Back To Blighty
“History may be written in the books of the famous – but it is created by the lives of everyday individuals”
THE STORY OF BILL
Back To ‘Blighty’
Bill had it all arranged with his Brother Lol, who’s wife had run away with an Australian Soldier, that we would live with him, to start with, in his 2 bedroom Prefab, until we found a home of our own. Accommodation was very, very hard to come by in England at that time. All the Lads coming back from the War, getting married etc. And not one house or flat to be allowed to be built privately, only Councils were allowed to build. And that also was rationed by the Government.
So, Braintree would be our Hometown. But first of all we went to Yorkshire to his Father, Brother John and Sisters. That was the time we stayed in the Cottage which I described earlier. But Bill wanted to live in an Industrial Area, never there permanently where only Farm work was available, as Laborers. He had seen enough ‘Cap duffing’ from Father and Uncle. He wanted to be free.
I would not have minded living in this small Village, but Bill would never ever hear of it. And he said, neither would I, and he was not going to risk my happiness. The Class System was greater there than it would have been anywhere else. Not only between Labourer and Farmer but Smallholder and small Farm and large Farm. He did not want any of it.
He loved to recall a certain ‘Voting Day’. My Dad was sitting in the little Pub next door, with lots of others, when the Farmer came in and said to the Landlord, “free drinks all round for everybody —- except Fred there. I know he did not vote for me”. So much for secret vote. A bit of 19th Century!
We left for Essex, Brother Lol and Braintree and stayed there for 3 to 4 weeks, that was all. The Town would not allow us to stay permanently with Lol. It was the time when you still had to register because we still had Ration cards. No permanent Address, no Ration book. We were told if Lol had any spare Room it would have to go to a Braintree Lad. Bill had to go to Yorkshire where he belonged. I felt very much like Mary and Joseph and ‘no Room at the Inn’. But we were young, we dusted ourselves down, were very, very much in love, and went North again. We belonged together anyway, no matter where it would be.
To start with, as a Visitor, we stayed with Sister Freda in SHIPLEY, near Bradford, sleeping in the Attic. She made it clear from the start; that we could be VISITORS as long as we needed, with her entirely in charge and me out of the kitchen’. Visitors would not even HELP in the House. Stay as long as you need, but not ‘LIVE’ with her. She had had, some years ago, to LIVE with her Sister-in-Law. Her Husband’s Sister. That meant two Women in one kitchen. Almost falling out for good, and completely. And she would not risk falling out with her Brother because of 2 Women in 1 Kitchen.
So, Bill had the idea that we would find LODGINGS. We slept in an Attic here, why should we not be able to rent one somewhere else. And we went, Day after Day around the streets. And wherever we saw an Attic without Curtains, we knocked and asked if they would like to ‘LET’ it, against payment. Get some extra Income from renting out. Sometimes people were quite friendly, but as soon as they saw the Pram the job was over. NO BABIES, NO BABIES! Sometimes it rained and was very miserable. We could not stay with his Father because Sister Dorothy from Sheffield had also become homeless and stayed here with her little Girl and Boy, expecting a third child. She was already living there when we came from Germany.
Finally, through somebody knowing somebody we got an Attic to Rent. The Lady of the House was Bed ridden, and I could do the Housework, and we only need to pay 10 shillings a week Rent for the Baby. Making Peter the Lodger and me the Housekeeper. So, we bought some Furniture on HP (Hire Purchase) All this happened just before Bill had to report back to the Barracks in Deal, Kent. Far, far away from us. His 2 months settling-in leave ended. So, I stayed at home, did all the housework, shopping, washing, cooking, everything. And I massaged the Lady every Day and exercised her daily, until she managed, for the first time for years, to walk around her own table.
Bill came home occasionally for a weekend leave and we loved one another and cried together for being parted. The thought of him walking about half an hour through the town to reach his train, while I was left in the same town alone, the AGONY, we were still in the same place and could not be together until the last minute. I can almost still sense the Agony that was. But, we had to make the best of it.
I had to leave this place and went back to Bill’s Sister as a Visitor, fairly quickly. Because the old Man, 69, who was half lame through a Stroke, some years ago, became dangerously bad with wanting to make love to me. It was so disgusting. And as I had not a bedroom door with a lock, it did not even have a door, this was very dangerous. I slept with a Knife under my Pillow. ENOUGH OF THAT! THIS IS BILLS STORY!
No room at the Inn? A familiar story, I suppose? I wonder whether this still happens today? Of course it does. I think of this part of Bill’s story often as I hear people talking about ‘those’ immigrants who are ‘taking our jobs’… How would my life have been different were it not for the determination of these two to do the work to ‘make it work’
For myself, I hope that today’s post has, in some way, encouraged you – Dear Reader – to reflect on the life journeys you have and are undertaking.
As well as those undertaken by those who are near and dear to YOU.
You are who you are because of these journeys.
Where is YOUR journey taking you next, I wonder?
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