3 December 2003

Rationing and Us

Arriving at Kidside in 1948, 3 years after the end of WW2 many food items including milk was still rationed and the meagre quantities of WW2 were in the main still maintained.

Our family during the wartime years and later managed to live and eat better than most people. Our primary advantage was our location in the country and a close-knit community. We grew all our vegetables and our fruit requirements were taken care of; we grew lots of carrots and turnips and buried the surplus in a shed of dry sand for winter use, apples, well with surpluses we laid them out on paper in a cool darkened shed and they lasted through most of the winter. Tomatoes too and even gourmet artichokes if we wanted them.

We caught fish in Lake Ullswater and the river at Kidside. Meat from local farmer friends and Uncle John Brough, also from shot, snared and caught rabbits; rabbit meat from sweet pasture was very tasty, especially in rabbit pie. Our hens provided us with chicken meat also and any amount of eggs. Dad used to incubate fertile eggs each year and Mum too to secure new stock. We kept a cockerel to do his duty.

At Christmas we always managed a turkey to dress the table, most farmers produced a few extra and gave to friends although one year I had to bike past Howtown to buy one from a farmer who dispatched the bird on the spot and tying its leg together, hung it on the handle bars of my bike. Yes, we lived quite well.

Tea, sugar, soap, etc. was a different matter we had the rationed amounts only. With sugar, Mum used to empty the sugar from the bag into a container and then proceed to carefully dissect the paper bag and extract the sugar granules from its folds, a teaspoonful at the most. For extra butter we had a small hand churn and used cream from the farm. Mum knew all about salting butter to taste from her years on the family farm. Tea was not too much of a problem, we boys did not drink it very often, and milk was preferred. Dad liked his big regular mug of tea and mum liked her share too no doubt. Bread, well Mum baked her own another legacy from the farm; we seemed to always have enough flour. Fat was precious with the small sorry ration, bacon fat found its way into the fry pan as did fat from pork and beef. Soap, well you never let it stay in the water, you used it and put back into the holder promptly. Soap powder again the very minimum was used for washing and the wash was always a full load.

And so it went on, carefulness and common sense was the order of the day. As I pen this, I think of those townspeople who were not so lucky as us with our facilities, having to rely much more on the rationed goods

When we were at Sharrow Bay a wood known as Barton Park was not too far away and full of hazel nut trees. We used to pick the hazel nuts in autumn and store them for winter treats.


Ah, I here you wonder, what is a Spiv? Well the picture of a Spiv in those days of the 1940s and 50s was a flashy suited "gentleman", loud tie, pointy-toed shoes, light camel-hair overcoat all topped with an American style Fedora hat over slicked Bryllcreamed hair. This "gentleman" was a wheeler-dealer, he could get you anything... petrol, butter, meat, in fact anything that was rationed, a luxury or in short supply in austerity Britain but at a price. He had plenty of customers clammering for his goods, be it food, nylons for the girls or petrol for a visit to relatives.

He operated the local black market and knew all the sources of illegal goods. Some farmers would sell him meat, poultry or eggs. Some people sold him their surplus produce. If he could not find sellers of these sources
He would not think twice of stealing them if he had to without getting caught. There were always sellers of illegal goods if the price was right and buyers of rationed goods at inflated prices. He was the middleman.

His name stemmed from the word VIPs... Very Important Persons spelt in reverse according the most popular explanation of the era. I tend to believe this explanation, there are other suggested ones.

In many peoples eyes a Spiv was a necessary evil, for he did bring a little sparkle into the lives of people of dull, austerity-ridden Britain.

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