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Archive for April, 2014

The new year of 1942 began cold and damp, and once more we had to face the walk to school in all weathers. It was a good thing we all loved going to the village school, as it made the long walk more bearable. It was about this time that Mum and Dad started to receive letters from the school board regarding my brother George. He had turned five years old, and they still had not sent him to school. He should have attended some months earlier.

It was Dad who was keeping him home as he loved having George with him all the time and was loath to send him away for the best part of the day. In the end, Dad realised that he was not being fair to George, as he was missing out on his education. So our brother joined us on our walk to school.

allotment: broad beansAs the year turned from winter to spring, Dad started to prepare his allotment again. Some days he would come in from the garden looking quite ill, and would have to go to bed. Mum told him not to worry about trying to make extra money selling any spare produce, as we would manage on what we had. At this Dad shouted at Mum: “That’s right, make me feel more bloody useless. I thought it would be my way of helping the family.”

Spade in soilMum said that she was only thinking of his health, but she never mentioned again that she thought the digging was too hard for Dad. At the time I did not understand why my Dad was so angry, but now I realise how frustrated he must have felt at not being able to support his family. He had always taken great pride in providing his large family with a decent standard of living while he was at work.

Our Mum was expecting another baby, and her legs were troubling her. She had very bad varicose veins which made her legs ache when standing for long periods. Mary, Kath and I tried to help more in the house so Mum could have a rest during the day.

Lil had now left school and was working in the kitchen of a hotel in Cardiff, and because of the distance, she had to live there. Although the extra money that Lil sent home was handy, Mum missed all her help in the home.

English: Injuries brought about during the bom...One day Mum and Dad received a letter from our Gran. In the letter, Gran wrote how bad the blitz was getting in London. Gran asked my parents if they could find room for her elderly friend who was in bad health and lived on her own. Her only son was in the air force and he was worried about the effect the raids were having on her. Mum and Dad did not like to say no, so wrote back to say that Gran’s friend could come to stay the following week. It was a decision they would regret. It was decided that she would have the small bedroom and my brothers would have to share our room. The boys had one bed and we three girls shared the other one.

Gran’s friend arrived one day in a car, and she made the driver bring her right up to the house. We never found out who the car belonged to. Dad said it probably ruined the tyres coming over all the stony ruts in the lane.

D1422~B76375_D_006~AWhen she stepped out of the car, we were amazed at how posh she looked. Her hair was grey and cut in a bob, and she had a touch of make-up on. She was quite well built, and the expensive suit she had on was a perfect fit. I could not take my eyes off her fox fur, complete with head, that she wore around her shoulders. Her luggage consisted of three very expensive cases which she told the driver to carry into the house. Then she reached into the car and brought out a cat in a wire cage. We learned later that it was a Siamese cat, and very spoilt. She paid the driver and he went back down the lane. As she walked into the house she told my parents that her name was Mrs Costin. My brothers and sisters were all staring at her but she totally ignored us and asked to see her room.

When Mum showed Mrs Costin her room, she complained that it was too small and there was nowhere to hang her clothes. Mum said she was sorry but it was the only room they could spare. Mum asked if she would like a drink or anything to eat, and she replied that she wanted a cup of tea and would take dinner later. Mrs Costin told Mum that she wanted all her meals in her room as there were too many children downstairs for her liking.

As Mum was going out the door, Mrs Costin said to her: “Get your husband to bring my cases up.” Mum came down the stairs muttering to herself, saying: “What does she think this is, a bleedin’ hotel?”

Mum asked me to take the tea upstairs to Mrs Costin. I knocked on the door before opening it, but as I entered the room the cat jumped at me, spitting and snarling. I dropped the tea all over the floor and ran downstairs to tell Mum. Mum said she would take the tea up and have a word with Mrs Costin about the cat.

A Siamese Cat displaying the typical blue, cro...When Mum took the fresh pot of tea upstairs, the cat did the same thing to her, but luckily Mum held on to the tea. When Mum told Mrs Costin she would have to have her meals downstairs because of the cat, she said that she would keep the cat on a lead at meal times. She then asked Mum if we could take the cat for a walk twice a day. The first time I took the cat out it kept hissing and snarling, then it pulled and tugged on the lead. In the end I tied it to a tree for a while to make it look as if I had taken it for a walk.

Mrs Costin rarely came out of her room. Once a week she gave Mum some money to buy her food and medicines. There was a small table behind the door in her bedroom and this was full of pills, bottles of medicines, creams and bandages. Mum had to buy the cat’s food as well which had to be fresh fish as she did not like the cat to eat tinned food. With all the rationing at the time, it was quite a problem for Mum to find fish in the shops. As the weeks went by the small bedroom began to smell of a mixture of cats and medicines. Mum complained about the smell, but Mrs Costin would never open the window.

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The new year of 1941 began with very cold weather. Apart from attending school, we spent most of our time huddled near the fire trying to keep warm. Dad was not well, and spent a lot of his time resting in bed where he would sit up to listen to the latest news about the progress of the war. My brother George kept him company as he never liked to be far away from Dad.

Snowdrops in Lothersdale Churchyard

One day when we were collecting firewood, we walked further than usual and came across a bluebell wood. To us it was just like fairyland. Instead of going home with firewood, we each had huge bunches of bluebells. Dad was cross with us for not getting the wood and sent us straight back for it. When we arrived back home again we were pleased to see that Mum had put the flowers in a bucket of water and arranged some in jam jars for the kitchen.

 

Dad was feeling better and began to think about starting his allotment. His plan was to grow a variety of vegetables for our own needs, and sell any surplus to the village shop.

The problem was finding packets of seeds as there were none in the village. However, on his next trip to Bridgend for his heart check-up, he was lucky enough to come across some in a hardware shop. He came home very pleased with himself and began to cultivate the ground in the allotment. It was a slow process. Because of his health he found it very hard work, and could only dig a small patch each day. At last it was ready to sow the seeds and Dad planted the first bed with seed potatoes he had bought from the local farmer.

English: Thriving runner beans in the vegetabl...

This was followed by beds of cabbages, carrots, runner beans, onions and parsnips. At the bottom of the allotment there was a neglected strawberry bed. Our job was to clear all the rubbish away from the plants, then hoe between the rows. When it was all done, Dad told us to collect a bundle of straw from the small barn in our yard. This was to put at the base of the plants to keep the strawberries clean while growing.

While we were collecting the straw, we came across a toy tea set made of porcelain. It was still in the original box and consisted of six cups and saucers, six plates, sugar bowl, milk jug and teapot. We were delighted with our find, it was so delicate and pretty. When we showed Mum our find, she said it was not ours to keep. I looked at my sisters, Mary and Kath, and I could see that they were as disappointed as I was. Mum said that she would ask our neighbour, Mrs Williams, if she knew who it belonged to. However, after asking her and a few people Mum knew in the village, the owner remained a mystery. To our joy, Mum decided that we could keep the tea set. It provided us with many happy hours of play.

Tea Time

When the seeds that Dad had planted began to grow, the problem was how to water them. Dad had found a large metal drum in the barn, and this caught any rain water. But when the weather was dry, we had to carry the extra water needed from the stream. Unfortunately, for all our hard work that year, Dad did not have much success with the vegetables. There were enough for our own use, but no surplus to sell. The fruit bushes in the front garden were well established, and that year there was an abundance of fruit. Mum made some jam and fruit tarts for the family, and the rest Dad sold to the local greengrocer. The extra money made was put by for fuel in the winter.

My sisters, Emm and Anne, did not come home that year for Christmas as they could not get enough holiday from the munitions factories where they worked to make the journey to Wales. We were all disappointed that we were not going to see them.

Drilling aeroplane parts in a munitions factory

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