Coupons for shoes

Was it the prime minister of Italy or of Spain who said that stepping out into the world after the Covid-19 virus had passed would be like stepping out into your country after a war had ended?

The death of a close cousin prompted Mum to recollect their childhood years and the happy times they had spent together in the years after the end of the Second World War. In the late-1940s, happiness was not something to be found in shopping!

Mum’s war memories on the farm were of times when there was always sufficient to survive. There were vegetables from the garden, milk from the cows, and eggs from the hens. Meat was not plentiful, but there was plenty of bread.

Perhaps there was a sense in the war that times had to be endured so as to reach a better future, perhaps the expectations of what would follow were too optimistic. The country was exhausted, economically drained. The war effort had demanded every resource and had left few reserves with which to rebuild. Cities lay in ruins, housing was in short supply, incomes were low. It did not help that the beginning of 1947 saw the worst winter in living memory; it was said that there were places where the snow lay on the ground until May.

Bread had not been rationed during the war, it was only in the difficult post-war days that it became something requiring ration coupons. Coupons seem to have been required for a wide range of items.

Mum recalled a journey to Taunton with my grandmother and the younger of my uncles. Such a trip would have been anticipated with great excitement. My uncle, a toddler at the time, had to be taken along because of the mischief in which he constantly found himself. On the shopping trip, he disappeared from view only to be found shrouded in red ribbons he had pulled from a haberdashery counter.

The object of the trip was to buy Mum a new pair of shoes, my grandmother complaining that Mum’s feet kept growing. They walked the length of Taunton, calling at every shoe shop, before my grandmother found a pair of shoes for which she would part with the ration coupons.

Those years in the second half of the 1940s seem a time of deep austerity, a time when the privations of the war continued without there being a sense of purpose to carry people as there had been in the war.

If the premier who believes the days after Covid-19 will be like a post-war situation, then the times to come do not seem very attractive.

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