Thursday, 26 April 2012


            It was some time in 1935  that my mother took me away from the Abbaye and we moved to Jersey.

            I was overjoyed to be with my mother again.  I do not remember if I felt sad at leaving the nuns.  I am sure they were sad to see me go.  I can imagine that the tender hearted Sister Yvonne must have cried at my leaving, and that I shed a tear on leaving her.  

            My mother had found a job as a cook-housekeeper to a wealthy family.  Their name was Helliwell and they lived in a large house just outside St. Helier in Jersey.  My mother had a bedroom, which I shared with her, and her own sitting room.

            There were three boys in the family, all older than me and bigger.  I was terrified of them.  I spent hours reading in my mother’s sitting room and I became a regular bookworm.  I had somehow managed to teach  myself how to read in English. 

            For my eighth birthday I was given a book called The Water Babies, by Charles Kingsley, by my mother’s friend, Walter Tuck, who was still around.  I loved this book and the story of Tom, the chimney sweep -  his adventures in the river, meeting Mrs. Doasyouwouldbedoneby and Mrs. Bedonebyasyoudid and, of course, Ellie.  Looking at this book now it seems a very difficult book for an eight year old, with lots of long words, but I remember reading them all religiously even though I did not understand them.  This was probably the start of my love of words, the longer the better.

            I went to School, which I did not enjoy very much.  I had to walk two miles along country lanes to get there.  Once on my way I passed a Fair.  I loved fairs.  My mother had given me some money to buy a School tie.  I was drawn in to the Fair by the music, I saw the roundabout going round and round, and small children riding on brightly coloured horses.  I was tempted and held out my coin.  I was lifted onto one of the horses.  It was Heaven!  Rising up and down with the music, I never wanted to get off.  I never got a School tie, and I was roundly scolded by my mother.

            At Easter time the Helliwells organized an Easter egg hunt in the garden, and I was invited to join in.  This was a lot of fun;  they had a large garden and there were plenty of  dark places, shrubs, bushes, and flower beds in which to look for eggs, and of course we all found one.

            My mother became friendly with Colonel Helliwell, who had been in the Indian Army.  He taught her how to make a real Indian curry, which was very hot and spicy.  This became one of her accomplishments for many years afterwards.

            Although we were quite happy there, my mother had been thinking about my future education, and so in 1937 we moved to England.  My mother was to work as a cook-housekeeper in a small boarding school called Blackdown, in the small town of Wellington in Somerset.  My education was to be included as part of her salary.

            I had by now become a very shy, retiring child. 

          My mother was constantly saying:  “Daphne’s such a nervous child.”   My relationship with my mother had changed.  She was no longer the comfortable, relaxed presence I had known in France, and I was no longer the prattling child who told her everything.  I had got used to my own company, and my mother was frequently tired, preoccupied or busy.  She was also becoming deaf. She was still a comforting presence and she was always there, but we each now lived in our own world.  I lived in a world of books and my mother was occupied with her work and her worries.

            I hated England.  

          There had still been enough that was French in Jersey for the transition not to be so marked, but England was very different.  People seemed to me to be cold and unemotional, and unfriendly.  The French often say that the English are hypocritical, and from their point of view there may be some truth in this.  French people are very frank and say what they think outright to a person’s face, whereas the English will bend over backward so as not to hurt someone’s feelings, which I used to find very irritating.  The English are reserved, the French are much more extrovert and outgoing.  

          However, this was 1937, and it has to be said that the English character has radically changed since that time, now that we are living in a multi-cultural society, and a much more global world.

            Blackdown School, where we now lived, was a very happy-go-lucky, small private girls’ school.  It was run by Mrs. Hastings, the wife of Commander Hastings, a retired naval officer.  He had always wanted to have a chicken farm and she had wanted a school, so they had managed to combine the two.  There were two school houses, the farm and an orchard.  In many ways it was a lovely place for children.

            Wellington was a small country town.  The School took in boarders and day pupils, who mostly came from the surrounding farms.  There were also girls whose parents lived abroad and who stayed there during the holidays.

            At first I was very lonely and unhappy.  I no longer saw very much of my mother.  I slept in a dormitory, and I was in School whilst she was working.  I found it hard to make friends, having come from such a different background.  After the extrovert and voluble French, the English girls seemed undemonstrative, cold and without feelings.

            I did in the end make a friend.  Her name was Dulcie.