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Archive for April, 2010

<—Life as a Servant

Olga’s Diary (Continued)

Dear Diary

Sydney:  I got a letter from home. It had been sent to St Giles who forwarded to Miss Franklin who forwarded to Sister Pateman and eventually I got it.

 It was from Sydney saying he was coming to England on a business trip and would be staying at the Reynolds Hotel in London during the last week of March.  He said he wanted to see me and isn’t leaving England until he has done. 

So I went to meet him on my day off yesterday.    Sydney has lost weight and some hair, but, otherwise he’d barely changed, but he said I had.

 I had bought a new outfit for the occasion because I wanted to look the best I could.   I was wearing a new blue dress I’d recently bought and a little hat to match and a grey coat belted at the waist.  I thought I looked very nice.  Sydney said I did. 

It was so good to hear about Mammie and the family.  He told me Mammie was well, but worried about me and gave me all the news about the family. Cissie and Dyke had another two children; Dolly had married her Syrian and I felt sad I hadn’t be at her wedding;  there were no changes in Pearl’s life; Ruby had a boyfriend called Jack, whom Sydney and Mammie approved of.  Ruby and Jack were very serious about each other and Sydney said he thought there might be another marriage in the family.  How nice.


Birdie was working at the Ward Theatre and it seemed as if she might go to America and stay with Vivie for a while. Vivie had got her divorce and married Freddie.  I wondered how Mammie felt about that, I bet she was upset.   Chickie and Maurice were well but poor Chickie still hadn’t heard a word from Victor Condell and Gwennie was still living with that terrible man, Keith Rousseau. And Boysie and Minah had another baby, a little girl.  Once we’d been through the family I waited for the questions to come my way.

“Mammie is desperately worried about you Olga.  We know you’re not at the hospital any more, what happened?” 

I couldn’t tell Sydney about Marie, not because I was frightened of him, I wasn’t any more, but because I was so ashamed of what happened to me and I hadn’t the courage to face my family.  

I told him I’d failed my first year’s exam and that’s why I left the hospital and because of the war I couldn’t go home.  So I had to find some work and because I had some experience nursing I found a job as a children’s nursery nurse.  

 I told him I had lots of friends and I was very happy with the job because it was well paid and I would never to be able to earn so much in Jamaica.  I wanted to stay on here in London a bit longer.

“Well, that’s fine because I’m going to be here for at least another four months doing business around the country, so, when I’ve finished, we can go home together”.  Sydney had it all worked out.

  “This time”, he said, “I’m keeping my promise to Mammie”.  

I gave him a false address and he gave me the date he would be back at the Reynolds Hotel.  I told him I would ring him at the hotel when he returned there.  It wasn’t that I don’t want to go home, of course I do.  I want to be with my family and I want Mammie to see her beautiful little granddaughter, but I fear seeing Mammie’s disappointment in me, that would be too much to bear.  I know they will ask questions which I don’t want to answer.  The memory is too painful.

Then Sydney asked about Joanne and if she was well.  When I told him she’d died, I swear there were tears in his eyes.  He put his arm round me, but I had to shake it off and he looked hurt.  I couldn’t help it, these days if anyone is kind to me, I cry.

Sydney wanted to know why I hadn’t kept in touch with Aunt Martha.  I told him I didn’t like her because she blasphemed a lot, was a drunk, a liar and a hypocrite.  I must have said it with such venom, because Sydney looked so shocked. I told him how when I was staying with her, Mr Kitchen stayed overnight with Aunt Martha and that they were living together as man and wife.  I told him she said mean things to me.  

“She makes a great pretence of being a Christian person when she’s in Jamaica going to Church but she doesn’t go near a Church here and then there’s Mr Kitchen” 

“What about Mr Kitchen” Sydney asked. And before I could stop myself I’d blurted out Aunt Martha’s big secret.

  “He’s a black man”.

******

Dear Diary

The Hunt Ball:   The Hurts have a stud farm in Ireland and, now the war is over, they have decided to close Hendon Hall and move back to Ireland.  Mrs Hurt said she would have liked me to come with them, but there are staff there already.  I don’t mind really.  But before they move to Ireland they want to hold a Hunt Ball, like they used to do before the war.   

Fortnum and Mason’s in Piccadilly are doing the catering for the Hunt Ball and Mrs Hurt has put me in charge of collecting the programmes which means I have to stand by the drawing room door and as the gentlemen came in  they hand me their programmes.  I had a peek at one and it’s just a list of all the dances with room to write down the name of the lady who the gentleman is  going to have a particular dance with.

Mrs Hurt’s daughter-in-law, Judith dressed me for the Ball in a long white dress with a wide gold sash around my waist and a gold and white turban on my head.  When I saw myself in the mirror I thought I looked like Annie Harvey, the Obeah woman in Kingston, but Mrs Hurt and Mrs Attwood said I looked lovely. 

When the first huntsman arrived he gave me his programme.

“I think you are in the  wrong place”

“This is the Hunt Ball isn’t it?”

“Yes, but you’re supposed to be in an evening suit”.  

“My dear girl, the huntsmen come to the Hunt Ball in their hunting jacket” he said.

No one had told me that the huntsmen come in their red coats. Captain and Mrs Hurt were coming down the spiral staircase and she looked lovely in a lilac evening dress.

 “What’s the matter Carmen”. 

“I was just telling this gentleman that he was in the wrong place”. 

Mrs Hurt was very apologetic to the gentleman and said she should have explained to me that the huntsmen come in their uniform.  I felt very foolish, but the gentleman and Mrs Hurt were very nice about it.

Oh it was a wonderful sight, all those handsome men in their red hunting jackets and the ladies looking beautiful in their evening dresses. 

 ******

 Our last day:   This morning Captain Hurt gave Marie a present beautifully wrapped and tied with a pink ribbon.  The present was so big I had to help her open it and out came a whopping big doll.  She was the most beautiful doll I’ve ever seen and she was as big as Marie.

 Marie was speechless, but beaming. 

“Susie”, she finally said, hugging the doll tight.  It was a wonderful present from the Hurts and made my little girl very happy.

Mrs Hurt gave me a month’s holiday pay and arranged for Marie to go into a nursery in Basingstoke for two weeks so that I could have a holiday and promised to give me a good reference for my next position. 

“Carmen, I don’t want to pry into your personal life and I only do so now because I’m fond of you and Marie, but for Marie’s sake don’t you think you should contact your family”.

Mrs Hurt had no idea I had already seen Sydney, nor did she know I had an Aunt in London.  I had never discussed anything about my family with the Hurts.

“I don’t think you realise how hard life could become for you both.  There are many people, including the authorities, who consider an unmarried mother unfit to bring up a child and may even try and take her from you”. 

I was deeply touched by her concern for us and wanted to hug her, like I would Mammie, but I was a servant and that wouldn’t have been acceptable, so I just said

“I will think about it”.  

I hope Mrs Hurt is wrong.  I think my guardian angel has returned to watch over me and Marie.  We have been lucky so far;  we have met nice people like the Sister Pateman and Sister Warner at the nursery, the Hurts, even Matron and Miss Franks have been very, very, kind. 

 <—Life as a Servant

 

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<—Colonel & Mrs Hurt                                        Sydney comes to London —>

Olga’s Diary (Continued)

Dear Diary

News from Home: I received a letter with a Christmas card in it today. 

It was such a surprise when Mrs Hurt handed it to me.  It had been on a long journey.  Matron, at St Giles, had forwarded it to the Refuge.  Miss Franks had forwarded it on to Sister Pateman, who thank goodness, had put it in a fresh envelope, with a little note to me saying she hoped Marie and I were well and please keep in touch with them.              

 At first I was so excited when I opened the envelope and saw the letter was from Ruby and when I saw the censor and his black pen had been at work again.  I cried, there was so little left for me to read.   Thank goodness the censor had left the Christmas card alone. 

Every year Sydney sends his customers a Christmas card, but not usually one covered with snow.  It seems an odd choice really because it never snows in Jamaica, but, anyway, I’m going to keep it.  Sydney has three shops now, business must be good.   

Everyone is well and sends their love.  Darling Mammie told Sydney to tell me that she that she thinks of me all the time.   Dolly is getting married to a Syrian gentleman, but the family are not happy about it.  

They’re all worried about me because I haven’t written to them for ages but what can I tell them, not the truth.  My life has changed so much.  I’m not ashamed of having a little girl, but I wish the circumstances were different.  I don’t want them to know about my life now.

  I couldn’t bear Mammie to see some of the work I have to do, cleaning out the dirty fireplaces every morning in the winter and cleaning silver.  

  Captain and Mrs Hurt are kind to me and especially Marie, I like them, but I know my place, after all I’m their servant.

******

Dear Diary

Mrs Hurt has an Irish housemaid, named Kathleen Ryan.  She doesn’t like me and I don’t like her one little bit.  I’d been putting away some linen in the cupboard on the first floor landing and I was in a hurry so I came down the front stairs.  Servants are supposed to use the back stairs and Kathleen saw me and told me off.  I told her Mrs Hurt didn’t mind me using the front stairs now and again and she called me an “uppity nigger with airs and graces”. 

I was shocked I can tell you.

“I’m not a nigger, I’m not black”.  I told her straight. Judith heard what Kathleen had said and told her mother-in-law.  Mrs Hurt was furious.  

Kathleen said she’d never worked with niggers before.

Mrs Hurt told Kathleen that if she wanted to continue to work for her, she was never to say that word again and if Kathleen didn’t want to work with me, “you can leave now”. Kathleen was crying and I was unhappy too. 

Mrs Attwood was very kind to me and made me a cup of tea and said “best thing that could happen would be for her to leave – good riddance to bad rubbish.  I’ve never liked the Irish”.   Mrs Attwood and I got on well together right from the beginning, but I was surprised that Mrs Hurt stood up for me. 

“She likes you Carmen, she thinks you have courage and so do I”.  Wasn’t that a nice thing to say?

******


Dear Diary

Peace at last:  The war in Europe had ended, finally.  I was in the kitchen when the news came over the radio.  Mr Churchill has ordered the next two days to be a national holiday.   The village organised a big party and everyone was invited and Union Jack flags were hanging out of nearly every window and on every tree.

There was bunting strung across from one cottage to another and a tea party on the village green where everyone brought cakes, sandwiches, fizzy drinks and there was dancing and singing.  Lovely cakes.

Everyone from Hendon Hall went, all the staff and the Hurts and we all had a wonderful time.  It was so nice to see everyone so happy, particularly Captain and Mrs Hurt, because their sons would be coming home. 

 

<—Colonel & Mrs Hurt                                     Sydney comes to London —>

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