The Parish Church of St George the Martyr, Waterlooville


Ruby’s Memoirs

15. The aftermath of War

We now gradually settled down to a routine of life divided up by brief excursions such as a day's racing at Newmarket, or coarsing, great fun in the winter walking over the ploughed land with the local farmers, trips to Norfolk and the fish market at Yarmouth, local cricket on Sunday afternoon in Summer, in which Ted played. There were no holidays as such but we hadn’t had a holiday since the beginning of the war, so they were not really missed. We had a very good darts team and played in local matches, and even reached league play, and once took two coach loads of customers to see the Blackpool Lights and went dancing in the Tower Ballroom which was often on the B.B.C. programme. Life wasn’t all hard work, and we appreciated the breaks we did get.

Rationing gradually gave way to more choice in food but there were still many restrictions on meat, and queues for anything rather special. Spirits for the Pub were still under strict control. One bottle of spirits per week was the allowance which of course sent all publicans into the black market for what you could get and were sold “under the counter” for more than one reason. At times even beer was rationed, and so some pubs could not open at all hence the song, “The pub without beer”. Does anyone remember it I wonder? There was an immense amount of clearing and cleaning in the morning before opening at, preparing lunches and other food for the day, a brief change at 2.o’clock to then opening for the evening until in winter, 10.30 for summer; which I’m afraid usually got extended for the few who always liked to linger after hours. The police were very tolerant as long as there was no noise or drunkenness. I don’t ever remember having any trouble, people in those days had far better behaviour than they seem to have today, and you soon got to know the undesirables.

There was always plenty of labour to be obtained as there were a great many men and women out of work who had either been occupied in the factories or been de-mobbed. The town was a great place for gypsies and at certain times of the year congregated in the woods on the edge of the town. They were very good customers during the day but were not seen a great deal in the evening. We became quite friendly with them and even went to a wedding, which was held in the woods. The young couple surrounded by the colourful caravans with a blazing fire in the middle, over which at sometime during the ceremony they jumped with wrists cut and their blood mingled - all “great stuff”.

The matriarch was very elderly, and said they were all her children, I don’t know if this was really true but they all treated her with great respect especially if they wanted any money of which she always seemed to have plenty in rolls of notes hidden away in the legs of her bloomers under her voluminous skirts.

To the town, once a year, came what was known as the “State Fair”. This occupied the whole of the Town Square for about four days with a Fun Fair and many stalls selling their wares. It was a great upheaval and the traffic had to find its way through or not come at all. This was all taken with a great holiday spirit and everyone went out of their way to enjoy it. The strange thing was after its last night which was always very noisy, it disappeared without trace by the next morning and everything was back to normal. These fairs evidently were allowed by a reigning monarch in recognition of some service the town had done, and in this particular case it was granted by Richard 1st for the support the Knights Templars had given him for his Crusades. All this was related to us by the Gypsies so how much was true and how much folk-lore I don't know, but found it all very fascinating.

The years sped by all too quickly, and true to form, my husband got a little tired of this life and had become a keen golfer. Always with an eye for a ball he became quite good and played well, so it started to take up a lot of his time, so again we had to contend with itchy feet. I wasn’t too keen as life was hard but simple where we were, Tony was happy at his first school in Letchworth along with all his friends, but it was not to be so it was not long before we were off once more to the other side of Hertfordshire with the offer of a job at a splendid Golf Club, situated some miles between two small villages. It had been used by the Government during the war for housing land girls and much of the land had been ploughed up for agricultural use and the House was used as a Hostel for the girls. The course was now remade and Club members returning, and we were to look after the House in which we would live. Then of course there was to be the catering, which was quite in its infancy, and the usual bars. It was a bit of a challenge and we took it on for two years, but before starting there were a couple of weeks free so we took a ski-ing holiday in Davos where we had not been since 1938 and this was 1950.

After shabby England with its bomb sites still showing and rationing and restrictions, I think we were only allowed to take £25 each out of the country, the sight of Switzerland was wonderful. The shops full of beautiful clothes and luscious cakes and decent coffee all of which we had forgotten was like a dream world. There were few English about but many Germans and Italians that it made me wonder who won the war. We certainly hadn’t. Anyway we had a wonderful holiday ski-ing, skating and sledging which was no where as high powered as it is today, and met again many old friends. There were après ski dances, tea dances or sleigh rides at night, and the mountains never change. Alas as with all good things they came to an end, so back to England to face a rather unknown future.

Ruby Bullock

Festival Edition 2010