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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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 <—Life in a Wartime Nursery : Wimbledon         Life as a Servant —>

Olga’s Diary (Continued)

Dear Diary

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. 

 <—Life in a Wartime Nursery : Wimbledon         Life as a Servant —>

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