Here, I am continuing my story for Summer of Words. The first part is here.
So war had come, as Archie’s old dad would have said, ‘as sure as Christmas’. On that score, the main difference was that it came in early September. But, for most people, life seemed much the same. True, most of the young men were away, like Archie’s son, Leslie. But then, he had been away already. Like father, like son, he’d joined the RAF as soon as he could, and loved the life. But everyone knew it would be different for young men like him, now that war was ‘for real’ – and especially so for those who, like Leslie, had a wife and child back home. But what was the point of worrying? The best cure for worry, everyone said, was to keep busy, which, mostly, they did, with women working in the factories in the area, making aircraft parts, engines, and, of course, munitions. Muriel, Archie’s daughter-in-law, went back part-time to her job in the drawing-office in a car factory, which had switched over to war work, sometimes leaving Ross, his three-year-old grandson, with Jennie, Archie’s wife, who was under strict instructions from Muriel, not to ‘waste’ him. Jennie didn’t think a few stories and ball games in the back yard could be called ‘wasting’.
Mean time, Archie and George – and many more middle-aged men – were auxilliary firemen. So far, they hadn’t had much opportunity to practice their new skills. Indeed, the station officer at the fire station where they had both trained, a somewhat dour man originally from Perthshire, had been heard to comment that it only took ‘a bonfire in some wifey’s back yaird’ to get ‘a wee mite ower fierce’ and there’d be ‘twa dozen o’ they mustard-keen aux laddies’ in attendance ‘afore ye could wave a stirrup-pump’. Subsequently, Andy Harris, the leading fireman in red watch, had observed to Archie that this was about the nearest that Jack McGregor ever came to joking with anybody.
And so life went on – for the latter part of 1939 and the first half of the following year. But all that was about to change…
You can read part three here.