We were delighted to hear that Howard Croft, an early contributor to the former incarnation of this blog, has just published his first book.
Howard’s hugely enjoyable and often irreverent insights into the world of retirement ran on an almost weekly basis for several years. Howard went on to write over 250 articles for the Malton and Pickering Mercury, his articles continuing to take a quirky, usually amusing, view on all things local, medical, literary, political, family, canine and international.
“Howard’s Way” is a collection of a little over 100 of the articles from the first five years of Howard’s work for the Malton and Pickering Mercury and is being sold to raise funds for the Ryedale Book Festival.
Reproduced below is one of our favourite stories from the blog archives :
Frugality is coming back into fashion. Discussing this over a decent bottle of claret the other day I found myself remembering habits I formed in childhood when “rationing was on”, some of which survive. For example, when I have toast and marmalade or jam I never butter the toast first and apply the preserve on top. I should think that this was a common practice when I was a child, but by the time days of plenty returned, with butter pouring in from New Zealand I was set in my ways, and so I remain. People occasionally make personal remarks about this, suggesting that my behaviour is rooted in my working class upbringing, and they are generally a few years my junior, their childhood having started after rationing “went out”.
My wife in particular enjoys commenting on this, usually at breakfast in smart hotels. Her childhood was very different from mine. Rationing was over for one thing, but also, both her parents being medical consultants, there was more money kicking about, and she was brought up in a castle in Hampshire where she, her sister and her brothers, all had their own bedrooms. And they had servants. There was Mr Cake, the gardener, who had his own toilet, and Mrs Cakebread, a sort of housekeeper. In addition there was a man whose sole duty was to retrieve the children’s tennis balls from the moat, and another who made the mustard. Her brother Martin so impressed the mother of a university friend, who came from a simpler background in Newcastle, that whenever young Martin went to stay she would remove that harsh, shiny toilet paper, called I think Bronco, and substitute the gentler, softer variety advertised by puppies. No such consideration was shown to poor Cake in whose garden loo hung squares of paper cut from the daily paper, threaded on string.
Sugar in tea was another thing. Adults put sugar in their first cup, but not in the second – the residual sweetness from the first had to suffice – while children, in our house anyway, were never offered sugar. To this day I do not sweeten tea, and even the smell of it makes me queasy. Coffee I do like sweet, but I was a young adult when first I encountered it. Now of course not taking sugar is all the rage and whenever I ask for it for my coffee when visiting there is always a great pantomime search – “I know we have some somewhere” – you’d think I’d asked for an ashtray.
Once we embarked on the second bottle of claret memories really started to flow. My Uncle and Auntie were both longsighted, but he refused to have an eye test relying instead on inheriting her spectacles whenever she had a new prescription. Auntie’s taste in frames ran to ornate pink; Uncle was surely the only lorry driver in Hull, or anywhere else, to whip out a pair of Edna Everage specials to study delivery notes. I remember watching him adjusting the focal length along his nose as he struggled to pick winners from the racing pages and saying to his wife, “It’s you, you got your eyes tested”. I am sure now that this was not, as I thought at the time, eccentricity but frugality with origins in wartime shortages and pre-NHS concerns about cost. Faced as we are by an uncertain future we can learn from this.
Now I’m off to root about in my neighbour’s wheelie bin in search of nourishing kitchen scraps. I heard they had dinner party last night, to which I was not invited.