Just as the train started to move away Fr Sztark was seen, noticeable in his long black cassock, pushing through the crowd to their wagon. He just had time to give a blessing, and to hand BH a small wooden crucifix. Then the train slowly rumbled out of Slonim railway station heading for Siberia.
It was never called “Herod the Monster” or “Follow That Star”; it was only ever “The Christmas Show”. Children thrive on rituals and routine, and ours were no exception.
Chances are, you will come across a Nativity this December. I stood aside for a crocodile of diminutive shepherds, a HOST of angels, three kings, Mary and Joseph, of course, and a quantity of woolly animals including a giraffe – and, surprisingly, Mickey Mouse.
There are a thousand and one other things I mean to do before I die. But since it’s the almighty doctor asking for instructions, something must be done.
Nonsensically, I have always been jealous of BH’s 1940s pin-up, Joan Leslie. When we first marry I deride her “homely” look, refer to her as “Joanie,” and retaliate with Gregory Peck — but it’s water off a duck’s back.
Mrs Lovell introduced us to the “classics”; the music Fritz Spiegl memorably described as, “Despised because so well-known.” “Never forget,” I remember him saying during one of his programmes, “that someone is listening to this for the first time.”
Today is the day that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has reigned for longer than any other British monarch, including her great-great grandmother, Queen Victoria. It’s an extraordinary landmark, constancy in dedication and public service even the most ardent republican must appreciate.
Try saying the name “Videniskiai”: for an Anglo-Saxon of nearly eighty years it was an almost insurmountable challenge which I got round by British mumbling. How cross my mother would have been! “Do speak up dear, no-one can hear if you mumble into your bosom.”
On Sunday I’m going on a two-nights-away trip, and if you could see the stuff I’m taking, you would think it was to the Pole.
How dare I have the temerity to write of such searing experiences? I, who have never wanted for anything. What do I know of the loss of hearth, home, all worldly possessions; of career, friends and relations; the loss of a life of peace and moderate plenty?