On a belated birthday pilgrimage to the historic city of Salisbury, I set off to look at places I would have seen as a war-time baby in mother's arms.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
For king and country ... Women in my mother's wartime days did what they were expected to do 'for the war effort', often in very unpleasant circumstances.
That poor lady brought me into the world at a very grim early stage of WW2. Women were encouraged to give birth at that worrying time, history books tell us, as part of the gender's 'wartime effort'.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Sight of power ... The fortified home of the most powerful in their time, Romans, Saxons and Normans. Thanks to English Heritage for the image.

She and my father and an older brother were lodged with a lady who was also well pregnant.

My family had lost their house in a bombing raid, and this dispersing of pregnant women to the homes of other expecting mothers seemed to be the practice back then.

Both were told to act as midwife to the other. Hopefully, some training was offered. The house where I happened stands in a very modest part of the city, yet offers a fabulous view right across the Avon valley.

Swapping war images

On pilgrimages, I walk where I imagine my mother took me in a pram as she swapped war images for wonderful views of the gorgeous countryside, only a few hundred metres away.

A footpath leads down to a bridge over the beautiful Avon, with extraordinary pastoral views that seem to belong more to yesteryear.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Green and pleasant land ... One of the beautiful paths on the 19 acres of grass chalkland that surround Old Sarum. Thanks to English Heritage for the image.
There are beautiful oaks, a wonderful and large assortment of birds in the hedgerows, a mesmerising view across fields to distant Salisbury Cathedral, fields all around, and plenty of fish in the Avon.

On my mother's walks, it must have seemed a million miles from the war.

People settled in Avon Valley since about 3,000 BC. My baby view would have been across to historic Old Sarum. I climbed up the valley sides a day or two ago and trod where other Moonrakers have stood since ancient times. It left me with a very good feeling.

A colourful sign on Old Sarum reads, 'We do not know what was happening on this hill 5,000 years ago, but on the slopes around it early farmers were establishing ceremonial sites which seem to respect and even revere it.

'During the Iron Age a fort was built on the hill ... It was later occupied by the Romans, Saxons and by the Normans ...'

Such intense and extraordinary history right before my infant eyes must have meant - surely must have meant - an extraordinary privileged beginning in life. If memory doesn't quite go back to that time, for I was less than a year on the planet, it's fantastic to see the distant scene up close these days, while with each step I thank the determination and spirit of a brave lady, a very good human.

Thanks very much for visiting the blogs for my adventure book, Sailing to Purgatory.

English Heritage site for Old Sarum
Wikipedia on ancient Old Sarum

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