Sunday, August 06, 2006

A semi-sleepless night.

I got in touch with James and Cathy (the Beijing Mileses) and found them, thanks to the miracle of mobile telephones, in Morecambe Bay, where they had spent the afternoon walking – with a guide – over the sands where those Chinese cockle pickers were drowned a couple of years ago. Plans were sort of vague, as often with the Mileses.

I heard from them again later in the evening. They could not find a bed and breakfast anywhere in Cheshire. So, what if they came straight on to us?

Helen had left things in order after her departure last week. All I had to do was make up one more bed, in the form of another mattress on another floor, and put a key under the geranium on the front step, and go to bed to worry. They seem to be here, all right. You can expect pictures of a whole different set of grandchildren tomorrow.

The Great High Holiday of the English summer used to be the August Bank Holiday of the first weekend of August. The bank holiday itself got moved decades ago, for reasons I have long forgotten if indeed there were any, to the end of the month, where it often coincides with the Games. But the ghost of the old one lingers in the land, and I think that’s why there were no beds in Cheshire yesterday.


My friend Helen is going to do the bidding (“sniping” – she’s got nerves of steel) on Wednesday, as we’ll be back in Strathardle by then. I’ve authorised her to go for bust on the price.

VKB’s are largely numbered but undated. There must be a code up on the Internet somewhere, giving the dates, because some vendors seem to know. Most, including this one, don’t. I used to do it working forward and back from Spring, 1953, which dates itself by advertisements referring to the Coronation. But to my surprise a recent purchase, Autumn ’47, has the date on the cover, unlike anything I’ve seen before or since.

Anyway, the one currently on offer is Number 17 and I worked it out yesterday: not pre-war at all. Autumn, 1940. Knitting to take to the bomb shelters. Knitting for what must have been the darkest months of all, after the fall of France, when invasion was feared with every full moon and the Battle of Britain was going on overhead, its outcome by no means as certain as it seems in retrospect.

I am sure the VKB is resolutely upbeat. The photographs on eBay are all distinctly cheerful and sunlit.

My husband was 15 in November, 1940. We were talking of those months not long ago, and he expressed his remembered fear of invasion by saying something about the possibility of “…those people walking in our fields.”

I want that magazine.

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