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The Day Before Yesterday: 29 – Newlyweds

The 3rd of September, 1939. The Prime Minister announced on the radio “We are at war with Germany.’’

Newly-married Gladys Schofield looked around her cosy living room. “The sunlight was still playing on the carpet. How could we be at war? Were we not safe and remote living on this hillside, just six little cottages at the end of a lane called Bank End, which seemed to have been cut out of the hill itself?’’

Everyone was listening to the radio. The Prime Minister was going to make a special announcement at eleven a.m. It was the 3rd of September, 1939. Although we had been expecting something like this to happen before very long, the words "We are at war with Germany” chilled me to the bone.

We had watched the antics of this mad man, goose-stepping his way through his neighbours’ countries, defeating them one after the other, and we wondered just how long it would be before it was our turn to defend our own country. Although England was sadly unprepared at this time, small changes had already begun to take shape.

We were given instructions to make blackout frames to fit each window, and every skylight had to be painted black. The young soldiers in the Territorial Army were called back to their camp. All this uncertainty for the future had helped us to persuade my parents to let us get married at an early age.

I looked around our cosy room. The sunlight was still playing on the carpet. How could we be at war? Were we not safe and remote living on this hillside, just six little cottages at the end of a lane called Bank End, which seemed to have been cut out of the hill itself.

From our little bit of level ground it sloped steeply in front of us. This part was covered in trees, and the trees continued at the back of the houses. This cottage was the closest place we could get to the woodlands where we used to roam as children, my brother and I.

The house was not as modern as the ones I was used to, just two bedrooms upstairs, a large living area, a tiny kitchen and a cellar with a few shelves to store our perishables. Large cupboards at one side of the fire stored all the foodstuff. A sink and cold water tap was built into the middle of this. Hot water could be had from a geyser on the wall in the kitchen. We stored a tin bath and washing equipment in here also.

The fireplace had an oven at one side, and another small boiler at the other. This was kept constantly hot when the fire was lit. We also had a tiny gas ring to boil the kettle. That and the "hob" of the fire were the only ways to cook a meal.

We had a flush toilet, but you had not to be caught in a hurry as ours was tucked away past the first house (next door) just at the corner of the wood. Two families shared this one and took turns to keep it clean. It was a wooden structure with a stone flagged floor.

Electricity had been brought to this remote spot a few years before. Probably the drainage system was installed at the same time.

We owned two meters. In one you put one shilling per week to help pay the price of installation. It must have been very expensive to run this to such a few scattered homes. The other meter also took one shilling at a time for the power you used. It was better to have another shilling ready or you could be plunged into darkness at any inopportune moment. It also had its advantages too as we got a discount whenever the meterman called to empty it every three months.

We paid five shillings a week rent for this house.

A familiar noise at the door made me realise this wasn't a time for day-dreaming. I glanced at my husband, who was still staring at the radio. His thoughts, like mine, had been miles away. The cigarette still glowing between his fingers had burned to the tip, the spent part ready to fall at the least movement. He also made a stir and absentmindedly reached the door before I did.

A small black kitten entered and started her begging performance of purring loudly while rubbing her body forwards and back again across my legs. She had caught a whiff of the Sunday roast cooking in the oven beside the fire.

She was not the only one. Cliff glanced at the oven and then at me saying, "What's for dinner, Glad?” Trust a man to think of his stomach first at a time like this.

The large piece of coal he now placed on the fire crackled and split. It was lovely coal. You may think 'that's a funny remark'. It was rationed. We were so lucky to get Barnsley Best, large blocks of shining black coal. We never saw anything like it after the war years. They delivered a year’s supply in one big truck. Thirty hundred weight. It cost two shillings for one hundred weight (large sack).

Some people had a coal shed, where they could stack this coal as you would stack logs today. We had a coal shoot, an iron lid low down on the wall above the cellar opened and the coal was shovelled or thrown down this opening.

We were both still working at this time. Cliff had moved to a better job in another mill where he was more or less in control of all the jobs himself, so he had no worry of competing with anyone.

I had upgraded myself too, I was now a Greasy Mender in another part of the mill. I had been doing the new job about twelve months, as I will explain later.

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