Wednesday 15 March 2017

Anything for colour

'Fresh Air and Poverty' quilt, photographed at Lyme Park © Gary Lomas

Air raid sirens - a dreaded noise. Blacked out windows - no lights to shine.
Coats washed and made into children's trousers and gymslips.
Any remaining rags made into peg rugs.
We climbed the stairs to go to bed but would we sleep?
Dreaded sirens, the drone of planes heavily laden with bombs
We knew which were the Germans.
The horrible swish and whistling as the bombs shot through the air.
Worse still the blast as they landed.,
No time to linger - run for the stairs –
down the cellar steps if no time for the shelter.
In places families every night going down stairs to the tube stations-dark, crowded.
All clear sounds - up the stairs they climb –
the dark of night has gone. 
Replaced by the colour of flames as buildings burned.
Even that colour turned to the black of ashes.
People trying to find belongings amongst the rubble.
An old tin put them in.
Black faces- some tear stained. Bad news, dark faces.
What have we to look forward to? Everything is dull.
And so it went on until one day, we had no need to run down stairs, our sleep was not disturbed.
People were singing, laughing, smiling.
Although we had food rationing, clothing coupons, everything all one style, colour was creeping back.
A pretty headscarf wore on the head, a coloured ribbon for your hair.
Blackout curtains were replaced with crotchet curtains made from cotton bobbins smuggled out of the mills.
House after house, same curtains, different patterns
Shop windows began to have goods on show - colour in the windows.
Lights - no blackout.
Our England got out its paint brushes and got rid of the Black.
Color was back and with it Hope.
Wedding dresses made from parachute silk. No wallpaper only paint - two colours, one background, one pattern.
The pattern a block of wood with string tied in a pattern, dipped in paint
and formed the pattern.
Sometimes an old sponge would be used to stipple the paint.
Anything for colour.

Barbara Wilkson 
Farming Life Centre

Sept 2015

From the arthur+martha project Stitching the Wars. A Two year collaboration with older people in Derbyshire, producing two embroidered quilts, a book, interviews and a series of poems. 
More poems found here. A short documentary film about the project found here.

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