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Butter, beetroot and the blackout

by BBC Scotland

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
BBC Scotland
People in story: 
Sylvia Maureen Flint
Location of story: 
London, West Ealing W13, 9 The Avenue
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
04 September 2005

I was born in December, a few days before Pearl Harbour. Being a babe in arms, I was naturally too young to remember the time my mother walked me smack into a brick wall bringing me home in the blackout. (So if I sometimes appear to look a bit vacant, that would account for it!) I DO have a very vivid picture of my mother at the big kitchen table, bowl in hand, trying to make some concoction out of powdered egg. I also know how very grateful she was when our next door neighbour came in with a generous pat of delicious Southern Irish butter. When I was a little older, I played with her children, Trisha and Liam. I'm hopeless at remembering names, but I've never forgotten theirs. I can still see the cellar where their Mum boiled beetroot in huge containers - I'm very fond of beetroot to this day.

The kitchen table also came in very hand for sheltering under from the bombs. We had a large greyhound called Sandy and I used to ride on him round the kitchen, diving under the table when the bombing began. Our most famous hit was at Abernethies, the gents' outfitters. Old Mr Abernethy was in the shop at the time and was killed instantly. As our house was round the corner, our windows were shattered.

At one point I was evacuated to Southend with one of my cousins. We were all put top to tail in narrow beds but she kicked me all night long and after two weeks I was sent home. Taking my chances under the kitchen table was the preferred option! Ann went to America and we lost touch until her recent visit to England. Unlike me, she has no memory of any event until she was five years old. It troubles her, she wonders what happened to her. So I'll hang on to my memories of butter, beetroot and the blackout and be greatful.

I find it extraordinary to have retained such vivid images and yet have been only three and a half at war's end. But then, I lived in extraordinary times. It's the one set of memories I can't share with my brother who was born three weeks after peace was declared.

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