(Actual Image of General Major Micheal O'Moore Creagh)
The Major ignored the question.
As the two made their way down the platform to the rail deck he recognized a familiar face. Sitting with a brightly stitched bag about the size of the Major’s, sat the Gypsy King. He leaned on a long black cane adorned with a golden goose head on the top. He stood up upon their approach.
He was a massive man. Still dressed head to toe in black wearing a long, heavy, black-leather coat. He, now, had four heavy gold chains around his neck and four large rings on his fingers with an adornment of jewels imbedded in each.
This was his city garb. A scarf adorned his neck and trailed over his shoulders. The Major handed him the third ticket and they all sat down on the bench.
Minutes passed as people assembled on the loading platform. In the distance, a train whistle blew. Steam from the engine plumed above the buildings as it came down the rail line.
They boarded and found their way to the salon car and took room nine. It was a small room with mahogany colored walls and two lush benches which faced each other.
As the train began to move, the Gypsy King placed his bag on the bench next to him and turned sideways on the bench, using the bag as a makeshift pillow. He laid down like a child on his side and curled his massive frame up into a ball. Within minutes, he was snoring.
The train rolled on, into the English countryside. The morning sun broke through the tree line and made a powerful strobing effect in the car. It almost gave Nigel a headache as he was feeling his stomach toss a bit. So, this was is motion sickness. All of England it seemed, looked just like Chinely.
When the train rolled into the station in London, the Gypsy King awoke like clockwork. He quickly unlatched his bag and looked briefly inside. The three disembarked at the bustling station. The Major tapped the King on the arm.
“I have some errands to run with the boy. I’ll meet you at two p.m.”
The Gypsy King’s face broke with a look of suspicion.
“Two.” he said. He shook his head, looked to the left and the right, before walking off.
“Let’s go,” the Major commanded.
As they walked on, the Major inquired.
“What did you say your last name was?”
“Clark sir, Nigel Clark.”
“And, when is your birthday Mr. Clark?”
“The third of September, sir.”
The Major stopped and turned.
“No, what year were you born?”
“Oh, Nineteen Fifty One.” Nigel answered.
“I thought you said you were sixteen?” He turned and continued his steps.
“Um Well, I soon will be…in a year and a half.”
The Major stopped again and looked him in the eye.
“Okay Nigel. Your new birthday is 3 September 1947. Your last name is Creagh…C..R…E…A…G…H. Creagh. You are Nigel Creagh. Born 3 September 1947. Got it?”
Nigel confirmed, “Nigel Creagh …C…r…e…a…g…h. 3 September1947.”
The Major unconvinced, shook his head and walked on. The London streets were bustling. It was like the midway only a thousand times larger and louder with so many people. Nigel was immersed in the visuals around him. He turned to ask a question but the Major had vanished into thin air. Nigel was completely alone. He turned three-hundred and sixty degrees and he was, truly, by himself.
He began to retrace his steps. Through the glass of a small market, saw the Major at a counter. As he entered, the Major cautioned him,
“Stay alert, this is London. There’s no fence here.”
Nigel took the advice to heart. The absence of the Major in this environment had caused a palpitation for certain.
The Major selected a few candy bars and a box of his cigars from the clerk. He lowered his bag from the counter and opened it on the floor. Exactly as Nigel suspected, it was stuffed with money and a large canvas bank bag filled single pound coins. He zipped and latched the bag and they walked out back into the street.
The Major continued. “Let’s grab a bite. Pie and mash? Bangers? I think fish.”
Real English food sounded delicious to Nigel, yet he didn’t want to seem too eager. He hadn’t had a proper meal in weeks.
“It all sounds wonderful, yes. Anything, Major.”
There was a sudden generosity that was unexpectedly blossoming here and Nigel was going to manage being gracious and polite by following the lead, but his stomach was screaming, “Start with a pie, eat bangers and mash. Finish it off with fish and some chips, too.”
They walked, for what seemed like forever, until they reached a massive church in the middle of town. Nigel recognized it from postcards, “Is that Westminster Cathedral?”
“Yes it is.” The Major became tour guide. “And, that is Westminster Abbey. Across the way, Parliament and Big Ben.” He pointed about. “But, before we eat, we’re going here.”
He pointed to a building across the street. It was an Army office.
They entered the building. All of the sounds and bustle of London were, suddenly, silenced. It was as quiet as a library. They walked the hallway until they came to a door which said, “British Army Recruiter’s Office”. The Major opened the heavy door and they walked into a lobby that looked a bit like a post office. There was a bureau which separated the waiting area from two men working at desks. On the wall, adjacent to the door, sat a long desk, similar to those in a post office, with five pens on chains and cards.
The Major selected a small card from above the bureau and handed it to Nigel.
“Fill this out.”
Nigel was perplexed, “I’m not old enough to join the Army.”
The Major raised an eyebrow. “When is your birthday?”
Nigel stuttered,, “3 September, 1947?”
The Major commanded, “Fill out the card Mr. Creagh.”
Nigel filled out the card. “What is my address?”
“Don’t ask me. What is your address? You do have one?” He pressed.
Nigel put his mother’s address on the card.
The next command came “Sign it.”
“Well, this was fun”, He thought. “Now, I am signing up for the draft.”
Nigel did as he was told.
The two approached the desk clerk’s bureau. The Major cleared his throat to get attention. Seeing the garb of the Major got the clerk’s attention.
“Sir, how may I help you?” The Clerk asked.
“I am General Major Michael O’Moore Creagh, commander of the 7th Armored Division, retired. This is my boy Nigel Creagh. He would like to register with the army for future conscription if the state requires it.”
The clerk looked a little stunned. “General Major, of course. How old are you young man?”
Nigel looked flummoxed as he replied, “I’m eight…”
“He’s nineteen years old. How old are you?” The Major snapped, deliberately.
“I am nineteen as well,” the young Clerk replied.
“Well, let’s get this going. We have chips to eat.” Answered the Major.
The questions on the clerks mind were evident. “I will be back momentarily,” the clerk replied, going away to his desk. He produced a form, inserted it into a type writer, and started furiously typing away.
He looked up, “And, Nigel, upon conscription, this is your home where a notification would go?”
“Chinely, Sir.” Nigel answered.
Moments later, the clerk approached handing over a draft card to Nigel. “This is your temporary conscription card, your final will be mailed to your home in a few weeks”. The clerk smiled as Nigel took the card.
“Thank you?” Nigel replied.
They exited the office with Nigel trailing behind the confident walk of the Major who had picked up the pace in the hallway. As they got to the door a coughing fit over-came him. He pushed on the door and handed Nigel the satchel. The bag was incredibly heavy. The door opened as the coughing fit became more violent. The Major nearly collapsed on the two cement stairs. He leaned over and coughed a bright spurt of blood and saliva into a decorative plantar containing a small boxwood arbor shrub carved into a ball shape.
“Are you okay?” Nigel asked.
The Major stood up and collected himself. “Fish and Chips Nigel!” He smiled.
They walked another two blocks until they were across the road from Parliament and Big Ben. The tan stones of the massive structure offset the gold gilding of the building as the sun was directly behind the massive clock tower. The tower bell started ringing loudly. The shade allowed Nigel to see, clearly. It was twelve noon. He had not realized, until this moment, the Major was still on a schedule and now, he was, too.
They ducked into a pub across the street. As they entered the barkeep instantly looked up and hollered. “Ladies and Gentlemen, General Major Michael O’Moore Creagh”, the barkeep hollered as he rang a bell.
The pub was full of military officers and suited men having lunch and a pint. Half of them stood and faced the Major and applauded ferociously. There were whoops and hollers. The Major raised a hand and briefly waved to accept their gratitude and then, found a seat near the front window at a table.
The barkeep came right over and asked for an order.
“Would you like a pint, sir? Lunch”.
The Major pondered for a moment.
“I’ll have a bitter and fish and chips.”
The barkeep nodded, “And what will your son have?”
It finally hit Nigel. He had just been adopted.
“I’ll have the same.”
Nigel was happy to have whatever the General Major had.
As they sat and were served, Nigel dove into questions. The Major, clearly in his element, gave the answers. He was born in 1892 in England, went to Wellington College and the Royal Military College, yet had served in the British Indian Army as a camp aide during World War One. He became a mobile division tank commander during World War II and fought in Egypt and in Tripoli. He had led armored divisions, horse brigades, tank brigades and had fought off Mussolini’s armies. He won the Victoria Cross and was awarded a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire. He was the father of the 7th Armored Division. He was a legend.
The Major told stories of wars and battles with incredible passion which were as good, or better than any cinema Nigel had ever seen. The Major’s eyes lit up with every twist and turn, of his own tales. He was an amazing, articulate, completely enthralling storyteller. This quiet, little-old, ticket seller at the circus, was the equivalent of Patton and Rommel.
An hour passed. By the time he was finished, there were fifteen chairs full of officers and government agents sitting around the two of them in raptured attention. Nigel had barely noticed the crowd coalesce around them. Suddenly, the Major stopped and looked at his watch.
“We have to go.” He proclaimed.
(32) General Major Michael O’Moore Creagh, had a past. So does everyone you meet. The more humble they are the richer the past. Ask people for their stories before you share your dreams. It is a form of smart research.