#TITLE# 15,616 words
The story begins here amongst the people of Liverpool. The year, 1943. I find myself standing opposite Derby Square. In which could be found, on the north corner, Derby House. I worked there. Derby House was, at that time, the headquarters of Western Approaches Command. It is a large white building with an imposing entrance facing out on to Tithebarn St. Liverpool was also, the main port for shipping across the Atlantic. You can imagine, therefore, that the city was teeming with military personal moving in and out of the Port. Some, however, were stationed permanently in Liverpool. As I was.
It was about 6.15 PM on a wet Thursday. There was lots of hustle and noise familiar to anyone, who lived in a large city. The noises and atmosphere seemed to be the same whichever town your could wish to be in. I saw, standing in a doorway, a girl who seemed to be waiting for someone. She was looking eagerly, and with expectation, in the direction of the Pierhead. I wondered how long she has been waiting there. Her pretty mouth beamed into a smile when she saw her man approaching. He has news for her. He is sailing in two days, but she doesn’t know it yet. Her name will be the name of a flower. In those days, naming your daughters after flowers was very popular amongst working class people. A Rose, Violet, Daisy, Pansy. Some were in domestic service. Some were shop assistants or factory girls. All with dreams, very few of them ever fulfilled. Most knew they never would be, but at least their dreams gave something to think about while doing the drudge that was their work. And their dreams gave them something to share with the other girls during mealbreaks or when taking a quick smoke with the single ciggy they had hidden under their turbans. Most, I guess, had dreams that were similar. To meet and marry an officer or a doctor. It probably didn’t occur to them that their were not enough doctors or officers to go round. But as most of their dreams would never come true, it was, as some people say, academic.
I heard her man call her, “Hi, Rose”. She looked like a Rose. Rose had two jobs. She worked in munitions factory during the week. At the weekend, she worked in a big house, in Sefton Park. Rose was especially busy at the big house, particularly when the people who lived there held big dinner parties. Rose was a bit overweight from eating to many leftovers from the plates returned from upstairs. Maybe an officer’s plate. Probably the nearest Rose will ever get to having dinner with an officer.
Rose was wearing clothes that were very clean but had seen better days. Rose could blame the rationing for not having better clothes but knew that, even without the war, She would still be wearing these clothes. Rose would never be able to afford anything new, not even for her wedding day, She sighs. Some of them belonged to her sister. Some to her mother. The coat was borrowed from her friend, just for this wet evening. It seemed to me that all that Rose had with her that really belonged to her, was her dream.
I hear Rose reply with a note of pleasure in her voice, at seeing him, “Fred, Fred”, she squealed. She runs to him. He looked like a Fred too. Fred was not an officer or a doctor but a leading seaman. Not bad Rose, not bad at all for a girl in service. He may be a Petty Officer by demob. Not an admiral but still, an officer. Dream on Rose, dream on, perhaps they do come true after all. He may lift you from working in someone else’s service, only to be in his. They meet and kiss. They return to the shop doorway and chat for a while. Exchanging the events of the day. Rose describes her day as tiring. She couldn’t wait for tonight. She tells Fred that she has told all the girls about him. Fred tells her, he has been on watch all day. His ship was being refuelled, at the oiler, anchored midstream of the Mersey, It was important to share their experiences of the day. It’s like going into the cinema when the film has already started and you have missed half an hour of it. You need someone to bring you up to date on what’s happened so far. They exchange their information and they carry on, now, living their movie, having learned from each other, of what’s happened to them, during their day. Rose would like to go to the pictures, to get out of the rain and cuddle. Fred explains he has some important news and would like to talk about it over a drink. “The Pig & Whistle is close by, let’s go there,” urges Fred. “OK”, agrees Rose.
Fred wants to get her drunk. Rose wants a cuddle. So does Fred, then, hopefully, more. Fred and Rose step out into the rain. Making their way to the Pig & Whistle, they laugh. Never mind the weather, as long as we’re together. Fred and Rose are together. Heads down, they dash on. Dodging the homeward bound travellers on their way to the bus stop. Rose is not going home; not just yet. They both tumble, laughing, into the Pig & Whistle. They find the pub is packed with customers; other couples, mostly consisting of other service men with female dreamers on their arms. Dreamers, just like Rose. There are some civilian couples inside, and some, are alone, drinking their pints, before going home.
The Pig & Whistle has a traditional and fine rich wood decor. The wood has been, repeatedly, overvarnished, over time. The decoration of the pub and the furniture it contained, are all original. There are small chairs, serving iron tables, with wooden tops. Some of the chairs had backrests and some were just stools. They were all, everyone, occupied. Along each wall were benches. Each generously upholstered in green leather. There were small tears here and there. The stuffing was sticking out. The benches were accommodating more people than they were designed to seat. There was also, in the far corner, next to the door leading to the Gents lavatory, a second door leading to a snug. The air in the pub smelled of warm rain combined with the smoke from the pipes and cigarettes. The barman looks like he has had a few fights in his time; probably from sorting out the rowdies. The shape of his nose reveals that some of his fights must have been hard won, or painfully lost. Fred asks Rose, what she would like, to drink. She’s hurt. Rose thinks he should know by now. Fred should remember things like that. Girls like little things like that. It makes them think that she’s his “one and only”. With a tone that let Fred know she is a bit peeved, she said, “I’ll have the usual of course, port and lemon”. A Port and Lemon is safe lady type drink. But Rose knows, from the girls in work, that, sometimes, men put a vodka in it. Some randy boyfriend who thinks he’s the first to think of it, and that the girls can’t tell. No vodka in this one, she can tell by now.
Rose looks about, she can see a couple, who are just leaving their table. Rose tugs Fred’s coat sleeve and nods in the direction of the, now vacant, table. Fred grabs her arm. They both make a dash. From the corner of her eye, Rose can see another couple heading for the free table, they were not quick enough. Fred and Rose flop down on the vacant chairs. Rose sighs, “ooh, lovely. These chairs have backs to them too. It’s good to get off my feet, Fred. They have been killing me all day.” They give each other a smile, as a mutual congratulation for winning the table.
They raise their glasses. Rose sips her port and lemon . Fred drains half of his pint glass of bitter. Rose looks at Fred, “What’s the news, then,”. She was hoping that maybe Fred had been given a promotion. The news didn’t satisfy her hopes. Fred leans across the table, and whispers, “We’re sailing on Monday”. “Oh, no.” said Rose, loudly, “where to?” “I can’t tell you where were going”, replied Fred, softly, while deliberately, forgetting to tell Rose that ship’s crews are never told where they are going. Fred, wanted to impress Rose. To make her think him very important for being involved in something confidential, and secret.
Rose was ashamed to admit to herself that the first thing she thought of was that he might not come back to marry her. That’s if she chooses to do so. She has been thinking about it, in a light hearted way. Not seriously considering it, but she does like Fred. Most girls would like to find security with a nice man, like Fred. Someone who would look after her and treat her right. Take her out . Buy her things. Protect her. Fred, with a large petty officer pay off from the navy. And, with a job arrangement for demobs, with a good paybook record and honourable discharge, Fred might even get offered a job, for life, with Liverpool Corporation. They may make him a foreman, in the street lighting department.
Fred disturbs Rose’s thoughts, and asks, “Another port and lemon Rose. Rose was still thinking about her prospects; her future. Rose is brought back to reality, “ Rose, I said, do you want another drink.” “Oh, erm, Yes, OK, usual please.” Rose adds, “ A large one would be nice. Warm me up a bit”. Fred grins, “I can do that for you Rose if you like” Fred grins. Fred feels a little put on, paying for a double but thinks he may be on tonight. Fred returns to the table with the drinks. He repeats his remark of earlier, with an air of superiority over Rose, hoping to reinforce his attempt to sound important. He whispers, again, “Of course I can’t say where I’m going, Rose, but, what I can say is, we’re probably going to some torpedo alley. All voyages are dangerous now, Rose.” And, with some bravado, adds, “It just doesn’t do to think about it to much. I’m always telling the lads that. They look to me, Rose, you know, for moral support, when we’re in the thick of it ”. Fred hopes Rose will think him very brave. Fred thinks to himself that there’s probably, a German armourer, scrawling a message on the torpedo being made, even as he speaks. Message reads, “ For Fred: better shag her while you can, Fred. Your next memorable night will be spent dying in cold sea water”. Fred quickly puts that out of his mind.
Fred has a plan for Rose. “But listen, Rose, listen to this”. Fred explains to Rose that he has the chance of staying in a place down south. “Why don’t we go down there together. We can spend the weekend. I’ve got leave. The cottage, it belongs to a friend,” continues Fred trying to paint a glorious picture of the place. He hopes Rose will be tempted to go with him. “It’s a little cottage, it’s perfect for the two of us. We will be alone, just the two of us. We’ll be undisturbed for two wonderful days and nights”. Fred press’s home his attack. “And I’m sailing Monday. We wont see each other for a while. What do you think, Rose, shall we? We can travel down by train, with the travel warrant that I was given with my weekend, special leave pass. It’s an open warrant. We can go anywhere with it, for free. ” Fred is thinking ahead of any difficulties Rose may put up to spoil his plans . Fred attempts to head off any obstacles. “ And, Rose, listen, you can ask your friend in work to tell them your ill, woman’s trouble, you know, usual thing. And as for your weekend job, you can say the same to them. What do you think Rose, shall we Rose, shall we? Have another drink and think about it. You can tell your mother you’re staying with a friend for the weekend. She’ll cover for you, wont she? Do you remember telling me about her. Your friend, I mean. The one who went off for a whole week with some bloke she met at the Grafton. You covered for her, didn’t you? She owes you a favour, you can ask her. What do you think Rose?” Fred is talking so fast he fears Rose can’t keep up with him. He doesn’t want to appear over anxious. Fred knows, you can put them off, if you push too hard. He can tell, from the look on Rose’s face, that she not at all sure it would be a good idea. Fred has forgot, his caution,not to sound over anxious. There is an almost desperate plea in his voice, “Come on Rose, it will be great. May as well live a bit eh, while you can eh, long time dead you know. Come on Rose, we’ll have a good time, you and me, on our own, no prying eyes, we can relax, together, alone.”
Rose is thinking about it. She thinks to herself, that it would be fun, I suppose. I’ll have to watch myself though, wouldn’t do to let things get out of hand. Off for the weekend with some lusty sailor. Rose knows full well, there’s no hope of things not getting out of hand. Not with Fred anyway. She knows Fred from the back row of the pictures. His hands are everywhere. Rose remembers, as well, that sometimes she lets Fred touch her, there, where he shouldn’t. She hopes Fred can’t see her blush, slightly, at her secret thought.
Fred’s goes off to the lavatory. Rose thinks to herself, “I hope Fred has got, ‘something for the weekend sir”, as the girls in work say. The girls in work say that the military get them for free, when going on leave, if they ask for them. Just in case, thinks Rose, I hope he has asked for some. She was feeling very mature and worldly for being responsible, and thinking ahead.
Rose is looking at the beer stains on the table, some of them make figure eights, where they overlap each other. There are some cigarette burns in the middle of the table were cigarettes have burnt down and fallen out of the ash tray. There are cigarette burns around the edges, as well. Rose thinks it a shame, such a nice table, ruined like that. Rose can’t hear the noise from the people there, she’s thinking, I suppose it will be all right to go for the weekend with Fred, I should live a little while I can. The factory might get blitzed tomorrow, with me in it. The girls in work will think me mad if I don’t go, while I have the chance of a weekend away, for free. Fred will expect me to “do the business”, I suppose. Why not though. It’s better than giving it away, for nothing, with some ne’er do well, against the park railings. May as well let Fred park his piece in my hammock. The girls in work say that. Then they scream laughing.
Fred returns to the table. He presses on, “ Well what do you think Rose eh, what do you think, shall we?” Rose has decided, but still, keeps Fred waiting, before answering him. I’ll keep up the suspense, thinks Rose. Fred is willing Rose to say yes. Rose notices Fred nodding his head, as if trying to answer for her. “ Well Rose, what do you think, eh, Rose, eh, eh?” Rose is having final thoughts. I think I will. After all, I have always fancied Fred. I did from the first time I saw him. He walked into the Eagle & Child. when I was there, having a drink, with the girls, for someone who was leaving. Usual reason for leaving. Got herself pregnant. I’ve dreamt about Fred, sometimes, as well. Maybe Fred is my dreamboat. They were funny sort of dreams that made me feel warm down between my legs. I know I felt good inside and those dreams made me squirm a bit. Rose hopes she’s not blushing, again.
Fred finally gets the answer he has been hoping for. “Good girl Rose, we’ll have a great time together, let’s have another drink to celebrate. Same again, is it?” Fred rushes over to the bar to get the drinks. Rose watches Fred dash off. She notices Fred seems to have a definite spring in his step. Fred brings the drinks. “Here you are, Rose, get that inside you. Here’s to the weekend then, eh”. Looking down his glass of bitter, as he drinks, Fred winks at Rose. Rose can taste, there’s a vodka in this one. She doesn’t mind. Rose has grown to enjoy a drink. Knowing Fred, she has no doubt, she’ll be having a few more, over the weekend, no doubt at all. Rose looks down at the table again and counts the figure eights. She thinks to herself, “ I’ll never be the same again, after this weekend. I wonder how I’ll feel. Different anyway. At least I’ll know what the girls are talking about when they talk about their midnight activities with their boyfriends. They always scream laughing when they recount each others revelations. I suppose then, it must be fun. I wonder if it will be as good as they say. At least, I’ll have something to tell the girls. About my weekend with Fred. I expect they wont believe me. I’ll give them some intimate details of my weekend with Fred. Then they’ll believe me. They’ll listen with their mouths open. I know what they’ll say. “Well listen to our Rose. Didn’t know you had it in you Rose. Although I suppose you must have, by now”. They’ll scream laughing again.
Now that Rose has made up her mind to go away for the weekend with Fred, she begins to think of what clothes to take with her. Not that she has many. She’ll ask the girls in work to lend her some things. Besides, they will have a better idea, than her, of what to take. They beings old hands at it, and all. She remembers her friend Mary, who was married, three months ago. Mary might lend her some honeymoon things. Nighties and such. Rose tells herself to remember to ask Joan, the girl Rose covered for when she was on her fling, with the lad from the Grafton, to make excuses for her, at work, and for her to call round to the house to invite her, by the way, to stay at her house at the weekend. Rose will have to make sure her mother can hear Joan giving the invitation. The people at the big house told her last week that they wouldn’t be needing her this weekend. They’re going away. That’s useful, anyway, thought Rose. Rose thinks it a bit risky to make too many excuses to people. Someone might slip up and give the game away.
Fred is on his fifth pint of bitter, and beginning to show it. Rose is on her fifth port and lemon and fourth vodka, and beginning to feel it. “We should leave soon Fred”, said Rose, “The last bus, leaves at eleven”. “Alright love” said Fred. That’s the first time Fred has called me “love” thinks Rose. We’re acting like an old married couple already. She smiles to herself. Fred quickly finishes off his bitter. “I’m ready then” he smiles at Rose. Rose stands and tells Fred she’s just off to the ladies. “What about your drink then, Rose, you haven’t finished it”. “Oh, I don’t want anymore, Fred, I think I’ve had enough already”. “I’ll have it then” said Fred, picking up her glass. Rose knows Fred wouldn’t want to waste a drop of vodka.
Fred is waiting, standing just by the door, when Rose joins him. She notices another couple are already sitting in the seats they have just left. Fred smiles and opens the door for her. “Aren’t we the gent then”, laughs Rose, as she walks out into the street. “Always the gent for my girl, you know that Rose, eh”. The rain had stopped. Rose took off her borrowed coat. “Hey, Rose, I’ll carry that for you, hand it over” offered Fred, “still the gent, aren’t I?”. Rose gives Fred the coat. Fearing Fred, in the state he’s in, might drop the coat onto the wet pavement, she cautions him, “Be careful with that Fred, it isn’t mine, you know”. “I’m always careful Rose. As you will find out”. Fred gives Rose’s arm a little nudge.
They cross the road to the bus stop and join the queue. Rose frets, “I hope we will get on the bus OK, it’s the last one and I don’t fancy walking in case it rains again. Besides, my dad always waits up for me. I wish he wouldn’t. He goes mad if I’m late in”. The bus is about full when it arrives. “Room for two upstairs”, shouts the conductor, “four standing inside. Move along now, we’ve all got omes y’know”. Fred and Rose crush onto the bus and stand inside. Fred whispers, “Hey, Rose, what do you think, shall we get off a stop before and talk awhile, your dad may be standing at the front door when we get there, and we wont have time to talk. You know. The arrangements.” “We’ll get off by the park and walk through then”. said Rose. They leave the bus and step into the park along the path. Rose links arms with Fred, as they walk.
Rose tells Fred of what she intends to do, tomorrow, with regards getting Joan to call round with the invitation to spend the weekend with her. “I’ll be going in to work tomorrow morning,” explains Rose, “At break time, I’ll tell Joan about the weekend and I’ll ask her if she will cover for me and to call round in the afternoon, with the invitation, by the way, to spend the weekend with her. Then I’ll pretend to be ill and ask the supervisor if I can clock off early. The supervisor is a man, so he doesn’t ask to many questions, if you know what I mean. Women supervisors don’t fall for that trick so easily. “That’s good, Rose, and I’ll tell you what else. Why don’t you make arrangements to leave the house at three o’clock in the afternoon. I’ll be waiting at the bus stop. We can catch the three twenty bus to Lime Street station. We’ll be in time for the train at three forty five. I checked the times, it’s OK.”
Rose looked at Fred with her eyes screwed up, and frowned, “ You’ve thought of everything Fred. Anyone would think you already knew I would be going with you tomorrow”. Fred, not wanting to risk offending Rose, and spoiling everything, said earnestly, “ I never thought that Rose, not even for a moment, but it pays to work things out, just in case, you know. I’ve got it all worked out Rose. You’ll be all right with me, old girl”. “Hey, less of the old, if you don’t mind, thank you very much” teased Rose, looking at Fred, and smiling. Fred gives Rose a squeeze around her waist. They both laugh. I do like Fred, thought Rose. I’m going to have a good time with Rose, thought Fred. They reach the other side of the park. Rose lives just five minutes away from the other side of the park gates. “Have we got time to stop here for five minutes Rose”. “ We’d better not”, said Rose, with some disappointment for Fred. “But your dad may be at the door, just five minutes”. Rose turns to Fred. She runs both her hands along the back of Fred’s neck and up into his hair. Tugging his hair, Rose pull Fred’s mouth hard down on to hers. Fred is taken a little by surprise but responds with some passion. They kiss for a long time, enjoying the warmth of their mouths. Fred puts his head on Rose’s shoulder and kisses her neck. He can hear Rose gasp. She goes tense and squeezes Fred hard around the waist. “That’s the girl Rose. That’s it”, he whispers. “Come on, lets do it”.
Rose is thinking about it. Then she thinks of the park railings and pictures herself standing against them, with Fred having his way. “No, Fred, not here, besides my dad will be up, waiting. He might come looking for me.” “We’ll be quick, Rose, come on”. “No, and that’s definite. I’m not like that Fred”. Fred can sense Rose rapidly cooling. Not wanting to push his luck, he gives up. “OK, Rose, I know your not like that. It’s just that, you know, it’s been a while. I’ll see you to your door”. Rose brushes Fred’s lips with hers then pats him gently on the cheek. “You behave yourself, my lad.” Fred looks at Rose sheepishly. She links his arm. They walk on.
At Rose’s door, they kiss once more. Rose opens the door, she turns to Fred, “See you tomorrow, Fred, at the bus stop, three o’clock, don’t be late”. They hold hands until Rose begins to close the door, as if they can’t bear to part. Fred smiles, and whispers, “See you tomorrow, Rose, your my girl, you know”. “ I know, Fred, I know”. Rose squeezes Fred’s hand then closes the door. She walks into the parlour. She finds her dad has not waited up for her, after all. Even after Rose wishing her dad would not wait up for her, she feels, some how, unprotected now. She realises that, she felt comforted knowing her dad would be waiting up for her and feels the loss, now that he isn’t. It’s part of growing up, I suppose, thought Rose. She felt sad as she slowly climbed the stairs. I love my dad, she thought. But I love Fred, as well. A small tear, running down her cheek, was all that accompanied Rose to her bed.
Rose was up early, next morning. Rose put her plan into action straight away. She did some breakfast for her dad. Her dad was always up early, even though he didn’t have a job anymore. Her mum usually slept in, sometimes, until mid morning. Rose knew that her dad would notice she wasn’t eating. “Why aren’t you having breakfast, Rose, are you OK.” Rose replied, feeling a little guilty, that she didn’t sleep very well, and that she had stomach pains. “Oh, I see”, said her dad, then said no more. Rose washed the dishes and tidied the table. As She was putting on the clean tablecloth , she turned to her dad saying she would still go in to work and, hopefully, she would feel better later. “ You will probably feel better if you go in, Rose, but if it gets to bad, just tell them your not well, and come home, OK?” “OK, dad, see you later.” She gives her dad a peck on the cheek as usual. Rose has said goodbye to her dad this way, for as long as she can remember. “Love you dad” said Rose. “Love you too, Rose,” said her dad, looking at her, and smiling. Rose leaves the house a little quicker than usual. Rose felt another tear on her cheek.
Rose arrived at the factory at her usual time. She didn’t remember much of the bus journey. Her thoughts were elsewhere. The munitions factory was supposed to be a secret, although everybody knew where it was, and what was made there. The factory was, before the war, an aluminium foundry, making pots and pans. Now, they made shell casings. Rose worked a lathe there. It was an important job. When Rose started working there, she was sent to a training place, at first, to learn about the lathe. All the lathe girls tended to stick together in the canteen. Joan was, like Rose, a lathe girl.
Rose found Joan in the usual place, having a smoke, in the ladies, with Mary, the honeymoon girl. Rose lost no time in telling them of her weekend away, and to explain her plan, and Joan’s part in it. Joan was surprised at Rose’s intentions but immediately agreed to play her part in the plan, and said, “Good for you, Rose, it will do you good.” Rose’s request to Mary, to borrow her honeymoon things was instantly granted. Mary said she would pick some things that her Alf said he liked when they were on their honeymoon. And with a false groan of exhaustion added, “Alf wouldn’t leave me alone when I had them on. They’ll do the trick, Rose, I can promise you. I’ll go home for dinner and bring the things back in with me. I’ll give them to Joan, who can pass them on to you. That OK?” “Thanks”, said Rose. Mary looked at Rose intently, and smiled at her, “Don’t mention it”. Perhaps, Mary was sharing Rose’s expectations, and dreaming a little, herself.
As Joan and Mary were leaving the ladies to attend their lathes, Joan looked back, “Don’t forget to send us a postcard, Rose”. And with a girls look added, “That’s if you get the time, of course”. Rose called to Joan, “Don’t forget to call round to my house later, as we planned” Joan assured Rose that she would not forget, then laughed, “Don’t do anything I’d like, will you?” Rose became thoughtful.
Rose suddenly realised, if she didn’t get a move on, the supervisor will be on at her. She didn’t want to upset him, not today, of all days. She quickly followed her friends. The ploy to pretend to the supervisor that she was unwell, went without a hitch. No questions. So far, so good. Rose could feel herself relaxing, now that her plan was well under way.
Rose arrived home just before dinner time. She explained to her mum that she had come home early. She had stomach pains and she is going straight to her room. Rose went into her room and closed the door, She took down the cardboard suitcase that was kept on the top of her wardrobe. It was last used when her dad went into hospital, for an operation on his heart. Rose packed her personal things, including the perfumed soap that was bought for her last Christmas. Rose’s aunt bought it for her. It cost a lot of ration coupons. It was called “Lilly of the Valley”. Rose smelled her soap, “lovely”, she thought, “Now’s my chance to use it”. Rose checks, she has included everything she will need and she remembers to leave room in her case for the things to be borrowed from Mary.
Rose lay down on her bed and began to doze. She awoke a short time later and walked along the landing, to the room where her mum and dad slept. Rose needed to check the time by the big alarm clock which her dad kept on his side of the bed. She had to be sure to be downstairs for when Joan called. Joan said she would call about two thirty. It was nearly two fifteen. Rose was glad she did not sleep too long. She made her way down stairs. Her dad was first to greet her, “Feeling better now, Rose?” “ A little”, she replied, “I think I’ll go and sit in the parlour, where it’s quiet.” Rose didn’t want to spend too much time with her dad in case he started asking questions. Rose felt guilty enough, as it was, she didn’t want to pretend to her dad any more than was necessary. “All right Rose”, agreed her dad, “I’ll wake you for your tea, if you fall asleep”.
Rose had just settled herself in the big armchair when she heard her mum walking down the hall to answer the door. She heard Joan’s voice, “Hello, Mrs Mitchell. I’m Joan, Rose’s friend from work. I just called to see if Rose was feeling any better. Mrs Mitchell replied, saying that Rose had been lying down and was looking a little better now. “ Oh, that’s good”, said Joan, carrying on the pretence. “Is she in the parlour”. “Yes, go straight in, it’s good of you to call”. “ It’s no trouble, Mrs Mitchell, me and Rose are like sisters in work. I have noticed for a while, now, that Rose didn’t look her usual self. And actually, Mrs Mitchell, I was wondering if I should ask Rose if she would like to stay at our house for the weekend. We’ve plenty of room. We live in Otterspool, you know, by the prom. It might do Rose some good to take some walks, you know, by the prom, take some air, you know”. Mrs Mitchell thought that Joan say’s “you know” a lot, but ignored it.
As she opened the parlour door, her mum said, “Rose, here’s Joan, from work, she’s called to see how you are. Isn’t that good of her”. “Hi, Rose”, piped Joan, “feeling better?” Joan looked at Rose, and winked, secretly, while lifting up the brown parcel she was carrying under her arm and placing it on the table. “Actually, Rose, I’ve just been saying to your mum, how peaky you’ve been looking lately. Your mum and me think it a good idea for you to come and spend the weekend at our house, don’t we, Mrs Mitchell”. “Yes”, replied Mrs. Mitchell. “It will do you good, Rose, to get away for a bit. And besides, your not working at the big house this weekend, so you may as well. It will be nice, to be with your friend, and take a few walks in the fresh air. Your dad and me were only saying, the other day, that you don’t get enough fresh air and exercise, being stuck in that factory all week and in the big house all weekend. “But what about the housework and the shopping”, protested Rose, but, not too strong, a protest. “Don’t you worry about that, Rose” retorted her mum, “We’ll manage just fine”. “That’s settled then”, said Joan, quickly. “Why don’t you go and pack a few things while I’m here, and we can go to my house together”. “Is that all right, Mrs Mitchell?” Mrs. Mitchell encouraging Rose and making it easy for her, replied that there was no time like the present and to go upstairs and get her things together, rightaway.
Rose went upstairs to her room and sat on the bed for five minutes. Then she came down carrying her case. “That’s it, I’m packed. Are you sure you don’t mind, mum”. Rose’s mum told her to think no more about it, and to get away and enjoy herself for the weekend. “When will you be back, Rose”, enquired her mum, “ Monday, will it be?” “Oh, yes, replied Rose. “Probably in the evening”.
As both she and Joan made their way out of the parlour, Rose remembered her dad, “I’ll just go and tell dad where I’m going”. Rose’s mum shooed the idea, “Don’t fuss about your dad, Rose, I’ll explain everything. Just look in and say your off for the weekend with your friend. Your dad will be pleased about it. Quickly, now, you don’t want to keep your friend waiting all day”. Rose stepped back into the hall. Joan looked at Rose and said, “ Dear me, Rose, I nearly forgot my parcel. That would never do, at all, would it?” They both looked knowingly, at each other. Rose looked at the hall clock. It was 2.55. “Well, my girl”, thought Rose, to herself, “ This is it. Fred is waiting, and I’m going”.
Joan and Rose left the house together. They walked through the park gates, towards the bus stop. As they passed a park bench, Joan suggested to Rose, for her to put her case on the bench, open it , and put in the parcel from Mary, that Joan had been carrying under her arm. Rose found the parcel fitted nicely . They both walked to the other side of the park and out, through the far gates. Joan and Rose looked down the road, towards the bus stop. Fred was waiting. Rose’s heart missed a beat. Joan told Rose that she would go back through the park and that Rose should hurry, the bus is coming. Joan gave Rose a hug. “You be careful, my girl, do you hear?” Rose felt her eyes filling up, and half laughing, half crying, said to Joan, “ You sound like my mother”. “Be off with you, cheeky”. Rose sensed that Joan was close to tears, as well. “Perhaps, we really are, like sisters”, she thought. Joan walked back to the park gates then turned. She saw Rose running down the road towards the bus stop. Fred was waving. The bus was at the stop. Fred asked the conductor to wait just a moment. Rose was breathless as she arrived. Fred ran towards her to carry her case. “Just made it, Rose. I thought you had changed your mind”. “No, here I am Fred, all yours.” It was the turn of Fred’s heart to miss a beat when he heard her say that. Fred put Rose’s case under the stairs and they both went upstairs and sat at the back. They held hands all the way.
They arrived at Lime Street station at three thirty. Fred looked at his watch. “We’ve plenty of time, Rose, the train will probably be leaving late anyway. They always do. The only thing Mussolini has done for Italy, has been, to make the trains run on time. “Oh”, added Fred, “He has also told his tank engineers to make his tanks with ten reverse gears”. Rose didn’t get it.. They walked up the slope and into the station. Fred is carrying both Rose’s case, and his own. “Your case is very light, Rose, are you sure you haven’t forgotten anything”. “ I haven’t forgotten anything, Fred, I brought all I need”. Fred looked at Rose, and whispered, “ So have I, Rose, so have I”. Rose didn’t get it, again. There were military personnel everywhere. Mostly soldiers. Fred walked Rose up to the departure information board. Platforms one, two and three are displayed blank. Fred explained to Rose, “Those three will be reserved for troop transport. There must be a big push, on”. Fred frowned, and looked as serious as he could. Fred liked to use jargon when talking to Rose. Sounded impressive. “Here we are, Rose, this is for us, see, three forty five, to Swanage, leaves platform five. Looks like it will leave on time. Come on, let’s find the buffet, and have one for the road”. “Rail, you mean don’t you” said Rose. Fred smiled as they walked across the station foyer, past the soldiers, lined up, listening to the corporal screaming at them, while they were cursing him, under their breath. “I know a song about a corporal, Rose, want to hear it ?” “No thank you” said Rose, “ I’ve heard all about those songs” Rose pretended to look shocked. Fred laughed. When Fred and Rose arrived at the buffet bar, they found they could hardly open the door, there were so many inside. “We’ll never get served in time, Rose, let’s leave it and find a decent seat on the train. A compartment without any officers in, will do us. Besides, I have something in my pocket, for the trip, I mean, we can make an early start with that. It’s only vodka though, Rose, no port and lemon.” At least, thought Rose, he remembers what I drink. About time, too.
Fred and Rose made their way back to the platform. Fred gives his travel warrant to the ticket collector. They walk down, looking through each window of the train, looking for a compartment that has two empty seats together, and no officers present. Rose saw the guard walking down the platform. He was slamming shut, all the doors. As soon as the guard shuts the doors, heads pop out of the windows. Hands wave from the heads in the windows. Goodbye. Tears fall into the handkerchiefs of those on the platform. “We had better hurry and get on, Fred” said Rose, “I think the train is leaving”. Fred quickened his pace, pulling Rose along with him. Fred was anxious to find a suitable compartment for the long journey. He found one. “Here y’are, Rose, this one will do, no officers.” Fred placed the suitcases on the ground and opens the door that has just been slammed shut, by the guard. “ Hop on, Rose, take the seat over their by the far window. I’ll bring the cases”. Rose climbed into the compartment. Stepping over the feet and kitbags of those already seated. Rose reached her seat and was looking back at Fred. He is putting their suitcases up on the rack over the heads of a group of privates. He hears one saying to the other, seated opposite, “ Bloody matlows, think they own the train. Most of them do bugger all, anyway. Shirkers and skivers, the lot of them, if you ask me”. Fred looked down, and said coolly, to the soldier, “ Your missus doesn’t think I’m a skiver, Colonel. The last time I was lying on top of her, after my mate had just finished, she commented that I worked very hard, on her. Lot harder than you do, by all accounts.” Fred moved on across the compartment to where Rose was seated. Fred heard others in the compartment, laughing.
Fred sat down, next to Rose, he took her hand in his and squeezed, gently. “Well, here we go Rose.” They both looked at each other and smiled. “Did everything work out OK at home, Rose”, he enquired. “Yes” replied Rose. “My plan worked out just fine, without a hitch. The supervisor thinks I’m in bed with the usual. My mum and dad think I’m staying at my friend Joan’s house, for the weekend. It was easy. No questions”. “That’s the ticket, Rose” said Fred. Rose was thought to herself that it was easy because they trusted her. Rose looked down at the floor. She remembered her dad saying to her, when she was little, that she should not get in to the habit of telling lies. “Each time a person tells a lie, it gets easier to tell the next one”. Her dad said that to her. Rose remembered. Rose looked out of the window. She was homesick already. Another tear was ready, but didn’t flow. Rose heard Fred saying, “ Penny for your thoughts, Rose”. Rose turned to Fred, “Oh, it’s nothing. Do you know what, Fred, I don’t even know were we’re going. Where’s Swanage?” Fred replied, “It’s on the south coast, near Bournemouth. Just outside there, on the coast, there is a training area. It’s ideal for training troops for beach landings. There is a flat approach from the sea with cliffs to climb, on landing. I shouldn’t be telling you all this, Rose, you understand. Careless talk and all. Be like dad, keep mum, eh. Anyway, just back from the cliffs, there is a little cottage. That’s were we are going. It was originally used by Trinity House, to house the relief lighthouse crew, when waiting for changover. The light has been put out for the duration. The cottage isn’t used now. My mate, who I was telling you about, doesn’t actually own the cottage, you understand. No, there is a caretaker down there, who takes care of the place for the Army. My mate has an arrangement with him. You see, my mate finds people who want to get away for the weekend. You know, no questions. The keeper charges rent, and him and my mate split it between them. Most of the customers are officers, taking their women drivers down, for some manoeuvres. You know, Rose, the horizontal kind. My mate had a free week there. He let me have it cheap. You’ll like it there, Rose. My mate said it has a lovely garden. From the front of the cottage, you can see for miles out to sea. At the back, you can see for miles across open country.” “Sounds lovely”, said Rose, picturing the place in her mind. “Oh yes, Rose” said Fred, “There are no houses, or people, for miles around, that’s why the Army chose it. And, to make it perfect,” he added, “there is a pub only half a mile from where we will be staying. It is used by the military, otherwise, it would have closed years ago. No civilians are allowed there now, you see, Rose. MOD land. Military personnel only, allowed past the barriers. The red flag is always flying there. That means, live rounds being fired on the range. Civilians wouldn’t go there, even if they were allowed to. The cottage and the pub are not near the range of course. Nothing to worry about there, Rose. When we arrive, we will settle our things, then, we can make our way over to the pub. I don’t know the name of the place, but that doesn’t matter. People on the range just call it, “The Inn”. Well, Rose, does it sound OK to you”. “Yes”, said Rose, “sounds marvellous”. “Told you we would have a good time didn’t I, Rose, eh?”
The troop trains having priority, the Swanage train was nearly an hour late leaving Lime Street station. “Bloody typical”, commented Fred, “held up just on account of a crowd of tommies. There were lots of hold ups on the way down as well, with civilian transport stopping at signals to let the troop carriers through. Fred and Rose arrived at Swanage station, almost 3 hours late. They walked out of the station into the pouring rain. Fred’s mate had told him which bus to get. Fred commented to the bus conductor about the rain. The conductor said, “It’s been raining here, almost non stop, for two days now. Hitler won’t bother invading in this lot.” His mate had told Fred to get off the bus at the stop in front of the Inn. The cottage was up the lane to right of the Inn, about half a mile. Far enough in this weather, thought Fred.
Carrying both suitcases, Fred found the lane and began to make his way up, followed by Rose. It was raining heavier now. Fred told Rose to get a move on, else we’ll drown where we stand. Fred and Rose finally arrived at the cottage. They were soaked through. The cottage was exactly like Fred had described. Rose thought the place was really lovely and was sure she was going to enjoy her stay. They both stepped into the porch. Fred put down the cases and searched under the doormat for the key. It was there, where Fred’s mate said he would find it. “Here we are, Rose, the key to paradise, eh”. Fred placed the key into the lock, opened the door and stepped in. Fred stepped on to a rug. Water seeped out of the carpet onto an already wet floor. Fred could hear water dripping from the ceiling. He looked up. “Oh no”, he murmured, “I don’t believe it”. “What is it Fred?” exclaimed Rose with some alarm. “Well, I certainly know water when I see it, Rose, I’m surrounded by it often enough. The place is absolutely flooded out. Must be with all the rain”. He repeated to himself, “ I don’t believe it”. Fred walked through the cottage. When he reached the small kitchen at the back, he found himself wading through nearly two inches of water, lying on the stone floor. Fred just managed to stop himself from saying it again. He walked to the backdoor and turned the key that had been left in the lock. He Stepped out, into the small garden. Fred saw roof slates strewn about here and there. Fred used them as stepping stones, to avoid walking through the mud. When he reached the foot of the garden, he turned and looked up at the room above the kitchen. Fred knew, the cottage had only one bedroom. He saw, at the window, the backboard of a dressing table mirror. In the roof, above the window, there was a large hole. “That must be were the slates came from,” he thought to himself. He walked back into the cottage. Rose had walked through to the kitchen and was surveying the damage. She looked at Fred. He said, “No point in looking upstairs, Rose, if the downstairs is like this, the upstairs can only be worse”. Fred thought for a moment. “Well, we can’t stay here, Rose. We’ll walk back to the inn, they may have a room for tonight. If the rain goes off, we’ll come back tomorrow, we might be able to do something with the roof.”
Fred and Rose stepped out on to the porch. Rose could feel water, dripping, on her head. “I think the porch is leaking too, Fred.” Fred gave no answer. He shut the door. Not bothering to lock it, they both began a slow walk down the lane toward the Inn. When they arrived, Fred and Rose walked in, through the low entrance and into the bar. They find a cheering fire in the hearth. “This looks better, Rose, we’ll be all right here. I’ll get us a drink, port and lemon, isn’t it. You sit yourself down by the fire.” Rose sat herself down in front of the fire and took off her shoes. She had borrowed them from Joan. They were squelching with water. She hoped they were not ruined. Rose heard Fred order the drinks. When the landlord returned from pouring a port and lemon for her, Fred asked if there was a room for the night. The landlord interrupted Fred went on and explained that he and his wife were returning from leave and had car trouble. Water in the carburettor.” The landlord interupted. He had heard it all before. Fred’s reason for a room, wasn’t even original. “ I don’t rent rooms anymore”, he cut in. “ I only ever had three rooms to rent, the cost of maintaining them for visitors just wasn’t worth it. I use two of them as store rooms now, the other lies empty. Although there is still a bed in it, it hasn’t been used for sleeping in for over a year”. “That will do for us,” Fred pleaded, “You can see what state we’re in, we’ll air the room ourselves, we won’t be any bother, and the rent will be cash, no bloody NAAFI vouchers”. Fred winked, “I don’t want a receipt.” “They never did, mate, they never did”, the landlord smiled, and conceded. “All right, then, I’ll put a fire in the grate, my wife will put some bedding and towels in there. There’ll be soup and bread rolls if you want, it’s all their is”. Fred was grateful for the room and, as he picked up the drinks, told the landlord so. “It’s three pounds ten shillings, up front, OK”. Fred put the drinks down on to the bar, reached into his back pocket and handed over the money. “ “Soup will be over shortly”, said the landlord then walked to the foot of the stairs and shouted up to his wife, “ Nelly, there is another husband and wife with a broken down car, get some bedding and towels, will you”. He smiled at Fred, gave a wink, then shouted up again to his wife, “Oh, and leave the cash book where it is, they don’t want a receipt”. The landlord started to laugh. So did Fred. Rose was trying to dry her borrowed shoes, by the fire. Her port and lemon was on it’s way. Vodka in the next one.
Fred brought the drinks and sat down opposite Rose. “ I think these shoes are ruined, Fred, I’ll have to buy Joan a new pair, wasn’t the rain awful, and the mess in that house, I don’t think we’ll be able to clear it up.” “Never mind, Rose, we’ll worry about that, tomorrow. We’re all right for now, I’ve booked a room here for tonight. The landlord is putting a fire in our room. We’ll be cosy enough. He is bringing over something to eat as well. You’ll feel better with something inside you. Here’s your port and lemon, drink up eh, the night is young.” Rose sipped her drink and looked down at her toes. Fred heard the landlord coming over and turned to him. “Here you are then”, the landlord said to them both, “hot soup and rolls. There are towels and sheets in your room, I’m sure you won’t mind making the bed up yourself, it will be warm enough when you go up, the fire’s lit. It’s burning nicely. There’s a bit of history associated with that room. I’ve a minute, I’ll tell you all about it, if you want me to, it will give your room time to warm up a bit”. “OK,” said Fred, “Sit yourself down, tell us all about it”.
The landlord went to fetch himself a chair. Fred turned to Rose, “I’m fond of history, Rose, are you? I was told, when I was little, that my ancestors came from round here, you know, great great grandparents, and even further back than that, I think.” Looking about him, Fred said, more to himself, than anyone else, “I bet this old place can tell a tale or two, eh.” The landlord brought over his chair and set it between Fred and Rose.
“This is how it goes”, began the landlord. “This place is very old, as you can probably tell. Been here for centuries, even before there was a village down the road. Just out from the bay here”, pointing out of the window, “there are treacherous rocks just below the surface of the sea. There is a lighthouse there, even now, warning of the rocks. The light is out now, because of the war. There were, also, bellbuoys floated out there, but they’ve been removed as well.” The landlord, knowing that Fred was a sailor, added, “ Allied ships will, probably, have the bay marked on their charts, with a warning.” And looking at Fred, “But that’s a secret eh”. “Absolutely”, said Fred, putting on his serious look again, as he did when telling Rose about troop train departures at Lime Street station. “Well”, continued the landlord, “The story goes that, during the eighteenth century, there was a gang of wreckers operating in the bay.” Fred turned to Rose, “wreckers, Rose, are a gang who would set false lights, you know, bonfires, on the beach to draw unwary ships on to the rocks”. “That’s right,” said the landlord. Not wanting Fred to take the story away from him, the landlord added quickly, “and I’ll tell you something else. The wreckers who operated around here were totally ruthless. you see, this is how it works.” Fred, being a sailor himself, was totally captured by the story, “go on”, he encouraged the landlord. Then Fred had a idea, “Wait a minute, this calls for another drink, same again landlord, and one for yourself, I’ll come and give you a hand.” The landlord and Fred got up and walked over to the bar, leaving Rose to look at her toes again. Fred and Rose were the only customers, and the only residents, other than the landlord and his wife. Both Fred and the landlord were quickly back to their places, by the fire. “Here you are, Rose, drink up, don’t be shy”. Fred turned to the landlord and said “cheers”, then to Rose. They all drank. “Good old reliable Fred”, thought Rose, “This is a double vodka, with a pinch of port in it. They must be out of lemonade.” “You were saying”, urged Fred, to the landlord. “Oh yes, anyway, this is how it worked, as I said. When the ship realised they were being drawn onto rocks, they would throw cargo overboard, you know, you know, to lessen the draught of the ship,” he said, looking at Fred, “Of course I know,” said Fred, feeling a bit hurt that his sea legs were being questioned, by a landlubber. Fred turned to Rose and as a recompense for his hurt pride and to let Rose know that he knew all this sea stuff. “You see, Rose, if you throw heavy things overboard, the ship doesn’t lie so low in the water. This way, the captain was hoping to sail over the hidden rocks.” “Oh, right”, replied Rose, not really interested, but trying to be. Rose was more concerned about Joan’s shoes. “Anyway”, the landlord pressed, sounding a bit impatient at all the interruptions, “Most sea captains knew that, throwing things overboard would make little difference to the outcome. The captains knew, being in a sheltered bay, they would not have enough sailwind to make a turn, and, in any event, the bay was too small to turn a merchantman”. Before Fred had a chance to explain merchantman to Rose, the landlord quickly looked at Rose. “Merchantmen are ships that carry cargo, dear, but sometimes they carry a few passengers as well, usually they were put in the hold with the cargo. They would, probably, have been immigrants off to a new life in America.” Fred said, “Excuse me, I haven’t introduced my, erm, wife, this is Rose”. The landlord shook hands with Rose, noticing the absence of a wedding ring. “Pleased to meet you, Rose”. He could have teased Rose by asking how long they had been married, but thought better of it. Fred was totally engrossed, now, and nodded to the landlord, to continue. “As I was saying, the ships would break up on the rocks”. The landlord did not say “founder”, in case he was interrupted again. “Most of the cargo, together with pieces of the ship, would eventually be washed up onto the beach. Sometimes, some survivors would make it to the beach. Well,” the landlord pausing here, for effect, went on, “the wreckers, not wanting any witnesses, would kill the survivors with clubs and throw them back into the sea”. Then, they would carry off the cargo, in their carts. “How awful”, said Rose, suddenly taking a real interest in the story. “That’s what they did, all right”, said the landlord, nodding his head, to confirm his tale. “The connection with this inn, though, is that, a particularly cruel man, the gang leader, stayed here in this very place, in the very room you’ll be sleeping in tonight. They say, that he kept the plundered cargo in this very cellar, the landlord pointing down to the floor. “Fancy that, Rose” said Fred, giving Rose a look of false alarm, opening his eyes wide, with his mouth dropping open. The landlord, eager to add to the drama, added, “There’s more, listen. The captain is supposed to have made a curse. He made it, with his last breath, before he went under. Apparently the captain screamed his curse to all the wreckers who were waiting ashore, for the cargo to wash up. He cursed all their children, and their children for evermore. The gangleader, who’s name was Penradden, so the story goes, laughed at the drowning captain, “Rot in hell” Penradden shouted over the roar of the breakers. The captain would not have heard Penradden return the curse, he would have been beneath the waves by then. “ And that’s why the curse still stands, even to this day”, the landlord was speaking slowly at this, “and it applies to all the descendants of the wreckers, but particularly, to the descendants of Penradden.” Fred, by this time was looking at the landlord but said nothing, he seemed to be thinking. “Penny for you thoughts, Fred” said Rose, to break the silence. “I was just thinking, my people came from round here, as I said, I’m trying to think of the old family name, I’ve heard my dad mention it, sometimes, when talking about the family. I think the name sounded something like Penradden, but I can’t remember now.” Doesn’t matter Fred, it was only a story, probably all made up by the parents to scare their kids, at bedtime, you know, bogeyman stuff”. Fred replied, hurt again, “I’m not worried Rose, no, it was just a curious thing, the name.” Fred was still thinking, when the landlord said, “I think your room should be warmed up, by now, anyway, I’ve got to lock up. Up early, in the morning”. “Fred, Fred,” said Rose, thinking Fred would be more than anxious to get upstairs, “the landlord is waiting to lock up, we’d better be getting upstairs.” Fred was looking at the floor and scratching his ear. He looked up at Rose, who was, by this time, standing, “Right, Rose, let’s go, They said goodnight to the landlord and made their way to the foot stairs. “You’ll be able to tell which, of the rooms, is yours,” answered the landlord, “It’s the room at the very top, along the landing, at the end. It’s the only door that’s not locked, but there is a key in the other side.” He winked at Fred. Fred didn’t seem to notice.
They both climbed the stairs. Fred was carrying the suitcases. The Inn had three storeys. The third, and last flight, was narrow and steep. Fred put his case on the middle landing. “The stairs aren’t wide enough for me to carry the two cases, Rose, I’ll come back for mine, while you start unpacking”. Fred went first. Rose, following, said, “It’s a bit dark up here, Fred, do you think we will find the room”. Fred, replying, “The landlord said it was the last room along the landing. We’ll just walk to the end, and the door facing, will be ours. It isn’t locked”. The landing, being so narrow caused Fred to bump from side to side as he went. Fred explained, “Of course, Rose, people were smaller in those days. That’s why the doors and ceilings are low, and the passageways narrow”. They reached the end of the landing and found the door to their room. It wasn’t locked. Fred turned the handle. Fred thought of carrying Rose across the threshold, but he found his sense of humour had left him. Fred went in first. It was a small room, but it was big enough to walk around the bed that was against the wall opposite the fire. There were towels on the washstand and sheets and blankets lying at the foot of the bed. “This is cosy enough, eh, Rose. It’s nice and warm in here, and see, there’s a chair for your things. Just unpack what you need for tonight, while I go for my case.” “There’s no bathroom, Fred”, complained Rose. “Why do need a bathroom? you can get changed in here, Rose. No need to be shy you know. Anyway, you can get ready for bed while I go for the other case. You’ll probably be in bed by the time I get back. I’ll jump in beside you, and we’ll have a nightcap, all cosy like, OK”. “I suppose so”, murmured Rose”, then added, louder, “but I would have liked more time to get ready, you know”. “Don’t you worry you pretty little head about that, Rose, you look as pretty as a picture”. Fred pinched her cheek as he passed her, on his way to get his case from downstairs.
When Fred returned, he saw Rose already in bed. She was wearing a pink nightdress with little roses around the collar and sleeves. “That suits you, Rose. Roses for my Rose, eh.” “I brought it special, Fred, do you like it?”. “You look great in that nightie, Rose, it is easy to get off”. Rose blushed, “Oh, you, Fred, stop that”. All Fred took from his case was a bottle of vodka. “Are you not wearing pyjamas, Fred”, enquired Rose. “No, no time for pyjamas Rose, never use them at sea. I’d have to wash them, you see. Besides, taking off pyjamas if the ship blasted five shorts and one long on the horn, would take time. Wouldn’t want to jump overboard, wearing woolly pyjamas, drag me down, you know.” Five shorts and a long meant, jump overboard immediately. With Fred, it was, why use three words, when jargon sounded better. “Fred undressed, then suddenly realised, “ I forgot to bring any glasses for the drinks, Rose”. Rose, anxious to do something other than trying to avoid looking at Fred, jumped out of bed, “I have my toothmug, you can use that”. “Don’t you want a drink, then, Rose”. Fred sounded disappointed, he thought Rose would want to relax a bit, especially after coming this far. “No, I don’t want anymore, Fred, I had enough, down stairs”. Rose opened her case to find her toothmug. After some difficulty, finding it, she turned, “Here it is Fred” Rose was relieved to see Fred already in bed. Walking back towards the bed, she said, “It’s only plastic, but it is clean”. “Stop worrying, Rose, come on, get in”. Rose handed Fred the toothmug, then climbed in beside him. Fred filled the mug almost to the top. “Sure you don’t want any, then, Rose”. “No thanks, really, Fred, I’ve had enough”. Fred, to raise his spirits a bit, thought to himself, “probably just as well, now I think about it, wouldn’t do to have Rose pass out on me. Not for the price this room cost me.” Fred, soon finished his drink. He settled down beside Rose. “Fred, you weren’t really bothered about that story, were you? Only, you went very quiet, after the landlord told us it”. “ What, me, no fear. Load of nonsense. Come here, Rose”. Rose moved closer. Fred took her in his arms. They kissed, and kissed.
Fred was soon off to sleep. Rose lay, thinking. Listening to Fred’s heavy breathing. She was just pondering on what time it might be, when, a flash of lightning lit the room, followed, almost immediately by the loudest crack of thunder she had ever heard. With a start, Fred jumped up. He shouted, “Officer of the bridge”. Fred thought the torpedo, with the message on it, had arrived. He was standing by, for five shorts and a long. He looked around him. Then he saw Rose lying beside him. “Jesus, Rose, what was that!”. “It was just thunder, Fred, and lightning.” There came, just then, another flash, followed by another crash of thunder. “Nip out and close the curtains will you, Rose,”. “ Why me?” “Well, your the nearest”. Fred heard her, “tut”, as she climbed out of bed, and walked to the window. Rose looked out, at the storm. “Fred”, she said, without turning, “Come and look at this”. “What is it?”. “It looks like people in the yard, below. They must be drenched in this rain, poor things, their clothes are dripping wet, come and look”. Fred got out of bed and walked round. “Anyone out in this must be daft”, he muttered. Reaching the window, he looked down. There were people in the yard. All the faces were looking up at the window. Their window. They were all young, round, faces. Some had babies in their arms. None of them moved, they just stood, quite still, staring up at the window. Not even the babies moved. Rose was concerned, and curious, “But, who are they, why are they out in this weather”. Fred didn’t answer, he looked up, and over the low wall that marked the yard of the inn. He could see, in the direction to which the landlord pointed, when telling his story, a glow in the sky. “There must be a fire burning in the bay”, he shared his thoughts with Rose, “These people must be gypsies, Rose, look, see the glow, they must have a camp on the beach in the bay. They’ve probably come here for shelter for the children. It is a bad storm. Never heard anything like it before, and I’ve heard some storms, Rose, I can tell you”. Fred looked down again, at the people in the yard. He saw them slowly move to the side of the yard. “There moving, Rose, look, I think the back door is just there where they are standing. The landlord must have seen them, standing in the yard. They can probably hear him coming to the door. That’s why they’re moving away. He will, likely give them something and send them on their way.” Rose felt sorry for them, “He wouldn’t see them off in this weather, Fred, would he? It’s pouring down”. Fred had his serious look, again, “Well, I don’t know about that, Rose, but I don’t think the landlord will let them in, storm or no storm.” “What a shame”. Rose saw the babies. “He wouldn’t tur