Olga’s Diary (Continued)
Sister Warner sent me to Massey’s Employment Agency in Baker Street, London, to apply for a live-in cook/housekeeper position so that I can have Marie with me. The reception room was very big with four cubicles down one side of the room. Two of the cubicles had a curtain drawn across them for privacy and in the other two there was a small table and two chairs.
There were three well dressed women waiting and behind a big desk was a middle aged woman with glasses that sat on the end of her nose. Her grey hair was plaited into two pigtails, each one pinned either side of her head. She looked very stern, but, when I went up to her she smiled at me. I told her my name and that I wanted a job as a cook, although I couldn’t cook, but was willing learn. She told me to go and wait in one of the cubicles and draw the curtain.
I sat there for a few minutes on my own and then a tall, slender, elegant lady came into the cubicle and sat down opposite me. She said her name was Mrs Hurt and she had a big house in Billericay in Essex. She had two sons Michael and Edward, who were away in the Navy and she needed someone to help keep her house orderly and cook for her, her husband, who was retired, and her daughter-in-law. She said she has a cook at the moment, Mrs Attwood, who has worked for Mrs Hurt over 30 years, but she is old now and wants to retire. Mrs Hurt asked me to tell her something about myself.
I told her my name, but said everyone calls me Carmen. I don’t know why I said that really, because it’s not true. I’ve never liked the name Olga and Carmen sounds so much prettier.
I told her I had a baby daughter and I wanted a job where she could come with me. I said I hadn’t a husband and, I waited for her to ask questions why, but she didn’t. So I continued explaining that I wanted a job in a private house as a cook, although I couldn’t cook, but I was willing to learn. I thought it seemed a lot to ask.
“Carmen, Mrs Attwood can teach you to cook, so how would you like to come and work for me”. My heart leapt.
“I would love to”.
Hendon House: A week later she picked me up from the nursery in her car and drove me and Marie down to Hendon House, her home in Billericay. It was a great big house and in the hall is a grandfather clock that chimes on the hour, every hour, and always makes me jump when I hear it. There is a wide spiral mahogany staircase with pictures hanging on dark rich wood panelling, Rembrandt and Reynolds type paintings of the Hurts’ ancestors, their eyes following you as you climb the stairs.
Marie and I have the west wing all to ourselves, which sounds very grand I know, but really it is just a bedroom and our very own sitting room and bathroom.
How wonderful! My very own bathroom.
Mrs Attwood and her husband have their own little cottage in the village. Of course, I knew with the war going on it was hard for people like Mrs Hurt to find staff because women were being called up to work for the war effort but even so, I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to be offered this job and was determined to do my best.
As soon as I had unpacked, I’d handed our rations books to Mrs Hurt. There was no shortage of fresh vegetables there because they grew their own and had done for years. They also had orchards with apple, pear and plum trees and they kept chickens.
On my first day Mrs Attwood showed me where the vegetable garden was and asked me to pull up some lettuces and then wash them. I returned flushed with success with two beautiful lettuces and went to the scullery to wash them thoroughly under running water. When I took them in to the kitchen Mrs Hurt was sitting at the kitchen table reading the newspaper and when Mrs Attwood saw the lettuce.
“What the hell have you done to them?”
“The water was so cold I washed them in hot water” I told her.
She and Mrs Hurt thought it was hilarious and the pair of them couldn’t stop laughing.
Every morning I have to make up a breakfast tray for Captain and Mrs Hurt and take it to their room. They are an elderly couple and are usually still in bed when I knock on the door. The pair of them look so sweet sitting up side by side in their bed. They talk to each other with great affection; honestly they are lovely. I call them Derby and Joan to Mrs Attwood but not in front to their faces.
Later on I have to tidy their bedroom and then tidy and dust the drawing room. Although the drawing room is big, it has a homely feel to it. There is a grand fireplace with a mantelpiece above and it has a beautiful marble clock on it.
The sofas and armchairs are big and comfortable and the occasional tables on either side each have a bronze table lamp, as well as lots of photographs of the children. There’s a rosewood sideboard with a pair of matching vases and Mrs Attwood told me they are very rare and worth a lot of money. I wish she hadn’t told me that because now I dread dusting them in case I break them. On the walls are even more pictures of the Hurts’ ancestors.
There’s a glass cabinet which has their porcelain tea service displayed in it. In the corner is a wind up gramophone and a big pile of records. It reminds me of the Nurses Home in St Giles because we had one in the sitting room. I try not to think about St Giles; I get upset if I do.
Miss Judith, is married to Michael, Captain and Mrs Hurt’s youngest son, and has two lovely boys, Patrick, who was nine and Nicholas, who was 10. They are at boarding school in Windsor but home now for the school holidays. Patrick has taken a fancy to Marie and wherever he goes he takes her with him.
Captain Hurt is very fond of Marie too. He came into the kitchen this morning and said
“She’ll only bother you here, why don’t you let her help me pick some apples”.
They have an apple orchard and grow coxes apples and they were the sweetest apples I’ve ever tasted. When I went to fetch Marie the other day, she was wearing Captain Hurt’s hat and they were both walking together with their heads bowed and hands behind their backs.
Oh God she looked so cute.
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