Chertsey Tales Part Eleven.
The ladies that I heard moaning about the shortage of everything in Denyers, are not alone. Mum is worried about how we are to manage at Christmas, but it turns out alright after all.
Mr Wade brought round a chicken. He was hiding it in a sack, telling us not to let anyone know. I think he would be in trouble otherwise. I remember mum plucking the feathers and taking out ‘the gizzards’ it took her a long time. It was the first time that I had ever tasted chicken.
With Mrs O’Keefe and Denis, there were eleven of us plus a young man who has just joined up. He was Freddie Alder a Handicraft boy and he had nowhere to go, so mum let him stay. It was such a jolly Christmas; Mrs O’Keefe knew so many songs and had a very loud voice.
On Christmas day even though it is very cold, and as soon as we finished dinner, the children all went up the hill for a giant hide and seek, there are dozens of kids taking part, it was lovely, you would never know there is a war on.
Winter had come gently at first, but January was bitterly cold. It was said to be the coldest for years. Ruxbury Hill was still like a long ribbon of ice, a good sledge could slide well past the Grange and almost to Stanford’s farm.
There were snow-ball fights in the playing field next to our school gardens. Your hands were first of all freezing cold, then after a bit of snowballing, they were as warm as toast. Pound pond and our slides in the fields were frozen for ages. On the wireless they called it an ‘Ice Storm’. It started to rain and at first this was frozen as soon as it touched the ground.
I’m helping Don to put our front gate back together. This winter a lot of people chopped them up for firewood as it was so cold. Mum said they will be in trouble when the council find out. The council will always put a new one in. It’s a waste of time and money though. Most of the front gardens have no fences as the wire was taken for the war effort. We all just cut across the grass, except mum, she always goes through the gate—she says it’s unlucky not to.
Ann Stanford’s granny lives in the farmhouse along Pyrcroft Road. She was a bit mean to me last week, I collected some eggs that her chickens had laid in the hedge outside her house. They were hidden in the snow. I took them round to her thinking she might let me have some, but she didn’t. Next time I’ll keep them, they were not even in her garden.
This morning, Mrs. Salmon is in our kitchen having a cup of tea as usual. They are talking about a British submarine that has been sunk, but luckily all the crew were rescued by the German ship that had made them sink. Mrs Salmon said that sailors would always rescue the enemy if they were in danger of drowning. If only war was like this, with no one being killed.
They are listening to the wireless, it’s a new programme really meant for the forces. I think it’s called ‘The Forces Programme’, the music is very nice. Mrs Salmon is singing along with the singer. I’m surprised how nicely she can sing, just as good as the lady on the wireless. Now that rationing is on, I keep looking to see if she gets any smaller, but no, she still just about fits our armchair. She’s quite a big lady, and when she tries to get out of the chair, mum has to help her. I wonder how she manages to get off the lavatory— there’s no one there to help her then.
I try not to think about it, but it keeps coming back.
Talking about lavatory’s, there is something wrong with ours, it keeps playing up. You have to pull the chain twice to make it flush, first a gentle pull and a quick one, sometimes it never works at all. Don says,
‘What you have to do is make out you are not going to pull the chain, then do it suddenly, to catch it out.’
That never works for me though, so I just ask Don to do it. It always works for him, he’s very good at that sort of thing. Don comes in, he looks frozen, but he has put the gate back on its hinges, mum will be pleased.