Bill Todd -- Two Aviators
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 Chapter 17

December 1938

Ivan had never been one to tolerate ignorance in children. With Liz and Viv, his arrangements had been informal, and sometimes improvised, but there had been no gaps in their education. He was now quite concerned when Liz told him of the situation with the young refugees, and it was natural for him to improvise anew. He first wanted to know about Sheila. Liz replied,  “I’ve questioned her a bit. People have tried to teach her some high school algebra and trigonometry, and she hated them.”

“Anyone in their right mind would hate high school algebra and trig. Try geometry. It’s beautiful, and all of our airfoils are geometrical shapes. You could have her design improved wings for the Walrus.”

Liz laughed,  “You mean to improve on the work of Reginald Mitchell?”

“No harm in trying.”

“I did try something else. She’s intrigued by the concept of infinity.”

“Right up your alley! Go to it!”

“I will. But she and the others will have to learn some history and science. Viv and I can’t do all of it, and you don’t have the time.”

“Right. I think we should bring Henry over, with one or two of his helpers, to set up a school that the kids will like.”

“What about the house?”

“We’ll close it up if we have to. Or sell it. Or burn it.”

“Ivan, please don’t talk like that in front of Barbara.”

“Okay. I wasn’t going to. I’m pretty steady these days.”

     Living in the tent with Viv brought back old times, but, as the weather turned rainier, colder, and grungier, she recalled that those old times hadn’t always been good. Moreover, the climate at Sullivan’s Island had been a lot gentler.

     It was fortunate that the tent was new and tight with some sort of rubberized floor that really did keep out the wet. It also had a separate fly-sheet that allowed little netted windows in the tent to be kept open even in a heavy rain. There was, miraculously enough, none of the usual smell of mildew.

     The tent was also small, intended for only two, and, of course, had no source of heat. They had all sorts of blankets and quilts in which to burrow, and a soft mat on the floor. However, even with flashlights, it was difficult to sort out clothing in the dark. It also required contortionism to take it off or put it on. That hadn’t been a problem on Sullivan’s Island, and it seemed to Liz that Viv now swore even more enthusiastically than she had then.

     One early morning, there was a voice at the front of the tent, and it was Olivia. Liz opened up, and, after coming in and closing the zipper, Olivia, laughing, dove between them. She said, “Last night, I finally got up my nerve to tell Ian that I’d had sex before. He just laughed and said that he knew it almost from the beginning. It was apparently something about me on our first time together.”

Liz replied, “He certainly doesn’t seem naïve.”

“No. He’s had lots of experience, and he said it made us even. I then told him about my difficulty in getting rid of Roger, but Ian said that he’d deal efficiently with Roger if he turned up here.”

Liz replied,  “I’m sure he would. So the problem’s solved. Do you still have to stay in the tent?”

“I rather wondered about that, but I haven’t suggested a move. I am getting used to it.”

It seemed that Ian was still asleep, and Olivia burrowed under some quilts, saying, “It won’t hurt if he thinks I’ve run off with a handsome refugee boy.”

       Ivan was now at a naval airfield down the coast. His crews were members of the Fleet Air Arm on loan, and they were tracking their own submarines in the Channel. It was an excellent training program, and the navy wanted to operate from its own airfield, and sometimes from carriers. Liz and Viv teased Ivan, claiming that it was all an excuse to get away from the mud and gunk, but they actually knew better.

     It helped that the local gentry, known as the ‘county’, took an interest in the refugees. It was, after all, the Christmas season. Their idea was, not to invite a bunch of people with indifferent hygiene into their homes, but to organize free suppers in various public buildings, and to put up cots with blankets for as many refugees as possible afterwards.

     Liz was again tempted to suggest that they all spend the colder nights with Ivan and Barbara in their hotel in Dorchester, but she knew that neither Viv nor Ian would stand for it. Besides, on the really ugly nights in the tent, they were still warm and dry in their cocoons. The trick was to sit in the tent opening, still under the fly sheet, get one’s shoes off and partially de-mudded, and then get in quickly and get the door zipped up. One only hoped that one didn’t have to get up in the night, and one didn’t think about the cold shower one would be taking in the morning.

     The deteriorating weather had the one benefit that the students were facing the kinds of conditions they would eventually meet in the North Atlantic. There was also a partly compensating safety factor. Crews flying blind through low clouds were likely to crash into hills, or, not finding an airfield, would have to land in woods or built-up areas. The Bolsky contingent was, when lost, instructed to fly southeast for long enough to surely take them over the Channel. The altimeters were constantly maintained to provide enough accuracy to guide them gently down to the water in even the thickest fog. The Walrus would then turn northwest and taxi long enough to reach land. Or, if that failed, the crew could radio to be rescued by boat. They were making progress in blind navigation, but not in academic studies, when Henry arrived, sooner than anyone could have imagined.

     Meeting him in Dorchester early one morning as he was having breakfast with Ivan and Barbara, Liz saw that he was delighted to be there. He also had with him two young people. The woman, Paula, was a recent graduate in physics, and the man, Rick, had been teaching English in a prep school that closed when its money ran out. Like Henry, they were enthused about teaching young people who had ‘so far refused to be educated.’ Indeed, Henry, who had taught only in colleges, said that many people had been ruined by the time they got to college. He thought that a better approach earlier would produce much better results later. Liz certainly hoped so.

     Paula and Rick were relaxed and affable, and would probably have been willing to live in tents. However, Ivan had managed to rent a nearby cottage for the three newcomers. It wouldn’t be luxurious living, but there was, at least, a fireplace.

     After taking them to it, and getting them settled, Liz explained why the considerable educational resources in the camp weren’t being fully utilized, adding,  “Apart from questions relating to Judaism and the teaching of Hebrew, some of these people may not be very patient with youngsters.”

Rick, a big vigorous young man, replied, “We aren’t European intellectuals. We’ll play soccer with the kids when we aren’t teaching.”

They began, in the mud, that very day. When Ian saw what they were doing, he joined them. Viv, not to be outdone, joined as well. Liz was tempted, but instead joined Henry in front of the fire in the cottage. Not surprisingly, Olivia had already noticed the area of warmth and comfort, and had invited herself in. Henry looked happy to have her there.

Bill Todd -- Two Aviators
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