Tuesday, 28 April 2015


As you can hardly fail to have noticed, the 70th anniversary of VE Day is drawing near, and with it a TV documentary and a feature film devoted to what the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret got up to on VE night. The maker of the TV documentary was on the radio this morning, along with Diana Athill and Corelli Barnett, who'd been invited in to share their VE Day memories. Barnett, who was 17 at the time, was refreshingly frank about his experiences of the Great Day on the streets of London. All he remembered were crowds of bewildered and woebegone people shuffling around miserably from street to street and square to square, wondering where the action was and never actually finding any. This has the ring of truth about it: I'm sure many historical events consist, for most of those caught up in them, in stumbling around in a bemused state trying to work out what, if anything, is going on, and not having a clue until History gets to work and tells the story.
The anniversary was also used as a peg for a Radio Times interview with the great Denis Healey, now 97 and deaf as a post. His first words to his interviewer are 'What's all this about?' followed by 'What's the French for "balls"? Oh, I know - couilles.' As for his VE Day memories, he's not at all sure where he was - 'Florence, I think, I don't remember anything in particular...' Brilliant.

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