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Archive -> 1918-1925 -> ‘As a Tale That is Told’ Extract 57 Page 186-1999

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‘As a Tale That is Told’ Extract 57 Page 186-1999

Interlude and life as a adoptee Mother

After I left the Isle of Dogs I had a delightful interlude which lasted for three years immediately after the signing of the Armistice.

I took a thatched cottage in the lovely village of Amberley. I said I was going to have one year’s complete rest, to recover my health after the stress and strain of the war. I said I would not even have a cat to feed.

Before many weeks I had a small boy six years old, before long another boy a year older and between them they acquired a dog, a cat, a goat, a rabbit and a parrot.

There was no water supply except a well in the middle of the kitchen, no light, not a drain nor a tap, nothing could have been more primitive. There was no public telephone and no private one that I knew of, no ‘buses, very few trains from the station a mile off. And I had difficulty in getting any domestic help, all the women were busy letting rooms mostly to artists who loved the village.

So my time of rest vanished and I began an entirely new life for which I did not feel at all suited. The back-ache! when every evening I carried up kettles

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of hot water heated on an oil stove and standing the boys one after the other in a saucer bath, I scrubbed them all over and then tipped the water from the basin over them.

Did boys ever get so dirty? They were fond of the horse-pond and would come in dripping with green slime, explaining that they had had to sit down at the edge in order to catch some aquatic beast. And they loved going up on the downs farm in the dung cart. “Oh! I do smell of dung,” said the youngest one tea-time. He explained that when the road was rough he had had to sit down on the dung. One evening they were missing. They had been out since morning and had taken no food. As dinner time was always a very effective call home I got anxious. The whole village got anxious. The old lady next door could not enjoy her afternoon nap, she told me the dewpond on the downs was very full just now and she wept. The policeman mounted his bicycle and helped in the search.

At dusk I met them coming home looking enchanting with arms full of wild flowers, sun-burnt and tired. I gave them a good meal, bathed them and put them to bed. They slept the clock round and woke refreshed and happy. Next day they went off again. This time we all took things calmly. When they arrived they found one round of bread awaiting them for tea, no bath, straight to bed. They were not a bit daunted and assured me they had much enjoyed their

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tea. But they never strayed away again. Their spirits were dauntless. One day they had been very naughty, so I said they must stay in all afternoon and must put on pyjamas so that they could not go out. “Can we sing?” “Oh yes, you can sing.” How could I have stopped them? One sang revival hymns, the other nursery rhymes, both sang together and the effect was rather trying to a listener. They came down to tea saying how much they had enjoyed their afternoon.

I loved Amberley and I loved the village people and made many friends there.

Then, when the two boys no longer needed me in

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the same way, David went back to his home and Anthony to a Prep School at Littlehampton. The Interlude ended and I moved to a little house I built in Littlehampton and in two years was made a Justice of the Peace, recommended to that office by the Labour Party.
 



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‘As a Tale That is Told’ Extract 57 Page 186-1999