At 12 noon, Sunday 3 September 1939, Neville Chamberlain, the Prime Minister, announced over the radio that we were at war with Germany. The family were sitting silently round the dining room table listening. It was a sombre gathering. I was lying prone on the floor reading, as was my wont, legs waving in the air. To me it was all very exciting. I didn't see anything to worry about. We were going to bash Hitler and all would soon be well. But the family had very different emotions. They were all crying, some more quietly than others. Opa was chomping his dentures, a sign of distress. Feelings were mixed Though they were all glad that some challenge was at last being offered to Hitler's progress and hoped that this might ease the plight of those Jews still in Germany - little could anyone have imagined what was to come - I do not think that anyone had any illusions about the difficulties ahead. They had all seen at first hand evidence of Hitler's power and the almost universal support he had in Germany. There was no guarantee that this was a war we could win and any other outcome did not bear thinking about. This time we would have nowhere to run to. Immediately after the broadcast we heard the first air raid warnings. I know of no sound more depressing than the wailing modulations of the warning siren. It strikes fear and despondency in me even now when I hear it, not simply because of its associations, but because of its inherently devilish sound. The "all clear" is not that much better but at least it carries a message of respite.
Everything that my family had built up over the previous eighteen months was threatened. I was oblivious to all this. I continued to live in my own small world, where my parents had sheltered me from trouble. I knew nothing of their problems except what I picked up from conversations. So far as I was concerned the whole family seemed to share in a conspiracy of silence. They would stop talking if I entered a room while they were discussing something which were thought unfit for my ears, ranging from local gossip or scandals, risque jokes - not that I would have understood them - to illness, and machloikes, arguments usually family disputes. These were frequent. Most concerned the factory or matters financial. War was another of those topics from which I had to be sheltered.
The outbreak of War led to two decisions which affected me; the immediate one was that of my parents to send me away to school as a boarder. The other, early in 1940 was to close the Grey House and move to Guisborough. I had moved to The Firs School in Nunthorpe, a village half way between Middlesbrough and Guisborough. earlier in the year. I do not know why. I was not consulted nor given any explanation. The change of schools may have been dictated by the fact that it was a boarding school, and despite Neville Chamberlain's "piece of paper", to which no one in my family attached any credibility, war seemed inevitable and my parents would want me out of the way if war came. Middlesbrough was an important port, there was an R.A.F. Aerodrome at Thornaby not two miles from our house, we were surrounded by iron and steel works, shipyards, heavy industries, all likely targets for enemy bombers. Transport was going to be a problem; though we had a car, petrol would be virtually unobtainable. All these assumptions proved correct.
The first immediately visible impacts of the War were the blackout and gas masks. The Grey House had very large windows and these needed to be covered so as to allow no light to escape. Even the slightest breach of the blackout regulations was treated as heinous. For the large kitchen windows which had no curtains, thick blackout material was stretched over specially made wooden frames which had to be lifted into place. They were very effective but heavy. Curtains had to be lined with similar material. It was amazing how accurately the enemy managed to find our cities despite these precautions. Windows were crisscrossed with tape to avoid the glass splintering if a bomb dropped nearby. Gas masks carried in a little cube-shaped cardboard box were issued to all. Though it was an offence to go out without yours people got tired of carrying these ungainly objects and before long I would have had difficulty in finding my gas mask had it been needed. Rationing was introduced; shortages soon became apparent. The young men disappeared. I remember witnessing a particularly tearful farewell between one of the maids, a small, chunky and very pretty girl, and her fiancé.
The first months of the war were uneventful, so far as we were concerned, the period known as the "phoney" war. According to some newspapers, Chamberlain still thought an outright war might be avoided. Most of the action appeared to be in Poland and Finland, another far away country, which had been attacked by Russia. Sympathies were with Finland and I would circle round the garden, arms spread wide, pretending to be a Finnish plane attacking the Russians. I did not know whether the Finns had any planes, but nobody really cared. More casualties were caused by the blackout than by enemy action. Bombing attacks had not yet started. The British Expeditionary Force had not yet left for France, and so far as we were concerned all was still quiet on the Western Front.
The owner and Headmistress of the Firs, Mrs M. was a formidable woman, with blonde hair just turning to grey, tall, and heavy boned. She was "d'un certain age" but seemed very old to me. She wore thick glasses and had a slight squint which gave her a somewhat lop-sided appearance. I had liked Mrs. Relph; I did not like Mrs. M. She had no sense of humour, there was no fun in her. In so far as Mrs. M. thought about it at all, which is improbable, I doubt whether she liked me or even particularly noticed me. This came as something of a shock, as, until then, I had been the centre of the Universe. Mrs M.'s father was a clergyman whose knowledge of the Classics included Hebrew. He would speak to me in what I can only assume was biblical Hebrew, as one might wish to converse with a Frenchman in his own language, and was disappointed that I had no idea what he was saying.
After some months the school was evacuated to Newbiggin-on-Lune a small pretty village in the Lake District. The River Lune a tributary of the River Ribble seemed to run along the High Street. After a short time we moved to Grayrigg, a small hamlet not far away. I do not know why. Children were informed only on a need-to-know basis, if at all. At Grayrigg we were accommodated in a large house, Brownrigg Hall, the sort of place now popular as a Country House Hotel.
I was from the first very unhappy at this school. I did not like the school much in Nunthorpe but at least there I still had regular contact with home. My becoming a boarder, and my evacuation with it, had not gone without vociferous objection by me, and Opa and Dora. Opa was appalled at the idea of sending his grandson away. He believed that families should stay together. I had not been away from home before. However, whatever the family committee might say, my mother, when it came to my up-bringing, made the decisions. If it was my parents' intention to subject me to a crash course in Being English, they succeeded. To me, that school was a prison house. I was very lonely, not because I needed or missed my family, but, paradoxically, because I was rarely alone: I was denied my privacy and my liberty. There was a strict routine for everything. What we ate was regulated; what we wore was ordained. We had to go to the toilet every morning and were not allowed to pull the chain before Matron had inspected our stools. If we were unable to produce any, she gave us spoonfuls of California Syrup of Figs, which was sweet and actually quite pleasant. Matron examined our hair for lice and our orifices for Heaven knows what. I felt all this a terrible infringement of my dignity. Whenever illness was suspected we were given some unpleasant medicine, such as Owbridge's linctus, which wasn't as bad as some; one of the boys had to swallow some foul smelling garlic tasting concoction for his asthma. The cure was often worse than the disease. But what caused me the greatest problem in adjusting was the total difference in cultures. It was not no longer being an only and much spoiled child among a large number of adults which upset me but being pitchforked into what was for me an alien environment, a non-Jewish world, cold, formal, unloving, lacking understanding and oppressive. When ten years later I had to go into the Army, I found it a doddle by comparison.
Meals, except breakfast for some reason, started with grace: "For what we are about to receive the Lord make us truly thankful" and were concluded with grace after meals: "For what we have just received may the Lord make us truly thankful;" a far cry from the several pages of the grace after meals we said at home, though admittedly only on the Sabbath and Festivals, but at least at home there was something to be thankful for. Here we had to eat whatever food was served and leave nothing on our plates - "There's a war on, don't you know~ food's scarce. It's a sin to waste. Think of the poor children in Europe", was the usual refrain. My gourmet days came much later in life, but even then I thought the food awful. Though ready to do my patriotic duty I couldn't see that our eating the uneatable would make any great contribution to the war effort. John, one of my fellow pupils, could not abide onions. One lunchtime only a few days after we had been evacuated potatoes covered with a white sticky concoction purporting to be onion sauce were served for lunch. I found this hard to swallow. John simply refused to eat it.
"You will not leave the table until you have eaten everything on your plate" "I'm not eating it" "You are" "I'm not!" "Oh yes you are!" "Oh not I'm not" and the whole episode degenerated into the traditional Pantomime routine which would have been funny had we, John's school friends, not all been so distressed by what we were being forced to witness. You would have thought from the Bumbleish reaction that he had committed some heinous crime. No doubt our headmistress and matron considered it such. He was not allowed to leave the table until he had eaten the offending, not to say offensive, food. So he threw it on the floor. He was red haired and had the temper to match. There was a great struggle of wills. He stood his ground manfully, but size and power told. Eventually he had to give way, but he fought a good fight and was not so tested again; the moral victory was his. I was upset and disgusted at the whole episode. To me it was simply bullying, to show who was "boss". I had a much easier way of dealing with any similar problem. I would merely say, "I'm very sorry, I'd love to have that, but I can't because I'm not allowed to." As I was the only Jewish boy in the school, this could not be checked. There was sometimes even an element of truth in this. But John was certainly not grateful for what he had been forced to receive.
We had to write home weekly. Unfortunately there was no reverse rule. Our letters were checked and censored, and those we received were opened and read. I thought then and still do that this was disgraceful, but it was in keeping with the educational ideas of schools such as this. My father, not a great correspondent but who had fine handwriting, usually wrote the letters to me because Mother's handwriting was indecipherable. Suddenly the letters came from my mother, or Dora. There was no explanation until a few months later when Dad's letters suddenly resumed, and I learned that he was "back". Back from what? I had no idea he had been away.
Most possibilities had been catered for by the family so far as foresight could go, but internment was the one eventuality which had not been anticipated. The Government, fearing an influx of German spies among Jewish refugees, decided, under the Defence of the Realm Acts, a relic of the first War up-dated for the occasion, to intern all suspected "enemy aliens". It was Churchill's idea to "collar the lot" but this was not one of his finest hours. Though none of the family (except Karl and he was not "family") had any, let alone German, nationality, Opa, my father, Max and Herman and Karl were all interned in the Isle of Man. For Opa, and others like him, this was terrible. To have fled Hitler's Germany, to have been given visas to settle here, to have established a business providing employment where it was needed - and ironically on Government contracts at the time and then to be arrested and imprisoned like a criminal, was unconscionable. In fact, so idiotic was the whole policy that among those interned was a Mr. Baum of Middlesbrough who had seven sons all serving in the Army. He had lived here for over 40 years and it had simply not occurred to him to be naturalised. There were many others like him throughout the country. This was illustrative of the paranoid and xenophobic attitudes war engenders, and of a mentality which could give serious credence to the rumour that Germans were dropping parachutists disguised as nuns as spies. I often wonder who thinks up such nonsense.
Mr. Edwards was asked to use his good offices to secure the release of the menfolk. Whether it was due to his intervention (if any) or whether matters simply took their course, I do not know. Opa was released within a month and Dad, Max and Herman within three months. To Yetti's distress her "poor Karl," as she always called him, was not released for a year. Women were not exempt from internment and though none of the women of my mother's family suffered this indignity, Karl' s sister Lotte did.
Fortunately one or two senior personnel remained to run the office, Mr. Peacock, Mr. Seidler and Joyce Almond. Mr. Peacock was a slight, gentle, grey-faced, sick man; he suffered from consumption and smoked some strange herbal cigarettes for his condition. He died young. Mr. Seidler was another refugee, a mild, shy man. I assume he was not interned because he did not come from Germany. He was small and squat shaped; though very competent he lacked confidence and gave the impression that he knew he was a born loser. Joyce Almond was a secretary. She was intelligent, competent, pleasant and exceedingly shy. Slightly handicapped physically, she lacked self-confidence. There seemed some sort of friendship between her and Mr. Seidler, they were both lonely, private and somewhat lost souls. A romance between them would have been cheered by all; everyone was willing them on. Regrettably, there was never, so far as I am aware, and gossip would readily have filled the vacuum, any evidence that there was. These three proved loyal servants of the company. Jeanne came in to help in the office. She was a good administrator and between them, my mother and my aunts, the business was kept afloat, and, indeed flourished.
My mother, suspecting that the fare at an English boarding school at any time, and even more so in wartime, would be inadequate and uneatable, in good Jewish tradition regularly sent me food parcels. These were opened and shared out. In all fairness all food parcels were shared out, but as mine were the biggest and best I lost out. I didn't mind this so much as the fact that Mrs. M.' s two sons, and John Newton, the Matron's son, all pupils at the school, were among the beneficiaries of this imposed largess. They, of course, never received any food parcels and never made any corresponding contribution. When Dora learned of this she was furious and was convinced that the Head and the Matron, Mrs Newton, had kept the best for themselves. There is no evidence either to support or refute this allegation, but then the evidence would have been consumed.
All the various bodily inspections did not prevent epidemics of the usual childhood illnesses. The best time I had at that school came when the rest had German measles, mumps and chicken pox, all of which I escaped. While most of the school was laid up in bed or quarantined I was free to roam. The gardens of the house which we were occupying were extensive and pleasant. A track ran down to a level crossing on the main Euston to Glasgow line, then the old L.M.S. We were not far from Oxenholme, a major junction. There was a signal box at the level crossing. I ran there as often as I could to watch the trains. One day the signalman saw me hanging on the crossing gates. "Do ye want to come up and have a look, laddie?" he asked. Did I! I was up the wooden steps at the side of the box before the words were out of his mouth. The signal box was of traditional design, and quite small. Under the wide windows there was a line of long levers, each with a different colour and a polished silvery handle, with a grip, rather like hand brakes on old vehicles. These controlled the various points and signals, and the signalman pulled them forward and pushed them back using a cloth for better grip. "Up" trains ran to and "Down" trains from London. He explained how everything worked: "This blue lever moves the signal for the up-train. The yellow one is the distance signal for the down train" and so on. A telegraph bell announced the impending arrival of a train, and for a few minutes all would be action; the signalman had to shift the levers to change the signals and the points and open those ahead of the train and close those it had just passed, check the "road" ahead and alert the next box as the trains passed from our section to his All was hustle and bustle and then suddenly the train would appear and pass noisily by in a climactic moment, oblivious of the efforts made to ensure its safe progress, spewing black smoke from its stack and steam from every pipe; at speed if an express, more leisurely if a freight train. This was romance, energy, passion, life. The sense of power and the excitement were almost unbearable. Then suddenly all would be silence, broken only by the eponymous cries of the pee-wits and the songs of the thrushes and other birds plentiful in the hedgerows. In the few minutes of this oasis of quiet before the next train was due, my friend would pour me out a cup of tea from his flask. Occasionally I would be allowed to hold the levers while he pulled them. It was all done by hand. Considerable strength was needed to move them, but I had the strength of Hercules when required.
Due to the war most of the traffic was freight; apart from the troop trains there were few passenger trains and these were very long. Because of the steep incline towards Shap, the highest point of the railway system in England, the trains going north were usually double-headed, that is, pulled by two engines, and there was often an extra engine at the back pushing. My day was really made if I was lucky enough to catch sight of one of the great streamlined maroon Coronation type 4-6-2 expresses, the LMS' s answer to the East Coast Gresleys, one of which had not long before set a new world speed record for a steam train. I experienced the glamour and fascination of these wonderful steam engines, like smoking dragons, with their clanking wheels and rhythmic carriages, at close quarters. I could almost have touched them as they passed. They may have been dirty and smelly and inefficient compared with to-day's bland self-satisfied looking trains but each one of those engines had its own character and personality. I would have given anything to be the driver of one of those trains but the next best thing was to be in the signal box. I went there whenever I could. It was a friendly shelter, where I could be happy.
My only hope of escape from my own internment, as I regarded my position - to me it really was a "prison house" - was to get into another school. As my parents were now living in Guisborough, I found out by accident that I was eligible for the Grammar School there. Someone - I think it was Mr. Edwards the MP - asked me what school I was at and whether I was going to go to the Grammar School. Until then I knew nothing about it. I nagged my parents to find out about this school; could I go there? My parents must have appreciated just how miserable I was. My father went to see the Headmaster. I couldn't wait for him to tell me what had been said. When Dad got back he reported to mother and me: "It's a very nice school, and Mr. Routh the Headmaster is a real English gentleman. He told me 'we take boys who have passed the Scholarship exam, (as the 11 plus was then known). They start at the age of 11 or 12. We do take a few fee-paying boys if there are vacancies and they are up to standard.' I told him that you were only 9 but that you were very unhappy at your school and that we felt you were wasting your time there." My parents had never before suggested that. "Mr. Routh said that though it would be quite unusual he would make an exception and take you if you passed the "Scholarship." I needed to hear no more. I resolved to take and pass the Scholarship. I begged my parents to let me try. Dora and Opa needless to say also became involved. "Of course he must try" Dora insisted. "It'll be no problem for him" added Opa (in Yiddish), "but in any case, kein breira, there is no other choice."
I do not know how it was done, but it was. Due to the difficulties of wartime travel I could not take the papers in the usual way at the Grammar School itself and arrangements were made for me to sit the examination at the Vicarage in Kirby Stephen, a nearby market town, in March 1941. The papers were sent to the Vicar who was to invigilate. I took the examination in his study. He was charming and kind, and made me feel very much at home. He opened the envelope containing the exam papers in front of me and looked over them swiftly. "Don't worry" he said "I'm sure you'll have no trouble with these." The way he said it I thought he was going to add, "Just ask me if there's anything you don't know." He ensured that I had a constant supply of tea and biscuits. I cannot think of pleasanter surroundings in which to take an exam. In all fairness to Mrs. M, she must have co-operated in making the necessary arrangements and seen to it that I was well enough prepared to sit the exam. It would perhaps be unkind to think that she may have had her own reasons.
I had not found the examination difficult, but I had no idea whether or not I had done well. I resigned myself with a heavy heart to possibly two more years at "the Firs". A few weeks later, as we were looking forward to the respite of the Summer holidays, I was unexpectedly called to Mrs. M's study, not, from previous experience, a welcome prospect. I knocked at her door. "Come!" I heard. As I closed the door behind me I wondered what bad news awaited me - it was war time and bad news was commonplace - or what further enormity I might be accused of; was the Meta affair to be reopened? Just as I was mentally preparing my case for the defence, I heard her say, with what I thought was a note of surprise in her voice, "Congratulations! I've just heard you've passed the Scholarship. I'm sure your parents will be delighted. The Headmaster's letter says you can start at the Grammar School next term", I received the news with great relief and joy. I suppose I must have learned something at "the Firs." There was no purpose in my remaining at the school any longer. Guisborough was comparatively safe, so I went home.
Dora came to collect me. She disliked Mrs. M. and despised the Matron, on sight. "That woman" she said, referring to Mrs. M, "is just jealous of you, because you are so much cleverer than her boys." I have no idea how she knew anything about their intelligence, but Dora never needed facts to form her opinions. "As for the matron," Dora went on "she's just a greedy bitch, trying to get whatever she can." I pointed out that her son John was one of the few friends I had at that school.
"I don't care" replied Dora "she's out to get as much as she can." She was very protective to the point of paranoia where I was concerned. She clucked around as Matron packed my things. Matron, as if to vindicate my aunt's views, was on the look out for cast-offs.
"Surely he won't be needing this?" she would say, holding up some article of clothing. Dora was in no mood to be generous,
"I'm sure his mother will want me to make sure that he brings home ALL his things, and she can choose her own charities, thank you very much" she replied. I was similarly unrelenting in regard to my toys and books. Nothing was intentionally left behind.
Dora stayed overnight at a nearby farmhouse which provided bed and breakfast. As she was leaving, the farmer's wife gave her a basket containing some large sandwiches well filled with meat and turkey, egg, cheese and biscuits, some apples and a flask of tea - fare fit for a king. There was enough for three.
""Ere's summat for yoursel' and t'lad. You'll be glad of it" she told Dora, ''you've got a long way to go and t' lad'll be hungry." "Thanks!" Dora replied, "but that's much too much; I've asked the school to let him have some sandwiches. I'm sure they'll give him something," "I wouldn't bank on 't; take summat for him anyhow. I'm sure t'lad will be glad of it A growing lad can always do with a bit extra. I know 'ow my lads eat!" "That really is kind of you," said Dora "what do I owe you?" "Nay, lass, you don't owe me nowt. Just get 'ome safely", replied her hostess, and refused Dora's repeated offers of payment. They kissed and parted like old friends.
A taxi took us the few miles to the little local station with what hand luggage we could carry. The heavy trunk and other things were sent on separately by carrier. When we had got a little way on the train Dora looked at the packet the school had given her; it seemed to be bleeding. She opened it carefully. It contained some emaciated looking beetroot sandwiches on thin white bread which was curling at the edges. Despite the war and rationing, Dora threw these out of the window in disgust. With them went my childhood.
When I arrived home, after kisses and hugs all round, Oma expressed horror at my appearance. Though I was probably as fit as I had ever been, she thought I was gaunt and undernourished, " Oh dear, oh dear just look at him" she exclaimed" It's a shame and disgrace how he looks, like a dried out hen. Come sit down, child, and eat." Whatever the gastronomic deficiencies of the School diet had been, it was well balanced and healthy. I had never been fat, but to a Jewish grandmother of Oma's ilk any suggestion of thinness was a sign of poverty and of bad health; a condition which required immediate treatment. It was, above all, a challenge. Oma fattened me up; she fed me thick soups, potatoes, bread and butter (culled from the rations of other members of the family); anything that would ensure weight gain. A Sumo wrestler would have approved. The diet worked well; I have had a weight problem ever since.
"Home" at this time was in Guisborough, a small, pleasant, undistinguished country market town. The town, lay at the foot of the Cleveland Hills, the highest point of which was Roseberry Topping, at 930 feet the peak of the range and our local "mountain", near which stood the monument to Captain Cook, born in Marton, now a suburb of Middlesbrough, long before Middlesbrough existed, the most famous son of the area before Wilf Mannion. It was the northern gateway to the the North Yorkshire Moors, and the coast, with its fishing villages of Runswick Bay, Robins Hood's Bay, Staithes and on to Whitby and Scarborough. The fumes, smoke and dirt of Middlesbrough seemed far away. It was a different, rural world. The family had taken a house at 31 Park Lane, about five minutes walk from the factory. It was the largest and only detached house in the road but it still had only three bedrooms and two rooms downstairs, a far cry from the spaciousness of the Grey House. The population emigrating from the Grey House was much reduced, but it was still large. I do not know how we all fitted into this little house.
Guisborough gave me even more freedom and independence than I had in Middlesbrough. But Oma hated Guisborough. Immediately opposite the house were fields; the cows looked at us sadly, as cows do, over their fence. Oma would point to them and say to visitors rather bitterly, "Meet my neighbours." If the move from Leipzig to Middlesbrough had been a culture shock then that to Guisborough was even more so. Middlesbrough had few pretensions to culture, but it had plenty of places of entertainment: three large cinemas, including an Odeon built circa 1938 Art Deco style, the Elite, the Gaumont, formerly the Opera House, and a number of smaller cinemas - there were about eleven in all, including one - a real flea pit this - which rejoiced in the name "The Grand Electric". It had the Empire, a live variety theatre where all the best acts appeared, and a lively amateur Little Theatre - where, incidentally, some years later the best Mercutio I have seen was played by one of the local Jewish members, Jack Adler. The Halle and other orchestra and solo performers, such as Myra Hess and Moiseiwitch included Middlesbrough on their regular concert tours. Whatever its failings it was a sizable town with a population twenty times that of Guisborough, catering for a large catchment area. Guisborough had only its flea pit in Challoner Street, where every Saturday morning you could see the weekly instalments, in glorious jerky black and white grain, uninterrupted if you were lucky, for the princely price of one penny, the Mark of Zorro, each episode ending with the hero about to die. Like Pauline in the "Perils of Pauline" he always survived. Though Middlesbrough was only nine miles away, it might as well have been in another world.
Home was not the same somehow. Things seemed to have changed while I was away, or perhaps I had. There was little Lebensraum; though there were fewer of us, we were all on top of one other in a way we had not been in the Grey House. I noticed things which I had always taken for granted. It had never previously occurred to me that my grandparents' habit of drinking tea from a saucer, or sipping it from a teaspoon or wetting a lump of sugar in the tea and then noisily sucking it, were other than normal. Opa tended to attack his chicken rather like Charles Laughton's Henry VIII. and no one dared to tell him not to slurp his soup or let his noodles dangle as he sucked them up. Even the way I now held my knife and fork, with the prongs pointing downward, and drank my soup from the side of the spoon rather than pour it in from the front, differed from the rest of the family. This wasn't so easy either with a pointed continental spoon. Even the spoons were different. They wondered what I was doing when I tried to balance peas on the back of my fork. The school food may not have been good but my table manners were excellent.
Even the food which I used to enjoy I no longer found palatable. The heimische delicacies such as helzel, literally "small neck", but actually the skin of the neck of a chicken or turkey filled with stuffing which consisted largely of chicken fat, breadcrumbs and whatever happened to be spare, and lokshen, noodles, pudding, and other specifically designed-to-fatten foods, had lost their appeal. I now loathed chicken fat, Oma's equivalent of dripping and used in the same way, in any form, and I spent ages skimming it off the top of my soup. Even my taste buds had been anglicized by a diet of such delicacies as tapioca and rice pudding, not actually bad except as served at the school, overcooked and tasteless vegetables, soggy white bread, and the sort of food generally which give English cooking a bad name. So distorted had they become that I disguised my chicken soup by adding large dollops of Marmite and for a time I even liked Brussels sprouts. I now enjoyed best fish or egg and chips, roast beef (albeit a rare treat) and Yorkshire pudding (often served without any accompanying meat), even Welsh rarebit, though not the tapioca and rice pudding which had been served almost daily and often more than once daily, at school. I no longer felt at home at home.
I was also getting older. I became critical of my elders, and embarrassed by them. These feelings were directed primarily at Oma, somewhat unfairly, but she was the least able to adapt and hence most represented the old world. For all Miss Johnson's efforts, Oma could still hardly speak a word of English. Yiddish and German were so natural to me that I had not noticed before that our conversations were held in different languages. My world and that of my family were by now in different hemispheres. It was not only my family from whom I was becoming isolated. Between returning home and starting at the Grammar School I had no friends. I knew no one in Guisborough. I lost touch with Peter Unwin and I believe he himself went to boarding school. The Gildons still lived in Middlesbrough but because of transport difficulties I saw nothing of them. My social life, such as it was, consisted of going to the factory and "borrowing" one the girls' bicycles left propped against the walls. But as before, being alone didn't worry me.
Guisborough's historical pride and joy was The Priory, one of the ruins that, in the words of the old music hall song, "Cromwell knocked about a bit". It had been an impressive building. The Grammar School founded in 1561, and one of the oldest in the country, stood in the old Priory grounds and was an off-shoot of the Priory. The school badge, a pointed double oval with a late mediaeval icon of Jesus in an inner oval and the words "Schola Grammaticalis Jesu de Guisborough" forming a border in the outer, bore witness to the school's ecclesiastical origins. The School had strong Church of England links.