We have been looking forward to our two week holiday break for some time. However, for reasons unknown and to the chagrin of the Memsahib. I managed to set the alarm clock to wake us at 3am rather than the intended 4:30. So we were up ultra early for the airport run. So I made a cup of our favourite Chai tea for us both and we went into the lounge to watch TV for a while. We settled on the BBC 24 hour news channel. Where we watched live coverage of the first person go down the shaft to join the Chilean miners who were trapped underground. A short while later we almost cheered as the first trapped miner Alfonso, was brought to the surface. The amount of media and the circus like mayhem going on at the mine must have been a shock to his system.
I have an certain affinity with these people as my family also included miners, going back some three generations. I also have a feeling of Déjà vu, as one of my earliest childhood memories was being stood at the pit yard gates with my mother. With a growing group of wife's (including other mothers with children) as they gathered to await news of their loved ones. A group of miners who were trapped and in some cases injured far underground. This was as a result of a roof fall. We watched as the mines rescue crew prepared equipment and then went underground to bring everyone back to the surface.
We children were far to young to understand the implications or have any idea of what was wrong. However, we could sense from the atmosphere and gravitas of the situation, that something was very very wrong. Our caring mothers were now pre-occupied with other things and were sometimes a bit short-tempered with us. Then moments later, they would pick-up on our fears of the unknown and their mothering instincts would kick-in. We would be drawn in close and reassured back into our normal unaware and care-free state. But the one thing I do remember we children were not playing as we would normally have been. So maybe some of the older children were more aware than I seem to remember all these years later.
I remember that my dad had two broken legs and other cuts that were later (after healing) outlined by the coal dust that had entered the wounds. I can remember going to visit him in hospital. Many years later he would pay the price by a worsening loss of mobility. But at the time, he was as quickly as possible back at work. He had to be, he was the head of the family and the bread winner. This was just before the days of the welfare state and the advent of the national health service. Something that me and my generation have benefited from. Something that we must cherish and never let the various political parties erode away. Where any savings made, could be used to fund tax cuts or pay bonuses for the already rich.
A few years later, I came home from school to be greeted by mother with the words “your dad wants to see you in the garden”. Now dad left our day to day up-bringing to mother. He only played a supporting role whenever needed – Like if I had done something wrong. Being asked to go out into the garden to see dad was unusual to say the least. With some trepidation I went outside. Dad said “I need to have a word with you” At this point my sphincter would have been rapidly tightening! “you are about to leave school” he continued. “I have some advice to give you.” He continued “You can do any job that you like, you could be a dustbin man or a doctor.” He went on “However, I give you warning. If I ever see you come in through the pit yard gates I will break both your legs.” That was it, my first and only bit of career advice he ever gave. Needless to say I took heed and went on to choose a different career.
But I digress again! I will get back to the holiday in the next post....