Part Two 3: Life As Medicine
“Some of the English girls don’t seem alive at all – they take life as a sort of medicine.” – Vera, a young Russian, quoted by Len, 28 August, 1947.
Hello my Darlings,
You’re such a joy to me, for when I hear from you I realise more than ever how much you both mean to me. Your letters are – well it’s almost like talking to you and believe me that’s what I need. 18th of August, one says the date to oneself, thinks of ones longing for ones people and the U.K. and on the other side the need for money and the other things which keep one in this Lotus Land.
I know how you feel about the “10lb look” (apologies to Barrie), but I really do want to lose it and E. is the only person who agrees with me – everyone else says I’m alright and that once plump always plump, which is a fallacy and inspired by lazy defeatists. I do need some one else to want me lose weight too and the incentive of the studio portrait is a help. Also re. dignity, it’s there O.K., you needn’t worry about that and he knows it. After all, I’ve told him to be charming and outwardly he hasn’t taken any offence and really that’s an awful lot more for him to do than me to lose 10lb and put on some nail polish. N’est ce pas?
In his last letter Ernst mentions Canada with quite a lot of keenness, I’m rather glad. He received your letter Mum and told me he was replying in a few days, I expect you have his letter by now.
Buying the house – what’s noo? I want us to have the house, and us all (inc. E) to go to Canada. The house is an asset and why shouldn’t we be ‘men of property’ even if we’re elsewhere. Our schemes are nebulous, but it’s better to have such schemes which can be adapted or suddenly clarify than no scheme at all.
Thanks so much for all your letters, I have them all to 187. It’s grand to get the dough, I’m exchanging some of it with U.K. bound people like Betty Mac who think they’ll find it useful. The Black Market could not be found, so I changed all my dough at the ninety seven and a half touch, found it maddening, but what could I do. (1)
Pat was at Ish at the week-end. (2) As you know I don’t propose going away till Ernst’s birthday at the end of September , so sometime in October I want to go to Ish.
Right now I’m busy collecting addresses in U.K. for everyone seems to be going that way, naturally I’ve given our address, so you’d better prepare for people popping in.
On Sunday after breakfast – which we had about 8.30 I went over to the Stokes. I talked to them for a while, then walked with them across to Gezira – whilst they went on to Wilcox.
Guess who I met in Gezira – Major Wallace. You remember I met him in the Fort William-Glencoe bus in September, 1945 and on the steps of the “Britannia” gangplank for a few minutes on the morning of a riot in February 1946 (3)
He’s a gem of a man and one to whom the adjective charming can be fearlessly applied. I do wish you could meet him Mum, for honest you’d get on together so well. He went into raptures when I said you came from Dornoch. I s’pose I said it in a cold Anglified way and when he repeated it after me, (in rapture) he really rolled it around his tongue and practically made a poem out of the word.
He was telling me his daughter of 18 has just left Roedean (you know, the school) and was starting on a tour of Scotland with her cousin and was also going to the Musical Festival at Edinburgh (the people I know who are going there – lucky so-and-sos – Ethel Wilson, Olga Rundall, co-voyager-out, etc.). (4)
He also told me about her playing the violin, whereupon I said “Oh, was it her picture in the Sphinx”. And it was. (5)
Mr Wallace as he is now took me out of the sun for this conversation and got me one of those gorgeous jugs of shandy. He was telling me that some pals and he have 16,000 acres in Cyprus and export to Britain and all about. As it’s a Crown Colony they have Imperial Preference etc. He told me too of all the car trips all over Europe which he’s done and was giving me various alternative itineraries for hitching home. I was talking to him also of the Summer Isles out from Gruinard Bay in Wester Ross and of Barrie’s “Marie Rose” being centred around one of them. (6)
He’s a pensioned official of the Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada and now acts in a freelance capacity. I just wish I could really get in with his family. I’d be car-ing home then next year if I’d my way. However, he made a most charming companion for a short while.
As I’d had a lot of sun I slept for a little in the Ladies’ Lounge after looking at my French verbs, then went across to Wilcox for tea with the Stokes. It was lovely sitting there under the trees and they insisted I go back to supper with them.
My Digs. Of course I knew snags were bound to arise and they’re arising. The room is excellent and so are the breakfasts. However here are some points of interest, and of complaint, three of them:
1. This morning her clock was wrong and her watch was wrong, – about 20 mins. to half an hour. In consequence I missed the bus.
2. Last night I got in from the Stokes about 11.30 (as you know Mum, early for Cairo). She’d given me a key , but lo and behold although it turned, I couldn’t get in for the door was bolted. Of course she let me in, but this morning suggested I let her know when I was going to be late, I said I didn’t know, where upon she said I could phone her, but I intend doing no such thing, for it’s not as if she’s got to alter meals, my having b&b.
3. The other night she suddenly intimated she wanted her money in advance. I mentioned this in passing to the Stokes. I’ve 50Pt. to pay for this fortnight (i.e. the balance of £5, half of the month’s dough – from 15th to end of the month), and Mr Stokes says I should pay this at the end of the month and tell her she’s getting the rest of the money at the end of each of the month and not in advance. Her argument is that she pays for everything in advance. Mr Stokes says that’s not my worry and they pay everything in advance, but Mr W. pays them at the end of the month. He says too she can’t hold a pistol to my head as they are all desperate for people just now, not like the war years when they had the upper hand. He says I stand to lose a month’s dough and the principle of the thing’s bad.
The Stokes were dears the way they championed my cause unasked and they also said if she says I’ve got to go I can bunk in with them for a while, so I intend to stand firm – wish me luck. I don’t mention all this for sympathy, but because I know it’ll interest you. I t’s part of the growing up process I hadn’t encountered before.
People keep on asking for bulletins about you Mum, they’re not content with knowing you got home safely at all almost want day to day bulletins.
Anything you want from the Musky , as I hope to go down there at the beginning of next month? (7).
I was nearly ill when I read the description of your accident on the DM.(8). Please take care of her Dad. Remember all those lovely plans can mature without money, but one must have ones health, for you can’t fight without that.
Good gracious, is the leopard skin ready all ready? Don’t work too hard at it Mum. Unless I receive your wee slip giving gen on thread I won’t get it on Thursday, for I daresay I’ll be going into town again pretty soon, after that. Thanks so much for your letter of comfort (re. E and me) I feel a new woman. (9)
I don’t mind you telling the people you said you’d tell about my homecoming and am with you in what you say about them – they are nice types. It’s just this dislike of the Reid-Ballantine clan which overwhelms my outlook – sorry. I know how you feel about the announcement angle Mum and can sense you’re feeling of wanting to tell the world we’re doing all right, but just ignore that clan, we don’t alter our behaviour for them. (10). I feel so strongly that E must have a good long holiday (and only hope he does) in our lovely land and that it will do him so much good and take away all that ME (11) tension and you know it’s with this thought in mind and the hope that it’ll be gratified that makes me feel a bit tense myself waiting for the months to slip by, wanting UK, wanting the dough I get out here to save and wanting E and you two all at the same time.
Must close this letter now and get it off – it’s 19th now.
Your own most loving Len xxxx
1. Len is converting her British sterling to Egyptian Pounds.
2. Ish: Ishmailia, seventy miles to the north east of Cairo, on the west bank of the Suez Canal. Nearby was a RAF camp, which today is used by the Egyptian airforce.
3. From a news report of the time, 21 February, 1946: ‘Riots Erupt in Cairo. British troops in Cairo today opened fire on angry crowds demanding an end to foreign influence. Twelve people are reported to have been killed and over 100 wounded’. There had also been protests in the Suez Canal Zone, beginning in December 1945. The protests reached their peak in Cairo, as reported above, in February, 1946. The Turf Club in Cairo, for instance, was set alight by protestors and eleven members died. British Army casualties during this period have been put at 33 soldiers killed and 69 wounded.
4. This was the first Edinburgh Festival.
5. A Cairo English language paper for the Brits.
6: Unknown to either of them, Gruinard Island, in Gruinard Bay, had been lethally toxic since 1942, and remained toxic until declared safe in 1990. Scientists from the Chemical and Biological Warfare Station at Porton Down, Wiltshire, had released a virulent strain of anthrax on the island, killing sheep that had been tethered. The conclusion was that anthrax bombs dropped on German cities would be very successful, apart from the problem that the cities would remain toxic wastelands for years. Len, in 1949, would be working at Porton Down.
7. Musky: the Arab market quarter. Variant spellings exist. Cecil Beaton in his Near East (1943) spells it Moski.
8. Mum had tripped or fallen and pulled a ligament.
9. This letter of comfort is not in this collection.
10. Mum’s sister Ena was married to Bill Reid. Their brother Dennis was married to Euphemia Ballantine – Aunt Phem. The cause for Len’s dislike of them is unknown. The ‘home coming’ is when Len’s tour of duty in Cairo would be over; the ‘announcement’ is more than just her returning to Scotland – Len and Ernst were engaged.
11. ME: Middle East.
Hello my own dear Ones,
I have your 188 and 189.
You’ll be wondering about the enclosure, well you’ve probably guessed, I’d like you to send the RSA Cert. and my Birth Certificate to them and I’ll forward the envelope for so doing in my next letter. Thank you so much. Aren’t they awful to want all those things, but I s’pose they just want to be sure. (1)
On Tuesday I went to my French class, then to the Findlays, where I did some developing with John – we didn’t do much, but I’ll send you some of the results soon. He’s got a wee dark room rigged up in the bathroom.(2) I’d dinner there and was by this time – the darkroom stuffiness helped – in the middle of the most horrific cold.
The next day I went into work but really felt grim. I went to Gezira afterwards and lay in the sun – it makes me feel better. I’d a date with the Stokes and had to go there anyway. They came across, but on return I didn’t go in with them, went back to the flat and had a hot lemon, and a hot bath and nipped into bed.
The next day I stayed in bed most of the time, but did a shwoya sunbathing on my balcony and did some washing, and in the evening I did my ironing at Mrs Stokes, going to bed pretty early to work again next day. By the way I won the battle about dough in advance with the landlady, so that’s that settled.
What do you think about UNO and Egypt, wonder how it’ll affect us? We’d certainly have plenty of disposing to do if the Army moved out altogether! (3)
As for the news in your 189, it’s terrific. I was so thrilled to think of the Bulbecks and the Bryers meeting in Scotland. Isn’t it wonderful. All being well I’d certainly like to call on them in Southampton if I come home that way. I hope Daisy thinks the weather in Scotland is always like that. I told all the girls who knew her and they’re thrilled, the one question is, what does Daisy think of Britain and I’d like to ask too, are they coming back? (4) He was s’posed to be civilianized in Hirings and coming back in a few months.
Must go now poppets, for a change we’ve bags of work and I’d better do some.
Your ever loving and adoring, Len xxxx
1. This is part of the process of Len being on the Civil Service Establishment. The RSA certificate was issued by the Royal Society of Arts.
2. These prints are not in this collection.
3. Despite resolutions tabled at the U.N. for the withdrawal of British troops by the Egyptian P.M. Mahmud Nuqrashi, the situation was covered by the binding terms of the 1936 Anglo-Egyptian Treaty, which was to run for twenty years. In the treaty there was the provision for either party to look at its terms after ten years. Partly driven by economic realities the Labour Prime Minister Clement Attlee announced on 7 May, 1946 that the Government intended a withdrawal of troops from the Suez Canal Zone. Winston Churchill, it was reported, ‘drew loud cheers from his side when he said that the only way of keeping the Canal open was to have British troops garrisoned there’.
The awareness of alternative British bases in Cyprus to the north, and in Aden to the south, would have been a factor in the Labour Government’s calculations. However, negotiations with the Egyptian P.M. for the planned withdrawal stumbled over Egyptian claims to Sudan. Mahmud Nuqrashi turned, unsuccessfully, to the U.N. The treaty ran its full course. In 1955 it had been estimated that two thirds of Europe’s oil was annually passing through the Canal. The last British troops left in July, 1956. Shortly afterwards the Suez Canal was nationalized by President Nasser. In October, 1956, British, French and Israeli forces invaded Egypt. In equal measures it was a military success and an international political defeat.
4. Daisy had worked in the same Cairo typing pool as Len.
Just before lunch.
Hello dearest Ones,
Mail today has been letter from Ken Cook telling me his boat’s called in at Glasgow and he still hopes to come to Alex. 27.8.47.
On Saturday I went to Gezira and swam most of the time with Liz, Bill and Johnny Kay.
We’d a political argument with some other people. Of course L, B, J and I hold the same views and it was the first time I’ve exercised my powers of rhetoric for months. When I said – “Egypt reminds me of Devon and Cornwall during the war – then people were escaping from war work – and now out here they’re escaping from reconstruction” – there was a deathly silence, but it is true, isn’t it? (1.)
At night I stayed in. On Sunday I’d breakfast in my room, did various odd things and got to the Club about 11. I did loads of really energetic swimming with Liz and Bill and did masses of practice dives – it was fun. I got back pretty early and spent the rest of the day indoors doing French, etc.
On Monday I went straight to the “Y”, had lunch, tea and dinner there and waited for Honey,talking to Pat the while. Well there was s’posed to be a play reading on, but when Honey came she said the atmosphere was tense and we’d better not go down Malika Farida. (2.) Accordingly, as I’d already told my landlady – ‘cos of the situation – that I might not be back, I went to Garden City to her place with Honey to stay the night there, as neither she nor I wanted to go back to our respective places alone.
We’d a grand time, for she stays with a Syrian-Egyptian girl and her brother and we talked French. It was a lovely friendly atmosphere and I slept in the same room as the S-E girl and we nattered, she was nice, really modern, intelligent and emancipated.
The next morning we cooked our breakfast ourselves and walked round the corner to work. (3)
Yesterday I talked to Madame Branton and she said she couldn’t sleep ‘cos I’d had the light on, why hadn’t I eaten my egg (almost raw, so you know why!) etc, etc. Well twice she’s made me spend 15Pt. on a taxi by being late with the food, and when this culminated with her reiterating that she wanted her dough in advance I thought it time to call it a day.
I dashed straight to Mrs S. with my tale and she said she’d take me in if I didn’t get anywhere. Then I introduced a Mrs Stone (wife of a Disposals bloke) to my French teacher for lessons and after she went I told my French teacher my tale of woe. Then it happened, she said they’d a spare room, asked her mother about it and it was O.K.
I’m so glad that it’s almost over with my landlady, for now that I don’t have to think it funny I realise it wasn’t. I feel happy about where I’m going for I really like Vera and her mother looks nice. They haven’t got running hot water, but I can heat some when I want it and she’s only charging me £8 a month. Then too I shall have a chance to practice French all the time, which is a boon, the thought of being with the Solovieffs – they’re Russian you know – is a joy. Fancy a Scot living with Russians in Egypt and speaking French!
More of my new abode when I write next.
All my love darlings, Len xxxx
1. This is a reference to her farm work holidays during the war. By ‘reconstruction’ Len is talking about the re-building (in all senses) of a post-war Britain.
2. Malika Farida: a street in Cairo.
3. As opposed to the house servant cooking their breakfast.
There now is a letter from Betty Baxter, the friend from the time Len and family lived in Dagenham. She sent Len the postcard from Salisbury in the summer of 1944 when she and her family were taking a break from the doodlebugs.
28 August, 1947.
Library House, Stamford Road, Dagenham, Essex.
I always thought you were nice, but I didn’t expect even a saint to write to me after all this time. Evidently you surpass a saint, therefore I’m quite sure you’ll permit me to plunge straight into the letter without the usual introductory excuses. I’ll only say how pleased I am that you still bother about the rat that I am.
Well, you can imagine how thrilled we were to see your mother again “after all these years”. (1) Perhaps one day we could all meet, either in London or Glasgow.
Anyway, she told us how luxurious the living was out there and what a marvellous time she had with you, and made us green with envy. Just the same, I can imagine that she was pleased to get back to good old England, that is, Scotland. I expect you’ll be glad to get back too – I know the feeling. (I can swank now!)
It was really a lovely week that I had in Belgium, not only for the abundance of food and glory of the shop windows, but for the exciting feeling. Isn’t it funny when you see little children who look quite normal, and they begin to speak in some mysterious tongue? Your first thought is “Gosh! Aren’t they clever!” Another funny feeling is that of being a foreigner, and something strange, yourself. As they talk mainly Flemish among themselves in Belgium, anyway in Bruges , we felt more strange than perhaps we would have felt in a place where we could understand the language. Of course, in shops they can either speak English or French, so we had no difficulty there – except lack of money. I bought a few things, plus fruit and chocolate, but not really much. I was pleased to see what a good opinion they all seemed to have of England, though I thought they imagined we were much worse off than we really are.
Bruges is a delightful place – all canals and cobbled streets. The houses are very tall and narrow, and often look filthy from the outside, but are beautifully clean inside. The mediaeval glory atmosphere permeates the place, although the shops are filled with the most modern goods. The only thing I didn’t like was the Catholic influence – you know, the bigger candle or statue you buy for your patron saint, the better place you gain in heaven.
We happened to be there while they were doing their fire yearly pageant. It is called the “Pageant of the Holy Blood”, and centres around a golden phial containing the Holy Blood, supposed to have been brought to Bruges by Joseph of Aramathea. (You can see them go and kiss it in the Chapel of St. James). There are 3,000 in the cast, as well as a full orchestra and choir, and it is staged in the market square, on steps and a facade built against the belfry. (We climbed the belfry – it has a lovely chime – “Underneath the Spreading Chestnut Tree”, every quarter of an hour!).
The audience sit on seats in the market square and the whole tower is floodlit, while a procession with horses and flaming torches winds round the front.
Then there are the cafes. Everyone comes out at night and either walks about or sits and drinks various brews in the open air. We went to Brussels one day, but were travelling most of the time and were tired and hungry & then we couldn’t go out after supper to explore on our own – the lodging was awful that night. You can guess I can’t say much about Brussels.
We all felt that a week was far too short, but were glad to get back to the place where “English is spoken” naturally. The trip assuaged the wanderlust urge a bit, but as you say, only temporarily. I want to go to Switzerland or France next. I have a pen-friend in Neuchatel, who says he will come and stay with us next year, so perhaps I will go there.
What do you plan to do when you get back home? Do you think you will go abroad again? I have an idea there is a MAN in the picture now. Do write and tell me how things are – I don’t expect you to write promptly, or anything like that, considering my way of corresponding, as long as you do write.
Do you still go in for acting and poetry-reading? I was in a play at school which we produced on our own, that is, Benedict House, and the adjudicator presented us with the shield and me with the award for best female performance. I was Mrs. Bennett of “Pride & Prejudice”!
Nell, (2) I really can’t give you an unbiased view of the “crisis”, because you know that I’m staunch Labour. The moaning is the destructive work of those against it, and the government really is up against a lot. I still think it’s doing the best that any government possibly could, although it’s unfortunate that Attlee fails to be inspiring. What I’m really worried about is the foreign situation. Tell me your opinion of Russia, U.S.A., and Gt. Britain, and any other others you’d like to mention. You might be able to see things in perspective.
Well, this is all at the moment. “Hoping this finds you as it leaves me at present”.
1. On her way down, and possibly on her way back up from Southampton and Egypt.
2. Like her Mum, whose name was also Helen, ‘Nell’, and ‘Nellie’ is often used as an alternative for ‘Helen’.
29 August, 1947. Ye Old 26, Sailing up the Clyde
My Dear Len,
You will notice I have neglected my writing to you since Mum returned home but I know our Mum has been writing you and giving you all the news from the homestead and for myself I have been very busy in the garden trying to get it in order or keep it in a somewhat respectable shape. I have cut down all the privet all round the back garden also the front to just over 3 feet high in some cases. I had to use the saw as it was so thick you may remember the privet at the coal box and the living room window? I have got it cut right down to the top of the coal box so now you only have to look out of the window and you can see all the garden. Mum says it is a great improvement, if you had seen your dad you would have thought it was a scene from McBeth with the moving of Burnham Woods with your humble self carrying armfuls of privet to the top of the garden for a bonfire. Do you remember the bonfire we had when we were all together down in London? When I set fire to one here it reminded me of those happy days, not to say that these days are not happy or those of the future for all our days are happy, trying to get the most out of life is our motto.
Now my dear let me tell you how I got along on my holiday. Let me tell you that I enjoyed every moment of it. I set off from ye old Central Station on the saturday morning. Mum came up to see me off. It started raining as the train moved off and it was very dull all the time we were travelling until we arrived at Lancaster where I had to change for Morecambe. It began to clear up a little while there and when we got to M it was just a drizzle. I tried to get a taxi. After getting four and giving them up to parties of women with children so got a bus to the digs in time for tea and settled myself for a week in this lovely town. After tea I had to get out and get my bearings, so put on the old raincoat. I could have done without it for all the rain it had to take after that I never needed my raincoat as it was all sunshine all the rest of the holiday.
I was wakened on the sunday morning with the sun shining through my bedroom window, as if to say Come on, big boy, I want to meet you, so I put on the white shirt you sent home with mum also the sandals and my flannels and out I went after breakfast and mixed with the merry throng for a few hours then back for dinner which I thoroughly enjoyed. The food at the digs for the whole week was really tops and the service was all that could be expected. I only payed 14/6 per day while they paid 21/- at the next house and did not get the same service as we did. (1)
I spent the rest of the week enjoying all the pleasures that Morecambe could offer – funfairs, dancing, morning and evening shows, also the free and easy at the pubs with its sing songs and the swimming pool. I was there every afternoon for two or three hours. It was great. On the Wednesday they had a beauty contest in which 41 girls took part from all parts of Britain. It was a great afternoon, with a diving display added, also a comedy act to entertain the 8000 people, a record for the pool, who had come to see the show.
I also arranged for a dip at midnight from the boarding house and got a party of 12 to take part in same. This splash was a great success and enjoyed by all for two or three nights. I was well supplied with shirts and ties for each occasion but when I put on my tartan tie with the white shirt all the girls went daft for the tie but for all that it was still in my case when I got back to no. 26 along with the E.W.S (2) which set off the tartan tie.
I left Morecambe by car with some friends I had made on the saturday for Lancaster. I left them there and got the bus to Blackpool arriving there on Bank Holiday saturday. What crowds, I never saw so many people in all the places I have been, with so many people coming in and so many people going away one could hardly move, not in comfort at any rate, and had to queue for everything, so I did not stay so long there but hiked myself to Fleetwood in search of my two cousin, M.E. and Hannah. I got their address from the Post Office in Fleetwood and arrived at 38 Barrowdale Ave in the early afternoon. They were very pleased to see me and made me very welcome. I stayed with them until the Tuesday morning when I left for Liverpool. While I was with them I gave them all the news of our family, letting them know of you being in Egypt. They were very interested and pleased to hear that you had done so well for yourself.
The house they have got in B. ave is in a row of houses with the same accommodation as we have at No.26, only the rooms are much smaller, also the garden it is smaller but as they say, it is big enough for them as there is only the three of them. “Oh yes”, Ellen the maid is still with them. Trixie the dog is dead but they have got another one, the same kind only a different colour. This one is brown instead of black and white. He made a great fuss of me and I of him while I was there. My two cousins have aged a good since I saw them last, as you understand having nothing to interest them in their old age except themselves. It seems each of them have an illness now and then to give themselves something to do.
I got to Liverpool on the Tuesday in time to get to the races, so went into the racecourse for a little while to bring back many memories of years ago when I was there. It was very thrilling mixing with all the crowd, watching the horses and backing a winner. I got a great kick out of this.
I then set off to Leopold to see my cousins. I met one of them, Laura, who was pleased to see me but did not invite to stay for the night so set off to see Mum’s cousin at Stoneycroft. It was getting on in the evening when I arrived there but again I was unlucky in not getting put up for the night as they had no room. They were very nice and were very pleased to hear that you were doing so well out east. I left their place after ten and had to go into the City and get fixed up in an hotel for B&B in the morning. I set off to New Brighton for a sail on the Mersey, just to say to myself this is the same place my little girl sailed from when she went out into the world, also the place where your aunt Lizzie sailed from when she left Britain. (3) I had a very pleasant morning at N.B. and then came back to Liverpool and called on my cousin Grace who’s address I had got from Laura and boy did she make me welcome, I’ll say she did. Nothing was good enough for your Daddy and I spent the rest of my stay in Liverpool with them. I also saw other cousins and were all so pleasant to see me and to hear how we were all getting on. Altogether it was a very pleasant and enjoyable stay there.
I left Liverpool on the Friday midday and arrived in Glasgow about 10 at night. Got home and found that Mum had gone up to meet me but we missed each other but Mum came along later and we sat up late talking to each other till the sma hours, me telling Mum all about my holiday and Mum letting me know more about her trip out East. So you see my dear that ended for me a very pleasant time for my holiday for 1947.
Since then as I told you at the beginning of this letter I have been in the garden. In between the holiday and today we had a strike at the work but I am pleased to say that it did not last a week and that we gained all the points that caused the stoppage of work. Since mum came home I have to take my turn on night work, that is, a fortnight on day work and then a fortnight on nightwork. This is my second week on night work. It’s not so bad for Mum now that Jack is here while I go out to work at night as there is someone with her.
We went to Dunoon yesterday to the Cowal Games and had a smashing day. (4) The sun was shining all the time and we both made the most of it. Need I tell you how we got on, when both your mum and I get cracking we are some show “says you”, no doubt mum will be letting you know more of it in her letter to you. I hope my dear that you are still keeping well and that the trouble out there does not effect you in any way. (5)
Take care of yourself my dear for both your mum’s and dad’s sake as all our love goes to you my dear and all my best wishes to you my dear from your own loving Dad. XXXXXXXXXX
1. ‘Payed.’ As spelt.
2. EWS: Possibly ‘Egyptian White Shirt’.
3. Aunt Lizzie was a relative on Dad’s side of the family.
4. The Cowal Games were, and still are the largest Highland Games in Scotland.
5. Protests continued in Egypt over the British presence in the Suez Canal Zone, and also in support of Arab claims to Palestine.
Break time in the Office.
Beloved own Ones,
Well, here’s the main piece of my news. I’ve been told I shan’t be going home before next March, so I’m singing “In 7 more months I’ll be out of the calabush” . I feel better now I know more definitely what I’m doing. It’s hard the thought of being away from you for these extra months, but in the circumstances I think it’s the ‘sensible’ best.
About being tense, haven’t thought about it lately and now that letter brings it to mind, must say it seems to have gone. The thought of a fairly definite going home date helps and also that I’m moving to somewhere, where I really want to go.
Isn’t my PO Savings Book in the Mahogany Sideboard? I’ll tell you something else too, from October onward I want to live on my FSA (1) so intend to have my whole salary sent home for banking to swell the old account. You talk about my not answering queries, what about the phone? I really do want one, so please have one if poss. and pay what it costs from my dough. What about the house, d’you need any money for it, anyway tell me the position.
Wednesday I’d my usual day at Gezira with the Stokes and went back for a cuppa tea with them. Mrs Stokes has just awoken to the fact that I don’t go to Church and I’m sure she half wonders if I’m a bad influence on the kids – well, it’s up to her whether I associate with them or not. They’re 4 and 5 respectively and still have to be dressed and taken to the lavatory – it’s not good enough, is it? I think that parents who tie children to them by not letting them be independent, start in their children a feeling of annoyance at them. After all, one can make a child independent and still shower it with love. I’m so glad that I’ve you as parents, you may not have read any books, but you’d your psychology on upbringing to a fine art, for the tie that binds us now is love and respect – nothing could be finer.
Yesterday I again went to Gezira, Pat was there (she sends her love) and so was Honey. Later I joined the Stokes and took the kids up to my room when I got back, whilst Mrs S. got the tea ready. (2) That’s the second time I’ve done it. In those brief moments (insidious from my influence if Mrs S. did but know it) I told them how to touch and speak to dogs, where Iraq was, where Russia is and also danced for them. The Nile’s rising and the temperatures shot up about 100 again, so this dancing was a bit hot, but the kids loved me doing high kicks and singing and asked for an encore – did “My old man says follow the van” – we’ve a lot of happy memories associated with that.
To-day is moving day. Never told you where my new habitation is – 173 Rue Fouad in Zamalek, that is a flat in the same entrance as the Zimmer Pension – you remember, Mum, where we went to dinner and you saw the ship in the bottle? Don’t think there’s a phone number, but when I find out what it is I’ll give you the Zimmer’s, for if anybody turns up in Cairo and phones one of the girls there, they’ll soon give me a message.
Ernst’s birthday is Friday, 26 September. Isn’t it thrilling news about Ernst’s parents, yes it would be grand if you could see them and have them at 26 – sure you’d all get on well together. As they’re s’posed to be leaving China in October I was wondering if they’d be here for my birthday – I’m looking forward to seeing them. Ernst must be terrifically excited, not having seen them for about 7 years. (3)
Hope you’re resting your leg Mum, so sorry to hear of the torn ligament – do hope it gets well and you must make it do so, by taking care. Never, never, take a step unless you’re sure what you’re stepping on is sound – please be careful. Since learning French I’ve learned that soignée means not smart as I thought, but careful, i.e. a woman carefully dressed and chic’s smartly dressed, so you be soignée with your leg. (4)
How’s that grass Dad? Don’t let it grow too high during the winter please, ‘cos I ain’t done anything like that for a while and want to be able to manage it. Remember the way I never looked at it in the winter then suddenly on a spring day looked out and saw with horror it was about a foot and a half high and had to ask for your help to get it back into shape.
What were the Highland Games like? I’ve never seen ‘em they must be terrific. Bet you met some people you know.
Is there any chance of your encountering the Reids or are they south of the border again?
John Findlay wants me to do an itinerary of Scotland with him and as I’ve no more news, I’d better go.
You both take care of yourselves – one never knows how busy one’s going to be and may suddenly need to go flat out. Anyway I wish was with you, but in the meantime I’m there in spirit.
Ever your own loving, Len xxxx
1. FSA: Foreign Service Allowance.
2. “My room”. It is not clear whether Len is still at Madame Branton’s, and it is close by, or whether she has taken up the offer of Mrs Stokes to temporarily stay with her family whilst Len moves her things to the Solovieffs.
3. Ernst, then, would not have seen his parents since his late teens. It seems that his father was a doctor. His mother’s occupation, if she had one, is not known. Whether they had got caught up in Japanese occupied China, or in the civil war between the Chinese nationalists and communists is also not known. They were German and had left Germany in 1933, when Hitler came to power. Ernst was born in Berlin in 1917.
4. Len hasn’t got this quite right. She gives the real meaning of soignée in a letter she writes Mum on 12 september, 1947.
Patricia’s room in the Y., Monday evening.
Hello dearest Ones,
My favourite month and I’ve so much to tell you, not big things but little happenings.
First, I’m a much happier woman, for I really feel at home where I am now, the Solovieffs are our type of people, that’s the reason. They put down food in big dishes, not like these Y.W. pots which I’ve met everywhere else as well in the Y. You know I feel a lot closer to the S’s than I do to most English people.
You say I’ve grown too quiet and serious Mum, well now I realise the reason. When I first came out they taunted me and called me ‘baby’. This naturally had a quieting effect and, as well, everybody spends so much time standing on their dignity they don’t sing or run or laugh. When I confronted Pat and Marcel with it today they said “Oh well we must remember we’re English.”
All along that sort of thing happened and when I feel all the bubbling inside and somebody acts like that it’s like a slap in the face. Now Vera is a different person. We went for a walk on Saturday and ran and laughed and sang. With everyone going in for this decorum constantly I’d begun to think I was wrong, but now I realise I’m not. Vera said “Some of the English girls don’t seem alive at all – they take life as a sort of medicine.” I thought it an excellent simile and it’s only too true. Anyway all this is to say I’ve found myself again.
Yesterday I received your air mail from Naples Mum, posted on 14 July! (1)
My moving day was Friday and honestly it was horrid, the henna haired woman tried to make me give her the 44Pt. balance of £E5 I owed for half the month. Naturally as she was turning me out two days before the end of the month and had only given me three days’ notice, as well as making me spend 30Pt. in taxi fares as her time was wrong in the morning I said “no”. She went to the extent of ordering the servants in Arabic not to take out my trunk, but when she saw I was adamant retired to her bedroom and I got them to take it out. They (i.e. suffragis) said she was macnoon – mad. As you’ll understand I was glad to get out of that. Here is my landlady’s note to me – don’t you think it’s priceless?.
Almost straight away in my new place I started to unpack, for it’s so nice and I hadn’t the funny feeling of not wanting to unpack the way I had before. Then the family asked me to tea and we talked for ages after the meal – a journalist friend of Vera’s was there too. It was more like home than anything I’ve encountered here so far. Then I did shopping and came back to go to bed fairly early.
On Saturday I went to the club again, where I’d a rather hefty luncheon. I didn’t go in swimming ‘cos of the sinus in my cheek, but a Disposals bloke came over to where I was sitting – some distance from the edge of the pool, picked me up, carried me to the edge, stood nattering to me for a few minutes, then thought better of throwing me in and walked back to put me down where I’d been sitting. All this is to prove that I’m still losing weight. I should mention too, the bloke was just back from Shaibah – near Baghdad – where he’d been suffering from heat exhaustion! (2)
I went back to 173 (3), then Vera and I went for a walk, en route we popped into the club for a drink and I saw Constance Hurling an ATS Jnr. Cmdr (4) I haven’t seen since January and Rudy Weins the American I met on my Luxor trip in Easter ‘46. It seems he’s been to India and America and has brought his family out. He said he’d introduce me to his wife sometime and I’d like that, for I’d like to talk to an American woman to get her slant on things.
Then as I’d been asked by the family I went to the pictures with them and a bloke off the Journal d’Egypte (5) – Vera’s paper. We saw an Italian film with a gorgeous singer and “Intermezzo”. You should have seen me at the back of the cinema trying to read the French captions on the Italian film – you know how I like to sit well forward at an English film! We went and came back in the jeep Mr Solovieff uses for work, it was fun and the best Saturday I’ve had for a while.
Yesterday I went shopping with one of the women from work after lunching at the Y.W. and had tea with her. I got your Ecru balls Mum, 4 for 30Pt. I don’t s’pose this will be enough, but at the beginning of each month, all being well I’ll buy you some, for I’m skint now.
I don’t exactly say I was extravagant, but had better put it that I indulged my luxurious tastes. I got an iron – 125Pt which wasn’t bad. The second utility thing I needed was a clock and that’s where I really went to town. You see the first morning I was at the Solovieffs I just woke up and while washing heard the suffragi at the door, so let him in – the rest of the family don’t get up till late. The next day was Sunday and on the Monday, Mr. S. was up early as he’d to go to Banha (you know Mum on the P.S. route) to do some work, but both times nothing woke me, so you see a clock really was necessary.
The one I bought cost 425Pt., but it’s a humdinger, the back opens to reveal the winder and at the same time forms the bit that makes it stand up and the front has a bit which slides over the face like a roll top desk. It’s American (which makes me feel really guilty) (6) and is called a Travalarm. It’s ivory coloured, has a gold band round it and as well as having an alarm is luminous. I know I could have bought a non-glamourous alarm at a much cheaper price, but it wouldn’t have given me half the joy which this lovely little thing has already.
Last night though was a fiasco. As Vera didn’t finish work till 10 I’d arranged to meet her and go late to the play reading. I left the Y and stood waiting for her, but she didn’t come. I felt awful just standing at that time of night in Cairo and went back to the Y as I wouldn’t get a taxi back alone. I stayed the night there. Heard this morning that the Sols stayed up till 2 a.m. and were awfully worried – people say “You’re lucky to have someone to worry about you out here” – and it appears that Vera was there. I’ve to ring her in a minute when she gets to work to tell her I’m O.K. Maybe we’ll find out where our arrangement slipped.
Discovered that Vera – have just rang – dashed down to the other Groppi’s as I was a minute or two late. I waited quarter of an hour then went, then she returned to the original Groppi’s (7) and of course I wasn’t there. Feel awful at having caused them anxiety, but I just couldn’t have taxied back alone.
If I don’t get this off now something’ll stop me I fear, so had better stamp it and give more gen and reply to your letters shortly.
Take care of yourselves my poppets,
Your own honey chile, (and verra lovin’)
1. Posted by Mum on her way back by boat to Britain. The airmail letter took six weeks to arrive.
2. Shaibah, in Iraq, was an airforce base in 1947. In early 2010, post the American/British invasion of Iraq in 2003, it was being used by the British MoD as a dog training camp.
3. 173: her new digs with the Solovieffs.
4. An ATS Junior Commander was the equivalent of an Army Captain.
5. Journal d’Egypte: French language newspaper, founded 1936. It folded in 1994.
6. Britain was near bankrupt, and in debt to America. Len was feeling bad she hadn’t bought a British made product.
7. Groppi’s cafes are a Cairo institution. The original Groppi’s was a favourite during the Second World War of British Officers who would take tea on the terrace. Lower ranks and Egyptians were banned.
The same day – 2 September, 1947, Len writes a second letter to her parents.
My own dear ones,
Have just despatched a letter to you I know, but must get down to the business of replying to your letters, cos things are beginning to crowd in and I want to be there with a letter for you – you’re certainly keeping me supplied with ones from you. (1) By the way, how’s the heat wave. It was only 91 here yesterday, so I think you must be almost hotter than us! Hope something has eased the drought by now. You’d certainly been having a record summer by all accounts.
‘Fraid you’ve had the stuff from the Mousky this month, for as I said after my expenditure yesterday I’m skint. I’ve had an advance already, but that’s got to do, French lesson fees, food, trip to Port Said, Ernst’s present, shoe repairs etc. and I may just manage to exist till we’re paid, so I’m afraid my Mousky shopping will be for Ernst’s present. It would be a good idea to go down the Mousky once a month, but it would have to be just after pay day!
Aunt Betty seems to be a star as far as sending stuff goes, as for asking about corsets, I think that’s terrific. Doesn’t it all make you want to go to the US terrifically just to see her.
Have you seen Swedish Elizabeth? Wonder if how and when we can fit the Scandinavian countries in? I’m dying to see the various people over there and of course the scenery.
Longing to see the snaps of the Bulbecks and you. D’you know if and when they’re coming back here?
Eight years to-day since war broke out, incredible, isn’t it.
Before I forget, what are you doing with my clothing coupons? Do please use them for sheets for you and that Lumley Jantzen for me. At any rate use them, for I’d much rather get stuff from home than from here – you know the way I feel about British goods. As I don’t feel they should be spent on anything specific – other than the Jantzen and sheets, I suggest that if you see a remnant or bargain, you get it sent to me and debited against those coupons. I think material not made up – unless you see a good made-up bargain – would be the best. If you see something you want yourself and can hold out for it until either I send it back to you or bring it back with me – all being well, do get it, the same applies to things for Daddy. Please too, can I have back my very-much-taken-in zipped up the back skirt, for it’s my favourite dressy winter one.
Ah yes, my new room is smaller than my other, but it’s funny, I’m not really keen on big bedrooms and there’s something about this room which is making me tidy and I’m sure – or hope – will continue to do so. Mrs Sol. is awfully like Mrs. Brandley (3) and she’s made me two cushions for the little chairs and then the bed is covered during the day with stuff of the same material (it’s green, a lovely light colour) and has cushions of the same material along the back making it like a divan settee and the armchair is done in the same stuff too, so the whole effect is jolly good. I’ve a tree outside my window, a pelmeted curtain, beside lamp and of course my own little clock so you see how cosy and luxurious it is.
Yes, the new food cuts sound grim. D’you think the corner will be turned by the spring or summer of ‘48? (2)
I hope the fuel isn’t too bad for you this winter, so that it helps you to get to the turning point. As long as people don’t blame the Government it’s not so bad – I’d love to fight to bring us back a Labour Candidate in the next elections, we certainly haven’t got such a big majority to counteract this time. ‘Fraid old Ernst doesn’t like the thought of my doing door to door canvassing, but once I get that feeling inside I don’t think I could hold back for anything. (3)
What’s Uncle Albert’s latest address please?
Tuesday I went to my French class, then went down the Mousky with the Findlays. As usual it was interesting, she was telling me how you loved it and also of your terrific thirst and assuaging of same by questionable bottles of cola-cola! As I’d not called on them till late it got dark quickly and we had to get out of the M. before it got dark, so I didn’t get my chess set for Ernst. Hope to get it another day though. Jean got a smashing ring £2.10s an Alexandrette (is red in electric light and blue in daylight) with white sapphires on either side – the vendor was an Indian. It seems he’s a stone dealer and not really s’posed to sell rings, well I’m keeping him in mind for a ring for you Mum (unless I get a windfall it’ll have to be a zircon, not a diamond) and also for myself, you know how I like jewellery and want to get some from here before I return.
When I got back – about 8, Vera came and asked me if I’d like to go out. I went to a lecture on Beethoven in Russian. The only bit of it I understood was when other composers were mentioned and also the word metronome ‘cos I have one (is it still there?), but afterwards there was a recital by one of the blokes who used to play at Music for All and who’s going to study in Paris. V’s Mum and Pop were there. A bloke Vera knows took us to the Sans Souci (Carefree) Cafe for an icecream. We talked for ages, had a coffee and eventually got home after her parents – it was a lovely night.
The only thing that annoys me is that Vera’s friends speak such excellent English, I haven’t the heart to try out my bad French on them, must natter to her Mother, for she really knows no English. It’s amazing how like Mrs. Brandley she is. Don’t you think Mrs.B. looks foreign. I think I remember telling her once she’d some Spanish in her – maybe Joan’s voice is a throw back. (4)
Yesterday I saw the Stokes at Gezira. Mrs S. and I were talking of perfumes and she said she always meant to ask you what perfume you wore Mum, as she thought it was so nice. I know you didn’t always use the old Libyan Rose, so I was not able to enlighten her. I remember now how we got on it now though, it wasn’t really perfumes really proper. I put some Pond’s cold cream on, as my hands felt stiff after swimming followed by a bath, she remarked on the perfume. I told her what it was and mentioned how you swore by their vanishing cream and then the conversation ensued as aforementioned. For my inf. please, to what do you attribute the perfume?
Went back to the flat and got to bed at 7.30. My little alarm woke me at 6.30, so I’d plenty of sleep.
Just had a shorthand call, so must go, but please don’t worry about me. Had your letter where you’d just got the news on the radio – as you can see UNO seem to be procrastinating a lot. (5) Wish I could write more, but must go.
Your most loving chile.
1. These letters from Mum, mentioning the summer heatwave in Scotland, and the parcels received from Aunt Betty are not in this collection.
2. On 6 August, a month before Len wrote this letter, the Labour Government had introduced the Supplies and Services Bill – the Conservative opposition called it the ‘SS’ Act. It was further legislation to grapple with the bankrupt economy. Some Americans in the Senate had been critical of the Chancellor, Hugh Dalton, for – they alleged – diverting part of the American loan to allow ‘Egyptian pashas to spend dollars on mink coats for girl friends’. The ensuing rationing in the UK included bread, which had never been rationed during the war. On 10 August the Prime Minister Attlee broadcast to the nation, appealing for a wartime-style national effort to tackle the economic crisis. ‘I have no easy words for the nation. I cannot say when we shall emerge into easier times’.
3. Len is wrong. David Kirkwood, the MP in the Dumbarton Burghs constituency – that covered Yoker – had had a healthy majority of 7587 in 1945. Nationally the Labour Party had not lost a single by-election since their landslide election in 1945 and individual Labour Party membership increased year on year during the postwar 40s. In 1950, when the constituency was divided and he stood for Dunbartonshire East he beat off opposition candidates, with a majority of 4576. His Conservative opponent was an ex-Major from the Scots Guards, who had been in Palestine, and resigned his Commission in 1946 to run the Family Estate. He would later become Home Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister under Margaret Thatcher. His name was William (‘Willie’) Whitelaw. David Kirkwood had been one of the three imprisoned in 1919 along with Manny Shinwell and Willie Gallacher over their part in the alleged ‘Bolshevik Uprising’ in Glasgow.
4. In Len’s 1944 list of her friends and songs she associates with them, Bizet’s Habanera from Carmen is associated with Joan.
5. As noted earlier, the motion at the UN from Egypt was rejected.
Autumn Day of wind & rain
Hello Cuddle dear,
I saw the specialist yesterday & he says the X ray shows nothing broken or seriously wrong with my foot & some massage and electric treatment sh’d make it quite O.K. again. I have to see him again in a month’s time. I don’t know how much he charges per consultation but if you hear of me selling up the home you’ll know it’s to pay his fees, ha! ha! (1)
Got a letter in from Mrs Stokes this morn. – typically Mrs. Stokes, saying she finds so little time to write and hoping Mr S. will be sent to the U.K. However, she says the children love you & you them & I think she thinks a real lot of you and I know she is very grateful for your offer to sit with the children anytime Mr. S. & she want to go out.
I’m writing to Ernest with this post and have said we’d love to have his Mum & Dad visit us here, it would be fine if they could as I’m sure they will be very tired of travelling.
You sure ‘went to town’ with your clock purchase – sounds a smasher. I see they (the Americans) are putting an alarm watch on the market – it’s supposed to be on sale here at Xmas and is to cost £25.-.
It was thrilling this morn. to hear the name of the “Empire Rival” on the radio as being the second ship to disembark the Jews at Hamburg – I can picture Cptn. Speirs and Mr. MacCaskill – remember the night we didn’t go to the Maltese Club with them! (2.)
Enclosed newspaper cutting to let you see what happens to people who send B.of E. £1 notes through the post!
Hutch is on my knee just now making wild grabs at my pen so writing is difficult to say the least. Must busy off to the shops as it’s early closing day.
You are ever in our thoughts, our own darling Best Beloved.
1. The house had not been bought. The Health service in the UK was still private, hence the reference to consultant fees. The National Health Service was to begin the following year, on 5 July, 1948.
2. The Empire Rival was a British Ministry of War Transport ship, that remained in Government service after the war. Jewish nationalists blew a hole in its hull at Haifa in 1946. Repaired, it was one of the three boats used to transfer the Holocaust refugees from the Exodus, and return them to British occupied Hamburg.
9 September, 1947. Break time in the office
Well, to-day’s the day for the UNO to decide – but the question is ashenay, or rather what (not why). Probably they’ll postpone it for another long while, hope to re-visit the Mousky to-morrow, so hope the news doesn’t give the Egyptians cause for annoyance.
Sunday I got up about 8.30, mucked around in my room, had brekker and showed Vera – who’s a cold, how to make up a boric lotion and insisted she bathe her eyes in my solution to sample it – she’s now a convert to bathing her eyes regularly. Then I went over to the club, sunbathed did my French and had a political argument with a former dramatic colleague. I lunched with Patricia, afterwards, Maj.Wallace joined us and we had a shandy with him. After he left P & I had tea in another part of the club. Then we parted and I’d a walk with Vera.. We came back from our walk and I listened to music on the radio with her and did my sewing, then the family insisted I joined them for high tea and when I said that was all right but I’d have to arrange to pay for it, they poo, pooed the idea, which just shows that everyone here isn’t mercenary.
Yesterday I lunched at Gezira and washed my hair in the showers there, then I returned to do sewing and French. At night I went to the play reading which was O.K., but I’m not desperately enamoured. On my return I found a D.P. (1) a Yugoslav at 173. He’s going to France, but doesn’t seem to feel mad about the Sov. Govt. in Y as the press makes us believe. (2) This morning I’d a coffee and fruit – grapes, dates and another kind of Egyptian fruit for breakfast.
Must go now.
Cheerio darlings, Lots of love, Len xxxx
1. DP: Displaced Person, a term that covered all those up-rooted in the aftermath of the Second World War.
2. ‘Sov. Govt in Y’: Soviet government in Yugoslavia Len is using the expression ‘Soviet’ to characterize the Communist Regime in Yugoslavia, and not referring to the USSR. Stalin, in fact, became extremely hostile to communist Yugoslavia the following year – 1948 – because of Tito’s independent stance, and it is now known that Stalin considered invading the country.
11 September, 1947. The Old Home.
Our Dear International,
We are feeling very perturbed tonight after hearing the news re. the going on in Cleopatra’s land and are hoping so fervantly that you are safe and keeping well out of danger. Thinking of the Consulate and remembering my visit there to enquire my visa dates. I’m hoping the damage was not extensive. I know you’ll be worrying about Ernest as we are here and hoping for his safety. I sent him a letter on Tuesday. Fancy them destroying De Lesseps monument. It was so wonderful in that unique position it had and long before the “Franconia” reached P.S. Sister Craig had told us about it & said it w’d be our first glimpse of Egypt, she had done the trip dozens of times and always looked out for De. Lesseps.
Anyway, glad we saw it and I have some P.C.’s of it.
We know Ernest will be bothered about your safety also, and Dad & self will be glad when we hear, as we hope to hear, that you are both safe. One never knows when or where, these bomb throwers will turn up next. I suppose your security people will be busy & will give you instructions re. travelling to & from the office, etc.
As you asked for Uncle Albert’s address, in your 210, rec’d yestd’y, here it is honey.
c/o Jos. Howlett,
956 N. Lewis Avenue,
Illinois, U.S.A. (1)
Also I’m enclosing the address of the Egyptian merchant (or whatever he is) who said he could tell us where to get stuff. I’m enclosing the actual address slip he gave me as I cannot decipher the name. Tell him I hope he will visit us here.
9 p.m. news just on, it says ‘Cairo has been relatively quiet’, it’s good to hear that. Hope all mail to & from will get through safely.
Got a letter from the specialist to take to the clinic so my massage & electrical treatment is the next thing to take up my time but won’t mind that if it does good.
I was listening today to a talk on the radio re. immigrating to Canada, the speaker had counted 12 columns of adverts. (in the Can. papers) wanting women workers & 10 wanting men – bricklayers were getting 10/- per. hour with double pay for overtime. He said Canada is a good country if one can stand the cold but, if you can’t do that, think twice before going there as, tho’ Canadian houses are well heated they can be very, very cold.
Friday 12th Sept.
I’m sending a P.C. to Ernest, it must be awful in P.S. & do hope you will both be O.K.
I always forget to tell you, talking of perfumes my Libyan Rose and a box of hankys – remember my lovely georgette & silk ones I’d kept so carefully for ages – were stolen out of my zip bag when I left it at the left luggage office at either Charing Cross or Euston – well, I suppose one has to make some sacrifices to the Gods! Was wild – fancy bringing them all that length & then getting them pinched – I felt so ghastly ill at the time I just didn’t care. (2)
Must now fly to the shops. Our thoughts and love are all there beside you, to take care of you & bring you joy.
Cheers & love,
1. Uncle Albert has moved address since his calling card from the Second World War era.
2. Because of her leg.
Next Part Two Chapter Four: Cholera and Riots
“Listen, honey lamb, there’s something we want you to do for us and that is, please, while this Cholera epidemic is rife send us a wee note everyday, it needn’t be long or newsy note, just a scribble to let us know how you are keeping.”
– Mum to Len, 2nd October, 1947.