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Archive for January, 2015

ringsimagesCA748ZXIThe next day Emm, Anne and Lil had to leave. As Anne was saying goodbye we heard her say to Mum that she wanted to get married soon, as Bill was being posted away. Mum looked surprised, as Anne had only known Bill for a short while. Mum asked Anne if she was sure she wanted to get married, as she was worried that Anne was rushing into marriage because of the uncertain times we lived in. During the war people were getting married after a short acquaintance, as in those days it was unheard of to live together unmarried. The couples who dared to live together were said to be ‘living in sin’. Anne assured Mum she wanted to marry Bill, so Mum agreed they could get married quickly.

The house seemed very quiet after everyone had left. As we had school the next day, we collected the water and wood, so Mum had plenty to clean the house and do all the extra washing. The next morning Mum asked us to get the shopping after school, as she would not have time to go to the village. It was very difficult to buy food during the war, as the shops had such a limited supply of everything. Even though we had ration books for the basic foods such as bread, sugar, tea, margarine and eggs, what you actually received depended on what stocks the shops had managed to obtain.

eggimagesCAJ3GGMPWhile we were waiting in the grocer shop to get served, there was quite an argument going on between the owner and one of the customers. She was holding one egg in her hand and shouting at the shopkeeper: “This is the only egg I’ve had this month, what am I supposed to do with it, cut it in to bloody quarters? The shopkeeper told her there was no need for that sort of language in front of children, and that he was trying to be fair to everybody. It must have been very difficult to try and please all his customers.

As we came out of the grocers we noticed a queue at the hardware shop. During the war people joined any queue in the hope of buying something extra, either in the way of food or for the home – so we decided to queue in case we could buy some extra candles for Mum.

When we asked a lady who was coming out of the shop with a package, she said the shopkeeper had received a delivery of mugs, and he was allowing two per person. On hearing this we left the queue, as we knew Mum could not afford money for mugs, and made our way home.

Mum now had the problem of Anne’s wedding, as there was so little time to save any food coupons for the reception. Lil said she would save hers, as she had meals where she worked. Anne said she and Bill could bring the drinks and some extra food, and told Mum not to worry as it was only going to be a quiet wedding. The ceremony was held in the village church where Emm had married. Once again we could not attend, due to the lack of decent clothes. Mum wore the outfit she had bought for Emm’s wedding. Anne and Bill were wearing their uniforms. I had only seen Bill once before, and on seeing him again I was surprised at how much he looked like Anne. They were both fair-haired with blue eyes, and had the same build. They could have been mistaken for twins.txxh

When they arrived back from the church, Mum and Lil made tea, and told everybody to help themselves to the food. People were just sitting about talking and eating. Kit was unable to come as she had a concert, and without her singing it seemed very boring to us. However, towards the evening some of Bill and Anne’s friends who were stationed in the same camp, began to arrive. Luckily, they brought their own food and drink with them, as we certainly did not have any to spare. They soon had everyone dancing and singing along with Mum playing the piano. Then they organised some party games, which even my younger brothers could join in. Whoever won was given a small bar of chocolate or a few sweets. We really enjoyed ourselves, and was sorry when Mum said it was time for bed. The party went on for a long time after we went bed. So much for Anne’s ‘quiet wedding’.

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txxhNineteen forty-four was a busy year for Mum. My sister Emm was getting married, and had decided the ceremony would be held in our village church.

Because of the lack of money and clothes coupons, it was hard for Mum to buy something to wear for the wedding. There was no money for the rest of the family to have new clothes, and so we could not go to the church. We were very disappointed when we heard this, as it was the first marriage in our family.

Although there was only a few friends and relatives coming, it was a problem for Mum to cater for them. She wanted the table to look nice for Emm’s wedding, but food rationing and the shortage of money made it very difficult.

Clothes coupons and ration booksEmm’s wedding was a week away, and she wrote to say that she and Fred would be down a few days beforehand. Anne had managed to get a few days leave and was bringing Bill, her boyfriend, with her. The day of the wedding dawned. Mum was up early, and Lil – who had taken two days holiday – was helping her prepare the food. Mum’s best white tablecloth, which was only used at Christmas time, was spread on the table, and Lil had picked some flowers for the centre of the table. When Lil’s employer heard that her sister was getting married, they had kindly given her a small fruit cake covered with white icing. Mum had cut the cheese and paste sandwiches small, and arranged them on plates. Lil had put some pickles in small bowls, and made some sausage rolls and jam tarts, and although the plates and glasses were all odd, it looked quite posh to my family. Emm just looked at the table without commenting, and going by the look on her face she was not very impressed. Fred and Emm had brought some beer and wine with them from London, no doubt obtained from the flourishing black market, and it certainly made the table appear more festive.

We were surprised when Mum came downstairs at how nice she looked in her new clothes, as all Mum’s clothes were getting quite shabby. Emm looked lovely in a smart suit with a fur collar, and she had pinned a small spray of flowers on the front. Later she left the spray of flowers to be put on Dad’s grave.

Fred, Bill and Anne wore their uniforms and looked very smart. Emm had somehow managed to hire a car to take them to the church, and we waved them goodbye as it started down the lane.iA wedding car

Mum’s last words as she got into the car, was a warning to us not to touch the food or we would be sent straight to bed when she arrived back. It was too much temptation for the boys, and they helped themselves to sausage rolls and some tarts. Everyone was in a good mood when they came back from the church, and luckily for the boys the missing food was never noticed.

We all enjoyed the reception, especially our Mum who loved company, and was still missing Dad. There were some friends of Emm, and Anne and Bill had invited a few friends from their camp. Mum’s friend Kit was there, and with our large family there was quite a crowd.

Lil made some tea, and handed plates of sandwiches and pickles around, and as there were not enough chairs, most of the men had to stand. The table was soon empty of food, and Emm cut the cake into very small pieces so everyone would get a slice. Fred poured wine into the glasses, and made a speech thanking everybody for the presents, and best wishes they had received. Then he thanked Mum and Lil for their hard work. Lil was pouring us some lemonade so we could join in the toast, and when she heard Fred mention her name she went red and started to cry.

3169855095_8afa4d068e_mThe rest of the evening we spent singing and dancing, and Mum played the piano. Kit sang some of her songs, but the trouble was once she started it was very hard to get her to stop. Emm, in a vain bid to get her to stop singing, offered her a cup of tea, but Kit said that she would have a drink later and carried on singing. I could see Emm was getting cross, but luckily Kit had to leave to catch the last bus. Emm and Fred thanked her for coming, and said how much they had enjoyed her singing.

After waving goodbye to Kit, Emm came back indoors and said: “Thank goodness she’s gone, I thought we would have to listen to her bleedin’ singing all night.” Mum looked a bit cross, and said it was nice of Kit to come as she was always busy entertaining people in Merthyr Tydfil. Emm replied: “With a voice like that, it’s a pity she didn’t stay there.”

It had been a lovely day for us, but now it was time to say goodnight to everybody and go to bed.

 

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It was not long after Anne’s wedding that Mum received a letter from our Gran. In it she wrote that she was prepared to have the older children to stay with her, but only one at a time, to help Mum out. I was very reluctant to go when it was my turn, as Gran had never made us welcome when we had visited her before.

kentGran had moved from the East End of London to live in Kent with her son, who was our uncle Fred. Although uncle Fred was my Dad’s brother, he was totally different in appearance, and was a highly educated man. He was tall and slim, and although not handsome, had a nice face. He spoke with a gentle voice and had a lovely smile. His work took him away from home for long hours, as he was one of the top administrative managers at the local hospital.

Uncle Fred was very nice to me during my stay, and took an interest in what I had been doing while he was at work. When he was talking to me, I found out that it was actually his idea for us to stay with them to give Mum a break. I thought it was unlike Gran to invite us.

Gran lived in a large corner house, with gardens on three sides. There were three bedrooms, dining room, parlour, kitchen, and what to me was absolute luxury, an indoor bathroom and lavatory downstairs. The house was quite full of people while I was there. It was near the coast, and nearby was a Royal Air Force base, which was crowded with airmen.pic27_briefing

Gran had three Air Force men billeted on her, and as the war was still raging, she could not refuse to have them, though she never stopped moaning about the inconvenience.

Then Gran’s daughter, my Aunt Phoebe, arrived with her son who was also named Fred. There were now eight people living in the house. It never worried me as I had always lived in a crowded home, but Gran found it very hard, as she was used to having the house to herself during the day.

I slept in Gran’s large bedroom which had two double beds. Gran and aunt Phoebe slept in one bed, leaving the other bed for me. It seemed strange to have the whole bed to myself.

220px-ATS_Search_LightAs we were near the coast, on most evenings we could see both the German, and our planes coming and going over the coastline.

One night I remember watching a German plane caught in the searchlights; our planes were firing their guns at it when it suddenly nose-dived. Gran said it would have crashed into the sea. I kept thinking of how frightened the men must have felt in the German plane.

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