Even though there was a war on, I decided that I had had enough of working at the bandages and surgical appliances factory. I had been there since I left school, and although I had moved up the ladder a bit and had some supervisory responsibilities, I was getting tired of turning up at the same old place every morning, and the fact that the smell of antiseptic fluids followed me everywhere was beginning to draw comment.
Any road, What with all the fit blokes getting called up to war, there were opportunities for all sorts of work. Women like me were in demand for once in our lives. They wanted women to work on farms. I got tipped the wink that if I volunteered for the Women’s Land Army, I might get a local posting, which wouldn’t come so easily once conscription came in. So I went and offered my services before they came and got me. And I got to stay close enough to home so that I could still enjoy regular visits and keep a close eye on little April May.
Even though I didn’t go far, it still felt like a proper adventure. There were five of us lasses posted together; me, Violet, who was my age and became a lifelong friend, Doreen Curdle, who was five or six years older than us and two young sisters who had come over from Mexborough, Cissie and Connie Butterburn.
None of us really had a clue what we were doing, and there was no real training. But it was a laugh. We got nice uniforms an’all, with corduroy trousers and funny hats to wear as well as regulation gumboots and mackintoshes. Our first jobs were with the livestock, and me and Violet had to muck out the cart horses on our first day. I soon came to realise that antiseptic wasn’t the worst smell in the world to have following you around, but it didn’t dampen my enthusiasm at all. There’s something about the open air, even if it does stink of horse shite.
You should have seen us trying to milk the cows, and you should have heard some of the filthy ruddy jokes that Violet came out with while she was doing it. “I never get a bucketload like this out when I do our Walter” she used to say. “But then he’s probably saving it up for when he comes back from the front next leave, so you never know… Maybe it’s a good thing that I’m getting the practice in.” I had never heard a woman talk as filthily as Violet did before, and it shocked me at first. But there was something about the way she said such things that made me like her. We used to sneak off and smoke cigarettes together when we had the chance, and she told me some right ruddy tales. She had other ways of dealing with blokes than my tried and tested soup spoon method, and she looked healthy on it.
Auntie Doris’s Pop Pick of 1941 “When I see an Elephant Fly” by Cliff Edwards. It was out of the film “Dumbo” which was a ruddy amazing treat to see in a blacked out Cinema which you thought might get bombed any ruddy minute. But April May loved it, and to be honest it took my mind off my worries for a while.