Rationing was a way of life until I was into my teens. All citizens were issued with ration books. These had white/beige covers for adults, blue for children and green for babies and pregnant women. Inside were coupons (or points as they were known where I grew up) for all kinds of food stuff  (one to each page) and every month the amount allowed per point was announced. Some things were not rationed eg vegetables and fresh fruit, but were still in short supply and unofficially rationed by the shopkeeper so most people shopped loyally at their local shops in the hopes that they would receive favourable treatment when “off ration” delicacies came in. Extra deliveries of anything off ration was one of the worst kept secrets of the war, word would spread like wildfire that so and so had oranges or whatever and swiftly a queue would form outside the shop, patiently waiting in line. I have heard it said that some people, if they saw a queue would join it and wait even if they didn’t know what it was for.

 Some people had extras allowed e.g. milk chocolate for babies, extra milk for children and pregnant ladies and a large hunk of cheese every week for vegetarians.

We were fortunate because a) my mother was an excellent cook and could make a tasty meal out of very little b) our elderly neighbour was a keen gardener and kept up a steady supply of fruit and vegetables. All the surplus was either bottled, dried, pickled or made into jam by my mother and stored in the cellar.

Our secret weapon though had to be my Aunty Cis, my mother’s older sister. She was childless and decided at the beginning of rationing she was vegetarian so that she would get the extra cheese, she also gave up sugar and sweets for the duration. Every Saturday morning she would come into town from the village where she lived with a basket full of goodies for us. The cheese and  sugar from her rations supplemented by whatever else she had managed to scrounge from her farming neighbours, sometimes an egg or two, occasionally a rabbit or “road kill” chicken! She always gave us sixpence  each and her sweet coupons to go down to the local shop, which probably impressed us more than any  food she brought.

Although she was 5 years older than my mother she had less common sense and very little talent in cooking, which was why we were amazed when she volunteered herself for canteen work at the coal mine in her village.  They kept her away from the actual cooking and put her on serving ,but I think the final nail in that attempt was when she mixed up the custard and the cheese sauce and served fish with custard and steamed pudding with cheese sauce. After that she was demoted to washing up 🙂 It did not worry her over much, she just shrugged and told it as a joke against herself.

We also had another occasional supplier when my father came home on leave. Whenever he had shore leave he would try to come home, even  if it was only for a few hours, and usually had some little extras for us, especially when he was on the North Atlantic convoys and visited the USA, food, cookies, sweets and clothes, and every year I was the envy of my friends because he sent me a birthday cake made by the ship’s cook. The only thing I did not immediately appreciate was a banana. I had never seen one and was reduced to hysterics when he proudly produced them. I thought I was expected to eat a duck’s beak!

Mostly if we had any extras we shared with family and friends, but there were some people who made a lot of money out of the “black market”,  fortunately most people, who, though they might connive at little extras from their regular tradesmen,  refused to deal with the “spivs” and kept within the rules.

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