Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Vere Hodgson (two): Few Eggs and No Oranges

Vere Hodgson:

And then it came to pass that the war came to Vere Hodgson. First on the radio, then on her local streets and later when the sky was full of aircraft. London: 1940. Ladbroke Road, just up from Holland Park.

Look west to Hammersmith. Look north to Shepherd’s Bush. Look south to the River, look east to Holborn and beyond: to Silvertown, to Canning Town, to The Isle of Dogs. Watch the next wave of aircraft approaching the east to the Docklands, to the flames and the sinking ships and barges. Vere Hodgson, London and England were at war.

All the while, she went to work, went about her private life, visited with friends and listened to the radio. Vere Hodgson drank tea, did without, kept calm and carried on.

She regularly recorded her everyday thoughts about what was happening in London and afar. This social worker entered those reflections in letters, diaries and journals. She wrote about the enemy, until at night his aircraft came again. And Vere Hodgson went to market. In such places it was soon: “few eggs and no oranges.” The phrase eventually moved from sentence to book title. It became the name of her collected wartime compilation, published decades later: Few Eggs and No Oranges. A woman who lived on Ladbroke Road told us about what it was like to be a Londoner at war.

As it came to pass.


Throughout the war Vere Hodgson’s captured thoughts related to her everyday life: philanthropic work, other activities, social group, news of war, and the impact of that conflict on this conscientious woman and her circle. Shortages of food and goods were rarely out of mind. The prospect of death was always in her margins: mentioned and accepted. A cat might cavort or cower as Vere wrote, depending on the proximity of targets and the sounds of exploding bombs. The world, the war and Vere’s pen moved on.

Going to the “pictures” was apparently not a major part of Vere Hodgson’s wartime schedule, but an occasional diversion. Yet offered are her thoughts on films she saw, so that we might reflect when we see the same films now. The next two postings (Vere Hodgson goes to the Pictures) sample her entries on fifteen films that she saw in London or Birmingham and mentioned in Few Eggs and No Oranges. Her comment on Citizen Kane has already been put forth.

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