MY DEAR READER,
Joyce Dennys created me in her image, an artist who married a doctor and moved to a quiet, coastal town in England during World War II and voiced her frustrations through my character. I originally appeared in the form of letters to my "childhood's friend" Robert, complete with witty illustrations, in an article for Sketch and became a successful, regular feature until the War ended. Now Bloomsbury have reissued the collected letters as part of their The Bloomsbury Group series.
Epistolary and autobiographical, my wartime experience is in the vein of 84 Charing Cross Road, charming and witty and with our own benefactress of edible delights in short supply. My friend Robert is serving overseas so I keep my news from the home front light and diverting. My letters feature a cast of highly amusing characters and I regale you with humorous acts of patriotism at home. Of much entertainment is my friend, Lady B:
"Before going to bed she sits down and writes a letter to Hitler, telling him just exactly what she thinks of him. She says it is has never failed to give her a good night's sleep. I think her great-grandchildren will enjoy those letters, don't you?"
I also indulge in descriptions of my dog Perry and his sufferings in an age where meat is rationed and there is a shortage of dog biscuits. His nature is so fickle that you would suppose he was a cat. His displeasure at dwindling meat supply, however, does not inspire dire humour as it does in humans:
"'I must say, I never thought I'd come to tripe,' said Colonel Simpkins sadly. Then his face brightened, 'If you ask me,' he said, 'I think this rationing is simply offal.'
And I had so hoped, Robert, that we were going to get through our first week of meat rationing without anybody making that joke."
Food and its shortage is prolific in my letters' content as I draw attention to the little sugar, margarine instead of butter, tinned rice instead of baked puddings, distress on the part of Cook, a Christmas dinner of reduced circumstance, parties where we bring our own tea, but I decline mention of the lack of bananas.
However, my husband Charles, is still sent "Charles's Cheese", a huge block of Stilton, sent every year by a grateful patient and the signal that Christmas is approaching. It is not the cheese that keeps us awake at night but the air raid sirens and incendiary bomb. There was also the badger that was thought a parachuter.
My accident proneness takes up some letter width:
"I dashed off to put away the mop which I happened to be holding in my hand and fell downstairs. I landed on my head, there was a loud cracking noise in my neck, and I thought what a silly way it was to get killed in the middle of a war."
Throughout prevails a sense of maintaining a stiff upper lip and patriotic outlook in times of adversity. One does what one can for one's country like giving blood, not without its own sacrifice:
"'I think you'd better put some of that blood back,' I said weakly.
'Keep perfectly still,' said the lieutenant, who had, presumably, witnessed so many blood-transfusion deaths that he wasn't going to start getting excited about mine.
But I didn't die."
My letters provide entertaining insight into jolly times of hardship on the home front.
Always your affectionate but not Childhood's Friend,