A Chapter by Peter Rogerson

Jane has some news for Ursula


Ursula knew there would be problems one day in February 1953 when sweets finally ceased to be rationed and even children could visit her shop with their pocket money and freely buy them, so long as she had stocks sufficient for the day.

It had been a long drag since the second world war had ended, a drag during which sugar had been rationed by the Government to ensure fair distribution, and was a pretty fair example of the long shadow still being cast by that conflict. But all these years later some things were still hard to come by and there were still bomb sites in some of the cities.

Her one concern, though, was for the health of her daughter. She’d read as many books on bringing up children as she could find in the mobile library that called at Swanspottle once a week and believed she knew a thing or two, especially when it came to health. And there was a question mark in some of them about sugary treats.

She was on her own during the day. Greendale was at work. The solicitors firm of Dustcrotch, Dustcrotch and Featherington had taken him back once his recovery from sky-diving into a haystack on the end of a parachute was as complete as it ever would be, and for that he was grateful, as he was to his parents for forgiving him for what they called marrying beneath his station. So he quite happily drove to work in Brumpton every day and, yes, he did have a car, which marked him as being one up on most men of the post-war years when the ownership of any kind of motor vehicle was considered a luxury. His one problem, and this was considerably personal, had to do with the more minor of his original injuries, the one that to most intents and purposes had healed almost straight away.

Try as he might he found himself unable to provide Ursula with the wherewithal from which she could conceive a second child, and she really wanted a brother or a sister for Primrose ... it didn’t matter which. At first he’d been more worried about his mobility and the possibility of spending the rest of his life in a wheelchair had been more horrifying than and reduction in his sexual potency, which from a weakened position seemed of secondary importance. But his bones had slowly mended (with the help of cleverly positioned screws and rods) but he was still unable to do what Ursula wanted him to do even though he tried and she sympathised. Maybe anxiety made it worse for him, but he couldn’t get that one vital part of his body to even stir from its rest. It was another part of the long shadow cast by that bloody war and he found himself having to increasingly fight off despression.

But back to that particular day in February.

It was a school day and half a dozen local children, their pockets bulging with pennies which in those days had been rather large and heavy for small pockets, flooded in. Then they all bought far too many sweets than would be considered healthy in later years, and vanished with their white paper bags in the direction of Swanspottle Primary School. Primrose had gone with them, happily accompanying a group of friends with loud voices.

Ursula was still sighing her relief that what she called sweetie day in her mind was over and done with when the shop bell rang and Jane came in, with Susan’s hand clutched in her own.

Not at school?” asked Ursula of the little girl, who still had a few problems with her speech.

Jane shook her head. “She’s had a bad turn,” she said, speaking for her, “it’s a shame really because she really likes school, don’t you Susan?”

The little girl nodded but remained mute.

They’re so good to her,” continued Jane, “even though she’s the only child in the class with her set of problems. I think they can see beyond the fact that maths and English won’t do her much good, and the teachers as well as most of her friends like her for herself.”

So they should,” nodded Ursula, “she’s got the sweetest smile I’ve ever seen!”

But she had a funny turn in the night,” continued Jane, frowning, “she scared me good and proper, and almost turned blue on me! But whatever it was went away before I had time to run to the phone box and call the doctor, but I’m taking her along today anyway, just to be certain.”

It’s happened before, hasn’t it?” asked Ursula.

Once or twice, and every time it scares me. Doctor Blegg is worried, says she has heart problems and that it goes along with a rare condition that she’s got. You know that she’s not as big as your Primrose? And that they’ve kept her down at school?”

Yes, I know,” sighed Ursula, “Susan, as it’s a special day, would you like a sweetie?”

Lizbeth,” said a smiling Susan, “Wooden teeth.”

What’s that?” asked Ursula, alarmed that something may have happened in the village that she had no knowledge of, and she was the shop-keeper after all, the shop being the focal point of all gossip.

Tell her, Susan,” urged Jane, “it was something she learned at school, and the thing is she remembered it!”

Lizbeth...” began Susan, “Queen...”

Oh, you mean the new queen?” asked Ursula, “with a coronation later on in the year?”

Jane shook her head. “No, not that one,” she laughed, “but the first Queen Elizabeth of hundreds of years ago. What did Queen Elizabeth have, Susan? Tell Auntie Ursula...”

Lots of sugar and wooden teeth,” explained Susan quite clearly, and she giggled.

She was told that back in Elizabethan days the rich people had loads of sugary sweets, being the only ones who could afford them, and the Queen’s teeth went bad because she ate loads. Susan was told that she had wooden teeth fitted. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but it’s stuck in Susan’s mind.”

So do you want some sweeties, Susan?” asked Ursula.

But the girl shook her head. “Wooden teeth,” she said.

You see, she’s got her eye set on her future,” laughed Jane, “and she won’t take any sweets off anyone because she doesn’t want to have a set of oak or mahogany gnashers made for her!”

That makes her the most sensible child in Swanspottle,” smiled Ursula, “how about some chocolate? Does that count as sweets?”

Like chocolate,” nodded Susan, and Ursula handed Jane a bar of chocolate to break into small squares and give the child.

Talking of having an eye on the future, that’s what brought me here,” said Jane, “You’ll never guess who I’ve heard from, out of the blue?”

Ursula frowned and thought, then “Not…?” she asked, indicating Susan.

Jane nodded. “The very man. Her father. He wrote to me. It’s really quite a nice letter and he put some money in it for Susan. He wants to see her.”

Charles Snootnose acknowledging his responsibilities? That’s a new one on me!” exclaimed Ursula.

In his letter he says he’s been a fool,” went on Jane, “he’s really very apologetic, and when he lived in the Manor I never heard him apologise to anyone, not once!”

What’s he so sorry about?” asked Ursula, tidying the sweet display up.

Your guess is as good as mine,” sighed Jane, “anyway, he asks me, asks mind you, not tells that he’ll come to see us this weekend if I agree. He wants to get to know his little girl. I mean, Ursula, his! As if he’s brought her up, bought her toys, fed her… as if one little sperm gives him life-long ownership!”

Are you going to say yes or no?” asked Ursula.

Probably yes,” sighed Jane, “I dared say one day in a lifetime is fair exchange for that one little sperm...”

I know exactly what you mean,” sighed the shop keeper, “But I only wish my man could find even one little sperm, even so...

© Peter Rogerson 07.08.18

© 2018 Peter Rogerson

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Added on August 7, 2018
Last Updated on August 7, 2018
Tags: Charles, rationing, sweets, sugar, health, sperm



Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 79 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..