With care I blocked the bottom of the door and put a cushion in the bottom of the gas stove and sat on the floor crying and talking to my unborn baby. Saying we weren’t wanted and there was nowhere to go and I was so sorry but this was the only way.
About to turn on the gas I heard the front door close and waited. The kitchen door was being forced open over the block at the bottom and Ted’s face appeared. In one glance he took in my intention. His face went white and he grabbed me and demanded why. I was in shock and it was a little while before I could tell him. He hugged me and swore at his mother. He was white as chalk and tears ran down his face mingling with mine. We were shattered.
When his mother had left she had taken Bryan and Kaye with her. I was too stricken to defend myself at the time. Ted explained that the factory where he worked was only a short distance from his mother’s house so he went there for lunch. He never discussed me or the children and without me his life wouldn’t be worth living. He really loved me.
Why he had come home he couldn’t say. Just something urged him to. He left me lying down with a promise that I would stay there while he went and picked up the children. He came home with them and told me he had forbidden his mother to come anywhere near us and reduced her to tears. I tried to understand what drove her but it was hard. In any case she had driven Ted and I closer than ever.
To my amazement Mother appeared a few days later early in the morning with a can of whitewash and a brush and announced that she was going to clean my larder. I didn’t object and took it as a means of saying sorry. What a sad person. Her own worst enemy. At least once again I persuaded Ted to lighten up on his mother. I suppose I was looking for family seeing that my own mother had forsaken me.
Came the time for the baby to be born. We couldn’t get into a nursing home and hospitals were reserved for war wounded so I had a Queens Alexander nurse and the doctor at home.
That birth lasted so long. Six in the morning to eight the next night. I heard the doctor tell Ted that he should send for my mother. Next he came back and said she couldn’t come. I was told later that the doctor rang my mother’s commanding officer and insisted she be sent home. Meanwhile I heard the doctor say to the nurse “She can’t last until morning”. I just remember whispering “Yes I can. Ted’s mine.” The rest is a blur until my mother stepped through the door. Without a word of greeting she said “Nice thing. I didn’t tell anyone I had children and now you’ve blown it. Anyway I have a friend waiting and I’m taking my ten days leave staying with them. Goodbye”. She was gone. Not even a glance at my new baby. How selfish.
I was a lot better in the morning as I said I would be and learnt Ted’s mother had Bryan and Kaye. For that I was truly thankful. John was a large baby. He weighed ten pounds two ounces and his feet were enormous. The nurse said he had been on earth before. I only know it nearly killed me but obstinate to the last I pressed on.
I was very weak and had a nurse for three weeks. The last week she let me walk down to the shops at the end of the road, pushing the pram with John sound asleep. Having shopped I started for home but felt so tired. The nurse was at the gate looking for me and said she was about to come looking for me. Then she said “Where is the baby?” I had left him outside the shop in his pram. Both she and I hurried back down the road but there he was in his pram still sound asleep. What a relief.
Bombs were still falling at night and life was very stressed. What with that and rationing I was having a difficult time regaining my health. However one pressed on.
Ted’s cousin Bert was sent to London to work in a factory. As it was near us he came to live with us. He went away every weekend presumably to his wife but when he returned one weekend I casually said “A blonde hair on your jacket. Who’s a naughty boy?” He went white and begged me not to say anything. Needless to say I was shocked as I was only joking. Ciss his wife complained that I never sent any rations home with Bert but I gave him a little every weekend. The girlfriend was getting them. I kept stum over the matter. The last thing I wanted was to cause a marriage break-up.
Later they came for a week and brought their adopted daughter with them. What a horrible child. The second night she went to the bathroom and filled a jug with water and tipped it into a chest of drawers, watching the water run down to the bottom drawer. Bryan called me and I was horrified. All my clean sheets and linen. Ciss’s answer was “She was only playing. She’s only five”. O.K. I let it go but two days later I caught her with a hammer going around my dining room table making dents in the wood. I’m afraid I blew up and Ciss and Bert decided to go home. I was not sorry.
Why do people have to be so awkward?
Ted’s mother I could forgive because she was so good to Kaye. She always wanted a daughter but had two boys. Kaye was like the daughter she wanted. Whilst being kind to the boys she never showed the same care as for Kaye. And so to my dear little daughter. Her father had a pet name for her of course. He worshipped her and his mother, and between them, I lost my closeness to Kaye. If I said “No”, father said “Yes”, and his mother upheld him saying “A father always cares more for a daughter than for a son”.
This was spoiling my relationship with Kaye but if I tried to protest she would cry and I was accused of not loving her. That hurt. The day came when after a stay with her grandmother, Kaye came home with her hair cut short and a fringe.
I had been very proud of the long long plaits that Kaye’s hair had been kept in. They were not only long but shining and thick. My heart beat a mad tattoo? when I saw the new look. Her father was shocked and demanded to know why I had agreed to it. His temper turned on his mother when he heard I was as shocked as he was. Kaye began to cry because she didn’t like it either. It was decided not to say anymore and I promised Kaye I would train the fringe away from her forehead.
I realised how much I had lost her the day she started out the door and I called “Where are you going?” The answer came “Out”. I said “That wasn’t an answer”, to which she replied “Out with my friends. Dad said I could”, and slammed the door.
And that was how it remained. Father and grandmother taking over and leaving me on the sidelines.
Still I could forgive her the cutting remarks and slights as long as she left our marriage alone. Nothing was going to break that up.
I look back and wonder how we managed with bombs, rationing, scaring explosions and life’s twist and turns. I think I can remember most of the rationing. It started in 1940 with butter being cut to 2oz. Per person per week. In 1941 biscuits and cereal were cut.
Tinned goods were cut
1oz. of cheese per person per week
1 packet dried egg per person every 4 weeks
2oz. Tea per person per week
8oz. Sweets per person every 4 weeks
1 real egg per person every 2 weeks
We had 16 points per month for all our food supplies. In 1940 rationing became severe. In 1942 shops ran out of sweets. In 1944 there were no toys to be had and one hunted for second-hand or made them at home. In 1941 a green card was issued to allow under 5’s to have orange juice and cod liver oil. In 1945 school dinners appeared.
Pastry was made with potato.
8oz tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons mashed potato
50 gm soft fat
Blend and roll out.
To use dried egg.
1 tablespoon dried egg
2 tablespoons water = 1 egg
To make milk.
4tablespoons dried milk powder
Plus 1 pint warm water = 1 pint skim milk
Whale meat was available but it was tough and oily with an odd smell. At times we were even offered horse meat. I didn’t touch either. The allowance of meat was one shilling and two pennyworth of which three pennyworth had to be corned beef. Made great corned beef patties.
A six penny marrow bone was as gold to me. Boiled for an hour and any sinew removed, chopped finely and added to a little mince meat, the juice set aside to turn to jelly with a thick layer of fat on the top and I made three meals. One vegetables with one third jelly and dumplings. One third with the minced meat and pastry and the third as soup with an oxo cube and homemade bread. All good food that cost little.
Then there were the clothing and cotton goods rationing. It started in 1941. We had 66 coupons per person per year.
1 coat or blazer 13 coupons
2 handkerchiefs 1 coupon
1 dress 11 coupons
3 per item of underwear
2 a pair stockings
My sheets were turned sides to middle and then to pillowslips, curtains were a luxury, but we managed.
Coal was 1 ton a month and in the winter was not enough. This led me to stealing. My babies were cold and a steamroller was parked at the end of the road, all piled up with coal for the next morning’s work so when it was dark I skipped down with a sack and went home with coal, even the kindling to start the fire. In for a penny, in for a pound.
They were dark days but somehow we were happy and I made beautiful sponge cakes with glycerine. Wish I could remember how. Christmas and birthdays were never missed for special spread. I budgeted all year for those times.
Ted was often away for weeks on special duties. He wouldn’t discuss them but being a specialist tool and fine work man was employed behind the scene. I was not allowed contact with him or even know where he was. A bit of a strain at times but I always assumed he was safe. I was lucky.
Life went on with Ted and I being happy with each other and mother being reduced to snide remarks which didn’t bother me. Ted’s father was an odd bod: He was moody and hardly had anything to say. Kind for all that.
Christmas was always at our house and somehow I saved and stretched rations so that it was always full of all the traditional things. Ted’s mother, father and brother all came. My recipes will follow..