Sibling’s. Homework for Haringey Literary Live, 17/05/2018
The time must be before the war; this is because of butter.
Not because butter was in anyway responsible for causing the war, but just because of it’s plenty.
It is Saturday afternoon, I am the only one of my sibling’s not doing anything important, Don has a job with Mr. Placito’s ice cream round, Deidre is now living in Weybridge, Chris is helping mum with the ironing, Iris is enjoying her day off and Bernard is working.
That leaves me, and baby David.
I have been given an errand to run.
Why is it that your grown up sister thinks you would like to stop playing with your mates, and run an errand?
I know exactly what she would say if I asked her the same question.
In any case my errand running never involved any actual running.
I am in Denyer’s the grocer’s, Mr. Denyer, a very short man with a blue apron that reached almost to floor.
He is patting a block of butter with a pair of flat wooden spoon’s, he keeps doing this until it resembles a half pound of butter and then wraps it up— something that every other grocer in town sells ready packed— but that’s Denyer’s for you.
I know I was no older than eight, as rationing would start just before my birthday in January 1940— hence the large block of butter.
Once rationing did start, a butter ration for one person would be 2 ounces (57g), a similar amount I would now put on one crumpet.
Not content with wasting my valuable time with his butter performance, he created a lovely bag out of some blue paper as if it was some sort art, and carefully measured out two pounds of sugar.
Then came the bacon, A large side of bacon was carefully unhooked from the low ceiling, he placed it on his new ‘Berkley’ bacon slicer, a red and chrome masterpiece.
“Thick or thin” he asked.
“Thick” I replied, 6 slices would be quicker than 12, I thought.
“Any thing else young man?”
I looked at my shopping list, “No thank you”.
There were only three items listed, Chris already knew about my short or completely absent memory.
It seems to me now, that in those times everything was a performance, even my brother Don whistled as he helped Mr.Placito pedal his three-wheeled ice cream trike up and down the town, between calling for people to “Stop him and buy one”.
On a good day, Don would earn more money than anyone in the house, so I was always asking him for a few pence to buy ice cream —always at Mr. Izzi’s, the best in Chertsey.
As the youngest operational child—David was a baby—, it was me who seemed to be chosen one when it came to all these little jobs.
Now that I think about it, our family was in the forefront of ‘Trickle down economics’; everything seemed to end up with me.
At this time I had very little to do with my other siblings, Iris was in service and was only home at weekends, as was Deirdre, she had a flat in Weybridge over ‘The White Rabbit’ woolen goods shop.
Bernard worked most Saturdays as a painter decorator, on private jobs.
This left Don and Chris.
Chris was friendly with the daughter of Mr. Frailer, he was the Commissionaire at the Playhouse Cinema.
Once again here was an entertainer, dressed in a magnificent uniform of shiny scarlet cloth with gold braid everywhere, his military hat matched the rest.
He would control the crowds queuing for tickets with a firm and friendly hand.
He also let all his daughters’ friends in free, and sometimes me.
There was rarely any friction in our family, I think we all knew mum had been through a lot and we were very lucky.