This is the seventeenth part of a fiction serial, in 741 words.
By March that year, meat rationing was in. Although they had the extra jam, and Viv’s sausages, they certainly had to tighten their belts where food was concerned. Albert reluctantly dug up the rose bushes on the other side of the garden. Elsie thought he was going to plant some vegetables, but instead he used some scrap wood and wire from work to build ten rabbit hutches in the space. One Saturday, he brought home four rabbits in an old cardboard suitcase with holes punched in the top. He had bought them from a colleague at the iron works, and the man had assured him that two bucks and two does would produce a lot of baby rabbits.
Vera stroked the bunnies, but couldn’t imagine eating the rabbit stew when the time came.
Not long after, Mr Chamberlain resigned, and Winston Churchill became the Prime Minister. Albert was overjoyed. “He’s a fighter, that man. Saw action in the Boer War, and again in France in fourteen-eighteen. We can count on him to liven things up”. Elsie wasn’t so sure. “But he’s rich, Bert. One of those aristocrats, ain’t he? How can we rely on him to sort things out?”
There was a letter from Les, and it worried Vera. The Germans had moved into France and Belgium, and there would be fighting soon, he was sure of that. He couldn’t say where he was, but concluded by writing, “There will be some trouble soon, Vera love. Think of your Les, and I will write to you when I can”. Vera could not stop the tears when she read that.
As the summer started to warm up, the newsreels began to talk about a place called Dunkirk. It seemed all the British and French soldiers were heading to that town, to make a determined stand against the Germans.
Albert came home from work and told them he was going to get time off to train for Heavy Rescue. They expected the bombing to start soon, and they would need trained crews to dig out the survivors, along with the bodies. Everyone had seen what the bombing had done in Spain, and then Poland. In a crowded and populous city like London, or even Bristol and Birmingham, they could only imagine the devastataion.
Janet kept crying about what was going to happen to Frank, and Vera had to remind her that her own brother was already in the shooting war, and likely going to Dunkirk with the others. “So what if Frank has to peel spuds and clean up the camp, Janet? At least he isn’t facing German stormtroopers”.
When they went to the cinema on Fridays, everything looked pretty bad. Barrage ballons and searchlights were being set up all around London, and although the newsreader tried to make it all sound funny, they both knew better. They had seen the workmen digging out public bomb shelters, and putting signs up in the railway and underground stations. Those big signs with an ‘S’ were everywhere, and all the important buildings had their fronts covered in sand bags.
Elsie was already getting frustrated with the meat rationing, and showed them the small amount they were allowed for the week. “You can forget your Sunday roast, Bert love. The rabbits aren’t big enough yet, and if we use all our ration, there will be nothing to get through the week with”. Bert and Vera put on brave faces. She turned to her troubled mum. “We can have jam sandwiches a couple of nights, mum. There’s still plenty of jam”.
Vera couldn’t really think about eating, with Les in such danger. But she ate what her mum served up, as she knew how hard it was going to be to manage.
That Sunday, Vivian brought the boys round to see them. She was annoyed with Roy. “I’ve had a letter that tells me nothing”, she sniffed. Seems my Roy has volunteered for something special, and he can’t tell me what it is. Sure I don’t know what he’s thinking of, with a wife and two kids left behind here. I reckon he must have lost his head, Mum. How can he do such a stupid thing?”
Nobody knew what to say to Viv. Roy was a man, and had to do what he thought best. But that was all soon forgotten, when Albert switched on the radio.
It was about Dunkirk, and the news was terrible.