“Yesterday was Beautiful”

Sections: Information | Plot Description 


  • Connections:
    • The setting is the RAF’s Greek campaign in World War II, which Dahl took part in and describes in Going Solo.

Plot Description

This is a very short little vignette from Dahl’s book of WW2 flying stories, Over to You. There’s not a lot of plot.

Spoiler warning! An English RAF pilot has ejected from his plane and parachuted onto a Greek island. He sprained his ankle when he landed and he’s now looking for a boat to take him back to the mainland. The village he finds is nearly deserted though. Eventually he finds an old man sitting near a drinking trough and asks him if he knows of anyone with a boat. The old man is muddled and expressionless. He asks when the Germans will be back. The pilot thinks they are done for the day. “I do not understand why they come to us, Inglese. There is no one here,” the old man says. The pilot again asks him about a boat. The old man says that Joannis Spirakis has a boat. Joannis used to live in the house nearest the water. It was destroyed by the Germans. He’s now living in the house of Antonina Angelou. The old man says that Joannis probably won’t be there right now, but his wife Anna will be. As the pilot goes to leave, the old man tells him that he should know that Joannis and Anna’s daughter Maria was in the house when the Germans bombed it.

The pilot finds Antonina’s house and is taken in to see Anna. He tells her that he’s looking for her husband because he’s heard he has a boat. “Where are the Germanoi?” the old woman asks. The pilot tells her they are near Lamia. “Soon they will be here,” she says. “Every day they come over and they bom bom bom and you shut your eyes and you open them again and you get up and you go outside and the houses are just dust – and the people.” She asks him how many he has killed. “As many as I could,” he answers. She tells him to kill them all, every man, woman, and child. She then asks him again what he wants. He tells her he is looking for Joannis. She leads him out the front door and points to the old man by the drinking trough. “There he is,” she says. “That’s him.” The pilot turns around to speak to her again, but she has already disappeared back into the house.