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Dedicated to Henry George Pickard 1878-1966

My grandad lived in Dalston just up from Ridley Road

Where the market hustle-bustled and the city traffic flowed

The pub stood on the corner there where grandma fetched his beer

And we would come to visit them a dozen times a year

But the highlight of the day for me the hour spent next door

For pie and mash with liquor and sawdust on the floor

I found the visits tedious as this grey and lifeless man

Lay propped up on the pillows being cared for by my nan

A dying old night watchman was no interest to me

I prayed the visit over soon so we could go for tea

But 60 long years later with the help of my pc

I found out about Henry and the life I couldn’t see

Henry was the 2nd born of 14, Though only 6 lived to their teens. His father

was a 20-year-old cabinet maker with a teenage wife. Henry was 20 himself

when his father died, and he ran away and joined the army. Six months later

he ran away from the army. Served time for desertion. At 28 having married

his pregnant girlfriend he was back in the army for the Great War and trench

warfare on the Western Front

At Christmas 1916 his regiment was sent from France to Greece and they

joined the march from Thessaloniki to the Dova Tepe Fort fighting the

Bulgarians, then on to Macedonia where the regiment was almost wiped out.

Reassigned to Egypt they crossed Suez and through the Sinai desert. They

drove the Turks out of Palestine and Jerusalem surrendered. Finally came the

push into Jericho, Jordan, 1918 and peace. Henry came home to his wife and

his children and his father’s trade as a cabinet maker and upholsterer

He didn’t leave again for another 50 years

Propped up in bed surrounded by a thousand souvenirs

Brought back from foreign travels and from salty seaside piers

His skin was thin as paper as he lay there in the gloom

Like a tragic Mr Haversham imprisoned in his room

I never got to know him, and I found it all a bore

Till the pie and mash and liquor and the sawdust on the floor

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