Friday, 15 January 2010

Scars Upon My Heart

My book finally arrived today. I was hoping I'd be leafing through its pages over Christmas, buried in thought and inspiration but alas the weather has taken its toll on the mail and it only arrived this morning.

'Scars Upon My Heart' is a compilation of Women's poetry and verse written during the First World War. I have a large affection for the First World War. I remember being 13 and in an English lesson. Until that point, I had been academic but felt no passion for anything. Learning for me was just to pass exams but there was no light inside me that was switched on by the propensity to gain knowledge. Like how I feel about most things in life, I just felt numb.

Anyway, in this particular English lesson, Mrs Saunders (an inspiring, lovely lady whose husband had committed suicide a few years before and who used to spend many a lunchtime confiding to me and in turn I would tell her about my frustrating constant sense of awkwardness and low self-esteem) told us we were going to delve into First World War poetry. Books were handed out, page numbers set and off she went, giving us a brief introduction to each writer's personal story and then read us his work.

I just remember wanting to cry. I felt like someone had dropped a shelf of books on my head and it was too overwhelming for me. I felt...something.

When I was younger, my father worked in the Middle East for a few years. I lived in Saudi Arabia from the age of 8 to 10 and a half. I have extremely happy memories of the place until on one fateful day, we watched the news and heard that Saddam Hussain had invaded Kuwait, our neighbouring country. Our world was turned upside down. All we learnt at school from then on was what to do if there was a bomb alert or a chemical gas attack. MRE's (meals ready to eat) were dispensed by the box load to families like us. We were told to tape up our windows, stock food, water, clothes for we were entering a war.

Before we fled to England, we stopped going to school. Nothing was open except the hospital and that meant my dad still had to go to work everyday. I lost perhaps a year of education. Once the war was over and my father joined us, we moved back to England. Started school and life was back to normal again. We just coped and got on with it. However I never really told people about this experience nor talked about it. It sat there wedged in a space in my head and reading the words of Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon and Rupert Brooke just unleashed a rotten, displaced memory.

I look at that English lesson as a pivotal point in my life. Firstly, I had shared purely through reading the words of others, my own war burdens. It is hard to share them in a different country with children whose only relation to my experience was watching it on the BBC News. I suppose in that regards, civillians of the First and Second World Wars all went through their experiences collectively. I was this small sore thumb; lost, confused, nomadic and with a completely solitary experience of war.

Secondly, the words of these poets sparked what has now become my life long love of literature, poetry and prose. I am an avid reader and writer and words are my life. I realised I had a passion that day and that felt like an achievement. I found the love of my life who I have always remained in love and faithful to.

I can't wait to get obsessed with my new book. I shall keep you informed of my progress.

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