More flowers for the great ocean liners; a couple of celebrities; National Service; a cycle-ride to Avington Park; a visit to Stratford upon Avon; an uncomfortable situation, and a baby is on its way.
Gran is again boxing-up flowers at the Fowler’s shop in Southampton on July 30th 1952, for delivery to ocean liners shortly to leave port – this time, the SS United States again and also the RMS Queen Elizabeth. She ends a detailed description of the contents of one box thus:
…Asparagus fern completed the gift box which I think should have delighted the heart of any woman lucky enough to receive it. I did not visit either of the ships today as I had to leave by mid-day in order to cycle back here in time for lunch and to Pinewood Gardens by two o’clock.
And that is not the end of her day, for she has tennis in the evening, against Jane and her partner, who is of a similar age to Gran:
…I had to play against Jane – a mixed doubles at Pirelli’s, and, though my partner and I were handicapped at owe 15 in every game it in no way detracted from the splendid way Jane played to run us to three sets, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5…it was good to see the youngster in great form. I am sorry we won, but one must play the game.
She ends that day with:
…and I have promised to help with flowers again tomorrow before cycling with a friend to the Alresford area. I truly do sometimes wonder why I try to do so much, but I hate refusing…
After rising early and spending time watching from her window a family of Willow Warblers in a birch tree in the garden, she leaves for Southampton and there packs flowers for three ships due to leave port that day – the Arawa, the Samaria and the Athlone Castle, writing:
Over one hundred orders had already been booked when I arrived, besides which, the telephone was ringing continually with more every few minutes. We all worked furiously, and an added difficulty was that of the “Samaria” sailing, at short notice, ahead of the advertised time, which meant a rush to finish orders for her before completing those for the “Arawa”. But I enjoyed it again…I met Hilda at half-past twelve, collected my lunch from home and we set off immediately on our bicycles.
Gran had never heard of the village called Easton before this day, but they find themselves there, enjoying wayside flowers on the way, their packed lunches in the corner of a recently harvested field, and walking along “a delightful right of way which brought us to the pretty hamlet of Chilland”. They sit on the riverside at Itchen Abbas, for a while, she says, “dabbling our feet in the water”.
We next made our way to Avington Park, the home of Shelley Rolls, of Rolls Royce Motors, though unfortunately it is now on the market. The grounds, through which the river runs, are most beautiful, and, though open to the public, little frequented and with many lovely and sequestered spots.
“The little Church of St. Mary, Avington, claimed our attention and was very interesting”, records Gran:
It would seem that the Rolls family have some connection with the poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley, for, not only does the present owner possess Shelley as his Christian name, but there is a tablet on the church wall erected to the memory of John Shelley, only brother of the poet, who died on November 11th 1866. The tablet was erected by his wife, whose grief at his passing was “great and abiding”.
Back at the river, they sit awhile:
It was quiet and peaceful, and a herd of beautiful black and white Friesian cows grazed placidly in the meadow where we were sitting, coming presently to the river to drink. They moved in such an unhurried, calm way, trod carefully into the water and took large, deep draughts of the cooling liquid, and we thought, and said, as we watched them, how tranquil they were, the very epitome of the English countryside.
And Gran compares this scene to the “desperate speed and urgency of modern life”, where, she says, many, many people, rushing madly in their hurry, “miss the miracles at hand”.
On the night of August 5th, after a morning once again spent helping the Fowlers to prepare boxes of flowers, this time for passengers on the Mauretania and the Atlantic, and spending the afternoon picking loganberries at the Pinewood Garden, she writes to Adrian:
Barry and Jock tonight gave me a pleasant but very startling surprise – I am to be a Grandmother early next year. It does not seem possible but it makes me feel very, very old –years and years older than you, beloved mine, who left me while still a young man.
Two days later, cycling again into Southampton:
…in spite of the additional protection of my mackintosh, I arrived at the shop soaked, with my shoes full of water. However, once there, life became such a hectic scramble that there was no time to feel chilly and my clothes soon dried. There were flowers to be unpacked first, roses to be de-thorned…and then boxes to be packed for the “Queen Mary” sailing at 1.00 p.m., the “Georgic”, sailing at 1.30 p.m. and the “Caernarvon Castle” at 4 p.m. Among the passenger on the “Queen Mary”, for whom I packed red and pink roses, was Sophie Tucker, the actress.
I went to deliver on the “Caernarvon Castle”. She was berthed in the New Dock, and I would very much like to have investigated the flowers which have appeared on waste ground round about, for even in passing in the car, I could see that they promised great interest. It was a pleasing if somewhat exhausting experience taking the flowers to the various cabins, and I met a great variety of people – some who received so many beautiful flowers that they were not only ungrateful but even annoyed at having any more, and others were delightfully surprised and gratified to receive any at all.
Gran gets lost at some point during her deliveries, finding herself “…out on the promenade deck, and was almost blown away”, and “…by the time the last order was delivered, I was wet through with perspiration and my legs aching with the many trips up and down the gangway”. And she is further soaked by rain during the ride back home, “…so I had a hot bath and complete change of clothing before enjoying a quiet meal and a welcome sit down.
Dad’s birthday is celebrated early because he will be away, at the start of his period of National Service, on the 14th. Gran writes, on the 10th:
The afternoon was spent at home, since there were preparations for Barry’s birthday tea, and the cake decoration pleased him as I hoped. It was a naturalist’s cake, for I am only lending him to the Air Force. There was a group of fungi (cut from holly and hand-painted when I was a child), spider, caterpillar, lizard, frog, and grasshopper in bronze (natural colours) a small pair of binoculars and a tiny basket full of real berries and flowers. It looked quite enchanting and Barry thanked me in such a way that the tears, so close to the surface today, welled up and had to be quickly hidden.
At the end of the day, Gran muses, not for the first time, on her boy’s call-up to National Service:
Barry is in the garden with his moth-lamp, enjoying a last night’s bug-hunting for a time. I wish he had not got to waste two years in the Air Force, for it has nothing to offer him and he might have made a good start on his career, but it has to be faced. And I am going to hate his going so very much but I am not the first mother who did not have her baby son for this. Ah well….
There seems to be a desire to keep Jock’s “condition” hidden from general knowledge for the time being, because Gran describes some night-time going-on thus, on August 11th:
Barry and Jock today bought a delightful blue wicker cot from someone living on the main road, and, after dark, leaving Jock to watch the moth lamp, he and I went to collect it, returning like thieves in the night, surreptitiously walking beneath the shadow of the trees and watching all doorways and windows. We met only one person and she did not recognise us, but we ran the last fifty yards to the seclusion of our own gateway!
“One other thing”, she tells us, “is worth recording today, though not natural history but related to it”:
We heard today that Jane has passed Biology in the General Certificate of Education, which was the only subject she took this year. I sent her a Greetings Telegram of congratulation to Stratford this morning.
Jane is there, currently on a cycling tour of “Shakespeare’s Country”. The evening before Barry leaves, Gran is putting on a brave face:
…Jock, who has been here all day, is a mere ghost of herself, pale and wan, but bravely gay with me to give him happy memories of home. We had a little supper party this evening – it was to have been only ourselves, but we were pleased to have my cousin’s daughter, Deirdre, to join us, as she was in Southampton today and dashed out to see us. It was an enjoyable evening after all and – tomorrow is not yet. Two Grass Eggar moths emerged in the breeding cage this evening.
And when the day of his departure arrives, she rises early after a restless night, “…to cook Barry’s breakfast and cut his sandwiches for the day”. She rails at length against what she sees as the pointlessness of two years’ National Service but soon her default attitude surfaces, and she writes, “But it is no use repining – shoulders back, head up and plenty to do – patiently smiling; though I am sad at heart, no-one must know! Nevertheless, her composure falters as she bids him goodbye at the bus stop:
Barry took long sniffs at the fresh, morning air and gazed all round lovingly. “Taking a long look to remember it all”, he said, and nearly broke my self-control altogether.
Fortunately I had much to do, for I had promised to help with flowers for the “Queen Elizabeth” and the “America”, and working amongst such beauty was a balm to my spirit.
And on returning home she finds a welcome postcard from Jane, at Stratford, which tells her that Jane:
and one of her friends had queued from 7.30 a.m. to 10.30 for tickets for last night at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre and the last tickets were sold to the woman in front of them. However, a sympathetic girl in the box-office found four returned tickets so they were able to go after all.
On her way into Southampton to box-up flowers for the United States, the Scythia, the Golfito and the Edinburgh Castle on the 14th, Gran is met with a fine sight:
When I reached the top of the main Avenue at Southampton I was very surprised to see a handsome coach and four coming towards me. It was the Red Rover, one hundred and twenty years old and it was returning to London from whence it had come on Monday. Then it completed the seventy-five mile journey in twelve hours, including time for meals and the eight changes of horses.
Gran explains that the coach had been bought and refurbished by “Mr Sanders Watney, company director of a brewery”, and she lists the occupants, who included the Guard, “Mr Harry Love, last of the old professional coach guards”. “Today”, Gran writes, “ the horses in the first section of the journey were beautiful bays”.
Second post on the 15th brings news from Barry, though Gran does not mention his location:
He has been fortunate, for he is with a number of other University graduates and among them he has found a keen ornithologist who took his Degree in Zoology at Leicester, and at least one other biologist, so bird-watching during leisure hours has already been arranged…The one snag appears to be the food – as Barry expressed it – potatoes half-fried in some type of cycle oil, cold macaroni and semi-raw sausage-meat! However, he expects to soon move on to Spitalgate in Lincolnshire, where perhaps it will be better.
And three days later another letter gives further news of what National Service has in store for Dad, Gran writing:
…he has been accepted for the Education Corps of O.C.T.U. and, after initial training, hopes to get a settled appointment as Education Officer. Deep discussions are taking place and a strenuous game of basketball has helped to make him feel less stagnant.
Helping the Fowlers with shipping orders seems to have become a regular and frequent activity in Gran’s life these days and it gives her great pleasure describing in detail the flowers she uses. On August 21st, she notes that one of the recipients of a “lovely box for the Queen Mary was the author [Francis] Brett Young and his wife.
Gran finds herself in an uncomfortable situation, on the 23rd, and what she writes appears somewhat puritanical but she is as ever, being dutiful:
I had to go to Eastleigh for lunch at Pirelli’s Sports Pavilion as we were playing a Tennis match against Osram’s of Wembley, and my presence was desired to help entertain the visiting team. I am not much good at this sort of thing since I neither drink nor smoke and I cannot overcome my feelings of disgust when, immediately upon arrival men and women alike congregate at the bar for drinks, not one but several, notwithstanding the fact that it was available, if desired, with their lunch not half an hour later. How some of them ever played tennis afterwards, I cannot imagine! However, after the two events in which I had to play were completed fortunately before five o’clock, I only remained for tea, and after making my apology to our secretary, escaped before the speeches began. Barry was coming home on leave…
Dad’s absence must be frustrating for Gran because he, it seems, owns the only binoculars in the family, and they are with him. While he is home this time Gran can at least be sure that the previously unidentified birds uttering “unfamiliar notes” in the garden are Lesser Redpolls.
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 1)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 2)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 3)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 4)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 5)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 6)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 7)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 8)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 9)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 10)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 11)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 12)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 13)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 14)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 15)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 16)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 17)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 18)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 19)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 20)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 21)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 22)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 23)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 24)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 25)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 26)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 27)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 28)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 29)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 30)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 31)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 32)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 33)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 34)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 35)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 36)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 37)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 38)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 39)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 40)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 41)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 42)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 43)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 44)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 45)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 46)