As you know I lived with my Uncle and Aunt for a few years up to the age of six and in those early years I ate very well. My diet was a lot different to my 2nd childhood as my Uncle was a keen hunter and fisherman so pigeon pie, rabbit stew, duck and eels and mash made their appearance on our dinner table on a regular basis and Sunday’s was always a sea food night with a platter of cockles, winkles, whelks and prawns.
Now when I moved in with my dad that all changed. With only one income and three boys to feed and clothe food was of a minimum. We had cereals for breakfast, maybe golden nuggets, cornflakes or rice krispies. For dinner we had school dinners, that’s worth a whole article in itself, and for tea we would have either some soup, pilchards, a couple of corn on the cobs if in season or simply beans on toast and if we didn’t like what was in put in front of us that was it, there was nothing else coming.
So to supplement my diet I had to look elsewhere and this did sometimes involve “straddling the law”. I say straddling because in my mind I wasn’t stealing for profit I was stealing to supplement my diet.
These scavenger hunts or I would prefer to call them hunter gatherer expeditions, were seasonal. In late summer and autumn there would of course be the scrumping days out. Jumping over people’s fences, getting chased by dogs and climbing up onto garage roofs to pick the best apples, plums and pears we could find. The only downside to this activity was the effect all the fibre would have on the body and so many times I got caught out and had to gingerly walk home with my buttocks clenched to get myself cleaned up.
I also found quite by accident where a fruit and veg trader stored his stall with the veg still loaded. So I partook some of my 5 a day there, raw runner beans, brussel spouts and cauliflower, but the best and for some time a regular treat for me was when I discovered a milkman who used to leave his milk float parked around the corner to a cafe where he used to and get his well earned breakfast. They used to have a cool box with some nice goodies in it. I passed on the ski yogurts, much too healthy for me, but inside I discovered gold, a small packet of chocolate digestive biscuits. It was like Christmas come early for me and I did partake of that treat on a fairly regular basis but I do remember one time I showed two of my mates Terry and Steve my little score, but when I got the chocolates biscuits out they just started throwing them at each other!!! I can’t tell you how angry and just downright dumbfounded I was at their actions. What world did they live in where there thought it was fun to waste such a treat!
Now when our family moved in with my step mother things didn’t get much easier. If you were 10 minutes late home your dinner it would be in the bin unless of course you were one of “her” boys in which case it would be sitting safe and snug in the oven covered over with a plate. So hunger was a regular visitor that dining table for me. It on one of those nights that I can remember laying in bed with my stomach making all sorts of noises of complaint when I managed to dare my little step brother to go downstairs and steal a jar of Branston Pickle from the larder. To my glee he snuck into the bedroom and handed me the jar which I wolfed down without it touching the sides.
I think it’s because of those days that it really annoys me when I see people wasting food. When a mum cooks 2, 3 or even 4 different meals a night to make everyone happy saying that they don’t like this or they don’t like that. Well when you’re really hungry “liking” doesn’t come into it and they should think themselves lucky they get anything at all.
Now things were tough but I never though I had it really bad especially after reading in the papers about the Ethiopians. My dad used to say “Now matter how bad things get for you, there’s always someone worse off.” I’m not sure that’s really words of comfort but I guess it’s meant to make you think how lucky you truly are.
I do have other stories of “straddling the law” but I’ve got to check on the statute of limitations before I put them to print.