The story page eleven, 1940.
Here I am aged eight moaning about the necessities of life.
Who ever heard of a vegetable like a swede, being cooked and then flavoured with banana?
at school, that’s what we had for pudding. Banana fritters without any banana.
What’s the world coming to?
The war really is getting serious. Sweets are vanishing from the shops.
My mate Teddy Wade, from Cowley Avenue, gave me some nice sweets yesterday, they were in a little round tin, they are called ‘Zubes’.
He said he bought them from the chemists in Guildford Street, near the Station.
“They have lots of this sort of thing, they’re called cough sweets, so as well as tasting nice they are good for you.”
Teddy is the sort of boy who knows a thing or two, he then carried on.
“If you know where to look, you can get anything. In old Mrs. Froud’s shop, you know, next to the ‘The Bell’ pub, she’s got sweets in the back room. They are a bit old and sticky and will soon be all gone, so if you want some, go now.”
I left it too late, Mrs. Froud’s shop had been cleaned out, all that was left was little square tins of ‘Nippits’. These are tiny bits of liquorice, meant for people who smoke, to clean their breath. Not meant for kids at all, but they were better than nothing, and lasted along time.
Whenever there was a mention of somewhere with a sweets delivery, kids from all over the town would fill the shop.
It was becoming a serious problem, even ‘Woolworths’ were selling fake bananas that were really just large dried bean skins, and sticks of thin wood flavoured with aniseed or liquorice—I think they were roots of something or other. Theses had to be sucked to get any flavour from them, then they became stringy.
Today at dinner time, Miss Slaughter, our head mistress, told us what to do if the siren went off while we were eating our dinner.
“It’s never good to rush your dinner, but what we must do now, instead of putting your knife and fork down between mouthfuls, keep them in your hand, ready for the next forkful. Then we will all be finished more quickly.”
I looked at Tony Rees, he pointed at his empty plate.
Like me, he had finished his dinner as soon as he had sat down, our knife and fork never left our hands once we got started.
Miss Slaughter—well named as far as I was concerned, she was very handy with the stick—then stood on the platform holding a bag of Horlicks tablets (little squares of compressed Horlicks in paper wrappers).
“All line up here in alphabetical order, there is one tablet for each of you.”
I am never very lucky with this sort of thing, and sure enough, me and my mate, Laury Zubiana, —who was of course at the end of the queue— went without.
Such is life.