Socks for the Boys!

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

I’m in love with him & I don’t care a scrap

19th September 1941: Went to Derby & bought blue dress material & fed swans in river gardens. I’m in love with him & I don’t care a scrap.

I can’t help but imagine this scene.

Had Norah decided to make a journey to Derby to buy her blue dress material before reading Danny’s sweet letter? Did it arrive as she ate her toast and marmalade and enjoyed her first cup of tea of the day, sitting not in the kitchen but at the table in a living room ablaze with the autumnal morning sun?  I picture her, throwing her coat over her shoulders, kissing Marsie on the cheek, casually rebuffing some caustic remark thrown her way by Birdy, and reporting that she’ll be back after lunch – or dinner, as we didn’t call it lunch back then. The ten minute walk to the bus station is mostly downhill from Moira Dale, the gradient adding momentum to Norah’s jaunty stride. The birds sing; she flutters past neighbours and acquaintances and flashes them a smile and a sing-song ‘hello’. Skipping onto the Trent bus, the driver smiles broadly as she chirpily asks him for a Derby return.

Maybe Norah buys the dress material from Midland Drapery, dithering over a flowery fabric before dismissing it as too summery and settling instead on a vivid blue.  As the neat, top-knotted haberdashery assistant measures two yards, snips with scissors and then tears it through, Norah imagines herself in the finished dress, walking out with Danny, holding hands, in his arms. Not yet ready to catch the bus home, does she nip into the Market Hall for a white cob – spam, maybe – and after a brief inward tussle, buys a celebratory chocolate éclair from the cake stall?

Leaving by the Guildhall entrance, Norah walks the hundred yards or so to the River Gardens, where she heads for the nearest available bench. Good manners and propriety forced her to sit down to eat the big white puffy cob. But she feels too animated and the bread is too much for her, or maybe, true to form, she is too eager to move onto dessert. She eats half the cob without registering her usual feeling of boredom with spam, without wishing for potted meat mixed with a thick spread of butter against the doughy bread. Norah breaks the remaining half into small pieces and stands on the banks of the river, slender and bright eyed, the breeze catching her dark hair and the skirt of her dress. Two swans glide towards her as she scatters the bread on the water, trying to make sure they both get the same sized handful but noticing that one of them swiftly moves in on every last crumb. She is in love with Danny and she doesn’t care a scrap.

Why should she care a scrap? Maybe she was harbouring a nagging worry that she had been a little hasty, allowing herself to be kissed by a boy – indeed, a man of twenty three – whom she had only just met. Ready to board the train at Derby station, Danny had turned and kissed her full on the lips, lingering just long enough to move beyond the awkwardness and feel the thrill. Did anyone see? Had some passing acquaintance reported the scene to Marsie that morning, as she queued at the Co-op meat-counter? Norah could not have imagined her mother behaving that way when she was courted by Tom in 1910. But things were different then. Like all of her generation, Norah wanted romance and glamour before settling down to married life. As she stands there on the edge of the River Derwent, throwing bread to the swans, does she wonder if she will walk up the aisle at Castle Donington Baptist Church to meet Danny at the altar, sometime after this blessed war has ended?

Or is the not caring a bid to suppress a sense of guilt about Jim, ‘my minesweeper’ , the focus of such excitement only a few months earlier, who has now been passed over in favour of his swish younger brother? Lovely, marvellous, wonderful Danny. Danny with his wings, looking spiffing in airforce blue. Danny charming her mother, at ease with the family, chatting with Frank and Helen as they all stayed up until 12.

Was it in the autumn of 1941 that Norah copied the following words into the back of her diary:

July onwards0037


‘Some men would make a terrible scene, but my experience of sea going men tells me that they have a sound knowledge of human nature. They know that girls change their minds: that people fall in & out of love, that one has to accept what comes as one has to accept storms at sea. They are usually broadminded and philosophical.’

I wonder where it came from. A women’s magazine, maybe? I google, with no success.


2 comments on “I’m in love with him & I don’t care a scrap

  1. Pingback: Kernels of Truth | Socks for the Boys!

  2. Pingback: Norah’s 1941 photograph | Socks for the Boys!

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This entry was posted on August 27, 2014 by in diaries, girlhood, romance, WW2 and tagged , , , .
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