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To War With The Bays: 73 – The Centre Of Attention

Jack Merewood enjoys home leave, but then, even though the war is over, he has to return to Italy to rejoin his Regiment.

To read earlier chapters of Jack’s wartime story please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/to_war_with_the_bays/

Jessie had a week's holiday from work and we went to our favourite holiday resort, Blackpool. We did everything there we always used to do — putting, dancing in the Empress Ballroom, Pleasure Beach and the Big Dipper. Jessie also had a holiday from work at Whitsuntide so she went with me to Alnwick to spend a few days with Ronnie's parents and Emily, and of course Ronald, now four years old.

I went to see Ada Ryan, Ted's wife, and Mr and Mrs Turner, Jimmy's parents, and Doreen his girlfriend. This was a sad occasion. Jimmy was the Turners' only son. To have lost him was bad enough, but Mr Turner couldn't get over the fact that he'd died in an acci¬dent, and couldn't stop talking about it. Was I there at the time? I wasn't, so I only knew what he knew, that Jimmy had died from burns.

I felt so sorry for all of them. They were very grateful I'd been to see them. I just wished that there was something I could do to help them, but all I could do was to offer my sympathy. I had intended to visit Stan's parents, but they were going on holiday, so we wrote and postponed our meeting.

Jackie White's cousin, the Revd Mr Welsh, was vicar of the local parish of Crosland Moor, so at Jackie's request I called to see him, and spent some time there talking to him about Jackie and life in the Bays.

Since we had no cars and no telephones in our homes, all our travelling any distance was done by train, and keeping in touch was by letter. Even if we wanted to contact a friend or relative two or three miles away we wrote a letter, and if we went to see each other it was by trolley, bus - or on foot.

Jessie had a lot of nice and attractive girl friends, and I must admit I enjoyed being the centre of attention when we all went to dances. One young lady, Margaret, whose home was in London, was a stu¬dent, and like many others had been evacuated to Huddersfield be¬cause of the war. She rented a room in a house of some friends of Jessie.

Also two Canadian soldiers were staying there, and we all had a great time together. We bought a lot of records and nearly drove my poor father mad by playing them sometimes into the early hours of the morning - especially the record of Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters singing 'Don't Fence Me In', which we played over and over again.

Jessie had bought a record as a surprise for me. She put it on. Poor Jessie. It was to cheer me up, but it had the opposite effect. The record was 'Le Bateau des Iles' sung in French, the song Suzette had taught me and for which she'd written out the words. My family knew all about Suzette, and Jessie thought the record would bring back happy memories. It did, but they were still a little painful, and I was sorry for Jessie's sake that I'd been upset.

There were dances, cricket matches. We played Monopoly, cards, Sorry — and there was Yorkshire pudding. All too quickly my leave was coming to an end. It was 8 June, the war in Europe was over — and where was I to go from here?

Back to Italy, to rejoin my Regiment!


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