2. Coming Home to Hull

22-year-old Amy writes from Hull to her close friend from school and university, Gwyneth Roulston

10th June 1926

Dear Gwyneth,

Hans is the most despicable creature I ever knew. He is a pig – an absolute pig and I can’t believe I ever loved him. I never should have come back to Hull just for him – I should be in America. Father could have found me a job there, I’m certain. But no, I came back to this rotten old hole that is Hull and for what – love? I am a fool, the biggest fool I ever knew for thinking Hans and I could be together. Four years it’s gone back and forth, writing letters – always letters – and what else? Engagement? How could there be? He just likes to keep me on a string he can pull when he wants company, never willing to commit. Am I really just some puppet of a thing, controlled by a man?

You were right – I should have ended it all months ago but I didn’t know how. I still don’t know if I can. Despite it all, I love him. I know I shouldn’t. Of course now we’ve had another row. It started off about some business trip abroad but it wasn’t really about that. I just want him to be steady with me. Irene has her Teddy and he – of course – is perfect. Why can’t I have that? I wish Hans were the kind of hero you see in films or read in books. I want him to rescue me from this dull, black and white life. But at the same time, I’m angry for wanting that. I should be able to rescue myself. I’ve always done what I want. You know I have a knack of getting my own way. What’s happened to me? I even asked mother to teach me how to cook and do things around the house so I might be marriageable. Me, cleaning and ironing! I couldn’t stand it. I’m just not that sort of girl. Whoever my husband is he’ll have to be able to do his own ironing. I certainly won’t be wasting my time with it. If I ever have a husband, that is.

On top of that, it turns out I’m not very good at anything in particular. I tried accountancy but that was dire I gave it up. It turns out that with a degree I am overqualified for making tea but unqualified for serving it! You know me, I shall keep trying. I’m in advertising now. It’s a little better but I’m only a junior so I get all the worst jobs. And the other girls in the office don’t seem to like me. I get along with the lads alright, even if they do try to be terribly over familiar sometimes, but I don’t know what to say to the girls. I miss you, Gynnie, and Winifred and Tuppy and the other Sheffield girls. I don’t have any friends here. It feels like everyone in Hull is either family or Hans’ friend. I don’t have anything of my own.

Things are dire at home too. It’s been brewing ever since I came back. I know father is frustrated – he thinks I can’t settle. Why can’t he understand I’m waiting for something to feel right? Mother disapproves of Hans terribly (made worse by Irene’s perfect Teddy). The fact he’s a Roman Catholic has always been difficult and mother is terrified I am going to convert from Methodist. In truth I have thought about it, but what’s the point if we’re never going to marry?

Then one other thing. I’ve not told anyone else. I can’t bear to. Irene is too busy with Teddy. I’m in debt. Terrible debt. I’ve made a right fine mess of things, buying too many new clothes and books. Things just sort of spiralled out of control before I could stop them. I’ve borrowed £50 to pay off the debts but now I must pay that back. It’s on my mind all the time, especially at night, lying in bed and I think I’m going to be sick with fear.

Oh what shall I do Gywn? Write to me and tell me what to do. I need a change in my life. I’ve gone on so long waiting for something to happen. I’m scared it never will. I’m scared I’ll end up like my mother. I don’t want her life. I want something more. There must be something I’m good at, mustn’t there? If you can think of anything, do let me know, won’t you?

Yours despairingly,

Amy x

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