Friday, April 07, 2006


story contd.

The Christmas dance was fun. It was formal and Matron would invite the army or navy from the nearby bases. We had a dance every month in the Nurses Recreation Room and there was a steady flow of young men – engineers and under grads and forces – all under the watchful eye of Matron and her army of senior staff – so there was no malarking. You could, of course sneak out into the grounds on the pretext of showing the visitors the wards from the outside, but you’d better not linger too long in the shrubbery.

I wore a beautiful white lace dress – handed down from Maddie, and with a bunch of violets pinned to my bosom felt quite grown up. I met a nice sailor from Kent and we arranged to meet when I came back from holiday. Actually I wasn’t very good with boys. Mostly I regarded them as chums and when they started getting soppy my interest waned. On the rare occasions I fancied someone I behaved in such a way as to frighten them off. I was only seventeen and expected I would get better with age.

At home Gran was excited about her forthcoming trip to the States to visit Auntie Janet who was expecting her first baby. Evan was swotting for School Cert and planning on leaving school afterwards and training as a mining engineer. I found it difficult to imagine my little brother ever having a career without me there to look after him, but he seemed to have managed so far.

There was a happy reunion with Annie who was enjoying her Fever Training. When I told her about my training school she said she was sure she had made the right decision as ‘Pen ‘ sounded too rigorous.

At last it was time to take the train to Oxbridge. Mrs T, next door gave me ten shillings – bless her – and I had saved up enough money – as long as I was careful. I don’t remember why I was travelling overnight – maybe it was cheaper – and it was a difficult cross country journey. The excitement of travelling alone in the middle of the night wore off when a strange, beefy man with a long ginger beard boarded the train at Melton Mowbray, took off his shoes and put his feet on the seat beside me.
The best time to arrive at your destination is early in the morning when you can see and smell it au natural. When I saw the ‘dreaming spires’ and the mist rising from the river I realised that cities could be beautiful.

Maddie met me and we went for a coffee in the High and she showed me the Asmolean where her art school had been evacuated to. We had been invited to have tea in MTL’s rooms later in the week. She and Paul had rooms in a large old house outside the town and a soldier friend of Paul’s’ was also staying. Maddie and I had lots to catch up with and we chattered and giggled non stop – much to Paul’s annoyance. I don’t think he was delighted we were seeing Liam and MTL On the day I made sure my hair was freshly washed and dressed in a suit hoping it would make me look older. When we reached the porter’s lodge there was someone studying the notice board and as we spoke to the porter he turned round and it was MTL. Gosh! I’d forgotten those dark gypsy-ish looks.


mreddie said...

Ah - those ago remembrances - seems only a short while at times. A bit of research brought to light the ship in the photo.

There was a written account of the HMS Jupiter and other ships and the Jupiter was identified as being a destroyer. Jupiter and several others were in Singapore for repair and refit when the Japanese attacked the area. The attack started on 8 Dec. 1941 and on 10 Dec. 1941 was when the Repulse and Prince Of Wales were sunk.

Another account identified the Jupiter as a “Javelin” class destroyer and as a part of the 7th Destroyer Flotilla, also later in the 5th and later in the 14th Destroyer Flotilla.

Several battles and other ‘adventures’ were mentioned and on 27th of Feb. 1942 at 2125, the HMS Jupiter hit a mine and sunk. This was possibly a mine placed there earlier in the day by a Dutch vessel. Some of the crew got ashore and the others either died or were captured.

At times when a ship is sunk, a more recent one will take the same name - don't know if this is the case with the Jupiter. ec

PI said...

mreddie: Excellent! Thank you. He was the boy friend of a girl I went to school with. I'm sure I would have heard if his ship had been sunk so it was probably a later one. I hope so.

PI said...

mreddie: no it had to be that one. Maybe they kept it from me as I was a child. I remember his face but not his name. Hopefully he was saved.

Kath said...

"malarking in the shrubbery"

What a great combination of words! I'm not sure I've ever heard malarking used that way - am I too young? Or too American?

PI said...

Kath: Mum used to say, 'Mo malarkey mind!' meaning no getting up to mischief and I adapted it.
Another mother said 'No thingy!' and when her daughter got married she and her new husband sang 'All thingies bright and beautiful.'

fjl said...

'ashmolean' ;-) spell check! x

Oxford was still very beautiful in the days of the early motors. It still is now, though increasingly one senses that it's more of a preserved antiquity, somehow less alive than it was in the earlier part of the last century.

PI said...

Felicity: I am so cross with MTL! I have ALWAYS spelt Ashmolean with an H and he 'corrected' me. Who's the Oxford Grad????