A fateful year, of course. Among Hitler’s assumption of power and the Bodyline tests, my parents were born: Mum on 18th February; and Dad on 27th March, so he would’ve been 90 tomorrow. As shown in my poem below, a version of which was published in Haibun Today a few years ago, he was fortunate to make it to his first birthday, let alone to live until almost his 82nd.

The Beddington Water Works Typhoid Outbreak, 1933

The doctor said it would’ve taken Gracie
if Peter, her infant-school-teacher husband,
hadn’t learnt the symptoms of, and basic
treatments for, the rifest killer contagions:

as her temperature soared, he spoon-fed
Gracie diluted milk, until she was borne away,

her face a death mask, to Croydon Infectious
Diseases Hospital, on the Purley Way.                                 

Next day, a constable knocked to say Gracie
was in isolation with the least deadly strain.

Within hours, Peter had to notify the doctor
of three more cases: he and his young boys;

straightaway given hospital shirts and carted
off for eight weeks of bed baths, stewed

rhubarb and junket, watery milk and weight 
loss, between them, of several stones.

On the back of every photo later that year,
Gracie wrote, ‘After our illness.’

4 thoughts on “1933

  1. Good poem!

    My parents were both 1933 babies too. Dad, born in Ipswich on February 23rd in the middle of a blizzard, and Mum, in Chesterfield on April 14th, Good Friday, as she always pointed out.

    At the age of 6, Dad survived peritonitis and the resultant septicaemia. The amount of school he missed as a result was always his excuse for being rubbish at maths.

    1. Thanks, Dave.

      I love these details – thanks for mentioning them. By the way, I very much enjoyed your Ancestry post – I did my DNA last year and had pretty similar results to yours.

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