We went up to the bedroom with auntie to unpack our suitcases. Auntie was all excited.
"It's so lovely to see you Doris."
My mum's first name was , well you can read, and my dad's was Ronald Cyril Stanley. The funny thing was that all his mates at Plessey, where he worked, called him Bob, and he never told them his other name as everyone then would have called him Arsee. Get it, RC?
"It's so lovely to see you Doris. I never in a million years thought that we would get round to seeing each other after we left Gidea Park. You were my best friend." She gave us a smile. "Your mum and I went everywhere. We used to go out dancing with your Dad and Uncle John every Saturday night." They both sighed and giggled. "The good old days!"
She pulled open the drawer of an ancient chest and put our pullovers in. A smell of rosemary wafted around the room.
"With the girl's away in the Army, I didn't realise how lonely it would get. Now we will be like before again."
She sat down on the bed next to the now empty suitcase and patted the space next to her.
"You are to consider this house your home until you have to leave, but we feel that it will be at least three to six months, so tomorrow we will go to the school down the road and see if they will take you. I hope so, because the next one is a long walk. Anyway, this is now your home and also Uncle John and I become your parents as well as your mum and dad."
"That means," Mum said. "That you will listen to Auntie and Uncle and do what they tell you, just as you would with us. Understood?" We both nodded.
"What's the matter with you?" Mum asked Christopher.
He fidgeted on the bed, swinging his legs.
"I thought we were here on holiday"
Mum and Auntie both laughed. "I think that it's time to get ready for bed."
It took a while to get used to the bed and Christopher kept moaning that I was taking all of the blanket and all of the bed. The room was so dark and that took some getting used to as well. The only time that there was light was when the moon was out, but after a while you found that you could make out all sorts of things in the dark. We were in the back of the house and if you looked out of the window you couldn't see the lights of any houses like in Romford, not that you were supposed to anyway, just trees and blackness. The most peculiar thing was that there wasn't an Air Raid Alarm going off at all hours of the day or night, just an occasional fire engine ringing past the door.
We lay there for the first few night waiting for it to go off. We didn't have to keep our clothes at the end of the bed, ready to put on over our pyjamas before we rushed downstairs to the shelter. Mum had even forgotten to bring the gas masks, or had she?"
The next morning for breakfast we had duck eggs. Big brown eggs with a wonderful yellow yolk to dip bread strips into. For some reason they were called soldiers, mine kept bending over and breaking off with the weight of the yolk, but the taste was wonderful but also strange. We had got used to the taste of eggs stored in buckets of water down in the shelter. Then on the homemade bread we had home made blackberry jam spread thickly. Mum complained about us half emptying the jar. Auntie said nothing, just smiled.
Uncle John had come home after we had gone to sleep and had left for work before we got up, so it was mum and Aunt Edna who took us to the school down the road. Aunt did all the talking because she knew the teacher. We were introduced as poor children evacuated because of the bombing, and I suppose that's what we were, and could she possibly find us a space as the next school was a long walk towards Colchester, and we were weak because of the London food. We resented that but mum told us to shush up. The children in the school were tanned and fat and we were white and skinny.
The teacher, Miss Armitage, said that of course she would be able to fit us in and gave mum a list of things that we would need to bring with us when we came the next day. Most of the things we had brought with us from Romford except we didn't have plimsolls for PT.
We started the next day at the Sudbury Road Junior School. It was on the main road to Sudbury, on the corner of a country lane that led to West Bergholt, a village of no fame especially except to all the nice people who lived there, because John Constable, landscape painter of some fame was born at East Bergholt, which was some miles from the west village. Still, we were always being asked by people in cars in the Summer if they were going the right way.
The school had only two classrooms, a small kitchen and an outdoor washroom toilet. Miss Armitage was the only teacher, so usually the mothers helped out, then the class of about twenty five would be split between the two rooms; Miss Armitage taking arithmetic or history and the mother's doing writing, spelling or reading or what ever Miss Armitage wanted. Our mum was good at reading and we liked it when it was her turn to read.
Our mum had light soft brown hair. Her cheeks were puffed up by so much smiling and this always put a sparkle in her eyes. She was of slight build and never seemed to have a problem with keeping active and energetic and always wanted to get us interested in something new. I can never remember her saying not to try something at least once as long as it was not dangerous or illegal.
"How do you know if you don't try?" was her attitude through life. If there was no one else to play with then she was there. She was a wonderful cook, as most mothers learnt to be in the war, and she made the most wonderful cakes and deserts so that we grew up spoilt to her cooking. That's why we could not understand Auntie's remark about us being underfed!