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Country notebook

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: February 07, 2013

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When we were young a spell of freezing weather gave us plenty of problems. The first came in the form of chilblains. No regular warmth, even at school each classroom had only a small coal fire, the boys at the back had blue knees all day. Our heels and toes suffered the worst and every household had a tube of Snowfire which was liberally spread on affected areas.

Bedtime in cold unheated rooms saw a large stone hot water bottle in each bed; this kept our feet warm. We had no pyjamas but slept in our shirts which we tucked around our nether regions and two, three or even more boys slept together to keep warm. We were three boys and one girl, our sister had the comfort of a voluminous nightdress and slept in her own bed.

Candles were the means of lighting, and what consternation if the candle blew out in the middle of the stairs! Church on Sunday afternoon was particularly chilly. No heating there at all, blue knees all over again and the Parson droning on, it seemed, never ending. At the end of the service we would run all the way home, arriving just in time for a few records on the gramophone, then Sunday tea. First, thinly sliced bread and butter followed by cake or a bun, then the real treat, splits with jam and cream, strictly rationed, two halves each. Just before going to bed we boys would have a thick slice of bread, spread with pork dripping (to keep the cold out) and seasoned with salt, and a cup of cocoa. It seemed to do us no harm.

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