Friday, 9 March 2012


It is unlikely that anyone reading this will immediately see a connection between apples and World War II gas masks but, as far as I am concerned, there is one.
 I live in Spain most of the time but occasionally visit my daughter in London in order to keep up with modern trends as the world I live in tends to be a fraction behind the times.
 On my last trip a couple of weeks ago, I promptly lost my old mobile which was a tragedy because it had taken me some time to master its complexities and I dreaded getting a new fangled one which would complicate my life even more, worse, when I informed my daughter of this set back she just shrugged and said 'No problem, we’ll go to the apple store.’
 I was puzzled, presuming she was planning to cook apple crumble for dinner, but she was apparently referring to a famous computer technology emporium in Regent Street which we would visit that afternoon so that I could see all the up-to-date gadgets available on the market, be instructed on how to use one I liked, then buy one linked to my contract when back in Spain, or something equally complicated.
 The moment we walked in through the impressive entrance, a number of wildly intelligent looking geeks in blue shirts, with half eaten apple logos on their chests, closed in on us offering assistance...
 Looking around me, I calculated that the average age of the other shoppers was probably fourteen. Most were dexterously flicking fingers over the screens of various iDevices or glueing iPhones to their ears. My daughter helped me choose the simplest application and asked an assistant to instruct me on how to use it.
  'Please concentrate, Daddy,' she said.

 I instantly slipped into second childhood mode, panic stricken that I would not understand anything. Back in 1939, when I was eight, I remembered being in a similar life threatening situation.  
 My parents, my sister, cook and the gardener had all piled into the family car to be driven to a centre where we were to be issued with gas masks.
 When each of us were handed a rubber and metal device, we were all shown how to slip it over our heads after adjusting vital straps to make sure that no poisonous gasses would get in round the ears, down through the eyebrows and under the chin or we would die horribly.
 'Do you understand what you have to do ? ' my mother asked me, extremely concerned. 'You may be on your own when there is an attack.'
 'He’s got all the straps wrong and he can’t wear his spectacles with the mask on.' the instructor said.
  Adjusting the straps was an art, I could not get the hang of how to do it and I gave up, proof to my father that I was an imbecile. 
  A few days later, when the first air raid warning blared out, everyone got very frightened and scuttled to their improvised shelters. Wearing the mask but no glasses, I was led blindly to ours, a mattress in a cupboard under the stairs on which we sat closely together to await death. 
  Nothing happened for half an hour then the All Clear sounded and we went out into the garden to search for the pussy cat that had risked annihilation by not joining us.
  There was never any need for me to wear the gas mask again that was discarded, unlike the new iPhone I have saddled myself with which I am trying to fathom. So far I have made contact with The Mayflower Tea Rooms in Northampton, a donkey sanctuary in Holland and my cantankerous ex brother in law who has refused to speak to me since I divorced his sister forty five years ago.  

My mother, the cook, the maid, the nanny, my sister and me 1939.

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