Part Two 9 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.
My dearest Well Loved Ones,
Greetings – hearty & strong & many, many happy returns on your birthday Mum. Do tell me what you did on yours Dad & you what you do on yours Mum. What’s the Spring like – is it as lovely as always & have you been out of town lately to Loch Lomond or Rothesay?
Poor Esme is in hospital with jaundice – I went in to see her to-day & she’s so yellow it’s difficult to believe. She feels fine now – it seems the worst part is over when you go yellow – she was at work during the worst part. Her main concern is to be well enough to be out of the Anglo-American & at Kabrit for a dance which the RAF gang they met at Luxor recently are having.
Yesterday I went out with Mark. We drove into town first for chocs. & cigs. & I called in at Esme’s pension, and that’s when I found out she’d gone to hospital.
Then Mark & I went out to Maadi for dinner & another quiet evening at his place. He’s terrifically good fun & we’ve lots of laughs together.
To-day I got up late & walked over to the Anglo-American to visit Esme, buying flowers at Gezira en route – the wee soul was so glad to see me that I was glad I’d paid her a visit as soon as I could.
Once again, wonderful birthday. The clock’s chiming out all my love for you.
Most nearest and very dearest Beloveds.
I’ve changed my mind about not signing on with the Mission. There’s many a slip ‘twixt the cup and the lip, but here are my plans – to delay entering drama school for a year to try to re-save the dough I spend in another year with the Mission and here’s at the last the important thing I want to do with it: COME HOME ON LEAVE.
As I’ve got my maximum of 6 weeks in U.K., can take a fortnight of it and also loads I’ve got at this end can be added on to it too. I had this in my mind very vaguely when I was first asked to stay on, then your letter with “see if you can get back” made the idea grow. My idea is to have a general shooft (1) – see how easy, or difficult it is to get into drama school. Of course I don’t need to say it, but just to confirm it in your minds, I couldn’t stand another year of not seeing you so that’s the reason that the going home on leave is a must. It’s all in the melting pot as yet, but I’ve seen Establishments and they say it will be no trouble at all. You probably think this is a sudden and enormous change of front – please tell me if you disagree or concur and if you’ve any amendments to make.
Want to get this off to you now as we’re almost stopping – what do you both think?
My love as always and in every way,
1. Shoofti (to have a look) is an arabic term that has become current in British English usage. However, Len consistently in her letters spells it Shooft, though her Mum uses the more common Shoofti.
A lovely Spring day.
Writing this against time, darling, so as it to get it in the 4.30 coll. It’s a glorious day of sun and dainty breeze and I’ve just got in from the shops where I stayed longer than I intended as I saw oranges, etc too good and too scarce to miss.
I bought a pair of shoes on Monday in Manfields. After the girl assured me they had nothing like what I wanted and brought out umpteen prs. of shoes plain and fancy she had another look and bought out an odd pair (I mean one pair) she said they were sent from their London shop; they are beige bumpy leather med. heel and only 31/7d – practically a throw away price as things go today with shoes selling at anything up to £9 and more. You should see the shoe shops absolutely crowded out, but I think its panic buying and if the good example of the Coops is followed prices should drop sharply. (1)
Daddy got his letter from you on Monday and was so happy about it. Maud called at night and he was talking to her and telling her how wonderful you are. Dad is calling for his suit at the tailors tonight. He is to call at the Western on Sat. morn for an examination and they told him they would give him exercises to do, so that should make it supple again. I was talking to Mrs Collinson this morn. her brother and wife and family are planning and packing to leave Ceylon this week-end – do you recall meeting her brother?
Must now get this in the box honey lamb. You are ever, ever in our thoughts, bless you, our own darling girl,
Your ownest Dad and Mum. xxx Cheerio!
Hope to send you a long letter at week-end – waiting, as always, for your next letter. This is just to let you know we are O.K. Mum.
1. The Budget was due in 12 days and various rumours were flying around, hence ‘panic’ buying. In the Budget, on 6 April, the complexity of Purchase Tax was simplified into four categories. The changes did not affect the price of shoes. As usual, duty on alcohol and cigarettes was increased. Dad, as a heavy smoker – 60 a day – would be affected.
Almost time to call it a working day. BSDM
Very dearest dears,
Did you think I was a bit nuts when you received my last epistle, the truth is I feel really lost about what to do, and I’m sitting on the fence so much that your “life in the East is good” etc. letters just pushed me over to wanting to make it a leave in July. Won’t get much of this done to-day, but thought I’d start. No criticism whatsoever is even inferred about the context of your letter, perhaps there are other factors which have influenced me subconsciously.
You see, as a CO – my present grade, (1) I’m almost certain to be sent to work in London. You know how I feel about London – I couldn’t bear to work there – studying is an entirely different proposition. 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.
Wouldn’t it be super if Uncle A. could come across on leave at the same time and all of us meet in U.K.?
Thank you so much for all the care you’ve taken in answering my query about going with Mark to the Red Sea. By the way, about Mark’s invitation, there definitely is a party going down to a place on the Red Sea where the hot springs are. As you’ll have seen from previous letters I’m not going.
Monday, Mark and I had lunch at Findlays, then after a short drive I went to the Cs. No-one was in, so I visited Esme, then Chayanne. She’d received your letter and was really overjoyed with it – I’m probably moving to her soon, but if you don’t mind I’d rather tell you why if and when it’s a fait accompli.
Yesterday I phoned Mark and we’d dinner at the Savile, then went to Bernard’s and talked. Leaving there we went down to Mark’s en route to which we’d a puncture. Mark and I by the way (how true your remarks about that phrase are Mum) have agreed to be platonic friends – we have so much to talk about always, that this shouldn’t be too difficult.
Talking of Henry Lindsay’s height, Mark is 6ft. 2ins. I’m beginning to come round about cars, but walking – well, I haven’t got round to it for ages, so p’raps I’ll take up tennis.
This letter seems to be extremely disjointed, but I’d better get it in the mail now, or I will miss it entirely.
Every ray of Egyptian sun is shining through to you two with love,
1. CO: Clerical Officer.
My Birthday, Easter Sunday, Sunshine and Breeze.
Dearest Most Precious Girl,
The moment I saw two letters from you I knew tremendous news was contained in at least one of them! So! You have signed on for another year with the Mission, but, shall be coming home on leave. Well, honey, Daddy and myself have talked it over and we really think you have done the best thing, this way, you will not have any feeling of having burned your bridges and will be able to consider your future and do a good long think. You say – (in an earlier letter rec’d last week, your 269) that my 260 rather took the ground from under your feet – but why, my sweetheart? (1) I do hope you fully understand I really work at doing a bit of thinking over here for you and about you, also that I want you to always consider every move from every angle and no chances missed in your life, so you see I just put down my conclusions on paper and hope you will understand why I say this or that.
Our great “looking forward to” date at this time is your so much hoped for home coming. Already apropos your going back again we are saying to each other “Another year after her leave won’t be so long in going in.” We are really getting excited now about planning to meet you and see you, even to the extent of arranging the blooming of the garden, as far as poss. to be at it’s best about August!
Re. your trip home, of course your fare will be paid by the Mission? I know you will know the right way to go about seeing that is done.
Many thanks for your sweet letter for my birthday. Daddy got your letter for his and will be replying shortly. Daddy brought me up breakfast to bed this morn. and also on the tray he put his Birthday Gift to me, a lovely card and a bottle of “Evening in Paris” perfume. Wasn’t it sweet of him. It all made me feel very luxurious “bring on the Dancing Girls” sorta feeling!
Daddy called at the hospital – the Western – yesterday. He saw the specialist who wants him to go into hospital for a week or so for observation and treatment. He assured him there is nothing seriously wrong and you can guess how pleased I am to be told that it is not serious. It seems the whole trouble is bad circulation and treatment sh’d put it right. I’ll keep you well informed about he gets on, he must be fit to go and meet you.
We intended taking a run down to Ayr to-morrow but we think of the difficulties of getting back, so if the weather is still good we plan to go to Helensburgh for the day.
Every Easter Breeze is laden with love from us to you, our darling.
Mum & Dad. xxx
1. Letter 260, that took the ground from underneath Len’s feet is not in this collection. 259, the preceding letter, was Mum’s of 7 March, 1948 “Breathless trying to follow your day…” and Mum’s 261 of 14 March, 1948, was when she and Dad first went into Town to look for a suit for Dad.
Grey sky, but who cares, viewed from Chayanne’s.
Hail Good-looking Ones,
I’ve heard that old Ernst has been moved to TEK. Accordingly when I got to Port Said I knew it was no use trying to ring him, but felt it was only courteous to ring Johnny as I was in the neighbourhood. He told me he’s being civilianised and is coming to Cairo in the Embassy this month. He also told me that Ernst was engaged to his ATS girl from Fayid – I told him to pass on my congratulations. However, on Tuesday when I returned to work, I received a letter from Ernst from TEK – first let me convey his message to you Mum. He asks me to explain that he’s been so busy it isn’t true, but that you are on his list of people to write to, and of course he apologizes for not replying to you ere this.
However, he goes on to give me his big news – which is not as I expected, of his engagement – but that he’s got his repat to UK fixed for December. Isn’t it amazing, all the natives of England stay on in the Middle East, whereas an Anglophile like Ernst moves heaven and earth to get there.
Before I forget must say – maybe I’ve said it already – my plan is to burden every Englishman I know going home with as much stuff as he’ll take – as I can’t see an Export Permit covering all I’ve got, especially with the new restrictions – nothing but personal belongings unless you’ve been here at least 5 years and jewellery according to social standing!!!
It was a slip on my part to let Peter away with nothing, but I’d no dough at the time and hadn’t formulated my plan of getting them to take home the stuff I’ve got just now. I’ll try to get Malcolm to take a pair of sheets and all being well if my leave scheme comes off and I’m still here in December will absolutely load Ernst down.
Everyone here lives in mortal terror of the Customs and the thought of getting a carpet out just makes me feel weak right through, if only Ken C. would turn up and take it off on the “Patrician” for me.
However, back to the main theme, his letter – no mention of an engagement and bits about the Cairo road bringing back a lot of memories, and gives his phone number and says he hopes to see me there soon for a week-end or Sunday and says he hopes to be coming to Cairo shortly on duty trips. Don’t like it at all, still I’m probably imagining things and it’s really all on a purely friendly basis on his part. It’s certainly not more on mine. I’d love Mark to meet him as I feel they’d get on together. I must give him a ring from Q this week-end – it’s practically next door to TEK – and ask whether congrats are in order. (1)
Longing to get home to talk about the house. Of course Mark and I talk of architecture and decoration and he talks smugly of our conventional English architecture, and our conservative attitude towards it. I answer by taking a real interest in and try to absorb modern ideas – even his design of a house with a swimming pool coming right into it, but berate him for his lack of tolerance in respect of some of our fine period examples – we spit the words “Queen Anne” at each other. What I started off to say was though, that talking with him has brought out my interest in design and decoration which was only latent and makes me think of all we could do with “26” if it was ours.
Did they give you an overhaul at the Western, or just foot Dad? I ask apropos of the pain you had in your chest. So glad the winter this year has passed and hasn’t been as severe as last, I worry frightfully (well, quite a bit) in the bad weather ‘cos I know you’re both so full of beans and do lots of things, and don’t coddle yourselves at all and you should a bit.
Later in the morn.
Wednesday I saw Chayanne and arranged to move in yesterday, then cancelled my lesson with Vera as I couldn’t have a French lesson and move. Parting from Morris after coffee in Groppis I went to Margi and he showed me how he’s starting to make my other shoes and also some white sandals which he thought would be a good pattern for my lizard skins. It’s a super style – high heeled ankle strap with a platform and beautifully finished – should look super in skin.
I’ll tell you about this now, but don’t bother to reply about it as really I want to forget ‘cos it makes me feel so irritated when I think of it and I don’t think much can be done. My green coat, Bethlehem Mother o’ Pearl Earrings, my Poison Ring, Hand Embroidered Handkerchief Sachet, the Last Lace Hanky I had from Aunt Lizzie, a Max Factor Pancake Make Up and my music are all missing from my stuff. I shall see the Companions about it and take Mark along for moral support, but can’t see those Greeks loosening up on anything. S’pose it was partly the servants – having been so lucky up till now, I forgot how one is s’posed to have stuff pinched right and left here, well I’ve had a taste of it now.
Yesterday, I moved after lunch. It was really wonderful to get to Chayanne’s. I’ve got an enormous double bed, a little settee that goes round a corner, a big wardrobe, dressing table, bedside table and another table with a drawer in. For the first time I set up my coffee table (s’pose I might as well let you know I’ve got one), then Chayanne set some marigolds upon it and they were reflected in the brass. There’s also a chair in front of the dressing table and an arm chair – with the thought of being another year I really need to have somewhere I like and feel happy with. I was beginning to jump when anyone spoke in the other place
You’re kidding about my fare home being paid by the Mission! – I’m crossing my fingers about getting on leave at all – you don’t know what funny things can crop up. Yes and if I’m known to be in U.K. officially I won’t get any FSA for the time I’m out of Egypt and that won’t be so hot.
You see people are staying on and if you say “I’m not staying on unless I get home leave”, they’ll say “Oh really, we can get plenty of people who can – Toodloo” – and that’s putting it crudely, but it’s the definite gen, you needn’t think I haven’t tried to persuade Estab., but I’m afraid I’ve had it, won’t even be sent back to sit the EO exam – hideous isn’t it, but though it’s a lot of dough I feel it’s worth it completely and absolutely when I think of you two. (2) I thought of leaving 31st July and returning to work on 7th September. Course so much depends on air line times etc., but I’d like to have the August Bank holiday thrown in if poss.
My idea is to spend my time as follows: week in London with you two and I can find about auditions study etc. at the same time and hold a tea party at which anyone who wants to can come – that’ll cover people I can’t or don’t want to devote time to. Then a week at 26, then toute seul – i.e. all alone I spend two weeks in the Highlands – but you two coming with me to Loch Lomond to begin with.
Does that sound horrid? I’m so mixed up about things I’d like to be alone in the country. I love to think and enjoy its beauty at the same time. And one can never be really alone out here. You’re not hurt are you? After that I want to come back and spend a week with you two once more before returning. Unless I can manage more leave, travelling time will knock off a day or two of the various weeks here and there in U.K. and I’d like to go by an airline that gave me a day or two somewhere.
Are you taking that rest cure in the Western yet Dad? Anyway, take it easy just now so that we can beat it up in the summer. Jean Findlay tells me apropos of their holiday in Italy that the shipping lines want to be paid in dollars. It’s going to be hideous with a capital H if the air lines want the same thing.
Loving you ever and ever.
1. Ernst has got engaged five months after Len and he broke off their engagement.
2. EO: Executive Officer.
Mum’s letter is written two days after Len’s above. She will not have yet received Len’s re. missing items.
Sunday 4.4.48 – What a lot of fours!
Gardening Day in the Old Home.
Best Beloved Ain Wean,
Picture this, if you can, eating cheese sandwiches and downing them with hot tea, jolly good after weeding and digging. Alas! the gentle dew from heaven visited us and so we had to call a halt to our horticultural activities pro tem and this is Marie Corelli now active with her “dipper” in an effort to catch the 4 p.m. post. (1)
What a worritin‘ wee letter your 273 of 24-25th March is! Worrying about what to do re. shall you go back after leave or not. Well, darling child, my advice to you is please don’t worry one other minute for I can assure you from my own experience, those problems of time and space have a way of sorting themselves out. We think your idea of “home for leave but not return East if I find I pass their auditions and they can’t postpone my entry for a year” is simply splendid. It leaves doors open to you and will let you see how things are here and you’ll not have a feeling of having burned your bridges and leaving the east forever in the past. As you well know, honey, the great purpose and ambition of our lives is for your well being and, if we could, we would give you mental vision to plan the best by trying to let you see things from our point of view and in the light of events here. If you find everything here i.e. conditions of study, passing exams, etc. all to your liking it will be a great relief and joy to us to know you have chosen such and such a course (whatever you decide to do) with an absolutely free mind and not one hampered by the thought “I’ve got to do this or that” – comprey? As I allus says, mite – freedom is the essence.
Do, do enjoy Egypt without worrying what’s next on your geographical menu. The main thing is to keep well and happy. We are so proud of you and, for the moment, think of one thing only, your so much hoped for and longed for homecoming. So glad Mrs Skaracha got my letter, give her my love and thanks for her kindnesses to you. Yes, we will wait for all the news of your (maybe) move from the Cs till later as you ask.
Spadefuls of love and showers of merry thoughts from your gardening parents. Blossoms of hope and joy are blooming in our hearts for you, our own darling.
Dad and Mum.
1. Marie Corelli was an early twentieth century romantic writer. Dipper: pen.
In the office.
Sunlight striking bare trees
Very dearest Dears,
About home leave, a complication has developed. One needs a re-entry visa and cannot get this unless one has a residence visa. Accordingly one has to more or less pull all the strings of heaven and earth for the latter. I gave my passport to Prince Abbas Halim’s stepson, whom Chayanne knows, but had it back with nothing done as yet, seems I’ve to fill in a form. (1) Estabs. were very grudging about it, seems they’ve nearly run out of the quantity of visas they can issue. I’ve also spoken to Lily Shaoul – d’you remember her Mum, a thin, small dark girl with a lovely face. She’s going to the U.K. about June and is trying to fiddle herself a visa and has said she’ll try to help me too.
This means even if I can’t go on leave I can’t go holiday either, so that’s why I feel I might as well not be skimpy and enjoy tennis and riding whilst I can. Also I’m frightened about buying another thing to take home till the export ban’s lifted or modified, for people are selling things on the docks for a song as they can’t get them out of the country. Nevertheless, Mark and I are s’posed to be going to look at carpets this week-end.
Saturday the bus took us straight from work to Quassassin. I ‘phoned Ernst who is at TEK, just next to Quassassin. After a while Ernst came and we nattered and nattered. He was in a most disquieting frame of mind – for example, he said “I used to think I was sane, but now I wonder”. When I asked why he said he was thinking of himself becoming engaged and when I asked him why he did it he said “That’s what I’ve been asking myself ever since”. Also, he brought up the letter I wrote him (for we took our hair down in a big way) and said I didn’t mean what I said in it. This left me agape for a second, then I said “Ernst Hirschberg, you’re the most conceited man I’ve ever met”. Honestly, he’s got a nerve. He’s got a beautiful face, a super body, is intelligent and efficient, but has about as much consideration as a bulldozer – am I glad that we’re just good friends now.
I stayed the night in Ish as I like to stay in the canal zone when I’m there. I tinkled Esme to let her know we’d go back together. But the funniest thing that happened was this. I was sitting in the lounge of the Y talking to Miss Morris (you probably met her Mum). She’d been in China and Ernst and she could talk about the Tiensin scandal. (2) I’d just discovered she’d been in Abadan and knew the Mackays (3) when in walked Ernst (and TEK’s about 50 miles away). He breezed up with he’d just been rowing, then we exchanged pleasantries about Miss M. knowing everyone in the East, then I said “What made you breeze in here?” He rejoined with “I couldn’t come in here alone could I?”, letting me know the erstwhile fiancée was also in ye building.
After this 18th Century repartee he departed to wash his hands and I made my way to the cloakroom. There I saw a girl repairing the old face – as I combed my locks – then she finished and she’d hardly gone out of the door when I saw in the cloakroom mirror Ernst and she departing through the gate – he must have absolutely whisked her out. Afterwards I went dancing with a girl and her boy friend who insisted on taking me along, then trained back with Esme and some other girls.
By the way, forgot to say that when I got to Quassassin I discovered Malcolm had gone home unexpectedly, the day before, and there was I left with about half a cwt. of stuff – inc. a pair of sheets which I had to cart back to Cairo – better luck next time I s’pose.
Had better get this off now. Oh, I’m also enclosing a thing about coupons – perhaps you’ll comment on the views expressed and on whether any of the facts it gives give a wrong idea, so that I’ll know what’s what for coming home. (4) Yes, if I can’t come home on leave I want to come for good, but time will show what happens. Must say I feel most lethargic at the moment – the ME certainly has a sapping effect.
Cheers & all the love there is for you.
1. “Abbas Halim (October 9, 1897 – July 6, 1978), also known as Nebil Abbas Halim or Sharif Abbas Halim, was a prince of the Muhammad Ali dynasty and a labour activist in Egypt.” – source, Wikipedia. The Wikipedia entry on him is interesting reading and adds to the political background of Cairo and Egypt at the time that Len was living there.
2. Len mis-spells: it is Tientsin, a then Treaty Port. It is difficult to know which scandal was being discussed. In 1900 European troops went on a sustained looting spree; in 1937 a murder revealed corrupt dealings amongst the European police and in 1939 an assassination was known as the ‘Tientsin Incident’.
3. Uncle Dennis and Phemie.
4. The item on Clothing Coupons in the UK, that Len mentions, follows. It is included as it gives a unique insight to one aspect of the rationing in the 1940s austerity Britain. It is also an insight into the complicated and tortuous bureaucracy that went into this Board of Trade guideline. Future Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson was President of the Board of Trade at the time it was written.
“From – The British Chamber of Commerce of Egypt Journal, March, 1948
Clothing Coupons in Great Britain To-day
The question of clothing coupons for visitors to the U.K. is one that is frequently raised by members of the Chamber, who want to know such things as whether visitors are entitled to coupons and if so how many, the number of coupons required for different articles of clothing, and the formalities for obtaining them.
As so many members will shortly be making plans for their summer holidays in England, we thought it would be useful to contain up-to-date information on the subject from the Board of Trade; according to a detailed memorandum just received from them, the position is as follows:-
Issue of Coupons
All visitors arriving in the United Kingdom from Egypt, if staying for more than twenty-eight days, receive a proportionate share of the ordinary civilian basic ration. This is 12 coupons for a stay of three months, which are issued by any National Registration and Food Office.
As supplies are still short in the United Kingdom and civilians are kept on a strict ration, an automatic issue of coupons for visitors, in addition to the basic ration, is not possible. The only cases which are considered are those where exceptional clothing hardships can be proved. Applications for coupons in such circumstances should be made to the Board of Trade, 91 Victoria Street, London, S.W.I. Visitors are advised that, to prevent discomfort and disappointment, adequate wardrobes should be brought with them.
British Nationals normally resident in the United Kingdom but temporarily domiciled in Egypt, if on leave after an absence of two years abroad, are granted an issue of coupons for re-kitting purposes when returning to Egypt. Enquiries regarding this allowance should also be made to the Board of Trade, at the above address
Personal Export Scheme
In addition to the basic clothing coupon ration, there is in existence the Personal Export Scheme, whereby visitors to the U.K. may purchase rationed clothes free of coupons and purchase tax if the clothing is sent direct to their address abroad or else to the ship or ‘plane by which they are leaving the country.
In this article we only give details of the Scheme which are of special interest to visitors, who will, no doubt, make a point of obtaining fuller information from their suppliers.
Coupons Under the Personal Export Scheme, goods rationed under the Consumer Rationing (Consolidation) Order, 1947, that is clothing, footwear, and many kinds of textiles and textile goods, may not be handed or delivered to a customer in the U.K. unless he surrenders the appropriate number of coupons, but the goods may be despatched to an overseas address, including delivery to a ship or aircraft departing for overseas destination, and the Board of Trade will be prepared to reimburse the retailer with coupons. Application for coupons should be made to the Board of Trade, I.M Division 1, 152 Gloucester Terrace, London W.2., preferably on form A.T.3.0. which can be obtained from that Department.
Export Licences Visitors to the U.K. are normally allowed to take out without export licence articles which they have bought in this country with their own currency. There are a few exceptions to this rule, notably fire-arms, rubber tyres and tubes, cotton thread, valuable works of art, stamp collections, soap exceeding 2 lb. in weight and foodstuffs in excess of what is obviously required for the journey.
Payment Where the goods are to be despatched to an overseas address or to a ship or ‘place and are going to a place outside the Sterling Area, payment must be made in accordance with the Exchange Control Regulations.
Persons Settling in U.K.
For those who are leaving Egypt with the intention of settling in the U.K., the following details based on an article which appeared in the January Journal of the Overseas League, will be of interest.
Persons returning to settle in the U.K. receive a clothing book containing valid coupons “proportionate to the length of the ration period remaining”, i.e. at the rate of 4 a month. If they bring with them children under eighteen years of age, each child will get 10 extra coupons in his book. In addition, people coming home from overseas can, in certain conditions, apply for supplementary coupons. Those, for instance, who have been living in a warm climate and have no cold-weather clothing, may be granted extra coupons.
The following are details of the cost, in terms of coupons, of some of the most ordinary items of clothing:-
Mackintosh or unlined coat 9
Lined Overcoat 18
Suit (jacket, waistcoat, trousers) 26
Shoes 7 & 9
Collars or handkerchiefs ½
Lined Overcoat 18
Coat and skirt 18
Woollen dress 11
Cotton or Rayon dress 7
Blouse, woollen 6
Blouse, cotton or rayon 4
Stockings 1½ & 3
Clothes prices fall into two categories – those for utility clothes, and the rest. “Utility” is a bad word, that suggests institutional uniform; but in fact utility clothes are in no way standardised. They are ordinary good-looking clothes, made out of materials and to specifications laid down by the Board of Trade to ensure the best possible use of supplies. They are sold at strictly controlled prices, and there is no purchase-tax on them. The prices of some non-utility clothes are controlled – women’s coats, for instance – and the profit on all clothes is controlled. But all non-utility clothes pay purchase tax, which may range from one-sixth to two-thirds of the price. There is nothing second rate about utility clothes – firms with reputations like Jaegers, Braemar Woollens, “K” shoes, Daniel Neal, Simpson’s, Austin Reed’s, make or sell utility clothes.
It is not only clothes that cost coupons. There are sheets – 8 or 12 coupons a pair for single or double-bed size; towels, I each, tea-towels, I. Certain furnishing materials are on coupons, but this is a rather involved subject. Roughly, furnishing materials cost less coupons per yard than dress materials, and can be got fairly easily without coupons – but at anything from a £1 a yard upwards. And all household linen that is not rationed – tablecloths, napkins and so on – is mostly non-existent.
People returning to settle in the U.K. should concentrate on taking with them textiles, sheets, curtain-lengths, dress-lengths, materials for nightgowns and underwear. If they obtain from the Board of Trade a copy of the Clothing Quiz sold at 3d. a copy, they will find in it answers to many questions of interest to them.
Mum wrote the letter below the same day as Len’s above, so she will not know that Ernest is engaged, or that Len’s plans for having holiday leave in the UK have run into complications.
Wednesday. A wet dreary cold day but with the feeling “Spring is just around the corner”
Dearest Own Beloved.
We are so glad to get your 275 this morn. to learn you are safely away from the very terrible house of the Companions. What a packet! and dreadful to think you had to suffer those indignities and dangers, that terrible father and son, I’d like to stick pins in them, the perishers. (1) Poor wee Lita, lets hope some of the glimpses of fairyland you showed her will let her remember there are happier, brighter ways of living. Let’s write it off as an experience, for, after all, one must take the rough with the smooth, mite. But I must speak of them stealing your belongings, you know they are responsible for their servants thefts, hope Mark told them off good and proper, and that you let them see what British dignity and indignation are like. You should make them pay for the stuff they stole.
Before I go on to answer your 274 and 275 let me ask if you arranged for your salary allowance (i.e. cheque which comes here each month) to be paid to you out there for March? I ask because so far I have not received it from London. Yesterday I thought I’d best not put off any longer and I wrote to the M.of.S. London telling them it hadn’t arrived. If you have asked them to pay it out there, there’s no harm done by my writing – maybe they’ll pay it twice! I made a bash at the address – Adelphi, London. You know that cheque comes in a wee, wee open fronted envelope, everyone can see what it is and it could easily be pinched. Well, this is me passing the matter over to you for your action or otherwise.
I was just thinking as I was lighting the fire this morn. (Yes, we need good fires yet), a year ago just now I was up to my neck getting ready for my great adventure. You make no mention of going to see Au Bouddah about our carpet – that I know, would be one of your interesting jobs in Port Said and I guess you are keeping it a surprise. Was talking to Mrs Collinson this morn. her brother and family are on their way home, left Colombo on March 31st on the “Strathnaver”. Mrs. C. was telling me they got presented with a beautiful Indian Carpet just before they left – lovely! It seems they can bring anything and everything home and nae bother, maybe having a house out there makes a difference to what one gets through ye customs.
More than ever now, a carpet is a must, and honestly, if the Customs at Southampton are like when I came thro it’s nothing, brass ware – you can get in any amount and a carpet for your mother?
It seems as if Cooks had done their bit properly there was no need for us to pay a piastre when I left P.S. Mr Munro didn’t pay a penny and he brought home lots. I know you will attend to all this for you are a wise wee thing and have been brought up in true Scottish tradition of thrift. The great idea (I mean for presents for us as a family) is to keep to large articles, i.e. coffee tables, carpets, etc. Do please understand, honey girl. By the way, those brass napkin rings, that I brought back, are ideal for casual presents. Must tell you Aunt Ena went crazy about ours, so that’s an idea if you want to please her, she hopes to come north at Whitsun, they are going to Wales for their main holiday,
No, I really was not kidding on when I spoke of MoS paying your fare, I really truly thought they would.
No, I don’t see why it was “polite to phone Johnny” and think probably his tale of Ernest being engaged is only a figment of his imagination – you know Johnny. I also don’t think you should phone E. to ask if congrats. are in order – (that way of doing is very raw, if you understand what I mean – I don’t suppose you will!) Let E. tell you the news himself if it’s true. I could say lots about E. and you, but least said, soonest mended and I shall just await events. Lovely that E. has got his repat. to the U.K. It’s what he wanted so much and I can make a guess he views everything in a different light from what he did a few months ago. I’ll be glad to hear from him.
Your plans for your leave sound splendid – Dad and self can see it being all a terrific rush but we do think it will be good for you to do a bit of quiet thinking on your own but I want to tell you, no matter how we think or plan it often turns out a waste of time, for, as I’ve told you before, time and events have a way of arranging themselves and our lives in a very different pattern from what we think we’d like and many of our problems resolve themselves in the same way.
By now you’ll have my O.K. to go on with my shoes getting made at Margis – sounds lovely and I await your instructions re. measurements, etc,
Wrote to Harris yesterday thanking for cheque. I asked him would he like Joan B’s address, but won’t send it until she says O.K.
Oceans of love getting very thrilled at hope of seeing you soon. Bless you always.
Dad and Mum.
Harris was asking if you will be home this summer as he’d like to see you. He’s passed auditions for Guildhall. (1)
1. Mum’s unfounded anger anticipating that Harris will not repay the money Len lent him has dissipated. As Mum notes, he has also been accepted at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, one of the colleges Len plans to audition for if, and when, she gets to the UK for summer on home leave.
Start of Summer Sun. BSDM
Hello my own Darlings,
Still no word of visas and with things like that it’s so difficult to press them, as they get in a bad mood and one more or less depends on their moods – will just have to keep trying. Day to day bulletins of nothing happening would be rather depressing for both you and me, so I’ll wait until and if anything happens before giving forth with ‘visa views’.
Yesterday I’d my French lesson, then went riding at Mena with Iris. My re-action was, “Why haven’t I done this since I was a child?” However, despite the panorama of Pyramids all round the episode did not end so well, for Iris’ horse galloped away with her and she came off. We took her from Mena to the Anglo-American in a taxi – the friends who’d motored us down were on the golf course at M. and one came back with us.
We put her in the Anglo, though she never lost consciousness, for we felt it was best. She’s got some cuts on the back of her head, but nothing that needs stitching. I must go and see her to-day. I determined that Mena was wonderful and so was riding, but it’ll be a riding school for me for a good while, where everything is well controlled. Then when I eventually head for the open spaces again, to go with Mark, who’s an expert horseman – it’s so lovely I shouldn’t like to have it mucked up by having a needless accident, though even the best riders sometimes come a cropper.
After leaving Iris’ bedside I did some washing and went out to a reading of Will Shakespeare in Gezira Preparatory School (where you first saw Merle & Warwick, Mum). (1)
Anyway, now I may say tap o’ the marning to ye however as I’m P.Aing Old Bill with Iris off, I haven’t had the time to dwell with you in this ere epistle that I would have liked, so before the mail goes, must put this in without further ado – take great care of yourselves. (2)
Your most own and always loving,
1. The Stokes’ children.
2. “P.Aing” – Personal Assistant. “Old Bill” is assumed to be the Director General of Disposals in Cairo
Everything in the garden lovely.
“If I should plant a tiny seed of love in the garden of your heart”
Happy to tell you the M.o.S cheque arrived here yesterday; the envelope is postmarked London April 8, 3.45 p.m. so it must have been sent on Tues. 6th. Boy! was I relieved to see that familiar envelope!
No further letters from you so I’ve none to answer. Everyone I meet who knew you (and some who didn’t) say “when is your daughter coming home?” and I reply we are so oh! so much looking forward to seeing you in the good old summer time. We saw in the papers that the MacDonalds are leaving Loch Lomond (the Youth Hostel) (sounds like a title of a song). They musta made up their minds since we were there at New Year as they had no word of moving then and Henry L. didn’t mention it when he was here.
I got Mrs Scarchas letter yesterday and am so happy to hear from her; she says you are a darling and clever too and they are so happy to have you there, she seems worried about her husband not getting a job – what nationality are they? If I know that I’ll maybe be able to say something to comfort her when I reply.
What you said of the contents of the letter you received from Ernest bears out what I said to you i.e. that all the uncertainty of his position of a few months ago was making him see everything in a contorted light and now his whole outlook is brighter.
Mr Collinson next door is ill with a very severe cold, the old lady, Mrs Ronson has been told she is to ‘take it easy’ and Joyce, now aged 12, went into the Western yesterday to have her adenoids and tonsils removed.
Dad and I saw “Torrid Zone” at the Bank (1) last night, it’s really good and quite a kinda new story. (2)
Bye for now, darling best of all. Must dash to the post with this. Dad is busy in the garden and says to be sure to send a bouquet of love from him. They were playing a new (to us) reel on the radio the other day “The Bonniest Lass in the World” and Daddy said, quite pat, “Oh! she’s in Egypt” – wasn’t that lovely!
Cheers and tons of love as ever, Dad and Mum.
1. One of the two cinemas in Clydebank, at the time.
2. Despite Mum saying it was a new kind of film, it had been first released in 1940. Because of Britain’s dire financial situation the Government had imposed a dollar saving 75% tax on new imported American films. Many old films were re-released by distributors.
Good-morning my Darling Ones,
Sorry for the dearth of epistles from ME me, but seem to be involved all round and I hate writing to you in snatched moments. Still bashing on at Iris’s job with a will, for although she’s out of hospital, she’s had rather a shock and is taking it easy in Claridges.
As you say, I’m being so vague about my homecoming date to anyone except intimates that it just isn’t true. Truth to tell with all this visa business in the air I don’t know myself.
As the year advances I’m becoming more relaxed and don’t feel so tense in my letters to you, with the thought in mind that soon I hope to be able to say it all to you and not just the written word.
Saturday I saw Iris in the Anglo, and in the evening went with Mark to see “Fiesta” – the worst film I’ve seen in a long while. (1) Afterwards we’d dinner then went back to his place at Maadi. Sunday I’d a long lie, then got up and did my washing. Afterwards I met Mark and we sauntered round Gezira before going out to Maadi – he said it was too hot to look at carpets.
Monday I lunched with Iris in bed at Claridges, then I played tennis with the Pro. Tuesday Mark and I had lunch with the Findlays. Then I repaired to Gezira to have a conference with Jimmie Penstone of the CTG (2) on a production they want me to do for them. Afterwards Esme and I sat on the slab in the twilight and discussed how she’s going to teach Mme Fayid – the Companion’s neighbour – English from French. Back at Chayanne’s Mark came to say he couldn’t make our planned trip to Suez with the Fs on Sunday as he’d a dinner at the Swiss Legation – that was to have been the last time, but I won’t see him any more at all now. Yes, I’ve stopped going around with Mark – it’s a bit of a blow, but I feel it’s a decision I must take.
Sorry for being so brusque. Will attempt to write a really long epistle in a day or two. No mail from you for about 10 days – take great care of yourselves.
Millions of love to you.
1. “Fiesta. 1947. 102m Technicolour. A Young Mexican wants to be a musician though his father insists he should be a bullfighter. An extremely boring idea for a musical which at its best is a tedious time-passer” – Halliwell’s Film Guide.
2. CTG: Cairo Theatre Guild.
Pouring rain but the garden oh! so green and fresh.
Hello Darling one over the Sea,
The radio has just finished talks on Turkey, Canada and New Zealand. I’ve been listening while “getting on with my sewing” and I wish I’d wings, or, what would do as well, a few thousand pounds of spare cash! Anyway, by traveling in fancy whilst remaining at 26 I do get around in the utmost comfort for there’s a big fire blazing and all is warm and cosy.
Yesterday Daddy and self worked in the garden all afternoon; the rose arch had been blown down about two years ago and Daddy fixed it up lately, and, tell yer the trewf , mite, it’s so frail I hastened to paint it so that the paint could give it strength and keep out the rain, its only half finished as each little lathe has four sides as I found!
In the evening we went to see “This Gun for Hire” – Allan Ladd and Veronica Lake – very, very good. Must mention I was listening to Children’s Hour Toytown – do you remember Toytown – and one of the chief characters as always was Ernest the policeman and I remarked to Daddy that when you used to listen to it when you were a wee girl you didn’t know you’d one day meet a real Ernest a policeman!
We’ve discovered that the wood worm is still busy in the sideboard I got from Aunt Mary. I really thought I’d got rid of them for I kept the sideboard outside for nearly six weeks after getting from the north and spent hours and hours of work on it getting all the old polish off – a really big task; I also doctored it with paraffin, ammonia and turps thinking all that would get rid of the pests, however, we see wee mounds of fine sawdust here and there and now we see Mr. Woodworm is still with us, so we have decided to send the sideboard to a saleroom as we are afraid the worm may get into other furniture or the piano and that would be ghastly. As it is I see traces in the old mahogany chest of drawers but hope to check that. Of course I shall keep the Sutherland bog oak handles, they, or rather the material, is over a thousand years old and Uncle Angus was offered quite a bit for them.
So Iris – the mysterious Iris – fell off a horse – will you still manage to wash her hair? (1) I do laugh when I think of you in the midst of whatever you are doing dashing off to “wash Iris’s hair”. Yes, the horse-riding must be very thrilling and exhilarating but go easy for goodness sake and be careful – you only get one set of everything, you know, and we couldn’t bear you to get hurt, so remember, cherub.
I’m on my toes to learn how you got on your search for carpets last week end – of course you saw AU BOUDDAH at P.S.? Do let us know all about it.
The radio has just playing the new song “Put another chair at the table, set another place there for me, soon the time will be here when I’ll be sitting there” – well, we do hope it may come true and soon; you can’t think how we are planning and dreaming always, of course, keeping our fingers crossed. No more word yet of Dad getting into hospital and his foot is a wee bit easier since he had his corns etc. fixed at the chiropodists on Friday, and I’m so glad, as I told you, Uncle Albert wrote he was bothered with exactly the same pains in his legs, a very tiring ache it is, so do hope Dad gets better soon; he is at work today, they are very busy just now.
Must busy to the post. Take care of your precious wee self, you are our bright and shining star.
Every spring breeze wafts love to you from us here in Scotland.
Cheers. Dad and Mum.
1. It is not clear why Mum refers to Iris Jago as “mysterious”. If it was a comment by Len, the letter is not in this collection.
There is now a nine week gap in this collection of the correspondence. The next letter in this collection is 22 June, 1948, from Mum, looking forward to Len’s holiday arrival in the UK. During these nine weeks there were significant disturbances and war within Palestine, caused by the declaration of an independent state of Israel and the reaction of Egypt and other Arab nations. It became known as the 1948 Arab – Israeli War, known to Arabs as ‘The Catastrophe’, and to Israelis as ‘The War of Independence’.
During these nine weeks Len manages to get the required visa in connection for her journey to the United Kingdom, and Mum continues to badger her about buying a carpet. Ena visits Mum and Dad at Whitsun, and Pat (Patricia) Brown visits them too, up from London, with sheets from Len from Cairo.