Wednesday, November 17, 2010

38. Blackpool and Harden

So we left our lovely house in Germany. Tom went straight to the Officers Training Course in the Isle of Man and the children and I were sent to transit accommodation, which happened to be a bedroom in a boarding house in Blackpool – in winter. We were instructed by the landlady that we were to be out of our room by 10.00 a.m. and could not return until supper time. I beg your pardon? Out on the beach all day in Blackpool in winter? There had to be a way around that. As with Dragon Dear in Netheravon, I endeared myself to this dragon by helping her in the kitchen and the dining room, so we were allowed to stay in the warm. The children did not enrol in a new school and after a few weeks of this misery we were allocated a transit married quarter on a non operational base, RAF Harden, in Cheshire.

We were met at Chester Railway Station by a driver with an RAF car and I asked him if he would stop somewhere so that I could buy a few basic groceries. He said there was no need because there was a NAAFI on the camp. What he did not mention was that it was at least a mile away uphill, and once we had taken our bags into the house I had to take two very tired, and very hungry small children on a two mile hike. They were not old enough to be left alone in a strange house.

The house was brand new and similar in size to the one we had left in Germany, but everything in it was also brand new, straight from stores and still in packing boxes. The saucepans were covered with blue, protective grease, all the cutlery and crockery were covered in dust and only the beds had been assembled. Having dragged the children up the hill to do the shopping, I now wanted to give them boiled eggs and toast and put them to bed, so I boiled a kettle, cleaned one of the saucepans put in the water and eggs, turned on the cooker – and everything fused. I ended up boiling our eggs in a kettle, which is a tricky business as the eggs tend to explode, the kettle has to be turned on and off to keep the water at boiling point without it actually boiling. So, we ate our eggs, I made up the beds and eventually put two very exhausted, but such good and darling children, to bed and set about cleaning everything. I hoped Tom was enjoying a drink and a nice evening in the Officer Cadets’ Mess. Like hell I did!

The children were enrolled at the local school by Harden Railway Station. They hated it. The other children stole their sandwiches at lunch time and bullied them unmercifully. Jeni had to be dragged from me weeping and put on the bus in the mornings. After their lovely school in Germany, it was just too awful. We lived on herrings, which were cheap then and nutritious and the greengrocer, who called every Friday, kept overripe bananas and other cheap stuff for me. On Sundays we waited at the public phone box for Tom to call. I missed him dreadfully and was very lonely. He, on the other hand, was thoroughly enjoying life, apart from the time when he was duty cook and burnt about five gallons of custard. Easy enough to do if you don’t turn the heat down low and keep stirring.

Only two of the six houses in the area were occupied, the woman in the next house had a car, but never offered me a lift, or try to be friendly in any way. Then the children got sick, a doctor came and gave me a prescription which I could not fill because the nearest chemist was in Chester and there was a bus strike! Anyway, I could not leave two sick children alone. I could see a fire station across the airfield, so I walked over to it and asked if anyone was going into Chester and if so, could they please get the medicine for me. They were civilians who lived off camp and one of them kindly brought me the medication the following day.

There was a strange differentiation between wives in the Service. The listing was, other ranks and their women, NCOs and their wives, Officers and their ladies. It was with great excitement that I opened and read the telegram which said “Congratulations, darling, you are a lady at last!” A few days later I received a visit from the Barrack Warden who brought me six sherry glasses and exchanged our plain chamber pot for one with a trim and Air Force Wings embossed on it! This now brought the inventory up to Officer Standard, and the rent was increased accordingly from that day. A few days later Tom came home on leave for a week and then set off on his first posting as a Commissioned Officer in Her Majesty’s Royal Air Force. He had a Certificate, signed by herself, to prove it. He gave me a lovely gift, a small replica brooch of a set of RAF wings set in marquisette, and he looked so handsome in his new uniform that I did not want to let him out of my sight.

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