Two young, recently widowed mothers try to find a way to survive in war-scarred Britain. Kirstine and her German friend, Gerdy, lost their husbands at the end of the Second World War. They find themselves penniless, without any extended family support, each with two very young children and with scant prospects of earning a living.
A great deal of determined initiative is needed. The stakes are high with chaos threatening them at every step. The two women find a de-requisitioned building in seaside Devon. They transform it into a family hotel, which eventually becomes renowned for its excellent cuisine.
This enchanting story, told with a lightness of touch, moves from tragedy, to comedy, to triumph and back again.
Available from YouCaxton
£10.00 (+ £2 postage)
Number of copies:
Available from Amazon
Kirstine Richards née Rasmussen was born in Edinburgh to a Danish father, Christian Rasmussen, and Hilda Hill-Jones, on 14th March 1912, whose mother was Mary Ann McNair.
She attended Edinburgh School of Art for one year, until her father died and the fees could no longer be paid. Life with her eccentric mother became intolerable. Fortunately an aunt came to the rescue and Kirstine moved to Devon, where she worked as a poorly paid designer at the Honiton Pottery.
Subsequently Kirstine opened a café on Honiton High Street, called the ‘Highland Fling’ and it served excellent coffee and homemade cakes; making it very popular. She met her future husband, Gerald Arthur Richards; a young medical student from St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, at the ‘Highland Fling’.
Their two children, Nicholas and Louanne, were born during the 2nd World War and their father, Gerry, was accidentally wounded in Burma and died at Imphal on the 23rd January 1945.
Kirstine, now a widow with two young children, had to find a way of earning a living. She and Gerdy Ramsay, who was also a widow and mother of two, together established a family hotel; ‘The Seagull’ in Exmouth in South Devon. The hotel opened in 1945.
In 1959 Kirstine moved on from being a hotelier to becoming the case worker at the newly formed Agnostic Adoption Society, which was later to become the Independent Adoption Society.
On retirement, she went to live near her cousin in the South of France, where she rented a small house; paying for her keep by hosting summer guests. A secondary breast cancer made her decide to move back to England, where she found an apartment at Queen Alexandra’s Court in Wimbledon; an attractive establishment for the widows of officers who had served in the forces.
Kirstine died at St. Raphael’s hospice in London on the 25th February 1989.