The Auntie Doris Years: 1938

Peace in Our Time20 years after the end of the first war, and to listen to some people, you would have thought that another one was going to break out any minute, what with Hitler making Austria a part of Germany, invading Czechoslovakia, and making threatening noises about Poland. But it was all nonsense. The Prime Minister said so. He went to Berlin and signed an agreement with Hitler that September and came back waving a ruddy piece of paper which he assured everyone meant “Peace in our time” I heard him on the radio. He told everyone to go to bed and get a good night’s sleep. I did an’all. I was a bit gullible like that. Perhaps it would be a bit much for me to go on about Chamberlain being a ruddy Tory. He was, but the Government was a coalition in those days and there were people who agreed with him on both sides.

There were others who had tried to get the French and Americans to stand up to Hitler along with us, but they didn’t have the stomach for it at that point. Besides, there were plenty of influential people who still thought that Hitler wasn’t too much of a problem. He was 1938’s ‘Man of the Year’ according to the Time Magazine in New York (Mind you, they picked Stalin in 1939) and Lord Rothermere was a big fan. Rothermere was the editor of the Daily Mail, so it doesn’t really come a surprise that he was a personal friend of both Hitler and Mussolini, and had articles praising Nazi Germany, suggesting that it was about time someone stood up to the Jews, and praising the “immense benefits” his policies were “bestowing upon Germany”

They were nasty times, the 1930s. But some ruddy Tories would like to see them come back, austerity, no national health service or welfare rights an’all. Never mind starting a war against mainland Europe. Any road, for better or for worse, I believed Chamberlain. At least I got a few extra good night’s sleep without having to worry about another ruddy war. Little April was a lot more settled by then too. Bless her. She was talking and walking and singing and dancing, and a real bundle of joy. I know she was my little sister, but I never discouraged her when she started calling me Mamma Doris. I used to call her my little Shirley Temple. At least I did when my father was out of earshot. He didn’t have much time for her anyway. And I tried as best as I could to keep it that way. I didn’t want him nipping her chubby little legs to punish her over some silly thing like he used to do mine. He didn’t neither, and even to this day little April has never had to suffer with her veins the way I used to in later life. The best times were when it was just me, April and Mother. We were a proper little family, and it seemed we could face anything together. Even ruddy Hitler!

Auntie Doris’s Pop pick of 1938: “The Lambeth Walk” by Billy Cotton and his Orchestra. Even the King and queen got into it and shouted “Oi” in all the right places! But guess what! Hitler had it banned, and said that it was “Jewish mischief and animalistic hopping.” Sometimes that man could be so hurtful….

The Auntie Doris Years: 1935

bairnswear1323aI was twenty one years old in 1935. I was unmarried and living at my parents house. (They gave me the key to the door). I had a job in a factory that made bandages and surgical appliances. And I also had a beautiful baby girl come into my life. April May. But before you jumping to any conclusions. She was my sister! And that was a hell of a shock to all of us. My mother was over forty years old! And my father was a good few years older. And relations had never been all that cordial between them even before she had launched the King Edward at his head. And if possible, since the potato incident, father had been even more uptight, unpredictable and given to lecturing all and sundry about the wages of sinful behaviour, carnal relations being a topic that he had become increasingly fond of denouncing.

I often wonder if Lloyd George had anything to do with it. He was in his 70s by then, but apparently he was a filthy so and so right up to his eighties, when he finally passed over to the other side, and continued to pursue his passions with renewed vigour. My mother always had a thing about Lloyd George. But then she always followed the Liberal politics, and when there was any help needed, in our neck of the woods, she would be there. I sometimes wonder if she hadn’t fallen for the charms of one of Lloyd George’s successors, Herbert Samuel, or Archibald Sinclair. My vote would be Sinclair, as Samuel was almost as long in the tooth as Lloyd George, but Sinclair was a dapper forty something with a twinkle in his eye, and he was a Viscount an’all. In fact Lloyd George might have tipped him the wink about my mother on one of his northern campaigns, and he may well have chanced his arm. All conjecture mind. There are some things that you don’t talk to your mother about, even when you are dead, and even if you did, and she told you, you couldn’t present it as fact anyway.

So there I am with a baby sister, who may or may not be related to Viscount Thurso. Well, my mother needed as much help as I could give her, so I became a dab hand at changing nappies, mixing gripe water, winding, feeding and pushing the perambulator around the neighbourhood. It was great fun, and it kept the men at bay an’all. I wasn’t bothered if they thought she was mine. I knew she wasn’t and the law knew she wasn’t so nobody was going to take her away from me. She was born in wedlock and lived with her parents as far as the law was concerned. But as far as I was concerned, she was my little girl. And she still is. Even though she is going to be seventy nine this year! I still keep an eye on her. And her son. That gormless nephew of mine. Auntie Doris’s pop pick of 1935: “On the Good Ship Lollipop” by Shirley Temple (aged 7). I remember singing it to my little April May, and watching her giggle with delight. It can still bring a happy tear to my eye when I hear it.