Gossip from England

Cyn had close friends to keep in touch with, as well as her mother, and she was so fortunate that Dottie, Nan, Anne and others wrote to tell her about what was going on in their lives and to gossip about what was happening with friends and acquaintances. In her letters to her mother she mentions Joan Cox’s wedding and hopes that she will hear about it soon.  The letter telling her survived and is presented here, showing quite a different voice and tone! Anne Winnick was a colleague from Coleridge in Cambridge where Cyn had taught, and since she was still teaching, caught her up with all the gossip from the school as well as the details of the wedding. And she finishes with a personal bombshell, probably why the letter was kept.  Anne had married Tadek, who had come to England as a Polish soldier during the war, but has now become a British citizen and got his degree.  Joan Cox’s sister also seems to have married a Pole, and they are the hosts at the wedding, with their son as the entertainment, apparently.

Joan Cox married Don Humphris, June 1950.

12 Haskington Grove 

Cambridge 

25.7.50.

My dear Cyn, 

First I must – or rather we must congratulate you both on your wedding anniversary and wish you all joy for many dozens of years to come. Thank you very much for your letter – you let me wait so long that the news piles up and by the time I write I forget it nearly all, anyhow I have such a pile today that I have to spend a shilling on the letter – an email letter would not be enough. By the time you have read it all you will be all out- flat out-exhausted – so you had better find a really comfortable seat & have a glass of something handy & a fan full on- you’ll need it!! Joan’s wedding- Tadek & I both went, it was a glorious day, the best day of the summer so far. Cambridge was even mentioned that day on the B.B.C. for having the highest temps. & the most sunshine. Joan looked very nice indeed in a white lace gown with a train & a little crown & veil – a very pretty frock, no bridesmaids. The groom & all the other gents wore morning suits & looked quite handsome. There were lots of children around and in the church little Stefan Cembrowicz kept on chanting after the parson & when the choir boys kept on kneeling down he called out “we all pop down”! The people were in fits as you can guess. In fact little Stefan was the centre of attraction all day – he is a cute little kid. The reception was held in De Freville Avenue- the house of course – & the garden which looked very nice for a change. The food was excellent & Jerome & Gwen made a good host & hostess- they had about four waitresses from somewhere – plenty of drinks & ice creams- & Stefan running around – once in the nude because his shoulder straps fell off his trousers – you should have seen & heard the dear old ladies – they were afraid to go to the rescue- Tadek had to go to the rescue in the end. When Tadek asked him in Polish where he lived he answered correctly. A telegram from your mother was read out with the others. Edward has some lovely pictures of the wedding in his window-big ones- taken at & in the church & at home. After the wedding they went off in Don’s little car with an assortment of cans & junk tied underneath by the wedding guests. The whole afternoon was really a very enjoyable affair & had a very amusing sequel for me – would you like to hear it – here goes. During the reception I recognized a girl who I thought was a teacher I had seen somewhere & apparently the same went for her because she came up to me & asked me whether she was right in thinking I taught at Coleridge as she was once on the Boys Department etc. & she sent her love to Waddy & Kay Harper. She had come up for the occasion especially from Surrey or Sussex. I gave the message to Waddy but forgot her name it was so funny- Bridie Elmper [?]. After describing her Waddy guessed it & said – “whatever is she doing here – she lives with her husband in Surrey & has no relatives here – the only person she knows lives in Royston where she taught once & on whom she was crazy in spite of being married to a fellow in the army – Don Humphris!!” “Well – that was the fellow who got married” said I- “Good Lord”– said Waddy “he ran around with Bridie even came to Coleridge to take her out when she came here & then met Kay Norman & took her about & the two women had a dreadful row over him & in the end he married someone else who was killed last year by lightning on the Royston golf course”! All this was news to me & I gasped as you can guess especially when Waddy said lots of women were crazy on Don- she apparently even went with the party to a pub now and then because she was very fond of this Bridie. Fancy Bridie coming up to the wedding & tagging her husband along too!! Did you know Don was a widower- do you remember that woman getting killed last year summer- I do. It certainly seemed funny that Waddy should give me the lowdown on this romance. Well so much for Joan. 

Marion Knight is getting married in September to a R.A.F. chap from Bassingbourne whom she apparently knew from Blackpool days. She brought him to the school sports & he seemed a jolly nice fellow, not like Marion’s usual types. He is big John, little John is going into a boarding school after Xmas & Wimpole Park of course closes down in Sept. all works out very well!!! 

Pearl Cutting is leaving at the end of term- this week & is going to teach in the Open Air School here – she gave in her notice here like Jessie Fisher & had no where to go – but now she has taken this job – I don’t envy her. Jessie Fisher by the way is still in her Naval school, she wrote to Pam the other week that she went to the Ascot races but but does not say whether she was in the Royal Enclosure!!! Pam searched through all the Society Magazines but could find no picture of dear Jessie!!

Do you remember meeting Brenda Brine- the new P.T. in the staff whom you said looked nice – well her life has been one eternal row with Howlett & she has told the office she can’t stick it any longer & is going to walk out at the end of term. I had a letter from your mother the other day saying how happy she was & wanting to know all about Joan’s wedding – I must answer her sometime. I met Ethel Pasquier who came over on a brief visit to England en route to the Continent, she came to Cambridge to see me (or Mrs. Desely who was away) & spent only a couple of hours here. I whisked her around the famous spots & she wrote a few postcards, one to you, gave my two pairs of nylons Marie had sent Mrs. Desely & I, & rushed back to London. She is a sweet little thing- told me of you & Cec & how happy they all are you are back in the States. Ruth & another America friend of hers Mary, were here last week Mon- Wednesday. Ruth is just the same- she came to school one afternoon to see the grand Historical Pageant the kids were giving to the public afternoon & night – you can guess how old Howlett was-Ruth thought she was awful, of course she had quite a lot of information from me first. Pam & Waddy are off to Austria on Sunday but are desperately worried as they have not heard about their passage, ticket, money, passport etc. They went to see about it today & Pam got hers, not Waddy & you ought to have seen Pam, she was more upset than Waddy about it – in the depths of despair & on the verge of tears. Sheila & the other D.Sc. Irene are very good pals now and I am so glad- you ought to hear Sheila tell old Howlett off- she went to her room one night after school & told Howlett she strongly resented her interference in her cookery lessons as had been going on lately. Old H. was so taken aback she began to soft soap Sheila & say how good she is & how grateful H. is to her for everything etc. Her Bob is still going strong – one weekend he comes to her- the other she goes to him – but poor old Sheila is worried lately about her father he has gone to a nursing home for mental trouble & strain – although he & her mother have just spent a long holiday in Norway & Sweden. Well the bigger news is coming up- Rosemary & Bill are still going strong, so strong in fact that Rosemary is going to get married! Not official yet but everyone knows! Bill is just looking for a house & Rosemary for a job in Essex near Saffron Walden where he works! What d’ye know!! She took him to the Pageant the other night- I did not go, I had Ruth etc. here but the others say she would not introduce him – he looked handsome enough with long fair hair plastered down & rather a village type – in fact Sheila says she thinks he smells!!! she could not bear to go near him. Poor Bill- poor Rosemary – but she is terribly excited- she takes him home & she goes to his home & by the things she says to me it is high time they married, if I knew Cec would not read this I would tell you a few juicy tales!! my ears flap and my eyes pop out when I listen!! Well how are you feeling- exhausted yet- well beware here comes the final knockout blow, steady yourself- take the glass in your hand for I am going to have a baby in December yes you read right – I am – Xmas Eve- but no one at school knows yet except Sheila, I dare not to tell old Howlettt I am leaving at the end of September- I shall have to go to the Office in the holiday & tell them the news- I think I shall only ask for a leave of absence now and then they won’t be so mad at me not giving in my notice before. Anyhow I really may have to go back if Tadek does not get a permanent job. Yes – it took us by surprise too – let it be a warning – don’t risk anything- not even once!!!! And to think that Jean Reed is going to all that trouble!! I’m beginning to get a bit bulgy but so far the weather has been cool & I have worn a short jacket, thank goodness only 3 more days of term, no one has noticed yet I think although this is my fifth month- but they soon will- now. Better start knitting old gal – I haven’t yet – in fact I dare not think of it. I have had to go to the hospital for lectures etc. etc. & once went to school only at 3 o’clock after hospital- saying I was not well! Luckily I have been very well- not once sick – so no one can guess.  I dreamt you were having one in January – what fun!!! I think I’ll wind up – enough news for one letter & I think it deserves a speedy reply don’t you. Very much love as ever – all best to Cec. Hope you will soon revive after reading this- Anne. 

P.S. Keep my baby a secret too.

P.S. Rosemary has had to move digs twice since I last wrote about her new digs – her landladies have told her to go- I wonder why!!!

Christmas 1949

As Cyn told her Mother, she and Cec had plans for Christmas!  Their Goodbye Cambridge Party was postponed until January, but I’m sure they had Carol to stay and fed Cec’s hungry friends on Christmas Day.  And Cyn’s Christmas card list was colossal- 127 names listed!  As it appeared Cec had done in the past, they sent a card with a photograph- his had been scenes of Cambridge, but this year, they sent their wedding photo.  To Cyn’s list of relatives in Ireland, America, England, and the West Indies and her friends in England and America, was added all Cec’s friends and relations in Canada and England, their wedding guests, plus ‘professional’ names- professors, and Admiralty contacts.  Some they were saying goodbye to, some they would be seeing in the new year.

Cyn’s teaching career was ending, with the usual Christmas task for the Cookery teacher, her student’s decorated Christmas cakes.

And, as with schools everywhere, there was the Christmas Concert, with musical numbers and what seems to be a Nativity Scene. I’m sure there was also a farewell tea for Cynthia, with good wishes from her colleagues.

And at home there was a happy domestic Christmas, with a tree, presents, Cyn’s lists, a good dinner with friends, and, of course, a cat.

October 1949

Throughout their final term in England, Cyn and Cec were planning and preparing for their move to the University of Michigan.  This included lots of paperwork, booking passage across the Atlantic for themselves, packing and arranging for the transport of their belongings, and, in Cyn’s case, saying goodbye to her life in England and her family and friends there.  I think it must have been during her half-term holiday that they are planning in this letter to go north to Newcastle to say goodbye to her father and her friends, with their husbands, wives, and new babies!  Business was also necessary: as Carol Ewing was also leaving England, Cyn was going to see her lawyer, Mr Kirby, and sort out her money for the future.  And she was taking up what seems to be a wedding present for her friend Joan.  Included in the envelope was a note that accompanied the parcel of clothes Carol had left behind and Cyn has found and sent to her on the next day.

37, de Freville Ave.

Cambridge.

Monday 

Dearest Mummy,

I was going to get this written last night, but I went & had my bath & washed my hair first, then who should arrive but Frank & Al! I think every man I’ve ever met has seen me with my hair wet! So I didn’t get anything done at all.

Thank you so much for both your letters – I will begin & answer them first, then tell you our doings. I was silly not to think of paying the cheque straight into your account, but maybe you would have to endorse it anyway. I will put it in, & ask about that. I will keep all the questions you want me to ask Kirby & will go and see him on Mon. or Tues, morning- anytime between 10.30 & 12.0. Will you write & make the appointment for me? We will go up to N/C overnight on Friday (28th Oct) & will try & get sleepers, so as not to be too worn out on Sat. Then I have suggested to Dottie & Irene that we spend Sat. & Sun. with Dottie & Mon & Tue. with Irene. We will be travelling back Tues. but we won’t have to leave till the afternoon. I had meant to stay this time with Dottie & maybe later with Irene, but she seems so keen to have us, & Cec is very doubtful whether he will have time to go up later on, so I thought we had better split our visit & make sure this time. We are going to have a party at Tilleys when we are up! We have written to Tilley’s & booked a table for Sat. evening, & I have asked Dottie to invite herself, Nan & Dick, Irene & Bill, Joan, Pam & Sam. We thought it would be fun, & a good way of seeing everyone while we were there. I will drop a line to Denis and Dorothy & try to see them Sun. evening. I wrote to Joan Turnbull & I have got her two little maps (like my little ones) of Durham & Westmoreland, & am getting them framed & will take them up when I go.

About seeing my Father, I think I will wait & ring up when I get there & ask again. Do you think I should write to him & ask him if he wants to see me? I could tell him if he doesn’t want to write to tell Dr. Murphy to let me know when I phone. It may be that he has told the Drs he doesn’t want to see us again, & if so I will leave it. It is a pity that Bar is coming so close to when we go up to N/C because it would be nice for you to come through for the day, but if we get sleepers we will go to N/C via London & will maybe have time for you to have dinner with us. Cec is thinking of going up earlier in the day & I will come straight from school, so we could all meet. Anyway, you can come & see us after we get back.

Cec & I were talking about Christmas the other day & we have all sorts of plans! First of all, we want you to come here – say on Wednesday 21st or 22nd. I finish on 16th, so have a nice long time beforehand & we plan to have a Christmas party- probably on 21st, so it would be nice if you could come for that! Then we have asked Frank & Al to come for Christmas dinner, as they both think they will be in Cambridge. On 27th, we thought we would come to London & if Miss Lefroy wouldn’t mind having us, then we would love to stay with you. We would stay until the Thurs. or Fri. & plan to book seats for us all to go to the Ice Show (let me know if AGL & Chris will be there & would like to go) & to take you to the Ballet “Sleeping Beauty”! Then we will come back to Cambridge for New Year! After that, will start a round of goodbye parties, because not only us but Al & Frank & maybe George are all going, but we reckon our Christmas party will be our contribution! Then packing of course!

I’m glad you & Ruth had a nice tea together. I had a letter from her & one from Amy, but of course haven’t got anywhere near answering them yet! I am glad that you enjoyed “Hamlet” again, but can just imagine how Chris and AGL would discuss it, and I can imagine that they would find it tiring. I am enclosing 2 W. Present Lists- I haven’t sent anyone except Cec’s mother, but thought I might take one to N/C if Irene or Nan wanted to see. I laughed & laughed about Irene’s remarks re. Sandy! I gathered from her letter to me that she didn’t think he was anything much! I will have to give you my opinion!

I haven’t excavated the things out of the trunk yet, but will do so tomorrow & send the dress & skirt to you. I laughed at your suddenly remembering your dress, but I haven’t the faintest idea of what it looks like! Far from not buying any more clothes, Cec is encouraging me to buy more! He says clothes (woollen particularly) in US & Canada, are so dear that we had better get them here, & also we will probably be hard up in Ann Arbor! So I have got some grey & pink woollen material for Beryl to make me a dress & some cheap silk jersey too! I think I might get a tweed suit too before I go!!

Thank you for Bella’s money. I have written to A. Moo & to A. Mil as well & thanked them for the nighties. I was sorry about poor Aunt Ettie. I have finished my Thank You Letters!  Cec told me not to breathe a word to you & see if you asked again!

We had quite a quiet week last week until Friday when I had a nice day. Sheila & I took 60 kids to a Food Hygiene Exhibition at the Guildhall (very boring!) had lunch in town, went back to school for 1 hour, & then to a D.S. course which turned out to be a flower arranging demonstration!

On Sat. I had coffee with Rosemary & lunch with Cec, then home. Anne had been absent from school for two days, so I was going to see her, & had a card from Len cancelling our date for that evening as Connie wasn’t well, so I visited both. They both seemed to have the same type of thing- livery, gastric flu type. Anne was still in bed, but is at school today, but Connie was up & feeling much better & decided she could go out all night. So we all met at the Union at 7.0 o’clock & had dinner & then went & played bridge at Connie’s. Sunday was a horrid day, & Cec had been kept awake with Connie’s coffee so I let him sleep & I got up & fed Spiv & did some chores & went back to bed again! We had a cup of coffee at about 12 o’clock & breakfast about 1.0! Then we cycled into town in the rain as Cec had to go & leave a message about Canada Club with Dr. Grace, then we went on to Bob & Veronica’s & invited them to tea next Sunday. Then we had a cup of tea when we got home & our dinner at 6:30! (Veal stuffed!) (With trifle with sherry in!)

Next weekend we have a proper do! Rosemary and “her” John come to dinner on Sat. & Bar to stay on Monday. I have invited George & your friend Charlie to dinner while Bar is here, so that she can help me cook & they can entertain her! Cec said the boys were very pleased- he was having tea with them at the time- & George was just going to have another cake when he drew back his hand & said “No- I’m going to start saving up right now!”

I must stop- I finished this at school dinnertime (Tues) & the girls will be here in a min.      

Lots & lots of love

              from 

            Cyn

Dearest Mummy,

Here is your parcel of Ole Clo’se! I was most disappointed to find it was that blue dress – I thought it was a new one I’d forgotten about! The skirt wasn’t in the trunk- it was in an old box in Cec’s room & I had quite a search for it – I also found the blouse etc. & I am enclosing them. There are 1 or 2 old aprons & bed jackets & your fur coat still here – and your feather hat of course! I am enclosing a piece of wool from Cec’s sweater if you could get it matched for me (4 ozs). Also I have been meaning to ask you- would you like me to send you on any of McCalls? It seems a pity that you shouldn’t see them.

Must stop now & go to bed – I made tea for 60 for one of Howlett’s do’s & am fair wore out!

Lots & lots of love

              from 

            Cyn

August 22 1949

From Cyn’s Scrapbook.

37, de Freville Ave. 

Cambridge. 

22nd  Aug. 1949. 

Dearest Mummy,

Thank you so much for your letter which we received this morning. I meant to write yesterday, but what with unpacking & eating we didn’t seem to have a moment! Today has been busy too, but Cec is now doing the washing up for me while I write. Isn’t he nice?!

As you will see, we are returning Cliff’s snaps to you and are sending Cec’s for you to see. We went to see Edward this afternoon, and he is doing us some prints and enlarging some, so we will let you have some later. We also ordered our pictures & the ones for N/C & some for Cec’s people, but decided we would order what we wanted for relatives etc. later, & might even send some at Christmas as Ray suggested. We weren’t sure of what size the N/C ones were to be, so we ordered postcard size, Edward said that he had sent you yours yesterday, so you will have them to show Mary. He had a big picture of the group with you & Charlie in, & a little one of the kids throwing confetti, in his window. I have just been telling Cec that you & Charlie look like the little man & woman on the weather gauge- like little Noah’s Ark-y people, & he thinks it is rude, but I mean it nicely! Edward said that he had sent you a different picture of you & Joan where you look nice, & that he could cut off Joan, so let us know if you like it & we’ll have some done that way.

This was Cyn and Cec’s wedding present to themselves. It seems to have fallen, but was fixed.

It was quite all right about our picture, by the way. We noticed it after a while & looked all about, for it, but more or less guessed what happened, as Cec had his doubts about the plaster at the time. We will go into the shop this week & see about it – we would like to get it done again I think, & Cec is going to fix rawlplugs for it & the mirror in the bedroom. We did see Joan, but it was before we noticed it had gone, so we were quite puzzled for a while, but I thought maybe you had forgotten to tell us! I’m glad it came to you in a flash, though!

Receipt for the wedding present map.

Since we saw you on Friday, we seem to have done such a lot, but really we haven’t done much at all. We went & got the snaps on Sat. A.M. & went to the Shipping Co. & took Cec’s watch to be mended, then back to the Gr. Eastern for lunch & caught the 2:15 train. We were home by 4 o’clock & found Gwen & Jerome still here to our surprise, & the new people in too. We dumped our things- found bread & veg. from Joan & lovely, beautiful gladiolas from Mrs. Ewing – thank you very, very much, Mummy. I looked up as I got out of a taxi & saw them & knew you had asked someone to get them for us. We went shopping straight away & Claude greeted us with great joy & quite compared notes on married life with us! Also gave me all my back rations, so we got masses of nice frying steak! On our way back we called in & said thank you to Joan & Ray & have invited them to dinner on Friday as it isn’t long before they go now.

We had Gwen & Jerome up for a drink of Cherry Brandy that evening as they were leaving next day. Joan is going on to them for a week when she returns and in the meanwhile the man downstairs is looking after Tilly & we are looking after Spiv!

Spiv

Sunday we slept late – despite the bed which is rather hard & lumpy & very small!  In Cannes we had 2 big divan beds pushed together to make one – here it is so small & the sides slope so that we roll into the middle. Sat night Cec won and got in the middle first, but last night I did! We didn’t seem to do anything except unpack & sort dirty clothes & cook & eat meals & take Tillie a walk, but we were busy all day! I forgot to say that Gwen has brought us the dearest kitchen cabinet. It is not very big, but so nice & neat & useful- I am delighted with it & don’t know how we would have managed without it. Also Jerome stained the other floors for us & they look very nice.

Today I sent off the cake & a note to Bebe. We decided not to send the other one to Canada, but if it is still OK by the time we go we will take it with us & deliver it ourselves. I think it should keep till Feb if Dottie says we should keep it for the christening! Cec did up the laundry & we had lunch & then went down to the Bank, Food Office, etc. & then on to Edward & Mr. Ward & home for tea. I also shopped this a.m. & washed my hair & so was busy again! Mr. Ward gave me all my back rations too, so we are wallowing! I talked to Mrs. Lock this p.m. & did the kitchen fire out & now I am going to have my bath & go to bed. The Locks are coming up for a drink tomorrow evening – they seem nice.

I forgot to say thank you too, Mummy, for my dear little stool – it is cute & so useful – thank you very much. By the way, let us know which day next week you will come- any will suit suit us, & stay overnight too if it is convenient. We will have a gossip!

Must stop now – love to AGL & thank her for her letter.

    With lots & lots of love 

      from Cyn

[Cec’s handwriting] Dear Mum,

We are settling in and it is really beginning to feel like home – it’s a wonderful feeling. See you next week. 

    Love Cec.

Cyn and Cec’s first home.

August 1949: Meanwhile, back at the the ranch..

While the newlyweds had their honeymoon, life went on among their friends and relations. Carol, the mother of the bride, had sent her choice of wedding photos to the groom’s family in Canada the week after the wedding. The Costains in Saskatoon made sure the news was spread, with quite a lot of biographical detail!

The Anglican Church at Chesterton, England, was the scene of a pretty wedding July 26 when Cynthia Hazell Ewing, daughter of Mrs. J. M. Ewing of Cambridge, England, became the bride of Lt.-Cmdr. Cecil Clifford Costain of Sutherland, son of Mr. and Mrs. Henry H. Costain. A reception was held in the Dorothy Cafe at Cambridge, the young couple leaving later for a honeymoon in Paris and Cannes. They will reside at 37 Freville Avenue, Cambridge.

The groom is a distinguished graduate in physics from the University of Saskatchewan, winner of an Empire scholarship and is now attending the University of Cambridge, England. For three and a half years during the war he served in the British Navy with the rank of lieutenant-commander and was in command of the radar squad on The Indomitable, winning the Distinguished Service Cross.

The bride was born in the West Indies, of English parents, and spent most of her life in England, with a year in Toledo, Ohio, as an exchange teacher.

They will return to Canada early in 1950, afterwards going to Ann Arbor, Michigan, for further graduate studies.

Cyn’s close childhood friend Denis was preoccupied with his own wedding two weeks after hers, and none of those invited above were able to attend, Cec and Cyn being in France and Carol packing up for London. But wedding presents and photographs were exchanged.

Denis and Dorothy Sheedy

And a week after that, in Newcastle, Cyn’s other childhood friend, Nan, had her baby and sent an announcement.

Nan and Dick Heslop’s son was called Sandy.

August 8 1949

After the wedding comes the honeymoon, where the bride and groom are off together, and life goes on for those left behind.  This letter is written by the mother of the bride to Cyn and Cec on their honeymoon, but was never sent since Carol had no address for the travelling pair.  She gives details of the aftermath of the celebration, but what she is most concerned with is packing.  Cyn and Cec are on their summer holiday and then they have one more term of school in Cambridge.  Their address will stay the same, but they are moving to the top flat in the building, and Carol is packing up and moving out of the flat downstairs that she and Cyn shared.  She will have a holiday in London with Miss Lefroy, her friend and former headmistress, and then stay in England until the new year, when changes are due for all of them.

In Cec’s letter to Cyn in March, he mentioned the dinner in honour of his professor, Dr. Gordon Sutherland, becoming a Fellow of the Royal Society.  Cec’s studies in physics in Cambridge with Dr. Sutherland had led to his specializing in spectroscopy, but Dr Sutherland had accepted a professorship at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  So Cec was going to continue his PhD with Dr Sutherland there, moving with Cyn to the U.S.A. in 1950, which meant Cyn would teach only until Christmas.  Carol, on the other hand, planned to go home to St Vincent, and live with her unmarried sister Muriel, so her packing involved sending the heavy remnants of her thirty years in England off by ship to the West Indies, and putting the rest of her goods into suitcases for the remaining months in England.

40 Elsworthy Rd.

Hampstead NW3, 

Monday, August 8th 49.

My darlings Cyn & Cec!

    We managed things very badly you dashed away & never gave me any address to write to- & I have your letter from London & your card & letter from Paris- & yet I can’t thank you for them, as I don’t know the name of your Cannes hotel.  I am hoping I may yet hear it, & get this to you before you leave – not that I suppose that you’ll miss a letter from me much, at this blissful time! I didn’t come to AGL’s until Friday 6th & I never intended to, as I knew I wouldn’t get through before then– but I also knew that if you thought I was staying alone there so long, you would make a fuss – so I just was vague!! It wasn’t a day too long, as I was busy up to the last. It wasn’t all work & no play though- as you will hear – Dotty was a wonderful help, & we laboured hard on the Wednesday getting all the china & glass etc. up – so much so that Dotty had to lie down & rest in the afternoon & in the evening- who should appear but Mr. Cooper and Edgar- I had completely forgotten they were coming on the Wed. so in my surprise I embraced them both warmly – much to Chris’s surprise & embarrassment I am sure!  We sat & chatted & then Bob & Lee came in to see your presents, I saw them earlier & told them to come. Dotty & I decided to leave out your presents in the sitting room for a day or 2 in case your friends came along. So I took Edgar & Chris up to see them too. Bob & Lee had just gone- when Edward appeared with the proofs of the wedding pictures – wasn’t he quick? They are all very good- some better than others– so much so I had such a job choosing one to send to your people Cec- in the end I picked one of just the two of you alone, although I thought some of you in the groups were better. Edward brought more than a dozen different proofs even one of you in the church– I think you will be pleased with them– he did a finished picture & brought it along Sat early- & I wrote a note to Mrs. Costain (senior!) & sent it off by air at once– so I do hope she got it in good time- I didn’t know what to do about ordering anymore, so I told Edward I w’d wait till you returned.

Thursday. Dotty & I worked away again, but she went to town shopping in the a.m. first, then we had lunch & lugged pots & pans etc. etc up When Joan came in she suggested the Pictures- & Dotty said yes she w’d treat us to dinner first. So we went to the Corner House & had a very good meal. I was certainly leading the High Life- as I forgot to tell you I had dinner at the University Arms with Charlie & Amy on the night of the wedding. We went to see “Passport to Pimlico” really very funny – & we enjoyed it – Then of course Dotty went next day early- & I went to town to the Bank & to pay numerous bills etc – & back home to do a bit more shifting & to begin my packing which was a big job but Connie came in so I got little done!

I did a little more on Sat a.m., but not much as Chris was calling for me at 12 to go to the ‘Garden House’ for lunch with him & onto the Senate House to see Edgar receive his doctorate-more High Life! It was a lovely day – so Chris & I sat in the Garden & chatted (poor fellow he has had a sad & trying time with Katie) had lunch, & then walked up to the Senate House– & I found the whole ceremony most interesting. Chris wanted me to come & have tea, but I had to get back- as I had Mrs. T. coming to clean the downstairs flat that afternoon. Sunday I packed & packed & on Tuesday I had to go out & buy a large suitcase & even so I couldn’t get everything in – & I expect you will curse & swear when you find a few odd things of mine lying about! By this time I was sleeping up in your flat, yes I went up there while Dotty was still there. Joan expected the couple in on Monday but they didn’t come until Tuesday, & then only left a few things & went off for a weeks hols- Joan gave me a hand on the Monday, & we shifted the old washstand, & I got up to the loft & packed away numerous pictures & books etc. that couldn’t be used. All your groceries etc. I just had to pack in a big box- Gwen & Jerome came before I left, & I showed them how there was just no where to put groceries – & Gwen is going to see what she can get. I think she will still be there on your return so that’s a good job. To return to my doings Chris & Edgar came in on the Monday evening & I gave them tea etc. – They left Camb: on Tuesday. That evening Pam phoned up that they w’d come thro’ Wednesday p.m. to see me, & later Joan A. came & asked me to supper on Wed.  I said I would if Pam & George weren’t too late. I did a big wash one of those days, & was busy ironing up to the last! It was lovely seeing Pam again, just the same dear old Pam, & what do you think? When George saw you had gotten new fuel for the gas fires, he insisted that they should pay the bill which had just come in for 11/6- as a matter of fact in the end it was Pam who really paid it!! They were charmed with the flat & all your lovely presents – and so was Gwen who came on the Thurs. The two were most awfully decent to me, had me into lunch on the Friday before I left & we had goose! Then they drove me down to the station & Jerome came too, & they gave me quite a send off! I hated leaving Cambridge, I have grown so fond of the place – however that’s life – I sent my trunk in advance but I still had 4 suitcases, a hat box & a poke, but Jerome was most good-natured over them- & then I got a taxi this end. As usual I got a nice warm welcome from AGL & Chris-  and on Sat. Bebe phoned me up & Miss Lefroy said to ask her to tea on Sunday & I invited her friend too- who turned out to be a very nice little person. Bebe has improved in looks and has a fine figure. AGL said we were to have tea alone in the dr-room– but later I took her in to meet them– & they were charmed with her & seemed to enjoy their afternoon. Then I went to tea with them this afternoon at The Piccadilly Hotel where they’re staying. Then tomorrow I am meeting them at 10:30 a.m. and taking them a trip up the river. They have seen a great deal in the short time they have been here– Poor dears– they crossed the Channel on 2 August: & they had the most terrible crossing. The papers next day said it was the roughest crossing of the year– & they had to cut it out & send it home– as they knew no one in the U.S.A. would believe them when they told them how bad it was. I hope you to have better luck. Unfortunately you & Bebe are following one another round- & will just miss seeing one another by a week or so– they were in Paris & Cannes & now this week they go for a day to Cambridge- then on Sat: they leave for Scotland, return down the West Coast, & sail from S’hampton on 24th Aug-

Wed. Here I am again- No further word from you from the South of France so it looks as if this letter will never be posted. I had hoped you would send me a card from there with the name of your hotel – but no such luck. I wonder when you’ll be arriving back, I would love to be at Victoria to meet you- but there again I am all in the dark.

I went up the River with the girls yesterday, a trip I have often longed to take, it was a glorious day- & we went as far as Richmond- it was beautiful out there, & we had lunch at The Castle Restaurant right overlooking the river- & then we went up the hill & had a grand view– both of the river & park. We all enjoyed it & got back at about 7 p.m.

Today I did some washing & then AGL took me to the Horticultural Show– the most gorgeous show of Gladiolas & dear little Rockeries- & rock plants – I got AGL a sweet wee rock garden in a plant pot – & we had tea at the Army and Navy Stores. When we got home we did quite a bit of gardening, so my dogs are killing me & I am glad to be in bed! I wonder is it very hot with you & are you getting lots of sea-bathing? When I was recounting my doings while still at Cambridge– I forgot to tell you Joan & Ray had me to supper, and gave me the most luscious meal of real ham and green peas and new pots: & Peaches and cream- finishing off with large beakers of coffee. I really did well with meals after you left didn’t I? And now I am doing very well here too – so I’ll soon have to be getting weighed too! I wonder will you to really put on any weight on your honeymoon!? I doubt it – too much sightseeing & love-making does not tend to fatten one!! in spite of the extra food eaten!!

I also forgot to tell you how, after the wedding & you 2 had rushed off in a huge hurry– we all got back to the house– but very soon after AGL & Chris had to leave, then Mary & Dorothy & Jessie and Zinnia, but Stainthorpes & Bella & les girls (Dotty, Mary, Joan & Ruth) were still there– then les boys arrived full of champagne & apologies that there was no champagne left! but they got the cake there intact- They were naturally all very happy- & Charlie Barnes made love to me in the most blatant way!! but of course I liked it!! We then left les boys & girls to amuse themselves – & from all I gathered Al spent most of the evening in the bath-room recovering from the champagne-! Serves him right not even leaving a bottle for you – what?

Carol’s letter ends there at the very bottom of the 4th page with no room for a signature, which doesn’t matter since she had resigned herself, not without protests, to the fact that she was not going to be able to post it.  I’m sure Cyn enjoyed it when she read it, even if it was forty years later.  

Explanations of people in the letter:  AGL is Miss Lefroy, who had attended the wedding with her partner Miss Hull, and then returned to Hampstead, where Carol would go for a visit after clearing up and packing.  Dotty, one of Cyn’s closest friends, was helping Carol, as were other friends (les girls) clear up; Cec’s friends (les boys) were available for the heavy lifting; and Carol’s friends from Newcastle were popping in as well, looking at the wedding presents, and taking her out for meals!  Once Carol gets to London, her niece Bebe from New York (in her mid 20s I think) calls her up and Carol contributes to Bebe’s whirlwind tour of Europe with a river tour up the Thames.

Love Letters

When I began this blog posting the letters of a daughter to a mother, I suggested that nothing very harrowing or emotional would be revealed in them, because no daughter wants to upset her mother living far away in time and distance, unable to console, comfort or rejoice in the moment.  An event may be described, it is certainly personal, but it is in the past, and has been survived, and the telling of it is reassuring in to both writer and reader.  When I got t0 Cec’s war letters home, I realized this was true of sons as well, especially of events the Admiralty frowned upon sharing. I discovered, however, that other letters crept in, and occasionally were of the moment and emotional.  Carol’s letter to her husband as she was on the point of leaving him, was harrowing.  And love letters are intensely personal and emotional.  They are intended to be read by only one person and I feel a little guilty about sharing them with the world, but they are part of the story. These two notes, treasured by her, were found in one of the slots of Cyn’s writing case.

Cyn and Cec got engaged at the beginning of March 1949, and planned and booked their wedding for July 26th, 1949, at 2:30.  The March letter suggests the wedding invitations had already been sent out, and Cec’s friends in England were responding to them.

11 Park St.

Cambridge.

March 23, 1949

My Darling, 

Here I am back home, with no chance to see you. I got a telegram yesterday to tell me to come back for a dinner in honour of Dr. Sutherland on his F.R.S. So I came back, went to the dinner at K.P at 7:30 & then onto Sutherlands till 12:30. It was great fun at times, but my cold had just reached its climax (I hope) & I didn’t feel much like celebrating. I was hoping I would be able to slip away early & come & see you, sweetheart, but I didn’t get the opportunity.

I hope you didn’t have the same germs as I did, Cyn, the little —— were at work inside my nose with pickaxes.  Also, I missed the licensing hours & couldn’t get any medicine. However, I am on the mend now & should be OK by Friday.

I’ll miss most of today – Wed. in Baldock, but it’s not much loss since they are having a big official “visitors day” & will be overrun by boffins.

I had a letter from Cliff asking us to stay with them for a day or so.  He says “It will mean of course, your sleeping on the floor (unless it is two single beds in the back bedroom!) but I know you won’t mind this, will you?” I’m not sure which it is he thinks I won’t mind!!

I miss you, Cyn darling.  It’s awful spending a week away from you. But it’s only 17 weeks yesterday! Then I won’t have to leave you again.

I also heard from Al Bryce. He said when he saw the writing on the envelope he said to himself “There goes Cec!”.  He said I seemed to have that “subdued self satisfied look” about me a couple of weeks ago.  I didn’t think my self-satisfied look was quite so obvious, darling. Al is sailing on July 26, darling mine, so I think it would be nice for us to get over for a visit at Easter.

Must catch my train to Baldock, lover, so I’ll say goodbye till Friday. 

    I love you,

            Cec.

This crumpled note with mystery columns of addition on it was obviously written by Cec on the morning of his wedding day, and refers to the tradition that the groom mustn’t see the bride until they meet at the altar.

My Darling, 

I’m not allowed to see you until 2:30 today, but I don’t think there is any custom which stops me from writing you a letter to tell you how much I love you.

What a sweetie.

July 1949: Preparation

The months and weeks before a wedding are filled with preparations.  Cyn, Cec, and Carol sent invitations to friends and family in England, Canada, the States, and the West Indies, knowing that only local friends and family would be able to come.

Three pages, finishing with handwritten additions, from presents they received once they got to America.
Cards that accompanied the wedding presents.

As responses came in, Cyn kept organized lists of the wedding presents that accompanied them and Cec booked travel tickets and hotels for an August honeymoon in France. Outfits were planned: the groom and best man would wear their naval uniform; the bride, bridesmaid, and flower girl would wear white.  Auntie Moo had sent the silver Hazell bouquet holder that other family brides had used, and the florist was entrusted with it.

Silver bouquet holder: pin through leaves to hold the posy in even if upside down- you put your finger through the ring and let it dangle when dancing!

The week before a wedding is filled with crises!  Ours involved a frantic outfitting of my three small future stepsons with navy blazers and grey trousers on Boxing Day, the day before the ceremony.  Cynthia’s involved The Wedding Cake.  After years of organizing Christmas cakes in her Cookery classes, supervising the making and decorating of ‘hundreds’ of them, Cyn wanted to decorate her own wedding cake. 

Cyn’s sketches of design ideas for the wedding cake.

With rationing still in existence in England, the difficulty of obtaining suitable ingredients for the traditional fruit cake was overcome by asking her Auntie Muriel in St Vincent, who had sent them a Christmas cake in December, to send the cake made already, for her to decorate.  It arrived from St Vincent, soldered into tin containers, and Cec was called upon to open the tins.  The three tiers emerged, solid with fruit and preserved with lots of good West Indian rum!  A fruit cake is traditionally topped with a layer of marzipan paste and then iced with white royal icing that hardens, then is decorated.  Cyn covered the three tiers with the marzipan and smooth icing and allowed it to harden overnight before starting on the decorations.  But in the morning she discovered that the rum-soaked cake was bleeding through and discolouring the white surface.  A thicker layer, preferably done at the last minute, was required.  This worked, and the intricate lattice work, flowers, and appliqués of lucky silver horseshoes was completed.  Assembly had to follow, before the final piping of rosettes around the pillars for a finished look.  But when the pillars were set upon the cake, and the heavy next layer balanced on them, they began to sink!  Cyn and Cec hastened to disassemble before irreparable damage was done, and Cec was forced to sacrifice candles the size of the pillars, carefully core out the cake, and insert the candles as firm supports for each of the upper tiers.  Then Cyn could finish her piping and on the morning of the wedding day, add the silver vase on the top, filled with fresh flowers.  Cec, who had sampled the cores he’d removed from the cake, suggested the guests would get tiddily from merely consuming a slice…

June 1949

A flower in Cyn’s hair, and in Cec’s buttonhole!

In the world of 2020, Cambridge’s May Balls were cancelled this June because of the Covid 19 pandemic. But in 1949, Cyn and Cec went to the May Ball at St. John’s College, and although I can’t help wondering how much dancing Cyn got to do because I never knew Cec to dance, I am sure they had a wonderful night: a party of 10, white tie, ball gowns, dance cards, a menu that assumed it was an all-night affair (and which of course Cyn saved), and an atmosphere of general rejoicing at the end of the academic year.

Party of 10: Cec took the picture, and as the dance card shows, they could dance from 9:30 p.m. until the ‘Last Waltz into Gallop’ at 5:33 a.m. There were 5 different Supper times to choose from (11:30-3:30) and a Buffet to sustain them until then.

Not to mention a ‘Consommé au Départ’ to warm them up before going home! And of course Cyn and Cec had a more personal celebration coming up the month following…