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 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 1

What was it Robert Burns said about the best laid plans…? I decided over a month ago to start eating ‘wartime rations’ today, so you’d think I’d have been a bit more organised about it. Wrong! Having cleaned out my fridge yesterday of all the non-rationed foods and eating porridge for breakfast this morning (milk and a wee bit of sugar)…

Porridge

… lunchtime found me racing down to Safeway to buy my rations for the week.  Healthy ‘perimeter’ shopping which cost a fraction of my usual bill. (The carton of eggs you see is three weeks supply of shell eggs – I still have to pick up powdered eggs.)

safeway

Last time I ate wartime rations it was spring/summer, so I could enjoy lettuce, tomato and cucumbers in my  ‘Oslo meal’ sandwich. (Oslo meal = sandwich, piece of fruit and glass of milk).  But with no salad available in January – and little advance prep on my part – I had to make do with a carrot sandwich.  It looks a bit odd, but actually tasted okay. Fortunately, I had made some homemade soup yesterday evening, so that was nice and warming on a cold day!

Oslo Meal

While discussing dinner with my husband last night. I told him I would be making vegetable curry for our first evening meal. (I want to keep the bulk of my meat ration until later on in the week.) However, when I came downstairs this morning to discover he’d really got into the spirit of things and made himself porridge for breakfast I relented. Sausages were available during the war off ration, but were hard to get and the quality was not always the best.  Tonight they were available and, along with more homemade vegetable soup, we enjoyed a Stewed Sausage recipe of my mother’s  – probably my grandmother’s too – made with apples, leeks and carrots with beetroot and mashed potato on the side.

dinner

Okay, on to some historical stuff.

As this is the first day back at school for most children after the holidays, what was discipline like in wartime schools? During those years, Anne went to school in Glasgow and was also evacuated into the countryside, so here are her recollections.

At Hillhead, very strict. All of us had to sit with arms folded or hands clasped behind our backs, according to a particular teacher’s whim, unless we were actually writing. A whistle was much used in the playground to stop unladylike behaviour. At Hyndland/Balfron it was a bit looser: my history teacher for instance didn’t mind that I listened to his lectures with my head resting on my arms on the desk – he took it that I was listening, which I was. But that would never have been countenanced at Hillhead. 

As for what was going on in the war on this day… although it wasn’t voted in until March, on January 6th, 1941, FDR asked Congress to support Lend Lease, offering the allies money and supplies in the war effort. According to Wikipedia, the vote was split down party lines with the Republicans against, seeing it as a step to war. Through Lend Lease, the US supplied the Allies with  $50.1 billion ($659b in today’s money) worth of goods.  Repayment of the British debt started in January 1951 – although the annual payments were deferred for 5 years.  Britain submitted its final installment of $83.3million to the US on January 29th, 2006.