Wartime Rations – Day Twenty-Eight

The final day of my four-week experiment. I invited the family around for lunch – just something casual to use up the remains of my rations: vegetable soup, rolls with a variety of fillings (bacon/cheese/egg mayonnaise), potato scones and apple/pear crumble to finish. The only thing no-one touched was the red cabbage coleslaw. (They don’t know what they were missing.)

I would like to say a huge thank you to Anne for sharing so many of her memories as a child growing up during the war years. Recipes can always be found in books, but personal memories are priceless.

So, in closing, here are Anne’s thoughts of how the war directly affected her life.

anne2013The change to living in a quiet village after the hustle of Glasgow and its varied populations from slums to patrician ‘big houses’ made a big impression. The change from a house where there was nowhere outside to play and I wasn’t encouraged to invite friends home, to the freedom of the fields and moors and woods: all this made me determined always to live in the country if possible.

When I was desperately looking for a home (in the early 60s), I was so glad when the cottage was offered; I knew we were going to be miserably poor for a while and in a village all ‘classes’ live cheek by jowl and rub shoulders, including in the school. The only alternative was a miserable flat in Nottingham.

Minor impressions: my father cursing Hitler when he was trying to make my gas-mask fit properly – the searchlights on the Clydebank nights – the utter impossibility of finding nice things for birthday etc presents – the joy of the young, enthusiastic teachers at Balfron instead of the elderly disillusioned ladies at Hillhead.

Worst memory: sitting in a cinema a few months after VE Day, just finished watching a Hollywood musical when Belsen flashed on to the screen – top story in the News report. That will never leave my memory – sickening shock. Could a whole nation be capable of such inhumanity? Of course not, but they let it happen, and it happened.

What do you remember of VE Day? Of VJ Day? Not a lot – it was a holiday of course, the bells rang, the streetlights came on (great cheering) and the papers were full of photographs of Churchill, the royal family and the heads of the armed services and masses of others. I know there were street parties and dancing, but the euphoria wore off after a couple of weeks. VJ was celebrated too, but a little bit less so.

What about the nuclear bomb? Everyone was stunned; it was so hard to believe. After a while people accepted the facts and that it had saved countless lives and years of war. Maybe such a weapon would bring wars to an end? Fat chance – it seemed no time till it broke out in Korea and the rest is history.

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Wartime Rations – Day Twenty-Five

baconDinner tonight  – bacon turnovers with beetroot and roasted brussels sprouts – was delicious and so satisfying I could only manage one course. The pastry was simple – flour, fat and water – and the filling easy – fried bacon, leeks and mashed potato. Roll the pastry into a circle, put the filling in the centre, fold the pastry over, seal the edges, then put in a hot oven for 30 minutes along with the sprouts which were roasted in the left over bacon fat. This would be a great – and incredibly cheap – recipe for leftovers of any kind.

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On to more of Anne’s memories of being a child evacuee during the war.

anne2013Were there many evacuees in Kippen? The ‘under -11s’ from Hyndland School were all there or in other villages around Balfron. I was lucky and made two ‘best friends’ – one a village girl, and the other from Hyndland.

How often did you go back to Glasgow? I don’t remember clearly, but I think not often, especially not at the start or until more raids seemed unlikely. It was more a case of Glasgow family coming to see us than our going there.  John (Anne’s brother)  came during his leaves and he and I explored the countryside around – memories which are precious to me.

How long did the journey take to Glasgow?  Did you travel by bus or train? By bus, which we picked up at St George’s Cross at the east end of Great Western Road. It took a little over two hours as far as I remember, winding through village pick-up stops – like a puppy-dog and lamp-posts. In winter it was a dreary run because of the dark, and the dim blue lights were to dim to read by.

Did you remain in Kippen over the summer? Oh yes, it was an unbroken stay, except for the occasional trip to Glasgow.  Towards the end my Kippen best friend came to Byres Road with me for a week.

Wartime Rations – Day Eighteen

Dinner tonight was two very simple courses.

mince slicesMain course:  Mince slices, from a recipe in We’ll Eat Again, using the last of the mince I cooked the other day. Mix together the mince (or any cooked meat) with mashed potatoes and breadcrumbs, turn onto a floured board, cut into slices and either fry or grill for about 8 minutes. Comfort food on a cold day.

Dessert: Fresh pear.

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What was it like being evacuated to a new school and then going back to your ‘old’ one?

anne2013For the first few months I went to the Kippen village school and sat the ‘Qualifying’ exam. It was fun, though the poor headmaster didn’t know what had hit him with all these new pupils that he could hardly accommodate. No wonder he appeared so distracted. Then he got another blow: pupils MUST have PE twice a week. He couldn’t accommodate that either and told us it would have to take place in the playground – weather permitting. As for gym shoes – “Dinna’ bother. Any old bachles will do.” I can still hear his voice.

As you already know, I almost hated Hillhead School and found Balfron with its many teachers from Hyndland much easier going, and I did well there. Back in Glasgow, it was back to Hillhead but this time the Secondary School which was just as bad as the Junior one. Then my parents gave me a choice: two more years at Hillhead or one year at the Glasgow and West of Scotland Commercial College in Pitt Street. Of course I opted for a year at the College – so here you see a woman with no school certificates whatever – not even the Lower Leaving one. (Partly because I’d had to repeat a year in junior school because illness had kept me away for nearly 4 or 5 months.) Still, I got by.

Wartime Rations – Day Seventeen

Tonight was an evening of leftovers, and struggling to not make them look like leftovers! Also, I’m trying to eke out our meat ration – one pound between the two of us for the week – over three meals.

Main course, cottage pie (mince topped with mashed potatoes, heated in the oven, then sprinkled with cheese and browned under the grill) with carrots and beetroot.

dinnerpudding

For pudding, the remains of the syrup cake I made the other day, with stewed apples and apple juice (liquid left over from stewing the apples) on top. My husband poked it with his spoon a few times, not too sure about the combination, but we both really enjoyed it.

I’m really interested in the war from a child’s point of view, so asked Anne some more questions about her schooldays. What was it like having to take her gas mask to school every day? Did they have air raid drills?

anne2013(Taking a gas mask to school was) a nuisance; it was on a string or tape over my shoulder. I never had a back satchel like many of the pupils; I always had to carry an attaché case – and over a mile to walk to get the school bus from Kippen to Balfron. But talking about the school bus: one day the bus didn’t arrive at 4 to take us home, and eventually we all started walking.

The two girls with me were all for getting to the front, but I encouraged them to hang back till we were the last of the crowd by quite a distance – I’d figured out that something would come up behind us to give us a lift! And so it turned out and we were able to wave to all the eager beavers ahead of us.

Air raid drills?  Oh yes, quite a lot to begin with, but they gradually tailed off.