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Thursday, 30 March 2017

Easter, Christmas and In between


Easter is a wonderful celebratory time of the year in the Christian calendar.  And these celebrations take many forms.  Here in North America and probably in England, a lot of emphasis is placed upon chocolate eggs.  That was not always the case.

In London, at the time I’m referring to, one way to mark the calendar was for enterprising individuals to roam the streets selling little-live-day-old chicks; Sweet, fluffy, chirping chicks. This was done by means of a man carrying a wide-narrow wooden tray hung around his neck by a leather strap.  Within the box would be oodles of these darling yellow creatures vying for attention.  Anyone of which could be purchased for the paltry sum of a few pence.

It so happened that when this individual made it to our street, LS was outside playing.  She was captivated, as any child would be, by what she heard then saw.  As the teller of this tale, I do not know how it happened that she was also in possession of enough currency to make a purchase (there was not a lot of it to go around) but cash she had, and soon she had one little live chick in her possession!

How sweet!  Well yes and no.  One day old chicks don’t get to be two day old chicks unless they are cared for and preferable by someone who knows what he or she is doing.  Dad did his best to explain to LS these facts of life by telling her that the little baby chick needed his mother hen to keep it warm.   We didn’t have a mother hen, but fortunately the woman who lived behind our house (let’s call her Mrs. Smith) raised chickens and she had lots of mother hens.  Yes, in the middle of London she raised chickens.  But then lots of people raised rabbits and chickens.  Food was hard to come by.

So, it was arranged that Mrs. Smith would care for the little yellow bundle of fluff.

Easy now to understand why LS spent so much time atop the bomb shelter.  From this vantage point LS could see into Mrs. Smith’s back yard with all the little chickens running hither and yon.  Daily she would watch her little chick as it grew and matured.   She loved her little feathered friend and like any BFF she gave it a name!

Time goes by

One day, whilst doing her daily inspection LS happened upon some valuable treasure.  She found some dentures just lying there.  What a strange place to find dentures!  She knew they were valuable because during the wartime everything was valuable. Re-cycling was not a fad but a way of life.  Nothing was thrown away.
When Mum saw these shiny teeth she got very excited.  “Great” she said, “I’ll take those to Charley Clarkes. They’ve gotta be worf a few bob”.  With that she tossed them onto a pile of dirty laundry. 

So the story rests until Dad came home from work.  Perhaps I should mention that as a young man Dad had lots of dental problems and as a consequence was, like George Washington, equipped with a full set of choppers.  Of course his weren’t wooden they were – well you know.
It was pretty obvious as soon as he came through the door. When, in full cockney language splendour, albeit somewhat hindered by the lack of dental enunciation aids, he bellowed:  “I can’t find my FFFFFing false teef”!
Thankfully, Mum had been too busy to get to Charley Clarkes, so all ended well. It seems that on the previous evening a very loud tom cat had been serenading on the bomb shelter so Mum had tossed a handy glass of water in its direction to make it leave.  Well it did leave, but so did the teeth that were soaking in the glass of water.
Ah yes, life goes on.

Soon another wonderful celebration in the Christian calendar rolled around; Christmas, a time of stockings for Santa to fill, a time of gifting, a time of feasting.

All those things are maybe in your memories – but they’re not in mine!

I vaguely remember stockings at this time but it could have been some other time.  The ones I recall at best contained a colouring book and some crayons with the obligatory piece of coal in the toe.  As for gifting one to another, well, that was a completely foreign concept not practiced in our house. There were a few Christmases that occurred during the war and they often came at times of great food shortages. 

When it came to feasting, rationing controlled every aspect of our lives. An adult was allowed 3 ounces of meat per week – that’s like trying to make a very small hamburger patty last seven days.  Occasionally the butcher would have what was known as offal; yes you’re right that sounds like “awful”, but when we could get it, kidneys and liver were a great treat.

However, the particular Christmas that I refer to here was a time of great feasting.  You see the little teeny weeny yellow chick had grown to be a plump and juicy chicken.  It was retrieved from Mrs. Smith’s.  Somehow its little neck was wrung.  Mum plucked its feathers.  Dad cooked it. We all ate it.  Well not all.  LS refused to partake in what she considered to be cannibalism.  How could she eat her best friend?

But as Dad said: “Never give a name to something you intend to eat”!

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