Sarah Jane Smith
We walk away. Away from Digby Road. I never even look back. The heavy lead weight inside of me sees to that.
Just a few days before, one of the van drivers where Dad works had handed him a piece of paper. May Pelling. She had spotted the driver delivering in her High Street and had asked if he happened to know George Houser. So she scribbles down her address, asks him to give it to him and tell him that if ever he needs help in these terrible times, to contact her.
That piece of paper was in his wallet, in the shelter, the night before. One of the few things we still had to our name. The address is Osidge Lane, Southgate. What are we doing here? Why here? Where is here? Yet Dad said this is North London. Or should it be North of London? This is about as far from Piccadilly as the North Pole. No signs of bombs here. Come to that, not much of the war at all.
Not country, not town. Not a place to be evacuated to, or from.
Everything new. And clean.
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And tidy. Ornamental trees, laden with red berries, their leaves turning gold, line the pavements. A garden in front of every house. With a gate, a path, a lawn, and flowers. Everything staked, labelled, trimmed. Nothing out of place. Except us.
The girls are wearing raincoats and headscarves. Dad has a muffler where his clean white collar usually is. And carries a tied up bundle of bits and pieces we had in the shelter. Now and again I notice people giving us a sideways glance, then looking quickly away in case you might catch their eye. Are they shocked?
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No one seems at all interested in asking if they can help this gaggle of strangers in a strange land. Not even the road sweeper when Dad asks him the way to Osidge Lane. The door opens. Dark eyes, dark hair, rosy cheeks. Her smile checked in mid air at the sight of us on her doorstep.
Intake of breath. Eyes widen with shock. Her simple words brimming with concern. Biting her lip to keep back the tears. We are immediately swept inside on a wave of compassion. Kind words, helping hands, sympathy, hot food and cups of tea. Aunt May lives here with her husband, Uncle Ernie and their ten-year-old daughter, Pam. And two single ladies sheltering from the blitz. Five people in a small three-bedroom house.
Now the five of us turn up, unannounced, out of the blue. With nothing but our ration books and what we are wearing. In every way Osidge Lane is different from Digby Road. Yet it is just like coming home. We are safe.
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They are family. For this is a Houser house. I was born in September and was 1 year old when this Country went to war with Germany in I lived in end of terrace house in the north-east area called Freezywater of Enfield in the then County of Middlesex which is just north of London.
I had a Mum, Dad and two elder Brothers at the time. This was a famous factory, renowned for the manufacture of the Lee Enfield Rifle as well as other weapons of war. This was the item, that when the trigger was pulled, fired the bullet. He worked a shift of between 8 and 12 hours a day, six days a week. He would cycle to work you could not get petrol or even to own a motorcar then the Factory was about 2 km from our home. The main road, Ordnance Road, to the Factory was 1. About halfway down, this road crossed a railway, by a level crossing, which was adjacent to the Enfield Lock Station.
Of course, the level crossing gates were nearly always closed of the road when the Factory was discharging or receiving its workers and a huge traffic jam of cyclists would be created. There were two foot bridges over the railway, on the opposite side of the road to the station platforms. But the bridge nearest the road had steps and it was prohibited to carry a bicycle over this bridge and the other bridge was accessed by concrete ramps but cyclists were forbidden to ride bicycles on this one.
Most days a policeman patrolled these bridges and caught lots of scuttling cyclists each day, trying to get to work, or home, on time. Also if stopped by the policeman, the bicycle would be scrutinized for defects, such as no or not working bell, no or only one working brake, no mud guards, no reflector or white patch on the rear mudguard and if after dark, no lights.
My Mother was a housewife looking after the home, and believe it was mainly her decision, not to send my brothers and myself to be evacuated to the country, so we lived throughout the war in Enfield.