Tuesday, 26 August 2008


Sleeping in the underground contd…

If the evenings were filled with great fun and excitement the mornings were sheer Hell. The fact that I could never go to sleep till the last train pulled out didn’t make getting up (literally) at the crack of dawn very easy.
The rule was that all members of the general public using the station, as a shelter must vacate the platform before the first train arrived in the morning. To get everyone up, dressed and packed, took ages, which necessitated extremely early rising. Of course, I was very, very tired and operated on automatic pilot most of the way home.
Early on in our tube shelter days, Mummy discovered, while talking to her bedfellows, that there was a house at the street level of Manor House tube station that would store bedding till the evening for a shilling (5p) a week. At least now we didn’t have to carry everything back up the hill to our home as well as struggling to carry ourselves.
I can well remember feeling so tired that I kept blacking-out as I was walking, waves of unconsciousness sweeping over me, just for a second or two, and my feet keeping on walking. The walk must have taken us about three-quarters of an hour, but by the time we were nearly home I had begun to wake up.
It fascinated me to think that each day, as we turned the bend in the road, there could possibly be a hole where our house had been. A couple of my school friends had been bombed out, and I didn’t see why some morning it couldn’t just as easily be us. But, each day, there was 71, Oakfield Road, standing as it had since Victorian times.


Almost all goods and food were in short supply; some were very scarce and a few items just vanished from out lives altogether for the duration of the war. One of the items that disappeared was the lemon. Oranges and bananas were still being imported spasmodically and reserved solely for infants less than five years of age. As Mum and Dad always seemed to have two or three children under the age of five, we did, from time to time, savour these delicacies.
I recollect a day, round about the time that the war ended, being asked to go to the local shops to purchase something for Mum. About halfway to the shops I saw, in the gutter, something bright yellow. Bending down to investigate, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Wonder of Wonders: it was a piece of real-life lemon peel. I picked it up and held it to my nose, inhaling deeply. What bliss! I had forgotten what a wonderful smell the zest of a lemon had. I held the lemon peel tightly in my hand, all thoughts of errands consigned to oblivion, and rushed back home with my treasure so that all the family could have a sniff!
Food was under strict control and everything was rationed in varying amounts. Ration books were colour coded: buff for adults, blue for children and green, I believe, was for babies. On the rare occasions that bananas were delivered to the shop, word would quickly spread and there would soon be a lengthy queue of mums waving green ration books ant the greengrocer.
Meat, eggs, butter cheese, tea sugar and bacon were issued on a weekly basis of so many ounces per person, whereas flour, biscuits, dried fruit and tinned goods were allocated on a points system. A set amount of points were allowed in each ration book per month, and these could be ‘spent’ as and when needed. People saved points up for Christmas and birthdays and weddings, so that they could buy little extras.
Since there were eight members of our family at this time, we had more than we needed of some items and not enough of others, This meant that a bit of wheeling and dealing would go on (strictly on the quiet, you understand). For instant, Dad didn’t eat sweets, so us kids had his sweet ration and he got our cheese for his sandwiches. We were never well off enough to have real butter, even at the best of times, so Mum would swap our butter rations for extra packets of tea. So long as Dad had his cup of tea and cigarettes he was happy. Mum would sometimes sell a few clothing coupons to make ends meet. This was known as ‘selling on the Black Market’, which was illegal.
Most people dabbled in a very minor way in the Black Market, but it was really the ‘big boys’ that the police were eager to catch, not housewives trying to bend the rules a little.
Some time towards the end of the war, an empty High School a couple of blocks down was suddenly taken over by the WVS (Women’s Voluntary Services) and things started to get busy. Vans were parked outside and ladies in bottle green uniforms scurried in and out. Grown-ups had a habit of being boringly unconcerned about these sorts of things, but us kids were agog to know what was going on in the old school.
We didn’t have to wait long. Notices went up in the windows announcing that we could, on certain days at particular times, obtain whatever we needed in the way of clothing, no money or clothing coupons required to change hands. The notice invited the public to enter the building and go to the large room at the top of the stairs, where all would be explained. Mum told me to go and find out what it was all about and to report back to her.
In fact, it was a very good idea and worked extremely well. All we had to do was to take any unwanted or outgrown item of wearing apparel, including shoes and slippers, and hand them in to the WVS worker on duty. She would examine the article and allocate it a specific number of points (according to it’s worth), which was then entered into a book and set against your name and address. If you had a particular need at the time, you could spend all or part of your points on a garment that someone else had bought in. If there was nothing you wanted or fancied, your points remained in the book until you came back another day.
As far as I was concerned, this was all great fun. I could go shopping without any money at all, and come home with new clothes. All I needed was a few unwanted garments from home.

One item of clothing that I kept, and indeed handed on to Arthur when we married, was a beautiful Noel Cowardish dressing-gown. It was heavy quality midnight blue satin with wine-coloured collar and cuffs etc. The quality was so good that it wore for many years!

Sorry about the double photo. I can't get rid of it and am a bit worried in case I end up deleting the entire blog!

to be contd..

Can you please let me know if these blogs are too long and if you would like then shorter. I don't want to be a bore!


weechuff said...

I can remember mum giving sugar to Father Kettle, (the Catholic priest)in exchange for tea!! All very covert:0)
The blogs are definitely not too long for me Leeta!!!

Babs (Beetle) said...

Not too long for me either. I remember rationing well, all that time after the war!

Croom said...

I remember the rationing books; in fact I have still have one. I think it is a buff one with little orange or perhaps pink specks in the paper, at least my one has :O)

I too love the smell of lemons, I always rub them into my hands from my water when on the rare occasions Dave and I eat out and spend the rest of the evening with my hand stuck to my nose!.

Dad did love his cuppa didn’t he, I still do, drinking far to many cups per day and into the early morning :O)

Fancy the dressing gown lasting all tat time Leeta, it must have been a good one!

I am so enjoying these blogs so please don’t make them shorter, I am always a little disappointed when I come to the end.

GoldAnne said...

I just love your blogs!!! please dont shorten them, so very interesting,I couldnt make up my mind about the woman charging 5p
seemed a lot ( my grandmother gave me 3d pocket money) but my mother 2/6d :) a week,,, I think the woman charging 5p was coining it (no pun intended lol)
Thankyou again
love anne xxx

granny grimble said...


That would be long after the war had ended. Just shows you, no one was averse to a bit of Black Market though! Father Kettle was the horrible priest who officiated at our wedding.


Yes, I was about thirteen when the war ended, but well married when rationed did"!


I have several ration books and my war time identity card. I also have some clothing coupons.


I'm glad you are enjoying my blog so much. I don't think that a shilling a week for storing all our bedding is a bad price. Mind you I remember her hallway was piled high with bundles of bedding, so I expect she had a nice little income from it all. Still I can assure you that Dad was well pleased with the arrangement! :0)