Marjorie Evans was a child during WW2 and lived in the centre of Coventry, a city that endured the heavy bombing known as the Blitz (German for lightning). As well as conventional bombs, around thirty-six thousand Incendiary bombs were dropped that set fire to sixty thousand building across many parts of the city in an attempt to destroy armaments and aircraft factories there.
Inevitably houses and homes went up in smoke as well.
Like a lot of the city’s children at the time, life for Marjorie was tough. When the blitz occurred she spent her nights sleeping in cellars and bomb shelters, her own bed became just a piece of furniture in an upstairs room. Each morning she would awaken and wonder whether she had a home to go back to, often picking her way across devastated streets between burning buildings to return home and get ready for school. That, for her generation, in that city, was normality, just an everyday part of life. Where houses had once stood, neighbours had lived; there was smoking rubble. Gardens were no more; their stores of vegetables, planted to keep hunger at bay, were smashed, battered and charred. Stone steps led down to holes in the ground that had once been cellars. Weeds grew in nooks and crevices, some she had never seen before.
Tall stems began to push upwards from the most devastated parts of the city. Stems set from top to bottom with narrow green leaves and tiny, dark coloured buds. Not especially interesting in a city where the biggest problem was shortage of food and water.
Then, one day, people walking the ruined streets realised that something wonderful had happened. The buds had opened all at once to reveal spikes of small, deep pink flowers.
Delightedly Marjorie, her sisters and their friends ran around gathering armfuls of these beautiful blooms and hurried home with them to their mothers who put them into vases, jugs, tin boxes, anything that would hold water and the people of Coventry knew that even in the depths of hardship and horror, their god had not deserted them.
They called these miracle plants blitz flowers because they arrived, seemingly as a direct result of the Blitz, in places they had never been seen before. The children had no notion, and if adults knew, they said nothing, that they were in truth a common wildflower known as rosebay willow herb or, appropriately, fireweed. This plant colonises newly disturbed soil, something there was suddenly an awful lot of in cities decimated by heavy bombing raids. The blitz burned and destroyed and yet allowed these flowers to spring up and bring beauty among the devastation.
Marjorie is my mother and she told me this story a few years ago, her eyes shining as she remembered the excitement of that day. SMP
Excerpt from Green Living, Sacred Life by Susan M. Phillips and Tye Jamie Coxston (Capall Bann Publishing – www.capallbann.co.uk).