By Alma Durkin
During WWlI, I volunteered, at 17, to join the Women’s Land Army in England, which was formed to help feed the island nation when so many young men were conscripted into the Forces.
Imagine twenty or so young women, girls really, living together in a large manor house in a small village, cycling to work on nearby farms, doing hard manual work to which they were not accustomed. Strangers, far from family, these girls formed friendships and supported each other. Here, I met Flo, a buxom beauty gifted with an amazing voice who adopted me as her protégée. Many stories could be told of those days.
Moving on, the war ended, the men returned home to their jobs and we girls were no longer needed. Peace brought lots of weddings, and I was invited to be a bridesmaid to Flo.
I had six sisters, all of whom were determined that this was my big chance to bring back a future husband and they pooled resources to dress me up like a queen. I had a fur jacket, a silver bracelet, earrings, and precious nylons. In this borrowed finery, I was cheered on to the railway station.
The wedding was a big occasion as Flo was a cherished only child. As an out of Towner, I was invited to stay overnight at her parent’s home. It was usual practice for the bride to pay for bridesmaid dresses, and I was dressed in a beautiful mango coloured gown. My hair was very dark, and at 19 years old, looking pretty good.
However, after the wedding, the reception proved to be a lonely, boring experience, as I was a stranger among a crowd of friends. Talking to little children as I sat, I drank a few drinks proffered by passing guests, which must have had some affect. Hmmmm.
A visit from the busy bride to check on her buddy proved that I was pretty miserable among the surrounding jollity. What to do?
“Where are all the cute guys?”, I asked. “Hold on, hold on” she said, ” I’m going to get my Uncle Joe”, and hurried off.
WH….?? I don’t need an uncle…
Now…she returns, with an actual young guy on her arm. “Uncle Joe, I want you to meet my best friend, Alma.” This guy was tall, strong and handsome, even if he was an uncle, and she left us alone. I thought I was doing ok in the charm department when he suddenly said he had to leave. Talk about deflation!
Left alone, and another drink later, Uncle Joe returns and sits next to me to resume our conversation.
“AND, WHERE DO YOU THINK YOU’VE BEEN?” I asked.
And, seventy four years later, I still ask him that question.
PS. I forgave him when he explained he had to take his mother home but had hurried back to see me.
PPS. Joe thought I was a rich girl in my fancy outfit when he picked me up at Flo’s the following morning to escort me to the train.