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Authors: Pamela Evans

A Distant Dream

BOOK: A Distant Dream
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Pam Evans

Copyright © 2013 Pamela Evans

The right of Pamela Evans to be identified as the Author of the Work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

Apart from any use permitted under UK copyright law, this publication may only be reproduced, stored, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means, with prior permission in writing of the publishers or, in the case of reprographic production, in accordance with the terms of licences issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency.

First published as an Ebook by HEADLINE PUBLISHING GROUP in 2013

All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Cataloguing in Publication Data is available from the British Library

eISBN: 978 0 7553 9431 9


An Hachette UK Company

338 Euston Road

London NW1 3BH

Table of Contents

Title Page


About the Author

Also By

About the Book



Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

About the Author

Pamela Evans was born and brought up in West London. After living in Wales for many years, she has recently moved back to England and is now settled in Surrey close to her two sons and five beautiful grandchildren.

By Pamela Evans and available from Headline

A Barrow in the Broadway

Lamplight on the Thames

Maggie of Moss Street

Star Quality

Diamonds in Danby Walk

A Fashionable Address

Tea-Blender’s Daughter

The Willow Girls

Part of the Family

Town Belles

Yesterday’s Friends

Near and Dear

A Song in Your Heart

The Carousel Keeps Turning

A Smile for All Seasons

Where We Belong

Close to Home

Always There

The Pride of Park Street

Second Chance of Sunshine

The Sparrows of Sycamore Road

In the Dark Street Shining

When the Boys Come Home

Under an Amber Sky

The Tideway Girls

Harvest Nights

The Other Side of Happiness

Whispers in the Town

A Distant Dream

About the Book

It’s 1936 in West London, and fifteen-year-old May Stubbs and her family have endured the worst of The Depression. Looking forward to a more prosperous future, they take on a derelict cricket pavilion, convert it into a café and general store, and find it quickly becomes the hub of the community.

Then, May contracts tuberculosis and the way ahead looks less certain. Leaving her best friend, Betty Lane, and lifelong soul mate, George Bailey, behind, she is sent away to fight off the illness. But on her return to London, she finds things have changed. And when war is declared, it is clear that serious complications and heartache lie in store for them all.

To my dear friend Alma Cassell for her warm-hearted
interest in and enthusiasm for my career


Many thanks to Clare Foss, my lovely editor, who has returned to me after a long gap, and all the team at Headline, including the designers who come up with such stunning jackets year after year. Thanks also to my agent Barbara Levy.

Chapter One

Errand boy George Bailey swung off his delivery bike, propped it up in the kerb and bounded in to the Green Street Pavilion, a white-painted shack adjacent to a children’s playground in the back streets of Ealing in west London.

‘Morning, Mrs Stubbs,’ he greeted the woman behind the counter, a jolly blonde of middle years who was wearing a floral pinafore over a summer frock. ‘Lovely day.’

She nodded towards the sunshine outside. ‘It certainly is. What can I do for you, George?’

‘The usual, please.’

‘A cup of tea and a currant bun coming up,’ said Flo Stubbs, who had blue eyes and a beaming smile that was genuine now after years of pretence when times were hard. ‘As long as you’re not behind with your delivery rounds. I don’t want your boss coming round here and giving me an earful for encouraging you to skive.’

‘I’m sure he wouldn’t mind my stopping for a breather so long as I keep on top of things,’ he suggested. ‘I’m a fast worker. I don’t hang about.’

‘What the eye doesn’t see, eh?’

‘Exactly,’ he said, winking at her.

She lifted a large cream-coloured enamel teapot with green edging, poured the tea into the cup through a strainer and added a generous helping of milk from a jug, then took a sticky bun from under the glass cover and put it on a plate.

‘Ta very much,’ said George, helping himself to sugar from a bowl on the counter and handing her a ha’penny.

‘You put your money away, boy,’ she urged him. ‘Have this one on us.’

George hesitated. He preferred to pay his way, especially with decent people like the Stubbses, who hadn’t had things easy in the past. ‘It’s generous of you to offer,’ he began, hoping not to cause offence by seeming ungrateful, ‘but you don’t want to be giving stuff away, not here at the shop anyway.’

‘And we don’t as a rule, but I’m in a good mood today and I think we can afford to treat our daughter’s pal every now and again,’ responded Flo, thinking what a handsome lad George was growing up to be, with his shandy-coloured eyes, curly chestnut hair and cap worn at a jaunty angle. He was the image of his father, God rest him. The boy’s cheery demeanour gave no hint of the trauma he’d been through or how tough things had been for him at home these past couple of years. The Stubbs family knew him well because their daughter May had been friendly with him since they’d started school together aged five. Now both fifteen, they were still close friends and George was a regular visitor at the house. Sweethearts? Not as far as Flo knew, but they were far too young for that sort of thing anyway. They both needed to grow up and spread their wings a bit first. ‘It won’t happen often, so make the most of it and enjoy.’

He thanked her warmly and sat down at a table in the sunshine on the roomy veranda. He was soon joined by other errand boys, to whom this little café and general store was a magnet as a stopping place on their rounds. Having served the lads with tea, Tizer, cheese rolls and seed cake, Flo worked her way through the queue of women wanting sundry provisions they’d run out of or forgotten to get at the Co-op. That was the service they provided here at the Pavilion; people could get things cheaper in the shopping parade, but they came here for convenience and a chat with the locals.

The café was a big attraction, being in a heavily populated residential area and the only one of its kind close at hand. Their menu was limited to light refreshments – sandwiches, cakes and a variety of hot and cold drinks – but they did very well, especially with their seasonal favourites: home-made ice cream in summer and toffee apples in the autumn when the fruit was plentiful.

A trip to the playground next door with the children was less of a chore for adults now that there was somewhere they could enjoy a snack while the children played. Crowds of fearless infants clambered on to the witch’s hat roundabout and the see-saw, some hurtling head first down the slide and hanging on for dear life to the ends of the swinging horse as it creaked from side to side. On fine weekends the Pavilion was packed out.

Glancing around in a quiet moment at the potted geraniums and pansies on the veranda, a splash of bright colour embellishing the white-painted wooden structure, Flo thanked God for this place, which had come to them unexpectedly four years ago. Not only had it rescued the Stubbs family from abject poverty, it had also given Flo a new sense of purpose and had later helped her to cope with the grief that haunted her even now, though it was three years since they’d lost their beloved ten-year-old son Geoffrey to diphtheria.

It had been a gamble taking on a derelict cricket pavilion that had been empty since the cricket club moved away several years before, especially as neither Flo nor her husband had any experience of shopkeeping or catering. But when one of the gentlemen Flo cleaned for surprised her with a modest sum in his will in recognition of her hard work and kindness, she’d seen an opportunity to get Dick off the dole and herself out of charring, and to build some sort of security for their family.

She had long thought that a commercial venture was what this back-street area next to the recreation ground needed. Fortunately there was plenty of space inside the pavilion, and room on the veranda to add a few tables, while water and electricity had been installed by the previous owners.

Being in such a state of disrepair and a long time on the market, the shack had been going at a rock-bottom price and there had been just enough money left over from the purchase to do it up and stock it. After a slow start, the place had soon gathered momentum, and Flo believed that it was now a real asset to the community. It didn’t earn them a fortune, but it did give them a decent living, and now that May had left school and was working as well, the deprived days were behind them; for good, she hoped.

In theory, Flo and Dick ran the business together, but it was actually Flo who was in charge. Dick was an asset serving behind the counter, being such a popular and gregarious soul, but he had no initiative for shopkeeping and was happy to leave the management to her. His skills lay elsewhere. A qualified metalworker, he’d lost his job during the worst of the depression and had been on the dole for several years before their change in fortune.

Now, in the summer of 1936, things were still very hard for people in parts of the north of England and Wales, but here in the south-east there had been an improvement for some areas these last few years, mostly due to the new industries and an increase in housebuilding, especially in the London suburbs. Factories producing such things as aircraft and electrical goods had opened in nearby areas and were flourishing and keeping unemployment down. So it had proved to be a good time to start a business.

Dick appeared from the stockroom wearing a brown overall and carrying a carton of tinned peas, which he began stacking on to the shelves. He was a tall, jovial man with greying dark hair, his liking for a sociable pint or two manifest in a sizeable beer belly.

‘Can you look after things here, Dick, while I pop home and do a bit indoors?’ asked Flo. ‘I need to go to the butcher’s as well to get something for dinner.’

‘Righto, love,’ he agreed affably.

She left the Pavilion and walked briskly past the playground and through the serried ranks of red-brick terraced houses with their privet hedges and tiny low-walled front gardens. She was home within minutes. It was very convenient living so close to the job, she thought, as she turned the key in the lock, noticing that the red doorstep needed some polish and deciding that she would deal with that before she tackled the rest of the housework.

Flo was an energetic woman and an avid housekeeper, occupation was her salvation, and with a home and a business to look after, she didn’t have time to mope. That wouldn’t be fair to her husband or her beautiful daughter May, whose endless exuberance filled the house with light. May and her father had both suffered the loss of Geoffrey too, and Flo made sure she didn’t forget that by being self-indulgent in her attitude towards her own grief.

Oh well, let’s get cracking, she said to herself as she stepped into the narrow hall, itching to take the broom and floor polish to the lino.

BOOK: A Distant Dream
10.28Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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