Part Three Chapter Four Imagine Me a School-Maam
“I always feel so sorry for kids and adults with disinterested and indifferent parents”
Mum has been down in Salisbury for a fortnight, and has just returned by train to Scotland
P.A. to C.S. (P), C.D.E.E, Porton, nr Salisbury, Wilts.
North of the Border Beauties,
How are you two, reunited at 26 once more? Hope you had a good journey back Mum and arrived home feeling you’ve had a good if rather hectic holiday. Yes Daddy, I bet you’re amazed by the tales of all we managed to fit in.
A dozen and one things to say – first as my funds are low, won’t be despatching your parcel till Friday, Mrs B. Secondly, am ready for parcel of cabbage, lettuce and any other spare produce from your kitchen garden whenever you have time to send it – but please don’t rush to post the goods.
Re. education people. I received my birth cert. back last night with a note saying my name was on list for colleges.
What I’d like you to do Mum is to see the Chief Education Office for Glasgow, or some deputy of his and say that your daughter is an accepted candidate for training under the Emergency Training Scheme and as per the advice of the Ed. auths. in their letter to her, would like to work whilst awaiting entry to college as a temporary supplementary, unqualified teacher. I could come to Glasgow for interview and could start anytime, but preferably from mid – Nov. onwards.
I heard from Nolly (1). Yes, I’d a p.c. of the Empire State Building and he says he’s going on to Canada and will write from there and hopes I’m O.K. I picked up the p.c. from my tray eagerly thinking it was from Malcolm. (2) On seeing the writing I felt ‘all weak’ after thinking I’d weathered the storm and my inside went skiddely bom, bom, bom.
Val’s trying to lure me to the pictures to-night. I’ve already been weak enough to say ‘Yes’ about dancing at the Cadena on Thursday on finances borrowed from her. Really shouldn’t go as I can’t afford it from a long term angle. Hope to join League of H/ & Beauty in a fortnight – but even keeping fit seems a costly business at 6/- for enrolment and 1/- – 2/6 a lesson, but it sounds fun.(3)
How are you Daddy – didn’t tell you before but Mr. Baxter says riding a bike doesn’t hurt at all with your complaint ‘cos he knows someone who has it and does. (4) (Clearly Len and Mum did visit Dagenham whilst Mum was down from Scotland)
Wish I was in Sconnie Botland.
All love in the world,
1. Nolly, yet another of Len’s variations for ‘Noel’
2. This is perhaps Malcolm that she briefly saw in Cairo, and who had returned to the U.K. and been demobbed, like Peter, who she also briefly saw.
3. The League of Health and Beauty was founded by Mary Bagot Stack, a First World War widow who suffered from rheumatic fever. The League still continues but is now known as the Fitness League.
3. Len and Mum stayed with the Baxters in Dagenham.
P.A. to C.S. (P), C.D.E.E, Porton, nr Salisbury, Wilts.
Stuffy Restroom, lunchtime. Friday.
Precious people of the North,
It was lovely to get your letter Mum and learn of your safe return. So sorry about the scarab ring – not at all on my own behalf, but merely that you haven’t got it any more. Still, you may get another from Cairo via Trudi or someone. (1) You never gave me back the thing for Woman’s Hour’s Joan Griffiths. (2) Could you return it corrected please.
As there’s a terrific flap on at the moment with these Americans and Canadians being here this will have to be brief, but in accordance with instructions – better brevity than nothing at all. (3)
Last night I worked late – till 7.40, then went to a dance at the Cadena. The bloke who drove me home from work – one of the scientists insisted on coming too with Val and I. He took me in for sandwiches and afterwards drove us both home, all of which was rather nice, but help, he’s married and both he and his wife after 2 years residence there have only been out of a mental home 6 months! So nae mair o’ that – why can’t I meet somebody ordinary.
Working late again to-night and may even have to come in tomorrow. Since writing that I’ve worked till 8.30 and am now coffee-ing and finishing this off before going to meet Joan. (4) And I am working to-morrow, so as you can see there’s plenty of work around.
1. Mum has presumably lost the scarab ring that Len sent to her on her birthday when she was in Cairo.
2. Len is writing an item “How It Feels to Be Back Home” on spec, for the BBC Women’s Hour radio programme. Jane Griffiths was the then presenter of Women’s Hour.
3. Terrific flap. As mentioned earlier, there was a high degree of cooperation in biological and chemical warfare development between the U.K., the U.S.A and Canada. There is a possibility that this particular’ ‘flap’ was to do with combined sea trials in the dispersal of biological weapons.
4. Joan. Joan Brandley who is coming down for the week-end.
P.A. to C.S. (P), C.D.E.E, Porton, nr Salisbury, Wilts.
September Sunshine. Tuesday morning.
My Own Well Beloved Ones,
How are you – don’t feel like going bats with my digs so much, in fact they’re quite bearable, but I’m still quietly determined to do all I can to get to Glasgow.
Thank you so much for the wonderful parcel, I’m making hay while the sun shines with all the goodies – having resplendent meals of roast lamb and cabbage. I ate the two enormous pears for my breakfast this morning and found them delicious. All being well when you send my cord trousers could you please send my little checked shorts and boots as well. Don’t want to ruin shoes tattie howking in a muddy field – thanks. (1)
You also have my only copy Mum of the thing for Joan Griffiths, so if you could send it fairly soon together with your suggested amendments, I’d be very pleased.
You’ll be able to write back to Marie with the news of Paul’s family which she asks for. Your letters certainly seem to thrill her Mum – wonder what the very cheapest fare is to Sweden.
Your 46 was so full of everything don’t quite know where I start replying. What’s been the outcome of queries from lodgers? If they’re bed and breakfast or preferably just ‘bed’ it wouldn’t be so much work but I don’t think you should take on anything else. And, if you do take ‘em be sure to charge ‘em like mad for anything they get.
Thank you so much for the face powder left behind. It’ll help replenish my rapidly diminishing stock. Thanks too for the apples. They made two delightful meals when stewed with lots and lots of sugar.
– Just after lunchtime and your 47 has just come in so I’ve masses of replying to do now.
Just to say, I’m going to be rushed, as I hope to take French, German, Dressmaking and maybe one or two WEA subjects too, as well as joining the League of Health and Beauty here in Salisbury.
Had no chance to get much sleep between you going and Joan coming. So am thankful at the thought of an early night to-night. Hope to swim with Val, but she plans to get the 8.45 bus back to Winterbourne Gunner so plan to hit the hay after seeing her off. To-morrow it’s the WEA social 7 – 8.30, so I hope to be fairly early then too.
Told you over the phone about working till 7.30 Thurs., 8.30 Fri and 9 – 1 Sat. Well I took tea in to Mr. Childs and two Americans and said to one (having heard they all didn’t earlier) “You don’t take milk in your tea?” “Gee, she’s got a dossier on you Albert,” the younger Am. said to the elder and to me “Whaaat else d’you know about him?” “Cross my palm with silver and I’ll tell you” I replied. The elder one said yes, he liked his clear, and the younger with just a spaht of cream. After I’d dispensed the three cups the younger turned to the CS (P) and said “D’you aaalways get this kin’ of service?” The CS (P) answered “Well it’s a bit phoney when we have visitors” but I felt he was pleased nevertheless.
Any news yet of the ‘India’ ball pen or tennis raquet press, Daddy? Are you a corsetiere yet Mum?
Joan was telling me how the Bxs recited Betty’s illness to them with no encouragement – I think actually Mrs. B must be so worried that Betty’s not as well as she says she is in these recitations that it makes her talk all the time.
It was brilliant sunshine at Bournemouth and the water when we swam was really warm – so difficult to think of the storminess in Glasgow. Whilst at Bournemouth we went a 6d. bus ride to Hengistbury Head and it was like going 600 miles, the two places are so different. Firstly the air wasn’t the heavy Bournemouth stuff, but really bracing. There were lots of sand dunes and sea grass and beach far below – in fact it was lovely. Reminded me of Dornoch a bit.
How d’you two feel about the ‘country’ versus ‘industrial’ atmosphere, now that you’re both back north of the border?
My hair’s a bit long so I hope to have it cut again to-morrow night – washing it ‘sevening after swimming. Went with Joan to M/borough yesterday a/noon (time off in lieu of Sat.) and she took a photo of me so hope to let Daddy see what I’m like with short hair.
I want a dead straight swagger with cuffs on wide sleeves and a big collar in Mackay tartan – what colour is the ‘ancient M.’ Aunt E. talks of? Could you make it Mum?
Must away. All the love there is.
1. Tattie howking, Scots. ‘Potato picking’.
P.A. to C.S. (P), C.D.E.E, Porton, nr Salisbury, Wilts.
Blue sky and sunshine but lovely sharpness in the air Friday 16.9.49
My own Heart Warmers,
How are you. My new Canadian boss is due to arrive to-day, but I don’t s’pose he’ll be in till Monday.
Joan Brandley suggests the Watson boys for Hogmanay, for she says they’d be good to have anyway, plus which the younger one would be an excellent pianist for her. Wonder if they’ll still be in Nigeria and Haifa or if they’ll be home for Xmas/New Year leave? Should I ask Harris – he does lend colour? (1)
Met a chap from Alderman Road, Knightswood at the WEA. The whole organisation’s full of non-Sal-ites. (2)
Love you both very much,
1. The Watson boys were possibly part of the wartime Glasgow hiking and hosteling crowd. Harris, is Harris, now at Drama School in London, who Len knew from Egypt.
2. Knightswood is in the western suburbs of Glasgow and a short distance from Yoker and the family home.
Public Library, 6 ish Tuesday evening.
Dearest People O’ Mine,
How are you? According to your lovely newsy letters, O.K. – do take care of yourselves especially now that winter’s coming on.
At the WEA last night, Val and I thought what an unattractive lot of people were there – it was just a sample to us and we don’t intend going on with that class – “Clear Thinking” etc. Joined and enjoyed the League of Health and Beauty. Why is the WEA full of such unattractive people here? Dressmaking’s full up so I’m going to cookery to-night. Have lots of d/making I want to do though – have you any old blackout cloth you could spare, with which I could make my H&B tights?
Lt.Col.Kent one of the people in the Admin. Block at Porton has promised to get a bottle of Drambuie reserved for me in the Officer’s Mess – won’t it be super if he keeps his word, how are you off for whisky?
Getting ready for a shock with the imminence – yes? – of learning what ²/³rd’s ‘phone bill is, but hope to manage it.
Fancy Mark being in Europe and not coming to Britain! I must owe him about £50 now after the devaluation, but if he takes re-payment here, £30 sterling should do. You don’t think I should write to him and say I’m worried about re-paying him? (1)
Thank you for all you did in regard to the teaching business Mum. Although it seemed pretty decisive I thought I’d ask you to try again, but at the w/e Miss Davies was telling me supp.unq.temp. teachers get less than £3 a week (or about that)! (2) Well – that would be US, as I should hate to come home a pauper. Apart from the cash angle it seems definitely imposs. to do “before-qualifying work” in Scotland, so I’ll just try to hoard as many ackers as I can just now, hoping to teach in Scotland later. The E.M.T. Scheme only has colleges in England, so Jordanhill’s out – yes, I remember that’s where Henry trained.
The boots I mean are the ones I bought ‘fore I left in ‘45 (black) and the ones I hiked in last year. Please don’t forget the corduroy slacks as well as the shorts and boots – nothing else though please as I want to keep my luggage down – my room at ‘No.7’ is much smaller than my old one at Coldingham Avenue.
Must write to Peter Scott – sounds like the answer to a maiden’s prayer – if he’d say “Yes” – or rather an 11 year old’s for that’s when I first started to long for the Yukon Trails in Alaska. (3)
Never met an American socially which was rather annoying as the high-ups had at least a dozen cocktail parties.
Daddy, my raquet will be like an S in shape unless ye promised press comes soon! Hope you now have a perfect bite and can chew everything inc. gum! (4)
All love, Len.
1. On 19 September, 1949 the British pound was devalued from 4 dollars to 2.80 dollars. The Egyptian pound was devalued by the Egyptian government within 24 hours of the U.K’s government’s announcement.
2. Supplementary Unqualified Temporary teacher.
3. Peter Scott, ornithologist, conservationist, painter and sportsman, son of Scott of Antarctica. She is going to approach him to see if he needs a secretary for an Alaskan trip.
4. Dad has had new dentures, which have needed adjusting.
Living room of ‘No.7’
10.05 pm. Saturday .
The Ones I Love,
How are you? Lovely to get a letter from you this morning, but oh, I wanted to speak to you tonight, but no you. Hope both of you are all right – ‘phoned 3 times ‘tween 9 and 9.30 – the last time the operator tried for me at 9.30 on the dot, but “no reply from Clydebank 2138”?
I’ve had a letter from the Min. of Ed. saying I’d been provisionally allocated to a college in the North of England which starts in November! I’m madly trying to be calm – have managed not to pay for me WEA Class – Experiments in Theatre yet. Wondering if notice will come when I’m harvesting, wondering if, or when it comes it’ll be a month’s notice, in fact wondering lots and lots.
In view of this letter I plan to put in for my 3rd return Warrant to Glasgow shortly after my return from Yorks., insh’Allah. (1) if I’ve received notice by that time, the w/e following my return. If not, about three w/es later. The idea is that if I resigned from the C.S. without getting this warrant, I’d have to pay the single fare to Glasgow to take up my trunks, but I hope to put in for 3rd warrant before putting in resignation, then, to take trunks up to Glasgow – staying an extra day and a half – remainder of leave, then finish of time at Porton and then hitch up again spending as much time as poss with you ‘fore going off to Coll. (What a rush, but thrilled at the thought of perhaps seeing you fore New Year).
Can’t see the latter being long as the Min.of Ed. say they’ll try to give at least a month’s notice. and the C.S. are pretty mingy about people leaving I’m told and might try to get some money back from me for taking leave till March next and all warrants, but I feel I ought to ask for what I can ‘the noo’ and hope for the best.
Went along to the station last night for ticket to Yorks, saying could I have it dated 30th as I was travelling to London on the Fri. all being well and on to Thirkleby on the Sat. Everything went fine till he handed over the ticket saying “£2.16.1.” – “Oh”, said I, “but Oct. and Nov. people get their fares paid.” But he replied that I’d only a voucher for the return journey at the single fare. Argument made no difference, so this morn after ‘phoning from ‘No.7’ I went along to the Min of Ag and Fish here. They’re different from the War Ag. Camps people (why “War” still I don’t know) and a man there was quite nice, but after years on the ‘phone causing me to miss the Food Office – it being closed – all I got was the number of a place up north – they were closed by this time too, so no answer to ringing I sent off an SOS letter, so am hoping for a warrant or something equally effective very quickly. (2) Otherwise it means borrowing to pay that £2.16.1. then probably fighting to reclaim it from the Ag. people afterwards. Just hope it comes through as I wanted to make on this hol., you see only pay H’s 5/- if I’m away for week and Oct. rate of board at Ag. Camps is only 15/- a week – wait with anxiety for a reply from Manchester – the HQ of the North West area.
Mrs.H. gave me a ¼lb Typhoo tea for you to-day Mum, which I hope to send off with some other foodlings on Tuesday or Wednesday. She wouldn’t take any cash and said to thank you for all your letters which she has appreciated, but that she hasn’t replied because when she starts to write a letter all the words run into each other – as she sees it – and says she wouldn’t like anyone to get anything like that from her.
Yes, I’ve written to Peter Scott, starting my letter “Do you, would you, could you want a secretary to go with you to Alaska” – see what happens.
Do you know where one of the encl. letters came from this morn? (2) From Ken Cook. As you may guess when I saw his writing I nearly died with delight. His letter’s the same as of old. He’s still going to night school, works with ICI and seems to be a draughtsman. If you’ve any advice on a reply please tell me. I want to see him a fortnight this w/e in Newcastle, for we plan to go up there on finishing at Thirkleby for the Sat. and Sun. We hope to stay with Val’s (girl going with) relations. It’s easy for him to get in from Tynemouth from a distance point of view, or should I pop out there d’you think? I thought I’d write from Thirkleby saying I’d be in at the w/e and giving the add. of Val’s relations, nothing more, what d’you think? I also thought of mentioning that I hope to go to a coll. in the north – again advice. You may have gathered from the foregoing that my mottoe’s ‘gang warily’. No wonder with Heartthrob No.1 since ‘45 turning up in ‘49, in the background though he may have been.
Timmy the H’s cat is stretched full length along my legs – well he goes to just beyond my legs – my feet are up on another chair. 11 pm and no sign of the H’s – wonder if they’re staying at her Mum’s. She lives in a village outside Salisbury.
Did you go to the Scottish Inds. Exhibition? Imagine all the people in Beirut wearing Fair Isle jumpers as per your enc. (3)
I’ve written to Harris. New boss hasn’t been in yet. Met young EMT girl at Miss Davies house at Newbury and they/she and h/keeper left me alone to talk with her. (4) Told Val of Schiaparelli one sleeve, she says she’s seen it and it’s super smart.(5)
Can’t get over having relatives in Vancouver!
Glad there’s an improvement in your leg, Dad.
Do write soon.
All my love waking and dreaming,
1. Len is buying tickets for her Lend a Hand on the Land potato picking which she will be doing at Thirkleby in Yorkshire. Thirkleby is near Thirsk, north Yorkshire.
2. War Ags: War Agriculutral Committees. They were created during the war to increase food production on the land. Each county had a War Agricultural Committee.
3. The enclosure does not survive in this collection. The Scottish Industries Exhibition opened on 1 September, 1949 at the Kelvin Hall, Glasgow. It ran for three weeks and it is claimed it attracted 500,000 visitors. The population of Glasgow at the time was approx 1.2 million.
4. EMT: Emergency Training Scheme.
5. Elsa Schiaparelli was an influential Italian fashion designer. Along with Coco Chanel she dominated fashion between the two World Wars. Her designs were heavily influenced by the Surrealists.
P.A. to C.S. (P), C.D.E.E, Porton, nr Salisbury, Wilts.
‘No.7’, kitchen. Evening, Tuesday.
Far Away, but nearest and Dearest,
This is going to be a short note as Mrs.H is talking to me and it’s rather difficult to collect my thoughts, boil hankies and drink coffee at the same time, having to nip off to night school very shortly. Please could you send me a sleeping bag – sheet one, if you haven’t got one never mind – to Thirkleby, Volunteer Ag. Camp, near Thirsk, North Riding of Yorks. Please address c/o Warden there.
Malcolm’s coming down home on Thursday now and going up with me on Friday. Val and I rang Manchester – HQ Ag Camp North West and discovered we get our fare refunded on arrival. Will try to ‘phone as usual on Sat. from Thirkleby, but if I don’t, don’t worry.
All Autumnal love during this lovely month of Sept. and all love always,
p.s. Please don’t think I’m leaving myself short by rations sent to-day. Only bought them to-day and couldn’t have used ‘em ‘fore leaving on Friday. L.
P.A. to C.S. (P), C.D.E.E, Porton, nr Salisbury, Wilts.
Half-hearted blue sky seen from Office Window
Dearest and Best,
Can’t thank you enough for the wonderful parcel which came in to-day – I said only cords, boots and shorts, but the way you’ve done the parcel Mum seems to include 101 other things without adding any extra bulk – you know I’m haunted by the thought of getting down the amount of stuff I’ve got in my room now. It’s like a treasure hunt that parcel. Half the stuff, or rather almost half of it, I must confess I hope to take away with me – the grips, the cream (thank you so much) and those dee-vine sacs – yes tried ‘em to-day and they were the goods. The wheat bag is a stunner and would be grand for the field – you know for putting sandwich tin, flask and scarf and things in. See you’ve mended the cords – thanks so much, for that would have been another little job ‘fore I left or on the train as per my ‘grim’ planning, as I know you think it.
Joan Brandley wants me to work as a secy/s/typist in Glasgow and study for my elocution letters – is against coll. – she talks of sisterly advice – she is almost like a sister to me.
If you were shocked at my rushing before, I hesitate to tell you what I’ve on hand, but s’pose I’d better. Malcolm – this entirely off his own bat – is coming from his Aunt’s at Bristol to-night, meeting me off the bus, then we’ve tea and I go off to night school. Come out, meet Val and Mike and we all have a drink – p’raps at the Rose and Crown. Go home and pack, then to-morrow – insh’Allah – get 5.23 from Idmiston Halt with Mike (he either getting on at Sal or I Halt) and once in London go and see Lilian and friends of Mike. (1) Catch (this’ll shake you) 4 a.m. train to York, meet Jack Greaves (not seen since VJ day) at 9.30 a.m. (train’s due in at 9.25), ‘do’ York Minster and the town, then meet Gohrde-met Margaret Stamper for lunch at I p.m. Val’s due in about 4 p.m. and we catch the train on to Thirkleby about half an hour’s ride away.
Ken’s in digs all week at West Hartlepool and works in ICI, a ‘Geordie’ here says the ICI place is at Billingham, near Stockton-on-Tees and S-on-T is only about 20 odd miles from Thirkleby so I’m hopeful of phoning him. Thanks for all the gen given in your letter.
Don’t understand why you’re so anti-harvesting. It’s over and above ordinary leave you know, and only given for specific purpose of going on the land. And too one gets one’s pay from CDEE and Val and I are hopeful of earning a wee bit at Thirkleby and the surrounding district as well.
Yes, I wrote to Ken, first time since ‘47 if I remember rightly. (2) He says he stays in Tynemouth from ‘Friday evening till Sunday evening’. If I don’t get through on the ‘phone to Ken, I’ll write. Am keen too on looking nice, plan to take duck egg blue woolen check, green dress (Cairo bought) for dancing and navy rembrandt. Skirts – navy and tartan dirndl with blouse and jumpers.
Not staying with Val’s people. Marjorie Scott insists on putting me up. You remember M.S? – met at Glencoe and again at Glasgow last year when I was on leave.
Fancy Aunt Betty getting married – isn’t it grand. Wonder if he’s got cash and they’ll ‘come across the water’? Must say I’d like to meet her a lot.
Last night had tea and a tomato sandwich with a CDEE scientist on anti-locust research. He goes to my German class and we’d tea after it, no glam though, but it was pleasant.(3)
All the love from the potato-picking and tattie hookin’ wurrld,
1. We have no idea who Salisbury based Mike is.
2. The last time Len saw Ken was October 1947 aboard the ss.Patrician with Esme where he was 5th engineer, and she had discovered the night before that Ernst was two-timing her.
3. Although Porton Down was a chemical and biological warfare research camp it seems the claim of the CDEE scientist to be on anti-locust research was true and not a smokescreen to cover chemical and biological warfare. The following is from from the Public Records Office at Kew: “TNA file AVIA 44/182 Insecticides: review of work… 1949.” Sourced and summarised by Liz Willis. (see Acknowledgements).
“This contains a review of work carried out at the Chemical Defence Experimental Station, Porton on the properties of DDT and other chemical insecticides when dispersed in various ways, and on the use of and adaptation of biological warfare (BW) techniques for their employment, particularly for the control of the insect vectors of militarily important diseases such as typhus and malaria…
The Controller of Chem Defence Development (MoS) assumed responsibility for research and development covering all applications of insecticides for service purposes in July 1944; more recently, it says, the scope of the work was extended to certain others, and methods of using them for less specifically military purposes, in particular the control of locusts…They had a request from the Colonial Office and had done field tests in Kenya”
Dorm, Thirkleby. VAW Camp, Nr. Thirsk, North Riding of Yorks. Sunday – 3.30 ish
Hullo Own Ones,
Thank you so much for the sleeping bag in which I slept last night and in which, with the blankets I was as warm as a bug in a rug. The gorgeous shortbread – first layer – was our breakfast, as we slept in. Sandwiches of Val’s supplemented tea last night. However we’d an excellent lunch to-day, so you do see we’re O.K. as far as food goes and require nae mair from outside sources. The extra we had tided us over and we’re looking forward to finishing the s/bread throughout the week.
Firstly request from Miss Ranscombe, Supt. typist at Porton for some white heather – so could you send a wee spray in a letter soon please.
Nextly I must tell you what the novelist would call ‘a little cameo’. Feel you’ll be furious it finishes where it does Mum, but nevertheless, here it is.
Val came into my office one day last week to tell me that the night before she’d been out for a long walk with her dog when she thought she heard the sound of bagpipes, but, said to herself ”I’m imagining things”, but she wasn’t, for a little later she saw a piper far below her playing away and though in flannels walking as if he was wearing a kilt. She’d sat high on the downs and listened and told me what a pleasant evening it had been.
Thursday night I came off the bus to meet Malcolm, but he wasn’t there, so I went to the PO to send off the parcel and was in the middle of humming ‘Nut Brown Maiden’ when a soldier sat opposite me. That’s a nice private I thought, then as he sat saw his Major’s crown. He seemed to be conscious of what I was humming so I went on to Westering Home and he looked up at me as if he’d known me for years and said “Dont, you make me homesick.” I murmured “Sorry” and he continued “D’you like those songs, or d’you just come from the place”. “Both”, I answered and we talked a little, and he told me he even had his pipes with him and of course I told him how Val had heard him, for it was him. He was about 6’ 4”, has a good – not handsome, but of the mountains – face, is about 30 and his voice, well it’s not the tiniest bit ya, ya, but is terribly pukka. I was too enamoured to pull myself together and say “I’d love to hear the pipes again”, or better still “I wish you’d come up and play for us at Hogmanay”. However am going to send a p.c. to Major Bagpipes, R.E.(Royal Engineers) to what Val surmises is his address.
It was all so much like a fairy story and I really felt an electric atmosphere in Sal. Post Office – awful, like the island scenes from “I Know where I’m Going” (1)
However, out I came of the PO and met Malcolm who’d arrived mistaking the time of arrival. We’d dinner in the Gaumont – he treating, then I went to French, coming out I got my rail ticket, we met Val and had a drink in the “Haunch” then we saw her off, had coffee and he walked me home having missed the last bus.
The next day he met me on the train at Idmiston Halt – as per our arrangement which didn’t come off Mum and we went on to town.
At Kings X dumped ye rucksacks and then he took me to dinner at a super place called “The Good Intent” in Chelsea. First we’d super sherry in the bar, went into the restaurant and had hors d’oeuvres, followed by Madras Curry – curried meat and rice – with which we’d a half bottle of Sauterne wine. Sweet was pear melba and we finished off with coffee and Drambuie. We felt it was a bit late to go out to Malcolm’s friends at Queens Park so went to Lilian’s where we talked till 2.30 over tea, cakes and whisky. Then we walked and bussed to Kings X and I got the 4 am to York as per schedule.
Got in at 9.10 a.m., had a wash and brush up – savouring the while the friendliness of the North – and by 9.30 stepped out of the ‘Ladies First Class’ – sweet and neat as a nursery, I hope, straight into Jack Greaves. We first had coffee and I’d a super meat sandwich and we’d both cake, then round York Minster and after lunch to meet Mgy Stamper, but either she wasn’t there or we missed her, so we walked round the whole of Yorks city wall and took photos and went to the Museum – inside which a whole street is reproduced. Tea, then met Val off the London train, she’d tea and off we went to the Thinkleby train. Jack Greaves is nice and I like him.
It’s Sunday after tea now and we’re off for a walk – in Coxwold direction – Thirkleby lies between Coxwold and Thirsk, so will reply to your recent lovely letters shortly.
Am enjoying holiday so far – and I do – though it’s the stock phrase – wish you were here.
All my love own ones,
1. Directed by Michael Powell, with Wendy Hiller and Roger Livesey in the leads. “A determined girl travels to the Hebrides to marry a wealthy old man, but is stranded on Mull and marries a young naval officer instead” – Halliwell’s Film Guide. The main Salisbury Post Office, corner of Chipper Lane and Castle Street is (2014) still there, but with its lowered 1980’s ceiling and cluttered card stands it takes a powerful imagination to recreate its 1940’s interior.
At Marjories, Newcastle, early Saturday Evening.
My own People, How are you? As you may guess at the moment I’m so thrilled. Yes, I’ve been allocated a place at Wynyard Hall Training College, Wolviston, nr. Stockton on Tees and it`s less than 200 miles from Glasgow!
Met a very nice type at Thirkleby. He’s got a Spanish grandmother but is otherwise English, is a fortnight older than I and lived in China till ‘46. His Father’s dead and his Mother’s married to a Dutchman and lives in Japan. He – Allan – was in a Japanese internment camp for 3 years in and out of Shanghai. Wot, no ordinary people! Val met a Frenchman called Guy Lerendu. She wasn’t mad about him but the camp proved a eye opener to her and she’s all set to do great things.
The farms Val and I were on were Govt. ones where you don’t have to work as hard as you do for private farmers. They were called Eastmoor and Deerpark and both looked just as they sound.
The Wheat bag accompanied us each day on our harvesting, carrying – comb, make up, sandwiches, flask and sometimes camera – it was a real boon. Somebody worked out that we picked up 35,000 to 40,000 potatoes a day! I haven’t enjoyed so much for a very long time. It was like hosteling plus.
Can’t write more just now for though Marjorie’s supplied me with this paper I feel I can’t go on writing ad lib without talking to her.
Love you and look forward to seeing you in a fortnight – insh Allah.
Always your own loving Len. xxxxxxx
p.s. You may be able to use this excerpt from my new ration book – lost other – if you go early Monday morning.
P.A. to C.S. (P), C.D.E.E, Porton, nr Salisbury, Wilts.
Public Libe Tuesday 6.30 ish.
My Own Ones of the North,
How are you? As you may guess, being so much nearer last week made me long to be with you in Scotland more than ever. I received both gloves all right and left them with Allan for use as he goes on hookin’!
I sincerely hope New Year will be very much on with all of us at 26. Yes, Zaki says he’ll be there with the bottle, and I’ve had a letter from Harris accepting gladly and saying he’s saving up his ‘pennis’.
I’ve now applied for warrant and handed in resignation, so am hoping everything goes all right about ye trip to ‘26’ on the warrant.
Have you sampled the henna yet Mum – hope the results aren’t too lurid.
Did I tell you I had the most wonderful letter from Peter Scott, no secy wanted, but it is a wonderful letter, must either send of bring it up, but I want it back for my scrapbook, so you can tell how good it is. (1)
Val and I think the office is hideous after Thirkleby and everyone looks so peely-wally. (2)
At the w/e I went to a King’s Coll. Newcastle dance with Marjorie on the Saturday night and to Whitley Bay on the Sunday. So entranced with Allan, I didn’t bother to write to Ken till the last minute, so maybe he never heard in time. ‘Phoned Peter who didn’t seem to understand – despite 6 mins – worth that I was up north at all. (3)
The cupboard does sound a joy – but it would cost the earth to buy. Looking forward to ‘reviewing’ my room and clearing out some stuff.
Longing to see you.
Love all the time,
1. The letter has not survived in this collection.
2. Scots. ‘Sickly, ill looking,’ etc.
3. Ken, her 1945 ‘heart-throb’ is taking second place to Allan. Peter, as noted before, she had met briefly in Egypt, when she had described him as nice, but hard work.
P.A. to C.S. (P), C.D.E.E, Porton, nr Salisbury, Wilts.
At my office desk – Thursday Misty Morning.
Don’t think I’ll ‘phone this w/e, as I’ve no particular news.
Did I tell you that Allan and I went to York Races on the Wednesday. We hitched there and back. Lorry all the way there, then morning coffee as we studied ‘form’ in the Sporting Chronicle. Then station for enquiries about Vals and my train to Newcastle, then the Public Library for Allan to get inf. to settle an argument about the Opium Wars in China.
Then bus to races. I’d never been in England before – only once in Egypt – and was tickled by the tipsters and the bookies and stands. We lost all our money. At least, I lost about 10/-, but it was more than worth it. We’d our sandwiches on the course and hitched back – two cars and a lorry. The second car was inhabited by a pukka-voiced Scot and we nattered about the Summer Isles.
Val and I saw the most wonderful raincoats in Fenwick’s (of Bond Street) in Newcastle. They were woolly like coats and cost 89/6. Thought p’raps I ought to get one of them, then it would be like a mac and coat in one – they were terrifically smart.
Monday, or rather Sunday evening onwards I intend to start packing my trunk hoping the warrant arrives all right. Just hope it does come straight and O.K. as I’m hardly in a position to stalk around saying “Where’s my Warrant?” – Then they’d say “Warrant? But you can’t have one, you’ve just resigned.” All being well and it arrives O.K. I’ll ‘phone you that evening with gen on train I propose catching etc. Hope to come up on the Fri/Sat. train, spend Sat. Sun and as much as poss. of Mon. at home ‘fore training back.
Made up to-day, but didn’t have time to despatch, a wee parcel containing minute bits of tea and sugar we were given every day from the camp for the farm, but didn’t use as we’d flasks and an urn on the field. Allan says it’s awful tea, but it is tea.
No mail from you to-day – hope to have some on Monday. Smudging caused by non-drying ink after Parker superink.
Love from South-West to North West, look after yourselves,
My room at ‘No.7’ after missing 8 am bus. Monday.
Own Beloved People,
It suddenly struck me as I lay in bed last night that a railway ticket lasts for a month. Accordingly, if I get my warrant all right and get it changed for a ticket I think I should use that ticket for actually coming up to you before going to college insh’Allah.
After my last letter and my having planned to come up this w/e for a long time, I hope it doesn’t upset your plans too much, but I don’t know why this using-it-later (as was done with the tickets I got for you two) didn’t strike us before. It’ll mean I won’t have to hitch all being well and as I only intended to hitch during the day it would probably have taken three or four days – now, all being well I should have that extra time with you, for this w/e would have been a rushed visit. It also obviates my sending lots of registered parcels to leave myself with a rucksack.
The two ‘cons’ are (a) that I would only use the return half to Stockton-on-Tees, but does that really matter? and (b) the ticket’s only valid for a month. But should there be a delay, I could always come up on it ‘fore it went out of date.
Originally I’d meant to spend this w/e with Olga Rundall, then cancelled to come north, but if you think there’s no flaw in the reasons I’ve just given I’d like to go to her as originally planned. (1) Otherwise would have visited her as I hitched north, but if I’m training (I mean in the using a train sense above) wouldn’t be stopping off.
Plan to ring you to-morrow evening then about 6, maybe later if I can’t get through then, but if so it’ll be from the house of a girl at which we have rehearsals and I’ll have to ‘not reveal’ anything at my end, as she’s connected with Porton. (2) If there’s a flaw somewhere you can tell me and according to what you say I can either make arrangements to go to you two in Glasgow or to Olga for this w/e.
Love and writing fully and newsily later.
My love goes to you with the morning Western sun.
1. Len met Olga Rundall when they both travelled out to Egypt by boat in November, 1945.
2. It seems, from a later reference, that Len was part of an amateur dramatic group within Porton Camp. As has been noted before, many bits of Len’s news are missing from the letters because they have been mentioned in ‘phone conversations between Len and Mum.
On the week-end of 22-23 October Len visited Olga Rundall in Bedford
P.A. to C.S. (P), C.D.E.E, Porton, nr Salisbury, Wilts.
Indeterminate Day Monday – 24.10.49.
Nicest People, Ever Known,
Answering your 61 and 62 and simply longing to be with you in Scotland.
After lectures from you and from Val, Mum and reading lots of articles of late, I’ve become really interested in clothes for the bod. Yes please I’d love the dress in lavender violet with a velvet collar.
You talk of going to my rehearsals, well the date of departure was not at all fixed when I took them on and it does mean a free evening dress do and they’re rare enough. Yes, I do mean to wear my Golden Dress all being well – it seems a long time since I wore it. How can I make dresses in ‘No.7’ in that tiny room? After all, I’ve only got a ‘feel’ for sewing. I’m not a seamstress who could sew in her sleep – I need fairly good conditions, but I feel it might be better at college, insh’Allah.
You ask do I plan to specialise, well as you know I’m to take Art and English Lit. at coll. Must say I would like to teach commercial stuff too, but will see as time goes by. Hope to be able to go to classes for my letters in elocution at night in Stockton. Well, I sincerely hope to meet people at College – to begin with there will be tutors and hundreds of other students. Mgt. Crampin rooms with another girl but says the younger ones are sometimes 3 or more in a room. She’s coming up to Sal this w/e/, so I hope to hear verbally all the bits that are interesting about coll.
It’s wonderful to feel you’re interested. I always feel so sorry for kids or adults with disinterested and indifferent parents. You can imagine it must be like the cut of a knife to realise the people who matter most ‘don’t care’?
Fancy me a school-maam, well, fancy me a student first please.
Saying ‘Good-bye’ to people ought to provide me with a number of free meals – to view that material angle – apart from the fact that I think one should say ‘Good-bye’ ‘fore leaving a place.
Feel it’s better to take my trunk with me. Only with a rucksack and my small brown pre-Cairo grip could I manage without a porter and I don’t fancy leaving my trunk, home-made Bergen and Cairo grip to lie on Stockton station, no matter how good BR may be. Therefore I propose to take all to Glasgow and there re-pack and attempt if poss. to cut down on luggage. Let me say though now, one of the joys of being home for me will be to pull everything out of everywhere – half in an attempt to find lost junk and half ‘cos I just enjoy it.
You talk of gadgets. At Olga’s they’ve an Ascot for summer and an Ideal boiler (as per Porters Ave), (1) for winter to give hot water. She’s also got a steel kitchen cabinet, gas poker, pressure cooker and a washing machine. (2) She’s not keen on housework and is all for every labour saving device there is. Appreciate your point about the lino square instead of old carpet. Olga’s got Persians – little ones – everywhere. Must try and get someone to bring us a Persian rug from the M.E. – the wee ones are super for bedrooms.
Allan’s very, very nice. I never said I didn’t like odd types – it’s just that I don’t like the penchant I have for falling for them, but fall for them I do – Liz Barrett always said I’d marry a broken down writer. (3) Anyway Allen came hundreds of miles to see me for two hours on Sat and about 5 or 6 on the Sun and stayed and paid for two nights b&b in Bedford. (He was going to hitch north again first thing Monday, to-day). He also gave me ½ lb box Cadbury’s Milk Tray!
Salisbury’s fair’s been. My experience of it included crossing the Market Square to and from the Health and Beauty and as that was the seat of the gaiety crossed at the same time through the fair. Resisted all temptation and bought fruit from a stall instead of ‘going-on’ something. 2lb of lovely eating pears for 6d! – As the song says …”And that’s what a’ lark about the south.”.
Am keeping your letter re. wool and salt and pepper pots to refer to on sat – my last in Sal this sojourn all being well.
I have decided to grow my hair, so now have it sleek and flat against my head – all very French. Feel myself it looks a bit like a drowned rat, but others say “no’ and an unknown soldier told me he liked it in the train last night.
All being well if I get away next Wednesday I plan to take my stuff across to Euston, then go down to Brandley’s for the night, getting the first train to Glasgow in the morning (Thurs) – OK., I’ll admit it – I really prefer travelling by day and am completely fed up with travelling at night.
Adieu – Joyfulness is the mother of all virtues, but must now away.
Love round the clock.
p.s. ‘Case I forget and case they ask for it as I leave could you send me the little wooden handled knife I gave you from the office? If they don’t ask for it, you’ll have it back straight away.
1. Where Len and her family lived in Dagenham in the 1930s.
2. Because of their expense electric washing machines were not common in the post war 1940s Britain. From the early 1960s onwards the affordable Twin Tub washing machine revolutionised Monday wash days.
3. Len knew a Liz when she was in Cairo.
Although not mentioned in the correspondence, Len received an acknowledgement from the BBC’s Woman’s Hour re. “How It Feels to Be Back Home”
11.30 am. Sunday.
Dearest Own Ones,
Well, I went all round the market yesterday, but could discover no non-metal salt and pepper pots or sugar sifters and no fish knives. Got myself a press for my raquet at last – a raquet is one of the things you’re to bring with you.
All being well I’ll pay the 2/3rds of the telephone bill when I see you.
Isn’t it wonderful about my grant being through – and if that £125 is for the year, then that’s £2 – .9s a week – I think it’s wonderful.
In the corsetiere business – which I’m longing to discuss, I s’pose you’d make a handsome commission on every sale if it’s that much to train – I’d do it for learning is never wasted and to have a job in ones own home would be pretty good.
On FridayI went to a Porton dance – the dance wasn’t so wonderful, though.
I didn’t say I could manage without a porter – said ‘I couldn’t anyway, so might as well take trunk’.
Olga’s got a boiler ‘stead of an immerser – some people like them better as they warm the place as well.
As I said in yesterday’s letter, ‘phoning Tuesday with all the Gen.
All love in and out of trunks,
15 Thorneydown Rd, Winterbourne Gunner, near Salisbury, Wilts. 2nd November ‘49
My dear Helen,
This is such a very hurried note, as I seem to have such a lot to do, and what with Bill and Frankie and Guy on my mind!! and you with Bill, Allan, Peter, Jack, Jimmy and everyone else on your mind besides a new job.
But seriously Helen, I do wish you every success and happiness in your new position and I do hope you like it, and that you make good, I really don’t see why you shouldn’t, for you’re pretty good at most things!!
I am very grateful indeed to you for the happy moments you have given me (and we really have had some fine times together haven’t we?) – I hope we have lots more, especially at New Year.
I’ll write and give you all my news and any developments which may occur, if any? and you must do the same? please! I’ll be keeping in close contact too re your wardrobe, I do hope you’ll take lots more pride in your appearance, for you really have got everything else that goes with nice clothes.
Please give my regards to your mother and father, and I will be writing to them.
You’ll never know how grateful I am to you, I hope we always will be friends.
Looking back, this letter doesn’t sound as I wanted it too but I feel sure you’ll know what I have been trying to say. I haven’t much time to think.
I must fly now, as you’ll soon be going. Don’t lose any of your luggage (1,2,3,4,5), take care of yourself in London, have a good time in Glen Coe and make good at college.
Much love from someone who is very, very grateful to you, and who is going to miss you very much indeed.
Sincerely, Valerie. xx
Further to note note on Porton, Pete:
There is a certain irony in the fact of the tripartite ‘flap’ in Len’s section (microbiological research) at this time being most probably about the sea trials of biological weapons: in 1952 and 1953 Operations Cauldron and Hesperus were located close to her beloved West of Scotland, a few miles north of Stornoway (i.e. inshore waters, the east coast of the Isle of Lewis, not out in the Atlantic). The organisms tested on animals in these trials included plague, which on one occasion was released in the direction of a fishing boat – the intermittently notorious Carella Incident. See:
E. A. Willis, ‘Seascape with monkeys and guinea-pigs: Britain’s biological weapons research programme, 1948-54’, *Medicine, Conflict & Survival* Vol.19, No.4, October-December 2003, pp.285-302.