Part Three Chapter Two Mean Mum and Mean Noel
Whit Monday “I think it was mean of Noel and you to desert me”
P.A. to C.S. (P), C.D.E.E, Porton, nr Salisbury, Wilts.
Thank you so much for the two lovely parcels Mum – honestly, you do spoil me, but must say I enjoy it.
After this week-end my tiredness is right up in my brain, so I’ll just confine this letter to my doings at the week-end and answer your 11 tomorrow, all being well. (1)
As Noel hadn’t got my address I didn’t hear from him till Wednesday and nastily (I must admit) didn’t write back till the Thursday evening. Nevertheless, not only he, but Lynda too, were waiting to meet me at Waterloo at 8 p.m. on the Friday. We went straight out to L’s flat and she gave us a lovely salad, then we just sat and talked. Noel, went about 11, but Lynda and I sat up talking till about 2.30 a.m. I managed to drag myself from bed next morning and give her her breakfast in bed, before going out to meet Esme.
As I was going along the Strand, I bumped into a bloke I knew who was an announcer on Forces Broadcasting in Cairo – wasn’t it a coincidence – can’t get over the way I meet people in London I know. He’s now Assistant Director of the Festival of Britain in 1951 and was in a hurry to his work as I was in a hurry for E, being late, so we didn’t have time for a long chat. (2)
I was almost up to Esme when I saw her greeting another girl we’d known in Cairo. We walked along with this girl and suddenly bumped into Joan Mathews who is a pal of this girl, so we all stood and talked ten to the dozen, then I went shopping with Esme and first visited the Civil Service Stores, but their moygashel was too fine. I got the one I wanted eventually in John Lewis’s for 7/6 a yard as it’s utility. It’s lovely, half rayon, half wool. E. bought buttons – cheapest suitable at 1/11½d. each – the ones she liked were 3/3d. each! Then I went back to the flat by innumerable changes and through the cup tie crowd. (3) Honestly though, that cup tie crowd – Daddy, you were once an active player, so can understand your moderate interest in the game, but why do people who’ve never even played spend time and money on rail fares, fancy clothes and rattly things to see their favourite team – and why do they adopt it as their favourite team? Really I’d like to know.
Anyway, when I got back to the flat Lynda opened the door and went out to meet Noel – we were both s’posed to go, but I wanted to wash and change and finish re-modelling my peasant dress. At last it was done and I was just about to depart to meet them when Lyn and Noel came back. So we ate there and though Lyn went out in the afternoon, Noel and I stayed in all the time. It’s so wonderful not to have to rush from A to B all the time in London. As Lyn’s two flatmates were away, there were only the three of us and Noel stayed overnight.
On Sunday after lazing about for a while, we eventually really got cracking and Lyn cleaned out the living and bedroom, whilst Noel went all handy and did the kitchen, cooker, floor, dishes and window. In the meantime I’d a bath and put on my pink blouse and Cairene skirt. Then the three of us sallied forth to the British Museum – it was wonderful. I’d like to go nearly every time I go to London. We saw the object of Keat’s ‘Ode to a Grecian Urn’, the Portland Vase and the Magna Carta. For both Noel and I, it was the first time visited and a sheer joy. But oh, all the Egyptian stuff, including Mummies – must admit it’s not so splendid as the Cairo one, in this respect, but is pretty good nevertheless. Feel I’d like to have valued that necklace I gave you Mummy, the two little tablets I meant to have mounted and a genuine scarab I had in my Oxo box of grips! It isn’t there now, believe I left it in Scotland. If you could bring some or all of these south with you when you come it would be fun to have them valued.
After the Museum, we returned and I made curried rice, though unfortunately we’d nothing else to go with it like meat or vegetables. The bread was finished so I made bread too and also a pudding of rice and raisons and a binding batter.
Lynda really is super and the three of us really get on like a house on fire. Lynda’s a bit too thin I must admit, but really has lovely lines and as her arms and legs are not thin at all, when she wears jumpers and skirts she looks really good. She lives on fruit juices and salads.
Noel’s coming down here this week-end, unless his father’s arrived, in which case I’ll go up to London (insh’Allah) as he wants me to meet him. Apart from this interim arrangement, we’ve decided for me to go twice to London for Noel once down here, as he can only come on the Saturday and has to leave early in order to get his Hayes train at the other end, whilst I can be in London at 8 on a Friday, stay with Lyn and not leave till 9.30 or 12.30 on the Sunday night (it’s only 2/- in a taxi from Sal. station).
Noel’s complaining about having to go to Aunt Ena’s, but I’m sure it’s just because he feels he oughter , so please write to her Mum, saying we’d like to come at Whit.
I’m sorry but I can’t phone till Friday, for the simple reason that I haven’t the money. At the moment I’m too tired to work out where , or how it’s gone, but it’s 22/9 every time I go to London for fares. (4) Then I spent 22/6 on the moygashel to make ye skirt- had to have it for dressmaking class to-morrow. Anyway I’ve just enough and no more to get me some food through the week, won’t make it Saturday for the call though, as Noel s’posed to be coming down and I don’t seem to be able to think when he’s around, so shall ‘phone on Friday all being well between 6.30 and 7 – O.K.?
All my love pets,
1. “Your 11”. Mum is also re-numbering her U.K. letters.
2. He would be one of several Assistant Directors. There were Festival of Britain Directors – and Assistant Directors – covering different specialities. For instance the architect Hugh Casson, then in his thirties, was Director for Architecture. The overall Director and Chairman of the Festival of Britain was Gerald Barry.
3. Leicester City 1 – Wolves 3. Len would be visiting the defeated team’s home town at Whitsun.
4. Britain’s railways had been nationalised in January,1948, whilst Len had been in Cairo. Some saw nationalisation of industries and services as the new dawn. One idealistic letter writer to the popular Picture Post magazine, J.V.Cook from Laindon, Essex, on March 1948, suggested that tickets for the railways should be abolished, and that the railways could be financed by an extra 6d on a packet of twenty cigarettes. Pipe smokers in the Labour cabinet like Chancellor Stafford Cripps and Board of Trade President Harold Wilson might have raised a dry smile at this novel suggestion, but the New Britain they were implementing didn’t usually correspond to the pockets of idealism that were still around in the post-war period, and that had contributed to putting their party into Government in 1945. As it was, railway men were not too enthusiastic about the railways’ new owner, the State. On September 14, 1948 they were discussing ‘go slow’ tactics to support wage demands.
We know from the numbering on the back of the envelopes that Len did write the following day, as she had promised, but it is not in this collection. The one following is.
PA to CSP, CDEE Porton, Nr.Salisbury.
Office. Afternoon of Wednesday.
Most Precious People,
How are you, hope you’ve forgiven me for not ‘phoning last night or Monday, but lack of cash is, lack of cash. You’ll be happy to learn, that last night at the dress-making class I cut out my skirt – from your diagram. I sailed up to ye cutting out table with it in my hand and the teacher just took it from me, said “Ah” and started showing me exactly how, according to your diagram. She said your drawing was very good. Have ‘phoned S&G but it’s their half day, so left instructions for Miss Gale to ring me tomorrow, so that I can find out how your hat’s progressing.
The woman said to me last night, “This won’t take you long, what d’you want to make next?”. Honestly, being ‘in on’ (as it were) dressmaking does make you think of ‘what next’ so I replied at once that I wanted to make a copy of my duck egg blue check zipping up the back in black. Can see me making nothing but blues and greens in clothes, for I know you won’t tackle things for me in those colours. Just took home my green dress from the office last night, thanks for the mending of it – it was folded for aeons and aeons, but on my shaking it out and hanging up last night it looked as fresh as can be – you must have ironed it well – and thanks again for mending the hated colour. Noel really liked it – and commented upon my Cairene skirt, so thanks so much for being so prompt in sending it on. It is funny that parcels take a negligible amount of time compared with Cairo-bound ones, yet letters take only two days less time.
Please could you send on the sling back skin shoes I gave you which you don’t want Mum, and also my white high heeled sandals. Is my French dictionary there please? Chunky pink-red wee book?
Do wish Glasgow was just a wee bit nearer – and cheaper to get at. It’s tantalising being so near, yet so far. Simply must have Hogmanay with you insh’Allah, I’ve felt most homesick at those times of year and when your letters came through with the news of your doings for the 45/46, 46/47, 47/48 Hogmanays. Just hope we’re gay and together this time. Oh, it does make me angry that I’ve not more money to do so many things, especially with my boss getting over £40 a week and innumerable perquisites besides. (1)
The Overseas letter was merely saying why hadn’t I taken up membership, but was dated way back, before I went to O’seas House, the other was from Lilian Swan whom I must look up if I can elude Noel for 2 secs. in London, or persuade him to come along too. (2) It seems ridiculous, that I’ve seen Esme for 2½ hours since I came home, Pat for a little longer, ditto Joan Brandley but haven’t been near any of my other friends. Believe I might persuade Noel in about another three week-ends to come with me to JBs though. The trouble is almost all my friends are in London and work Sat. mornings when I’m not with Noel.
Wooing the Adjutant like mad to get permission to register with the NAAFI, as I’m in Sal so little at week-ends, I’d never get near the co-op to collect my rations or see their odd almost-delicacies like gorgonzola on points. Whereas as soon as Mr.C. pops away – and he usually does for at least an afternoon each week I could take a shopping bag and off to the NAAFI – seems they’ve everything under the sun. (3)
Are any of the Ayr snaps ready yet?
Have heard I’ve been accepted for the school in Germany, June 11-25th. Was getting all ready to turn it down as I thought it was July, but all being well I should now have plenty of news of travels when we unite in London. Noel doesn’t know yet – only heard when I returned Sun. night – so expect he will moan solidly. It’s so difficult to get into Germany, I’m really thrilled, but dread Noel’s opposition. Wish Lynda and he could come too. But what am I talking about, are you two interested? For you’d be most eligible, being alive about Trade Unions and active in them or similar orgs., for that’s a condition of going. It’s only £16 inc. and if nec. one even receives assistance over the amount! If you fancy it at all, please enquire at W.E.A. Headquarters in Glasgow. I brought out all about being a member of the CSCA, ex-Unity Theatre, productions in the ME and other odd lines, anyway, they’ve accepted me.
Haven’t tried on the yellow pants as yet, but any time now. By the way, what was the “New Look’ scarf enclosed? Thanks for the fork, knife and spoon holder Daddy. The pears were the bees knees and how, with my – at present – unsatisfied cry for fruit and vegetables they were the answer to an unspoken wish – couldn’t have been better. (4)
I’m enclosing some odd photos of Noel which I pinched from Lyn, don’t particularly like the one of him at Richmond but pinched it because he looks so American – he’s wearing Olive Drab – colour of the Burma Boys.
Suggest you ask me in about three letters time about staying at ‘No.7’ in July. You see at the moment, whenever I ask him the wee-est thing, Mr.H. puts his hand to his head, as with his new job – vansman to get open air for his ulcers (yes, didn’t you know) and Mrs, H. just having gone into hosp. he’s in no welcoming mood, though I did get him to say yes, about Noel coming down this week-end and will now probably have to rescind the whole thing, or at least postpone it. Mrs H. received your letter when I was away at the week-end and Mr H. tells me it brightened her up considerably. Thanks for the advice of the amount to pay for self-catering, I’ve read, marked and inwardly digested.
About Whit, about this week-end, in fact about quite a lot, everything may be changed for I’d a telegram from Noel to-day and for once he’s got a cast iron excuse for not writing on Monday or yesterday, for it read – “Father arrived Monday. Writing to-day. Noel”. I’m thrilled at the thought of meeting my darling’s father. Almost feel like phoning you on tick, but am so excited, guess it’d only make me worse.
Will drop a note on hearing from N. to-morrow all being well, giving gen and also if I’m still phoning Friday or Sat from Lundorn
All my love,
1. It is surprisingly difficult to get an accurate figure for a Shorthand Typist working for the Ministry of Supply, with a PA’s allowance, for this time, but it is assumed that Len would be earning around £5 – £6 a week.
2. ‘The Overseas letter…’ Correspondence for Len sent to Coldingham Avenue, and forwarded by Mum.
3. ‘Mr C’. Mr Childs, her boss.
4. These are some of the contents of the ‘two lovely parcels’ she received, and mentioned in her letter on the Monday.
5. The photo of the plane is not in this collection. That the others are shows that Mum forgot to return them to Len, and that Len never returned them to Lynda.
Len has been to London over the week-end and met Noel’s father. She has returned to Salisbury from Waterloo on a train after Sunday midnight.
PA to CSP, CDEE, Porton, Nr. Salisbury, Wilts.
Thanks for your letter.
So listen, what about Whit – does Aunt Ena’s invitation to you two alter your decision not to go? I mean is it possible you’ll both go now, or might you Mummy? – as you don’t get the holiday, do you Daddy? Isn’t it a nuisance, ‘we don’t know where we’re going till we’re there’ as the song says. Wrote to Noel today saying is Whit still O.K. at Aunt Ena’s if I’m going to Germany the week after without him. He’s keen to go, but don’t know yet if we’ll get him in. Will phone you on Friday night and bring you up to-date on my news.
Noel and I were at a party of people on Sunday night, with his Father. He’s a very nice man – sweet, but determined. I won’t say any more, but you’ll see him for yourselves soon, all being well. I asked Noel to get his Father alone as I didn’t want to ask him in front of the other people. N. did this, so I asked his Father if he would like to stay with you when he was up in Glasgow. He said he’d be delighted to call in, but didn’t know if he could stay, as he’s got a very old pal up there who got a house fairly recently and keeps a bedroom vacant which he calls “King’s Bedroom’ and Noel’s Father said he’d never have any peace if he didn’t go there. And guess where the pal stays – Scotstoun! (1) Isn’t that good, with Glasgow being so big, for as he’s so handy even if he doesn’t actually stay with you – he wasn’t quite decisive – he should pop in quite a lot.
The week-ends in London are really soul-destroying though, as at least half one’s time always seems to be spent in the tube. Glad beyond all measure that I’m staying in Salisbury this week-end. It was so lovely for Noel and I with you two in Glasgow, if we wanted to bustle we could, but we were able to laze as much as we liked – beginning to really appreciate it. Don’t know if the way I feel has come through in my letters at all, but despite the fact that I feel more settled now, I’d be giving anything to be going to Canada with Noel, and I hate the thought of him going away for two long years.
Haven’t your letters by me to reply to at the moment, but will write a really long screed on Wednesday, then again on Saturday, after our Friday night phone call.
They told me my transfer grant’s through so all being well when I get it in hard cash I’ll send you the £10 (for it’s roughly that) which I’m indebted to you for in a lump sum, for the grant should cover it all right. (2) Will that suit? Hope you’re not offended at my waiting to re-pay, but you’re not croesus (3), so don’t really see why I should use your wee bit of cash – you’re not offended?
Caught the 12.20 again last night and thought little sleep hadn’t affected me, but I feel a bit weepy which I s’pose is the result of not enough shut eye.
Sorry for the comparative brevity, but want to catch tonight’s post Before I forget, saw a bloke I knew in Cairo on Sat. in Soho – was on Forces Broadcasting, now BBC, also Adam Hunter and two Unity girls, now filming “The Gorbals Story”, felt very far away from them. (4)
The stars shine full of love, from me to you,
1. Scotstoun is about a mile from Yoker and Coldingham Avenue. It is also where “Wee Maggie” lives.
2. Assumed to be a MoS/Civil Service grant for her transfer from Cairo to the U.K.
3. Made of money.
4. “The Gorbals Story. GB. 1949. 75m. Well meaning, low budget proletarian melodrama, featuring actors from the Glasgow Unity Theatre. Set mainly in a couple of tenement rooms…” – Halliwell’s Film Guide.
PA to CS(P), CDEE Porton, nr Salisbury, Wilts.
Don’t know why I never seem to get a decent length letter written to you nowadays. This too will have to be comparatively short, for it’s almost time to go and once I’m home, it’s a long way to the post and back – 40 – 50 mins walking, so I like to post it en route back to ‘No.7’, but will write a really long letter on Saturday – insh’Allah.
How I wish you were coming to Germany, heard from them last night to say a £5 scholarship’s been granted me, making it only £11 London there and back; schooling and maintenance – isn’t it terrific? Just wish I knew some German. I s’pose there’s no chance of you coming is there?
D’you know at Noel’s Aunts’ on Sunday and in fact generally in the south I’ve noticed real antagonism to Scotland. Isn’t it odd, for abroad, Scots are far and away more popular than the English. It’s funny too, the way they divide up the country. I said to the Aunt (this was in Surrey) “You belong here?” and she replied, Oh no, that they were Cambridge. Personally, I lump everything together. Can’t get over the antagonism to the Scots, for being abroad, I imagined everyone just adored them everywhere.
Please, stockings from Macdonalds.(1) And if I can’t collect them from you at Aunt Ena’s I’d like – white sandals, toeless skin, browny skin (being ‘rubbered’) and navy court shoes. No hurry though.
No time to get gossipy, for I want you to have this before I ring on Friday – 6.30 – 7, probably.
All the love in the southern command.
1. Macdonalds in Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Street. No longer in business.
P.A. to C.S. (P), C.D.E.E., Porton, Nr. Salisbury, Wilts.
Dearest Western Wonders (of that little grey home),
This letter is going to be disjointed to say the least. Various items popping up here and there. Firstly, please bring Egyptian tablets and necklaces for valuing at Brit. Mus. in first week-end of hol. in July.
Must tell you of Saturday, after breakfasting and washing ‘medly’ and then ironing a few of the earlier washed things, I went into town. It was all county and market and sunny and super. Got all my rations including sugar for week. The butcher gave me two chops and offered (!) me two kidneys – this, I’ve since been told is most unusual. I got Vogue’s Smart Book of Dressmaking – like a thick mag. – 2/6 and also a Vogue pants pattern, not so much for the pattern, as that I really feel I ought to get used to working to a pattern.
Want to make a jacket for my skirt the same as that one we saw Mum, with a roll collar to waist, faced with velvet, also straight split skirt, so that I can wear either with the jacket. If you see a pattern for either please send it to me, please.
But my dee-yah, enquired for your hat – having phoned and knew it was in earlier in the week – and they said yes and a girl fetched another woman, who said Miss Gale was away sick with heart trouble. Was sorry about this, but the girl I spoke to started to natter to me and didn’t stop. She said looking at the label on ye hat – “Ah, which part of Scotland?” Well I told her. She’s Edinburgh, or somewhere near and is down here with husband – a Scot too. He’s an Army Officer and they’ve just bought a house and she used to be a window dresser for Jenner’s in Edinburgh, and S & G’s manager met her at a cocktail party and as her husband’s away a lot, she said “Yes”, when they asked her to take charge of window dressing there. People kept interrupting, but she seemed sorry as I went, and can quite see me getting an invite to her house if I go in again. Should ‘No.7’ fail us, wouldn’t it be super if you got part of her house for the hol? I shall have to speak re. your staying at ‘No.7’ soon, so unless there is any reason to delay a reply, p’raps you could thrash it out between you and give me your decision on Thursday night. You see if you don’t make a move soon you’ll fall between two stools and might find diff. in getting a place at that busy period.
Your hat is super Mum and I only hope you come to Leicester to take delivery. I tried on the hat of Val to-day which she brought in for me to see. (1) It’s cloche, dove grey with an enormously long feather and a veil – it really does things to my face and really has made me wonder if I should join the hat brigade. Wonder if Aunt E. would like to make one for me?
Saw Mrs.H. on Sat. and she seemed cheerful and could see quite well – they don’t know now, it seems, how her eyes are going to react to treatment but told her it will be a long job.
Cash – as I owed you say £10 and hat was 45/- say, £2, that’s £8 now coming up as quickly as I can manage it. Also, please d’you mind if I reverse the charges, but Mr.H. was worried about my p’raps going on beyond the pips and the ‘phone being his mother’s, so feel it’s better this way and I’ll send you the dough, for calls. Extra 2d. I pay them each time will be obviated too.
I have masses of spare marg. and lard and a wee bit of sugar – could you use it? As I hate making up parcels – and don’t do it too well, p’raps you could collect it at Whit all being well Mum – you see how necessary that trip is for you – don’t you agree Dad?
I wore my navy skirt for the first time on Sunday and got it really soaked at the bottom in a cloudburst, but it did look good, with Nylon blouse and multi-coloured beads.
I’ve started on Noel’s socks and as I’ve got into quite a rhythm, don’t feel self-conscious doing them in the bus in front of people.
Also, what should I ask Mark (who hasn’t offered but who’d be most willing) and Jack (who offered in his last letter) to bring back from Cairo? So what do you think from each, paying of course (or at least really offering). Please say soon, as I want to write before I leave for Germany and Mark I especially ought to write soon as he might be here by the time I’m back.
Please, prickers for primus, the ones I took with the primus are all rusty and I can’t use it till I get some more and so far my hunt’s been unsuccessful – so if you come across any in Glasgow – thanks.
Do you want anything dry cleaned? For on the station in one of the sections, we’ve a cleaning service which is just as good and much cheaper than the shops as well as being more speedy.
Stockings from MacD’s sometime please.
Funny your mentioning that “Personality Unlimited” Mum, but only last night when waiting to register at a doctors, I picked up a “News Review” and read a crit. about it. (2) The doc. saw me and I told him about my met. arch, but he said it hadn’t really dropped, that heat wasn’t necessary and merely bound it up with elastic and said exercise, not just standing, was good for it, mentioning “Pranella Stock” stuff? (3). I’d like to be able to wear high heels, but that’s the only way I’m inconvenienced now, I must admit.
One of those letters is a redirection of the elec. bill paid in Cairo and another is an income tax rebate so can’t complain on the score of cash, whilst yet another is from Harris saying he’d sent two others, but no reply and it’s very warm, so must give him a ring for I’d like the news of how he and the rest of the Old Vic gang are getting on.
Daddy, don’t you remember going into Kodak’s with me and asking them to notify us when they’d 118 films in? (4) And of course we gave your name, knowing I wouldn’t be in Glasgow. This evidentially means two 118 films are being sent you and keep them for my camera please to take snaps of you in July – insh’Allah. If there’s any difficulty ‘phone Kodaks.
That’s all for now, all the love in the world to two Super Types.
1. Val is a fellow MoS shorthand typist, possibly a PA too, based at the nearby Winterbourne Gunner facility, where, amongst other activities, soldiers took part in gas warfare exercises. Len has, it is assumed, already told Mum about meeting Val in one of their telephone conversations.
2. Personality Unlimited was an American book, published in the UK by Faber & Faber in 1949. It was a guide to health and beauty: “Diet, exercise, cosmetics, clothing and grooming”.
3. Pranella was a brand of ladies’ boots and shoes.
4. Presumably at some point when she was up over the Easter week-end. 118 roll film was quarter plate size film: 3¼ inches by 4 ¼ inches. Kodak Autograph No. 3 camera took it, plus some British manufactured Ensign cameras. Many of Len’s negatives and photos in this collection are quarter plate Kodak discontinued 118 roll film in 1961.
Address as always.
Lights of my Life,
Hail and how are you? Yes, spoke to Mr. H. about ‘No 7’ and he was very vague, saying “A lot can happen in 7 weeks”. Must see the woman at S & G and suggest your staying with her, if he’s not more clear by next week-end as to what he thinks you can do, as you don’t want time to go on and not get fixed up anywhere.
This week-end all being well I’m staying with the Brandleys and am taking up ¾ lb Marg. and some cooking fat to Mrs. B., as that should please them. Please Mum, what ply or kind of wool did you use for Daddy’s famous maroon pullover and how much, for it’s not terribly easy to get and I should be on the look out for it.
My boss offered to take me up to town to-day by his M.G. Coupe, but I said ‘No’ as it meant taking half a day’s leave. Miss Wells in London told me that he sent away the last girl he had, so feel quite pleased I seem to get on all right with him. (1).
As I hope to leave on the 11th June for Germany, if you propose writing to Ernst could you do so soon Mum please. Sure he’s still in Tel el Kebir.
Got some nail polish on the tip of my Parker inadvertantly and its’ gone a bit funny, which is putting me off my stroke.
There doesn’t seem to be any more news at the moment. Let me know all queries re. holiday (twould be a prohibitive price with b&b 9/- a night!).
In the meantime, all love,
Daddy, thanks for your letter, will reply soon.
1. Miss Wells is assumed to be a Civil Service appointments officer at the Adelphi head-quarters.
‘No.7’, Monday evening.
Now to answer your letters and tell you how I enjoyed the week-end. Firstly though, that £15 grant has just disappeared between, my Germany money, the hat, food, wool for Noel’s socks, etc, so I can’t see myself giving you the other £7 (8 enclosed) plus my telephone call money, till July. (1) I can easily take some out of the bank, so if you need it before July, tell me, after me leading you up the garden about giving it to you now. May have some after Whit, but I don’t want to indulge in my pet habit of going around with the cash I need minus 2d when up at the Reids.
Asked all over London for “Personality Unlimited”, but just couldn’t get it, think I’d better order it down here.
Got in last night to find a letter from Steena my Swedish girl friend awaiting me and also one from Aunt Ena – very welcoming and warm. “Marie Rose” says she’d like me to bring a tennis racket, well she’s had that, much as I’d like to please her – on a train here, off in London, all over in the tube, dumping my bag wherever I’m staying and the next morning repeating the process to the Leicester train is bad enough without a racket as well.
Must tell you something funny, had £1, a ten shilling note and 1/6d odd, when I went into the chemists to-night to dump the roll of film taken at the week-end and to see if the extra copies were ready for you and Noel of Stonehenge.
As they weren’t I thought “Oh, now I can send the 10/- to Dad and Mum in the letter after this as it’s unbroken”. Then thinking I’d have no more expenses till Friday and pay day, I thought I’d blow 1/6d. odd on some hair oil, as I do want to look good for the Reids. I remembered what macassar oil had done for your hair Mum and ordered a bottle, thinking it would be cheap old fashioned stuff. (2) It’s old fashioned all right, but the price – ooooh – it’s 6/11, I paid without a murmur, but shall cherish that bottle as one of 1949s luxuries.
I heard from Esme during the week the news that Lyn had just had a letter from the Pop asking them down to Ely at the week-end. They insisted I went too, so I spent the Friday night with the Brandleys, the morning shopping with Esme (saw someone in town, yet again, I’d known in Cairo, isn’t it amazing?) and in the afternoon was Eastward bound with L & N.
The Pop met us at Ely (doesn’t know when he’s Glasgow bound). Met the Aunt there who’s nicer than the Oxshott, Surrey Aunt and Lyn and I had a double and Noel a single room at “The Bell”.
We all went to the fair and Noel won an orange and a glass dish which he gave to me and we went on the dodgems and everything. Saw Lyn and Noel’s old school and N & I between us took masses of photos of Ely Cathedral on the Sunday and also went to see Ely playing cricket on the green and I helped the Aunt do the teas for the cricket X1 – so English and so wonderful.
That’s all for tonight. How’s the hol. preparations going?
All my love in the world. Len. xxxxx.
1. Her transfer grant.
2. “Macassar oil is a compounded oil used primarily by men in Victorian and Edwardian times as a hair conditioner to groom and style the hair.
Macassar oil was so named because it was reputed to have been manufactured from ingredients purchased in the port of Makassar in Indonesia. The poet Byron called it ‘thine incomparable oil, Macassar’ in the first canto of Don Juan, and Lewis Carroll also mentions ‘Rowland’s Macassar Oil’ in the poem ‘Haddocks’ Eyes’ from Through the Looking-Glass.
Due to the tendency for the oil to transfer from a gentleman’s hair to the back of his chair, the antimacassar was developed. This is a small cloth (crocheted, embroidered or mass-produced), placed over the back of a chair to protect the upholstery.” – Abridged entry from Wikipedia, with grateful acknowledgement.
It was thus, very unusual to be used by women, and Liz Willis (see Acknowledgements) originally from Scotland had never heard of its use amongst Scottish women of Len’s mother’s generation. Neither has Mrs Alison Coleman of Carnwath, (see Acknowledgements), who was an ATS officer during the Second World War.
P.A. to C.S. (P), C.D.E.E., Porton, Nr. Salisbury, Wilts.
North Stars of Mine,
Your 20 came in yesterday and some other mail to-day. I’d a lovely letter from Noel and other mail, so really can’t complain.
The Kings are so vague and though I asked Lynda if they were giving up the flat in July and she said yes, don’t know exactly when they are going, but felt it was better to book at Highgate, didn’t have time to phone before Ely, so wrote on Monday. Pop King has almost got a flat landed and as he’s less vague than Lyn or Noel (though actually all three know just where they’re going) think the subject of you two staying there in London (his flat) might be introduced when he comes to you.
Don’t know why you worry about my sleep, for I’m getting more than I’ve had for years – always in bed between 9.30 and 11 pm, apart from the occasional Sunday when I’m late in from London.
– Since writing that I’ve had a 6 min. call from Zaki – Glencoe Aug ‘48 – from Lancashire! (1) He must be nuts. He’s nice though, but the only person I’m interested in is Noel. The last thing I want to do is rush him with getting officially engaged, but otherwise how can I keep other people away? Should I speak, or keep quiet or not bother to keep the other people away? Don’t know what to do – this sounds like something from the back page of “Woman”- but I do need advice. (2)
Course I remember the Oykell and only wish I could go up there again now, but living as far south as this makes you realise how difficult it is to get to Scotland from the time and cash angle – you’ll think of it the other way round spending your holiday here – it certainly is some effort and how I hope you enjoy it. Saturday must have been super – did you take snaps as planned? I’m longing to see them. Noel tells me in his letter he had a p.c. from you too – mine made me homesick. (3)
The enclosed is a bit of a letter from Jimmie Shanks. (4) He asked me why I seemed to have such inward calm and knew where I was going and his p.s. is a comment on my reply – thought you’d like to see it.
“P.S May I be facetious (or do I mean fatuous?) for a moment but remark about being ‘very much with parents’ when literally you almost never are, struck me as an odd choice of phrase. However I know just what you mean and rather envy you for it. – J.”
I plan to write to Mark to-morrow insh’Allah, so it’s too late for your requests from him, but still waiting to know about what Jack’s to bring – not writing to him till next week, so please reply by letter. Suggest you write to M. giving him personal invite to W.4. – wouldn’t say this to anyone but you, and you’d better burn this letter afterwards for containing such a sentiment – but apart from Mark being a real poppet, I know him and it would pay you in the long run, for he’s very generous and appreciates little acts of kindness.
Daddy, did you get those 118 films as per invoice returned to you?
Don’t know why on earth, ‘cept she evokes my sympathy and is pleasant and kind, I asked Esme if she was interested in coming to Scotland at Hogmanay and of course she’s said yes – hope you don’t mind.
I took marg. and lard to the Brandleys as I never eat my marg, and my suet from the kidneys is enough for my cooking for a long time. – Hate their (Brandley’s) breakfasts of tea and toast – really strongly hate, would rather starve rest of day and have an honest to goodness meal at Breakfast time. Intend to take some to Aunt E. too, but will have marge and lard, and tea and sugar for your use in July and to take back with you.
Esme’s due at 8.23 p.m at the bus station to-morrow night, seems it’s less than 10/- return to Oxford from here – July trip? (5)
Hope your visit to the Infirmary is a cheering and successful one next month Daddy.
I said to Noel at Ely I was a wee bit tired of Lyn and he being made a fuss of by relatives, and was looking forward to being made much of at Leicester. He said his Aunt liked me, in fact told him she approved of his choice – as you can guess this cheered me more than somewhat.
Will give measurements for Zephyr over phone Sat – left inch tape at night school – can you get it to me for Whit?
All love from south to north,
1. When she was on home leave from Cairo.
2. Woman, owned by Odhams Press, had the largest weekly sales of British women’s magazines. According to the magazine’s editor, Glaswegian Mary Grieve, in her book Millions Made My Story, there was a huge post-war post bag of worried letters that she says were all answered. They published what were most representative. “Doubt and despair may be averted by a word of friendly advice. If you are worried let Evelyn Home help you – write to her c/o WOMAN, enclosing a stamped addressed envelope for her reply’”.
In the December 4, 1948 issue, for instance, Evelyn Home answered letters amongst which were one reader asking where she could get information about the ‘facts of life’ as she didn’t know anything about them; another was being pressurised by her boyfriend to have intercourse before they were engaged; another suggested that parents worried too much if their daughter had a friendship with a married man and another, saying she was 24 and bored with being a popular girl and would rather get married and have children – friends were telling her she’d better watch out as she was getting too old, and was too choosy about who she got married to.
In a regular Woman column Frank Mansfield gave the “man’s” view, and in the same issue reminded the reader, male or female, that a man’s greatest asset was his wife, and how much men owe to them “Every man’s mother makes a man of him and his girl takes on from there and tries to make him a success”.
The ‘Facts of Life’ were not that easily available in 1948, and Evelyn Home suggested the enquirer wrote to the Central Council for Health education at Tavistock House in London, enclosing a self addressed stamped envelope for the answer. There had been a continuing hostility (backed up by court cases and fines) to sex education and family planning. Some Labour controlled councils mindful of their Roman Catholic support had been part of the opposition to a more enlightened approach. However, the hostility was inter-denominational and cross-political party. In 1948 Salisbury Council had banned the screening of Birth of a Baby in Salisbury cinemas. It was shown in nearby Amesbury, however, and the Salisibury Times noted the strong interest and numbers visiting the cinema in Amesbury. Letters were published in the paper in support of the film and critical of the Salisbury Council on 10 September, 1948.
Mum had sent Len when in Cairo a cutting from the Glasgow Evening Citizen in October 1947 featuring an advertisement for Birth of a Baby.
3. Strath Oykell in the north of Scotland is approximately half way between Ullapool on the west coast and Dornoch on the east coast, to the north. It seems Mum and Dad were away for slightly more than a weekend as it is not in striking distance from Glasgow using public transport. As will seen in a future letter, there was another strike on, at Dad’s works, so this may explain how they got away for a few days.
4. Jimmie Shanks was possibly part of the hiking and hosteling fraternity that Len and parents were part of during the war.
5. The Oxford – Salisbury bus. Didcot, where Esme worked is 15 miles from Oxford. _____
7 Barton Road, Salisbury, Wilts.
Monday – 6.30ish
So much to say I just don’t know where to start – hope the enclosed cheque will lessen my debt to you a little more. I have hopes of more than completely paying you back in kind as it were, but will ‘say nae mair’ in this letter, merely hoping it comes off. The next week’s emergency card may help you out a little, but honestly at the moment my lard and marg are piling up as well as my tea and this week I’m not in the house after Thursday morning and won’t be back till Monday night, and am off at the week-end for Germany, so don’t want any rations lying around.
Should my R.B. (1) ) not be taken from me at the Customs (shades of Nov ‘45 and Aug ‘48) I’ll post it back to you to collect an e.card for each of the two weeks I’m to be in Germany. That should help you a bit more. Will take Aunt Ena all my marg. and lard as it’s difficult to send through the post, but will send on my tea and sugar to you. Even so, should be able to supply you completely from my current ration when you come down in July.
Will I see you at Whit Mum? I’ve got Personality Unlimited and it seems terrific, but I fear it will have to be your Xmas present as it was 18/- – you can collect it in July if you like though.
Also taking to Aunt E. all rendered down fat, seem to do nothing but render down, what with kidneys a fortnight ago and this week’s 3/9 worth of meat! Yes, Esme and I had it stewed and fried on Sat. for a late lunch and stewed some more (‘twas a bit tough) and roasted for Sunday dinner and I had the rest cold with cabbage for my lunch – ‘loin of lamb’ or something like that the butcher said – chop shape with a flabby bit at the end.
Had a letter today from Betty Baxter – she’s in hospital – the London Chest Hospital near Victoria Park,with TB, but she sounds cheerful in her letter – as if she’s only got it a wee bit – and wants me to go and see her.
The woman in S&G will be half moved at the date of the your hol. with the painters in her new abode. I got the impression however that I can send her an SOS if the woist comes to the woist. However she gave me an address just near me which I’m off to see to-night. As you can see I’ve got my scouts out. Suddenly struck me I’ve only got a bit of this week, a bit of next and the few days after my return from Germany (insh’Allah) in Salisbury myself before you two are due down here!
Is it possible Mum, for you to take in – a lot – my navy checked jacket and get it down here by Thurs. or Fri. of next week? It’s the only thing I can visualise wearing as a top thing to Germany, carrying a rucksack on my back as I propose to do.
Pinched your idea Mummy and in a parcel to Noel to-day put rhymes in each article – the new socks, a darned khaki sock of his, tie he pointed out in a window, green socks of JF’s,(2) cigs. returned to me by Esme as not delivered, old chamois glove of mine – shrank after many washings to clean his camera lens and a tablet of Cusson’s Imperial Leather. I’d another letter from him this morning incorporating a drawing of the Taj Mahal.
Are you sporting your beret down here Daddy? I’ve always liked it and it does look super in that photo where you hit the headlines. (3)
Apart from my French Dictionary, I’d like my Oxford Book of English Verse.
They showed me some awful quicknit in a shop on Saturday, must hunt a wee bit in Leicester for Double Knitting. They said I’d need 20 ozs. of Quicknit – cost £1.1. Like the wool for Daddy’s pullover and looking forward to seeing him in it.
Hoping to see you a lot on Friday Mum, but otherwise – or if you’re there we can both ring Daddy – will ‘phone on Saturday from the Reids all being well.
Blue skies of love to you this May day.
As always your own, Len xxxx
1. R.B. Ration Book.
2. J.F’s: John Findlay’s
3. Dad “hitting the headlines”. Despite looking in the archives of the local Clydebank weekly newspaper, the Glasgow Evening Citizen and the Scottish Daily Record of the time, nothing has been found. With evening papers, such as the Evening Citizen, they had a noon edition and a later edition – and some stories in the Noon edition would be dropped for newer stories in the Late edition. Only one of those editions would be archived.
P.A. to C.S. (P), C.D.E.E., Porton, Nr. Salisbury, Wilts.
How are you? At the moment I’m trying to recover from the blow of not borrowing a hat. This may seem very trivial, but the girl offered to lend the hat to me about a month ago. It seems she told her Mother last night, who said the girl would want it for Church on Sunday. She never told me this till this afternoon, pretending this morning she’d forgotten it and that she’d bring it after lunch. (1) I’d never have asked if she hadn’t been captivated with it on me, and I built up my week-end wardrobe with it in mind. Can’t stand a person who’d break their word though, even over a little thing, it shows such a defective character.
Thank you very much for everything. As yet I haven’t had time to try on the Zephyr which arrived with other dress and shoes yesterday but I’m enchanted with it and have such faith in your ‘remote control’ dressmaking Mum. I can’t visualise it doing other than fitting perfectly. To-day I’m wearing the navy skirt I made myself and my old navy Morley jumper – the effect is to make me look quite a wraith – or as wraithish as I can look.
Yesterday – or was it the day before? Sent off little food parcel to you, hope you like the stuff and it helps.
Writing a longer letter fairly shortly. As always every bit of my love,
1. It sounds as if she is a Porton office girl.
Len’s letter was written on the Thursday leading up to the Whit week-end. What follows is the next letter in the collection.
In front of the electric fire at Aunt Ena’s.
North of the Border Precious Ones,
Said and thought I must write, and here goes.
I think it was mean of Noel and you to desert me, for my nerves are being attacked by being here. The chief cause is Marie Rose, I can’t bear inefficiency and she is inefficient and has no charm to offset this failing. She’s a bundle of nerves and can’t think properly after she’s had a fit of the giggles. The three of them seem devoid of a sense of humour and don’t seem close knit at all. Uncle Bill goes out for a drink alone on a Sat. always (inc. last Sat.) which I think is shocking. To crown all this, I’ve been cooking for the whole family up to now with Aunt E. being ill. I like them notwithstanding, but for the sake of my nerves shall be glad to leave. More than ever I’m looking forward to Germany as a period of peace and being cut off. Whitsun has certainly not been a relaxation.
D’you want me to phone about 9 pm. on Thursday or between 6.30 and 7.30 on Sat? That’s the latest I can phone before boarding the train for Germany. Thought you might think of something else to say between Thursday and Saturday and also ‘twould be nice to hear your voices before leaving. Those are the pros. The cons are, that it would be inconvenient for both of us, your usual Sat. of pictures and Sat. night theatre (1) being mucked up and me looking for a ‘phone box just before leaving with Noel moaning in my ear. These are the pros and cons, just hope this letter gets to you tomorrow, so that you can make up your mind on the spot and let your reply reach me at Porton by Thursday.
All your mail has come in, but this house doesn’t provide the bright relaxed atmosphere for writing. Can’t go into it all just now, but will give you the little titbits when I see you next, in London in July all being well. Replying to your letter very shortly insh’Allah.
All the love in the Leicester zone,
Love Len xxxxx
1. The Home Service Saturday Night Theatre was going to be “An English Summer”, between 9.20 p.m. and 10.45 p.m. followed by 15 minutes of “Family Prayers”. – source, Glasgow Evening Citizen, 11 June, 1949.
Len was taking pen to paper the following evening, back in Salisbury.
Front room of ”No.7”. Tuesday night after ye ‘phone call.
Just back from the ‘phone, remembering we didn’t arrange whether I should ring again Thursday or Sat. Still, p’raps I’d better make it Saturday now and will do so, unless I hear from you to the contrary.
Just what’s made Aunt Ena like that? Besides being utter snobs, all three of them are completely devoid of a sense of humour. For your inf. – she told me so I’ll pass it on – Uncle Bill gets £1,500 a year, which is £30 a week and they don’t save at all! Of Daddy, she said sweetly and rather sadly, wasn’t it a shame about his leg? By that time I must have been geared to her almost insane jealousy, for I said “Yes, but didn’t he look fit in his newspaper picture and must have been pretty fit too to handle all those people all day long” Course she said “Yes” – didn’t realise till just now my remark in all innocence must have taken the wind out of her sails.
Furious at the waste of my lovely long Whit, but I can’t complain at giving them one week-end in nine years.
By the way in answer to one of their innumerable questions I told them Noel’s Mother was dead. Thought I’d better brief you both (1) Brought up your lovely carpet, but she showed complete disinterest.
The hurt’s going away now, but I’m furious she knows about Noel. About Noel, she said “What does your Mother say?” I replied you thought it was very wrong to give advice Mum, with suitable trimmings. I don’t like the thought of any of the Reids being near or knowing anything or anybody I care for. Will have the effect of staying out of their sight from now on. I wouldn’t take a cent of their cash – Aunt E. telling me that most of Aunt Jean’s £40,000 will come to MR someday. (2) They seem to envy Denny and Phemie, ‘cos they’ve more money than they have.
Aunt E. says she thinks her husband, home and children are enough for any woman, well it’s certainly all she can talk about. Why all the talk of men and marriage? I think it’s shocking. It’s the natural and loveliest thing to get married but many other things in life are important too and she never talks of them. And who wants to hear not one, but countless anecdotes of the boys she went around with? I almost have difficulty in getting you to tell me the various anecdotes you have to recount Mum and I’m anxious to hear them! I think it makes her seem awfully old, living in the past like that. She may be slimmer, but looks devoid of energy and is horribly round shouldered.
I longed for Noel’s Aunt at Ely, with her small house and sincere friendliness.
They adored my Zephyr, Aunt E saying immediately on seeing it said how grand it was. She gave me 7 eggs and a lovely cake to bring back with me, but oh, how I’d rather have kind words than material gifts.
Must say I looked carelessly (carefully!) good all the time I was there. Marie Rose kept raving about my hair, personally I can’t see anything in it, but for weeks before I went, was shampooing, oiling and brushing with more method than the makers of Rolls Royce engines.
I hope Daddy the strike isn’t getting you down. (3) Uncle Bill thinks Unions are the cause of all the trouble (little voice “What trouble?”) can I say strongly “Gertcha?” I think you’re so right Daddy. Don’t want to get mixd up in politics again, but my sympathies could never be anything else but left.
They (MR, E & B) shan’t point a finger at me from a political angle – will write a brief sweet ‘thank you’ note to-night and send them some Danish Blue cheese and milk chocs. from the Naafi tomorrow insh’Allah. They won’t poor relation me. (4)
Sorry to waste so much paper on this, but I can’t get over it. Her parting shot was – as the train drew out “I’ll write and tell your Mother all your bad points”.
Thought I could be extravagant with ‘phone calls this week as then I shan’t be making any for a fortnight all being well.
Thanks so much for all the stockings. Haven’t you slipped in some of your own by mistake?
I’ve applied for a job in Rhodesia – Crown Agents for the Colonies and they’ve sent me an application form to fill in which I’ve now had over a week. Minimum age is 25, but even if I was accepted I wouldn’t go, for I don’t want to be separated for a long period from you two again. Am just doing it to feel I’m keeping my hand in. England too, apart from Aunt E. is pretty good. Also, from Noel’s point of view, I think he should have a picture of me sitting demurely with hands clasped in England as he toils in Canada and me not going gay under tropic nights.
Plan to take my Zephyr with me to Germany – feel it’s kind of “Fraulein-straight from- Dior-in-Paris”. Gailly talking of G. but haven’t got my passport back yet with permit to enter G. (5)
Jimmie Shanks arrives back 4th July with films (118s – Daddy did you get the ones from Kodak’s? – they’re worth their weight in gold) and nylons for me – I wish Noel would do something. (6)
Thanks for the notes of Radio ME (Middle East) Memories talk.
A gain’ fits’ aye gettin’ , so I’ll ask Jack for a small but nice hearthrug – preferably Persian, but not at all if it’s any trouble, hoping he’ll trouble a lot and bring something super.
I mixed the facepowder samples, making a super shade and I keep it in a wee box in the office and use it there – thanks a million.
Longing to see you in your pullover Daddy, or will it be too warm in July in it?
After Aunt E. telling me a straight skirt would suit me better she had me draw a pattern of my navy one so that she can make one for MR!
I’ll rely on you fixing up the London acc. Mum. Me for Friday Ist July and the three of us for Sat. 2nd July.
If you’re at all short of cash, let me know, as I’ve had an income tax rebate of £12!
You’re wonderful to get my navy jacket ready like that Mum – just wish you two were coming as well – the crossing is Harwich to Hook of Holland overnight.
Do hope you’re both feeling good. Hope too the strike soon passes, for it must be a depressing thing. How does the garden grow? And how’s Hutch? Have encountered lots of cats lately and am getting to like them more and more, but I still think Hutch is the ‘nicest cat I know’.
Won’t start to reply to your 25, received to-day, or I’d need a cloth envelope. Will try to write another long letter before I leave.
The sun takes my love north west to you.
1. From a future reference, it seems that Noel’s parents were divorced. At the time there was a strong stigma about divorce.
2. £40,ooo was a huge sum of money: in 2014 it is the equivalent of just under one million British pounds. We have no indication on which side of the family Aunt Jean is.
3. “India Tyre Works Still Idle: Production was still at a standstill today at the Inchinnan works of the India Tyre and Rubber Co., Ltd., where the maintenance and production staffs have been on strike since Friday.
Tonight, production workers hold a mass meeting in Central Halls, Paisley, and another meeting of all the men involved, will take place tomorrow afternoon.
About 1,400 workers, including engineers, electricians, plumbers and members of the Transport and General Workers’ Union are involved in the dispute.
The trouble had its origin in the dismissal of several maintenance men on redundancy grounds, and spread to the works when foremen made other arrangements to operate the essential services in the factory.” – Evening Citizen, Monday 6 June 1949.
4. Len’s wooing of the Adjutant at Porton to be able to use the Naafi has paid off.
5. Two weeks earlier, on May 23, 1949, the Federal Republic of Germany (the former West Germany) came into existence when the constitution was signed by members of the German Parliamentary Council in the presence of the Allied Military governors.
6. This suggests that Jimmie Shanks is in the Merchant Navy.