off down memory lane with my mum, the evacuee

My mum (in the photo with my daughter) was evacuated in World War II to Norfolk, South Creake near Fakenham to be precise. She was separated from her younger sister when she got there and for a couple of weeks Mum shared a bed with another young girl, a stranger, but went to see her sister, Eve, as often as she could. Eve was with a lady called Olive, her husband, Herbert, and their only daughter, Elizabeth. They lived at 2 Bluestone. Mum was polite and obviously close to her sister and so her dream came true and Olive said she could join Eve, and leave the strange girl and the house where Mum didn’t get her fair share of the rations. There they lived for the next three years. Mum cycled seven miles to get to school. They were shooed up to bed every night before news of the war came on the radio. And Olive put Marmite in the gravy. Those are my memories of Mum’s stories. Mum didn’t see her Mum in all that time. My nan stayed in Farringdon Street with her husband who was a night watchman. London was bombed throughout, but they survived. Mum and Eve went home. My mum’s dad died in an accident some years later so Uncle Herbert, as he was then known , gave Mum away at her wedding.

Aunty Olive and Uncle Herbert were a rare but constant presence in our lives, visiting for a day or so every year, and telling tales of Mum at the dinner table. They were kind and laughed a lot, which was not how Mum remembered them, but they were mellowed by age and peace by that time. When I was about five and my sister was eight there was high excitement as we went to stay with them, on our own. We had gravy with Marmite, and collected seaweed on the beach which we then ate. There was a narrow passage by the side of the house through to the garden which was laid out like a vegetable patch from Beatrix Potter. That’s all I remember, apart from a letter I sent to Mum and Dad on green paper. I drew a girl with a bonnet and said I was having a nice time.

At some point they died, of course.

So, on Monday we are heading off to spend a few days in the vicinity. Mum is attending the famous Norfolk Painting School run by Jane and Martin Kinnear, and I will be roaming the country and coast with the children. Looking forward to pub lunches and wind-chapped faces. In between we’ll visit 2 Bluestone and the seaweed beach and Mum’s old school. I haven’t been there for over forty years. I so hope I remember it.