‘The news from the front’ as it was called on the wireless, was getting better every week. There were long queues at The Picture Palace most days, not for the films so much but for the newsreel. My friend Geoffrey Hunt had the job of taking the can of the latest newsreel from the Addlestone cinema to ours and even to ‘The County’ in Weybridge. He had to wait until the newsreel had finished and then race to the next cinema on his bike in all weathers every day except Sunday. He could tell you all the news if you couldn’t get in the pictures.
1944 was a year I remember most clearly; in St Dominic’s I had found out that my name was a proper name—Don had told me it was probably a Welsh name like Llewyn that was wrongly spelt, but now I found it was an ancient German name that had changed over the century’s, first in France and then when it arrived in England in the 1700’s.
In that school I had seen with my own eyes, American planes like the Mitchell’s flying every day on their way to their targets, and in June, the D-day invasion. The Dakotas pulling gliders behind, escorted by Spitfires and Mustangs, all with the three white stripes on their wings, that to me was real history, not the stuff we were told at school.
Then poor Fred had died in the same month, I didn’t realise how important he was to me and the rest of our family until I came home in July and saw how upset my mother was. Little Sylvia who had been in a home for a few months, and David who was away for several years, were already home when I arrived. I think we were all kept away in these homes because Fred who had TB, had to live at home now and again if the hospital became overcrowded with wounded soldiers, and then he would go back for treatment. It also meant there were three more mouths to feed with only Iris earning a proper wage, things are difficult for mum again.
When I returned to Stepgate’s I found the class had some girls from an Addlestone school—Princess Mary Village Homes. We called them PMVH girls, they were mainly from London and looked so clean and tidy in their school uniforms. After the shock of hearing a young girl swearing like a Docker, I found them friendly. During the dinner break one very pretty girl began sitting with me in the playing fields, she shared her biscuits or an apple with me. This was very alarming at first, I have never had anything to do with girls, they may as well have been alien’s that had to be avoided at all costs, but I was secretly very pleased. She called me ‘Blackie’ because of my black hair—my sister was pregnant, and she gave me some of the ‘liquid paraffin’ that she had to rub on her belly for some reason. She said it will make my hair shine just like Brylcreem. It certainly did that, and it made my hair go black as well, hence the nickname, but in the hot sun my new girlfriend said my hair smelled like something was cooking. I have often wondered if this was why she started giving her apple to another boy.