War Diary Years III and IV

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With the recession and our current economy drive, I find myself looking back to 1996/97 when circumstances left us in a very difficult financial situation. This is our third year.

DB = my husband DS = our son.

CHAPTER THREE - 1941/1996

January/March l941/1996 Oranges and lemons are temporarily available in some parts of the country. President Roosevelt has been sworn in for his 3rd term of office. Leeks, potatoes and carrots are in good supply although leeks are expensive at 5d each. Sweetshops are now shut for days on end. When a small supply arrives it disappears quickly and then the shop shuts again. Ham has become scarce. There are one or two Seville oranges around but as the sugar ration is low, people were not able to make marmalade, which is now non-existent. Fruit scarce.

The Lease Lend Bill with America has been signed. Merseyside, Clyde side, Hull, Scotland were all bombed in March. Women of 20-21 are to register for war work. Meat decreased to 1/02d. Jam, marmalade, golden syrup, and treacle have been rationed to ½lb per person per month – when available! In March, meat decreased again to 1 shilling, margarine reduced to 2oz but butter increased to 4oz - hooray.

One question that we are often asked is - “Did everyone get the rations they were entitled to?” Well the answer to that is NO. Just because you were entitled to them, they still had to be paid for, at continually changing prices.

If you came from a poorer background and couldn't make ends meet, then you couldn't afford to buy everything you were entitled to, although some things were free to mothers with babies. Also, as the war progressed, even if you could afford to buy your rations, not all rations were always available. The Government changed amounts depending on weather, harvest and what boats got through the German U-Boat blockades.

On top of that, some things available in the countryside were not always available in the towns and cities and visa versa.

In 1996, it is now early January and we have been on rations for 17 months. It has become a way of life, people still laugh at us but many more are amazed at our doggedness in carrying on. It is not doggedness, simply normal to us. It is also the only way for us to be able to afford to eat.

Post-Christmas always seems to make us short of money - no doubt a problem shared by many others. Whilst still adhering to our weekly rations, we decided to do a 3-week shop to try and catch some food bargains, you know the kind of thing, buy 1 get the 2nd half price.

We went to Aldi and Safeway (the only supermarket I've found so far that sells dried eggs) and the bill came to a staggering ... £55. Remember, this is for 3 weeks and includes wash powder, conditioner, washing up liquid, toothpaste, soap and toilet rolls.

Yes, I know, you couldn't have done this during the war, but when you are using up petrol to go to the shops, then some saving has to be made elsewhere. During the war of course, local shopping wasn't as expensive, and people could either walk, cycle or catch a bus/tram to their local shop. I went to the local butchers and because money was getting tighter, decided to ask his advice and buy the cheapest cuts. Our rations for 3 people for 3 weeks meat, add up to 5 1/2 lbs with just over 1lb of that being in corned beef, which we had already bought in Aldi. (I hadn't yet discovered the money inflation site that would have converted the amount of money really allowed for meat each week during the actual war so this was the closest comparison I could find).

I bought 2 slices of liver and a meat pie, 3lb of belly pork, which he boned, and 1/2 a shoulder of boned lamb, all for the grand total of £9. Once home, I diced the pork and lamb and bagged it in portions of 7oz. I took all the skin off the pork and we cooked that in the oven for crackling for one meal and the bones should have made a soup but I got carried away watching 'Pie in the Sky' and so we had only 1'' of stock towards some gravy.

The garden at this time of year is looking bedraggled but at least the late dry autumn last year, helped us to start to clear the front flowerbed ready for a vegetable patch later this year.

We are now getting towards the end of our 3-week session and are still managing with the food bought.


April/June l941/1996 Sweets have risen dramatically to 2/4d per pound. Things that are hard to find are: - onions, lemons, oranges, grapefruit, and marmalade. Difficult to obtain are: - bird food, cheese, sweets, biscuits, soup, fresh eggs, meat and dried fruit. The Budget has increased Income Tax to 10/- in the £. (50p!)

Yugoslavia has been defeated. Broadsheet newspapers have been reduced to 1 double sheet at the cost of 1½d each! Weather in May has been very cold with night frosts. Cheese has come on ration at a measly 1oz per person per week or 8oz if a vegetarian. In June, cheese was increased to 2oz, butter reduced to 2oz but margarine increased to 4oz - thank goodness. Fresh eggs are to be controlled in their sale. Clothes are to be rationed.

Clothes rationing has arrived. We are allowed, at present, 66 points each for an entire year. Why, you might ask, when already 'going without', should we wish to take on board yet another form of rationing. Well, as I said before, we are thoroughly involved in this and yet again, it will help save money.

We have never been a family who have bought clothes willy-nilly, but now we think about whether we really need it.

Here is how we have spent some of our clothes points: -


DB: -

DS:-

Trainers 7 points Shorts x 2 6 points
Slippers 4 points Shirts x 4 8 points
Pullover 5 points Shoes 3 points

Me:-


Pyjamas x 2 12 points
Trousers 10 points Coat 8 points
Slippers 5 points Tee-Shirt 2 points
Nightie x 2 12 points School Top 3 points
Pants x 4 16 points




During the war, people flocked to jumble sales as no clothing coupons were needed, and as ever, someone else's jumble is another man's riches!

Today, we still have jumble sales, but also have Charity shops where coupon-free purchases can be made unless the garment is classed as new, in which case, you should use up the appropriate number of points.

My stock of books about the war is increasing. I now have 5, the latest one being a 'Wartime Christmas'. They are extremely handy for recipes and ideas as well as helping to have a feel for the period.

The hedgerows are full of elderberry blossom at the moment - a most glorious smell. Here is something to do with the blossom: -

Find a drop-scone recipe and add to it, just a FEW individual petals (not whole flower-heads) - lovely!

Something new I am going to try this year is elderflower sugar. 1lb of sugar with 1 large head of florets pulled off with the tines of a dining fork. Wrap up in muslin and place into an air-proof container and gently shake on a weekly basis until the sugar has taken on the smell of the elderflower. Remove the bag of florets and store the sugar in its airtight container. Use with gooseberry recipes. You can also do this with heavily scented rose-petals and heads of lavender (although you need only a scarce amount of lavender. These last two sugars would be used in plain biscuit recipes where they would be lightly flavoured by the sugars. Experiments - the scented geraniums, especially lemon and lemon-scented balm will all give beautiful sugars to enjoy in the damp dark days of autumn and winter.

Imagine the scene, a roaring log fire, started with twigs you have gathered during the dry summer, toasting home-made bread and drop scones by the fire and enjoying the scents of summer into the bargain.

It is early June. The octagonal bed in the front lawn has been dug up and the flowers distributed to the rest of the garden, with the exception of a few which have been left in 1/8th of the border/veggie patch. The rest have been planted with calabrese, brussel's, potatoes, runner beans, peas, radish, lettuce, beetroot, carrots and tomatoes. The kitchen windowsill will have peppers, chillies and basil. The dig for victory is well under way; I always assumed that somewhere along the line we would have to do it.

I'm afraid our rations have been slipping a bit and as such, we have seen a gradual rise in our food bill by as much as £5.00 every week. This can't go on! The main spending seems to have been biscuits, crisps and cheese. I've had a word with the family and we have decided to get stuck in and try to sort it out. You have to remember, that during the war, there just wasn't that much temptation to make you cheat, other than the black market of course. With the exception of these deals, you got what you were allowed and that was it. We always said we would find time for some treats but it is quite clear that they have got out of hand. Also, being on such a tight financial budget, we just cannot afford an extra £20 a month on our food bill.

Something I have just discovered is microwaved jam. It tastes beautiful and takes 16 minutes to make between 1 1/2 and 2lbs of jam. You take 1lb of fruit and put it in a 4-pint heatproof glass or oven-proof pottery container with the lid on and cook for 4 minutes on full power. Stir and repeat. Add 1lb of warmed sugar (from oven at 100 degrees C + jam jars) stir, leave the lid off and cook for another 4 minutes stir and repeat. All done, allow to cool for a few minutes and pour into the hot jars. What a saving of electricity and the jam has so much more flavour.

It is now the end of June and the vegetable garden is reasonably good. Due to the early very hot and dry weather in late May, we lost our first 2 sowing's of runner beans but have had partial success with the 3rd sowing, even so, these usually vigorous vegetables are still being a wee bit stubborn. We have had our first taste of both red and white radish and our first lettuce. The onions are beginning to flower and the potatoes are wilting in the high heat but no doubt, they will all survive.

One thing we are eating a lot of at the moment, due to daytime temperatures of 29C, are salads. When you can only eat these in their proper season, life takes on a new meaning. Salads were not over-popular during the war, more of a necessity. These days, they are quite commonplace, often too common, being eaten all year round.

However, the sheer luxury of being able to eat tomatoes again is something else. You need to remember, that we have not eaten fresh tomatoes since last October - 8 months.

This year, I am growing 7 beef tomato plants and 7 hanging-basket ones which have 1" fruits. I don't normally grow so many but have decided this year to have a go at drying some for winter. I shall let you know about this when the time comes.

The little fruit trees in the garden have had their fruit-lets thinned, the cherry tree has been netted against the birds and for the first time we have masses of loganberries which we shall soon have to net. Also, new to the garden this year is a Victoria Plum tree, which we have called Albert! The reason being that we bought it at a similar time to a friend, she calls hers Victoria!!!

Anyway, the hot weather although killing off some of my favourite plants, has in turn been ripening our first ever crop of loganberries - 2 lbs so far with many more to pick. We shall enjoy a summer pudding in the depths of winter!

Rations - probably due to the hot weather, we don't seem to be having any problem on this front at the moment. The margarine ration is lasting very well as are the eggs and cheese. Tea seems to be lasting forever despite having at least 5 pots per day!
 
July - August l941/1996 Milk ration decreased to 2½ pints per person per week. Broadsheet newspapers have doubled their size and price. Preserves have been increased to 1lb. Cheese up to 3oz. Mincemeat has been added to rations, just in time for Christmas! Onions, which are scarce, have been rationed to 1lb per person, per month when available - help!

DB has been in hospital having a throat operation, which has left him temporarily unable to swallow. As I was a nurse, he has been allowed home early as he is currently being fed via a machine. This machine operates during the night – a bit noisy and both of us can't wait to get him back onto proper food again. Poor man, we had been invited to a B-B-Q and he couldn't eat anything but I did syringe a little alcohol up his tube so he could 'feel' he had been out!

Instead of working like the proverbial bee, I have been unable to concentrate and have spent a lot of time going through the war cookbooks indicating which recipes to give a try. At the end of this venture, I seem to have ticked a remarkable number!

We went to an English Heritage major event this weekend, at Kirkby Hall in Northamptonshire. They were re-enacting history from The Romans through to World War II - with over 1000 participants, a historical craft-fair and MAJOR encampments - excellent!!! It all interested me, but the best of all was coming across 2 ladies in the World War II encampment. They had a table laid out with all manner of things from this era - which they use everyday in their own homes, they were even dressed in genuine clothing (underwear as well).

Anyway, we had a jolly good chat and having informed them about our war-rations they were thrilled to meet a fellow enthusiast. I explained to them that I was having difficulty finding in-depth information on the points system and they showed me a large photocopied document they had obtained from the Imperial War Museum in London, which being of interest to me, they would get a copy. Can't wait.

Several things they informed me about on the kitchen front were: -

If using the oven for cooking in, as you turn it off, put a large metal bowl of water in and by the end of your meal, the water should be hot enough to wash your pots.

Tea towels - when they get holes in them, use the worst one to patch the others (same for sheets or else cut them up the middle when threadbare then sew the two outer edges together to make a new sheet!)

Hopefully, they will have lots more hints in their information booklet.

It was my birthday recently and I received 2 boxes of chocolates, which I divided into 3 oz weekly ration portions and froze. The loganberry is going very well, I have just frozen my third pound and there may be enough for another. We have, in the past 2 weeks started baking our own bread. We decided to bake a loaf for a friend on her birthday and haven't stopped, so much are we enjoying the taste.

Despite the hot weather, we are still baking bread. We had run out with 3 days to go till the next shop so I baked. It is many years since DS tasted my bread and last time didn't like it but has enjoyed it and keeps asking for more. DB has decided to have a go and we shall make one weeks worth of bread in one day, bake it and freeze it.

The elderberries are ripening fast in the elongated beams of late summer sun, the purple-blue sloes are gaining the white bloom to indicate ripeness and the brambles are filling out ready to spill their black juice on un-suspecting passers-by!

In keeping with the need to keep to the seasons, I have come across 3 recipes for pea pod soup, all different, so I have taken the ingredients I like and have devised my own soup. The reason for this endeavour is that we have just picked 1lb of peas (the first this year) which gave us 6oz of excellent peas and lots of pods, which lets face it, generally get thrown away. Here is my recipe:-

1lb empty pea pods, 2 large sprigs mint, 2 large lettuce leaves (outside ones will do) 1/2 onion or 2/3 spring onions or large bunch fresh chives, 6oz potato, 2 chicken stock cubes and enough water to cover - about 2 pints.

Method: - Put all ingredients into a large pan, cover and simmer until cooked. Liquidize then sieve pushing hard on the gunk to extract all the goodness. This gives you a lovely green soup the consistency of single cream, but can of course be thickened with a little corn flour if desired. It tastes of freshly picked peas and completely different to dried mushy pea soup.

Also new to the tea table tonight, will be my first stalk of Calabrese. There is just one big one ready at the moment. I have never tasted fresh Calabrese, only frozen so am looking forward to both it and our first fresh peas. Fresh Calabrese, picked then cooked immediately is beautiful, a delicate bright green wonder, and the peas were gorgeous!

Well, those ladies from the World War II Society have come up trumps. After 3 weeks, I have received their copy of 'Rationing in Great Britain during the Second World War' (Information Sheet 20 from the Imperial War Museum)

In the vegetable garden things are looking a little bleak. Everything is wilting despite a thorough soak twice a week with the hose. I didn't gather my 2nd crop of peas in time and they are now drying in the pods so will be saved to be used as mushy peas in winter. The 2nd crop of lettuce is in but is very faint-hearted about expanding its waist! I have planted out my first ever crop of cabbage - Savoy. I gave two to a neighbour as I had run out of room. Out of the other 8, 6 are surviving and 2 seem to be permanently wilting - cabbage root fly!

My beef tomatoes are struggling but my little bite sized 'Whippersnapper' are flourishing so well I'm sure we will have hundreds. They can be used in salads and the beef tomatoes, when they sort themselves out, shall be sun-dried for winter use. 


September 1941/1996. We have now been on our wartime rations some 22 months. Looks like its time to start gathering the wild plums. I shall have to round up my neighbours who enjoy harvesting them. We look quite a sight I can tell you. It is usually a hot, late summer evening and we can be found in Wellington's, standing in nettle infested ditches, one hand on our heads to protect them from the falling plums, and the other hand holding extending clothes poles, whacking at the overhead branches.

We usually end up, dirty, sticky, hot, with ripe plum juice running down our heads where the squishy ones have plopped. However, when we arrive home with a carrier bag of free fruit, usually weighing in the region of 10 - 12 lbs, all is forgotten.

My two apple trees are swelling their fruits nicely and I have just cut down the old shoots of the loganberry - having got a total of 3 1/2lbs off it!

Although 'Points Rationing System' didn't begin until November during the war, we have decided to introduce it now as our rations began a few months ahead of the actual date - belt-tightening time!!!

As I have stated in the first chapter, there is a huge difference between £1 worth of tinned goods from the usual supermarkets and Aldi. Having got our allocation from Aldi, we have been rather spoiled in the large number of tins you can actually acquire for £1 - hence the expression belt-tightening as you will see.

Our combined weekly family points (3 people x 16 points per month divided by 4) = 12 points in total for one week! Below is a breakdown of how many points were needed for specific items, I feel our tinned goods cupboard will be greatly reduced but if they could do it, so can we. Here goes: -

Everything mentioned below is points per lb.

Cans of tongue, ham, luncheon meat, stewing steak, pork, sausages, red salmon, tuna, crab, sardines = 16 points

Can of pink salmon = 15 points
Pilchards, Herrings, Mackerel etc. = 12 points
Tinned fruit = 8 points
Tins of baked beans/pasta/carrots/peas etc. = 4 points
Tinned tomatoes = 6 points
Condensed milk = 8 points
Packets of cereals = 4 points
Dried bags of peas/beans/lentils/split peas = 2 points
Dried packets of fruits = 8 points
Tins of golden syrup/black treacle (molasses) = 4 points
Loose or packets of plain biscuits/cream crackers, rolled/flaked oats = 2 points
Loose or packets of chocolate biscuits = 8 points

Are you still awake!

That should make planning my shopping a lot more interesting, especially on the beans/tomatoes and cereals front. We seem to get through an awful lot of them.

I have just been working out our first full month of shopping with points attached. What a feat! It is really quite difficult to decide what to buy and what to leave out. Clearly for DS, cereals take priority, but how many tins of beans and toms do we have in order to leave enough points for biscuits, crackers or dried fruit. The mind boggles and we are only a family of 3. Heavens knows how hard it was to work out for the larger families of that era!

It is now just a week until the end of our first month on 'points rationing’; things are looking a little bleak. Cereals had already run out so I swapped two tins with a friend in exchange for some - she thinks we are quite mad!!!

My favourite gardening presenter, Geoff Hamilton, died last month, and it is only now, several weeks later, that I can watch snippets of him on television without crying, most strange. I, along with a huge part of the gardening population, mourn him deeply, oh dear, here come the tears!

He was an organic gardener, the same as me, and I find it difficult when in the garden, not to talk to him, as though somehow he will answer me.

Autumn is fast approaching with dew-filled cool mornings, mists and the smell of ripening autumnal fruit. The trees are beginning to change colour, berries are brightening up the drab green of fading summer foliage and occasionally, there can be smelt that wonderful mixture of wood smoke and damp earth - glorious.

Poppies are dying, poking their drying seed-heads through the yellowing grass, or hanging their now dull red heads in fields shorn of their golden glory. We gather the seeds from our garden to put in or on top of bread, cakes, biscuits etc. All around us, the farmers are busy bringing in their final harvests. Yellow and orange globes begin to adorn the fields. Pumpkins and squashes grow in abundance, ready for our tables, either to be eaten in ever-increasing popularity or to be hollowed out to cast their eerie glow with the flame of candles and the smell of burning!

As Halloween was not celebrated in the same style as it is now, pumpkins and squashes were only for eating. The souls of our ancestors must be weeping at the sheer waste of throwing away thousands of hollowed out pumpkins!

Conkers are ripening in their spiky pods, as are the nuts on the hazel, beech and sweet chestnut. The deep brown of the bull-rush has the beginnings of a cream coloured split appearing, ready to produce its fluffy seed-head.

Today, we have been out gathering some of this free harvest - elderberries and sloes. The sloes have been washed and pricked and are already soaking in gin and sugar, the start of our annual sloe gin. The elderberries shall soon be 'combed' from their stalks and turned into Elderberry Cordial, a delicious sweet and spicy drink, served hot in the depths of winter, especially cheerful when in the misery of a cold or flu.

The brambling sessions will soon begin. They are not my favourite fruit, as like raspberries, I find the tiny seeds most irritating but I shall turn a batch into sweet and spicy Blackberry Vinegar. It has the consistency of syrup, goes lovely with all milk and sponge puddings, it can be made into salad dressing or taken as a 'toddy' with hot water.

As the chilly autumnal nights arrive, we have taken off our summer quilts and changed to winter ones, what a difference. After nearly a week of being cold in bed at night, I actually slept through the night!

The arrival of these less warm days sees much work to be done in the garden. The tomato plants are still finding it hard to ripen their fruits, especially the beef tomatoes, but the little ones are ripening almost all at once. The lettuce went to seed, which is probably just as well as it was quite bitter, more like chicory.

Hopefully, sometime this month, I shall find the time to start clearing the garden of its summer-time debris, moving yet more flowering plants out of my newly formed vegetable bed. DB. will remove a rubbish part of our lawn, joining more bits together to give us more room to grow vegetables.

The jam-making session is almost at a close; although today I have been making one of my favourites, Damson. Yesterday, we made 3lb of Piccalilli; it will mature in time for Christmas.

Now that the autumn is upon us, it will soon be time to stop having summer salads and change to winter ones. This usually involves home made coleslaw, which luckily, both the 'boys' enjoy. I shall investigate my wartime books to look for new salad ideas and check all my cookbooks for some new soups, which we indulge in quite a lot in the colder weather. 


October 1941/1996

The early part of last month saw us introduce 'points rationing' - boy what a difference. For the last 4 days, despite the above-mentioned swap, we again ran out of cereals. It would have been all too easy just to buy some but we stuck with it and had toast each day. This was hard for DS. but he persevered. Our cheese ration also ran out and our margarine just lasted. We have put it down to the really hot weather - 30C for many days inducing us to have snacks rather than get any hotter cooking food. Can you imagine it, 30C in October!

I guess you could say that our introduction to the points system was a bit of a flop, we 'overspent' by 14 points. Obviously in the war, this could not have been done, but allowing for the fact it was our first month, and temptation being what it is, we were a little bit naughty!

I have found a recipe for 'Pilli Pilli Sauce'!!! You add plenty of chillies to whisky, shake for a week and then use no more than 1 teaspoonful to liven up casseroles and stews. When the bottle is empty you can use the same chillies in a different spirit ad infinitum!

The weather is due to turn to thunder and rain shortly but when the next batch of dry weather arrives; we shall start our 'stick-picking' walks ready for our winter fires.

Can you remember me mentioning having a go at making elderflower sugar? Well, I did and although it has slightly stuck together the smell and taste are wonderful. I think that next year, it would be advantageous to put the flower heads in net. Although this wouldn't stop the sugar sticking together, it would mean it could be used without eating the brown wilted flowers.

We were given a jar of Apricot jam and a jar of Strawberry jam the other day. The apricot has all gone and we have just started the other - lovely. We also won a £20 bottle of Champagne and a bottle of red wine in a competition! Hey ho!!!

As October progresses, we are beginning to adjust to the points system. As suspected, it greatly affects what 'luxuries' we can eat. Cereals, pasta and dried fruit seem to be the main things we are beginning to feel the pinch on, but hope to make it through until next month. This last ration system, truly gives us the feel of what struggles people had, especially when I can at least buy what I want on the points system, whereas they couldn't always get what they wanted.

I am already planning what to get for next month. We have not had crackers for 6 weeks, so they are a priority. If I cut down on the number of tinned beans and tomatoes, the cereals should last, and if instead of getting 1 lb of dried fruit, I get 8oz of two different kinds, then I can start putting a few away for my Christmas mincemeat - 2oz per month should be enough. Poor DB, who used to 'woof' down dried fruit when he was hungry has had his hands well and truly slapped when he went through an entire months supply in just under a week.

I've reverted to baking scones and pastry-based titbits to fill us up when peckish. They use very little fat, cheese or fruit, but are lovely and filling and with having so much jam made, we shall enjoy jam tarts.

The other day, I had some pastry left over from a pie and wondered what to do with it. On inspecting my store cupboard, I came across my final jar of last year’s mincemeat. It smelled okay and tasted even better so we baked 24 mince pies, which lasted for two puddings and two snacks. The rest of the mincemeat is stored in the fridge for when my friends cooking apples are ready, just a few days now.

My friend with the apples bought DB. two lovely presents for his birthday in August. A cake (which we couldn't spare fat or eggs for) and a jar of freshly made wild plum jam!!!

Today, we had porridge for breakfast, ham salad and potatoes for lunch and will be having lamb bolognaise for tea. I also hope to use up a tiny piece of cheese in some scones.

We have just been away at DB's parents for a week and for once, didn't have a pudding after every meal, but still we felt a bit bloated. I think it is partly to do with the bowls of sweets and a fridge full of chocolate biscuits! They are just too tempting. Whilst we were away, there was a large storm, which knocked several things down in the garden, which a neighbour kindly propped back up. The things that weren't affected were the white cabbage caterpillars! They were such tiny things when we went away and such giants when we returned. They have absolutely decimated my Brussels sprouts.

We picked all the apples off one of our small trees before we went, as we knew the storm was coming and they were already beginning to drop. About 3/4 of them were fine, the rest had a bit of bird pecking but after chopping the nasty bits off, we ate some and gave some to a neighbour, the rest are sitting on our Welsh dresser, ripening to their glory.

The beef tomatoes are at last ripening. I was picking the ones with blossom end rot off, but have left them on now, as they ripen just as well and with the rot cut off, taste fine. Waste not want not!

The fig tree is trying to swell its fruits (too late now to get through winter) so I shall have to pick the larger ones off and hope the little ones will make it to fruit next year.

The aubergine plant has gone mad and I had better start using them, as the first ones to ripen have now lost their shine.

Time moves ever on! It is now late October and still I have not found the time to clear the garden. We had a weather forecast of frost the other day, so DB. and I dived out into the garden to gather ALL of our tomatoes, both red and green. We gathered about 4lbs of tiny ones and 8lb of beef tomatoes. You can imagine our chagrin when the frost failed to materialise, but we both felt that Murphy's' law was at play and that had we failed to gather them in, the frost would have arrived.

I set out to make green tomato chutney; it didn't turn out too well, mainly due to it constantly sticking to the bottom of the pan. After putting up with the burning smell for several hours, we changed pan and burnt yet another one. In the end we drained the excess sauce from the chutney and bottled it. The sauce tasted burnt but the chutney didn't and although it has failed to develop its full taste, it isn't too bad.

We have also made about 3 litres of one of our favourite sauces, chilli tomato! Several of our friends have a taste for it as well, so I ration it out to them otherwise we would run out.

The other day, I took 2 friends out for the day and when we arrived back, one of them showed me her chickens (lucky thing) and gave me 4 eggs. DB. and I indulged ourselves and had them poached on toast, with butter, for our lunch.

We are now into the 2nd month of points rationing and at long last seem to have got to grips with it. It hasn't been easy. Poor old DS. sounded like a ninety year old the other day, trying to decide what to have for supper. His overheard conversation went something like this:

"I really fancy cereals, but as I had them for breakfast, I'd better not have them for supper as well, otherwise we'll run out and there won't be enough points left to keep buying them. On the other hand, I've had cheese for dinner and so if I have that for supper then the weekly ration will be gone and mummy and daddy will have to go without, SOoooh, I'll have toast!" All this from a 9 year old without batting an eyelid. It brought tears to our eyes I can tell you!

His maturity at times amazes me. He has just come back from a weekend in London, staying at Baden-Powell House with his Cub Pack. It was only the second time away from us and as his first wasn't enjoyable, we were a wee bit apprehensive. He came home, said he had enjoyed himself but it was nice to be home and that he had missed us.

I hope to be able to make a small batch of mincemeat soon, if I can get hold of some cooking apples, and shall soon start making small amounts of sausage rolls towards Christmas. My sloe gin is turning nicely, my jams are all made, newspapers have been stored alongside twigs and logs for our fires, the oil tank and coal bunker have been filled, so we are ready.


November l941/1996. There is a great shortage of paper, fuel, chocolate and sweets. Japan has attacked US bases as Pearl Harbour, so the US is now in the war. Many changes have occurred in rations, probably due to the cold weather and the continuing U-Boat attacks on our shipping. Condensed milk and National Dried milk have joined the rations, both at 1 tin per person per month. Milk is now 2pts per week. Sugar up to 12oz. Points system now in full swing.

Being nearly winter, we have stopped buying salad items and summer items such as peppers, aubergines and summer fruits because of course, during the war; food was most definitely seasonal, with few imports surviving the treacherous U-boats. Salads now consist of home-made coleslaw, or chopped and grated vegetables. 

Soups are coming into their own and we shall soon be delving into our store of pumpkin. This year we should use all last years frozen supply as for the 1st time, we were not given a pumpkin by our friend. He had to go away and left his wife to water the plants but the long, hot summer proved too much, and they wilted and died before he returned.

DB. always smiles when he sees me prepare for winter each year as though we were going to be snowed in for weeks. Well, in 1987, our village was cut off for one week, the day after I came out of hospital after having had DS! 

I always smile back and tell him that one of these winters I shall be proved right. However, it isn't really possible to hoard when you are on rations but I shall start to put away, anything that is left over each month, just in case. 


December 1941/1996

Soon it will officially be winter. The severe frosts were late this year but have at last arrived, making everything crystal white in the mornings. Mists and fog, which one usually associates with November, have also arrived, making for very hazardous driving conditions.

I have made my mincemeat and also 24 mince pies. I have just enough left over to add sliced apples to make a pie. We also have 18 sausage rolls in the freezer and I have at long last made my first wartime Christmas Pudding. I'll let you know how it tastes. It is quite light in colour, a little like a sultana sponge pudding. I had to leave it late, as this particular recipe will only keep for a maximum of one month. It also has no carrots in it; I'm keeping that one for next year!

We shall be having DB's parents for Christmas along with my nephew L. He is a strapping lad of 6' 8" and weighing around 16 stone, tall but not fat. We have worked out what their rations would be for one week and have added them to our pre-Christmas shopping in order to get everything ready in time. Our new shopping month begins on December 23rd, so any last minute items will come out of our normal rations.

My longed for clearance in the garden never materialised, so even now, on good weather days, DB. and I can be seen gardening, trying to tidy things up a bit. I think I planted my leeks a wee bit late as they are about the thickness of a man's thumb, but should taste okay. I am having to be careful with my back. It seems I have developed some long-term damage, mild but painful, which leaves me in great pain after a one-hour walk or half hour gardening. The doctor says I shall have to learn to walk and work through the pain in order to be able to do things for longer. If I don't, my walking and working time will get shorter and shorter until eventually I have to give up altogether!!!

We have now put up our Christmas decorations, including some home-made ones to try to keep in with our theme. We have had more coal delivered as more fires are needed, as the nights get colder. My Christmas presents to my friends this year are 'Evacuee Crackers', wrapped in brown paper and addressed with a parcel label. Inside they contain the following: - a packet of mixed spice (yes I know it might not have been available but we are living today), a small amount of dried fruit, a 10p coin, a night-light candle, a small fruit soap, a blank address label and a small scroll tied up with red ribbon which says: -

Spice of life for those in doubt,
Fruit to feed those turned out,
Money for those who cannot pay,
A candle to help light their way,
Soap to soak away their stress,
A blank label for their new address,
This message of love is given free,
Hang it up high so they may see.

Each year we try, (my close friends and I) to give home-made gifts to each other. It is always difficult to know what to do; some people who I meet think it’s insulting to give home-made presents. We find them a delight to give and great to receive, they let people know you love them and in turn, feel you are loved because they have taken the time and care to make you something. How can such a gift of love be insulting.

Well, Christmas has been and gone and with it came many presents, including my favourite home-made ones! This year, I have received an album, covered in material for recipes, a lovely dried flower and candle arrangement and probably best of all, yet again, was a 'Red Cross' food parcel which contained the following:-

4 mini cheeses, 1 small bar of chocolate, a box of tea, a small jar of coffee, some cream crackers, crisps, sultanas, biscuits, a jar of beetroot & one of pickled onions, small tins of ham and salmon, a bottle of milk shake and orange juice!

Considering we had an extra 3 for Christmas, they came in handy. I do have to say though, that although we stuck to our rationing and points systems, and did not buy anyone sweets, we still had lots bought us despite saying we didn't want any! That and the proverbial mountain of chocolate biscuits (which we have given up trying to stop the relatives bringing) we have felt bloated. When we are on our own, we can eat when we want, what we want or otherwise, but when you have guests, you feel obliged to cook and continually feed them, as they are used to.

This, we have decided, is what makes us feel so uncomfortable. In the past week, we have been unable to face supper (which we look forward to normally), sometimes barely having room for a much needed cup of tea. However, tomorrow sees the departure of all our guests, its nice having them, but nice to be back on our own. We haven't even found room for the Christmas Cake and have only just managed to finish our one small wartime Christmas pudding, which by the way was yummy.
Can't wait to try a different one, God willing and may even make a very small Christmas cake, including the wartime topping of 'Soya marzipan'.

Weather-wise, it has been very cold. Daytime temperatures of 2/3 C and night time ones of -2/3 with 2" of snow arriving 2 days after Christmas Day. Still, we have only just begun the winter season, no doubt colder weather and more snow will be just around the corner.

YEAR IV 

CHAPTER FOUR - 1942/1997

This diary has copyright protection on it.  All rights reserved

With the recession and our current economy drive, I find myself looking back to 1997 when circumstances left us in a very difficult financial situation. This is our fourth year.  DB = my husband DS = our son.


January 1942/1997. Weather very, very cold with severe day and night frosts. Some parts of the country registering temperatures of 19F (- 28C!) Major shortages of paper, rubber and metal. Shops are forbidden to wrap purchases, including the butchers. Japanese have landed in New Guinea.

Rice, sago, dried peas and beans have been added to points system. The first two are 2 points, the last two are 4 points per lb. Dried fruit is 8 points per lb. Sugar, margarine and lard have all been reduced. Tinned fruit (8 points), beans and tomatoes tinned (4/6 points) have come on points ration. Tinned meat has risen from 16 to 24 points per tin!!! Tinned fish is anywhere from 24 - 32 points per lb tin:(

In January, we got the shock of our lives. I had often said we really ought to try having a few days without the central heating, just to see what it would have been like during the wartime fuel restrictions. (So far, I have not been able to find the ration of coal allowance.)

No sooner said than done!!! We ran out of oil and came home one day to a cold house and a boiler with its red light on! Having ordered some fuel, we knew it would be 2 days before it was delivered. Luckily for us, only a few weeks ago, we had had our Calor Gas fire canister re-filled (a job that had waited nearly a year). DB duly laid the fire and we used the gas fire in the dining room to help keep that area of the house warm. We kept the extension doors closed (DS's bedroom and my workroom) as it was amazing just how much cold air from them, was sucked into the rest of the house!

We were lucky with the weather as the daytime temperature was around 5c and at night it was about 0c. Some of the war diaries I have read, talk of DAYTIME temperatures of -19F (that's a whopping -28.3c folks!!!) Mind you, this year Scotland came very close to this and had all kinds of problems with burst mains let alone burst pipes in houses. This in an age when most people would have central heating, lagged pipes and well-insulated attics. The mind boggles at what must have happened during the war when very few homes had this luxury.

Despite our luck with the temperature and only having to wait 2 days, we found the experience worthwhile. For example, we now had to rely once more on our immersion heater and the memories became reality of just how much we take hot water for granted. Our cheap-rate switch was broken so as soon as the alarm went at 6.30am, we dashed out of bed to give ourselves 1 hour of hot water and to light the calor gas fire. The house was quite cold and it was nice to get back into bed. At seven, we would get up and set the washing going and found that once the machine had finished and we had also washed our breakfast pots up, yes, all the hot water had gone. I sometimes have to do, two loads of washing a day, so it was quite a sobering find. We decided not to set the immersion for another hour to try to save electric (something that was always being urged during the war) and left our few pots during the day to mount up and be washed at supper time when the immersion would have been on for another hour (we always used to have it on for 2 x 1hour sessions pre central heating days.

2 days later, we received our oil and were grateful and take our hats off to war-torn Britain who would have to put up with these conditions, for months on end and in a lot harsher weather conditions.

Spoke too soon! 

More than 3" of snow has fallen on top of the rest, making 5" in all. It has hung around for 2 weeks due to night-time temps of -12C with daytime temps around -4! We have been feeding the birds what scraps we can and also giving them fresh warm water each day to try and help them. They must be cold; their feathers are fluffed out so much they look like pom pom's!. Even when a slight thaw set in, it froze overnight to produce dangerous black and white ice, many accidents occurring on the roads as well as on foot. The local hospital has been inundated with people with broken bones due to the weather.

We had a power cut the other day, don't know why. The snow had gone, there were no high winds, so maybe a large bird or swan flew into the cables. Anyway, it was off for 2 hours, at breakfast time. We got out our emergency gas cooker and managed to brew enough hot water to make ourselves and some ill neighbours, lots of tea. DB then went out to the garage and lit the gas fire, which usually lives out there and with the aid of an unfolded coat hanger, proceeded to make toast as well. It was almost cold by the time he had walked up the garden with it but it was greatly appreciated by all! A real wartime effort!!!

We have just been shopping to get food for the last 10 days of this month. Evening meals will be as follows: -

Macaroni Cheese, Home-made Pizza and home-made coleslaw,
Corned Beef Pie (1/2 each meal so twice), Chicken Curry, Fish, Chicken Kiev (twice), Jacket Potato with coleslaw and cheese, egg and ham flan.

I have just looked back at the 4-week period, which covered Christmas to check how much our food bill was. Allowing for the 'Red Cross' parcel and the fact we were feeding an extra 3 people for one week, it came to a staggering £160.52 - remember, this is for 4 weeks! Compare that figure to the post Christmas 4 week period in January, which comes to £98, a difference of £62. This mainly went on extra food, wash powder, soap, toilet rolls etc. for the guests and a few treats. However, when you look at it, although the months shopping in December, came to £160, it is amazing that the extra £62 would almost have done us for a normal month. On average though, if I take the figures for the last 6 x 4 week periods, the average month comes to £125, that is for EVERYTHING, not just food but all other things.

February 1942/1997

In February, the Japanese took Singapore. It has been reported that children’s toes are becoming deformed due to lack of new shoes being available and having to wear their old ones for far too long. Basic petrol has been rationed to 2 gallons a month. Cosmetics and camera films seem to be very scarce. Fish and chip shops are still open but you have to take your own newspaper!

It is now February. The snow has gone to be replaced by high winds and driving rain. There are still frosts at night, but not very severe. We have been out in the garden, attempting to do last Autumn's tidy-up, but there is so much to do, what little effort we put into it hardly seems noticeable. However, onward and upward.

Gardeners World starts again this week, with Alan Titchmarsh, from his home at "Barleywood". It will take a while to get used to him, but I shan't forget Geoff Hamilton, I still miss him dreadfully, as I'm sure do a lot of others. I think I will organise some sort of garden feature and dedicate it to him.

We must have put some weight on over the Christmas period, as our clothes are a bit tight, so now that Lent is here, I have decided to give up sweets, cakes and biscuits. One week has gone by, so far so good, fingers crossed. Must try and cut down on my jam sandwich snacks otherwise it will be a waste of time, but it is difficult. We have just opened a jar of Apricot jam, it has almost gone!

I've been busy looking at seed packets as this year, I shall need to replace a lot of mine, which are now quite old and often fail to germinate, can't have that on our 'dig for victory'. We shall be extending the vegetable patch by about 2' on 3 sides of our hexagonal. It will, I hope, help me to plant in longer lines therefore getting a better return for our efforts. The loganberry is also going to be fixed to a trellis to make picking and protecting the fruit easier.

Daffodils, snowdrops, hyacinths and bluebell leaves are all poking their heads well above ground, giving the sure promise of sunny spring days, just around the corner. We still have about 6-8 weeks of winter left, but once their nodding heads start to blow in the breeze, we know it's almost over for another year.

We are now 2½ years into our war rations. It has definitely become a way of life. We have the odd slip-up now and then but generally keep to it. One thing we have noticed about us, if not DS, is the lack of illness. Granted, we are at home a lot, therefore not in too much contact with ill people but even so, we don't seem to be having as many colds or other bugs that people seem to be going down with. All the books I read about the war, say the same thing, that people were healthier, we shall have to see. DS, being constantly surrounded by ill school chums, does have a lot of colds but again, nowhere near the amount of other illnesses - hope it keeps up.

Yesterdays high winds have brought down one of the fence posts we are responsible for in our driveway, more expense but we need to get it fixed as soon as possible as the post lady and free paper deliverers are treading on my seedlings of pansy, viola and wild poppy!

After 10 years, we have just decorated the bathroom, less pink now but it looks so much brighter, especially in the gloom of a winter’s day.

DS has discovered he likes sage and onion stuffing, so this has become a favourite, something else to eke out the rations. He still only really likes carrots and sweet corn but will on occasions, have a minute portion of cauliflower or broccoli. The half term is here at the moment, and as per usual he is a bit bored but has quite a lot of homework to do for both cubs and school so hopefully it will pass. The weather needs to cheer up a bit so he can get out and about.

In the past few weeks, DS has been busy converting an old garden table into a den. It has been raised up on bricks so he can sit inside without bumping his head and boxed in to hide him more. He has been up the 'cut' to get twigs, leaves and ivy to cover it with and we have placed our wooden seat in front of it so we can't see it quite so much!

We have had several quite 'balmy' days and the garden has leapt into action. These warm days have been followed by damp, cool and rainy days, with yet another burst of growth, our joy knows no bounds! This of course, has meant that we have had to get stuck in and clear last autumn's debris away but it is now almost done and the garden looks a lot better. With the exception of a small portion, our front octagonal vegetable patch has been cleared of all flowers and weeds. The flowers were not discarded but used to fill up gaps elsewhere. The area has been dug over and raked and in the next few days, we aim to empty the compost bin on it and dig and rake again before sowing our seeds. I shall have to check though, which plants dislike freshly fertilised areas otherwise they'll sulk.


MARCH 1942/1997

The 'cut' is coming into life. The hawthorn blossom is coming out, the cow parsley is several inches high as are the bluebell leaves and it won't be long before they'll both be in flower. There is nothing quite like a large bouquet of cow parsley flowers and bluebells in a vase to brighten up a room. The parsley flowers drop very quickly and have a peculiar smell but this is masked by the bluebells. It's not the smell but the look of the thing, all blues and creams blending into one another with an airy open feel to the whole thing. Wonderful!

Mother Hubbard’s' cupboard got very bare at the tail end of this month. I made 12oz of pastry and from this used up our last 2 eggs and 1oz cheese to make an egg and cheese flan, a pastry based pizza and an apple pie. It fed us well that 12oz of pastry!!!

Our tea ration is beginning to stockpile, not because rations have increased but because we seem to be using less. At the end of last month, we still had 1 box of tea and 30 tea bags left. This added to this months rations should build it up further, that way, when we have visitors, we shouldn't feel the pinch too much.

I have just sown tomatoes and chilli peppers and have put them in the airing cupboard to germinate. Last year, the first time I grew this type of tomato, we had hundreds so are giving them another go this year.

Easter is fast approaching. This year, for Lent, I gave up chocolate, cakes and biscuits. I normally only give up chocolate but was still feeling not quite right from Christmas, so decided to give up all three. Hard work wasn't in it. However, 3 more days and I can eat them again and have lost 3lbs in weight into the bargain.

Tonight for tea, we are having Ox liver. Like everyone else, at the mere mention of it, I would say "Ugh" but considering I have never eaten it couldn’t think why I should have had that reaction. Anyway, our butcher, a close friend, has been trying to get us to have a go at it for at least 2 years and got so exasperated that he gave us a portion of it free for us to try. Reaction "Yummy" and we are now converted. Unlike other liver it is soft in texture and gentle in taste. Combined with a slice of bacon, mashed potatoes, veg and lots of luscious liver gravy - pure heaven! DS hates liver so he is having a sausage.

This weekend also sees the start of our craft fair season. It would be easy for rations to go out of the window at these fairs as we seem to be continually hungry but I aim to make a big pot of curry for 2 days for DB and myself, DS can have 2 days of macaroni cheese which he adores, that'll leave spaghetti bolognaise and a take away to cover the main meals for 4 days with sandwiches and a few cakes and fruit for daily snacks. I am really glad I made so much jam, as we seem to be eating about 3 - 4 jars a month.


April 1942/1997 

White flour is no longer available. All bread will now be the stodgy brown/grey - The National Loaf! The George cross has been presented to Malta for its defence and fortitude after being bombed over 2000 times. Corned beef is banned from sale, no one knows why. Meat ration reduced to 1 shilling, again. Cereals have gone onto points (4). Curds and honey added to preserve rations. Milk has been de-rationed - temporarily no doubt. Dried milk unavailable, perhaps that’s why! Cheese up to 4oz. Dried eggs on ration at 1 tin (equal to 12 eggs) per person per 4/8-week period. Syrup and treacle transfer from preserve to points system (4). Sugar has risen to 1lb. Cheese up again to 8oz (16 for vegetarians) and loveliest of all, sweets have risen to 8oz - yummy.

The month of April has introduced a most peculiar pattern of weather. Very high daytime temperatures of 18 - 24C followed initially, by warm balmy nights and absolutely no rain. The garden paraded forth her flowers, all at the wrong time! I'm sure I shan't have any autumn flowers this year. 

Already, my poppies are beginning to flower, alongside daffodils and bluebells, winter flowering heather. My sage bush is beginning to bloom and the lilac has already finished. Apple, pears and plum have burst out in their full but early glory and horror of horrors, right in the middle of all this beauty, frost! 

I must have had several hundred pear and plum blossoms which all promptly fell off, leaving no pears and possibly 2 plums. If those 2 make the course, we shall enjoy them immensely.



In this strange daytime, summer-like weather, I have to water my plants that are south facing as they continually wilt. The grass in places has dried out and is turning pale brown, but at least the apple blossom has survived the heavy night frosts of around -6C, unlike the poor commercial orchards whose crops have been decimated.


May 1942/1997

In May, new ration books were issued. Seasonal fruit was scarce for some reason. Extremely hot weather in June. Seedling leeks are on sale at 2/6d per 100 (today you get 20 for £1!)

Just when we thought an early summer was here to stay, May bounded in with another complete weather change. Temperatures plummeted in the day to 6-7C, central heating was turned back on, and night-time frosts stayed then came the rain. At first just light rain which doesn't help the garden at all, then cloudbursts, squally showers, snow, sleet, hail and high winds, phew. I honestly think the garden doesn't know whether it is coming or going.

At least the flowers seem to have been held in check by the change. The poppies have ceased flowering but are sending up numerous flower heads, and all around the garden, the rain has encouraged lush green leaf growth. Our wisteria has given us its best display yet, the loganberry has gone quite mad and the apple trees have set fruit, hooray.

We have had our first 2 craft fairs, very poor. I have had to have a talk with my bank manager to explain what has happened to my cash flow. I am in the unenviable position of holding massive amounts of stock with very little expectation of sales. At least on the home front things are a wee bit better.

I have planted out, carrots, corn salad, sprouting broccoli and radish, all growing well, soon shall follow my tomatoes, peppers, aubergines and lettuce, then leeks.

The cherry tree stands in the middle of the vegetable patch, it didn't have as much blossom this year but hopefully will produce a few cherries for us. Rhubarb has been plentiful once the rains came so I shall bake some rhubarb pies. Evening meals this weekend will be frugal but filling. I made some chicken curry a few weeks ago. We didn't use up all the sauce so I froze it. I shall mix it with carrots and onions and a few bits of bacon and serve it with rice. The other meal will be a cheese, tomato and bacon sauce with pasta - lovely.

We have just started to eat salads again, after 6 months, what a joy. To taste a crisp lettuce and cucumber, mingled with slices of radish and tomatoes, tossed in a herb mayonnaise dressing, new boiled potatoes and some meat or fish to go with it - utter bliss. You may be reading this and think what balderdash, just you try going without something for 6 months, believe you me; you really savour it when you eat it.

Apart from the usual colds, we haven't been ill this winter. DS suffers tremendously from colds being at school and in contact with ill chums, but we seem to have escaped flu, sickness, diarrhoea, scarlet fever to name but a few of the horrible things currently going around.

We have just come back from a dental check-up in Lincoln. Yes, I know its a long way to go but I have been with the man for 26 years, when he retires in 3 years, DS and I hope to transfer to DB's dentist, just a few short miles away.

June/July 1942/1997

It is now the beginning of June and we still have beautiful weather. The weather has been odd these last 2 weeks, alternating between glorious, almost summer sunshine to rain, winds and night frosts! The plants continue to be confused.

The flowers that normally bloom in July are in full bloom, with flower heads already forming on my autumn chrysanthemums. My fruits trees are in desperate need of pruning but I am loathed to start as it is too early and next year, I shan't have any fruit if I prune now, as it will only encourage foliage buds.

We have watched, yet again, the cycle of blackbirds building nests in our pyracantha. The first nest had 3 babies, which all flew the nest. The second had 4, which are all now scurrying around the garden at our approach, but still being fed by their parents. The frogs are filling the pond again, 6 at the last count in the sink and 1 to 2 in the tub. We don't usually get spawn as the ponds are not deep enough to not freeze in the winter, but it is still a joy to say hello to the chaps and chapess's each time I wander by. You can always tell the new ones, as they plunge under the water as you approach but the old guys, just keep right on looking at you, probably wondering who this stupid woman is who keeps talking to them!

We went to a 15th century re-enactment weekend do at our local castle. For the first time, I approached the cooks to have a chat and when they found out we were interested in 2nd world war cooking, they gave me a recipe for corned beef sausages which they had had passed onto them from the World War II group, I shall give them a try, they sound good.

Our loganberry has gone mad, it is twice the size it was last year and full of berries. I shall have to net it as soon as they start to colour otherwise the birds will get them. We had some of last years as a pudding the other night, stewed with some left over cake and custard.

For some reason, our monthly spending has gone up, but there again, we've done well to keep spending the same amount each month for over 2 years, had to go up some time! That's the trouble when your income stays the same yet food and everything else rises almost monthly. Still, only another 15 months to go then the pension will be index-linked and should rise in line with inflation...


August-October l942/1997Iron has been salvaged from all parks and house railings to help the war effort. Ban on central heating has been lifted for the winter months. Houses now have bins for: paper and cardboard, pig food, compost, milk bottle tops, bones, cheese rinds and hen food. Bath water has been restricted to a depth of 5". The public are urged to share fires and cookers to help conserve fuel in the winter months.Sugar down to 8oz. Biscuits and crackers enter points system at 2 and 8 points respectively. Sweets increased to 16oz and milk to 3pts.

The summer has gone, just flown by. It is now the beginning of October and having just sat down to read this diary, I've realised that I haven't entered anything since the end of May! Tut Tut!!!

This summer has been strange. It took until well into July to get the really hot weather, sometimes too hot. There wasn't much rain and some days it was quite cold. The plants in the garden didn't know which way was up half the time. The autumn flowering plants flowered in July with the exception of two or three which sorted them-selves out and are now flowering. We had, during September, a lovely Indian summer, interspersed with the odd cold day just to remind us it was September.

The late frosts in May and June put paid to the flowers on my pears and my new plum tree. No pears at all and just 4 plums that we nourished and net protected and eventually ate - they were yummy! The loganberries started slowly then yet again, went mad. We got about 4lbs, which are in the freezer. I planted out an aubergine and pepper plant as last year, but this year, we only got 1 large and 1 small aubergine but 15 peppers. Also, this year, after the chilli peppers started to flower, it was warm enough for them to go outside and we had the best result yet, about 20 chillies. The tomatoes weren't so good, too much variation in temperature and water, although we did have about 100 seedlings through out the garden, the result of some poor composting. We thinned these down to 4 and got 1 bunch of tomatoes off each one, some good, some quite literally bad.

We have made a conscious effort this year to get the front garden organised for winter, with still quite a bit of work to do in the back. The weather being what it has, has resulted in my usual wild forage being interrupted somewhat. I completely missed all the wild plums, which apparently dropped the end of June, 6 weeks in advance! The elderberries seemed to ripen and shrivel practically overnight. By the time we realised they were ready, they were over and we only managed to make 2 bottles of elderberry cordial for winter. The sloes have been and gone so we have missed doing sloe gin - last years will have to do. The frost killed off the apple tree flowers in my friend’s garden so no free apples, deary me!!!

My crafting year has been awful. I feel I need to make some major decisions but don't quite know which way to jump. I'm afraid I've dumped it in the lap of God and left him to sort it out. I'm sure I'll know the answer as soon as He does!

Princess Diana was killed in a car crash in France at the beginning of September, along with Dodi-al-Fayed, her companion. The nation went into mass mourning. I've never seen anything like it; I can't even imagine the death of the Queen Mother being able to match it. The funeral service was lovely and I just sat and cried, along with most of Britain. Not for her in particular but for my own mum. I had never really mourned her loss, and again, along with a lot of the nation, we were mourning for the loss of our own loved ones, it all just coincided on one day and was quite spectacular.

Money problems still seem to be rearing their ugly head. We did however; use the windfall from our Halifax shares to pay off our huge Visa debt, what a blessing that was. We have now started a 'need' list and attached it to a kitchen cupboard door. Things like light bulbs, which blow, and we don't have another. It has grown to stupendous proportions, sort of starting off as a worm and ending like an anaconda - hope it doesn't get any longer or it might throttle us in the night!

The food bills, which in May were beginning to increase, have now calmed down a bit. Thank heavens for rationing is all I can say. We have used up this months money due to buying too much convenience food for 4 consecutive craft fairs, so this last week, will have to go on the Visa which we will clear next month.

It is only 10 weeks to Christmas, presents to buy, what with, I don't know. We are hoping to spend it up in Birkenhead with DB's mum and dad, so that should help. At least it will save me having to freeze individual sausages to get enough to make sausage rolls etc., even though I shall miss it.

Once the cold weather gets here properly, I shall begin making bread. I enjoy it; it tastes lovely and will help keep the kitchen warm. I have already started making soups. So far we have had, tomato and chilli, carrot, chicken and next will be tomato and pepper, helping to use up the last of the tomatoes and 1" long peppers, which I rescued from the cold weather. Hopefully, our pumpkin growing friend will soon be in touch and we shall be able to add pumpkin soup and cake to our menu. It is so exciting cooking by the seasons. Not only does it add variety to the menu, it helps keep costs down as imported fruit and vegetables, out of season, are quite expensive.

We have had the last of summer salads and have just had our first coleslaw. DS paid me a nice compliment when up at Nana's he had some bought in coleslaw and left it, saying it wasn't as nice as mine! Rationing wonders will never cease!!

DS has been busy writing out his Christmas present list. This year, we are putting points down against whatever is on his list. He has 10 points to spend and its up to him to shorten his list accordingly, which he has just done; hopefully he won't change his mind.

Once my craft fairs are finished - end of November - I am going to have a bash at making paper. I've seen it done, and am busy saving waste paper to have a go.

R. has finished her 'spud lunches'. She felt it was time to give them up. I also left the craft shop on August 20th. I quite simply could bear it no longer. The thought of trudging over there, every week in winter - ugh. Even though I have lost considerable sales, it was worth it.

We have been busy tidying up the garden. Several carloads of rubbish have been taken away. It is still not as neat as we would like but for now, it will have to do. We had our first real frost just after the clocks were put back. We had them for about 4 days. It looked really lovely, but finally killed off the tender plants.

I made my first batch of tomato/chilli sauce, not quite as hot as normal but very nice all the same. I have now started to get my ingredients ready for a 2nd batch. In about 2 weeks time, I shall make a wartime Christmas cake, even though we shan't be here, we'll eat it for the New Year.

Another major headache is the central heating. It is really acting up and we think air is getting in somewhere. So... we have decided to begin what we should have done in summer, disconnect it, flush out each radiator, re-fill and see if that works. We have 8 radiators in the house, at the moment only 3 are hot, and one of those keeps going cold. Unfortunately, it is the one in DS’s room, and as he has patio doors almost filling one whole wall, he needs the heat.

No doubt, the week we decide to have a go will prove to be one of the coldest on record, but at least we have the fire in the front room and an electric heater for DS. Real wartime conditions!!!
 
November-December l942/1997 Weather very cold. Fireplaces are made smaller with the addition of extra firebricks or normal household ones off bomb sites if others not available. 1st National Thanksgiving Day for victory at El Alamein. Britain has been at war for 170 weeks. Social Security plans have been published. Yet more requests from the Government to save fuel and hotels are to allow their guests only 1 bath per week. Milk reduced to 2pts. Sweet ration is down to 12oz per month.

There are only a few weeks to Christmas. So far, only one present has been brought, some chocolate covered nuts for Nana. My friends will, at the moment, be getting Harriet’s Herbs jars, unless I have a mad rush on them at my craft fairs.

DB and DS did our Christmas Norfolk Show-ground fair by themselves as on the same weekend, I was at a local fair. We did very well but even so, I shall only be out of the red for about 6 weeks but beggars can't be choosers!

Question: - How many meals can you get out of a tin of tomatoes?
Answer: - Two.

I used ½ to mash and use as the tomato base for a pizza; the other ½ went as a base for a tomato soup - lovely.

The day we began to disconnect our central heating was quite cool but not cold. All went very well and with the exception of 2 radiators, we managed to drain, flush and re-connect everything with only 1 minor leak. It took several days to rid the system of air but after that all was well. We now have all radiators working. We have balanced the system as best as we can and all are hot or very warm! Hooray!!!

It is time for our annual pumpkin man to appear. We met up and received our 14lb pumpkin as well as: - 2 cabbages, carrier bag of pink fir potatoes, loads of shallots and a bag of onions - wonderful.

There are now just over 4 weeks to Christmas. Time is rushing by and we forgot DS’s advent chocolates and our advent wreath. Managed to get the chocolate in time and a friend came to the rescue with 2 small wreaths. The start of advent this year, coincides with our last busy craft weekend and we would have been upset if we had missed organising it.

There are lots of things happening now. The infant school has invited us for mince pies and wine as well as their Christmas play. Then there are numerous school fairs and bingo to attend for fund-raising. Presents still have to be bought for DS, Nana and Granddad but everyone else is catered for. So far, we have written out loads of cards, still have our crackers to make and I've yet to have a go at a wartime Christmas cake, which I intend to do.

Some friends of ours have moved and gave us the contents of their small freezer. They wondered how we equated this 'gift' with our war rations. DS piped up 'The Americans are coming - got any gum chum'

He's quite right, if an American came to tea, they were usually accompanied by food gifts, some of which were most unusual but very welcome. Any food gift is always welcomed and much appreciated by us. The other day, we were offered some fairy cakes and 4 apples - yummy.

We spent Christmas away from home again this year and seriously think it will have to be our last. Yet again, despite not indulging in all the extra 'must have because its Christmas' goodies, we still felt bloated and ill at ease. We were having a walk discussing things when DB announced, 'I think I must be turning into Scrooge; I just can't seem to get excited any more. I'm full up, fed up and not at all festive' I had to agree with him as I was feeling the same.

God willing, Christmas 1998 will be very different. We have decided to have a Christmas resembling a wartime one. This means saving titbits in advance to make sausage rolls, mince pies, pudding and cake (hooray). No normal decorations will be put up, instead, we shall make paper chains using coloured articles from magazines and also Chinese lanterns. Greenery will be gathered from the hedgerows, such as holly, ivy, eucalyptus, leylandii etc.

The tree will be put up with its lights but no decorations. We have decided to have edible decorations, garlands of popcorn for example, biscuits, paper cones 'filled' with sweets (rations allowing), Satsuma’s in little baskets (if available), gold and silver sprayed nuts on little hangers etc. Then, if and when we feel peckish, we shall remove something from the tree, (dust it down) and eat it. Hopefully, by the end of the festive season, the tree will be empty ready for packing away.

There will be normal food available, no extra tins of biscuits, sweets, nuts, unless home-made. We have also decided to make our own crackers. You can buy kits, which we have done in the past, but this year shall do a 'Good Life' special and make them completely from scratch and shout 'bang' when we pull them!!! Hand made, folded newspaper hats should last a long while and be a giggle.

I usually make home-made gifts for my friends and we have decided that each person is to make one gift for everyone else - should be interesting.

On Christmas Eve, we usually open small presents to the value of 50p. Each person there, has to buy/make 2 for every other person who will also be there. It has been getting harder, so this year, we upped it to 75p. It was amazing how many present were sweets, which I felt were a bit of a cop out, even though I suspect they came from my own house!

Its just too easy to use sweets like this, so.... we have decided that bought sweets will also be rationed to the wartime amount of 3oz per person. We hope that by planning this, it will help to bring the excitement back and stop the over-indulging which we find so disgusting.

The hard part will be to persuade the grand-parents but more Christmas' have been spent in their style of over-indulgence so hopefully, they won't mind, but I think we will have to be very strict as when they visit, even though we repeatedly ask them not to bring things, they still do and this in itself is annoying and can put a bit of a damper on things.

We spent New Years Eve at a friend’s house doing a Murder Mystery evening. It was quite good but I couldn't seem to grasp what I was supposed to ask and got more frustrated as the evening wore on. That and having 2 glasses of wine completely spilled all down me put a different kind of damper on the evening. I was pleased to return home as I find it very difficult to stay up that late.


 
 
 

10 comments:

  1. It was lovely to read the latest update. I'm very tempted to try this for ourselves, as money gets tighter and tighter and I retire next March.Somewhere our lifestyle has to reduce as I will be managing on a basic state pension. I think a little practice now, while I have leeway for a few errors would be a good thing. The information I'm gaining from reading this is so useful.

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    1. Thank you. Didn't do us any harm at all. The basic premise is the food rationing. Once that is on board do the points rationing. The main thing to avoid is things that are made for you rather than making them yourself. Also, most things were seasonal and very little got in from abroad. We still adhere to a lot of this even now.

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  2. Thank you for posting another update. Its fascinating to me because I've been interested in the WW2 homefront for years. I have loads of books, dvds etc. on the subject but also a large collection of original women's magazines, cookery books and knitting patterns. It's really interesting to see how you re-interpreted the rules of rationing for more modern circumstances.

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    1. Sometimes you need to re-interpret but I try to stay as true to the original as possible. I was very strict on us regarding, cheese, fats, meat and milk as it would have taken up a huge amount of time to vary it each week/month so we averaged them out. I have just added a few very small updates to the Rations page as well.

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  3. Loved reading this post, do you still have the recipe for elderberry cordial please, the berries are just starting to ripen here. I love September, it's the start of the squirrelling season ready for those cold dark days of winter and for making the most of what can be found in our hedgerows.

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    1. Pick elderberries and using a fork, comb off the berries. Wash and put into a pan. Barely cover elderberries with water. Cook for about 30 minutes until berries are soft, feel free to gently mash them towards the end, if you wish. Strain well using muslin or other fine material.
      To each pint of berry juice, add ½ lb sugar, 12 cloves, 1 level tsp ground cinnamon, 1 level tsp dry ginger. Simmer gently for ½ hour, cool, strain and bottle. Add 1-2 tablespoons of brandy per bottle.

      You can dilute with boiling water for a hot toddy, or take a dessert spoonful if you have a cold or something similar. Personally, we prefer it as a hot toddy.

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  4. Thank you for updating, I have been reading from the beginning again! x

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  5. I read these years today. I'm wondering if you still are using what this experience taught you in your life today? I would think so, as there are so many many lessons here.
    I am the daughter of depression era parents. They were very frugal all of my years at home. I learned so many many important things from them. One thing was canning most of our food. I've been witness to my mother calling someone she didn't know and asking if she could have the fruit falling off their tree. They were not picking it up. So when they said sure come get it, we went and picked apricots up off the ground, finished picking their tree and went home and made jelly, jam, and froze the rest.

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    1. We try to keep our food bill to £30 per week, still doing meat rations. We pick fruit to make things. Now our son is not at home not so much preserving, just enough for us. Grow summer fruit and vegetables etc.

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