On the day of little girl’s fourth birthday, her mother took off her old overall and prepared to take her up the street to get some bread and something for tea. The little girl was always happy to see her mother without her overall which was old and had odd buttons. Buttons were hard to come by during the war and her mother kept old and used buttons. When she broke or lost a button off her overall, she would even take a grey button off an old pair of men’s trousers which the little girl hated as it reminded her of the war and its horrors. She imagined the enemy was an old witch all dressed in black and felt horrified to hear that the German’s ate black bread.
When her mother had washed her face in the bowl in the chipped enamel bowl in the scullery sink, and the little girl had washed her back with a facecloth and soap, they were ready to go. On the way her Mother greeted an old man who everyone called Old Fiddledee Dee. He was fat and wore a dirty shirt, an old waistcoat buttoned over his large belly and a pair of smelly, khaki pants. Old Fiddledee Dee kept goats and every morning he used to milk the goats and people said that he lived on the goat’s milk and bread which also sounded awful to the little girl who thought goats were very smelly. When Old Fiddledee Dee died, it was said that two men had to sit on the lid of his coffin to keep it closed so that it could be nailed down.
In the town, the little girl’s mother took her to Mrs Davies shop. Mrs Davies sold wool and the little girl was going to get a skein of wool and a pair of knitting needles for her birthday. Outside the shop, the little girl saw her best friend, Margaret Williams. The Williams family lived next door to the little girl’s house and the two children had become friends when they were only two years old. They were inseparable. Margaret’s mother, Mrs Williams, had been in service before she married and she made the most delicious bread rolls. She baked these rolls every week in her tiny scullery with an old wall oven which she lit once a week for baking.
As they walked out of the shop, they saw old Nurse Britton, who ran the weekly baby clinic. Nurse Britton often rode her bicycle through the town, stopping off to speak to the mothers whose children she had delivered. “Hello, Hilda, how is the baby?” she would ask, looking into the pram at the latest edition to the little girl’s family. Every week the young mothers met at the baby clinic in the Church hall to have their babies weighted and have a cup of tea and a chat together. Free concentrated orange juice and free rosehip syrup, which had to be diluted with boiled water, was given out for the babies to help them get the necessary vitamins during the war-time rationing period. The little girl’s mother also fed her younger brother, Teddy, with national dried milk which she bought at the chemist. This was made from full cream milk that was roller dried to a powder and fortified with vitamin D. Her mother needed ration coupons to buy the milk but sometimes a tin would go past the “Not for consumption after ….” date. When this happened a lucky shopper could buy the milk off-ration so the little girl’s mother always checked the dates carefully when she bought the milk.
In the market place, the little girl passed Mr Sturmer out for a walk. The Sturmer’s lived in the house next door to the Williams’ family. Mr Sturmer had tuberculosis and was as thin as a stick with a bony face. He wore an old workman’s cap on his bald head. His wife, Mrs Sturmer was grey haired and cheerful. She always had a smile for everyone. When their daughter, Sylvia, was twelve years old, the doctor found she had a spot of tuberculosis on one lung. It was very devastating for the Sturmer family. Sylvia was sent away to a special sanatorium and after many months she returned home cured. At the end of the war, she married Gilbert King, who had been a soldier. He started growing vegetables and fruit which he went around the town selling from a cart. The little girl’s mother bought all her vegetables and punnets of red currants, black currents, cherries and apples from him.
The little girl was delighted with her present and was very eager to get home and start practicing knitting.
To be continued.
Robbie and Michael Cheadle are the co-authors of the Sir Chocolate Book series and Robbie Cheadle is the author of Silly Willy goes to Cape Town (coming soon)