Our next task was to clear up Dodie’s house ready for letting. It was very late on Friday when we arrived so we had barely two days to do it. In the broad unforgiving daylight it was clear that a thorough spring-cleaning was needed, followed by a few coats of paint but Dodie was more concerned that we should ’spud’.the drive i.e. pull out all the weeds embalmed in the gravel.
‘Oh and by the way’ she told us, ‘some people are coming to look over the house sometime in the early evening.’ Great!
I left the drive to William and concentrated on the kitchen and bathroom. After all I was part of this family now – honour was at stake. I would always be a Northern lass at heart and cleanliness was next to godliness! When I examined the old wooden plate rack on the wall, where we put the dishes to drain I faltered – just for a moment - and then started scrubbing. By 5 pm we were exhausted. Dodie had put fresh flowers everywhere and flicked a duster, so as far as she was concerned it was Show Time.
They arrived promptly at 6pm – a flight lieutenant and his wife, and we passed a pleasant hour on the veranda sipping amontillado and chatting. They were dog lovers so were pleased to hear their dog would be welcome. Eventually they had a brief trip round the house, and a longer one round the garden – which was in a much better state. I did wonder if Dodie had deliberately chosen to show them round in the gloaming.
The upshot was they rented the house, Dodie moved up north to Mrs Fell’s and we inherited some extra furniture and linen. I was becoming accustomed to married life. William was kind and honest but not one for the romantic gesture. Birthdays were remembered, but why would you need a card as well as a present? And as for an eternity ring –we’d only been married for a year! Sadly I realised that I would just have to lump it – he wasn’t going to change. He did have remarkable reflexes. One night we came back to the flat and there was a mouse a few feet away. With an enormous leap William pounced on it and killed it. (Animal lovers please note – nothing to do with me; I would have fled screaming!) His brother was the same and once slapped a wasp away from a car driver’s face. The car driver was none too pleased, but a slap was probably better than a sting.
Maddie had left the school in Scotland, where her son was a boarder, to become a stewardess with BOAC. She was really enjoying flying round Europe – in those days it was rather more glamorous than just being a waitress in the sky. She came to visit us, bringing a bottle of Chianti. It was sitting in a raffia basket and was very decorative so after we drank it; I placed it on a shelf in the alcove. One night we were awakened by an almighty bang. Tremblingly we approached the living room, from whence the explosion had come, to find the bottle had exploded and left an obnoxious sticky deposit everywhere. It had even leaked through onto the stairs.
Not long after this we were lying in bed one night when there was another terrific bang. It came from outside the bedroom window, which looked out onto the main road. I gave William a wifely elbow to encourage him to investigate and as he crossed the room, he yelled. Unfortunately, his bare foot snagged one of the nail heads protruding from the floor boards. After I had dressed it I insisted he absolutely had to have an anti tetanus injection. Reluctantly he agreed and the next day had the injection. This caused a reaction and as a result he was off work for a week. That took some living down.
William decided it was time to reveal his great passion to me: sailing, and in order to make it as palatable as possible he decided we would join a flotilla of sailing boats on the Broads for our summer holiday. It would be a new experience – in the open air – and a break from work. We could forget Dodie and all our responsibilities. Something to look forward to.