This is the thirty-fifth part of a fiction serial, in 815 words.
By the end of October, there was still no news from Les. But Teddy had written his usual short note to say he was well, and still enjoying his new ship. Viv came round with the boys, and showed them a letter from Roy. He couldn’t say where he was, but described his situation as being ‘right at the front, and in the thick of things’. He also mentioned that they had been heavily involved for the D-Day invasion, by writing, ‘we had a high old time of it in June, I can tell you. It’s been very lively since then too’. Viv turned over the next page, and blushed. “Then just the usual stuff”.
Albert took the boys outside to see the rabbits, and Viv was able to confide in them that she was heartily sick and tired of living with Roy’s mum. “I would do anything to get out of there, but I know Roy will be annoyed, as he expects me to help her out. Besides, she minds the boys when I’m at work. Then when I get home, she treats me like I’m her bloody housekeeper. I tell you, I won’t be carrying on living there when Roy gets home from the war”.
An unexpected knock at the door saw Elsie return with Uncle Ernie. He was looking well, smiling and happy. He said he was getting ready to appear in a pantomime that Christmas, and doing some shows at weekends in the meantime. Elsie made him a sandwich and poured him some tea as he was saying he wanted them to come and see him at the theatre in Greenwich. “It’s just a variety show, but I have a decent part, and get to sing two songs. It should be good”. He produced four tickets, complimentaries. Viv said she would ask Roy’s mum to watch the boys, but couldn’t see any reason why she couldn’t come. When the boys came back in with Albert, Ernie started to sing ‘It’s a long way to Tipperary’, and he had them marching around the room behind him, like soldiers on parade.
Ernie’s show was on the next Saturday, and they got the bus down to the theatre, meeting Viv outside. Vera hadn’t been to a live show since she was little, and loved the atmosphere inside, so different to the cinema. Ernie had got them great seats too, the last four on one end of the front row of the stalls. It was completely full, and some people were standing at the back too. As the orchestra were tuning up, Ernie appeared next to Albert at the end. he was dressed up like a fat old lady, with a huge wig, and lots of make-up. “Just checking you made it my loves, it will be starting soon”.
They all agreed it was a great night. There was a magician, some tumblers in striped costumes, and a violinist who played classical music. Then Uncle Ernie came on, and told a couple of quite racy jokes. That got the crowd going, and then he sung ‘The Boy I Love Is Up In The Balcony’. They put a spotlight on a man who was at the front upstairs, and he looked most uncomfortable as Ernie pretended to sing only to him, and blew him kisses. His second song was a stirring rendition of ‘Rule Britannia’, and as he started to sing it, a lady in tights came out and draped a big Union Jack round him. The audience joined in of course, and Vera spotted her mum beaming with pride at her brother. The top of the bill was a man who had a radio show, but to her surprise, Vera had never heard of him. He sung some show songs in a shaky voice, and it quite affected her. She especially liked him singing, ‘You’re The Top’, as that was one of her favourites.
After the curtain call, Ernie came and said his goodbyes. He was going into rehearsals soon, and would try to get them some pantomime tickets if he could. Viv left to get a bus home, but Vera and her parents walked the couple of miles back to the house in the dark. It was a cold night, but nice and dry.
Three weeks later, a V2 rocket hit Woolworth’s at New Cross Gate. it was packed with staff and shoppers that Saturday, and over two hundred people were killed or badly injured. The newspapers reported the utter carnage at the site, and said one hundred and seventy were dead, including children. Elsie looked as white as a sheet. “Oh gawd, a lot of the women from work go shopping there, and Mrs Fielding’s daughter Rose works there. I reckon she will have had it”.
Her gloomy prediction was proved correct.
Four of the jam factory women were killed that day, along with Rose Fielding.