At the start of the book it is Christmas 1929, Jessie Edmondstone is 18 and living with her family in Carlisle. Father, (Jock) is in the Scots Guards and had served during the Great War. He has a wage and a small pension but times are hard and the money does not go far enough. Jessie's mother has to work when she can to augment their income and Jessie is unsuccessfully seeking employment. Brothers John and William have been sent away from the family, John serving as a boy soldier in the Scots Guards in London and William at a school from which he will follow his brother into the Guards. Also at home are sister Anna and youngest child Jamie.
By chance Jock learns that the Naafi canteen manageress in Carlisle is in need of waitresses to help with the family Christmas party and volunteers Jessie. Jessie is obviously alert and intelligent and a good worker. She quickly picks up on what is needed when serving, and she is noticed by the Area Supervisor who offers her the chance to join the Naafi as a trainee. It will mean leaving home and the family, but since there are no jobs for her in Carlisle and the family are so short of money it seems like the obvious next step for her.
Jessie is sent for a month's training in Bury, Lancashire where she is supervised by a Mrs. Hadley. She is then sent to Burscough nr Ormskirk for her first posting as an assistant. Here she is the only helper and she finds the standards of cleanliness much lower than she expected following her training post and she has to cope with a rather difficult manageress. However, Jessie is resilient and a quick learner and her helpful attitude, hard work and sympathetic personality bring her friends and supporters and she grows in confidence and goes from strength to strength. In the end it is due to a misjudgement that she becomes suspected of stealing and demoted to a new and, because of the suspicion, unpleasant post, but even this turns out for the best as it eventually brings an opportunity for training as a cook which will lead to a different and successful career in domestic science.
This is a delightful book which will be enjoyed by those who remember serving in the forces and the older generation who have similar experiences. It provides a glimpse into how different life was then from how we live today and can only cause the younger generation to be thankful that we have so many aids in our kitchens to make food preparation and domestic chores so much easier. --R Staddon, Nottingham.