Mr B and I are currently reading together Hunter Davies' new book: "The Co-op's Got Bananas!"
This has, as its secondary title: "A Memoir of Growing Up in the Post-War
North" - but while Hunter (as we like to call him) was born a good few years before either of us and white we both grew up Down South, rather than Up North, there is much to tickle our own childhood memories.
I say, we refer to the author with somewhat unwarranted familiarity as "Hunter." Occasionally I even go as far as to call him "Our Hunter." Believe me, by the time we arrived at Chapter 3, we felt we knew him well and now we have reached Chapter 11, well,
we are bosom buddies, Our Hunter, Mr B and I.
What happens is, as for example this afternoon, I return from a busy morning at a long, long meeting, rustle up a hasty egg on toast for lunch (no Masterchef contender,
I) then ask: "Shall we have a bit of Hunter?" At which we open the patio doors wide to welcome in the Spring sunshine and settle down at the table for an hour or two, during which Our Hunter will transport us back in time to the Fifties.
We stop at last five times per chapter to share our own reminiscences. When Hunter recalls the entertainment provided by "Saturday pictures" at the local cinema, I am immediately reminded of my brothers taking me to "the pictures"
every Saturday morning. It's not a totally happy memory because every week I would have to sit through the latest instalment of a horror story in which an alien would toss a green spiky ball at a person, so enabling him (that is, the alien) to enter the unfortunate
victim's body. I can't begin to explain the indescribable fear this stirred within me. I'm shivering, even now, at the thought of it.
Descriptions of family meals chez the Davies family also give us plenty
of food for thought, if you'll excuse the pun. Oh, yes, we say, we too remember tinned peaches with Carnation evaporated milk. Cream? What was cream? There was also the ubiquitous rice pudding; we called it 365 in our family because our dear Mum served it
up every single day. We were, I hasten to add, well served with puddings, spotted dick, jam tart - but always, always accompanied by 365.
Like Mr B, Hunter used to read "Hotspur" and "Wizard" comics and devoured
all the adventures of Biggles, the famous creation of Capt. W. E. Johns. Mr B mourns the fact that there is one particular Biggles book which he was never able to find at his local library. "Biggles in the Blue" it was called. I must try to find it for him
one day though it might prove a disappointment - like Hunter's banana.
Hunter describes waking up on winter mornings with ice on the inside of the bedroom window and putting his socks on before he got out
of bed so as not to have to place his feet on the freezing cold linoleum (the floor covering of choice - or no choice - in the Davies household as in ours.) I remember that so clearly. Fitted carpets? What were they?
In the office this morning, after my long morning meeting, one of our lovely volunteers, Debs, is peeling a banana. I tell her about Hunter's mother and how, when bananas were a thing of Myth and Legend in the post-war days, she used to serve up mashed
parsnips as a kind of makeshift banana. When the cry went up that "The Co-op's got bananas!" she bought three of the exotic fruit so that each member of her family could have half a banana. Our Hunter remembers that he found his half a banana somewhat disappointing
and actually rather preferred the taste of the parsnips...
Tomorrow we will reconvene at the start of Chapter 12 which is titled "France, Jobs and Girls."
Will Mr B's reminiscences cover The Girls He Met Before Me?
And do I want to know?