GHOSTS posted on All Saints’ Eve.  First of all – it is not a fairy tale.  The lovers really existed.   And like many of my blogs the story continues to unfold as I reply to your comments.  Do not neglect to read them.  You may just miss the best parts.

A friend called me today.  She wanted to know if there was a reason for the bicycle  thread.  The bicycle was often the means of transportation during the underground warfare against the enemy.  It did not require gasoline.  It was quiet and it was readily available. And a tiny slip of what appeared to be young girl  (peddling down a back road)  could perhaps travel  unnoticed.

CREPE PAPER COUTURE

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Saturday afternoon movies.

The very thought would send shivers of anticipation up and down my spine.

Saturday movies.

A black and white fantasy world.

My silver screen idol  – Sonja Henie.

Transfixed I would watch her chasse across the screen.

An axel jump

I held my breath

An elegant arabesque.

Her costume a heady swirl of stripes.

My costume for the Victory Day Parade.

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I instructed my Mother how the costume was to look.  The skirt should have alternating rows or red, white and blue stripes.  It should be very full.   When I twirled the skirt would float around me  just the way it did on my idol. The rest I was rather vague about.

The dress was fashioned out of crepe paper on a Singer sewing machine of questionable vintage.   Red, white and blue crepe was sewn into one long piece and then gathered by hand.  The bodice was sewn of white crepe paper and separate from the skirt.  The skirt was tied securely around my waist with twill tape.  In my enthusiasm for a very full twirly skirt I hadn’t counted on the thickness  of crepe around my waist.

I knew then I would never look like Sonja Henie.  My skirt would never float horizontally no matter how fast I twirled.     But I looked in the mirror and told my Mom  “I loved my costume”.  I donned my red crepe paper hat emblazoned with the V for Victory.  I carried the flag my Dad made me.  Then off to the Victor Parade I marched.

(N.B.  Like many things in life crepe paper isn’t like it used to be.  It would be difficult these days to make a costume out of crepe paper.  That said I have seen out-of-this world beautiful creations made out of paper.

This story from my childhood is a companion to  my July First Canada Day blog)