He can’t come round any more, honey…

We often slept under the dining room table when I was a child. The Second World War was at its height and my parents thought that was the safest place to be during an air raid. At the first sound of the sirens they would each grab one of us and dive under the table, where a bed was permanently made up. To us children it was great fun, as my parents wisely made a game of it so we wouldn’t be frightened. However, looking back now I realise just what they must have been going through, knowing that at any second we could all have been blown to bits by a bomb.

My father was a station engineer at an American air base and sometimes he took me with him on a Sunday.

The airmen always made a great fuss of me and gave me chocolate, a rare treat during those years of shortages and rationing. Dad often brought some of them home in the evening and I well remember the fun and laughter when they were around.
Now and then I would notice that one of them hadn’t been round for a while. ‘Where’s Bud?’ I would ask. Or Chuck. Or whoever.

“He’s not going to be able to come any more, honey” they would tell me.

It wasn’t until years later that I understood the terrible meaning behind those seemingly casual words.’

Dad had a car, an ancient Riley, in case he was called out in the night. Sometimes, petrol rationing permitting, we went for a drive, and if it rained my sister’s potty would be brought into service to catch the water coming in through the roof.

Washdays were quite a performance. Mum had a large copper, under which she had to light a fire to heat the water. Then she would pound the washing up and down with a dolly stool, then feed it through the mangle. More than once, in my eagerness to help, my fingers got caught in the rollers and squashed flat, but fortunately it didn’t take them long to regain their shape.
After the War Dad got a job up North and the family moved. Most of the children in our new neighbourhood were boys. They reluctantly accepted me, but first I had to undergo various initiation tests to prove I was their equal in courage and daring. My first test, I remember, was to get to their den, which was a cave 20 feet down the face of an abandoned slate quarry. It never seemed to occur to any of us that one slip would have resulted in almost certain death.

In spring we collected frog spawn, which Mum made us keep outside as the sight of tadpoles wriggling about turned her squeamish. I remember one year she put my jar of frog spawn behind the shed and forgot about it -until the garden was overrun with frogs, that is.

Those were the days of the Saturday morning picture show. We would start queuing long before the doors opened, when there was a stampede for the best seats. Sometimes the film would break and we would stamp on the
floor and boo until the projectionist got it going again. The feeling of excitement as the lights went down and the curtain went up has never left me, and that was certainly where my lifelong love of the cinema was born. Little did I dream then that one day I would work in film production myself and help make films for a new generation of moviegoers.

There weren’t many cars about in those days and we used to play football in the road without fear of getting run over. When we saw the odd car coming, play stopped until it had gone. I even learned to ride my bike on that road, which happened to be the main road into town. I don’t know how long we’d last if we tried it today!

They were simple.carefree days and we enjoyed a freedom that would be unthinkable for today’s children. The world my grand-daughter is growing up in is very different, but she loves hearing about our adventures and my childhood memories.

Anne Britten