Grandma was twenty-two when the last Doodlebugs dropped over Hull and blackout curtains began to twitch. Her days spent bent double over factory lines, attaching fins to bombs.

Now she tells her carers off for wasting three good tea bags on cuppas for her visitors when one would do the trick; can recite two-ingredient cake recipes. Jumps when a car backfires. Keeps her one black and white photo of her husband in uniform in a small gold frame on her windowsill.

We get in the car – just me and dad, mum left at home, ‘case we pass a police van and they don’t agree with our definition of essential – drive past joggers and displaced supermarket queues and pull up outside grandma’s nursing home.

We stand on the street, the vowels of my dad’s “hello” echoing down the cobbles,

As we wave.

And wave.

And blink against the sun.

Her grey curls rise dimly into view, obscured by the tinted glass and distanced by her zimmer frame.

“You good?” dad shouts – a thumbs-up aimed towards her third-story window. “Or not good?” – a thumbs down.

She’s only given us thumbs up.

So far.

We stay and smile for a bit.

The car doors click and we drive home again.

I’m twenty-two as the world goes into lockdown and men half-hidden behind wooden podiums tell us how to work and shop and live. My days spent bent double over my laptop typing “these uncertain times” into the umpteenth Mailchimp email.

On the way home from my grandma’s I wonder if any bombs covered with her fingerprints lie quietly sleeping under German soil. Or if anyone seventy years from now will discover the blogs full of shit poetry I’ve strewn across the Internet.

I wonder if, in my own care home, I’ll flinch when two men shake hands on the telly, tell off the carer for ignoring the wrists and thumbs when she washes her hands. If I’ll be still as careful when pouring flour, handwash, olive oil. I wonder how strange it would be if the last words I speak to her are not even words but gestures in a sign language foreign to both of us.

Every so often I’m ashamed of this generation. I can’t comprehend the shapes change has taken.

But we’re the same. Bravery has mostly always been making do and a kind of quiet waiting.




Also by Alice,