The fourth and final part of Helen Forrester’s bestselling autobiography continues the moving story of her early poverty-stricken life with an account of the war years in Blitz-torn Liverpool
In 1940 Helen, now twenty, reeling from the news that her fiance Harry has been killed on an Atlantic convoy, is working long hours at a welfare centre in Bootle, five miles from home. Her wages are pitifully low and her mother claims the whole of them for housekeeping. Then, early in 1941, she gets a new job and begins to enjoy herself a little. But in May the bombing starts again and another move brings more trouble to Helen, trouble which will be faced, as ever, with courage and determination.
“Although I have never written to an author, I find myself regretting that I did not try to communicate with Ms. Forrester during her lifetime to tell her how much I appreciate her telling her story. It was such a significant viewpoint on such an important time and place. As so many have noted, it is not easy but very worthwhile. I would like to think this series will never be out-of-print.” – Reader
Helen Forrester described Lime Street at Two as “a quiet tale of a war, my war”.
While it is a very personal story, the book also paints a vivid picture of the multiple effects of the war on a young civilian woman. Love and relationships are intensified by the stresses and enforced separation of war and the ever-present fear that one might not see ones loved ones again.
The working world changed dramatically with the onset of war. Helen was one of many women who took over a man’s position in an office, in this case the office of an oil consortium located on the Liverpool waterfront, an opportunity that would not have been open to her in peacetime.
And then there was the ever present danger of bombs as Liverpool and the dock area was a major target. The fear and the need to be able to find cover quickly was layered on deep fatigue from long working hours, seriously disrupted transportation, limited food rations and shortages of almost everything that makes life comfortable.
Helen saw the suffering around her with great empathy and admired the ingenuity and determination of countless ordinary people. In the book she describes the role of cleaning ladies:
“I found myself part of a long line of much older women, their heads wrapped in turbans or kerchiefs, a pair of old shoes under their arm or sticking out of a shopping bag. They plodded along stolidly on swollen feet, their varicose veins lumpy under their woollen stockings. Occasionally, they would shout, ‘Mornin’ to each other or stop for a word or two, but for the most part they walked in silence, putting first one cautious foot over scattered chunks of brickwork or electric cables and then lifting the other one over. Sometimes they paused to stare back at some unusual object, like a bath, lying in the road, or to watch the firemen and rescue workers at a particularly large scene of destruction. They were the cleaning ladies of Liverpool, often leaving homes that had been damaged in the previous night’s raid, to go into the city to make ready the offices and shops before their staff arrived. Increasingly frequently, they found nothing left to clean, only a dangerous mountain of rubble or a burning skeleton of a building. Many businesses, however, had reason to bless them, when the building was still standing, but all the windows and doors had been blown out and stock or papers were scattered everywhere. Imperturbable, they would pick up, shake and sort, until they had the floors fairly clear. Then, if the electricity was still working, they would plug in their vacuum cleaners and assail the all-enveloping dust. If there was no electricity, out came brooms and mops, buckets and floor cloths. To the nervous, excited clerks and shop assistants, when they arrived later, these women were quiet symbols of stability.