The pathe gazette newsreel is getting better, we seem to be winning at last, but rationing and shortages of just about everything has become normal. For the first time ever, large families like ours, were better off than smaller ones, at least as far as the rationing was concerned. At one time we had as many as ten people on ‘the ration’ in our house, so we could have a reasonable joint of meat or a nice piece of Cheddar and such as that every week.
Mum started her working life as a kitchen maid and learned to be a very good cook. Sunday dinner in our house was nothing short of a banquet. Although there was no proper tablecloth, we did have covered dishes for the vegetables. The joint —usually mutton—would be on a large oval serving dish with the roast potatoes arranged around it. Our pudding would most often be apple pie and custard, although pineapple rings or chunks, and Libby’s evaporated milk were my favourite.
Rationing was seen by most people to be fair, but there are still some people who always seem to have what-ever they needed. Stories are doing the rounds of someone who has been caught selling meat, butter or anything that should only have been ‘on the ration’.
Since Bernard, Chris, and Dierdre moved away to do their duty, we are now a small family, with a small family’s rations. I can’t remember ever being hungry before, apart from when I was away in St Dominic’s, even then it was only for the nice things mum would cook—the food there was very plain. She nearly had a fit when she saw the unclaimed tea, sugar, and butter coupons in the ration books I brought home. They were nearly a year old and so couldn’t be used.
Luckily, back at Stepgate’s, we are given very good school dinners and even a small bottle of milk in the morning break. Another thing that kept us fed was that the dinner ladies came from Barker Road—Mrs. Frost and Mrs. White—they would give us seconds and even some treacle pudding from the back of the canteen after dinner time.
Another thing that was quite common was ‘ration swapping’, for instance if someone didn’t drink tea, they could swap their tea ration for cheese or something like that, some even sold their points, especially clothing coupons. Most people were very honest, but if you had a bit of money there was always someone who could get you what you wanted, these were called ‘Spivs’. We all knew who they were.
I was unknowingly a ‘runner’ for some of this law breaking, my sister’s husband Gordon—the bookie—was in the RAF, he came home on leave once and I was given a suitcase full of blankets. I had to take them up to a house in Staines Lane, I never got paid so I was probably not breaking the law. But I don’t know what I would have said if I was stopped by the Police, mind you I was only twelve.