… a little (in my case, not so little!) white haired lady with a name tag, one of many alighting from a coach and making a bee line for the loo – but there comes a day when you suddenly realise that other people are looking at you, the way you’d looked at others for all those years – poor old souls – reduced to bus trips! But, age also brings new insights and I have to confess that I enjoy the PROBUS trips with Grandpa Flea’s club.
One of the earliest PROBUS clubs in Australia, it’s a men only club, unlike the current trend to mixed clubs which tend to attract younger, more active retirees. When Grandpa Flea retired, he was the youngest member, and nine years later he is still one of the younger ones. But what lives these men have led – Noel, who is a frail but active and delightful 92, was in the Navy during WWII – his ship was sunk and he was one of the survivors who spent hours at sea waiting, hoping, to be rescued. Just one of the many fascinating stories that Noel has to recount to the interested.
George, who has just moved into hostel accommodation, and now needs a walking stick or a walker, was accompanied on our most recent trip by his daughter – a warm, wonderful relationship between the two marked each day. George was a fighter pilot in WWII – in the waning days of the war, he was shot down over Germany and spent a short time in captivity before escaping during a forced march with many hundreds of other prisoners. At a rest stop, George and a mate waved some newspaper at the guards and indicated that they needed to answer a call of nature behind the trees. They didn’t come back and their absence wasn’t missed. Lucky – they would probably have been shot if captured. The following day they woke in the forest to find two Polish enforced labourers standing over them – with pantomime they were told to wait and stay out of sight – later that day the men smuggled them into the attic of the house where they were billeted. Some days later they were rescued as the British came through. Flown back to Britain, George was again on duty and flew over the flotillas of small boats heading to and from Dunkirk.
Never dismiss those white headed people wearing name tags – you don’t know their stories.