Monday, November 21, 2005

CERNE ABBAS 1940-1945. (11)

All I can remember of V.E. Day in Cerne is of the bunting hung along the houses in Abbey Street, but I do remember arriving at Belfiled for the first time. We came by car - perhaps it was a taxi - and were driven down Radipole Park Drive alongside Radipole Lake. On reaching the house, we were greeted in the hall by Mrs Pearse, who offered to get me a glass of milk.

Mr & Mrs Pearse had lived in the basement flat at Belfield before the War, and had written to my father that July to ask if they could become tenants again. This suited my parents very well, as they could act as caretakers when we were in London. The letter is dated 20th July 1945 and they were anxious to move in as soon as possible - so they could not have been there long before we too arrived, which was probably around the end of the month at the start of the Long Vacation.

Mr Pearse was a retired school teacher and cabinet maker, and both he and his wife had been professional photographers at some time. They had two grown-up daughters, Lois and Margaret.

Margaret had been a landgirl and had been engaged to be married - but her fiancé, whose parents lived further up Belfield Park Avenue, had been killed in action. She continued to visit frequently and would spend time in a small room in the flat with her gramophone, playing the records they had listened to together. As far as I know, she never married - but her sister Lois was married not long after we went to Belfield, probably at Whitsun the following year. Some white camelias from a bush the size of a small tree, in the garden, were used to make her wedding bouquet.

I think it unlikely we went north, either to Grange or Chester, that summer, as my parents must have been busy settling in at Belfield. A letter from my mother, written while we were still at the Pitchmarket, states with much gless that her sister May was:
"...obviously looking forward to my next effort at taking the entire house on my hands again this summer. I relish the idea of telling her later that she is in for a much shorter "complete rest" this year! How her (?) mouth must be watering already when she thinks of weeks and weeks of never touching the washing-up, dusting, sweeping, gardening, baking, even cooking. What fun to put sand in it therefore (I mean the mouth). I'm not really in a vicious mood!"

There was little love lost between the two sisters, and much resentment. May was six years older than my mother, and was deeply jealous that her younger sibling had not only been up at Oxford and got a Degree, but also a husband and child. It was said that she threw a fit on the bathroom floor when she heard the news of my birth. She was forty by then, trapped into the position of housekeeper to her parents for the rest of their lives.

They had once refused to give their permission for her to marry a man much older than herself who lived in New Zealand. They did not approve of her moving to the other side of the world: "Who will look after us in our old age?" they demanded. So their dutiful daughter stayed at home doing just that until after my grandfather died in 1959, aged ninety.

May married six years later when she was sixty-seven, to John Gee whom she met whilst out exercising her dogs.

The Pitchmarket, Cerne Abbas

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