Aunt Bet was my mum’s older sister. After the 1914 war, Aunt Bet met Alice and they became best of friends. Alice lived in Bisham near Marlow. She was like us but spoke properly. I used to go down there every summer and stay with her from the time I was about six or seven years old. I used to get the train or double decker bus from Paddington to Maidenhead, then the bus to Bisham, then walk down the lane.

Aunt Bet and Aunt Alice

Aunt Bet (on the left in the dark dress) with Aunt Alice

Alice was a house keeper to Mr. Hayden Thomas at the Paper Mill. She went to all the best restaurants with him. They used to holiday at Weymouth. He’d take her and husband George and they’d go to the best hotels. She was a servant companion.

Of a night Alice and George would play bridge and all like that with the neighbours. And I’d be sitting there and I’d get a box of chocolates. It was that sort of atmosphere. That’s how she lived. Her mum, Granny Bowles, still went out fruit and potato picking. I used to see her coming down the lane and she’d have a bag in one hand and a coat in the other and she was as wacked as could be, but she was as brown as could be where she’d been working in the sun. She wouldn’t give it up, she loved the life and that was it. Strawberry picking, potatoes, it was hard work but she enjoyed it.

Aunt Alice said my mum will never get over it (the deaths of two of her daughters) why she’s sitting there thinking all day; bring her down to Marlow and she can have my cottage. So Alice and Uncle George moved into Mr. Hayden’s at Weir Cottage. We were there (Bisham) about a year. I was 14½. I loved it. My mum went to a little back room in Marlow to sign on for her dole and they said to her, after six weeks you’ve got to get a job, and she got a job at the Rose and Crown Hotel, on Marlow Bridge, as a chambermaid. I got a job in the paper mill, just sorting out paper, for them to pulp up to make fresh paper.

At the beginning of the war, around Christmas 1939, coming back to London from Bisham to do some shopping, Aunt Bet, Nanny and me were on a Reading B bus coming up to Hyde Park Corner the bus smacked into something, cos we thought it was being bombed didn’t we, so we ducked under the bloody seat - even though the bombing hadn’t started yet.

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