24-year-old Amy writes from London to her sister Irene, back home in Hull
4th April 1928
I can hardly believe I’ve been in London a year already! I suppose I can start calling myself a local now. It feels very strange after so many years in Hull but I am settled here, especially now Winnie and I have found ourselves the most darling room share. You must come and stay with us – if Teddy will let you. You’ll just have to tell him to put up with it! There’s no use letting boys tell you what to do. They do everything wrong.
The house is in Maida Vale, which is a very peaceful part of London, quite a relief sometimes from the dust and the din of town. I have to admit, before Winnie came, I was growing quite fed up of London. It can be overwhelming, on your own in the middle of Oxford Circus with buses and taxis and people coming at you from every direction. And living alone I started to grow quite anxious at night, the sirens and the shouting outside all seemed very sinister on my own. Of course I’m over that now but I needed to get away from all that for a little while and have some air. Maida is perfect for that – there are places to walk and swim and tennis courts right across the road. It’s good to be active, to be doing things, to be keeping my mind occupied.
And then there are the airplanes. Yes, airplanes! The drone of them thrums overhead all day long. I find myself darting for the window for a glimpse whenever one goes over. It turns out we’re quite near some airfield. It drives everyone else mad (why live here then??) but I like it. There’s something quite comforting about it. It reminds me of the war – do you remember that time the Zepps were going over and I ran outside to have a look? Dad dragged me back into the cellar so fast – you were so surprised you fell in the coal bunker!
I remember seeing a film at the cinema of a plane soaring amongst the clouds. Were you with me? I don’t remember. I just remembering thinking, what must it be like, to be so free of everything, so at home with the sky and the wind, the whole of the world at your feet? Then there was that disappointing five bob flip Molly had at the fair – it was all over so quickly! – but that hasn’t put me off. Something about the sound of the planes fills me with a burning desire to get up there myself. One day last week I couldn’t stand it any longer. I thought I would go mad if I stayed indoors listening to planes zoom by. So I got on a bus and went up to the airfield myself – Stag Lane. It was quite wonderful, planes taking off and landing and doing turns in the air and people sat in deckchairs watching. I joined in. I felt – I can’t exactly describe how I felt except it felt like home. Does that make sense? It sounds awfully silly now I write it. Anyway, I ended up asking about having flying lessons, just for the thrill of it. The club secretary says I have to pay for membership and then wait for a vacancy. I’m all paid up so now it’s just a waiting game!
On the subject of boys doing everything wrong: when I moved to London, I was sure my moving away would force Hans to act. I think half of me really expected a ring. Of course nothing of the sort has happened. Oh, we’ve written, as usual. You remember when I told you I was going to Scotland with a friend from work? The truth is we were together. I don’t know why I lied about it. Because I knew you would disapprove, I suppose. I still have his little portrait out on my dressing table and I look at it every night. Hans won’t commit and I can’t let go. He told me he’s started seeing another girl in Hull. Even knowing that, I didn’t break things off. Will I ever be able to? I don’t know. I feel as though he will always be there, at the edge of everything I do. I am trying to be strong and live a full life but he is always there. Sometimes he talks about coming to live in London and I dread it. It would be too hard to keep away from him if he were here. But I dread it most because I know that deep down I don’t dread it at all. Deep down I long for it, desperately.
That is why I have made a decision. I am going to take control of my life. When I come home for Easter I am going to tell Hans we must just be friends from now on. I know I am in the habit of giving him ultimatums with the secret intention of making him act but not anymore. This is for me. It’s not because I want another man – there’s no one – but I want my life back. I don’t want to feel like I’m only half-living any longer. I want to be able to go out to dances and parties and not feel guilty. Do you think it is the right thing, Reeny? I keep telling myself, however hard it seems now, it will be worth it in the end. It will, won’t it?