Hard Lessons

During the war “National” flour was packed in cloth bags, so we unpicked them, hemmed them round and used the “flour bag handkerchiefs” all during the war.

To a lot of people my age “The War” was memories of evacuation, but not me.  I wasn’t evacuated though my brother was.  All Tynemouth High School pupils and teachers were sent to Hexham, which was a huge undertaking, when you think about it.  I remember my mother packing his trunk and silently weeping – an amazing event to me as I had never seen my mother cry.  She was convinced he wouldn’t be properly fed, and he would be miserable.  In fact, he had a great time, and it gave him a love of the country that lasted all his life.

At home it was “Double British Summertime” to help the farmers, which meant it was light till nearly midnight and one glorious summer followed another.  The beaches were surrounded by barbed wire for defence, so no sunny picnics on the beach, they were completely cut off from us.  However, we had Tynemouth Swimming Pool, where the entire youth of the area seemed to gather every weekend and you could meet all your friends at any time.  One bright spark had only one leg, but he took pride in being a good swimmer and leaping about the steps on his one leg as fast as anyone else.

My mother spared some precious clothing coupons to buy me two swimming costumes.  One, a red two-piece made of nylon seersucker and a one-piece white cotton costume.  I knew I suited the white costume as I was dark with a great tan, but the red nylon two-piece dried in seconds so that was the one I wore, usually.  With no glasses on I was very short sighted, but I got on with enjoying the swimming and larking about.  I actually kept my glasses in my shoes for safety, but twice stood on them and broke my glasses each time.  I was a really stupid kid!  I occasionally wore the white one-piece till one day I glanced down as I was climbing up the steps to get out of the pool and saw the white cotton became see-through when wet!  I couldn’t get into the changing rooms fast enough!  When I told my “best friend” she said that they all thought I knew!!  I was speechless and it was quite a while before I got over it.

Now during the war “National” flour was packed in cloth bags, so we unpicked them, hemmed them round and used the “flour bag handkerchiefs” all during the war.  When they were washed the material was very soft and nice to use.  I took three of the handkerchiefs and sewed them on the back of the costume in strategic positions.  It worked very well, but I never really liked the costume after that.  Years later, a joiner that I’d known for donkeys years came to work in the house.  One day he said: “Remember your white costume?”  Cheeky Devil!

Two things happened about that time to two very clever boys who were inquisitive and had enquiring minds.  One set fire to a celluloid doll in his desk to see how fast it burned.  The other, one day climbed through the barbed wire on the beach to collect a ball that had run through.  On the way back he kicked at a tin.  It exploded in his face, so he lost an eye and a couple of fingers.  Both boys were expelled from the High School; (A) for putting their class mates in danger, and (B) for disobedience – going through the barbed wire when everyone was forbidden to do so, also for curiosity.

Hard lessons!!!

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