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In my recent memoir posts, I have rarely included myself. This is not from any shyness on my part, but I simply could not think of anything that would be interesting, apart from snatches of a memory in the years before 1941.
I think I first ‘logged on’ in that year, our house was damaged by a bomb, and the war was knocking at our door—it didn’t just knock on the door, it blew the blooming thing right up our stairs.
As the youngest child until David came along. I was totally spoilt, and I considered myself to be a clever little boy—after-all every-one told me so.
The four eldest children spoke very well, something gained from their father I
suppose. Because of this I thought we were different from the other families.
Don and I were too young to have been influenced by dad’s fine words, and we had a common Chertsey accent.
At school, I always put my hand up with an answer, but the teachers always picked Anita Babbage or some other girl, never one of the boys.
I was a bit fed up with this sort of thing and just switched off. I became a joker. I never passed a single exam, always bottom of the class or there about.
The teachers would say. “Why can’t you be like your brother Donald and behave”
It was during the months that we were evacuated to my Gran’s house, that my ‘step-father’ Fred was taken ill. He thought it was the dust from the bombing.
“I will soon be better when I can clear my chest.” He said, mum believed this too.
Soon after returning to home. Fred was told he had TB. Every-one had to have an x-ray.
A few days later, Doctor Dudley Ward, came around see my mum. He knew my mum very well, she sometimes helped him deliver babies in our area.
He was quite short and round, dressed in pin striped trousers and a black jacket. I could not work out why his glasses had no rims, just fine bits of wire curled around his ears. His hair was smooth and close to his round head. He looked very posh.
Don was sent to find mum’s friend, Mrs. Salmon. I could see mum trying to work out what was going on.
“Sit down, Ethel.” He said, as he pushed his glasses up. “I need to tell you something, now don’t worry, it’s just something that we have to do.”
Mum sat on the edge of the old armchair, now she was looking very worried.
“What-ever is it Doctor? Is it about Fred?”
The Doctor placed his hand on her shoulder.
“No, it’s not about Fred, he is in a safe place.”
Then he turned to me and said.
“Put the kettle on young man and make us all a nice cup of tea.”
As we waited for Mrs. Salmon to arrive, he kept sniffing as if he was trying to smell what was cooking—there was nothing cooking, our house always smelt like that. Some would call it a homely sort of smell. Perhaps.
I followed his eyes as he looked around the room—after the bomb damage repairs, even I could see it already looked a bit of a jumble
I saw him rest his hand on the table—his fingers were pink with shiny nails— but he quickly removed it when he felt the sticky surface. The table was covered with ‘lino’, usually this was a floor covering, but we had it as a long-lasting table cloth, it can get a bit tacky after a year or two.
Mum was looking more and more worried, but he didn’t say anything else, he just kept looking around, waiting for Mrs. Salmon.
He glanced up to the hissing, broken gas mantle—we also had electricity to the lighting down-stairs, but mum preferred the gas lighting—the gas meter took a penny, but the electric meter needed shilling’s, so gas it had to be.
Then the fly encrusted fly paper hanging next to it, caught his eye. Flies were able to land and take off at will—all the sticky bits were already occupied.
The kettle had hardly boiled, when the enormous Mrs. Salmon heaved through the front door, her face as red as a rosy apple. Her name was Rosie, today it really suited her.
She slumped into the old green armchair next to mum, with an impressive puff of dust from the cushions.
“Now then Effy, what’s all the fuss about, is it the baby?”
Mum looked at the Doctor, she was trembling.
Doctor Ward straightened up and said.
“Ethel, you and your baby are doing well, just another few months to go.”
“It’s little David, we need to talk about, he is under weight, and we need to build him up. This means he must go to a home for a while. Where he will have the best treatment to make him strong again.”
Everything stopped for a moment, then Mrs Salmon said.
“Thank God for that, I thought it was something serious, there you are Effy, there’s nothing to worry about, he will be home before you know it”
The Doctor went the kitchen sink to wash his hands, then seemed to change his mind.
He didn’t drink his tea, and left, he seemed to be in a hurry.
Mum looked relieved, both of them smiling, they drank their tea, then Mrs. Salmon read the tea leaves in mum’s cup and said.
“Look Effy, that is what I call a good luck sign, everything is going to be alright.” They both laughed.
David was away for two years, he had a disease of the hip. The hospital that he stayed in, was for children with TB. David made a full recovery.