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Saturday, 22 April 2017

Evacuation to Somerset

I’ve never visited Somerset in my adult life, but I have all manner of memory “snippets” from when I was almost 8 years of age.

First a little bit of background.  Somerset is situated just south of Wales on the west coast of England.  It’s known for its abundance of Cider and Cheddar cheese (the map even shows a town that carries that name!) Must be a bit confusing to visitors when asked if they like cheddar? But I digress.

We were evacuated to an area close to Frome

Another famous town is Glastonbury.  Good stuff abounds with myth and legend regarding Glastonbury Abbey.  If you’re a fan of King Arthur and his Knights you probably know that Arthur and Guinevere are said to be buried there.  “Said” being the operative word because another group insists they are buried at Avalon!  However that’s difficult to prove because no one knows where Avalon is.   Oh, don’t you just love these “Olde English tales”!  This one is a bit like my memory: Only acceptable with a pinch of salt!

City of the lost tomb!

This little story will not go back that far but it will return to 1940.  If you recall from a previous post, late 1940 Hitler was trying to bomb London out of existence. While he was trying to kill everyone, Mum was doing her bit to achieve the opposite; she was heavily pregnant with child number three.  Not wanting to stay around to give Hitler his chance we are off again on the evacuation train, this time to Somerset!

My memories of this period are getting a little more detailed than previously as I’m remembering feelings as well.  How we got there I don’t know but I can clearly see what looks to me to be a sea of mud that I must step in with my little red wellies to cross to the farmhouse which appears to be miles away.  Mum is at my side but I’m scared that my wellies will get stuck and so will I. 

Of course, we reach the house safely but I’m not impressed with this introduction.

Nighttime brings another astonishment: so far in my young life I’ve slept in my own bed.  This night would be different.  Our little family has been assigned to a very small room containing one very small bed on which Mum with her very large midriff plus LS and I are all meant to slumber.  I can’t recall how many nights we did the top and tail routine but I do recall when GM arrived from London to set everything right. 

I wasn’t privy to the actual word exchange but I know that before GM had finished raining down Irish curses on the farmer and his flock, we had been moved to the cottage of one of his workers.  This was much better; we had a large room with ample sleeping surfaces for all of us.

Not sure how long we stayed but definitely long enough to thumb our noses at Hitler, when Mum gives birth to a bonny baby boy on November 20th, identified in these tales as LB.  It was about this time that we received a typed letter from Dad who was stationed somewhere in Wales. The advanced technology of this typed letter caused much excitement and much discussion of how he could have had access to such a machine!

Frome grew up as a market town. Indeed, its market is thought to predate the arrival of the Normans in 1066. In 1239, King Henry III granted a Royal Charter that confirmed the town's right to hold a market. There is still some evidence of the former medieval street layout. Cheap Street and Apple Alley date back to this period, although many of the buildings that can be seen here today date from the Tudor era.
My other memories include riding a bus to school in Frome, and me reciting the poem “Wee Willy Winkie” at a Christmas concert.  and struggling to understand why the farmhand’s grown son spent all day sitting by a window recording the license plate numbers of every passing car.

Generally, it was a quiet time except for the rumour that bombs had been dropped on some cows.  Eventually things must also have quietened down in London because once again we are back in Battersea,  battened down and waiting for our next evacuation opportunity. 

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