- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Marian Cullen
- Location of story:
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 14 December 2005
I was a fortunate wartime child. No one in my family died as a result of the war. My father was medically unfit for military service and was trained as a welder and spent long periods of time away from home welding metal plates for whatever purpose they were for at that time! My two uncles did see service in the far east and returned apparently unscathed and with pretty bits of this and that for my mother and her sisters. We didn't loose our home in the bombing as so many did, including my mother-in-law who was bombed out of her home three times, but she was an East end Londoner and we lived in leafy Somerset.
However I was affected in different ways. I had to eat SNOOK on Fridays. Is there anyone else out there who remembers SNOOK? It was some sort of fish compound, at least I think it was fish, it certainly smelt like 'gone off' fish. It had a texture that was a cross between corned beef, spam and rubber. It had a weird grey appearance and we had to eat it. There were no alternatives. No options, healthy or otherwise. It was usually accompanied by soggy dark green cabbage with hard stalks and potatoes that were sometimes overcooked and at other times halfcooked. School dinners were truly awful at my school. If we complained, which we did every now and then, we were told how lucky we were to have any food at all and to get on and eat up. So we did!!
I loved rabbit, rabbit pie, rabbit stew, in fact any way that rabbit could be cooked. Granny and Grandad had rabbits in hutches at the bottom of the garden. I loved them. I spent my holidays with my grandparents and as soon as I arrived I would rush to the bottom of the garden to see how many rabbits there were in the hutches. I gave them names. I would ask, 'Where's Dolly or Daisy?' favourites from a previous visit. The reply was generally along the lines of 'Well another little girl thought she would like to take care of her and we thought you wouldn't mind, we've got some more pretty little bunnies for you'. It was many years later when I finally realised that the delicious rabbit stew that Granny made for me actually came from the hutches at the bottom of the garden! I was totally unaware of what happened between hutch and table. Granny and Grandad were very discreet.
My family were also lucky to have relatives in Australia and every now and then we would receive a food parcel. I loved the stamps, I was an avid collector, Mum of course loved the contents of these parcels. I remember something called Muscatels, these seemed to be greatly prized as they caused much happy comment amongst Mum and my Aunties. Then there were glace cherries and candied orange and lemon. Thinking back sixty years or so, these parcels mostly contained the sort of food that would be needed for Christmas. Rationing didn't mean much to me, I never remember feeling hungry even if I did feel a bit hard done by when the sweet coupons ran out. I loved shopping with Granny, I would sit on a high stool at the counter and watch the grocer make up neat little parcels. A small portion of cheese cut with a wire, butter patted neatly into shape with wooden butter pats and sugar from a sack which was poured by way of a shiny brass shovel into a blue bag and deftly folded over at the top.
Then there were clothing coupons. Every now and then we were measured at school. If you passed a certain mark on the wall and if your big toe passed a certain mark on what was called 'a bit of plank' your Mum was awarded extra coupons. Basically I was tall and skinny with big feet, but hey I got coupons and Mum was pleased and I loved it. I wonder how it would be viewed by children today? My big feet were a bit of a problem and my Clarkes sandals had to last two summers. The fact that they were too small by the second summer was easily solved. Dad took a razor blade and cut out a section across the toes. I wasn't the only child whose sandals were treated in this way, most of my friends had shoes treated in the same way, so big feet, little feet it didn't make much difference, we had to 'make do'.
© Copyright of content contributed to this Archive rests with the author. Find out how you can use this.