The women of Mulberry Lane – Rosie Clarke

The Last of the Mulberry Lane Books/ Rosie Clarke

I was asked recently if I was sorry that the series had come to an end in “The
Women of Mulberry Lane,” and the answer is that it is always a wrench to leave
behind characters you’ve come to know so well. So yes, I shall miss them, and
perhaps one day I might write a standalone book entitled Reunion at Mulberry
Lane. At the moment that is far in the future as I am writing a new series.
The Mulberry Lane title was arrived at between my editor and I. My editor
wanted it to be Something at a certain place so that we could give a sense of being a part of somewhere. I liked Mulberry Lane and so it began to take shape.
When I first had the idea it was for three women’s lives during the war, but it
grew and grew and became a community. The people of the lane were so real to
me and certain bits were based on facts I knew about true lives, though altered
and changed. Because they reflected what I knew and heard and experienced, they became real. The characters dominated the books and the stories came
from the folk brought to life in the first books. It is for me the only way. If I don’t believe in a character he or she doesn’t live and must be ruthlessly
scrubbed out.
Much of my London life scenes come from the visits and holidays I spent with
my grandmother and Uncle Tom in one of the London suburbs as a young child.
I visited many of the places that feature in my various books, including Petticoat
Lane, where I was told to keep tight hold of my purse. I saw the vacant spaces,
grass growing through concrete where they had not yet been built over after the
destruction of the war, rode on buses and went down the Mall for the
coronation. I also went swimming in the local lido.

Rose looked at the young soldier walking up the street towards her and started to
giggle. She saluted smartly.
‘As I live and breathe, it’s Captain Tom Barton…’ she teased.
‘Don’t be daft, Rose,’ Tom said and smiled good-naturedly, because this was what
he’d always liked so much about her. ‘I’m only a private. I’ve finished the first part of
my training and they will be posting me somewhere when I go back, but I haven’t had
time to get promoted yet.’
‘You will,’ Rose replied, her eyes sparkling. ‘I fully expect to see a captain’s
badge before long.’
‘You don’t change.’ Tom’s eyes went over her appreciatively and he asked the
question he’d wanted to ask since he got back. ‘Are you married to Jimmy yet?’
‘He’s getting leave at Christmas,’ Rose said. ‘Peggy will put a little do on for us at
the Pig & Whistle, but it will just be a civil service. Jimmy says it’s daft having a
white wedding. We’ve been living together in your old house for the past few months
whenever he got home.’
‘You deserve a lovely white wedding,’ Tom said and something in his eyes and his
voice made her feel sad. Jimmy thought it was enough to put a ring on her finger. ‘If
you’d chosen me, I’d have insisted on it…’
‘Maybe I should’ve done,’ Rose chirped back, but she knew it had always been
Jimmy for her and she didn’t really believe that Tom was in love with her. He was a
couple of years younger and, although he no longer seemed like the young boy she’d
mocked in the grocery shop, she still couldn’t take him seriously. ‘Well, I’ve got to—

She was interrupted as a young boy came running from the pub archway, clearly
intent on escape. Maggie Ryan rushed after him and behind them was a harassed-
looking Janet. She grabbed her daughter and Freddie threw himself at Rose’s legs
giggling in excitement. She caught him up and held him above her head, her eyes
filled with mischief as she looked up at him. He was clearly pleased with himself for
‘They had a fight with Fay,’ Janet said in an exasperated tone. ‘Maggie’s nursery
school packed up early for Christmas and the three of them cannot agree for five
minutes. Fay is a spiteful little thing and these two ganged up to punish her.’
‘Oh dear…’ Rose raised her brows at Tom. He reached out for Freddie, who was
struggling to get away from her now. He lifted him up and, amazingly, Freddie
quietened, his soft grey eyes filled with curiosity. His grubby little hands patted at
Tom’s face as he attempted to say the word soldier. Rose grinned wickedly.
‘Salute Capn’ Tom, Freddie…’
Freddie giggled and put the back of his hand to his forehead. It was a game Rose
played with him often. Now that Peggy’s husband was away in the isolation centre,
Rose often went round to the pub in the evenings. Sometimes she helped in the bar for
a while, but at other times she would pass the evening drinking cocoa or coffee, if
they could get it, with Janet. When the twins woke, Rose went up to them and played
games with them. She liked Freddie much better than his twin, though she never let
anyone see, especially Fay, but the little boy had a sweet nature combined with an
adventurous spirit, and she’d played soldiers with him often. He reminded Rose of the

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