In August nineteen thirty six, on holiday from school,
My friend and I, set out one day, while the temperature was cool.
We cycled through the countryside, to find a pleasant spot,
To pitch our tent and spend the day, which promised to be hot.
As we cycled side by side, I said just for a joke,
Watch out Doug, that man just there, looks like that crazy bloke.
As he looked around, our cycles met, and we both crashed, to the ground.
I had gashed my foot, so I laid in the tent, until we were homeward bound.
My injured foot became septic, and gave me lots of pain.
Though treated with linseed poultices, it got much worse again.
I returned to school, with blistered flesh, caused by the scalding heat.
Then the doctor made me stay at home, to keep me off my feet.
In spite of all the treatment, the deadly poison spread.
They said that I should be in "Dock", but they hadn't got a bed.
Dad was in The Cottage Hospital, in the Abdy ward.
To put me in a private bed, no way could they afford.
Eventually, Dad was discharged, so quite conveniently,
The ambulance which brought him home, went straight back there with me.
As we were changing over, Dad said I soon would see,
A lad out of my class at school, who'd arrived in casualty.
He'd fallen from a "conker" tree, on a nearby farm.
The doctors said they'd do their best, but might not save his arm.
Their efforts were successful, but in spite of that, they said,
In order not to lose the arm, he must lie quite still in bed.
Joe Powell, as his name was, was shy, and what was worse,
However big his problems. he just wouldn't call the nurse.
Just to keep Joe in his bed, was a Herculean task.
I learned to anticipate his needs, for I knew he wouldn't ask.
The weeks passed by, my foot improved, and to my surprise one day,
Our doctors came and asked me, if for Joe's sake, I would stay.
I told them, ask my mum and dad, and if they did agree,
As I wasn't very keen on school, it would be all right with me.
I just made one condition, when I agreed to stay,
It was that they would let me out, in time for Guy Fawkes Day.
Until the fifth of November, the hours seemed to fly.
We got up to all sorts of pranks, did my pal Joe and I.
I used to make the beds and do, what was needed in the ward.
There never was the slightest chance, or time for being bored.
At night the nurses called on me, if they needed help to cope.
I always used to man the lift, and raise it with the rope.
In the early hours one morning, as I was hauling up the lift,
The casualty I was
taking up, offered me a gift.
He'd been working with a shunting gang, on the Harwich Train Ferry Pier.
All evening till he went to work, he had been out "on the beer".
He was feeling very sleepy, and bemused through all the ale,
He went to sleep upon the pier with his leg across the rail.
The engine shunting ferry trucks, stopped a long way from the pier.
He didn't hear the engines sound, for that came nowhere near.
When first he knew, about the train, it was too late, he felt the pain.
He had lost his leg below the knee. that was the "gift" he offered me.
He thought it funny, I felt quite ill, that severed leg I can visualize still.
An Arab seaman was brought ashore, from a passing ship,
He was taken sick and much too ill, to complete the trip.
The nurses were scared, they thought him weird,
With his long night gown, dark skin, and beard.
Ali Mohammed, that was his name, not Mohammed Ali of boxing fame.
He only knew two words of English, but those two weren't too good.
He repeated, and repeated them, but no one understood,
Zimends onion, zimends onion, was all that he could say.
I overheard the conversation, and explained it right away.
As a union member taken ill, the Seaman's Union would pay his bill.
So from then on I was his best friend, we used to play draughts for hours on end.
He thought mountain was my name. When Mohammed called, I always came.
Except one time, that was to be, the time Mohammed came to me.
I was in the kitchen, (out of bounds) .The air was full of screams, and sounds,
Of frightened women, filled with fear, when they saw Ali coming near.
Ali shrugged, and shook his head, as I led him meekly back to bed
November came, my routine changed. before I left, it was arranged,
I'd come straight from school to have a meal, I was quite happy with the deal,
And if I wished to, I could stay, at least till lights out any day.
Quite often I would bring with me, bananas, for my friend Ali.
He'd get the draughts out when I came in. once, just once he let me win,
That was the day we said goodbye, and I saw a tear fall from his eye.
Nick Carter used to swear at me, when I sat where his missing leg should be
Years later down on Harwich Quay, was the last time that he spoke to me.
He had no artificial leg, but a "Pirate" type of wooden peg.
Before Christmas Sister handed me, a letter for my family,
From Matron, to say how pleased she'd be, if they would give consent for me,
To stay in as a special guest, and share Christmas with the rest.
On Christmas Eve our School Choir came, to the hospital to entertain.
They seemed most surprised to see, that their audience, included me.
Next morning after Doctor's Rounds, the Mayor arrived in flowing gown.
To each patient he showed concern, and wished about each case to learn.
When he asked just what, was wrong with me. the Matron said, "Debility,
For some time now, he's been in and out. He'll soon be well, I have no doubt".
My visits were less frequent, as the friends of mine got well.
This tale of my happy
childhood days, is one I've longed to tell.
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