Chapter five, January 1940.

Still nothing happening.

Mum’s worried about Mrs Edwards, her husband is in the Navy and at sea somewhere. Some of our ships have been sunk by U-boats including the Royal Oak, a very big battleship.

The war is very real now, we have our ration cards but even so, some thing’s are hard to get. Mum has to say which butcher she will use to buy our meat, and which grocer to have our groceries from. It’s very slow to do the shopping now, there is always a queue at each shop. Some people don’t understand the rationing system, and there is sometimes a row going on at the counter, which makes it even slower.

Our evacuee’s, Mrs O’Keefe and her son Denis, are living upstairs in the front bedroom. We put all our ration’s together so that we can at least have a nice Sunday dinner. The rations are very small, but if we share them, we seem to have enough. Mrs O’Keefe wonders how a person living alone can manage, they only have one egg a week, 2 ounces of butter and everything else is so small. Lots of people are keeping chicken’s and rabbits in their back gardens. ‘Dig For Victory’ posters are everywhere, no more flower beds, potatoes and carrots instead.

This year is so cold some people are chopping the front garden gates up for fire wood. The council will always put a new gate in, nobody ever goes through their gates though , as all the fences are broken, just a gate standing all on it’s own! Our gate is perfect for a sledge, all you have to do is knock it all loose with a hammer, and make it into a sledge, then when the snows gone, you just put it all back together.

 As usual Mrs. Salmon is having a cup of tea in our kitchen. Now that rationing is on, I keep looking to see if she gets any smaller, but no, she still just about fits our old green chair, when she tries to get out of it, mum has to help her. I wonder how she manages to get off the lavatory.  I try not to think about it, but the thought keeps coming back.

Talking of lavatories, there is something wrong with ours, you have to pull the chain twice to make it flush, sometimes it never works at all. Don says, you have to make out that you are not going to pull the chain. Then you do it suddenly, to catch it out, it always works for him, he’s very good at things like that.

Last week we saw a convoy of little tanks, Bernard said they were Bren-gun carriers, they had about six soldiers in each one, we were all cheering as they clattered by.

In the Picture Palace in Guildford Street, they show the Pathe Gazette news-reel in between the little film and the big one. It’s all about the war, when there are pictures of the enemy tanks going through the towns with the German soldiers on top, every one hisses as loudly as they can. Then we all cheer when we see a Spitfire or Hurricane flying high in the sky. Sometimes the news is better than the films that are shown.

Today is my birthday, we are both in the Saturday Morning Picture Club for children. I have to go up on the stage for a present. Don tells me to pick the football, but I choose a mouth organ, he doesn’t half moan.

 Will Hay is my favourite, he always plays a silly Station Master on the railway and everything goes wrong. The other film was Laurel and Hardy, we are still laughing on the way home, just talking about it.

Don is playing my mouth organ; I wish I had chosen the football now, at least we could both be playing something. My brother is so bossy.

Football is my favourite game. At Stepgate’s, we have two playing fields, one next to our large allotment, where the boy’s have gardening lessons. Another much larger playing field, on the other side of the road. This field was known as Tulk’s Field, after the man who gave it to the school.

The field was big enough for a football and a cricket pitch. It also has a large air-raid shelter in it, this is opposite to the school entrance. The shelter is not really big enough for all the children, fortunately we only ever used it for air-raid practice.

The games we play in the platground, are mainly: marbles, milk-tops, fag-cards and collecting anything from foreign stamps to cigarette cards.

  The card-board milk-tops and fag cards, are flicked at other cards that are stacked against the wall, if you knock one down, you gain that card, marbles are played in a similar way.

  The playground also becomes a market, where a child could swap one marble for three milk-tops, or some other treasured item. This is all done in a fair way— we all know the value of each item.

   Of course, some kids are better than others at playing these games, and have pockets full of their winnings, but now and again, rather than keep them, they will shout ‘scrambles’ and throw all their cards or what-ever, they had, in the air and we all ‘scramble’ for them. This is the natural fairness of children.  This sharing of their good luck or skill at winning the games, allows the games to continue, and we can all still hope to win something.

Unfortunately, we have had to learn the ways of the world, and soon become acquisitive, it is now more natural to hold on to your good luck than to share it. Those children, even at that early age, knew that it’s better all round if everyone has a little bit of good fortune, so that they can continue to play the games.

Look now at our unequal society, where some people go hungry, while others just over-indulge. What a difference it would make, If we shouted ‘Scrambles’ now and again.

  What goes around, comes around. 

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