Wartime Rations – Day 9

No photos today as everything I’ve eaten, apart from my morning porridge and toast, has been ‘leftovers’ – cauliflower soup and casserole. In fact, when my husband heard that dinner would be a choice between leftovers or fish pie, he very suddenly remembered he had an evening business dinner that he ‘had’ to attend.

So, I’ll go to straight to Anne’s memories. Staying on the cinema theme, I asked her the following: What do you remember of the cinema in those times?  Did the ushers always wear uniforms?

anne2013They were a world I wanted to live in.  Remember I was alone by now with my mum and dad, the others busy with babies or fighting, so home life was for me a bit dull – until *Clydebank, when the countryside and its freedom hit me like a nice kind of bombshell. Until then, the cinema was my escape and it was easy (if I had enough pennies) because of the Grosvenor and the little ‘Hillhead‘ cinema just around the corner near the top of Byres Road – it was 1/3d, 3d more expensive than the Grosvenor, but if I managed to save 5/- I could buy a book of 6 tickets which worked out at 10d a time.

Yes, the ushers did wear uniforms: a self-colour shirt-type dress or a skirt and white blouse; in the interval an apron was added if there was any ice-cream or drinks to sell.  And torches of course to guide you to a seat – not welcomed in the back row!

*Clydebank refers to the Clydebank Blitz, after which Anne, my mother and brother were evacuated into the countryside.

In searching – unsuccessfully – for some video footage of Glasgow cinemas during the 1940s, I came upon this homemade video showing modern day Byres Road, a popular street in the West End of Glasgow.  If you check the footage at 0.28 you’ll see the Hillhead Cinema Anne refers to above, at 1.14 the flat where Anne and my grandparents lived during the war and at 1.30 the bar where my mum used to go and buy a jug of beer for my grandfather.


Wartime Rations – Day 4

Yesterday evening I pressed the ‘publish’ button by mistake when I was only halfway through my blog, so tonight I’ll be more careful not to make the same mistake.

Conscious that most of the vegetables I’ve eaten in the past few days have been cooked, I decided to follow my lunchtime leftover Brussels Sprouts soup with a big bowl of red cabbage, carrot and sultana coleslaw. It tasted just as delicious as it looks and, with no citrus fruits available in Wartime Britain in January, I felt very virtuous having boosted my Vitamin C intake!


For dinner, I tried out a couple of recipes from The 1940s Experiment. The first was Oatmeal Soup – only I forgot to add the milk at the end and used a leek instead of onion. My husband was more than a little suspicious of the idea of ‘oatmeal’ in soup, but I have to confess, this was the best soup ev-ah! Dead simple: pint of broth, one leek chopped, two carrots grated, three tablespoons of oatmeal, and a smidgen of butter for frying the leek before adding it to the stock.  It couldn’t have been more simple and I honestly think it’s the best soup I’ve ever made.



Main course – a real Scottish dinner of mince, tatties and turnip – doesn’t look very appetizing here, but tasted good. Real comfort food.  And I was a good wartime wife tonight because I didn’t peel the potatoes, only scrubbed them before boiling them. I wondered about mashing the skins in with the potatoes, but it didn’t make any difference to the taste.

And then… dessert.  I rarely ever make puddings, or a three course meal for that matter – maybe once a week if you’re really lucky – so ending our wartime meals with a sweet every night is a real treat. Tonight it was Bread Pudding, and the recipe again taken from The 1940s Experiment website.  Deee-lish! Given we’re eating so well, I did rather dread standing on the scales this morning, but if anything, I’ve lost a little weight over the past few days.  Great food, never hungry and losing weight?  Bring it on! The only downside is the amount of time it takes to prepare and cook the meals. (And clean up afterwards.)


Getting back to the war… I was surprised that the blackout started so early in the afternoon in Glasgow and finished so late next morning. I asked Anne how that affected her, especially going to school in the pitch dark. Was she allowed to use a flashlight to see the pavement? Did the classroom windows have to keep the blackout blinds down until 9.17am – or whatever time the blackout ended?

anne2013Memory is very hazy on this, but what there is tells me that hand torches were forbidden unless they gave only a tiny slit of light or else had the clear glass painted or covered in blue – like the lights in railway carriages and, I suppose in buses and trams, but I have no memory of them.  I don’t remember any difficulty with light when climbing up George St to get to Hillhead Junior School – I know Mother used to come down to ‘see me across Byres Road’ – blackout or no – after that I was on my own. Perhaps there was just enough light even though the official blackout hadn’t ended.  It was when I went to Kippen after the Clydebank Blitz that I discovered that my secondary school in Balfron was really Hyndland School shifted en bloc – pupils and teachers.  Their teaching suited me better, but I was unfortunately still sent back to Hillhead when I returned to Glasgow.

Wartime rations – Day Two

The one thing I’m learning really quickly is that with such a limited ration of protein available, you definitely need to be organised to eat a wartime diet!  Not like these days when you just dip into your freezer and nuke dinner on a whim.

Today’s breakfast and lunch were much as yesterday, so no pictures for those.  However, I did add some chips/fries to my lunch as I met with a friend to go to a movie (the pictures!) this afternoon and knew I wouldn’t be home till late.

Dinner was supposed to be Woolton Pie – a dish created during the war – but wouldn’t you know it, I didn’t have the right veggies in.  So, it was soup from yesterday, followed by cottage pie and cauliflower with parsley sauce.  It looks a bit pallid in the picture, but tasted good, so with plenty pie left over for tomorrow, I’ll need to come up with more colourful vegetables to make it look a little more appetising.

cottage pie

Some conflicting memories of a particular wartime experience now, and for the fiction writers out there, an important lesson in age appropriate characterization.

Although they spent most of the war in the countryside, my Mum, Anne (who was 12 years younger than my mother) and my brother were in Glasgow during the Clydebank Blitz.

According to Wikipedia, over two nights, 528 people died, 617 were seriously injured and hundreds more injured by blast debris.  Out of approximately 12,000 houses, only 7 remained undamaged, with 4,000 completely destroyed and 4,500 severely damaged.  Over 35,000 people were made homeless.

My grandparents lived in a flat in Byres Road.  During those horrific raids, my grandmother pulled all the mattresses into the hallway – well away from the windows – for the family to sleep on.  If they were going to be killed, Mum said, they were going to die together.  It always brings me to the verge of tears when I think of that; my grandmother facing the possible loss of her whole family and my mum being unable to protect her infant son.  I can’t imagine the horror.

That’s an adult account of that experience.  Now here’s Anne’s .

A couple of years ago I was invited by the local junior school to talk to groups of children about wartime, and got many, probably enforced, thank you letters from them.  From these it was obvious that the bit they liked was when I confessed that during the Clydebank Blitzes (I was about 11/12) we had all gathered in the ‘safest’ place in the house but I several times made an excuse to go to the bathroom so that I could see the searchlights and the glow of the fires.

Oh, the wondrous resilience and fearlessness of youth!

If you have any stories of the war, I would love to hear them.