Memories: VE Day Then and Now

On 8 May 1945, VE Day, my cousin Sheila Freeman (née Grant) was living with her parents, Emily and Chris Grant, her sister Pam and brother Roy, Auntie Rose and Uncle Ernie King, Val and Michael, my Mum (expecting me in late October) and dad-to-be, Thomas Mayers, home from three and a half years’ service with the RAF. All of them lived at 9 West Hill Road with Gran. Sheila said that there was a street party outside and dancing. I have a family photograph taken by my Dad of that event.

This year, we decorated No 1 Highview Avenue North in Patcham with the White Ensign on the flag pole and flags pegged to the washing line with red, white and blue pegs; VE Day bunting fixed between a trellis and the Wandering Minstrel Rose bush; and British Legion bunting held in place by tent pegs in the raised flower bed in our front garden. VE Day 50th Anniversary tea-towels were pegged to the net curtain in the lounge and I re-used my daughter’s Mother’s Day gift basket to arrange all sorts of poppies collected over the years with decorative pastel coloured butterflies on sticks. The NHS poster in the porch of a rainbow has had ‘VE Day 75th Anniversary Celebration’ added to Easter, Mother’s Day and St George’s Day events. I collected displays of suitable photos and photo albums and had them close at hand to show either passers-by (at a distance) or my husband, son and daughter.

One good thing during this period is that, though always conscious of keeping a safe distance apart, we have met old neighbours from the far end of the Avenue; newly moved in neighbours; and those who moved in decades ago. Every Thursday night we have gathered outside our houses and rung bells, banged gongs, bashed saucepans and lids, as my poor hands are too marred by frequent washing to clap.

We have enjoyed distant encounters with young couples, families and oldies making the best of the beautiful weather. I take my sketch book to the Lilac Park as we see it in full bloom. Our Lilac tree is now passed its best but I painted it while it was in its prime, as well as the plants, shrubs and roses I can see while sitting on my patio. We see the little girl in the garden alongside the bottom of our garden bouncing on her trampoline.

On May 10 my husband drove slowly up West Hill Road and I was so taken with the decorations on both sides. I forgot to take special notice on No 9. I hope you all had a safe and peaceful celebration to mark the 75th Anniversary of VE Day.

Sandra Cooper

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