A brief extract from Chapter 2...

Damn Passive Sympathy...

…We were very quickly submerged by tons of very good quality second hand clothes donated by a generous local English community for dispatch to needy Poles. As Martial Law restrictions were relaxed such desperately needed goods were transported to Poland by various reputable charities but particularly by the truly excellent Medical Aid For Poland.

In the meantime the problem was where to store all those plastic sacks of clothes while they awaited transportation to Poland. They filled our garage. They occupied our loft. They filled our spare bedrooms. They lurked on our staircase. They started to invade the homes of other Committee Members and one was forever stumbling over them in the Polish Club. Something had to happen.

In desperation we turned to the Council. Yes, for a period at any rate, they would lend us the Council’s Nuclear War Bunker! Previously unknown to me this turned out to be a large basement room with a smaller side alcove located under offices then owned by the Council on the main road between Kidderminster and Stourport.

I have to say that I was not exactly impressed by our state of preparedness for the ultimate catastrophe!

The alcove acted as the ‘office’ with a small rickety table upon which perched a single forlornly lonesome telephone. Rudimentary investigation confirmed that this was connected to the outside world by overhead telephone cable! As a communications network it would not exactly have lasted long in the face of a nuclear onslaught. The larger main room was occupied by a fully equipped and obviously expensive snooker table and by some twenty cases of good quality whisky. My first suspicion was that the Officers who were to man the bunker must have realised the futility of their task and planned accordingly. I was later assured that the scotch was the property of the Chief Officers whisky club purchased by them in bulk with their own money throughout the year for consumption at Christmas. No one was ever fully able to explain to me the prospective role of the snooker table in the event of nuclear war!

Eventually we also discovered that the air supply was provided by a pump with a filter which in case of emergency would have had to be cleaned daily - from outside the building!!! The mind boggles!

Anyway we pushed everything to the side and packed the place from floor to ceiling and wall to wall with our black plastic bags. Had the Soviets chosen that moment to launch a full scale nuclear attack on the West I am not sure how we would have subsequently explained our actions to any survivors in Wyre Forest. Fortunately the local population slept soundly in their beds happily unaware of the perilous local condition of preparations for nuclear war…

… I was in enormous awe of Mr Hauptman. He was after all the real thing - a genuine war hero. As his health deteriorated he was increasingly dependant upon Mr and Mrs Janecki and he was devoted to them and to their three children.

Occasionally when he felt well enough Richard and I were summoned at short notice. I treated those summons with more than a little trepidation. The inevitable advice was always precise, correct and to the point even if it was not always going to be what we wanted to hear. Mr Hauptman would be lying on the downstairs settee that had become his bed. He would obviously be in pain. Richard would be instructed to fetch three glasses while I was instructed to sit down. However much Richard tried to avoid it he would be made to return to the cupboard to get the ‘right size’ glasses. These consisted of a very small tumbler for Mr Hauptman and two very large tumblers for us. Richard would then be instructed to retrieve several bottles of home flavoured vodka and the necessary pickled cucumbers. “Pour us all a good half glass” he would instruct. “No, no, too little, more, more. Yes, yes, that is better”. His half filled glass was a couple of small shots while Richard and I stared in terror at best part of half a pint of unleashed alcoholic dynamite. As he talked he would also encourage us to drink while his own glass remained largely untouched. Once our glasses were empty we would be instructed to repeat the process with liquor of different colour and aroma but certainly of at least equal strength. This process was repeated several times. By the third or fourth instalment Richard and I were in no state to object or to adopt any other strategy that to simply do as we were told. Eventually he would say, “that’s it. I’m tired now. Off you go!”

The first time that this happened Richard and I walked without trouble to the front door and stepped outside only to be hit by a rush of fresh air. It was only a few feet from front door to front gate but how I made it I will never know. Suddenly there I was wrapped around the left hand brick gatepost hanging on grimly utterly unable to feel anything from the waist down. I turned to call to Richard for assistance. My brain was working furiously and my mouth was open and my lips were moving but sounds refused to take shape or to emerge. I stared at Richard. He was wrapped around the right hand gatepost. He was staring at me and his mouth was open. His lips were moving but no sound was coming out. As we clung there it slowly dawned on me that it was only about 7.15pm and we were due to meet friends at the Polish Club for a serious drinking session in fifteen minutes time. The world seemed to close in around me…


Bonaparte, Bras & Bigos
Damn Passive Sympathy
The Stairway To Heaven
Why Didn't You Tell Them About The Flagpole
If Freedom Then What Freedom?