by: Allan, Betty
"I'm nae pittin that thing on!", said Granny. "I'll jist hae tae get smored."
"Fit are ye nae pittin on, Granny?" A speirt.
“That blinkin gas mask,” she snorted. "Fit's the eese o John Michie and Willie Fraser ca'in theirsels wardens, an comin roon sayin A hiv tae pit a coorse thing like that on tae ma face? I'm nae for't!"
I wis gey near ten year aal noo, an A hid been readin the paper an listenin tae the wireless:
"But fit if there's a gas attack, Granny?"
She shook her heid.
"Weel, if the Germins is gaan tae come here wi their boombs,I'll jist hae tae get killt, an that's aa aboot it. A canna stick the stink o that thing on ma face!"
"Daddy says they winna bother comin tae Ballater wi their bombs onywey,”A consoled her.
Granny snochered. "A dinna ken. Some fowk says they'll be wantin tae bomb the Royals at Balmoral, bit I'm sure A jist dinna ken. A canna understan Ration Books and Identy Cards and A canna dae wi gas masks!"
"The Ration Books is jist so that aabody gets a fair share o the food, Granny."
"But it says A've tae tak margarine! Fit wid A dae wi margarines? A only eat butter!"
A had this answer ready:
“Mam says if ye canna get enough butter, ye'll mebbe be gled o margarine."
Granny dismissed the rationing system wi a fine theatrical sweep o the airm.
"Fin A pit the butter on ma toast in the mornin,it jist melts awa; but A'll get aa the butter A need. Mrs Croll wi aa yon bairns has mair butter ration than she can afford tae buy, so I'm buyin some aff her.”
"Ye canna dae that, Granny! It's against the law. Aabody's tae stick tae their ration."
A wis horrified at this unpatriotic brakkin o the rules o the rationing game.
“Awa doon tae Mrs Croll's door an say 'A've come for ma Granny's butter,’ an ye'll see if A can dae that!" rejoined Granny, fair wrocht up aboot it. "Go on, noo."
A stuck tae ma guns.
"No, it's against the rules. A'm nae gaan!"
A flung oot o Granny's hoose and tore hame doon Dee Street, thinkin foo queer it wis that Granny, that couldna understand things like bombs and ration books, aye kent foo tae get fit she wintit.
Fit wis it aboot Granny? Mam lauched fin A tellt ma tale, bit richt eneuch, she didna mak me go for the butter. Fooever, ma stand in the nation's oor o need made nae difference, as the couthy Mrs Croll sent ane o her bairns alang tae Granny's hoose wi twa rations o butter each week aifter that, an Granny nivver missed her het buttered toast. Ae day, fin Granny an me wis affa busy watchin the hens scrattin, she suddenly cam up wi, 'Fan am A gettin ma vimma-mints?"
"Yer fit?" I speired. A wis fairly stumped.
A could only shak ma heid.
"Fiech,ye foul thing, ye ken fine fit A mean; ye're jist tryin tae mak oot yer aal Granny's stupid!"
"A'm nae!"A protestit. "A nivver heard o vimma-mints. Is it some kind o a sweetie?"
Wi a crooked pinkie Granny scratched her heid delicately aneth the edge o her reid woollen tammy.
"Weel, A dinna ken if it's a sweetie, bit it maun be something affa good for's, because Lord Woolton and the Radio Doctor's aye on aboot a'body gettin plenty o vimma-mints, an A hivna hid nane."
Her bottom lip stuck oot the wey it aye did fin Granny wisna pleased.
It dawned on me fit she wis on aboot. Lord Woolton! She'd been listenin tae some radio blether aboot food values or something o that kind .... "Vitamins!" A said. "That's fit ye mean!"
"Aye,vimma-mints! That's fit A said!" she flung back at me, real
shairp. “Fit wey hiv A nae gotten ony?"
A huntit through ma ten-year-aal vocabulary for the wirds tae explain dietetics tae Granny. "They're jist things that's in yer food if ye eat the richt kinds o things", A chanced.
“Losh be here!" spluttert Granny, fair workit up, “are they pittin pheesic intae wir maet noo? That's waur nor the Germans an their bombs an gas things!"
“Na, na," says I in a hurry, “vitamins 'is the things that's in yer food already that mak it good for ye. Ye dinna hae tae get them onywey else."
"A nivver likit the look o thon Woolton", she grummled.
A gave up.
"Ye could ask Mam aboot the vitamins", A suggested in a lame kind o a wey, and cleared oot, leavin her glowerin.
Gettin Granny's shoppin deen had aye been a lesson in applied frugality. If ye discoont the butter, rationin didna really affect her muckle - she'd been buyin aathing in wee, wee quantities aa her days, wi tippence-worth here an a penny-worth there. Her instructions were aye explicit as A reported at her hoose daily aifter school, and we ran through a wee rehearsal each time-
“Ye jist say 'Ma Granny wid be obliged if she could get a fowerpenny bittie steak, jist a finger- length.”
“Thruppence worth o mince tae ma Granny, please', or 'Ma Granny wid like jist twa slices o bacon, please', or 'Fowerpence o cheese, please, tae ma Granny.”
A wis aye telt tae mak it clear that this wis Granny's order, but there wis nae need. Ballater shop fowk aa kent fit tae expeck afore A opened ma shamefaced mou. Willie Davidson the butcher (eence A hid cannily steppit by Glen, his ill-naturet aal collie sleepin at the shop door) wis aye a good humoured mannie. Aifter listenin tae ma order, he'd wink an say, 'Ma Grannie's Heilan Hame!' in a pawky kind o a wey. A hid nae idea fit wey this wis funny, but aye gied him a wide grin since he seemed tae expeck it, and because A wis gratefu that he didna tak the mickey or mak me feel awkward.
Fin the peints system wis started for biscuits and tinned stuff, Granny wis dashed quick tae realise its potential. Ye didna hae tae stick tae yer registered grocer for gettin things wi peints and she wis able (or raither I wis) tae shop aroon for biscuits. The rehearsal went:
`Ging tae Isaac Wright and say 'Hiy ye a quarter o MacVitie & Price's Digestive Biscuits?' If he says 'No, but A've got Granola', then says you 'Ma Granny disna like Granola, thank you', and ging doon an try Milne."
"But you're nae a customer there, Granny!`
"Fiech, it disna maitter wi the peints, and onywey, yer Mammy's a customer there."
“A'll better say it’s for you, Granny, or they micht nae gie Mam ony fin she goes for oor biscuits, if they're under the coonter. "
"Losh, fit a fuss! Well, please yersel, and if they hinna nae MacVitie & Price's Digestive, ye could try Gillan. If naebody has them, ye can ging back tae Isaac and tak his Granola, though A dinna really like them."
Ower the years, Granny's frugal wey o shoppin peyed aff. Bittie by bittie food prices rose, but some wey or ither Granny's thruppence worth o mince didna seem tae diminish in size, nor her finger-length o steak rise in price. Granny kent foo tae work the system.
Aroon the time o the Dunkirk evacuation, aal Duds produced her umpteenth litter o kitlins. Daddy was ca'ed in tae droon them, aa bit ae lusty grey lad.
“Fit are ye gaun tae ca' him?" A asked, strokin the saft fur.
"Och, A suppose it'll be Diddly", said Granny, nae thinkin muckle o't. 'Diddly' somewey or ither didna seem in keepin wi the stirrin times we wis livin in.
“Could ye nae pick a decent name this time, instead o Duds and Diddly?"
"Losh, fit div ye ca' a decent name, then?"
“Fit aboot Winston?"
Granny - a true-blue Tory - wis fair tickled pink, and Winston it wis. Ye ken fit they say aboot 'Gie a dog a bad name,’ weel, that kitlin grew intae the biggest, fattest, ugliest tom that ivver ye saw, and it wis spiled silly, of course!
"He's a gran aal Winston Churchill' Granny wid say fondly as the foul breet bourached aneth her bedclaes.
Then there wis Quentin Reynolds, the American commentator.
Granny wrote a fan-letter tae Quentin Reynolds! And she got a reply! She swankit aboot it for weeks, showin it tae aa the neebours. She aye listened tae his wireless talks because the wey he took the rise oot o the Nazis appealed tae her sense o the dramatic.
“A like the wey he says 'Mr Schickelgruber'. That's Hitler's real name, ye ken. That'll teach him, the coorse breet that he is!"
It wis a bittle o a shock, gettin near the end o the war, tae find that Germans lookit mair or less the same as Scotsmen. Granny saw her first Germans fin a Prisoner of War camp wis set up near Ballater and the Roman Catholic POWs mairched past her hoose tae the Chapel ilka Sunday mornin. Each man's suit hid a bricht coloured patch - blue or yalla or reid - on the back o the jaicket and on the backside or knee o the breeks. Granny didna ken fit tae mak o the patches.
Aifter the war, as demobilisation began, new fowk startit tae appear on the Ballater scene. Young war veterans wis turnin awa fae careers in the sooth and lookin for a quiet life in the unspiled north-cast. Ane o them wis a typical middle-class Londoner, good-lookin and weel mainnered, wi a puckle years war service ahin him, in the Tank Corps, if A mind richt. His name wis Ivan Toulmin-Roth.
“Fit wey his he sic an affa queer name, then', speirt Granny, “if he's English?"
"He says his great-grandfaither wis a Hungarian.”
Hungarian? Granny didna ken fit tae mak o that.
The day cam fin we wis forced tae introduce this peer unsuspectin young chiel tae oor Gran.
"Losh",says she, "ye're jist like oorsels tae look at! A wid nivver ken ye wis ane o them, noo that ye've taen the patches aff yer breeks!