My daughter, Jennie, suddenly said last week, “I’m glad we skipped a generation Mum”

I had often wondered, when she was growing up, if she had resented or regretted being a child of “elderly” parents as we were nearly forty when we had her and most of her friends had parents 10-20 years younger than us, so I asked why she had come to this conclusion.

“Well,” she explained, “I probably would not have learned to cook and sew etc if you had been younger. Not many of my schoolfriends’ mothers did anything like that.”

This set me thinking that maybe growing up in wartime and austerity post-war had set me in good stead for any hard times that came along later.

Money was short at that time as well as rationing. Many families existed on the service allowance whilst their fathers were away . Some mothers supplemented this small allowance with part time work or occasional work, but only a few worked full time. My mother did a few hours helping in a local shop, but this really just paid for extra treats for us e.g. theatre outings and my dancing shoes and my brother’s football boots. For the rest she used her talents in cookery,knitting  and dressmaking. Nothing was ever wasted and in the dressmaking she made garments out of prewar garments! I remember one particular suit of my father’s which she unpicked washed and turned inside out to make a fasionable skirt suit for herself and a pair of trousers for my brother. The skirt of her suit was later turned into a pinafore dress for me, and the bits left over were pegged into a rug!

 We spent many happy weekends visiting Aunty Cis and stripping the hedgerows of edible berries. Everything that could be preserved was made into jam or bottled in Kilner jars and stored in the cellar. Mum had ingenious ways of using leftovers, from stale bread to tired vegetables (mostly made tasty by the addition of Aunty Cis’s cheese ration), so I never remember going hungry and we were always smartly turned out.

She always did weekly accounts and wrote down all the essential payments for the week in a little red exercise book, and only then could treats be considered. I think this is when we learned the difference between “want” and “need”

We were luckier than some thanks to the large family and often received a shilling or sixpence when an aunt or uncle visited. Even then we learned to save some. Saving stamps were sold at school and in the post office, sixpence and half a crown (2s.6d). These were stuck in a special stamp book with 12 to a page. When the page was full you could either cash it in or put it into a post office account, which then earned a bit of interest.

I never felt deprived, as they say “what you never had you never miss” and I am glad that Jennie has assimilated some of the lessons I learned from my mother. She has certainly turned into an excellent cook and will try her hand at most handycrafts, and enjoys it which is the main thing:)

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