It is a portrait of an English Rose. The pretty blonde girl in the photograph is looking slightly upwards and beyond the camera lens. Maybe an adult standing in front of her has just said something funny or silly to get a reaction, because her eyes are twinkling and she is smiling, her lips parted revealing a slight gap between her two front teeth.
Her hair is long and curls down onto her shoulders. She is wearing a plain checked buttoned-up shirt; it looks new, perhaps purchased for the occasion. The girl is maybe ten or eleven years old, which means it is 1944 or 1945 and the German bombers that demolished houses and killed her neighbours on the road where she lives in Morden, south London, no longer strike fear. The World War is coming to a close or is just over, and maybe it is the new air of optimism amongst the adults in her family that is putting the smile on her face. Her name is Maureen Yvonne Barnett.
There was good reason to believe that things were going to improve. Although the years after 1945 saw a continuation of war-time measures such as rationing, Maureen’s teenage years were materially better than the first decade of her life, that had spanned global recession and unimaginable slaughter. The post-conflict economy picked up, the Attlee Labour government introducing major reforms in state education, welfare and health. Leaders of powerful industrial trade unions were regularly treated to beer and sandwiches at Number 10 Downing Street. There were jobs to be had and the prospect for some workers of a mortgage and owning your own house.