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- Mildred Hancock
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- Contributed on:
- 14 February 2004
At that time I was working in the Air Ministry in Knightsbridge, London. Our offices were on the fifth floor of Harvey Nicholls and I resided in civil service hostels, firstly in Cadogan Square and secondly in Lowndes Square, both off Sloane Street, walking distances from Harvey Nicholls and Knightsbridge Underground station.
It was early in May on a beautiful spring morning that I leapt out of bed and in to the bathroom, which was next to the room that was shared with Doreen,my country friend also from the Cotswolds. After washing (baths were only allowed weekly then because of the water shortage) to my horror I was unable to open the bathroom door. The lock was firmly stuck. After shouting and knocking, Doreen came to my aid and fetched the warden, but neither was able to turn the key in the lock from the other side. It resulted in a locksmith being called out to fix a new lock. Imagine my extreme embarrassment on arriving very late amongst loud cheering at the office.
Later that summer we were moved to another hostel off the Bayswater Road, no longer walking distance from the office, which meant using public transport. This entailed two buses, changing at Marble Arch, at a cost of a penny halfpenny each ride, sixpence a day. So with working five and a half days it was three shillings weekly. What a blow as three shillings in those days meant the loss of two dances which were so pleasurable to us both. To overcome this situation, we discovered that walking from Bayswater across Kensington Gardens to the Albert Hall, we could catch a bus from there to Knightsbridge with a saving of three pence daily.
We both enjoyed visits to the theatre but had to save for several weeks to afford the four shillings and sixpence to view from the gods, the cheapest seats. On Sundays we voluntarily worked in the American Red Cross canteen in Mayfair to earn a wonderful meal in payment - highly desirable, as food was still rationed.
Another memory of 1944 was during a lunchtime in Hyde Park with several colleagues, where we saw a doodlebug overhead and the engine suddenly stopped. We stood looking up at it as it drifted on but seconds later it landed in Church Street, Kensington amidst smoke and horrendous noise. The church and several buildings were demolished that day.
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