Saturday, 29 August 2020

Is the war over yet?

Do you remember, back in 2005, when former Japanese soldiers Yoshio Yamakawa and Tsuzuki Nakauchi emerged from the jungle on the island of Mindanao, 600 miles from Manila? You may not remember their names but they’d been hiding in the mountains since US troops devastated their division in 1945. They were unaware that world war 2 had ended 60 years before, and were afraid that they would be court-martialled for desertion. So they’d hidden in the trees. 

In May 2005, as old men, they emerged from their hiding place in the Philippines, asking to go home.

Another Japanese soldier, Hiroo Onoda, secreted himself in the jungle on Lubang Island near Luzon, in the Philippines, until 1974, because he didn’t believe that the war had ended. It was only after his elderly former commanding officer was flown in to see him that he surrendered.

Speaking of emerging, for a variety of reasons we’ve hardly emerged from our house over the last month. But 30-odd days is not the same as 60 years. And our comfortable home isn’t a cave in the woods or mountains of a foreign land. 

Last week I was explaining to a visitor that our cleaning ladies hadn’t resumed their duties since lockdown. They felt it was too covid-risky to be travelling and working from house to house. And I agreed with them.

‘What? After five months? And they still haven’t gone back to work?’ he exclaimed. 

He felt, rightly or wrongly, that they should be going out to work. 

But I have some sympathy for their plight. I am very risk-averse and only now am I considering doing anything as brave as having my hair cut. When I do go out to the shops or travel on a train - in the next couple of weeks - I’m sure it will feel like I’m emerging from my own jungle hideout. But emerge I must before I start growing roots! How must those veterans have felt in hiding for all those decades? We are struggling after just five months locked-away. 

The last time I walked into Bath it was a blazing hot day in late July. About a month ago. It isn’t simply covid-19 that has isolated me for the last four weeks and kept me at home. After a mammoth gardening session, lasting a week from late July to early August, my trapped nerve and old knee injury were so aggravated that I couldn’t walk. August, for me, has been a bit of a write-off. But there’s so much to do at home, it seems. 

Over the last two days I’ve carried huge whips of brambles and climbing roses, thankfully a friend initially used the secateurs. And I’ve dug soil, transported soil, tipped soil, you-name-it I’ve done it with soil. And I’m waiting for my knee and trapped nerve to hurt in response to all this hefty gardening. I’ve hardly had time to poke my head above the parapet and ask ‘Is the war over yet?’

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