In the 1990s, the city of Seattle still had a British Consul, complete with a lovely home as the Consulate. Once a year, the Consul would invite Seattle Branch ESU members to a spring or summer reception. Our members provided a lavish buffet; our host the bar. At some point in the past, the dining room had been recarpeted with solid white carpet. This is the room where the tasty buffet was laid out on the enormous dining table, with the bar nearby. Thus, people were walking around with glasses of wine, some of it red, and plates laden with food just waiting to land on the carpet.
That evening, someone had brought a large dish of meatballs in barbecue sauce. Inevitably, my British friend Judy Newell and I saw someone's plate tilt a little too much, and several meatballs rolled under the table onto that beautiful white carpet. We looked at each other and sprang into action.
Here were two grown women (Judy was in her 20s during WWII; I am a baby boomer), wearing elegant dresses and high heels (I also had a big hat on), crawling underneath that table, soapy cloths in hand, to gather up runaway meatballs! As we paused in somewhat ramped positions, Judy exclaimed, "Oh, this reminds me of The War!"
"Chasing meatballs reminds you of the War?"
"No, just diving under this table!" she laughed.
Later that evening, I got more of the story. Judy worked in London during the Blitz. One walked into buildings whose entrances were stacked high with sandbags. Everyone knew where entrances to the Tube were, in case you were outside when sirens started going off. Goods were scarce; ration coupons precious. According to Judy, life during WWII was hard, but one learned to take things in stride. The fact that London was a target made her and her friends all the more determined to carry on with their work and their daily lives, all the while knowing that bombs could drop from the sky at any moment. That's just the way life was during wartime. To quote the late Duke of Edinburgh, "You just got on with it." Judy is gone now, but I think often of this petite, white-haired woman who met the Blitz with such cheerful determination, and who gave so much of her time to ESU. If we hadn't spent time together under the table cleaning up after those errant meatballs, I might never have learnt her story.
By the way, we managed to get all the barbecue sauce stains out of that pesky white carpet!