Poetic Licence: Old War Stories

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The Independent Culture
The German Culture Minister, Mr Michael Naumann, claims that we British are obsessed with the War. He says: `There is only one nation in the world that has decided to make the Second World War a sort of spiritual core of its national self, understanding and pride.'

Perhaps the ancient films on daytime telly

Drip-feed the small obsession to us still

The little ships, the sirens and the shelters

The "Crikey. Bertie's bought it!" of it all.

The cheery WAAFs with Elstree Studio accents

Who did their bit and waited for the planes

Wore frocks off-duty, stockings, bright-red lipstick

Then married men called Charlie, Les or Ron.

Who settled down in semis, flats and prefabs

With furniture marked CC forty-one

And spawned a brood of adenoidal rockers

Their pimply ingrate sons with red guitars

Who'd learned the war from Hotspur, Combat Library

Victory At Sea and Sergeant Rock.

Wing Commander Gibson, Airfix Spitfires

`Take that, squarehead!' `Gott in Himmel!' `Aargh!'

Perhaps that's all we had, the jokes and memories

Like shells ploughed up on farmland, old barbed wire

To compensate for six years requisitioned;

A nationalised Valhalla of our own...

Until the British beat groups toured the bases

And pensioners took boat-trips up The Rhine

And businessmen flew twice a week to Stuttgart

And brickies married nurses from Cologne

And bikers went to Bierfests near to Munich

And ravers went for weekends in Berlin

And councillors to Hamburg on exchange trips

To study housing, transport or design.

And then the thing was over - but it wasn't.

The punchline still remains, without the joke

And hangs there like a catchphrase from a gameshow

Which no-one can remember any more.

Perhaps it's just a tatty family heirloom

A thing kept in a corner in the hall

That's trundled in for birthdays, then forgotten

Redundant now but ganz gemutlich still

Achtung then Fritz. For you der var is ofer.

The same for us... although you'd never tell.

The reason we're still laughing is - it's stupid

And stupid is a thing we do quite well.

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