I have an adopted grandmother, as I guess a lot of people do. Her name is Marjorie Owen and she married
Eric Owen in 1943. This year she will see her 90th birthday. Marjorie was the head sister on wards four five and six in Liverpool General, in charge of fifty-six beds total
. She'd go to work at eight and come home at ten. Eric worked similar hours for the Post Office
. Only a few days after they were married, Eric's mother died, leaving behind £250 of sales vouchers.
Eric's elder brother Bernard, who was established with wife and home insisted that Eric take the vouchers and spend them on furniture for their new home. Getting hold of fittings of any kind was a real challenge. The month before
, Marjorie had queued for three hours to get a saucepan. Getting furniture on two subsistence incomes would have been nigh-impossible. Eric soon went down to the nearest furniture warehouse. There seemed to be some kind of a deal on furniture that had been salvaged from a recently bombed factory
, and he came back with a double bed, dresser, wardrobe, and chairs and side tables, still smelling faintly of varnish. Almost sticky to the touch. You know how I mean.
That night, Marjorie wakes abruptly, to find herself looking at the wardrobe, in the darkness. She opens her eyes
a little. What she sees makes her open them wider - the wardrobe is a sparkling sea of stars in her bedroom, from deepest blue to white to green, shining in the night.
The newlywed turns over and grabs her man. 'Eric - Eric
!' she cries, 'wake up!' Her husband wakes and flicks on the bedside light. 'What?' He rubs his eyes and looks at his wife. 'The wardrobe - it's lit!'. He contemplates the wardrobe for a second. 'Marjorie, darling, there's nothing there. Go back to sleep.
' He flicks the light off, turns over, and goes back to sleep.
The next night, Marjorie wakes again. Looking at the wardrobe, she sees that once again it is alive with light, glowing in a way that is wholly unanticipated by your average purchaser of bedroom hardware. She wakes Eric, and they go through the same rigmarole.
For the next week, on and off, Marjorie and Eric repeat this vignette of nocturnal confusion, until Eric begins to wonder whether the stress at the hospital is taking its toll
on his wife. One night Marjorie wakes, again. Grabbing her man round the neck, she hauls him over to the side of the bed
. 'Look!' she hisses. The wardrobe is incandescent. The dresser coruscates. The chairs shimmer
. 'Bloody hell,' says Eric. 'Jesus.'
Eric takes the next day off work and takes all the furniture back to the jewish-run warehouse nearby. Going through their records to check off the sale and re-credit the stock, they're unable to find Eric's name in the ledger of sales. In fact, they're not sure they even sold these goods to him at all.
'I'm sorry, Mr. Owen,' they say; 'we can't find you here. The only things like this we sold that day went to a Mr. Cohen, Eri Cohen. We can't find your name
It turns out that mistaking Eric Owen for Eri Cohen, the Jewish proprietors had indeed given him a special deal on the furniture, handing over a set of pieces salvaged from the wreckage of a bombed factory and varnished only days before Eric walked in.
The thing was, the planes had dropped phosphorus