A history

One of those days in England.
One of those days in England.


Every time I try to write this story it spins away from me. It started off simply enough. An old man in a pub was having an argument with a fat British skinhead and I heard the words ‘Nazi’ and ‘Hitler Youth’ and thought the old man was attacking the younger one for using the words. I was only half right. It’s happened before. He was, but only insofar as the old man resented being called a Nazi. He’d been in the Hitler Youth, like every other German boy of his age, because they were all conscripted on their thirteenth birthday. And it was great, he said. He really enjoyed it. They went on camps, they had big flags to fly and songs to sing and they lived in the golden summer in the open air and it was a dream come true in a time when most of the dreams had starved to death.

The elderly language teacher in Mr Norris Changes

I was fourteen when I saw these for sale in a shop in Carmarthen. I think they were £12. I didn't have £12.
I was fourteen when I saw these for sale in a shop in Carmarthen. I think they were £12. I didn’t have £12.

Trains wasn’t skeletal because he was on a diet. But these boys had food and campfires and singing and hope and even better, if you’re thirteen, pistols to shoot and grenades to throw. They even got a special knife, the blade inscribed with Blut und Ehre, blood and honour. Free.

On the last day of his war the SS came to his village and marched all of the Hitler Jungend up to a field where they scrubbed around in the grass until they found a hatchway that nobody in the village knew was there, opening up a bunker that held brand new machine guns and more grenades and steel helmets. They issued the boys all of this gleaming kit and told them to defend the village, the fatherland and their honour while they, the SS, had some urgent business to attend to in the opposite direction to the one the Americans were arriving from. In about an hour.

The SS left, the boys grabbed as many guns as they could and their schoolmaster, when he saw them, as the leader of their Hitler Youth troop beat them up, made them throw all the guns in the ditch and sent them home crying.

Every time I try to write it it gets jumbled up with other stories I’ve heard first hand from the same time, the stories that are spinning away now, with so few left to tell them.

I heard from an American pilot who at the same time, April 1945 had to walk back from a dance, 22 miles, because he’d missed his transport, out shagging in Ipswich and a mission to fly to Czechoslovakia the next day, eight hours there and back five miles high. I heard at second hand of a Wermacht surgeon who the same month decided enough was enough, and walked home to Bremen from Czechoslovakia to surrender to the British, who once they’d emptied his pockets told him as he lived literally around the corner to piss off home.

Except they didn’t empty his pockets completely. I’ve held in my own hands the field surgery kit that lived in his pocket for five years, the green cloth roll holding the small forceps, the massively thick suture needles thicker than the ones sail makers use, the curved and the straight scalpel, the little sharpening stone. They let him keep them. Or maybe he went home first and emptied his pockets there, before he went out to surrender. I’ll never know the answer to that now because of time.

It was the fiftieth anniversary of D-Day in 1994. I remember the Battle of Britain Flight Lancaster flying over my house. I remember a curious dream where I could see an armada of ships stretched out to England and the horizon as the dawn broke grey across the water and knowing more and more ships would come and I would die.

I drank a lot back then. Maybe that’s why this picture fascinates me. I found it on the web by accident, yet another cat picture, but for me it’s more than that.

It’s England. It’s summer, with friends and food and wine and a funny cat off doing the things that cats do while we laugh and talk to each other and drink and we’re not going to have to go and fight in any wars, ever, and the green hills hold us close while behind us, ignored and always there, there’s the war, waiting. The England of Kate Bush’s Lionheart. My England and yours, where it’s been  such a beautiful day and everything’s fine and yes, I  will have another glass of wine, thank-you, and maybe some cheese. This red, sorry, what were you saying?

The triangular things the cat jumps between are dragon’s teeth. That’s what they were called back then. They stop tanks. They’re too big to drive over and too solid to blow up quickly, which is why they’re still there.

I don’t know who these happily drunk girls were that afternoon nearly twenty years ago. I think that’s when it was because of the colours of the picture. Because this is my history too. I don’t know what happened to them or whether they’re still happy now. But I know the stop lines across England were peppered with these concrete blocks and pillboxes from East Anglia to Wales, to hold the German advance when the invasion came. They were in the fields where the rivers meet at Tellisford, where I used to fish when I was a boy. The past is a different country and besides so many wenches are dead now and the young men too who should have met them. But at the same time the past is still here, just behind your shoulder, the thing your cat’s jumping off. And while we have their stories, so are they.

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Nazi Jazz Rules

I found this on the web tonight, looking for something about Django Reinhardt. I have not altered anything at all in these ten rules. I’m still stunned that this was written.


170px-Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-2000-0110-500,_BDM,_GymnastikvorführungAt Most 10% Syncopation

  1. Pieces in foxtrot rhythm (so-called swing) are not to exceed 20% of the repertoires of light orchestras and dance bands;
  2. In this so-called jazz type repertoire, preference is to be given to compositions in a major key and to lyrics expressing joy in life rather than Jewishly gloomy lyrics;
  3. As to tempo, preference is also to be given to brisk compositions over slow ones, so-called blues); however, the pace must not exceed a certain degree of allegro, commensurate with the Aryan sense of discipline and moderation. On no account will Negroid excesses in tempo (so-called hot jazz) or in solo performances (so-called breaks) be tolerated;
  4. So-called jazz compositions may contain at most 10% syncopation; the remainder must consist of a natural legato movement devoid of the hysterical rhythmic reverses characteristic of the barbarian races and conductive to dark instincts alien to the German people (so-called riffs);
  5. Strictly prohibited is the use of instruments alien to the German spirit (so-called cowbells, flexatone, brushes, etc.) as well as all mutes which turn the noble sound of wind and brass instruments into a Jewish-Freemasonic yowl (so-called wa-wa, hat, etc.);
  6. Also prohibited are so-called drum breaks longer than half a bar in four-quarter beat (except in stylized military marches);
  7. The double bass must be played solely with the bow in so-called jazz compositions;
  8. Plucking of the strings is prohibited, since it is damaging to the instrument and detrimental to Aryan musicality; if a so-called pizzicato effect is absolutely desirable for the character of the composition, strict care must be taken lest the string be allowed to patter on the sordine, which is henceforth forbidden;
  9. Musicians are likewise forbidden to make vocal improvisations (so-called scat);
  10. All light orchestras and dance bands are advised to restrict the use of saxophones of all keys and to substitute for them the violin-cello, the viola or possibly a suitable folk instrument.



Reich Gauleiter for the Nazi Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia signed this day. Genießen Sie den Abend. Guten tag.

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