Pages

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Veronica

The reason for my recent interest in our family history, is I received an e-mail from a very much removed distant cousin of my husband's this week.  She's researching the family tree, and whilst Googling, had tripped over an old post of mine which sparked her interest.

Happily, I have a collection of photographs dating back to the early 1800's of the Ludolf clan, so have promised to scan and forward on what I can.  She in return has generously offered to forward on a  copy of the family tree, once it is (as best as she can trace) complete.  

(Part one can be read here and part two here.)

She (Veronica) must have been in her early seventies when we first met.

Her face always lit up as she recounted her days in the WRAF (Women's Royal Air Force) during WW2. Although she never left the ground (or Country, come to that), she experienced a great many adventures, and risked her life in the name of her King and Country, more than once..


Assigned training as a plotter in The Operations Room, she became one of the the first ever Radar Operator's in Britain.  Billited just outside of London, her workplace was situated in the back of one of three converted trucks, slap bang in the middle of a cornfield..


The Army Land girls worked the fields adjacent, and according to Veronica, they were a high-spirited, devil-me-care, lot. Hard working by day, they would happily party all night if given half the chance. This gave Veronica considerable consternation when she abruptly found herself unofficially appointed in charge of their welfare - being in the WRAF, she had no legitimate sway in Army matters, but that still didn't stop her from being ordered to oversee their morning roll-call.


Although in her mid-twenties, thus-far Veronica had led a very sheltered life, she had never dated before, and she certainly didn't drink. She had no idea what to do about the often AWOL, frequently hung-over, and all too often, love-struck or heartbroken girls absent from duty. Loathe to land anyone in trouble, she frequently found herself fudging things to allow time for the offending culprits to make it back in line. Hardly surprisingly, this made her quite popular, which may be why the girls soon took it upon themselves to further her education whenever possible.


Despite rigid rationing, many underground drinking bars flourished, and it was to one of these, off-duty, they escorted her to one day. It held the tradition every new female crossing the premises should stand up on a table, down a shot in one, and, aided by some very helpful servicemen, with fresh boot-polish applied to the soles of her shoes, be flipped up-sides-down, to "walk" the ceiling. Veronica wasn't exactly keen, but realising there was no getting out of it, she agreed to be "flipped" but only on the proviso one of the females in her group joined her on the table, to keep her skirt held up high enough to ensure her modesty. (This "walk" - plus shots - sealed the beginning of some lasting friendships for Veronica, some of which were to span decades).


It was she who missed the roll-call, that next morning - something she had a hard time living down.


It wasn't always an easy relationship with my mother-in-law, but I loved hearing her tales of her days in the war.  I am awed at how her generation coped during the blitz, all the loved ones they lost, the hardships they endured.


The cornfields surrounding Veronica's quarters were all equipped with heavy duty artillery, and part of her duties involved firing one of these at the incoming German planes that relentlessly bombed London. Whilst most of the civilian populace were taking shelter underground, she was out there risking life and limb.  During one evening raid, the truck she worked from took a direct hit, ironically, manning the gun that day effectively saved her life.


When peace was finally declared, it was a very different Veronica who eventually returned home to her mother's house.  Once de-mobbed, she, like thousands of others, had a new way of life to find, out in Civvy Street, and it wasn't necessarily an easy transition.


As I mentioned earlier, Veronica and I didn't always have the easiest of relationships, but I had to admire her. I think I should end by fast forwarding through to one of the last times I ever saw her.




(Wonder why I am not in the picture?)


It was the occasion of her fiftieth wedding anniversary, and it was probably one of best coups Veronica ever pulled on me. She was very frail at the time, wheelchair-bound from a broken hip, and with many breathing difficulties, she still rose to the event to celebrate it in style. Hiring a venue at one of Harrogate's top hotels, a couple of hundred of us were invited to celebrate with them to join together for a slap up meal in honour of the auspicious landmark.


Naturally, being family, we were to be seated at the "top table" and were to take our pew placed alongside both her and Jack. Only our eldest accompanied us there, seeing as how our other three children were still a little too young and unpredictable to be expected to sit through all the courses and subsequent speeches to follow. Needless to say, everyone there would want a record of this happy gathering, and so the room was bound to be positively laden with flashlights, cameras and a multitude of video recorders.


I knew I would barely know anyone there outside of our immediate family, so it goes without saying I was a tad unsure and slightly nervous as to how it would all go down. You can imagine then how thunderstruck I was when Veronica telephoned to inform me of her "special evening request". It appeared she had recently developed a certain extreme allergy to both perfume and cosmetics. Anyone placed anywhere near her must not, under any circumstance, wear so much as a lick of either.


I considered coming down with the 'flu, but being no body's fool Al quickly pre-empted me.


"Don't even think of crying off, it's important you're there.. besides, you always look gorgeous."


(Yeah, right.)


So it was, bare faced and deodorant-free, feeling the ugliest woman in town, wishing myself invisible, I finally turfed up to be filed through to be greeted by our couple of the hour.


Visibly doing a double take, I truly didn't believe my eyes.


There she sat in all her glory, looking nothing less than radiant, Veronica was all elegantly coiffured and fully made-up, right down to her unmistakable trademark Scarlet lipstick. When her eyes met mine, she positively glowed.


"I thought you were allergic to cosmetics?"


"Not to the hypo-allergic variety, dear.." purred she, eyes all a-twinkle.

70 comments:

Paul C said...

What an interesting portrait of Veronica. Part 2 reconstructs very well those war days and the pivotal role she played like so many others.

Rock Chef said...

I often wonder whether the modern population of Britain would withstand the Blitz and the rest of the war. We find it hard to accept the casualties in Afghanistan, so what would we do if we lost hundreds or even thousands in a single day? And rationing? Hey, we go nuts if the supermarkets are going to close for a Bank Holiday!

Thanks for sharing this!

Putz said...

hey hey , shrinky>>>i love woman's inspirational articles and write ups>>>my aunt was a woman's officer in the us of a airforce and was an inspiration to all of her peers>>aunt lillian

TechnoBabe said...

I is great writing, and it looks like there will be another post about the transition to civilian life. Yes?

Rock Chef said...

Hah, love that line at the end! She got ya!

Shrinky said...

Hi Paul, I have a confession to make, I edited and added an extra chapter to this post, since your comment. But yes, I cannot imagine the horrors she and her generation lived through.

Ha! Rock Chef, you have summed it up so eloquantly, and so true! I apologise for altering this post some since your visit, but I couldn't resist adding in an extra up-date..

Hi Putz, I'm guessing there are many "Aunt Lillian's" out there, all with a story to tell.

Possibly, TechnoBabe, she was a woman of many dimentions (one of which I have included to this entry only seconds after your vist - sigh)!

Sunshine said...

Hi LOve the pic of Veronica.. really cool pic. and i read this part but to understand completely i have to go back and read the 1st and 2nd part will do read it soon!

Rock Chef said...

Don't apologise for a great post!

Akelamalu said...

Oh great post Shrinky! Veronica had a naughty streak didn't she? LOL

Joanna Jenkins said...

Veronica is a hoot! The whole make-up thing cracked me up-- I guess she wanted to be the bell of the ball :-)

Great story.
jj

YELLOWDOG GRANNY said...

she was lovely..

lisleman said...

I found my way over to your blog and noticed a few blog friends commenting here.
I just finished reading the Veronica trilogy. That's a great story and very engaging.

Did her notes about her life write some of it for you? I'm wondering if she was a good writer. I wish both or even one of my parents had written down this type of info.

all the best.

Phivos Nicolaides said...

A lovely portrait by all means! Hugs.

Robyn said...

Veronica obviously felt a strong need to control the world around her. Often when people have a strong need to do this they live a life filled with disappointment.

I imagine that there would be a lot of tongue biting in her presence.

or maybe i'm totally on the wrong track :)

that was an entertaining well written post... thank you

best wishes
Robyn

SJ said...

I would like to fire a gun at a enemy plane too. Someday.

Maybe you craggy islanders should go on a world conquering spree. Just to indulge me.

The Blue Zoo said...

I love that first picture. I really like older photographs.

I like that she was all smiles in her make up!

Shrinky said...

Hi Sabi, how nice to see you again!

Rock Chef, what a lovely thing to say - thanks, hon!

Oh yes indeed, she sure did, Akelamalu!

JJ, Veronica had a way of usually getting what she wanted.. (wink)

She was, at times, Jackie.

Hi Lisleman, so pleased you stopped by. I tried to leave a comment at your site, but um, it was too complicated (and hurt my brain too much to figure out) sorry! No, Veronica's notes were quite disappointing to be honest, she just set out the bare bones - family tree and dates. Most of what I've fleshed out here is from recalled conversations I had with her before she died. My own parents had passed on long before, and I had regretted not asking about their family history. My father in Law also led a very interesting life, and I asked both of them to write their history on paper so I might pass this down to their grandchildren, in time.

Hi Phivos, thanks for stopping by.

Robyn, you are very perceptive, Veronica was a rather insecure person, and yes, you have no idea of the tongue biting I had to do. In retrospect, I am glad I did, she was a complex creature, with many good qualities too.

Sj, us Craggy Islander's have already conquered the world - we have our own government, and a huge sea separating us from the great un-washed, what more could we ask for?

Blue Zoo, it was her day (she made sure of it)!

Together We Save said...

Wonderful pictures!!

Shrinky said...

Um, thank you, together we save. (Have you actually READ my post??)

Sling said...

Veronica is my hero!
Both for her service,and for the little trick she played on you. ;)

secret agent woman said...

Ha! I can't decide if that's funny or just wicked.

laughingwolf said...

what [a] character[s] :D

Mushy said...

This kind of woman, plus those like my "Rosie Riveter", actually won the war. We owe them a debt that can never be repaid.

Thanks for sharing.

Sniffles and Smiles said...

She's hilarious! But I can well imagine that she could be difficult to cope with at times! Oh, my...I'm sure you were about ready to really give it to her after that one! Fascinating stories she had, though! Really enjoyed this! Love, Janine XO

Shrinky said...

Hi Sling, yeah, I guess you could say she sure had her moments (smile)..

Secret Agent, I often was hard pressed to decide on that, myself!

Laughingwolf, oh, she certainly was that, right enough (wink).

This is true, Mushy - I have no idea how our generation would cope with the hardships and heartaches they must have endured.

Hi Janine, oh, she certainly had her moments, that's for sure. But yes, she was funny, and very smart, even tho there were times I felt I could have cheerfully choked her!

billy pilgrim said...

excellent prank on veronica's part.

i didn't get to where i am today by wearing hypo-allergic cosmetics.

Shrinky said...

Um, Yes CJ, Sir, er, I mean Billy, I am sure you certainly didn't.. (tip-toeing out of the post)

Sniffles and Smiles said...

Love you!! Janine XO

Tgoette said...

Sounds like a marvelous and very intuitive woman. I love how she pulled a fast one on you at the end! Too funny!

Shrinky said...

Aw Janine, what a lovely start to the day (hugs)!

Hi Tgoette, well yeah, it got funnier in time, I guess (wink)!

The Urban Cowboy said...

What a great piece on Veronica, and what a funny story how see pulled one over on ya! What an awesome personality she must have had.

Jingle said...

awesome portray of your character,
Happy Sunday!

Realliveman said...

What a great story. You've got the gift of spinning words.

Donna Hole said...

An interesting lady. Nice of her to provide you with so much subject matter to write about.

You're doing an excellent job telling her story. She'd be proud of you, I'm sure.

......dhole

otin said...

She sounds like quite a woman, but I would have been a little pissed off if I were you at that little prank!

Nancy said...

This is such an interesting story of your mother-in-law. That particular relationship is an odd one, isn't it? The mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship is fraught with possible ship wrecks. I've been lucky with mine, but the father was a bit of a problem...

She had an interesting life, didn't she? Loved the section recounting her childhood. She actually curtsied her mother, calling her Mrs. ____??

Casdok said...

Interesting and a great story :)

Shrinky said...

Hi Jingle, happy Monday to you, too!

Hey Urban Cowboy, thanks for stopping by! Oh, she was a "one off", was our Veronica..

Aw Realiveman, flattery will get you everywhere (wink)!

I'm not so sure, Donna - I think in trying to show the whole person, I've included some snippets she might well have preferred me to leave out (cringe).

Otin, I lost count of the times she pissed me off, big-time! But she had many sides, and almost all of them were worth knowing.

Yes, it's difficult to imagine that, but she actually did, Nancy (curtesy). With two sons and a husband, up until I arrived, Veronica was the sole female in her family - and always, since her other son remains single, her only daughter-in-law! That said, I can honestly say she never interfered, if anything, she was pretty hands-off. I am sure I am set to make many mistakes, when my turn to become a mother-in-law finally comes around!

Hi Casdok, how nice to see you here again.

Voyager said...

What a lovely tribute to an interesting (and cheeky!) woman. Was it just to you she had issued the no cosmetics order, or did she tell all the invited women, so she would appear the most resplendent at the party?
V.

Shrinky said...

Oh no, V, it was only applicable to those sat nearest her, and I was the only woman (other than her) seated up at the top table.. everyone else there (except me) looked absolutely gorgeous.

Land of shimp said...

Well, I'm of two minds about this.

I'm sure she was a fascinating person to know, and encounter in life. Forgive me for saying so, Shrinky, but it also sounds like she was a challenge to have as a mother-in-law. That was a crappy thing to do to you, frankly, and not a little bit devious.

It's funny, our relationship to people often isn't indicative of the whole of that individual. People can be more than one thing. A different person to different people, and in different circumstances.

A fascinating story, and I'm glad I read it. Thank you for sharing it. She was very pretty when she was younger, too.

I know we've had exchanges about this in the past, but she reminds me of my mother. The fact that my mother is a delightful human being on many levels, smart, funny and entertaining neither makes up for, or takes away from the fact that she was just flat-out bad at being a mother.

So many facets to a person. It sounds like she was interesting to know...and probably much easier to know from a polite distance.

Ocean Girl said...

I love stories of an era gone and seemed so different from today. I really like Veronica, for everything else, she is funny too.

chewy said...

"...be flipped up-sides-down, to "walk" the ceiling"
Wow! Sounds like wicked fun.

What was the deal with the make-up? (shaking head) She pulled one over on you! (giggle)

Shrinky said...

Land of Shimp, you are so astute! Yes, human nature is very complex, and few were more complex than Veronica. For the most part, she was utterly charming, and most everyone who knew her loved her. I have my own opinion of her mothering skills, which I'll take a pass on in here - I will say I am very aware she never experienced a loving relationship from her own parents, and I also know she did try her best to be a better parent to her own sons, sadly, it appears ever from a distance. My husband was sent to boarding school at an early age, and although he had no doubt at all he was loved, he can never recall any hugs or outpourings of affection from either one of his parents. They were a product of their age. When I came along, Veronica later confessed to me, at first she was utterly horrified at his choice! I like to think that impression did mellow down the years, and we came to accept and respect each other more in the passage of time.

Hi Ocean Girl, she WAS funny, extremely intelligent, and acomplished much in her life time.

Oh Chewy, this is only one (if extreme) example of some of the stunts she pulled on me, believe it! The woman was a genius, I was totally out of my league..

deb said...

After reading the story,
and the comments, including yours,
I think you are the amazing woman.

just sayin'

Shrinky said...

Ha, Deb - I wonder if my eventual daughter-in-law will think the same? I'll probably wind up driving her demented, too (and so the circle goes on)!!

San said...

Veronica is interesting. You've revealed her complexity very effectively, Shrinky, with these two episodes from her life.

But that anniversary stunt pisses me off! The nerve.

Shrinky said...

Hello San, well yeah, I confess, it did me too at the time - but it's a great one to tell the grand-kids, isn't it (smile)?

Sniffles and Smiles said...

Love you so much, dearest Shrinky!!! OXXO

Anna said...

Shrinky, I read all three of them, will there be more, lol. Sometimes I have similar experiences with my own mother, but then I look her past, and sometimes her behavior can be explained. But going back to you, that was one good story. Anna :)

Out on the prairie said...

The photo reminds me aof one I have of my mother and her father . they were colorized with water colors.Neat tale, i like her walking on the ceiling.

Eternally Distracted said...

Ooooo I love her, what a minx! I can just hear her giggling away to herself as she made Shrinky shrink. hehehehehe. Ooops, maybe I shouldn't laugh?!!

altadenahiker said...

Oh, well, well told. Made my morning. (Bring my naked face to a public event? You are much braver than I.)

Shrinky said...

Hi Out on the prairie, yeah, photo's were very different back then, weren't they? I like that image of walking the ceiling, too - it was good to glimpse the girl she once was.

Shrinky said...

Yeah Nora, how come I'm not in the least bit surprised she tickled your funny bone with that parting trick? Mind, she has given me some great tips for when I'm the mother-in-law..

Shrinky said...

Hi there Altadenahiker, so glad you popped by! I think you and I may have much in common..(grin)!

Pearl said...

I loved this.

And the make-up story? What a little minx!

Pearl

~Babs said...

I'm thinkin' Veronica was crazy like a fox.
Probably an interesting, fun person to know,,,,if she wasn't your MIL.
I can understand that it's easier to cut her some slack as time moves on.
And ya know what?
I'm betting you still out-shined her at that table,,,and that she probably knew it.

Shrinky said...

Hi Pearl, oh yeah, she was a minx alright (plus a few other things)..

Shrinky said...

Aw Bab's, you always say the nicest of things (hugs). Actually, Veronica freely admitted she preferred male company. She only had a brother, and later on two sons, and she claimed she kind of liked it that way.

X. Dell said...

I had an uncle in WWII, but he didn't talk very much about his experiences. I also had an uncle in Vietnam, as well as a number of friends and acquaintance who told me quite a bit about their experiences. Although the stories are often difficult to listen to, they are illuminating.

I think I could have listened to your mother-in-law speak all day. Especially since I am interested in the Battle of Britain.

I read the two earlier posts you linked to. I'm wondering if some of the conflict between the two of you had to do with the difference between her class background and your own. Of course, a lot of mothers believe that their sons' wives are in need of adjustment (either that, or they're inadequate).

Shrinky said...

Yes X-Dell, she could never forgive my lack of breeding, she was from a different generation and a of different time. She did mellow with time, especially after the grandkids came along (bar one, she neved could quite cope with Sam). Her other son never married, so at least I carried on the family line, something that was very important to her.

Shrinky said...

Also X-Dell, although her husband, Jack, undoubtably doted on her, I think she never really felt secure or loved. The early years are the most formative, and she appears to have been emotionally abandoned at a very tender age. The sad truth is, Veronica never learned how to give or to receive affection, and I think she was also aware of this, and suffered for it most of her adult life.

Jinksy said...

I know all about hypo-allergenic makeup- I used to have to provide all my own when I was in a Barbershop chorus! Full warpaint! Normally, I draw the line at foundation, dust of powder and lipstick, but the chorus launched me into the realms of false eyelashes and lip-gloss! YUK!

Alice said...

lovely post, was completely drawn in...love family and its histories

thanks for dropping by fff blog and commenting...
I will pop back now and again...till it dies its natural...always good to see you whichever blog home of mine you fall upon..

luv alice x x

Suldog said...

As always, Shrinky, some great writing. I am not in your shoes, but I would probably not have handled such things as the make-up incident (or male equivalent) with the grace you seem to have shown. Then again, she probably counted on that grace being in you and, in a backhanded way, that's quite the compliment she paid you!

Shrinky said...

Oh my goodness Jinksy, you must, must, must post up some photo's of that time - I'm sure I'm not the only one who would love to see you in that Barber's chorus!

Shrinky said...

Alice, much as I love your fff blog, I have to say this new one of yours is simply magical, I am so enjoying it!

Shrinky said...

Hi Jim, I only bit my tongue so often because of who she was, no one else would have had a chance of getting away with a fraction of what she did. My poor hubby got it in the neck instead! She was his mother, and he loved her, he was my husband, and I knew he loved her - but I didn't suffer in silence, I simply ranted at him instead! (You have no idea of how many bunches of flower's Veronica was responsible for me receiving.)

mythopolis said...

Veronica lived through a very hellacious time. It is hard to imagine. I always enjoy family history tales. And, I've gotta remember the ceiling walking thing at my next party!!