Bill Hornets continues on his remembrance theme…
I was doing a television series for ATV. We had a floor manager – that means studio manager – by the name of Percy. He had a heavy German accent and a wicked tongue. He ran that floor beautifully. We all loved him, he made us feel safe.
One day he wasn’t there. I enquired after him and was shocked to find he was in hospital dying of cancer.
I went to see him.
He told me his story.
“Bill, you live in luxury, in civilization. You don’t know how lucky you are.”
Every thing happened to Percy. He was Jewish, all his family had been killed, he was in a concentration camp. He got out. He always asked his Jewish God that he may die, but God kept him alive.
He somehow finished up in Berlin just as the city was falling. He was in what had been a doorway, dressed in rags, starving and praying for death. He looked up, two soldiers were coming down the ruined street. Russian? German? He didn’t care.
He put his head down and waited for death, at last death.
A boot gently prodded him. He looked up. A voice. English…
“‘Allo cocker. You alright?”
It was two Tommys, English cockney soldiers.
“Civilization Bill! Civilization!” he shouted. Everyone in the ward jumped. “You don’t know what luxury you live in.”
I was only twenty-three years old, a little telly star living with a sexy beautiful telly star. On a Saturday night I could get a table at the most fashionable restaurant in London on a telephone call.
Percy’s story made me stop and think. The little boy started to become a man. As all you men know, it’s a long hard process becoming a man. I made it, I am a man. Thank you Percy. I thank you for helping me on my way.
I also thank those two Tommys who had been through and seen hell, for their caring, concern and gentleness,
I’m not too big on poetry, but I love Shakespeare’s sonnets, they are like me, down and dirty, they really pull you in, then belt you.
But of all the poetry in our great English language, my favourite lines remain:
“Allo cocker. You alright?”
My mate Bill would have made a sonnet out of that,