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For recreation, we managed to get into Derby, about five miles up the main road, and cajoled the usherettes at the local cinema to sneak us in free of charge. I remember us being particularly welcome when ‘The Lion has Wings’ was the main feature – but of course our tunics were bare of wings at this time. We were invited for a glass of sherry, once or twice, to the home of a Repton housemaster, when my Vauxhall came in very handy.


My main recollection of that winter lies in my journeying to and from Derby


to Lydney in Gloucestershire. Margaret had taught French there, at the Lydney Grammar School, up until we were married – ‘up until’ because in those days schoolmistresses had to give up their jobs when they married. But they did not count, as they later would, as ‘unemployed’. Now that rule was rescinded, and schoolteachers were in demand because many of the men had volunteered for the forces, and Mr Birch, the Lydney Grammar School headmaster, got in touch with Margaret and asked her to return to teaching there – not French this time, in which she had her Oxford degree, but History, about which she knew precious little. We normally had the weekends free at Burnaston, and I was able to get away on a Friday night to drive down to Gloucestershire, always provided I could get the necessary petrol, which was severely rationed. Fortunately, we had a very dim adjutant attached to our unit who seemed not to understand the rationing rules. I got all the petrol coupons I needed and, a bit more good fortune, there was a garage proprietor just up to road to Derby who closed his eyes when his pump should have stopped. Many of those journeys were among the worst I have ever had to do. On one occasion, with Johnny Nunn as a passenger, the River Avon had flooded and, at Tewkesbury, where we had to cross it with the bridge approach on a built-up bank sloping down to what should have been fields on either side, we had to decide whether to risk trying to get through flood water which had completely submerged the road. We saw a lorry manage to get to the bridge and beyond, so we followed. Half way to the bridge we came to a complete halt with water round our feet inside the car and a heavy, swirling current doing its best to slide us off the road and down the embankment into the swollen river’s depths. It was dark and it was frightening. But the lorry driver, who had seen us follow him, had stopped and now backed his truck and somehow managed to get a tow rope to the Vauxhall to pull us through the two or more feet of water which surrounded us. We also managed to carry on with the journey to Lydney, for the Vauxhall started after some trouble and got us there in spite of the fact that, when I checked the engine oil the next morning, after staying at Margaret’s digs with Mrs Pritchard overnight, the sump was completely full of a syrupy mixture of oil and water which, apparently, had done the engine no harm at all. There was a lot of snow that winter, and much of it remained even on the main roads, squashed into corrugated ice by the traffic, so that many


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