My son (currently) wants to be a pilot in the RAF. It says so in an Ulster Rugby match programme, so it must be true.
We were out visiting this afternoon when we bumped into and elderly lady and man. A few moments later we saw the lady on her own and she commented on my sons 'lovely blond hair'. I asked her where her companion was and she explained that he was her brother and he had gone home.
You might know him, she said, his name is Alfie Martin. Well, considering my success the night before with people spotting I was a little hesitant to agree or disagree that I knew Alfie Martin!
She went on to say that he had be shot down and had had to bale out over Belgium during the second world war. At this point she had completely got our interest, so she sat down and told us the story of her brother, Alfie.
When Alfie's plane was shot it went on fire and the pilot couldn't save it so the crew had to bale out. Alfie found himself in the countryside in Belgium where he hid in a lane way until he was ready to make his move. Unfortunately, a young lad with a herd of cows came along and in order not to be trampled to death by the cows, Alfie had to come out of his hiding place.
When he emerged, the young lad took one look at his uniform and saluted. Alfie made his way to a nearby farmhouse where he was hidden by the family for six weeks. In that time he did not cross the door for fear of being found and being killed, and having the family killed for harbouring him.
With the help of the resistance, he then started to make his journey back home, travelling through France and crossing the Pyrenees at night, wearing only espadrilles on his feet to get into Spain and eventually Gibraltar.
At one point on his journey, he saw the pilot of his plane on the same platform at a train station, but couldn't even make eye contact for fear of being found and captured.
The lady then went on to tell us that Alfie still gets a birthday card every year from the family who harboured him in Belgium, and that she herself went as a guest to meet them after the war.
Alfie had been laying a wreath, on behalf of the RAF, at the cenotaph in Belfast yesterday morning. She then told us he had also written a book about his experiences called Bale Out!: Escaping Occupied France with the Resistance. My sons's eyes lit up, and we have a copy home to read.
Today my son and I had a living lesson in History, it's so much more real when you hear it first hand from those who experienced it than when you read it in a school textbook.
On this Remembrance Day we want to say thankyou, and great respect to all the 'Alfies' out there who gave, and are still giving, so much for our freedom.