06 February 2008

page 5

page 5

wheat. Not the sweetened variety ‑ just plain puffed wheat which my aunt had somehow managed to acquire. It was to me the most deliciously edible thing I had tasted. We ate it by the handful straight from the box. My mother said with profound sincerity that, when the war is over you shall have a box each. Of course it took a long time after the war to do away with rationing and I think that by then 1 had certainly discovered other compensatory delights!

Before leaving the subject of rationing it is worth recounting the tale of Tom. Meat was stringently rationed and Tom, whom I have already identified as our cat, was, in common with the vast majority of his species, a carnivore. Tom LOVED raw meat. so just now and then we would give him a sliver from the newly delivered entitlement, as a treat. Tom also liked to stay out late and terrorise the neighbourhood dogs but we always had him in before going to bed. My mother would stand on the back doorstep calling 'TOM, TOM,TOM!!' with never a sign of the creature. If however she said one word 'MEAT' Tom would be instantly at her ankles. I also recall illicitly cutting off a small piece of meat one day when Tom was in the deepest of cat-sleeps on an easy chair. I moved the meat slowly towards his nose and never have I witnessed an animal galvanised into such utter animation! All his fur stood up on end and he leapt frantically up with the loudest of feline exclamations. The cabaret was well worth the castigation I subsequently got from my mother.

The spirit of camaraderie during the war years was superb. Everyone I knew helped everyone else. Many families in our neighbourhood had menfolk away in the fighting services. Whilst nobody would have wished widowhood on my mother, we had no one to worry or fret over. We were a complete and united family. What is more, none of our closer relatives were called up to fight. They were either in reserved occupations, like ship-building, or else they were age or health exempted. All were engaged in war work of some sort on a full-time basis as well as being involved with part-time duties such as fire-watching, first aid and rescue. My mother worked part-time at Vickers-Armstrong's Hursley House where aircraft design was carried out. She also helped make flying suits and was a member of the WVS. We had lodgers with us throughout the war ‑ mainly design personnel from Vickers-Armstrong. Some of our neighbours had families who had been evacuated from bombed areas. In the house adjoining ours lived an Austrian lady, Mrs. Jenvy, who was married to an Englishman. I remember being egged on by my school friends to view Mrs, Jenvy as a German spy. There was nothing malicious in this ‑ just fantasising. In fact she was a delightful lady on whom I would practise my German when I subsequently went to Secondary School. She had two commandos billeted on her for a short time. We would watch fascinated as these soldiers sat in her front garden cleaning their guns and knives. Both had been released from jail on condition of their special service as commandos and they seemed quite happy to talk about this. It stirred a boy's imagination.

Nothing was wasted. Collections were periodically made for scrap metal. Aluminium in particular was sought as it was then a far less common commodity than it is now. We gave up our saucepans and vacuum cleaner pipes to the war effort. Cast-iron railings which were so common along the fronts of houses before the war were everywhere cut down for munitions.

As boys we would wheel a hand-cart around the houses to collect paper, jam jars and bones which we then took down into the City for recycling. The fact that we might earn


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