Roll up! Roll up! For a slice of RETRO



Ably assisted by my daughter Susanna, who is a wiz with Internet publishing and my son Robert who is highly expert with websites, I have launched my first non-food book, a bit of autobiography in fact. It takes the reader back quite a few years – more than 75 – and tells what it was like to be a kid in Britain growing up during World War II. Anyone interested can find it on Amazon, a Kindle book, priced at £4.99. I will respond to any and all feedback!

The cover is pictured here – that’s me in the school cap, aged ten. There is, of course, a food element in my narrative and a short extract follows. It demonstrates what food we were legally allowed to buy to keep body and soul together.




If you were to spread out on a table the official allowance of food for one week, you would imagine seriously undernourished people. This was not the case. People weren’t obese, but they were fit. This is our weekly allowance:

1s. 2d. – one shilling and twopence (St£0.05) worth of meat. This was about half a kilo of stewing beef or two or three lamb chops.

4 oz (113 g) bacon or ham

2 oz (57 g) butter, 4 oz (114 g) margarine. 4 oz (57 g) fat or lard

2 oz (57 g) of tea (loose)

1 egg. 2 oz (57 g) jam 4 oz (114 g) sugar. 1 oz (28 g) cheese.

3 oz (85 g) sweets.

16 “Points” per month for canned and dried food.

Many products in grocers’ stores – canned food such as soups, baked beans, spaghetti etc, jams and preserves, cornflakes and other cereals – were rationed under a system called “Points”. In each person’s Ration Book there were coupons for the basics such as meat, fats, eggs, bacon etc, which had to be cut out by the butcher or grocer with whom you were “registered”. You could not take your Ration Book to any store. The Points pages were quite different. You could go to any grocer and buy your baked beans, salad cream or whatever and he would cut out the appropriate number of points from your book.

Although not rationed, milk, bread, fruit vegetables and potatoes were often in short supply and imported things like oranges and lemons were very scarce. Bananas were held to be of low nutritious value, so for over five years were didn’t see any. Bread was not rationed, but you had to be at the baker’s shop early!

Somehow, the dairies made a daily delivery of milk, in pint (51 cl) or half-pint bottles. The milk-float was pulled by one horse whose droppings were greatly prized by gardeners as fertilizer. It was an unwritten law that you could only scoop up the horse-dung outside your own house and on your side of the road. My father always did this and I followed his example.

There were no supermarkets in those days and very often the butcher’s assistant, the grocery delivery boy and the younger baker had all been called up, so you had to walk or cycle to the shops. There you formed a queue and many an hour did I stand in line outside the butcher or the grocer or the baker to buy some of our foodstuffs. In the butcher everybody eyed everybody else in case a favourite customer got an extra half ounce of stewing steak or, more likely, something that was not on the ration, such as offal (liver, kidneys, hearts and very occasionally sweetbreads) and sausages. These latter seemed to be made of sawdust, with mostly bread and very little meat, and they burst open when grilled or fried. My mother used to cajole a couple of lamb’s hearts out of the butcher every so often, which she would stuff with sage and onion stuffing and bake. I liked them a lot and could never understand why, after the war, they never featured in our diet again.