Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Nella Last

I have just finished reading the edited wartime diaries of Nella Last, who lived in Barrow-on-Furness in Cumbria. Her husband was a master carpenter, and she had two sons, Cliff and Arthur. She was a "housewife" until the outbreak of the war, when she joined the Womens' Voluntary Service and helped to run a canteen and a charity shop. She suffered from "nerves" and had had a breakdown the year before the diary begins. She kept the diary for the Mass Observation project, and apparently kept scribbling for over 30 years. The entries are fascinating as she talks about the food problems, the rationing, the bomb shelter, keeping chickens in the back garden and growing cabbages amongst the rose bushes. Arthur was in a reserved occupation as a tax inspector, but Cliff joined the army, initially as a PT instructor. It is a truly fascinating insight into one woman's experience of the war. I also bought the DVD of the film that Victoria Wood (fab UK actress and writer) wrote based on the diaries, and I sat and watched that this morning. It was very moving - as well as Nella's thoughts about the war, we also get a picture of a marriage that is teetering on the brink but one that seems to pull through - divorce was uncommon those days. I can recommend the book, and will be looking out for a copy of "Nella Last's Peace" which contains some of her post-war entries.

I found time to watch that this morning as I had taken the EFG to the sports centre for the day again, and the YFG had gone with the FH to an auction on the Norfolk/Suffolk border to sell some hens and rabbits. After watching that, and hanging out the washing, I managed to clean out a hen house - it was a lovely sunny day and it was a joy to be outside! Unfortunately, I got rather a lot of chicken poo on my trousers and straw everywhere, so I had to come in for a shower before lunch!

After picking the EFG up again at 3, we went to Lidl's for orange juice and cat food, Woolworths for two birthday presents, and the local book shop for a browse. By the time we got home, the others had just got back and were having a cup of tea. The FH had had instructions to buy some green veggies (success - he got a cabbage and a cauliflower) and some eggs (he got some, yes) but he bought 3 trays of eggs - that is 90 eggs!!!! They are free range eggs, and worked out at £1 a dozen, so I rang a few friends and sold 5 dozen. That leaves me with one tray - much more manageable.

After tea, I weighed out some dried fruit and have set it to soak overnight in the orange juice and some brandy so that I can make two Christmas cakes in the morning. I am looking forward to the smell of the cakes as they cook - it is just a most delicious smell!! I have been using a Good Housekeeping recipe since 2000 when I first found it and used it the week before Christmas! It worked well even with no time to mature, but it does get a little better with keeping, and so this year it will have about 7 weeks, I think. Plenty of time!

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