Friday, February 03, 2006

A London Interlude The war not quite over.

In June 1945 I was rushed into hospital and almost straight onto the operating table, three days later I was back on the table again for further operations of which I do not have much memory. My first real memory was waking up feeling so ill that I hoped I was dying to get it over with. A wounded soldier from the next bed was holding my head over a dish and saying get it up you will feel better, I may have done if there had been anything to get up. ...

For the rest of this story click on the attached Comments



Blogger Frank Mee said...

Youthfulness and pretty nurses soon had me rallying to the extent I could get down the ward to the piano in the corner and belt out "In the Mood" and other songs with a syncopated boogie beat much to the annoyance of the old chap in the bed next to the piano. One day he said for god sake can't you play anything slow, how about some Irish songs, so I gave him some. Suddenly I felt a hand on my shoulder, I was playing Danny Boy, turning I froze it was Matron to me a Dragon who would have frightened other dragons. She said keep playing and after a while she said you have a gift there, music heals people and left. Two weeks later they pushed me out of the door of Ropner Ward Stockton and Thornaby Hospital with a sigh of relief on their part. Matron said you will never know how lucky you were, whether that meant getting killed by her or the old chap in the end bed or she was referring to the operations I did not stop to find out.

Mum had organised me a trip to Relatives in London. Uncle Charlie and Aunt Kitty with the two girls lived in New Park Road Brixton, then a quite posh part of London, they had a large flat in a block and to me it was luxury with its built in Bathroom and large rooms. So on the train at Darlington for the eight to nine hour trip to London, I had my bags with sandwiches and the big bottle of Lowcocks lemonade that came in very usefull later. The train was packed with troops from Catterick going South, they made room for me in a window seat and I listened to them talk about what it had been like near the end of the war, they were going back as occupation troops after some leave. We shared sandwiches and as the corridors were crammed full of troops to the point there was no way we could get to the toilets some one suggested we empty the big Lowcocks bottle first so it could be re used for relief purposes, shades of the football matches where we all had an empty bottle in our pockets for such use.
Kings Cross Station and they showed me how to get on the tube and what to look for they had to make their way to Waterloo by the same means, goodbye’s to my knew friends after all we had shared a bottle in more ways than one and I was off to Brixton. I had all the directions to New Park Road and the flat, underground to the Oval Station and walk up so it was easy to get there and a big welcome.

Uncle Charly was over the moon as they had two girls and he now had some one to talk sport with. I started my Safari of London, going out each morning with them all I would by underground, by bus and by tram, tour different area's each day. I had seen a lot of the damage done in the raids coming in by train but could not believe the utter devastation of some area's. Sitting upstairs on trams or busses I would go out to the terminus and back or right round a circular route. The underground would take me to a new part and back onto busses or trams for further tours. I was amazed at the numbers of people going about their business and also the cheerfulness among what I thought of as terrible destruction.

My morning outing would always end up back near Hyde Park were a trip into Lyon's Corner House for a bun and cup of tea usually ended up with some lady with a plate of cakes saying give those to that young man, or the young smart waitresses bringing me over what was only going to be thrown out any way. I started to put on all the weight I had lost.
A walk across to the Serpentine and the hire of a Sculling boat for an hour gave me the exercise then back to Brixton for tea. London was a vibrant place to be, we were still at war with Japan but that was a distant war, people wanted to get on and settle into a more placid routine. Uncle Charlie took me to Petty Coat Lane Sunday Market where you could buy almost anything including your own boots back you did not know you had lost. Aunt Kitty decided to feed me up and get some meat on my bones as she would say. At week ends I took the girls to see things they had not seen even though they lived in London it was all good fun.

I discovered the Locarno Dance Hall at Streatham, I had never seen anything that big in my life and the orchestra was like one off the films. Never being backward when it came to dancing I soon found I could hold my own on the floor and was finally asked by a woman with a cut glass voice if I would dance with her. We were off and half way round she said good now 45 and away we spun, then it was 81 and we went scissoring corner to corner. Good now number 32 and so on until the end of the dance where she said "thank you for that I will be back" leaving me totally puzzled as to what had happened (she was just saying numbers I have added any number just to give an idea). My cousin said those are fixed step and routines in professional dancing, she was testing you out. My reply was I had no clue what she was talking about. I think that because my life was dancing I had danced in halls from being 11 I had got accustomed to body movements in my partner picking up the signs and going the right way by sheer feel, I could do all the various routines but had never heard they had numbers. She did come back and asked me to go other nights too, I guess she was lonely with her husband away and she must have felt safe with a waif of a lad only sixteen but as I said tall for my age.

So my weeks in London came to an end, I had seen everything I could from Hampton court, palaces, museums and galleries, loving every minute of it, Aunt Kitty had been true to her word I had filled out her being a wonderful cook. My dance partner wept at losing me and Uncle Charlie wanted me to go down there and work, it was very tempting.

Back to Kings Cross Station and another eight hours on a packed out train then home again and it would be back to work Monday but then I enjoyed work. It had brought home to me what London and its people had suffered but it did not seem to faze them at all, they got on with life living a bit faster just in case. I will always respect the London people, they had an inbuilt lets just get on with it it and enjoy it as we go attitude, I hope some of it stuck to me.

Friday, 03 February, 2006  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Frank - couldn't have been you good looks down in London - must have been your dancing.....

Friday, 03 February, 2006  
Blogger Frank Mee said...

When Aunt Kitty saw me she said I looked like a wet monday wash with no starch, she said she would put the glow back in my cheeks and some meat on the bones. She did both.
Even if it sounds big headed I could dance having been taught by some of the best so right on all counts.

Friday, 03 February, 2006  
Blogger Peter G said...


I very much enjoyed reading that piece. Well written end evocative of a bygone era. The time of spivs and Pashas, those awful oval cigarettes.

Friday, 03 February, 2006  
Blogger Frank Mee said...

Good Grief Peter, did you have to remind me of those. As a lad collecting cigarettes all round town for the men in the workshop, I would be given some good ones and some very bad ones like Pasha. I was lucky in that one of the men actually liked them but what a job unloading the rest.
In MELF we got fifty free issue of good english and then fifty mixed bag including Pasha and Camel, Egyptian Camel and made from their out pourings by the smell of them. I had never smoked so those cigarettes were money to me in Naafi sweet ration soap etc or better still Stella beer.
Yes good and bad memories of Pasha.

Sunday, 05 February, 2006  
Blogger Audlew said...

Nice to be in touch again Frank. Pleased to see you're still writing. You must have a good memory. Did you keep a diary? I well remember those dancing days during the war. Being a girl meant you had to wait for a male partner to ask you to dance - and I always lived in hope of a tall, handsome one to sweep me off my feet. Unfortunately I often landed a short'un!
(I'm not sure how this site works?) Perhaps you could inform me if I've joined your site? I see I have a page of my own - does that mean I've joined the gang? If not, please tell me what to do. I may not be the helper you want as I am a self-taught computer user learning as I go along.I seem to remember calling on the gang of four to help me out.
All good wishes for the project.

Saturday, 11 February, 2006  
Blogger Peter G said...

Hi Audrey

I see that you now must have read the FAQ since your Comment. I got your request to join and you have been sent an invitation to do so.

Saturday, 11 February, 2006  
Blogger Frank Mee said...

Well done Audrey glad to see you made it.
I never kept a diary but obviously have pictures and old letters that evoke memories.
When it came to dancing I was one of those people to whom the dance was all. What the girl looked like meant nothing as long as she was one of the best dancers in the place.
I have vivid memories of dance halls and yet none of my partners, some partners stood out and I could name them, say how they were dressed even as you did not have much change of clothing back then.
Some of my mates would say "you can do better than that" they missed the point, it was the dancing and the whole panorama of the swirling dancers lights and music.
Strictly come dancing sent me back in to the past I can tell you.
Wish it was all still possible.

Sunday, 12 February, 2006  

Post a Comment

<< Home