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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

To The Manor Born

My husband's mother, Veronica, grew up surrounded by all the trappings of wealth. Her grandfather founded a flourishing hemp and flax mercantile that quickly expanded and grew. In 1912 his son, Adolphus Ludolf, married a beautiful socialite, with fair hair, a tiny waist, and her own family's considerable fortune. Strong-willed and very accomplished, her lavish balls were the toast of the town. Her husband appeared to adore her, and anything Dora wanted, Dora had - as Veronica put it, "Ours was a strongly Matriarchal household."

Certainly, their marriage appears to have been one long honeymoon. If they weren't either idly cruising around the world, they were out and about at numerous rounds of tennis and bridge parties, or attending a shoot at one of their many friends country manors. It was very much an "Upstairs, Downstairs" existence, with servants, chauffeurs, cooks and gardeners tending to their every whim.

In 1916, they had a son, Peter, and four years later Veronica arrived. She had her own nurse, and later a governess to tutor her from home.

It sounds a perfectly idyllic, privileged existence, doesn't it?

Certainly, I am sure most, myself included, might envy it. It would never even cross my mind that anyone amidst such a lap of luxury could ever experience anything other than a wonderfully happy childhood. However, Veronica had anything but the story-book up-bringing you might be forgiven to assume.

For one thing, she never knew her parents, they were distant, remote figures, barely present in her life.

One of her earliest recollections is of being presented to greet some visiting guests of her parents. The nurse made her practise her curtsey's beforehand, and groomed her to greet everyone in the correct way. She thinks she was around four or five at the time. Unfortunately, despite her best effort, it all went a little pear-shaped when she dropped a deep curtsy to her mother, and addressed her as "Mrs. Ludolf". Her mother was deeply embarrassed, and Veronica was later punished for shaming her so in public. But the sad truth was, the poor girl had little idea of what a Faux-pas she had made, since she could barely recognise whom her actual mother was.

Raised by staff, she never knew what it was to be loved. Her brother literally terrorised her, she recalled often trying to escape him by hiding under the scullery table. (Even as a grown adult, she continued to avoid him at every opportunity). The cook would tolerate her there, so long as she didn't get in the way. She learned at a young age how to easily become invisible.

As soon as she was able, she was packed off to board at an exclusive Ladies College, which is where she remained until eighteen. Her father died during this period, and her mother never remarried, remaining in mourning until the day she died, she dropped out of society and became virtually reclusive. Veronica's Uncle was appointed as her legal guardian, but although he took this duty seriously, as a Diplomat, based largely in Egypt, and later in Italy, in reality she had sparse contact with him.

It was her mothers wish she later attend art college, something Veronica claimed she had little aptitude for. She felt she had no talent for it, and that this proved a bitter disappointment to Dora, her mother, who herself was considered a fine watercolour artist. I think Veronica may have suffered more from a lack of confidence rather than from any lack of talent, she certainly graduated, and (at least in later life), went on to paint some worthy still-life's.

But I am getting ahead of myself..

With her education complete, she returned to the family home, but by now WW2 was looming, and everything she knew was about to take on a dramatic change. Loyal servants were leaving service to join in the war effort, and like many other mansion houses, there was no longer a surplus of staff available to help to maintain the house and grounds to the grandeur they required. Adding to this, the family fortunes took a decided turn for the worse, the bulk of the family wealth was all but wiped out within the first year of the war. And although having a name of Germanic decent was held no crime, it hardly endeared them to the local populace.

So it was, not inheriting either her mother's tiny waist, good looks, or fortune, there were not many suitors beating a path to her door. Her mother demanded she take over where the servants left off, and most of her time was spent mind-numbingly cooking, cleaning, gardening and drudging for her, all that, and with little to alleviate the grind. She found it little short of a Godsend then, when, now in her mid-twenties, the Womens Royal Air Force came to rescue her, if not to exactly call her up for service, at least strongly urging her to to join. What had she to lose?

It proved an exciting, if often times frightening, and certainly eye-opening escape away from the only dreary, claustrophobic life she had ever known.

In fact it was an adventure that turned her entire world up-sides-down.

(To be continued..)

44 comments:

saz said...

l am mesmerized by the story and the telling, you paint great pictures yourself!!


saz x

BRUNO said...

Gee, even I like this one!

I might even LEARN somethin', if I ain't careful....!

TechnoBabe said...

Having wealth and prestige does not guarantee happiness does it? It interests me that the brother terrorized her to the point she forever after stayed away from him.
Thank goodness she was allowed to be in the kitchen. I am looking forward to reading the next installment.

Jazz said...

I am just beyond thrilled to see that expression - to the manor born - used right (seems I most often see it written "to the manner born" which annoys me to no end).

Leslie: said...

Can hardly wait for the next episode.

Land of shimp said...

First up, does it bother you, Jazz? That's sort of funny, because it's a long debated phrase, and the original use of it is from none other than Shakespeare...and is "To the manner born..."

http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/to-the-manner-born.html

Both are considered correct, but it is one of those funny phrases where people choose the version they believe correct, and are really irked by what they believe misuse.

Shrinky, I loved this tale, and am looking forward to reading more of it. It's very gripping.

My being happy to have something like my seventh debate about "To the Manor Born" "to the manner born" notwithstanding :-)

Sniffles and Smiles said...

This is wonderful!!! What a rich story it is! I do so hope you expand and develop it! I thoroughly enjoyed this...It is like reading a BBC script! Love it! You are a brilliant storyteller! ~Janine XO

chewy said...

Perhaps Shrinky is doing a play on words... replacing Shakespeare's "manner" with "manor".

I'm picturing Veronica flying upsides down in an aeroplane. Wheeeeeeee!

Donna Hole said...

Oh man, I was really into this.

Don't forget to post some more of the story. And soon.

......dhole

San said...

Shrinky, I am intrigued...and I anticipate the next chapter...

MORE!

Sling said...

You are quickly becoming one of my favorite writers!

Chantel said...

Darling......c'mon, c'mon, c'mon...what happens next??

xox

Danyelle said...

I love your voice! It's like a warm cozy blanket. :) I love the details--especially curtseying to her mother. :D

Amy said...

I'm hooked too! Looking forward to reading the next chapter.

~Babs said...

Oh yes, I'm addicted,can't wait for the next chapter.
You make it seem as though we are right there, witnessing the curtsey, and the after effects.
MORE,,,,

Postman said...

Holy cow, what a vivid account. Reads like a novel. I'm agog for the next installment...

The Blue Zoo said...

I always thought it would be great to be that rich! Its a shame they didnt spend more time with their kids.

Cant wait for the rest of the story!

Shrinky said...

Hey saz, I love your new avitar! Great to see you back again (smile).

Hi Bruno, she sure led a fascinating life hon, I persuaded her to sketch out the details on paper shortly before she died..

Technobabe, it took me a long time to get to know her, in truth, I found her slightly intimadating at times, she was a very complex creature.

Hi Jazz, launguage is constantly changing, but I believe this is the correct usage for today (according to the English Oxford Dictionary). It's funny how the mis-usage of words can irritate, I wince every time I hear the word unique pre-fixed with "almost" "Quite" "Very" or "Slightly" - argh! It either is unique, or it isn't - it is like saying someone is "slightly" pregnant!

Shrinky said...

Hi Leslie, Oh, don't encourage me (giggle)!

Hi Shimp, you quite correct, of course, it's original spelling was manner, but it has evolved and changed, and today, the British mode of spelling it (according to the Oxford English Dictionalry) is as manor.

Hi Janine, she was a fascinating woman Janine, she also had a great aunt who apparently made quite a name for herself as an eccentric English explorer (in those days, it was unheard of for a woman to embark on such a thing). Sadly, according to rumour, she was finally fished. found violated and murdered, out of the river Nile!

You know Chewy, it never even entered my head to spell it any other way, what is up is what I was taught to spell at school (shrug)! Veronica never did get in the air, but shhhh, let's not spoil the plot (wink)..

Shrinky said...

Hi Donna, she was perfectly happy to talk about her days in the war, but it was like pulling teeth to try to get her to talk of her upbringing, I think this part was a chapter prefered to forget.

Hey San, how lovely to see you back again! I think she has a tale worth telling, I'm so glad others seem to agree (smile).

Hey Sling, what a wonderful thing to say, it's made my day - consider yourself well and truly hugged for that (big, cheesy grin..)!

Hi Chantel, truth is, I need to dig out her notes for the next part. I am so glad she agreed to sketch out the details for me before she died..

Aw Danyelle, you sure know how to put a wide smile across my face, thank you hon, I consider that high praise indeed, coming from you!

Hello Amy, her life certainly improved dramatically once she left the family home, for her, the war was the best thing that ever happened to her..

Awww Bab's, you always say the nicest of things (hugs), I'm enjoying documenting her life, it's something I hope to pass down to her grandchildren as a part of their family history.

Hi Postman, you are being a little kind here, methinks (blush), but I'm having fun setting it out, and I can't tell you how gratifying it is to be given such a positive and encouraging feedback - thanks, my friend!

Hi Blue Zoo, yeah, sadly, in those days the stiff upper lip of the British gentry dictated children should be seen and not heard. In some ways it continued on through the next generation - but that would be another tale!

SJ said...

The mother was a bombshell, the daughter dropped bomb shells? We can only guess till famed author Shrinky reveals more in the next episode.

Jana said...

Hi, it is really interesting so far...can't wait for the next installment...

Skunkfeathers said...

Awaiting the "to be continued" ;)

Shrinky said...

SJ, that is actually very witty (much as I hate to admit it), ust don't let this go to your head!

Thanks Jana, I'm glad you liked it (smile).

Aw Skunk, I didn't exactly say WHEN, now, did I (wink)?

Paul C said...

Can't wait for part 2. Boarding schools must have been very stressful for many young people without the support and nurture of caring parents.

Shrinky said...

Yes Paul, it certainly can be. My husband was also a boarder, it wasn't a particularly good experience for him. Although the school three of my children attend also take boarders, they only attend as day pupils, but many of their friends, being from overseas, do board. We often have them stay at weekends.

Suldog said...

Wonderful tale, the continuation of which I am immensely looking forward to.

Joanna Jenkins said...

You write so beautifully-- I look forward to the next chapter.

Cheers,
jj

Shrinky said...

Hi Jim, yeah, she was quite a character, our Veronica (smile).

Aw Joanna, thanks hon, I sometimes worry I might be boring half you guys to death with half my ramblings (grin)!

laughingwolf said...

more, please... :)

Land of shimp said...

Shrinky, I think it's the neatest thing that both versions are essentially correct. I love instances where everyone gets to be right, and compromise is entirely painless :-) Gives me hope, it does.

Shrinky, do you want to know how much this story stuck in my head? I had a dream last night, a long involved dream, about the photograph you posted it with it.

In the dream, I went through that gate, and met people who I am positive were the images I conjured when reading your story.

I can't think of a higher compliment to pay, or a more sincere one. This not only stuck in my waking mind, my dreaming mind revisited it, too.

More? Please?

I'll give chocolate!

Akelamalu said...

What a fascinating story! I am so looking forward to the rest of it. :)

jinksy said...

What a tale of family fortunes...

Michelle H. said...

Incredible! I will stay tuned. You captured me completely with this...

Tgoette said...

That was awesome! Reminds me of my upbringing except completely different. Looking forward to hearing more! Beautiful!

Shrinky said...

Oh Shimp (dispensing a warm hug), you've just made me toes curl, so you have (grin). What a fertile imagination you have, even when you sleep. Thanks for that, it's gone and made my day!

Cheers, Akelamalu,I'll see what I can do..

Hi Laughingwolf, it's coming up (smile).

Jinksy, her side of the family is peppered with larger than life characters, it's a rich seam I'd love to tap further into someday.

Hi Michelle, I'm looking forward to posting the rest later in the week (grin).

Tgoette, isn't that the case? I think everyone has a book in them somewhere!

Milton said...

Great story. Put in some romance and you a fine plot for a book. Fab photo too.

Milt x

tattytiara said...

I am intrigued - looking forward to part 2.

Sniffles and Smiles said...

Woo-hoo! What a makeover! This blog is really stylin'! Tres, tres, chic, dear Shrinky! Just popped in on chance that I'd missed a post, and WOW! You've been having some fun here...carrying over some of your interior design skills from your home to your blog! Really lovely! Hope your eyes are doing a little better...you've been in my thoughts all week! Love you, Janine XO

Nancy said...

You are a wonderful story-teller. Can't wait for the next chapter.

Shrinky said...

Hi Milton, so glad you passed by! Oh, romance is coming up - watch this space (grin).

Hello Tatty, I'm working on it..

Hey Janine, you are the first visitor to my new look! I wish I could take the credit for it, but it's all down to Terry, at Paradise Found (bless his cotton socks), I just supplied the photo's and he worked all the magic! Isn't he something?

Hi Nancy, it's great to see you in here again, I've missed you! The final part is soon coming up..

saz said...

and l like the changes you are making bit by bit also..btw

saz x

Mojo said...

Let me guess... the next chapter's entitled "The WRAF of God"?

Kidding, okay? I WAS KIDDING.

There's something very F. Scott Fitzgerald about this. I like it. Looking forward to the Further Adventures Of.

Shrinky said...

Oh Saz, you noticed (grin)!!

Haaaaaaa, I love that title Mojo, I am tempted to maybe even run with it, very witty!