Socks for the Boys!

My Great Aunt Norah's wartime diaries, 1938-1948

The extraordinary adventures of ordinary girls: blog relaunch

After a difficult few months with very little time in which to write, I now have space ahead of me in which Norah’s story can unfold at the pace it requires.

cropped-norah-19421.jpgWe are now well-acquainted with our feisty schoolgirl heroine. We have seen her at home – a loving daughter, a squabbling sister, living from the summer of 1938 in a brand new council house in a village in the English East Midlands. We have met most of her family: her gentle mother Milly, bellicose father Tom, her married sister Helen and little niece Jeannie, and older brothers Birdy and Frank.

From one of her contemporaries, we have learned about her life as a scholarship girl at Loughborough High School and have witnessed a whole lot of schoolgirl giddyness in her diaries. We have noted her interests: reading novels and Picturegoer magazine, walking, blackberrying and mushrooming in the nearby fields and lanes, seeing films at the picture house in the village, cricketting (as she called it) with her brothers. I don’t know about you, but the schoolgirl crushes remain among my most favourite detail; Norah’s fandom of stars now lost to memory: Prince Bira of Siam whom she saw at race meetings at Donington Park and the beautiful Frankie Soo, Stoke City captain who compromised her support for Derby County.

We have witnessed the ‘trouble with Hitler‘ which led to the start of the Second World War and have explored other accounts – newspapers, oral history, museum exhibitions – to make up for the missing diary of 1940, the year the bombs dropped locally as the Germans sought to target the Rolls Royce works at Derby. And we’ve seen something of the excitement amongst local girls as soldiers and then airman came to the village. Although Norah was too young for the dances, she did her bit as a knitter.

Latterly, we’ve met Jim, the sailor aboard HMS Elgin, a minesweeper in the North Sea, who received the socks that Norah knitted for the Comfort Fund and whose (dozens of) letters I received inside the suitcase which contained Norah’s diaries. Jim is charming and cheeky – ‘dearest dimples’, he calls her – and we can perfectly understand why sixteen year old Norah was so keen to correspond. We’ve shared her anxiety when his letters fail to arrive, the space this gives her to explore feelings of romance, the changing tempo of their letters in the summer of 1941 as Jim declares his love for her and Norah confides the same to her diary. Very shortly, the complicating factor of Jim’s airman brother Danny will appear on the scene.

And a year in,  I have discovered my mission, which is to reveal how an ordinary diary – the sort of diary which usually garners little interest among historians and readers, a pocket diary which cannot be published as it is but which needs the stories coaxing out – is so much more than a list of everyday events. In language which is frequently quaint and colloquial and often very funny, Norah’s diary entries, read carefully, creatively and with love, reveal the rich interior life of an English schoolgirl in wartime.  As we are about to see, ordinary girls sometimes had extraordinary adventures. Or maybe when you’re sixteen and full of emotion, ambition and expectation, the adventure is just life itself.


4 comments on “The extraordinary adventures of ordinary girls: blog relaunch

  1. smorrison78704
    July 7, 2014

    Reblogged this on Home Front Girl and commented:
    Here is more about Norah, Joan’s English “twin”–whose diary has recently been found. It provides insight into World War II on the home front–and we hear about the adventures of “dearest dimples”…..

    • Socks for the Boys!
      July 10, 2014

      Thank you Susan. I am hoping to link up Norah and Joan a little more as I get back into the swing of things with the blog… I’ll be in touch!

  2. Nick Metcalfe
    July 9, 2014

    Reblogged this on Nick Metcalfe and commented:
    I have missed the unfolding story of Norah Hodgkinson who lived her teenage years through the Second World War. This new post summarises that which has unfolded so far and relaunches the blog. Alison, Norah’s great niece, reveals ‘how an ordinary diary – the sort of diary which usually garners little interest among historians and readers, a pocket diary which cannot be published as it is but which needs the stories coaxing out – is so much more than a list of everyday events.’ I’m looking forward to the next installment.

    • Socks for the Boys!
      July 10, 2014

      Thank you very much Nick, and lovely to hear from you again. The story will gather momentum from now on. It is also starting to test my skills in the field of military history!

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