This is a picture of my grandparents and aunt, taken around 1944/5. My granddad Thomas Morley died a few years after this photo, from the result of shrapnel in his legs.My grandma Jenny Morley never re married. I named my daughter after her. My aunt Pam is around 9/10 years old here.
This is an extract from a book I have started writing, based on my mother’s family during and after WW2 –
‘Come on everyone, we have to get a move on; get ourselves down to the air raid shelter. The bombs are coming!’
Fourteen year old Megan looked up in horror at her Uncle Trevor’s words. She quickly crammed a fairy cake into her mouth, and reached for another. The table cloth slid as she reached across, and the plate holding a large blancmange bunny wobbled in protest.
‘Don’t frighten the children today of all days!’
Her mother’s voice could be heard over her head, admonishing her uncle. They were in the front room of her Aunt’s house, crammed together like sardines. It was her cousin Violet and her sister Phoebe’s joint birthday party; although the families were so close that Violet was more like a sister to her. Megan’s younger sister Daisy sat one side of her whilst her cousin Annie sat to her left. At the head of the table sat the birthday girls themselves. Violet and Phoebe were giggling to themselves, dressed in their best party clothes. Violet had a satin pink bow arranged to the side of her head, whilst Phyllis had a matching bow in a pale green shade. Both girls had been born days apart from each other, in the same front room that was now the venue for the party.
‘Oh, this is exciting! Her younger cousin Albert squealed.
As the only boy present at the party Albert sat on the opposite side of the table. He gave Megan a kick under the table, and she rubbed at her sore shin. He had on rimless glasses which he hated, and his blonde hair stuck up on both sides of his ears, despite Aunt Dilys’ attempts at smoothing them down with the back of her hand. Just that morning, Uncle Trevor had pulled out the center of the table to accommodate the party, and had borrowed some chairs from his brother David who lived next door, and was also Megan and Phoebes’ dad. The only adult in the room was their grandmother, who sat in the overstuffed armchair in the corner of the room in front of the fire. She had a plate of food on her lap, and a cup of tea was going cold on the small round corner table. At the other corner of the room was the record player. It was Trevor’s pride and joy, and no child was allowed to place any sticky fingers on it or there would be hell to play. It had a smart walnut veneer, and wrap around doors that pushed open to reveal the record player itself. There were notches along the wood that allowed the records to stand upright, and a small shelf for any bits and bobs. Trevor had his 45’s laid out on this shelf; Elvis Presley, Bill Haley and anything rock ’n’ roll were the favorites.
The birthday party was in full swing when Uncle Trevor made his announcement. Aunt Dilys had put on a good spread, to be sure. There were egg and cress sandwiches, ham and tangy mustard rolls, a pink blancmange rabbit with green jelly grass and a huge pile of Welsh cakes freshly baked that morning. Megan knew they were baked fresh, as she had helped cut them out. The table was literally groaning with delicious food; all arranged perfectly on Aunt Dilys’ white tablecloth. It was not the best fancy table cloth, but her second best; the one with a fine pattern of blue cornflowers on the edges that swayed as if in a breezy field when the cloth moved. There were jugs of diluted orange juice for the children, and Dilys had saved up her rations to buy some decent coffee. A bottle of Camp chicory sat in the glass fronted dresser in her kitchen at that very moment, waiting for Aunt Dilys to open it. Megan had already sneaked into the kitchen to peek under the pristine tea cloth that hide a large round object; the birthday cake. She had not been allowed to have any part in the baking of this delicious concoction, but she and her cousin Annie had watched in awe, as Dilys spread the white icing on top of the Victoria sponge cake, her aunt’s face intense with concentration as if she were organizing the next military campaign. She had adorned it with pink iced flowers, and a few candles that had been found in the back drawer of the dresser.
‘All my ration money gone in an instance – but it’s worth it!’ Dilys had stood back to admire her work, shooed them out of the kitchen and pulled out the bread for the sandwiches. ‘Out you go, you two! Go and find your cousins, but there is to be no dirt on your party dresses, or no cake! I mean it!’
‘Trust the Krauts to spoil good knees up!’ Megan’s gran, known as Nana Florrie, spoke up from the corner of the room.
Down the lane at the bottom of the garden they had run, trying to find a safe place to avoid the bombs. Trevor had been last, as he’d had to practically carry Florrie. The old woman grumbled and groaned, mumbling and swearing to herself. It was another typical war day as far as she was concerned.
Copyright Suzanne Bowditch, 2016