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The most terrifying day of my life

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A dreary homecoming
Brian Aldiss Writer
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And so then, we hung about in the Far East, as I've said, for three years before we got home. And wouldn't you think when these brave boys came back home, and the troop ship moored up at Liverpool docks, wouldn't you think there'd be a crowd waiting for us to cheer, and a band to play – wouldn't you think that? There was no one there. Bugger all. It was empty and I thought that was such a disgrace. And still, to these days, I hold it against the British that they didn't do anything for those boys who had spent three years out there.

That was very bad. And when we got back, within a month, they celebrated our return by putting bread on ration. It was better in the Far East, let me tell you – it was better in Hong Kong.

And England was so run down, and run down and apparently not making much effort to get out of it, whereas in Hong Kong, everything was still going. People were starting up. You went down to the docks, guys would come in with massive baskets on their shoulders, full of toads, from God knows where, that the Chinese were going to eat. Quite different. And we could swim, of course, in Hong Kong. We did a lot of swimming from Big Wave Bay.

Back in England… oh God, it was so dreary. But what was a chap to do? Well, one thing this chap did, of course, was keeping on writing.

So, that was the end of the war.

Brian Aldiss (1925-2017) was an English writer and anthologies editor, best known for his science fiction novels and short stories. He was educated at Framlingham College, Suffolk, and West Buckland School, Devon, and served in the Royal Signals between 1943-1947. After leaving the army, Aldiss worked as a bookseller in Oxford, an experience which provided the setting for his first book, 'The Brightfount Diaries' (1955). His first science fiction novel, 'Non-Stop', was published in 1958 while he was working as literary editor of the 'Oxford Mail'. His many prize-winning science fiction titles include 'Hothouse' (1962), which won the Hugo Award, 'The Saliva Tree' (1966), which was awarded the Nebula, and 'Helliconia Spring' (1982), which won both the British Science Fiction Association Award and the John W Campbell Memorial Award. Several of his books have been adapted for the cinema. His story, 'Supertoys Last All Summer Long', was adapted and released as the film 'AI' in 2001. His book 'Jocasta' (2005), is a reworking of Sophocles' classic Theban plays, 'Oedipus Rex' and 'Antigone'.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Hong Kong, England

Duration: 2 minutes, 14 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2014

Date story went live: 17 August 2015