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Life accepted as normal by an 8-year-old from 1940 to 1942

by carmel34

Contributed by 
carmel34
People in story: 
Mother, Auntie, Girl cousin and a very spoilt brat
Location of story: 
Guildford
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A2941418
Contributed on: 
23 August 2004

We 'women' arrived in Guildford off the train from Bognor with eiderdowns, sheets, pillows and towels as well as the normal suitcases and mother and auntie decided it would be most unladylike for them to be seen to arrive at the new house carrying such obvious household necessities so, apparently, my girl-cousin and I were dumped unceremoniously into one taxi with all the bundles and sent off while they followed graciously behind in another taxi with luggage. This annoyed my 21-year-old girl cousin very much, she thought it was extremely infra-dig for a young lady to be seen involved with bundles when she came to a new place.
The first night there, the grown-ups were listening to the radio, Mr. Churchill, in his famous speech warning the civilians about people landing by parachute, speaking perfect English who, at any moment, could knock at the front door. About 5 minutes into the programme there was a knock at the front door. I was told there was no panic, my cousin went immediately to her post - outside the door of the room where I was sleeping -, my mother looked through a slit in the blackout curtain in the front room and my aunt picked up a poker and spoke through the front door to whomever it might be. I wish I'd been awake to see that. It turned out to be the air-raid warden who had not yet introduced himself to us. It was his job to meet every new inhabitant and learn how many people were to be living in the house. He would then check every night to see how many people were there that night so that they would know how many to dig for if the house were bombed.
The grocer with whom we had 'registered' the family ration books was a very friendly chap, he would ring up his registered customers and say 'sardines','tomato soup','tinned salmon'or 'broken biscuits' and everyone would rush round to take their places in the queue with their ration books.
I used to think that my girl cousin had by far the most interesting life. She worked as a VAD, a red cross nurse, at the local hospital and even if she had been on duty all day if the siren went at any time in the night she would have to get up and go to the hospital, ready for any incidents that might occur.
She had an 'incident' herself, while walking with a young man on the Downs one day - she did not know the young soldier very well - she got a huge shock when he suddenly pushed her down behind a bush and jumped on top of her because she was wearing a bright red dress and a German plane flew down very low from, seemingly, nowhere and started shooting as he flew. The soldier had obviously heard the plane coming before my cousin did and I always thought he was very gallant trying to protect her. I was a very romantic child whose mind was filled with all the stories in the Deanna Durbin, Carmen Miranda, Greer Garson and Rosamond Johns films I was taken to so this was just up my street at 8 years old.
I remember having to take sugar, butter and cheese to my friends' houses when they asked me to tea. That never struck me as odd at the time because the family never made a fuss about it, it just part of life.
In 1941 my parents and I moved back up to London to be near to my grandparents who refused to move out of their house but that is another story.

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