Sunday, 27 November 2016

Miracle at Midnight


A regular guest at our house was Karl Henrik Køster, a Danish neurosurgeon who wrote for The Lancet and who’d met my father in Bergen-Belsen when they were both serving in the RAMC. They became close friends and my sisters and I called him Uncle Karl. Because he always came to stay in December, this large man with his deep voice and Nordic accent was Father Christmas, though now I realise he looked more like Karl Marx.
Uncle Karl always arrived with a large bottle of Cherry Heering, a Danish liqueur, and gifts for us children. I remember the nine-inch-high brightly-painted wooden soldier with its red tunic and blue trousers. It had moveable arms and a detachable lance which was quickly lost.
Karl Henrik was a surgeon at Copenhagen’s Bispebjerg hospital. After operating on a wounded member of the Resistance, medical students asked him to help hide 40 Jews while their escape by boat to Sweden was organised. But how to get them into the hospital? Karl Henrik organised a ‘funeral’ with dark cars, black clothes and flowers. 140 turned up and all of them had to be hidden.
He then arranged for ambulances to take them to the coast. In all, he and his hospital saved 2,000 Jews. Then their luck ran out. One day, when leaving his apartment, he passed the Gestapo on the stairs. They asked him where Dr Køster could be found. As he left the building, he passed the body of a medical student shot in the back. He then followed the same route as those he had helped save and escaped by boat to Sweden. He made his way to the UK and joined the British army.
His wife Doris was at home. The Gestapo imprisoned her.
My father lost contact with him when he retired from The Lancet. The last he knew of Karl was when he heard from a mutual friend that he had, as my father put it, ‘taken up with his secretary’. He had no idea what happened to poor Doris.
Karl committed suicide in the 1980s and didn’t live to see the 1998 Disney film made about his life, Miracle at Midnight. Directed by Ken Cameron, it starred Sam Waterson as Karl and Mia Farrow as Doris.
I recently came across words of his explaining why he acted as he did. ‘It was the natural thing to do. I would have helped any group of Danes being persecuted. The Germans picking on the Jews made as much sense to me as picking on redheads.’
What with Uncle Karl and the Hungarians, I had contact at a young age with people who’d led dangerous political lives. Karl Henrik’s booming voice and wry humour has stayed with me. It has always been important to be able to see the funny side of the grimmest experiences. There is always a Springtime for Hitler.

'Left Field' is a memoir packed full of music and politics. You are invited to a party to celebrate the book with both. It will be on sale at half price with £5 per book donated to MOMENTUM . Live music with Brazilian guitarist Deicola Neves and other guests.
Tuesday 6 December 2016, 7pm, 
Whittington Park Community Centre Yerbury Rd N19 4RS 

Friday, 18 November 2016

Kirkus review of 'Left Field'


"His shared heartwrenching observations are clearly a highlight of this richly textured, moving work … Raw and compelling; a story well told of a vital and varied life in a war-torn region." This from the prestigious Kirkus Reviews. My first US review and happy about that, but the left wing reviews from The Morning Star and Socialist Review remain my favourites!

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Buy 'Left Field'

where to buy Left Field ....

Amazon



Amazon Kindle


Public Reading Rooms


Non-UK buyers


also available at Waterstones, Foyles, WH Smith & other bookshops

David is an adventurer and a freethinker, who did something truly useful with his life - Brian Eno David Wilson has lived a life and a half.The broken world needed people like David; it still does - Sir Tom Stoppard Fantastic and salutary … a born raconteur's account of a remarkable life - Michael Walling, Artistic Director, Border Crossings This memoir of a very colourful life is both entertaining and illuminating - Amir Amirani, Director “We are Many” What a life this man has led - Dorothy Byrne, Head of Channel 4 Documentaries David's entire life has been dedicated to trying to make the world a better place - Craig Murray, ex-UK Amassador Sometimes funny, often moving and occasionally tragic ... one of my top recent reads - Morning Star

watch the 'Left Field' film

Friday, 28 October 2016

On Assignment in Mostar


Julie Etchingham has confirmed that she will be coming to Mostar next year to make a short film for ITV's 'On Assignment' – about the Pavarotti Music Centre 20 years after its founding. Julie was in Mostar for BBC Newsround when Pavarotti came to open the centre. Here is a film of the opening.
 
 She hopes to meet some of the children who attended the Centre twenty years ago and find out what has happened to them in the intervening years and how the PMC affected their lives. People like Adin Omerovic, aged nine at the time, who remembers this:

‘I, together with my classmates, practised a song to perform for the opening of the Pavarotti Music Centre. I had heard of plans for the Centre, but I could not dream that I would be there or near to Pavarotti. At the end of the song, “Big Bam Boo”, I gave Luciano Pavarotti a flower. I still remember that day when we waited for him so long and I cannot forget how strong my heart was beating after his speech. He said, ‘Grazie, grazie,’ I still remember that. I got a toy from him which I still have. I would like to have more memories like this one. Thank you very much, Pavarotti.’






Left Field is available at Waterstones and on Amazon

Saturday, 22 October 2016

"a thoughtful & gentle memoir"




Brian Eno: This is an excellent and inspiring book. David is an adventurer and a freethinker, who, despite the best efforts of an education designed to equip him for obedient anonymity, somehow did something truly useful with his life. His stubborn and yet self-effacing commitment to his ideals carried him through many daunting situations, and his sense of humour kept him able to see the funny side.
 
Haifa Zangana: a memoir where the personal is entwined with activism and woven into a poetic multi-coloured tapestry.

" Left Field is a thoughtful and gentle memoir. David’s obvious good nature and ability to connect with people is demonstrated over and over, from the influential individuals whose support he enlisted in the early days of War Child to the character sketches that he draws regularly throughout the book… I enjoyed his relaxed writing style and the chapters that veered from the chronology to reflect or add narrative detail... His is an enjoyable memoir, reflecting on a compassionate and varied life, and an important reminder of how destructive war is both on individuals and communities, and the important role we can all play in fighting for a better world. Socialist Review (July/August 2016)

 


                                                   

Top read for Morning Star





"SOMETIMES funny, often moving and occasionally tragic, Left Field is always lively and always interesting ... one of my top recent reads"

Morning Star reviews 'Left Field"

Perhaps not surprising that it is the Left who have reviewed 'Left Field'. Here is earlier one from Socialist Review

Friday, 21 October 2016

The puncstorta jelly roll was frosty



This weekend marks the 60th anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution, a working class revolt against a 'communist' state. Workers and students declared a general strike and workers' councils sprung up across the country. In cities they armed themselves and fraternised with the troops, but were eventually crushed by Soviet tanks. Hungary '56 was an example, last seen 20 years before at the time of the Spanish Civil War, of the working class reaching for power, and taking place in one of the 'workers' states'. It showed an alternative to capitalism and Soviet communism and galvanised many, including myself, towards revolutionary politics. Here is my account of that year from 'Left Field'.

In October 1956 demonstrations broke out across Hungary, demanding the withdrawal of Soviet troops. The government fell and Imre Nagy became Prime Minister in the middle of a revolution. Workers and students set up militias; troops tore off their insignia and joined them on the barricades. Police were killed at street corners, as well as some Russian soldiers. It seemed that the few remaining Soviet troops would withdraw. But on 4th November they returned in large numbers. The workers and students only had small arms and Molotov cocktails. Thousands were slaughtered. Lucky ones fled. My father and mother found homes for two of them, a young couple, Lorencz and Ester. They arrived just before Christmas. Lorencz stayed with us and Ester went to the Schields’s, my parents’ bridge partners. My father told Mr Schield that, as refugees from Hitler, they had a duty to return the favour. I was fascinated by Lorencz’s stories of how he and his fellow fighters had climbed onto the Soviet T-34 tanks and hurled petrol bombs inside. How they had lost many comrades and how grateful they were to have a new home, thanks to my parents. When Ester came to visit her boyfriend, they would cook goulash, which made a change from my mother’s steak and kidney pie. They were always cheerful, but it was only a front. I remember waking at night to hear Lorencz sobbing in his room. After leaving us, they went on to qualify as dentists, marry and settle down in Kent. Every Christmas they would send us a card. Ten years after they’d arrived in this country, they rang my parents and said they wanted to visit. They turned up in a Rolls- Royce. My father watched as they turned in to our drive. ‘Betty, you answer the door.’ He pointed at the car. ‘Look at that.’ ‘It’s a Rolls-Royce, Ian,’ my mother said. ‘They have done well.’ He slammed his study door shut. My mother welcomed them. ‘Ian’s been very busy this week. He’ll join us soon.’ She left Ester and Lorencz with my sisters and me. I could hear her whispering loudly outside his door, ‘Ian, come out now. We have guests. Ian, do you hear me?’ While I gobbled up the delicious puncstorta jelly roll they’d brought, the conversation was as frosty as the cake’s pink icing. My father was disappointed at their success. I suppose he expected them to be revolutionary dentists in Sevenoaks.”