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Remembering the sacrifice as Spitfires roar off into the sun

If you haven't seen Monday's Medway Messenger, and missed Douglas Packman’s incredible tales from the Second World War, get a copy now. Do it. Right now. Pages 4 and 5. You won’t regret it.

From his recollections as a lad – picking thistles on the marshes near St Mary Hoo and climbing into the cockpit of a crashed Hurricane – to the moment he drove into Berlin in Hermann Goering’s car, and spat on Hitler’s grave, it’s a story you can’t help but be mesmerised by.

There’s a film somewhere in his life story, a script that if someone made it up, would probably be dismissed as being far-fetched.

But this is how life was. It was about near misses, every day survival, laughing in the face of fear and simply going to bed at night to get up the next day and do it all again.

No dramas and no ego. It was just life.

My husband reads a lot about the Second World War, and I never quite got it. I didn’t really understand the complexities of strategies and orders and history told by observers.

But I get it when I hear people like Douglas talk about it. He was there and he tells it with no sugar coating.

With the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, and the other anniversaries marked this year, I’ve learned a lot about life during that time and have come to appreciate more how hard life was.

A day out at Goodwood
A day out at Goodwood

We were among the thousands of people who attended the Goodwood Revival a few weeks ago, a racing event which captures the nostalgia of the 40s, 50s and 60s.

As part of that, there was an incredible collection of aircraft, and among them the Spirit of Kent Spitfire, which began its career in December 1944.

At the end of day, we watched two of them take off into the sunset. It was a beautiful sight, and a glorious sound, that almost makes your heart skip a beat.

It’s easy to be romantically nostaglic, but it should never be forgotten that that sound also represents everything others sacrificed and for that, we should always pay tribute.

On another note, every now and then, Mother Nature springs you a surprise.

I didn’t plant any sunflower seeds (I forgot, again, this year) but a few weeks ago, a small wheelbarrow in our front garden which we fill with tiny bedding plants, started to show something bigger.

A thick, green stem grew taller and thicker by the day and last week, these flowers emerged into the late summer sunshine.

Sunflowers growing in my garden
Sunflowers growing in my garden

We think a bird must have picked up some seed from a garden which backs onto ours, and is tended by a neighbour who is far more organised and did plant a beautiful show of the yellow flowers.

His love of gardening has lead to bonus blooms for us and makes me smile every time I leave the house or arrive home.

And did you know… The French word for sunflower is tournesol, which means “turns with the sun.”

In their bud phase, sunflowers will literally seek out and face the sun. This trait is called heliotropism. I know just how they feel.


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