Teenage Years - Evacuation


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We were no longer in Eastbourne. The transformation was complete. From sea to mountains, from sea to river, from town to village.

Here we were in Craig-y-Dderwin country house – location Bettws-y-Coed, Snowdonia, a few feet from the river Conway.

We had moved lock stock and barrel – that is Headmistress, teachers and girls. It was a spacious house we had come to, with a long drive, surrounded by trees and in winter when it snowed, it looked like fairyland. We called it little Switzerland.

Nowadays Bettws-y-Coed is a much sought after tourist attraction, close to the Swallow Falls and Snowdon.

It took a while to settle in and lessons were for us not top of the list. We had the village field for sports and the village hall for rehearsing and staging entertainment for the locals. Memorable is a performance of the skaters’ waltz, a dance in which I took part, and did not know how to control my laughter, watching my friend Elaine behind the stage, making faces and pretending to copy me.

On Sundays we went to the village church and were interested in the choir boys. There was much nudging and giggling. The Vicar had pet phrases which he regularly used, especially “speech is silvery, silence is golden” English spoken in the Welsh lilt. In fact most people were Welsh speaking, not forgetting the Constables at the Police Station over the bridge, where I presented myself once a week to sign the register as was required, being Government classified as a Friendly Enemy Alien and therefore something of a local curiosity. But soon, when I entered, I was greeted with boréda Cariad, which means good morning sweetheart. I used my unaccompanied visits to the Police Station to post letters which I was not allowed to write during weekdays.

During the winter I was there it was so cold that the pipes in the house were frozen and we had to go down to the river to break the ice and bring water back in buckets. Our youngest, a small girl called Micky, not knowing where to relieve herself, found a half full ink container an ideal repository, much to the horror of staff and our appreciation of the fuss and consternation caused.

War bypassed us in Bettws-y-Coed. The only event of note was a low flying German bomber, obviously in trouble, which shed its load in a nearby field to gain height. We never found out what happened to it.

Strangely we did not have newspapers nor were allowed to listen to the radio so in a way war bypassed us. To escape the war, Auntie Eileen with Alice and Neil had gone to Canada, and it was Uncle Nat who took on responsibility for me. I was quite touched when he visited me in Bettws-y-Coed.

At the bottom of the drive lived Dr. Bowen with his wife and young children. He was the local Doctor who attended me with my back problem. I had, and still have, a curved spine which he wanted to straighten out. For this purpose he had erected a frame and pulley on which I was raised off my feet and accordingly stretched. He had a stopwatch to time my capacity for endurance. I seemed to have record stamina but then I could not scream, unable to open my mouth. When he finished his treatment, I was let down feeling exhausted and had to lie down to recover. But then there was Hugh who comforted me. Hugh became a close friend.