Loved the programme ‘Wartime Farm’ about Christmas 1944 on BBC 2. I guess it will be available on iplayer for a few days yet.
I was only four years old in 1944 but I remember the paper lanterns we used to make and Granddad’s pipe cleaners came in handy to make various toys. We once had a party after the war with a prize for the best toy made! But we would also play ‘squeak piggy squeak’ and ‘ pin the tail on the donkey.’ After the war a favourite party game was ‘pass the parcel’ with one tiny packet of sweets at the centre. We didn’t have party bags like those that my grandchildren got used to.
Yes, I could remember matchbox dolls and dolls house furniture that they made on the programme. One member of our family still has an air-raid shelter built into a hill near their cottage. In later years it was once used to store dad’s homemade wine.
Our Grandfather had a fruit shop in Goodge Street so we got the fruit that people did not want to buy because of bruises or blemishes. We simply cut these out. My mother once told us that her worse Christmas was when in desperation she stuck cloves into a two tins of spam heated them through and served them as a Christmas roast.
As a child I loved watching my Grandfather while he made the mats he first learned to make in hospital when recovering from shell shock and gas during the Great War. He had been classified as insane.
However the last relic of childhood were the dolls we made out of paper, drawing faces on them and putting patterns on their clothes with pencils.
When our uncles returned from the fighting they would gather in our house in London on Sundays but never discussed their exploits, it wasn’t encouraged. But we know one of them, who had been a prisoner of war, was often found wandering over Parliament Hill Fields or Hampstead Heath just for the relief of freedom.
After the war our some of our extended family lived at our Grandparents’ house. Four of the children had been born just before the war, so that when fathers returned from service they had to get to know our mothers all over again as well as cope with young children. Those days were not always as happy as one might expect, so like other families at that time Grandfathers and Grandmothers became a source of stability.
The programme showed much about the war that I had not experienced. But what stuck in my mind was the emphasis in those years on Christmas being a time to make do and mend, of family members just pleased to share what they had with each other.
Rationing didn’t finish until 1953 and even then one did not have the money to buy the goods that gradually became available. But why should subsequent generations care about how difficult things once were?
If you get the chance do catch the programme on iplayer.