diary · family · History · memoir · World War Two

Nan’s Diary: winter reflection

Nan and grandad Les when they got engaged.

As we reflect and try to restore ourselves over this Twixmas period, today I’d like to take you back to the winter of 1946/7, which my Nan reports as being one of the most severe on record:

“It began snowing on Boxing Day and from then on, the temperature did not go above freezing until March. All exposed pipes were frozen solid for weeks on end. My brother Derek, who was doing National Service at the time, was sent home because all the pipes on the camp were frozen up. The lack of water made it impossible to cook, and the wash places and toilets could not be used.

I remember that it wasn’t too bad getting about after the initial falls of snow, but then with constant heavy frosts, the snow became solid ruts. It was a cold old job shopping for essential things like blankets, pillows and furniture in preparation for moving in with Les after our wedding, planned for March 1947.

After coming out of the Air Force, Les got a job with the BBC, which paid quite well, but after six weeks, he was bored stiff, with very little to do. So being Les, he chucked it in and was back to square one again. The fact that he had given up his job did not go down too well with my father – he couldn’t swank to his mates at the bowls and bridge clubs that his future son-in-law had a good job with the BBC. For two or three weeks, he was in a frightful mood and not speaking to anyone, especially my mother and me.

This was not conducive to what would have been a happy time of my life. When my mother and I went shopping for the household items, he wasn’t interested in anything that we bought. You can imagine I didn’t spend any more time than I had to at home under these circumstances. Clothes and household stuff had the British Standards kite mark on them and were only bought with coupons. So later on, it was quite a job to getting clothes for the wedding.

They were generally good jokes, but I couldn’t remember many of them.

I was still working for ESSO in London and we moved offices from Queen Anne’s Gate to Charles Street, off the Haymarket. The thing I remember most was that several of the men chain smoked and I often wondered how they could do their work efficiently. Charlie Chase sat opposite me and he smelt of stale cigarette smoke. Percy Brown was a secretary and a wizard at shorthand – he also chain smoked, drank a good deal of beer in the pub at lunchtime and was a fount of jokes with which he regaled the office when he came back from lunch every day. They were generally good jokes, but I couldn’t remember many of them.

Of the females, Noelle was the one I went around with the most. I made her acquaintance at ESSO House in Abingdon when she used to go around in a foursome, which included a charming Irish rogue called John Coyle, who she eventually married. However, all the time I knocked around with her in London, she carried a torch for a chap called Ian who was also in Burma. I never knew what happened there as it fizzled out and the next thing I knew she announced she was to marry John. I lost touch with her soon after she married as she went to live near Abingdon as John continued to work at ESSO House. I often wondered how that marriage turned out – they were chalk and cheese. He was a Catholic who got drunk most Saturday nights, went to confession on Sundays before going to church and she was from a very upper class background and was a precious only child. Maybe she wanted something different!”

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