Publication Date: 9 September 2010
A&C Black Publishers
36 Soho Square, London, W1D 3QY
t: 020 7758 0200
f: 020 758 0222
Victory to friendship in tale of two countries at war
To be published on the 70th anniversary of the start of the Autumn 1940 Blitz
The man turned at the end of the row of houses and began to walk down the alley. Most of the houses had their toilets there and it smelled worse than Sally on a bad day.
"Put out the light!" he cried, and before we could echo him, a yard door flew open and an old woman stuck her head out.
"Who's that? Who's that shouting? Clear off, you cheeky beggar. Clear off or I'll call the police."
The man stopped. In the starlight, we could see him step towards her. He wore a long coat and a steel helmet like an upside-down soup plate. He pointed to the white letters on his helmet - ARP.
"Air Raid Precautions, Mrs Grimley," he said. "It's me, Warden Crane. I can see light in your window."
"Of course you can see light. I'm reading the paper. I can't read in the dark. What do you think I am? A cat?"
"No, Mrs Grimley. But you have to draw the curtains tight. It's the blackout. You can be fined five pounds, Mrs Grimley. You wouldn't want that, would you?"
"Who says?" she snapped. Her white hair glowed like a halo and her round spectacles shone.
"The law, Mrs Grimley. Now, let me come and check that curtain and you'll stay out of trouble."
"I've never been in trouble in my life," she said as she led the way into the back yard.
Sally and I crept closer. The smell of the toilet made my eyes water.
"We don't want German bombers seeing your light and dropping a bomb on your head, do we?" the warden asked as they moved towards her kitchen door.
"Bombers? Bombers? There aren't no bombers," she argued.
"No, but there could be any time."
"Why would they want to drop bombs on me? I never did nothing to them Germans?"
"True, but they'd send bombs to flatten the steelworks over at Tinsley," the man explained.
"Tinsley? We're two miles from Tinsley!"
"They might miss, and then where would you be?"
"In the shelter at the end of Stanhope Street," she said sourly and closed the door behind them.