Pack Up Your Troubles

Pack Up Your Troubles
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Connie and Eva are best friends but their families are the worst of enemies…During the VE Day celebrations, two women meet completely by chance. As Connie and Eva talk they discover they are from feuding families, the Maxwells and the Dixons. But when they both begin nurses’ training, they can’t deny their natural bond of friendship and become more like sisters.Their lives intertwine as Connie starts courting Eva’s brother, Roger, a bomb disposal expert. In her heart, Connie holds a torch for local artist and freespirit Eugene, but a dark memory from her past makes her wary of trusting any man.The two women are determined to uncover the secrets that have plagued them and kept the two families at war for so long. But can their friendship survive the shocking truth?A moving family drama for fans of Maureen Lee and Katie Flynn.


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Pack Up Your Troubles

This book is dedicated to my brother, Barrie Stainer. After a whole life-time apart, it was wonderful to discover your existence. Thank you for your warmth and generosity even though I was such a surprise!

VE Day 1945


By the time they reached Trafalgar Square, the sheer weight of the crowd forced the bus to a standstill. As the passengers turned around, the conductor gave them an exaggerated shrug and rang the bell three times. ‘Sorry folks, but this bus ain’t going no fuver.’

Irene Thompson and Connie Dixon had planned to go on to Buckingham Palace but they had to get off with the rest of the passengers. The bus couldn’t even get anywhere near the pavement but nobody minded. Today, everybody was happy; everyone that is except Connie who couldn’t hide her disappointment.

She had planned to be here with Emmett but he had written a hurried note, which she had stuffed into her shoulder bag as she left the billet. It was terse. ‘Can’t make the celebrations. Mother unwell and she needs me.’ She knew she shouldn’t be annoyed. Emmett was always keen to help others, and he was devoted to his aged mother but it was very galling that he should pick this moment to be noble, just when the celebrations were about to begin. He had said he would telephone her that evening but even if she got back to the barracks in time, she had made up her mind to be ‘out’ when he called. She frowned crossly. Why couldn’t he be like the others? Betty Tanner’s boyfriend brought her flowers all the time and Gloria’s man friend had given her a brand new lipstick. Emmett never did anything like that. It really was too bad.

‘Cheer up, Connie,’ Rene chided as she took her arm. ‘We’re making history. Don’t let Emmett spoil it for you. Be happy.’

As they stepped onto the road, Connie had never seen so many people all in one place. Soldiers, sailors and airmen, from what seemed like every country in the world, had been drawn here to join the people of London to welcome this much longed for day. After five years of war and hardship, peace had come at last. It was rumoured that Churchill and the King had wanted Monday, 7 May to be called VE Day, but the Yanks had insisted that it should be today, Tuesday, 8 May. Connie supposed it was because they were cautious enough to make sure that everything was signed and sealed before enjoying the victory. The German troops had capitulated and signed an unconditional surrender at Eisenhower’s headquarters at 2.41 a.m. Whatever the reason, the grey war-wearied faces had gone and Connie was met with smiles and handshakes from complete strangers. Ever since the news had broken that Adolf Hitler and his mistress had committed suicide, the whole nation finally believed what they had not dared to, that the war in Europe was over at last. The war in the Far East was still raging but the smell of victory was in the air.

The bus had come to a halt because an Aussie soldier, waving the Australian flag, his arm linked with a merchant seaman, was leading a group of revellers down the middle of the street. They were being watched by a couple of eagle-eyed Red Caps but there would be no trouble today. No one was in a fighting mood. The military police were in for a lean time. Even the US MPs – ‘Snowdrops’ as they were known because of their white caps, white Sam Browne belts and white gloves – were redundant. The joyful crowd following in the Aussie soldier’s wake was made up of American GIs, WAAFs, ATS girls and civilians all singing at the tops of their voices.

‘Bless ’em all, the long and the short …’

‘Come on,’ cried Rene as Connie held back, ‘let’s join in.’

An American GI caught Rene’s arm and pulled her into the body of moving people. ‘… this side of the ocean, so cheer up my lads bless ’em all.’

‘Oh Rene,’ cried Connie, ‘it’s really, really over.’

Picking up the lyrics, they lurched with the crowd towards Nelson’s column, the base of which was still covered in hoarding to protect it from bomb blasts even though the last air raid warning had been sounded on 19 March. Someone had stuck a poster on it with ‘Victory over Germany 1945’ on one side and ‘Give thanks by saving.’

Connie nudged Rene in the ribs and jerking her head, shouted over the noise, ‘Give thanks by saving? I should cocoa!’ and they both laughed.

After so much hardship and sacrifice, did the government really think everyone was going to keep on being frugal and sensible with their money? Some might, but not her. She was twenty-one and she’d already spent the best years of her life scrimping and making do, first in the munitions factory and then, after a spell of sick leave, in the WAAFs. Now that the war was over, Connie had no idea what she wanted to do but she was sure of one thing. She was in no mood to save for the future. Hadn’t she just blown all her coupons on her new outfit, a lovely pale lemon sweater and some grey pinstriped slacks? And then there was Emmett. She had hoped he would have asked her to marry him by now, but he hadn’t, presumably because he was anxious about his mother’s health. He’d asked her a few times to go further but Connie had told him she wasn’t that sort of a girl. Still, Rene was right. This was no time to nurse her disappointments. Today was the day to enjoy herself.

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