Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Keeping the Faith

All of what follows is completely true according to my memories of many years ago. It's a tale I was reminded of the other day when I was expounding some left wingery or other across the dining table.

The story actually made me well up a bit, so I thought I'd write it down and share it.

When I was a boy and through until I was in my late teens my mum and dad took my sis and me to the same pitch on the same camp site every year for the whole summer holidays (the length of stay lessening as Sis and I grew older and no longer had six weeks of idleness to play with in the summer). That site was (and is) The Orchards at Newbridge, Isle of Wight. (For interested parties, we stayed in the very bottom field on the site plan below, next to the perimeter hedge, just to the right of the first tree from the shop end).
One of the attractions, certainly during the early years of our stays there, was Ivor the cow man who walked past our tent every morning and evening on his way to the cow shed at the bottom of the camp site. Sis and I (and lots of other kids) would follow him and help out milking the cows by hand, pitch-forking hay and the like. Free labour for Ivor, great fun and good exercise for us.

As I grew older I started dabbling in political thought and began doing dreadful posing, things like ostentatiously carrying a copy of the Communist Manifesto in my jacket pocket and the like. Ivor never uttered a political opinion in my hearing, but we became quite good friends - perhaps as good friends as an eighteen year old poseur and a sixty-something country man can be.

One evening, Ivor invited me out to the Royal Standard Inn in Freshwater for a couple of beers and to meet some friends of his.
Today the Royal Standard is a rather decent hotel-cum-inn; back then it was a real old spit and sawdust place.

One of Ivor's mates, his name is lost to me, and I got to talking. I was, of course, full of myself and full of all the anti-government stuff I'd done - boasting away like prattish teenagers do. The man who politely listened was around seventy, I'd guess.

He was a solid, old fashioned and true to heart communist; he'd fought in Spain against Franco - "because you must always fight fascism". And he listened to my prattle without judgement and with a smile and with plenty of "good on yer, boy" type encouragement.

As Ivor and I left my new comrade took my hand, shook it firmly, and said "keep the faith, boy".

I never met him again and, like Ivor, he's undoubtedly long dead by now. But his words have stayed with me. To quote Billy Bragg - I've got a socialism of the heart.

You know what, I've welled up all over again, just writing. I feel privileged to have been shown kindness and patience, and to have conversed, with one of the men who cared so much that they risked everything for the cause. Indeed, Ivor's mate was the real McCoy.

Spanish Civil War poster shamelessly nicked from

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