It is 1944 and three-year-old Joannie listens to the tall stories told by her Granddad as he tries to bring normality to a very abnormal time. Born into an upstairs/downstairs world that is fast becoming history, her grandfather, the Head Gardener at Coxhill Manor near Chobham in Surrey, had seen it all before in 'the first lot’. Now his son, serving in the RAF in France and Malta, is just a face in a photograph to little Joannie, who one day will follow in her father's footsteps and join the Royal Air Force.
Joan Blackburn has returned, in this, her second book, to her rural working-class roots. With access to her father’s RAF Record of Service and an Aunt who lived to be over 100 years old, together with the aid of her own memories, she has been able to piece together the events contained in the book accurately and informatively to create a create a realistic and warm-hearted portrayal of the life of an ordinary English family caught up in the extraordinary events of World War II and its aftermath.
Set in the last years of the war and the first tentative years of peace, it tells of the worries of the ‘grown ups’ as they ‘make do and mend’ and of the child becoming accustomed to the ‘stranger’ in her life ~ the father she has seen so little of during the wartime years. However, it is a life full of adventures for one who is only three and sweetly oblivious to the carnage happening elsewhere...
Granddad works in the big gardens and has a wheelbarrow for her to ride in and he tells her fireside stories at bedtime before going off ‘to do his duty’ in the Home Guard ~ to search for ‘pies and nasties’ (spies and Nazis). Then the doodlebugs come and there are long rides in trains... but things would be all right in the end because Granddad said so.
This is a heart warming story of the home front as Britain picks itself up and dusts itself down. It is about an innocent time, when children did not want what others had, nor were they jealous of the ‘gentry’. It was not considered odd to listen to a ventriloquist on the wireless or to have dripping on one’s bread or rabbit for Sunday dinner. The children sang the National Anthem out loud in school whilst standing to attention and were taught to count their blessings. A far-off time that can be visited by reading this enjoyable and unashamedly nostalgic book.