Blackberry Lane – Episode 21

Late 1943

IT was pretty clear that the country was gearing up for something – and something big! Town and countryside alike were bristling with troops. They were mostly Americans, but a sprinkling came from all the different commonwealth countries. It certainly made life interesting.

Then there were the piles of equipment! It clogged up the roads as it was transported between camps. In fact, the whole country was beginning to look like one huge military base.

For Jeanie, trying to keep to her regular visits, delays became common-place. Most of her leave was taken up with travelling, and it robbed her of precious hours on the farm.

As she finally arrived at the village station on a cold winter’s evening, she was regretting telling Amos not to meet her. It had seemed only fair at the time; she’d had no way of knowing when she’d arrive. Now, though, with the trees looming overhead ominously and blocking out what little moonlight there was, she rather wished she’d not been so noble.

As she fished about for her little torch, which had buried itself in the bottom of her handbag, a familiar reassuring voice came out of the gloom.

“Hello, Jeanie.”

“Oh, Archie! Am I pleased to see you! I thought I’d never get here.”

“Thought I’d come and walk with you; it’s a dark old road.”

“But you must have been waiting ages…”

“I came down after I finished the milking. Here,” he reached out, “let me take that case.”

They walked along together, chatting companionably. She was so immersed in their conversation that it took her by surprise when the house came into view.

“Mum!” the boys greeted her with relief as she entered. “We thought something had happened to you.”

“No, no.” She hugged them. “Just the trains delayed again.”

“You must be famished,” Kate said.

“Well, I must admit it’s been a good while since I ate anything.”

“We’ve got one more egg here. I’ll do it for you on a thick slice of toast.”

“Oh, that would be lovely.”

“And a quick cup of tea for you, Archie?”

“Why not? Thanks.” He lowered himself on to the chair opposite Jeanie, who was sitting flanked by her sons.

“So, what’s going on down your way?” Ted asked her with interest.

“Oh, it’s a nightmare! There’s areas of the coast that are completely out of bounds. We have to take detours all the time. Sent miles out of our way, we are.”

Kate set the plate of food in front of Jeanie, who continued to talk as she attacked it.

“I’ve even heard that whole villages are being requisitioned, and families ordered to move home.”

“Ah!” Ted exclaimed. “Now that’s interesting! Bet they’re getting ready to do military exercises. Like Winston said,” he raised his clenched fist into the air, “we will fight them on the beaches!”

“Yeah, but wasn’t he talking about them invading us?” Stella chipped in.

“He might have been, back then,” Ted agreed. “Tables have turned now, though. We’re after ’em. We’ve got ’em on the run.”

Maureen got up from the table suddenly and made for the stairs.

“See you in the morning,” she said quietly.

“You’d think she was the only one with a bloke to worry about,” Stella muttered.

“Now don’t be nasty,” Kate remonstrated mildly. She knew how worried Maureen was at the idea of Marcus going into battle.

Neither girl was seeing anything of their men these days. Even when they weren’t on manoeuvres, they were confined to camp and forbidden to fraternise with the locals.

Kate felt for Maureen, but there was little she could say to the girl. After all, her hopes and prayers for Ken hadn’t kept him safe.

For Marcus, along with thousands of others, this war was just a dreadful game of chance. All the women could do was wait.


May, 1945

THE little terraced house in Payne’s Road was enjoying a spring clean like no other. Jeanie was so excited. There was something in the air – a sense that the war was drawing to a close

She began feverishly to reorganise her home, wanting to make it welcoming for the boys. Things they would remember from childhood were dusted and polished lovingly, then set out ready to greet them.

New bits and pieces were added – things which would appeal to an older Russ and Marty.

Their little beds looked hopeless for the big lads they’d become, so she spent some of her hard-earned money on a pair of twin beds.

She placed them in the big bedroom, and moved all her things into the smaller back room. After all, she thought, there’s two of them, and I don’t need much space now.

All she needed was Russ and Marty home with her.


Tracey Steel

Having worked on a number of magazines over the years, Tracey has found her perfect place on The Friend as she’s obsessed with reading and never goes anywhere without a book! She reads all the PF stories with a mug of tea close by and usually a bit of strong cheese too!