Friday, February 06, 2009

Wednesday 21st June 1944

I think this is Midsummer Day. Half an hour ago I took April to Gales Corner to catch the 7a.m. bus to her hospital. We were both shivering with the cold. Yes, Midsummer Day! I'm writing this in the sitting room at Terori. Violet is not awake yet.

The newspaper headlines say:

“Americans only two miles from city.”
“Key to Finland captured.”

Only stray “flying bombs” or “robot planes” have exploded within sound of here in the last few days. There have been many alerts though, the sirens wail day and night and people turn eagerly to watch the sky.

I wonder what it's like in London? There are many rumours – I hope quite wild and baseless. It's said that 600 crashed into London at the weekend; that a dozen fell in Piccadilly. Well, I'm going up tomorrow and shall see for myself.

Yesterday April and I went to Billericay and she entered the dock. To our disappointment the technical error proved no loophole. They apologised handsomely and asked her if the summons could be amended. “Well, it's your error...” she said demurely, but the Inspector beamed and said urbanely that in such case they'd have to issue a fresh summons. We'd thought they couldn't do that. Accordingly April paid 10/- (less 2d gained through twice using the lavatory in the Court House without having to pay a penny!) The Court was a bit of a mockery; everyone was laughing except April and I. Such trivial charges!

A warm, sunny day, yesterday. We'd heard of possible digs near Billericay, and walked across fields to Great Burstead. Each field was divided from the next by a hedge and a kissing gate... The fields were very quiet and the village beyond (hitherto unexplored by either of us) seemed asleep in the sunshine.

We enquired at the village shop (name of proprietor, Pluckrose!) and he said, “Little Dene? Down this road, past what we call the tin hut, past “Melody Mede” and it's the next bungalow.”

We soon saw the tin atrocity. Almost opposite was a beautiful whitewash and black timbered walled house with a well kept lawn. We feared that “Little Dene” would be the gaunt-looking bungalow at the bottom of the road, but it was a smaller and prettier place next door to “Melody Mede” (or “Mead”).

We said Mr O'Brien had recommended this for digs, and were shown into the back parlour. There was brass-work and a sleepy, old-aged dog. “Shades of Nurse Pascoe!” I muttered my wife, sotto voce. “Doesn't look the same sort of woman,” I replied reassuringly as I saw Mrs Potter coming across he back garden.

She was lady aged about 50, greyish hair braided attractively across the top, educated voice. She seemed slightly embarrassed about having to take in diggers at all. On the whole a rather nice type of landlady. She was an ex-nurse (April and I looked at each other in alarm!)

The bedroom was quite alright; but when we were shown a room across the passage and Mrs Potter said, “This would be your sitting room. You'd be quite on your own...” and when we heard we could be left to ourselves entirely, using her cooking and washing facilities, we began to look hopeful.

“But – have you a lavatory?” I asked, thinking of Stock. “Oh, yes!” She opened a door off the scullery, and a second door and April saw a dangling chain and cried ecstatically, “Oh! You're on the sewer!”. The only possible snag then was the charge and this turned out to be quite reasonable – 25/- a week for two rooms and no extra charge for gas except for baths.

So we arranged to begin to move in before July 9th and paid her a retaining fee. Mrs Potter gave us two keys then and there! To save her any subsequent uneasiness we showed her our identity cards. The name “Dawson” on April's card was hidden at first and I saw Mrs Potter stare a bit blankly! Then April opened the flap of her case and showed the magic surname and Mrs Potter said, “Oh!” “Ah, there's nothing like that about us!” laughed April.

So with a home in prospect at last, we walked back to Billericay. “Little Dene” was quite near the Brentwood bus route. We had a luncheon snack at Cottis'. I sat facing the shop door, whilst April chatted to an old friend. Presently I saw Lois Rogers stride into the shop, I think for a packet of cigarettes and some cakes. She came with the old air of confidence and arrogance and was wearing an ambulance driver's uniform. This shook me and I was stunned for a few minutes.

When April's friend had gone I said, “Lois was in here just now” and my wife opened
her eyes wide in surprise. Later, curious, she wandered out into the street, looking for a blonde in navy blue but the ghost had gone.

That was all yesterday. Vi is up now and has just lit the fire in the sitting room.
This, as I said before, is midsummer.


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