Part Two 8: Marriage – No second hand or damaged material

Part Two  Chapter 8:   Marriage – No second hand or damaged material. 

 “Remember always, honey, your value (I hate to put it this way but facts are facts) in the marriage market is a very, very high one…. therefore no second hand or damaged material will be good enough….” – Letter from Mum to Len, 26 February, 1948.


Mums letter, APO png

Mum letter image png_edited-124 February, 1948.

Good news in the Old Home.

Your hoped for home coming.

Our Own Darling One,

So much to say so I’ll start by saying that Mr Munro and Christine called on Sunday and brought us wonderful Birthday presents from you, and wonderful presents they really are.  Daddy is going around saying (in effect) “I’m so warm with my new ring” and last night I caught him putting it on to go to the clinic, wants to show it off all the time, it really is wizard, a perfect fit and so handsome.  Do tell us about the scarab – it is scarab, isn’t it?  I mean a real fossilised beetle?  We notice we can see through it (head to tail) so I guess it must be a real scarab.  We’ve turned it this way and that and all around. My dress length is truly glamorous, such a beautiful quality, Christine said she really felt like keeping it for herself!  I see there’s three metres in it – right?  Now I must think up some really cute style for that lovely stuff – any ideas?  It should wash and wear for ages, and you are a sweet honey to get it for me, it really looks like summer in Egypt, so cool and sweet – I don’t mean summer in Egypt is cool and sweet, no sir! but the sorta clothes they wear there.

Mr Munro brought his snapshot album to let us see his pictures and (keep it dark) I don’t think they are so good or interesting as my own collection except that he has been to and has pictures of far more places than I had.  Made me awfully wild when he kept saying “were you there” and “ did you visit that” – well, sweetheart, I guess the only thing for me to do is to make a return trip – ain’t they started a scheme to take Mothers out yet? – or Daddy’s?

Honestly, if ever that Littlewoods comes up it’s Dad and I for Egypt, must see Luxor, Mr. M. was in ecstasies (?) about it. (1)     He says he enjoyed his holiday and is “not sorry he went” (awful expression), but he still likes his own country best.  I think I’m really like a sponge as far as travel goes, I soak it all in and I can never make comparisons.  It’s best to understand the minds of the people.

On Sat. I got started out on my shopping right after breakfast.  I went into town to Muirheads as I saw they had a sale advertised, gloves at 10/- etc. and nylons at 6/11. When I got there the Q was right round into Cambridge Street so I says to myself “none of that for me.”   It was snowing like billy O but Q they would.  I went right in – the Q was for stockings only by the way.  I bought two pairs of gloves, one pr. heavy brown leather for Daddy for his birthday – he doesn’t know it yet, so keep it dark – and one yellow leather pr. for myself.  I then went to the stocking counter where the floor walker told me I must join the Q outside (almost collapse of me).  I told him I’d been already purchasing.   He hee hawed and then told me to stand “there”, “there” being top of the Q.   I was served right away – we were only supposed to get one pr. each but I got 2 prs. nylons and 2 prs. pure silk.  The nylons are seamless and the pure silks are fully fashioned – supposed to be imperfect but I cannot see a flaw in them.  All this shopping meant the handing over of 16 coupons, but shall have enough I think.  I’ll keep (or try to keep) 2 prs. stockings for you.  I’d advise you to bring home several pairs of the fully fashioned five bob ones as we hear they are going off the market soon,  but it’s maybe not true.

On Sat. also I got 2 rabbits in Lewis’  this was very fortunate as I was thus able to give my two unexpected guests dinner.

Yesterday I was greatly surprised to get a letter enclosing two slips of paper – receipts for a parcel from C.A.R.E. i.e. Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe.  The donor is Uncle Albert and I have to take the receipt, with my identity card, to the Clydebank Coop, Central Branch, Alexander Street and collect my parcel weighing 27lbs!  I think they’ll send it for me.

I’ve been told those C.A.R.E. parcels are really wonderful, everything in them. Wasn’t it terrifically kind of Uncle Albert to send it – we are very thrilled and must write to tell him so and say a great big thank you.   We got a letter from Uncle A. lately and he says you are his “most priceless possession”, so do write him nice letters, honey, he must be very lonely, I think.

Hope my 250 and 251 get to you soon honey.  Your 260 got here Sat. and your 261 on Mon. (Yestd’y) and we must say you do look lovely in those last pictures, dear. (2)    You look so slim and elegant somehow, you can fairly see your long, fine bones coming out now, if you know what I mean; in fact you are what are popularly known as a “smasher”, I’m sure lotsa people think you are really wonderful and none of them more than your ownest Dad and Mum.

Look at the wee wee space I’ve left to say the most important thing, that is how thrilled, oh! thrilled and joyed we are to learn of your decision to finish in July. That time is now a bright and shining star on our horizon – more about it in my next epistle. All the love in Scotland and our hearts, our own darling.

Dad and Mum. xxx


1.  Mum’s spelling, and question mark.  But her spelling is correct.

2.  These photos of Len not in this collection.


Mum letter image png_edited-126 February, 1948.
Thurs. Your Little Grey Home in the West.

Darling, darling Ain Wean,

Your 262 of 20th Feb. got in yestreen (1) and we are so glad to learn you are fit and well, honey.  I’m so glad you are getting lotsa green vegs.  That’s the stuff to put colour in your face and spring in your step.

I feel just now, after receiving your unnumbered “for me alone” letters of Feb 11th, 17th and 23rd, that I want to take you in my arms and comfort you and give you hope and maybe laugh at you a wee, wee bit! (2)

I never mentioned Mark in any of my letters because his being 14 yrs. your senior just seemed to make it impossible that you sh’d be anything but, not friends, just aquaintances. No matter how much you may seem to have in common you must remember his youth is behind him while you are only “on the threshold sweet” and nothing can alter that fact. It’s hardly worth discussing any further as his admission of being in love with a dame in Switzerland just cuts it all out, and I’m so glad you said, in effect, in the first part of yr. letter “I couldn’t stand any (his) murky past if he had one.”   Remember always, honey, your value (I hate to put it this way but facts are facts) in the marriage market is a very, very high one – you w’d mean success to a man, I say this as its simply a fact; therefore no second hand or damaged material will be good enough – the adventure must be fresh and new to both partners.

You know, when you were a wee girl a fortune teller told me you wdn’t marry till you were about 26, I often think of that. (3)    Remember what I said about as “good fish in the sea” and also that I said they keep improving all the time!

 I w’d advise you not to go around very much with Mark or give him much of your time – it w’d only be unsettling to both of you.  I had much the same experience with Stanley Dark and my one regret, after the whole affair petered out, was that I’d given so much time to going around with him.  It was good of M. to “tell you all”,  he c’d so easily have kept it dark.

No, I certainly do not think that the idea of men fills your life – you are much too clever to be so silly, please do know I understand.  Like myself, you are very young – some people stay like that all their lives, you know, and some people are old from the day they are born, poor things.

Re. yr. remarks that you’d enjoy a struggle to make ends meet, etc, yes, maybe you w’d but I wouldn’t want that struggle to be too much of a bread and butter one, it’s so fatal to iniative (?) and ideas. (4)

 Any word yet of the 10 quid you gave Harris? – that poseur; honestly I think its a bit thick – and has Esme repaid you?  For goodness sake get wise to the fact that those people are using you for their own ends.  Stop being Confessor in Chief and don’t make their arrangements for them, it gives a girl such a managing aura which is awful, much better the fluttering eyelash and helpless look, so snap outa the manager’s chair NOW!

Daddy and I have talked of little else than the fact that you propose coming home about July, and, oh! boy, I’ll say we are thrilled.  You know we wdn’t say “Come” or “Stay” but now you have yourself made the decision we can tell you of how terrifically happy we are about it; bless you and may you be kept safe.

I’m writing this with Hutch lying on my lap and every time my hand gets along to her ears she flicks it so much as to say “can’t you sit quietly?”  It’s getting time for supper so I’ll say ‘night for now.  Yes it’s Thursday night and that Jack, who leaves on Sat. hasn’t even a book packed.  Ah well, its up to him. Till morning light, good night our very precious one. xxx

Friday Feb. 27th. Good morning! I hope I see you well.

Must tell you that yesterday I collected the C.A.R.E. parcel from the Coop – as I told you they are sent by “donors” in U.S.A. and Uncle Albert was our donor.  It’s really magnificent, Dad and self spent an hour last night getting it opened as it was all done up with wire, herewith list of contents: 2 tins Braised Beef, 2 tins Liver Pate, 2 tins Marg., 1/2 lb. tin Butter, 1 tin Dried Eggs (1½ doz), 2 tns Dried Milk, I tin Grape Fruit Juice, I tin Orange juice, 1/2 lb. tea, 2lbs. Sugar. Ilb. dried apricots, 2 tabs. Toilet soap, 3 lbs. slab chocolate, I pkt. Yeast.  It was really kind of him to send it and it will surely make life easier for a week or two.  Please send Uncle A. a card for his birthday if you can spare the time, his birthday is 13th. March and his add. (in case you’ve lost it) is Mr A.E. Bryers, c/o Joe Howlett, 956 North Lewis Avenue, Waukegan, , Ill. U.S.A.

All the love of our hearts and thoughts is in this letter for you, our dearest dear. Dad and Mum.

I’m enclosing some bits and pieces. (5)


1.  Scots. ‘Yesterday’.

2.  These letters for Mum’s eyes only do not survive in this collection.  An additional letter written on 11 February does survive, but it was written for both parents. (See Part Two Chapter 7).

3.  The fortune teller’s ball was faulty:  Len was 29 when she married, not 26.

4.  Mum’s spelling and question mark.

5.  Mum’s ‘bits and pieces’ follow.  There are two cuttings: one from the Daily Express (Osbert Lancaster’s Pocket Cartoon was a regular feature), and the other from the BBC Radio Times.  Also enclosed is a scrap of a letter from Ena.

Cleched fist cartoon png

R.T. SYHA png_edited-1

Len was to stay at Achininver youth hostel in August.  The Radio Times has misspelt the name.

Aunt Ena's new look Feb '48 png_edited-1

Scrap of letter from Ena to Len’s Mum: “I have the New Look. I bought myself corsets & a brassier on Monday.  Old Look. New Look. I’m quite a smasher.”  Mum’s writing across it: “From Aunt Ena’s letter. They’re not coming up north now according to her last letter.”

The New Look: In February 1947, after years of wartime austerity, Christian Dior stunned and delighted the fashion world, and women, with his New Look.  Tight fitted waists with yards and yards of material below was a gauntlet thrown down that Harold Wilson, the Junior Trade Minister took up.  He denounced it as ‘irresponsible, frivilous and wasteful’.   The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Stafford Cripps wanted it banned.   Ena’s letter,  a year after the introduction of the New Look, shows that Harold Wilson’s condemnation, and Stafford Cripps’ desire to have it banned were  ignored and thwarted.


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-128 February, 1948
Blue Sky but blowy. BSDM Cairo Det. APO S.299.

My Nearest & Dearest Ones,

Once more into the breach dear friends – must tell you I’d practically no green vegetables in Egypt till I moved to the Companions and now I have masses of spinach and similar – isn’t it super?

Before I forget – do keep Christmas free – I want a big party to go to Paris if it’s at all poss. and have already asked a number of people who’re quite keen – wouldn’t it be fun if we could all foregather there from all over the place?  Of course it’s potty of me, when I haven’t enough dough to maintain myself and study to talk of holidays, but as the old saying goes – “A gaun foot’s aye get’n”. (1)

Lita had asked what time I was getting up on Sunday – with lack of caution I’d replied “About 9”.   She came in on the stroke of the hour and before I knew what I was doing I was out cycling with her – having had breakfast and hired cycles – round Zamalek. I’d lunch with Peter at Le Petit Coin de France in town – the best restaurant I feel that Cairo has to offer for reasonably priced well cooked and daintily served food. (2)

In the afternoon I stayed with Lita, nipping out for about an hour to introduce Malcolm to the Findlays.  Back to the family, then at night with Peter in our farewell do at the Kursaal. (3)    Why these people come on leave to see me, I don’t know.  The worst of it is that Peter – the most restrained person alive – (and despite all my dissuasive tactics) wants me to meet his relations in Liverpool and come and see him at his home – a place called Wooton Gilbert or something nr. Durham.  Malcolm too says “I’d love you to meet my mother”.  All of which leaves me a bit breathless, as specially as Mark’s saying it would be nice if we could meet in England in the summer???

Malcolm '48 png

‘Malcolm, Egypt ’48’.   Len’s handwriting on reverse.

At night they had me stay in because the servants were off and they didn’t want to leave Lita alone, so I couldn’t go to the Theatre Guild with Malcolm, but he was awfully nice about it and I tried to make up for it by walking to work with him next morning – yes, he picked me up at my door and walked all the way to the Garden City with his fully laden case, before going back to Q. (4)

By the way I’m enclosing a pansy which has rather had its chips.  Lita has given me many good specimens which I’m s’posed to have sent ere this – if you said you liked it she’d be pleased – she really has some lovely ones and is swamping me with samples to send all my friends – goodness knows what my friends will think.

In the way of guests I’d Esme to tea on Monday, stayed in all day Tuesday coaching Lita for her exams and on Wednesday Pat came to tea on her last day (full day – she phoned me her absolute farewell the next morning) in Cairo.  It was awful saying cheerio to her. She was looking up Ernst the next day in PS and staying the night there.

At night I went out with Mark – we went to the Auberge du Turf and saw Farouk who looked pretty awful. (5)     Mark has a beautifully sophisticated brain and is a delight to talk to.

We’re all going away the week-end to Bourg-el-Arab, about 20 miles west of Alex.

Lower Egypt full map png copy

Burg el Arab, west of Alexandria.  Note El Alamein to the west of Burg el Arab.

Yesterday we  had lunch together to discuss the arrangements.  There are a few people going from the British Consulate, then Mark, Bernard, Marjorie (his girl friend who works at BMEO), Esme and I. (6)    It was at Bernard’s place we lunched yesterday and Mark, B & Marj should have left by car early this morning.  Esme and I are going down by pullman bus this afternoon and have instructions to get off where the road branches west for B-el-A and the bus continues on to Alex. – this branch comes where one gets ones first glimpse of the Med.  If not there – i.e. if anything goes wrong – we’re to wait at the Cafe Trianon – doesn’t it sound romantic – and failing that to park ourselves at the Cecil Hotel till they come for us.

Must draw to a close now. Your most adoring kidlet,

Len. xxxxx.


1.  Scots. ‘A moving foot is always gaining things.’

2.  Le petit Coin de France restaurant is mentioned in some recollections of expat life in Cairo.  The waiters wore the fez.

3.  The Kursaal, Cairo was a music hall, a casino and a restaurant in 1918.  Its use may have changed when Len ate there.  There is presently a ‘New‘ Kursaal restaurant in Cairo.

Central Canal zone map png

Map by and copyright Richard Wooley.

4.  Q:  Assumed to be El Qassasin to the east of  Tek El Kebir. 

5. Farouk:  King Farouk.

6.  BMEO:  British Middle East Office, part of the Foreign Office.  As previously mentioned, Jean Findlay worked there.


The next letter from Len, written on 3 March,  was written before she had received Mum’s letter of 26 February, with  advice about Mark, and the list of contents of Uncle Albert’s CARE food parcel.


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-13 March, 1948.
In the DG’s Office. (BSDM etc)

Hail One and Onlys,

Yes, I’m working with Iris Jago for a wee while, as Mary Page’s gone home and she hasn’t a replacement yet. (1)

I have all your letters up to your 256 now and note that you’re glad about my decision not to stay till October – I’m glad too, for I feel heckovan unsettled.  Just back from a super week-end which makes life in Cairo all the more – well, not for me.

Yes, we caught the streamlined bus to Alex. on Saturday – it was a super de luxe affair and it only seemed a few minutes before we arrived at the half way house.  We met Major Cameron there, who insisted on buying us lime juices, sandwiches and chocolate.

In 15 mins. we were on our way, but when we came to the first appointed spot there was no sign of the car, so we just stayed on the bus and there the gang were at the Cafe Trianon – all muffled up from the blustery wind on the front.

Quickly we got into the car and whizzed out to Bourg el Arab – it was really wonderful. It was built by a British aristocrat in the form of a castle and courtyard. We stayed in one of the towers.  Downstairs we’d a kitchen, then a bedroom where Esme and I slept and another one above where Mark and Bernard slept.  Marjorie slept with the Laights – British Council people whose dwelling in the compound was not quite as primitive as ours.  We’d a servant who did the washing up, but otherwise we did everything ourselves.  The bedding had to be carried in Mark’s car, for except for the actual bedsteads and one mattress, the bedding was nil.  We didn’t do a lot of cooking, for we rather lived out of tins and on cheese, but it was the first time I’d cooked eggs and bacon and made tea and coffee for 2½ years so it was great fun. The first night we’d rice and chicken which had already been prepared and after going over to the Laight’s for a drink we retired early to bed.

We got up at 7 the next morning – it was wonderful to see the place in daylight – the stones looked so yellow and the sky was so blue that the whole effect was just too “Beau Geste” to be imagined.

Shortly after getting up and having some tea and halowa (2) as no one else felt energetic Mark and I went to the beach by car – it’s four miles away.  We drove out under the arches – one almost expects the portcullis to drop behind you – and on down to the sea.  Never have I seen a sea of such an exquisite colour – it was sheer turquoise – the only colour it reminded me of apart from the stone was that in those butterfly wing brooches, but it had a purity and strength which have to be seen to be believed. After the first glimpse we drove downhill, but suddenly we were stopped in no uncertain fashion – the car had sunk into soft sand.  We got out and I asked helplessly what was to happen.  Mark indicated silently that we were to dig – a contingency I’d never thought of, so I started, several little wallads (3) came along and helped and before long the car was clear and off we went.

We undressed and got into the sea – I can’t truthfully say we swam, for the waves were so strong they just knock you about and we soon came out – Mark could combat the waves but felt the cold – with me it was the other way round.  Once back atBourg, we’d an enormous breakfast, then I wanted to savour the lovely cleanliness quite alone, so when the others went off to see an ancient temple and a lighthouse I stayed behind.

On their return we ate again and then all of us went down to the sea. I didn’t go in this time, but it was much warmer that it had been in the morning and Mark and Bernard went in their underpants as they hadn’t brought their costumes – Esme, Marjorie and I paddled – ‘course I felt grim as I hate not to be able to swim and watch others doing so, but I hadn’t taken my costume.  That night we again went to bed early.

The next day we’d another trip to the sea, but no-one swam – Marjorie went back early – we just got her back in time as the car got sanded up again and we’d to dig once more – incidentally my nylons survived both digging operations (yes, we were right down on our knees) and the whole week-end.  I wore them in the office and caught them on a chair – they’re now in repair.

About 2 ish on the Monday we packed everything up and came slowly back.  We stopped for a shwoya picnic of oranges and eggs – the desert was covered with flowers of all flowers and the effect was really super.

Yesterday I stayed in with Lita all day – we’d a fire and I told her how I used to see pictures in the fire – she was intrigued and gazed away and soon told me all the saw.

I haven’t seen Morris Z. for ages, ‘cos of my moving and shopping only being possible in the afternoon – guess I’ll have to see him in the evening and ask about that carpet. Re. Pat’s clothes advice I feel it’s right to have clothes in those basic colours and feel you need them before embarking on the brighter ones – people who grew up during the war just haven’t had a chance to do both – have the basic and bright.

Have the London coaches got lavatories etc?  The Nairn bus to Baghdad has got W.Cs., a bar and showers!  Must say the Alex. bus is the most luxurious I’ve ever been in.

I am so glad that Jack’s going now though and really do think you should keep the house to yourselves – if only we could buy it quickly – but the only way is a Littlewood’s win, so I guess negotiations must go on – what’s the latest?

Just back from a party next door.  Two little boys had it.  There were masses of kids, masses of food, masses of mothers, masses of governesses, masses of rows, with a film show thrown in – and I forgot to mention a sprinkling of the new length in the mothers – made me think how incomparably better my parties were & how little these women & kids have despite their money.

I’m not seeing Mark till next Tuesday & am looking forward to seeing him a lot. Hardly like saying that for I feel instinctively that you’ll disapprove, but you know how it is – people like Peter never are young & people like Mark seem to have the youthful spirit deep inside & really can be called ‘The Light of Heart’.  He’s so delightfully crazy & nonchalent & yet there’s an underlying precision & efficiency which completes the head in the clouds & feet on the ground effect.

So thrilled your ring fits Dad & that you like the material Mum.  Didn’t write about it before as I wanted it to be a complete surprise – the scarab in your ring Dad is from the set of two tablets & a scarab given me by Johnny Morton before he left for home, which his pals & he excavated at the Pyramids.  It is not a fossilised beetle the scarab but a genoo-ine  Pharoh carving – d’you like the Lotus engravings on the sides – the Lotus is the flower of Egypt.

Wonderful – wonderful – all congrats. on your Q-crashing – a scene after my own heart. Re. your advice I don’t want to touch silk stockings after my experience of nylons. The joy of them is no darning – much as I like threading the old needle in & out & it’s more profitable for me to exercise same on John F’s socks & get a jumper & cardigan from Jean – n’est ce pas? (4)

What was the “Care” parcel like?  Hope it helped out for a few weeks. Appropos of Uncle A. if he’s so keen on me, don’t see why he shouldn’t help me to study drama in the States if I can’t get in in the U.K. Isn’t it awful the way the years roll on, I want to study for a few years, live in France for a few years, visit Europe & spend a year or two in the U.S. apart of course from spending most of my time at 26 CA & golly how old would that make me.

4.3.48. Posting this now, forgot to say that at the film show yesterday we’d technicolour & talkies inter alia – what sophistication for kids.

Cheerio poppets & all the love of springtime.


1.  Len is temporarily working in the Director General’s office, whilst still working as a shorthand typist. She was 22.  From future references, we know that she went on to be the Supervisor within one of the typing pools.

2.  Arabic:  Sweets.

3.  Arabic:  Boys.

4.  Len did darning repairs for Jean, and Jean in turn knitted items for Len.


Mum letter image png_edited-1March 7, 1948.
Sunday. Grey skies and wet rain.

Darling Best in all the World,

Lovely to get your 264 of Feb. 28th on Thurs. last – Daddy and self get breathless as we try to follow you though “your day”.  I’m so glad you are getting mountains of spinach – that’s the stuff to give ‘em – do keep healthy, one can do anything and get anywhere if one is.  What a lovely idea for us and “a number of people who are quite keen” to meet in Paris next Christmas, Daddy and I are all for it and already I’m planning some dramatic clothes in my mind’s eye.

Any word of my carpet yet?  It’s really a “must get”.  You were saying summat about Mr. Z saying he c’d not get a 3 by 4 yds. one for £30 – well, the MacDonald boy did – tell have another try or try Au Bouddah’s at P.S. – Fouad Street.  They may be measured in metres which would make it slightly over 3 x 4.  I don’t only want the carpet as ‘a thing of beauty’ but also as an investment, as they are nearly worth their weight in gold over here, some in Lewis’ at £350 and more.

Maud (Mrs Hamilton) was over on Thurs. night attired in a vivid red dress and grey squirrel coat, she really kept us entertained and was telling us of a chap Lot has met and of all the fuss Lot is making to make an impression on the guy.  Ys’td’y, Sat. Daddy and I were in town in the morn. (hunting for a new suit for him) when who sh’d come up to us as we were looking in Malcolm Campbell’s  (1)  side window in St. Vincent St. but Lot; she has certainly improved her appearance tremendously, her salt and pepper hair is now a dark brown and she wore vivid lipstick and had a forward tilting hat and mustardy check suit topped by a black seal skin cape – very smart, but Daddy didn’t like the cape.

It seems this new guy is a Polish-Belgian surgeon and he is to take charge at Perth Infirmary from tomorrow.  He thinks Lot has far too many cats (eleven) in her house and the last time he came he brought chloroform and put 5 of them to sleep for the evening so as they c’d talk!  Dad and I nearly collapsed laughing – must tell Aunt Ena.

As I said, we were out hunting a new suit for Dad and are carrying out shopping by the famous ‘process of elimination’.   Yesterday was our 2nd hunting Sat.  We saw a smart tannish brown in smoothish herring bone tweed which he thinks he may have, this one is £11.10/- suits are suits nowadays – Lot was telling us her friend was getting one made and its to cost 28 guineas. (2)   We went into Craigs in Union St. for lunch and then I got a tram to C’bank as I had a Coop meeting there in the afternoon.  I met Dad at Kilbowie Rd. at 5.30 and we bussed by S.M.T. (3) to the Ascot where we saw Rbt. Young in “They Wouldn’t Believe Me” – jolly good.

How lovely all those guys wanting you to meet their folks – Peter and Malcolm do sound fresh and young and sincere. It musta been fun going round Sam Alec. (4)

I gave my travel talk on “My trip to and from(and in) Egypt on Friday night – everyone sat with gaping mouths taking it all in as I told them of my 2 eggs for brekkers etc. Unfortunately Mrs Brown had given too much time earlier in the eve. to Congress reports (5) so I had to leave them all in Cairo as the hall light going out warned us it was 10.p.m. but I’m to continue at our next meeting.

 All our love to you, our own darling,

Mum and Dad.

(A week yesterday Jack went away and now we feel so happy for though he was both quiet and clean we could not stand that chappie!)


1.  Well known fruit and veg shops throughout Glasgow.  They closed down in the 1990s.

2.  A guinea was 21 shillings (£1.05 pence).

3.  SMT: Scottish Motor Traction.  A year later, in 1949 they were nationalised by the Labour government.  The Conservative government in 1985 forced them into privatisation.  Their Western SMT coaches were a familiar overnight trunk route service between London Victoria and Glasgow.

4.  Sam Alec:  Mum’s joke for Zamalek.

5. Coop Party Women’s Guild Congress.


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-18 March, 1948.

(Just about to go over for latest Cholera inoculation).

D.G’s Office, Monday morning.

My very ain Ones,

Isn’t this pale ribbon grim – it’s Mary Page’s machine, must put in a new black ‘un.

Pale type ribbon png

Seem to have masses of news – to go back to last Thursday, Steena (Swedish girl friend) phoned me to ask if I’d like to go the Russian Ball on Sat. I said yes, so we made the arrangements.  I lunched with the Findlays and received my Fair Isle Jumper which is really a pet.  By the way, I bought a dress second hand from Iris Jago – pale blue crepe, but not the new length, however, it zips to below the waist at the back and as I love zips I like it quite a lot, price £4 – but as she paid £12 last year I can’t complain..

Friday I’d my French lesson at Vera’s. I enjoyed same as I’d done masses of homework which left my conscience clear and also we talked about the ball, to which Vera – being a white R. was going of course.   Back in Zamalek, Lita and I were alone in the house when the new car they’ve bought was delivered – it’s a Hillman Minx – so the man who was delivering it took us for a drive in it.

Didn’t go out at night, but sat over the fire doing my French whilst most of the family and a neighbour played cards and I also had some liqueur chocolates which they offered me to keep my strength up – they had genoo-ine  liqueurs inside, chartreuse, kurasol and the like.  Notice the word ‘fire’ it’s colder for this time of year in Egypt than it’s been since I’ve arrived.

Saturday morning, Nick (the brother) and Lita drove me to work in the car – they’re still in the thrilled stage with it, whilst I’m acquiring a real hatred of cars – I hate Mark’s and also theirs annoys me – cars make me feel so old and I always want to walk, however, I must admit they’re handy at times.

Lita went to the pictures in the afternoon, so I was able to go across to Gezira, wash my hair, and write, talk to old friends and walk.  Back at the Companions I did my ironing, then nattered with the family before getting ready.  The mother insisted on lending me her fur cape and also a lovely little handbag – black suede and gold.  Then they drove me into town and I called for Steena.  The men in party were a Colonel up from Fayid – head of the German section of the FO and a young Latvian from the Swedish Consulate.

Our table was just beside Farouk’s – after sitting beside him at the Auberge du Turf the week before I’m becoming really blasé about it, but although that may be rather grim, I know a tiny bit of heather would just thrill me through, and I know I’ve never been thrilled with night life.  Farouk wore an ordinary suit whilst every one else was in evening dress.  The ball was most enjoyable, but we left at 2.45 am. before it finished. I wore my white dress.

Yesterday Lita woke me and I got up at 9 am. and washed before I knew what the time was – as I’d come all the way back from the Helio Palace Hotel the night before and hadn’t got to bed till about 4, this was a bit off.  However, I walked into town with Lita and took her to Groppi’s for an ice cream, before we gharried (1)  back.  Then we’d a drive in the car before lunch and one afterwards. Then she roused me from a tiny sleep I was trying to have to play the inevitable hopscotch with her.

Had a letter from Aunt Lizzie.  She talks of a slump in her letters – no wonder, I hate the American policy.

Aunt Lizzie png_edited-1

Must admit I really enjoy my new place on the whole – it’s nice to feel you’re wanted and they really are quite good people.  As for Mark, the infatuation’s wearing off and anyway, I don’t know when I’ll be able to see him again after to-morrow tonight, for I’m booked up for ages ahead with organisational things, quite apart from men.  The Latvian want’s to see me again and is ringing me, and Esme told me this morning that Malcolm told her he’s coming up to take me to see “Great Expectations”, you see, she was at Q. for the week-end.

Haven’t heard a word from Harris yet, shall have to write to him soon, anyway I’ve had to give his address to Chayanne to give to Gielgud, as he hasn’t delivered the stuff to him yet.  Esme’s not paying me back till she goes home, unless I need the dough before that.   Over to you best beloveds.

Yours most own, Len.


1.  Horse drawn cab.


Mum letter image png_edited-110 March, 1948.
Wed. morn. “The First Wild Days of March”

Darling Ownest Best,

Whatchermean  by saying “Just back from a super week end which makes life in Cairo all the more – well, not for me”?

Do you mean it’s too far removed from life as lived in Britain today?  Your week-end certainly does sound wonderful, a sorta real technicolour film; my advice is, don’t worry about it all being quite out of this world, it’s all in this world, you know, and you sh’d lap it up while you get the chance for whatever they say, life in the East is good and the people out there who pine for “England’s green & pleasant land” are in for a bit of a shock, that is, of course, providing one keeps one’s feet on the ground and maintains an even keel.

You know that, above all, I’m a realist and I think you ought to enquire of your office administration if you can go back, if you want to, after you come home.  Don’t for a moment think I’m putting you off this right little, tight little island – you must come home – but I often wonder how you will react to it and it’s best to have strings – comprey?   I want you to have all the chances I didn’t get, so take the advice if you want to.

Must apologise for a mistake and an omission I made in my last letter.  The mistake: when Lot Morrison’s friend gave the 5 cats chloroform it was only to put them to sleep for an hour or two – nothing fatal.  And the omission:  I forgot to say ‘thank you’ to Lita for her pansies so I’m enclosing a wee letter for her herin.

Yes, yr. childhood must have been a fairyland of dreams compared with poor Lita’s film parties, etc.  Those were the kind of people who were on the ship coming home with me.  I often wish you and Joan Brandley had been on that trip with me – you’d have knocked them cold – and, oh boy! how they needed just that.  Well, bring Lita over and we shall let her see there’s more in life than the mighty piastre.

For my lovely Cairo lavender blue material I’m thinking of making it low necked in front, long sleeves, long length and a – wait for it! – bustle bow – I adore bustles made thus, it w’d serve as a dinner dress if we go to Paree – by the way, I’ve given up singing “The Star Spangled Banner” and am now heard trilling “The First Time I Saw Paris”.

It’s a good bargain for you to get your jumpers etc. knitted by Jean Findlay whilst you do her darning.

Yes, I’ve noticed the lotus engraving on the sides of the ring – lovely.  I always get mixed up with the Poppy and the Lotus – they are both for Egypt?  About your black striped suit you spoke of – please wear it out before you come home – black!  And I don’t like blues, browns & blacks “relieved by touches of white & colour”.

As I write I’m partly listening to a school’s broadcast vilefying the new regime in C.S – it’s (the b’cast) ghastly and the same as the newspapers – fancy teaching poor kids all that spiteful stuff – never mind, we march on. (1)

Daddy, who is on night shift, didn’t go out to work last night as he wasn’t feeling very well, however he has been up for breakfast this morn. and seems quite bright so he may go to work.   About buying the house, honey, I don’t worry about buying it quickly – we c’d always get it through a society, but I do think it’s one of the things we must get down to quickly after your longed for, hoped for home coming.  Keep well and happy, my darling, you are ever in my thoughts & heart and mind.  Planefulls of love.

Your own Dad and Mum. xxx


1. ‘The new regime in C.S.’  Mum is referring to the situation in Czechoslovakia.  At Yalta in 1945 Stalin agreed to democratic elections in the nation states that the Red Army were to occupy when the War in Europe was concluded.   It is difficult to know whether Roosevelt really believed such genuine democratic elections would take place, or that their results would be respected.  As Chamberlain had a misplaced belief that he had a special relationship with Hitler in 1938, Roosevelt also believed he had a special relationship with Stalin, who he liked.  Churchill (who privately knew Britain’s days as a World Power were over) had few illusions, and neither did the British and American Foreign Secretaries and their advisors.

However, in Czechoslovakia, with the popularity of the democratic pre-war politician such as Edvard Benes and Jan Masaryk still in place, the Communists found it more difficult to force or brow-beat non-Communist Parties into political alignments that suited them.  As President, Benes led a Government that was democratic, from 1945 to 1948.  Frustrated, the Communists (with the Red Army as an army of occupation) staged a Coup in February, 1948, and Benes resigned in protest.  Jan Masaryk remained in the re-jigged coalition as Foreign Minister, hoping to salvage something. British friends such as historian John Wheeler-Bennet and writer/diplomat Robert Bruce Lockhart were very concerned for him.  On the morning of March 10, 1948 he was found dead beneath the bathroom of his residence at the Foreign Ministry.  Speculation continues whether he was killed by the Soviets, or whether he committed suicide.  The radio broadcasts Mum is referring to were about the February coup and the aftermath.  By an extraordinary coincidence, Mum has written this letter –  ‘Wed. morn.  The First Wild Days of March’ –  on the same day that Masaryk died.  The news of his death had not yet been released.

Included in the letter was a cutting from Mum, also relating to Communists.

Schools Unity png_edited-1


10.03.48 letter png

Len for Egypt letters png_edited-110 March, 1948.

BSDM Cairo, c/o Det APO. S299, MELF.

My room Zamalek, during Lita’s Greek lesson.

My own beloved Darlings,

Halfway or almost through March – believe Peter has gone as all demob. groups have been brought forward – had a letter from Malcolm to-day saying he’s coming up for the week-end as it’ll probably be his last one & he didn’t expect to go till April before! Lots of our girls are going on the boat this month & more next – believe I could stay on till summer 1950 (!) in Disposals, but it just doesn’t appeal.  I admit I’m a tiny wee bit wondering how I’ll feel in austerity Britain, but I know this luxury life is not for me – something in me revolts & I’d far rather be doing the washing up & singing in the kitchen at 26, than dashing around in a flashy car.

Yesterday I was endeavouring to get some beauty sleep after lunch when Mrs C. called me & wanted to know if I wanted to go the National Sporting Club with the neighbour – Mrs Fayid & her kids.  Inwardly cursing my ruined sleep, I accepted politely & went to change as requested – I’d on my corduroys.  Then I had to wait whilst everybody got ready – I was angry at them making me get ready too early as minutes on my own are so precious, but I was stoic, even when I just had to sit over at the NSC as the mothers knitted & the kids played.  To crown it all my latest pet hate was involved – another car – it leaves the C’s little Hillman Minx & even Mark’s behind – you know you press buttons & everything happens. Thank goodness more people joined us over there which made a more than full load for the car on the return journey so Mrs F. & I walked back.

Last night I went out with Mark.  First we went to a violin recital & from there on to the Champagne Club where we talked & danced. The concert was such a joy after the Cairo run of things.

Moascar-RAF Kabrit pngMark asked me to go away for Easter in a party down the Red Sea Coast – I said “No”. We thoroughly went into seeing & not seeing each other last night, but he says he’d like to me come at Easter as it would be such a wonderful trip. The alternative is to stay with the Scottish RSM & his wife at Moascar & go on to PF (1)  leave camp – which means I’ll probably see Ernst – which I’m not keen on.   Esme may arrange for me to go RAF Kabrit for a dance instead of Moascar.

 I’m not worried about myself mentally or physically with Mark & would like to see the monasteries etc. on the Red Sea Coast, but won’t reverse my decision unless you think it’s O.K. – there is definitely a party going.  Please write with what you think.

I’ve taught Lita how to play “Beetle” & she’s really fallen for it – had the two little boys from next door in & play it last night.  They’re the sons of Mrs F. – to whom Esme’s s’posed to teach English.  Her husband is at present in New York on business! – he’s an engineer specialising in air conditioning – they’ve got a baby a.c. plant in their bedroom Mrs F. tells me – honestly their money flows like water & they’re not a bit happier.

Putting this epistle in the mail now – take care of yourselves –

Masses of love for you. Len. xxxxx


1. PF: Port Fuoad, or Fuad.  The latter is the current preferred spelling on maps.


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-114 March, 1948.
Garden in Zamalek.

Hail, well Beloveds,

Carpets – on Friday Morris Z. told me that real Persian cannot be got for less than £5 a square metre, so that 3 mtrs x 2 mtrs would be what you would get for £E30.  Now, d’you want me to investigate Persians that size or non P’s of a bigger size?  Mark is also going to make some enquiries for me.

Was in fits about the cats being put to sleep.

Telephone – any more word of installation?

Did you get that suit Daddy?

Very thrilled to hear that at last you’re giving your travel talk on Egypt – hope the second instalment was lapped up with even more enthusiasm than the first.

Every time you talk of things at home I conjure up visions of what I remember, cinemas, guilds, shops etc. & I’m darn glad I didn’t say “Yes” to that offer of Egypt for a bit longer as these visions have been getting much fainter – but 2½ years away isn’t such a long time – it’s that a lot of water has flowed under the bridge.

It’s getting more & more difficult for me to get out & the father seems to think it odd I go out so often at night – goodness knows what he’d think if he’d known me when I was really busy.  Anyway I don’t want to tell you about it, for there’s nothing in it, but these people have bouts of temperament quite often & I don’t want to get an ulcer keeping (outwardly) patient throughout, but for the dough I can hold out until July.  Of course if they get grim I should move & there’s no difficulty in that direction as everyone wants me to go & live with them.

I went to the super-flat recital at night & listened to Brahms.  You may remember I went to a violin recital on Tuesday – still want Joan B. to take me to the Proms.

Friday I had lunch with Morris, then at 3.30 washed Iris’s hair at Claridges. (1)   At 7 to meet Mark.  We looked in one of those lovely antique & bookshops combined & then drove out to Maadi.  We’d dinner at his place & finished off with coffee & liqueur chocs.  Afterwards we listened to the radio & just had a nice quiet evening.

Saturday Malcolm ‘phoned me at work & then came to make arrangements about the evening in the afternoon. (2)  I thought we’d have a chance to sit and natter as Lita had gone out with a little pal, but no. Mrs C. came in & called me into her bedroom where she gave me a dissertation on how her husband – who’s in Alex. wants no men to cross the doorstep.  The effect of that on me of course is sheer fury, but one has to be tolerant. However it did make me see the psychological angle & once again how lucky I am to have parents like you. Restrictions like the above would be most conducive to making people deceitful, whereas your sensible outlook serves to promote understanding all round.  Their mentality just makes me stand and gape.  I said they’d said I could have my friends in & she said in effect, “Oh yes, girl friends” – you’d think blokes were a different race – it’s so silly.

Anyway, at night Malcolm & I went to see “Dead of Night” & afterwards had dinner at the Kursaal.  The good soul’s so terribly heavy. I don’t believe I’ll see him again this side of the Med as he’s being demobbed at any moment now.

Yesterday I cycled and played hopscotch with Lita.


It’s about 7 am. on Monday morning so I’ll get this off now & get tucked into some breakfast.

Your most own very adoring, Len. xxxxx


1.  Iris.  Iris Jago who Len is working with in the Director General’s office of the British Stores Disposals Mission.  Claridges is the hotel previously foot-noted, and where some BSDM staff are living.

2.  Len, and presumably other shorthand typists in BSDM are required to work Saturday mornings.


On the same Sunday Len wrote a separate letter to her Dad.

Len for Egypt letters png_edited-114 March, 1948.
Cloudy Cairo

My dearest Dad,

Hope this gets to 26 in time for your birthday.  This is a reply to your letter, besides my birthday greetings to you.(1)  Wonder if you’re wearing my present as you read this?

Just hope that after Mum’s birthday on the 28th that our next lot of birthday’s will be together.

It’s so interesting to hear of your work – I always love to know what’s going on in that direction for I feel industry is so real.

Sorry about your legs being bad – I do hope the Ortho gets them completely better. I’ve been doing my share of massage out here recently – trying to massage Iris Jago’s scalp to improve her hair & Mark’s arm – he strained a muscle playing tennis.

As July/Aug. looms nearer I’m getting excited underneath & when I really think of it – as to-day,  I just don’t seem to be able to write much – just longing for us all to be together & oh boy, bet we’ll talk incessantly for days.  It’s feeling like that which makes it difficult to put things on paper – when I hope that in a few months more we’ll be telling anecdotes in person.

Must put this in the mail now Dad, hope you have a wonderful birthday & a lovely spring.

Always your most loving chile’,

Len. xxxxx


1.  This letter of Dad’s  is not in this collection.


Mum letter image png_edited-114 March, 1948.

Sunday morn.
Sunny lovely crisp morning
And we are now on Summer Time
The Hall Clock new time is scorning
And is an hour behind with chime.

Darling Own Very Best,

The above didn’t start out to be a poem (says you “and neither it is”) ho, it just sorta happened. Anyway, we did lose that hour last night but are all set now with clocks at proper time.

Daddy and I went into town yesterday to see about his suit and we seem to have struck lucky for Dad decided to have the smoothish tan tweed we saw last week but when we got to the shop another salesman attended us and he showed us some wizzo Harris Tweeds and Dad decided on a lovely rough tannish brown one, double breasted jacket, the latest, and absolutely genuine “Harris Tweed – I was a man renewed indeed, because I smelled that Harris Tweed”. (1)    Dad also bought a nearly white cloth bunnit – very posh with tweeds and chamois gloves.  We then had a walk around, me trying to buy shoes but Qs too terrific, couldn’t wait, then we had tea at the Angus, now the Coop, then trammed right down to the “Bank” where we saw “The Two Mrs Carrols”, very good. A lovely way to spend a Saturday.

Dad is to get his suit next Friday as the troosers required a small alteration.  Just now Daddy is in the sunlit garden making his first dig at it, we’ve not long finished brekker and looking at the Sunday Papers. I’ve to get the dinner on to cook then I’m off down to Clydebank to an address to see about some furniture advertised, to see if they have a small garden shed, we really need one for odds and ends.

I wrote to Daisy Bulbeck last week – where is she now – Southampton or Cairo?  I wrote to her at S’hampton.  Yes, sweetheart, I’ll sure write to your Chayanne – must look out her address which you sent. (2)  We seem to have a lot to do, between the house and garden and I’m starting on my Spring cleaning – Patricia will likely arrive in the middle of it! – well, she can help – can you picture Patricia wielding broom and duster?Pat Brown, Zam, Feb 48 png

Dad and I both think you should write to Harris or his parents, and ask for your dough pronto – the end of a beautiful friendship, but do get the dough. Also get the dough from Esme double pronto, why should she have your cash?  Just ask yourself that in a calm voice – no reason at all – it would all help to buy our carpet which is a “must get” for you, and anyway those debts have a way of fading into the limbo of things forgotten if the loan goes on too long, so I advise you to tell her at once that you want to buy something costing a lot of dough and you’d like the money at once.  Do take our advice in this and go after Harris and Esme – it really makes me wild, and Dad also, when we think of what a softie you’ve been about this, so be firm, and earn our praise by getting back your money – get your dialectics working! (3)

How nice you got a letter from Aunt Liz. and fancy her talking of a slump – well, they’ve got it coming and with the latest taboos on entry into Canada it looks to me as tho’ both U.S.A. and Can. are real dictator countries.  (4)   We sent a cable to Uncle A. for his birthday – we do feel sorry for him, it would be lovely if you could meet him for, honestly honey, you are his lone star, so it’s up to you. Aunt Liz. never replied to our last letter so that’s that.

Must go now and get a cuppa ready for Dad and self then off to C’B.  We’ve not fixed anything about our holidays yet, in the words of the song “It all depends on YOU”. But, tho’ Daddy enjoyed his holiday last year on his own he said he missed me terribly while he was away and he also said he wouldn’t like to ever go on his own again – so its nice to know I’m wanted!  As if I didn’t know, but its good to be told!

Cheers and love and hopes.

Wearying on your next hoped for letter and counting the weeks till your hoped for return.

All the love we have from Dad and Mum.


1. ‘Harris Tweed – I was a man renewed’:  assumed to be a well known Harris Tweed advertising slogan of the time.

2.  Chayanne, the daughter of Madam Saracha in Cairo.

3. ‘Dialectics’ – a well known term and concept within the Communist movement, derived from Marx, and Hegel.

4.  Mum’s anti-US sentiment has now included Canada, despite earlier thoughts about perhaps moving there.


Mum letter image png_edited-117 March, 1948

St. Patrick’s Day, begorra!  A Grey blowy day but with a feeling that the Sunshine is just around the corner

Darling Very Own Dearest One,

Your 267 got here on Monday and it was lovely getting it so soon after your 266.

Now about your asking should you or should you not go with Mark and party to the Red Sea Coast – in the first place, why did you ask our opinions? – especially in view of the fact that you say “I’m not worried about myself mentally or physically with Mark”. Here are our considered opinions. Daddy says he thinks you should not go, as the fact of your asking us proves you are doubtful about something or other and you never asked before what you should or shouldn’t do.  Dad says he trusts you absolutely but is not so sure about Mark, these older guys are often wiley – but you already know the joke about “Come and see my etchings”.

Heres my view, I see no reason why you shouldn’t go on the trip (after all you went to Bourg-el-Arab) provided you make certain there is a party going, etc.etc.  You see, as well as being trusting in you, I also know you are wise enough to always let your sense of values be in correct balance, this is a priceless asset to have as one goes through life; well, there it is, mate, yer tikes yer choice.   Life, for you holds so much I trust you to make no mistakes, also I quite see your point in not wanting to see Ernest at P.S. – going there every holiday looksa bit “off” – well, maybe something else will turn up for Easter.  I’m on my toes to hear what you decide to do.

Daddy and I were all set for a cosy night at the fire with the papers on Sunday when a tinkle came at the bell and on answering someone with a tall figure there voiced “Remember me?”  It was Henry Lindsay whom we hadn’t seen since New Year. (1)   H. had left his sleeping bag here and when I said “Come in “ he used the length of the hall to explain he had exams this week and was going on holiday for 3 weeks.

LLYH Henry Lindsay png

Henry Lindsay, back row, right, Loch Lomond Youth Hostel, New Year, 1947.  Mum is on the left, with her arm through Henry’s brother’s.

All of our visitors seem to use that bit of 26 to explain the reason for their visits and H. was no exception – it’s really funny.

Well, you’d think he was just dashing in to get his sleeping bag, but no, it was long after midnight when he decided he’d better be moving. We did so much enjoy his visit and it was the first time we’d seen him dressed up and really, he looked like a million dollars. He is tall (6ft.1 in.) and slim and is a real comic, or, should I say has the most terrific sense of humour. We, the three of us, had a real blether.  I mentioned you said the Findlays knew him and that started something!  It seems Jean was engaged or nearly engaged to some big nut, a Solicitor or summat and broke it all off when she met John, it seems it was the talk of the hostels.  H. says Jean was a lovely girl in those days.

H. makes me wild the way he always sings the praises of and always goes to the west coast of Scotland, honestly I get mad and I think I made an impression to show there’s other places on this ‘ere globe when I did some spouting about Egypt.

H. certainly is adventurous, he was a cabinet maker and then went into business with another guy.  H. then sold his share, after a year or two, and is now attending Jordanhill Teacher’s Training College (2) to qualify as a teacher at a technical school. He says its amazing the subjects they get, psychology, discipline, speech training, etc.etc.  If ever he gets to be a teacher I’m sure he’ll be wonderful as he has such a way with kids – they get classes to teach just now and he made us roll up when he told us of the pep talk he gave the kids just before the inspector visited them.  The inspection was a great success and he got very high praise.  Hope H. gets on well with his exams. He plans to go north west by Benalder and Glencoe and to walk right across Rannoch Moor, etc. He was saying what a wonderful voice Joan Brandley has and we heartily agreed with him.

I’m enclosing a letter from Aunt Ena, the letter she refers to was from Uncle Donald’s landlady in Barrow asking if Aunt E. and us others would like to erect a tombstone. I’m replying to Aunt E. to take no notice of the letter.  Freeman’s got far the most under the will, so let them erect one themselves.  Fancy Aunt E. buying a Silver Fox Cape, its such a very ageing fur, but mustn’t say so! hush, hush. I haven’t yet bought anything for mysel.  I’ve a specialists bill in – remember I told you Dr. G. sent me to a specialist? – for 6 gns (3) and he only listened to my heart and looked at my foot – honestly, they earn their money easily, however, suppose the old adage of the labourer being worthy of his hire applies here also. (4)

Every ship that leaves our shores has an unseen cargo of love for you, sweetest girl in all the world, bless you.

Dad & Mum.

p.s. Don’t talk like that about not liking cars, try not to get, or give voice to those kinda phobias, they are all a symbol of man’s progress and I wish we had one.  Don’t please be fanciful like that, be sweet, my pet. xxxxxx.


1.  New Year 1948, when he was at Loch Lomond Hostel, when John Brandley was up from Dagenham.  He was also at Loch Lomond Hostel the previous New Year, when Mum noted that there were “several prostrate forms lying around”.

2.  Jordanhill was, and is, the main Teacher Training College in Glasgow.

3.  £6.30.

4.  Fiercely opposed by the British Medical Association (who represented fee charging doctors and consultants), Britain’s National Health Service was to start in a few months time, on July 4th, 1948.  It was also fiercely opposed by the Conservative Opposition.  Churchill, their leader, invoked comparisons with National Socialism (the Nazis) if the bill became law.


Ena to Mum, March1948 png_edited-1

2 Hilders Road.   Sunday

Dear Nellie,

Hope you are well. I wrote you a long letter and sent it with mags some time ago since then MR has received a card from you. (1)

Anyway here goes. I bought myself a beautiful silver fox cape with part of my money. Have you treated yourself to anything?

Any word of Len coming home? You must be longing to see her.

I am not making my trip to Bonnie Scotland until Whitsun as MR may be going  to Belgium then. It all depends on the restrictions. The Paris trip is off owing to restrictions. (2)

We have booked for our holidays, Dornoch being out of the question without a car. (3) We have decided to go to Llandbedr. nr Barmouth in Wales from 7th – 21st August. We were recommended to the hotel and sent for the tarrif.  Good food, and a well stocked bar.  7 gns week.  It is an old fashioned Country inn 2 miles from the sea and fishing from the bedroom window.   Bill is going to the Grand National on Saturday. He leaves on Friday stays overnight at Wigan and home on Sunday afternoon.

What do you think of the enclosed letter. (4)    When Bill brought it from the letter box he said “Here’s someone in Barrow. Knows you got the money and sending a begging letter”.  Freemans seem very slimey to me.  What do you think – strange how they could get my address from the solicitor when I got the money.  I’m afraid they are very friendly with the solicitor.  Anyway I don’t intend to send them any money. What do you think?  We can discuss it when I come up but in the meantime will you please return the letter.

I was wondering if we could arrange a reunion dinner. Dennie (5)  may be in Glasgow when Len comes home.  Of course, if Phemia would let him away for a night.

I am going to make myself a black dress tunic effect to wear my cape with.  Then I’ll be a smasher.  Isn’t the weather grand.  I sit out in the garden most days. What are you making new?

Bill is waiting to post this so I’ll say Cheerio for now.

Please write soon and give me all your news, also views on enclosed letter.

Love to you both,


Marie Rose was thrilled with her letter. One of her friends is going to U.S.A. for a holiday and gave a farewell party at the Opera House last night. She got Just William’s autograph. (6)

I don’t know what lady Uncle Donald used to write to. It certainly wasn’t me.


1.  MR: Marie Rose.

2.  Money restrictions, presumably.  There was a low and stringently enforced allocation of how much Sterling an individual could take out of Britain.  Betty Baxter in her letter to Len describes being short of cash on her trip to Belgium.   Ena and family were used to a more comfortable holiday experience. 

3.   Although petrol was rationed it is more likely that Bill’s injury prevented the use of their car. 

4.  This letter is not in this collection.

5.  Their brother Dennis.  

6.  The Just William books by Richard Crompton had been dramatised for radio, and broadcast 1946 – 1948.  The autograph would be the actor John Clark’s,  who played William.


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-119 March, 1948.

Another Cairo Morning.

Hello my own darling People,

Forgot to tell you that Daisy’s back – she called in at the office the other day looking remarkably fit.  They’re down at Fayid now and he’s civilianised in Fixed Assets.

Why the prejudice against black?  It isn’t really the end you know and definitely right for some occasions, and I still hold on to the idea of having a basic wardrobe in quiet colours – after all, it is pretty grim if things don’t match.

Later in the morning.

Had mail – happy girl I am. Your 261 and a 14 page effort from Pat – I’ll never manage that much to her, but she’s really more news at the moment than I have. (1)

Thrilled at the thought of your suit Dad – I’m just longing to see you in it.

Dad in his new rig copy

Dad in his new suit and ‘bunnit’, holding his kid gloves at Greenock, summer 1948.

How did your birthday go?  You seem to be getting the suit amazingly quickly.

Re. Esme, I made the arrangement with her and don’t intend to alter it – please don’t worry.  Harris is a very different cup of tea and I intend to write to him to-day.  Back to Esme, my idea is to get the dough home, not more out here – must keep the old studies in mind.

Re. Uncle A., much as I’d like to see him, I feel I must turn to studying before anything else.  If he would finance me, either to study in the U.K. or the U.S or finance my trip, it would be different.  It’s difficult to be so hard-headed, but one could drift on for ever going to see people.


Wrote to Harris, so hope it has the desired effect.

Must tell you, people are beginning to comment on my hair again, which is rather cheering.

Yesterday I visited Esme who can’t eat and is getting almost skinny – actually she’s pineing for a bloke. This is one she met at Luxor – I can’t understand it.  She’s only known him a week.  Gosh, I’ve had a violent crushes and a broken engagement, but they never seem to knock me up or down – touching wood ‘medly’.  Poor little kidlet though, she doesn’t get on with her parents and I think this is a worry too – for she’s just told them she’s staying another year.  I think it has all shoved her in bed. However she should see the bod in question soon and will know how she stands – if she can, for she’s so weak she’s always sitting down.

From there I went on to Margi – he’s about the most exclusive shoemaker in Cairo. He talked me into having some brown skin shoes – class courts made and also, also giving him the skins Chayanne gave me (they were what I went in with originally) to make into sandals – he says there isn’t enough for shoes proper.  However he’s really a legacy of Pat’s.   Already he wants to make me the sandals for nothing – says he’s an artist and really he is, for his shoes are dreams.  But if the sandals are nixus the brown efforts will be at least £E.5, however shoes are one thing on which one shouldn’t skimp.  The important point is – revelation – I have a whole python skin Morris gave me for you Mum and as Margi’s so good and I can’t really imagine your being able to get shoes made in the U.K. I was wondering if you’d like me to get him to make ‘em.  I’ll give you all the gen if you say ‘Yes’.

Finis for the moment – shoefulls of love,



1.  Not in this collection.  Pat is now in London,  still working for the Civil Service.


Next Friday, 28 November, 2014.   Part Two Chapter Nine: Hectically Excited

” To-day I’ve had letters from the Guildhall and Central School and my latest idea is to make it home for leave, and not return if I find I pass their auditions and also that they can’t postpone my entry for a year. ” – Len, letter to Mum, 24 March, 1948.

This entry was posted in Cairo 1940s, Feminism, Gender Studies, Letters, Social and Political History, Suez Canal Zone, Womens History and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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