The food programme on Radio 4  this week was in praise of jellies. This brought back memories of both sweet and savoury jellies. We used to dig deep in the dripping dish for the tasty jelly at the bottom and what would savoury raised pies be without the jelly around the meat.

The sweet jellies were usually made with either crystals or solid cubes. It was a useful medium to eke out the sometimes meagre fruit allowance, either small tins of fruit or the scarce oranges which were eagerly queued for at the greengrocers.

No party was complete without a jelly, which was usually served with blancmange or custard –that was until we went to Josephine’s bithday tea!

Josephine had come to our school when we were in the second form. We were quite enthralled by this mysterious girl who had, she said, been living in Brazil and had previously been at boarding school. Brazil seemed a very exotic country to us, (none of us had been out of England and the furthest most of us had travelled was to London) and our knowledge of  boarding school was gleaned from story books!

She declared that birthday parties were unsophisticated and that she would invite just two of us to a cinema visit followed by tea at her house.

To our surprise and delight my friend Val and I were given the honour of this invitation. We speculated wildly about what to expect. Would we be collected in a chauffeur driven limousine, sit in the best seats in the cinema and then enter an elegant house to eat exotic food? Josaphine lived in a detached house in a “posh” area. “Did they have servants ?” we wondered.

The day duly dawned, we were not to be collected in the limousine, but had to go into town on the bus and meet Josephine and her father outside the cinema.

The second surprise was when her father purchased the tickets, handed them to Josephine and told her that he would meet us later! We had never been to the cinema on our own before, except to the children’s cinema on Saturday morning and I felt uneasily that my mother would not have been very happy about it, and we went into the cheapest seats!

When we came out Josephine’s father was waiting for us, and instead of the limousine ride we had anticipated, led us to the bus stop.

She did indeed live in a big private house, but the hall was very sparsely furnished and very cold (it was February)

We followed them into another cold  room where her mother and brother James were waiting by the tea table. The “exotic food” turned out to be bread and jam! Ready sliced bread and shop bought jam, which seemed very tasteless to one used to my mother’s delicious homemade confection.

After the bread and jam James proudly brought in a green jelly in the shape of a rabbit. No fruit in it and nothing to accompany it.

There was no birthday cake just a plate with six small eclairs and six Kunzle cakes. (Kunzle cakes were sickly cubes filled with artificial cream) Val  particularly didn’t like these  and, when offered a second cake, reached out for another eclair.

“You can’t have another one of those,” said James, “There’s only one each!”

Poor Val was covered in embarassment and I was amazed that his parents didn’t correct him, mine would have been mortified if I had said such a thing to a visitor.

At last the ordeal came to an end and we left. Again no offer of a lift or even anyone to accompany us to the bus stop even though it was dark.

We couldn’t believe that our dreams had crashed so spectacularly. We never did find out how many of her stories were true, but we were less gullible after that!

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