Verena Rosemary Quinnell
The following are words left in an envelope in the safe.
Firstly some typed early memories.
This is the First thing I can remember. We were in a
room on the top floor at Worple Road. Gladys and Edith were there and
Angela was a small baby all in white.
Gladys opened a window and held Angela out so that I couldn't see her.
"I've dropped the baby." she said. How I screamed until at
last mother came running up to see what was happening. "Why is
that child screaming like that?" she asked. "Oh, she's always
yelling for nothing" said Gladys. Of course the baby was safely
inside by then and I just could not get through to mother what had happened.
Nothing has ever frightened me so much since.
PS Edith had a car accident on her day off and was found
to be wearing Mother's best blue silk undies.
Wimbledon 1927 - Tony is born
When I was three I was taken on a tube
train by a woman who was looking after me. We went to this nursing home
where Mother lay in bed looking terrible. I can remember her haggard
smile. She had just had Tony. Angela was in the same room. She was in
a high chair, crying her eyes out.
Mother gave me a paint box and a painting book which was lovely because
I missed her terribly. On the way home I sat on this woman's lap and
I can remember wetting myself. Her coat was thick and luckily she never
Back home she gave me some water in an egg cup and I painted at a table
down in the basement.
Wimbledon 1929 - 5th Birthday
We were all at Mere and Daddy and I went
back to Worple Road because I was starting at Miss Stewart's - "The
Ruskin School and Kindergarten. Well it was only a kindergarten and
in a house just like ours, five doors down the road.
I remember having this large parcel. Inside was a shoe box full of presents
but the only one I can remember were those little wooden dolls made
by Mary - I loved them.
Later I was stung by a wasp and the usual shadowy female who was looking
after me gave me a blue bag.
At School we saw the R100 from the window and I remember having to draw
it. Later it crashed.
Wimbledon 1930? - Aunt Esther comes
She was one of those ancient relatives
who we had never met but heard a lot about. One day we were told that
we must be on our best behavior because Aunt Esther was coming to tea.
It was a bit odd because we never heard the front door bell - suddenly
she just happened to be there and we had to go into the drawing room
to meet her.
She was sitting next to Mother during tea - a little bent old lady dressed
entirely in black in very old fashioned clothes. Unfortunately she was
extremely deaf so we had to speak up very clearly when she put us through
that cross-questioning which children were subjected to in those days.
Suddenly her chin dropped and we realised she was asleep. Mother put
her finger to her mouth to warn us to keep quiet. All of a sudden she
woke up and, to our astonishment and embarrassment, put us through the
same catechism as before. How we kept a straight face I will never know.
So eventually she departed and we were free to giggle.
Years later Mother told us that Aunt Esther had never come to tea at
all, It was Jennifer dressed up. We were absolutely astounded.
Sherborne - 1933
We had spent the Summer holidays at Mere
as usual. Sumpy had her birthday in August and Angela in September with
the usual celebrations. On 26th September we went to Sherborne, Angela
and I as new girls. The next day was my birthday and I woke up with
the feeling of excitement one used to have. Nothing happened. It was
just "Praised be Jesus Christ", jump out of bed and go to
Mass. No one said anything and I felt quite sure that my birthday had
been forgotten. What misery!
Then on the Breakfast table, there was a small package - a much wanted
watch - and for tea there appeared my favorite cherry cake with pink
icing made by Bakers.
So all was well but I alsways felt peeved at having to have my birthday
at school and not during the holidays.
Wimbledon 1934? - The Crystal Palace.
We went to Sydenham to see this. It was
vast and empty apart from naked statues - how we stared and giggled.
It was the fig leaves.
Later it burned down so I'm glad I went.
Sherborne - 1935
One day we were all summoned by Mother
Edwards. She had something important to tell us.
"A New girl is coming to the school", she announced. "She
will be a day girl. Now I want you to know that her father is a butcher
but you must not laugh at her or tease her because of that".
Her name was Barbara Gillet so, of course, we called her Giblets and
never stopped teasing her.
Colquite - 1939
Angela, Tony and myself were sent here
a few days before war broke out. The house belonged to Aunt Catherine
and Uncle Harry - rich relations who had offered to have us as the best
of two evils. From what one heard of official evacuees I think they
had a point.
Unfortunately they reckoned without Jennifer, who insisted that we took
this terrible little dog of hers with us. The first thing it did was
to perform on what was , I am sure, a very valuable carpet. Aunt Catherine
had a fit and probably longed for the real evacuees. The dog went down
to the stables and I just cant remember what happened to it - well,
I can guess.
Being poor ourselves, we looked forward to a life of luxury. We were
too young to realise that being rich usually means not spending , so
it was quite a shock to find that parsimony was the rule. However, we
had great hopes for Christmas. At home tables really did groan so it
had to be even better at Colquite. Alas Aunt Catherine did not pay a
shilling a week into the Co-op Christmas club. Nor did she buy vast
jars and tins of sweets from "Wholesale". I suppose we had
a Christmas dinner of sorts and then a plate of nuts was passed round
and that was it.
Once a week my Aunt had an 'At Home' and all these county people came.
In the middle of the table stood a Fuller's walnut cake but it was not
to be eaten. It was just for show. It was obviously an accepted custom
because no-one ever asked for a slice. However, when my birthday came
the show cake was deemed too stale, or perhaps too dusty, for 'at home'
and I had it as a birthday cake.
On 3rd of September, when war was declared, we were in the garden when
Aunt Catherine came out to tell us the news. We sat about discussing
this event and I always remember Tony saying very solemnly, "I
have never known war."
Uncle Harry was more open handed than his wife and quite often slipped
us a shilling but soon there was nothing to spend it on. We were always
warned to to tell Aunt Catherine if he gave us money. I think he was
a bit of a worry as he was supposed to have a mania about being poisoned
but I never noticed anything odd about him. He was just a bluff country
gentleman who loved the land.
Aunt Catherine used to kiss the top of his bald head whenever she went
by. I think this was sweet. I taught uncle Harry how to knit for soldiers.
It took him 18 months to make a scarf and it was terribly wide in one
place but we decided it would be a kind of balaclava. I wonder if anybody
ever wore it.
Their daughter, Bay, came to stay sometimes with husband and baby. She
was small and brittle. She smoked and used to say "Bloody".
I liked her a lotand the food certainly improved when she was there
and we used to go on trips to the sea.
Aunt Catherine kept all the food locked up and every day she would go
to the servants' hall and dole out all that was needed for the day.
A woman came twice a week to bake and her daughter, the cook, used to
keep back some yeast buns for me. They were lovely when fresh but awful
the day after, when they were supposed to be eaten.
I went to the local grammar school and was properly taught. I was terribly
backward and had to work very hard but eventually got matric. The history
teacher inspired me, being rather handsome and this started off a lifelong
love of history.
At 17 I cut off my plaits and left school thinking I was grown up.
Mere - 1943
If I was going home for half term I would
write to Mary and she would arrange leave at the same time. I didn't
always go home because it was one night and half a days journey and
at the end a five mile hitch hike. This usually meant a hike as there
was very little to hitch.
Fortunately Kitt and Una very considerately worked their way up the
L.N.E.R. - Peterborough, Doncaster and Newcastle - all convenient for
Durham, so I often went there and usually arrived at the same time as
a new baby.
But Mere was the desirable place to go. I loved to sing but was untalented,
but Mary didn't mind. She would bash out my favorite songs on the piano,
all culled from the Week End Book - "Annie Laurie", "Coming
through the Rye", etc. and I would belt them out at the top of
At College I learned to make puppets and Mary and I made very good caractertures
of Aunt Maud and Daddy. We had to keep them hidden, of course. The next
thing was to write a play which was based on a row between these two
old protagonists and where, of course, the famous lines "I am a
master of this breakfast house" was incorporated.
What fun we had with this but then daddy was run over and guilt overwhelmed
us and the puppets were abandoned.
DADDY - Playing the piano for us to dance
and reading Streulpeter from the German edition.
MOTHER - Kicking her height with lovely
long slender legs, which she kept to herself.
JENEFER - Standing in her shop with piles
of S.T.'s behind her.
KITT - Often his playing with us and shutting
us in drawers when he had had enough.
ROGER - Being put in the legs of his flying
suit - lovely and furry.
NICK - Treating me like an adult at Imphy
when I was 14.
Secondly there are some answers to questions she was asked as part
of the book '8000 years of Wisdom' written around 2007.
My name is Verena Rosemary Quinnell (nee Glencross).
I was born 27th September 1924 in wimbledon SW20, the 9th of 11 children.
How was your upbringing?
Middle Class but always hard up as we were all privately educated -
clothes were handed down, how I longed for new clothes. Nowadays you
cant keep me out of the charity shops!
I started out as a teacher, but after my husband left
me and being left with young children, I took up market research so
as to have some adult contacts. I went on doing this until the age of
75 to subsidise my many travels.
Any childhood memories?
I remember the medicines, syrup of figs ( bowels were of great concern),
milk of magnesia, malt and cod liver oil and best of all, Virol. Virol
was a type of malt and was advertised heavily at stations, "Growing
guts need it", "Nursing mothers need it", "Delicate
children need it". I rather fancied being a delicate child!
What was your most important decision?
My most important decision? That's a hard one. So many mistakes. The
most shattering was the adoption of my daughter but that was really
decided for me.
A happy ending there - after 50 years we were reunited and I found I
had become a Grandmother and Great Grandmother over night!
I had three sons from my marriage, the oldest died Christmas 2007 aged
60 and I miss him terribly. The next one works in Hong Kong and the
youngest lives in the same city as me. He has married late and has two
beautiful children - a real bonus. He is a teacher.
What was your favorite decade?
My favorite decade? The 80's really - the kids left university and I
was able to spend my hard earned money on myself so explored the world.
This extended into the 90's as well.
I have never been arrested
What is your favorite Saying?
'Keep on keeping on!'.
What would your parental advice be?
'Dont talk so much' and 'Neither a borrower or
a lender be'.
Who are your Heroes?
The suffragettes without a doubt, and talking of decades, the 70s were
pretty right on too. Most of my life I had resented women's inferior
status and now we joined together and talked and talked and marched
and found our power. Heady stuff.
I admire the unsung heroes - those who kept their mouths shut and took
the rap for the greater good. Let us salute them.
What are you most grateful for?
Long life, nearly 83. Mostly just luck and being very active. The swimming
pool and gym and not eating junk food, of course a glass of red wine
a day. Lots of friends and interests.
Mostly being able to laugh at the crazyness of life.
Where to start? Mostly my almost complete lack of confidence until middle
age, which resulted in being walked upon, What a waste. I hope I have
made up for it. It's wonderful to know I am not rubbish and to be in
Not doing more for my son who died last year. He had problems which
I was never really able to fully discuss with him. It makes me feel
so sad. Also trusting too much in other people.
Money is the cause of inequality. It encourages greed
and self indulgence. Lets barter.
A better world - we are more aware of what is going
on everywhere because of the multimedia. People can be incredibly generous
during disasters etc.
Health has improved - we oldies are gaining from new remedies.
A worse world - Wars, wars, wars and the suffering of
the innocent because of mens desire to dominate. Global warming of course.
Ambitions - I wanted to be an interpreter or a writer
but the war put paid to my ambitions.
I was a picky kid but I loved a bar of chocolate after
swimming. And sausages for breakfast and after church on Sundays.
It has to be the war for any 80 year olds. Our lives were completely
For the first two years I stayed with relations in Cornwall
- then a years student teaching in London and two years teacher training
The V1s and V2s coming down stayed in my mind - the crunch of the latter
and the noise of the former - bomp bomp bomp bomp and then - silence
and then it fell.
Hockey (1st 11) Netball (2nd 11). I loved games, swimming,
Computers - fantastic. A whole world in ones home.
Yes - being left to bring up my family - I had to go
out to work, take in student lodgers to give my kids the best start
in life. We muddled through and I turned into a strong woman and that
was the best thing that happened to me.
To Girls - Be independent and the world will be yours.
To Boys - Cultivate your gentle side and stop trying
to be macho.