We have this bomb shelter in our garden. It is a silly thing, built in the second world war out of concrete. Who ever thought that County Tipperary would be a target for bombers? But it is very hard to go back in time and understand the motivations of those who built it. I guess it is a small indication of the very real fear that people felt during World War 2, even those in supposedly neutral countries like Ireland.
This bomb shelter floods every autumn when the water table rises, and remains flooded all winter, drying out only in late spring. It is pretty much a useless endeavor. The entrance is steep, claustrophobic, slippy, dark and clammy. A perfect nightmare.
What I find funny is how it has lodged in the childhood memories of so many of my wife’s cousins. The house has been a constant fixture in the folk memory of her Tipperary family. As kids they were paraded out here on Sunday afternoons to visit their terrifying Aunt Babe. Strapped into uncomfortable Sunday best they were expected to behave, to be seen and not heard.
When released from the parlor and set loose in the gardens they made for the Air Raid Shelter. Boys dared each other to descend into this dark, damp and frightening hole. So it became a rite of passage for them to dare the horror and emerge unscathed, proud and just that little more grown up. Any of the male cousins I have met have asked if the air raid shelter is still there. It looms large in their memory of the house.
In a small way it reminds me of the entrance to Dwimorberg and the men of Dunharrow. I thought I should stick a sign on it saying;
The way is shut.
It was made by those who are Dead.
And the Dead keep it.
The way is shut.
Where is the helm and the hauberk, and the bright hair flowing?
Where is the hand on the harpstring, and the red fire glowing?
They have passed like rain on the mountain, like a wind in the meadow;
The days have gone down in the West behind the hills into shadow.
Who shall gather the smoke of the deadwood burning,
Or behold the flowing years from the Sea returning?