William Loneskie: Austerity? For most of us, it’s never been so good

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“Tory austerity” comes the cry, after “Tory cuts” was worn out. The truth is most of us have never had it so good.

I was born a few years after the end of the Second World War. Our house had an outside toilet and no central heating. Winters were cold with no heating in the bedrooms. Often there would be ice on the inside of the windows.

The living room had a coal fire with a back boiler to heat the water. Electricity was a semi-luxury.

I remember my aunt buying us a fan heater. Before going to school I would dress in front of it – my mother would turn it down complaining of the cost!

My mother had a scrubbing board and wringer to do the washing. It was many years before my parents had saved enough to buy a washing machine – an English Electric Liberator, as I recall.

Much later, as income improved, they were able to afford a Lec fridge, and a 
huge 21 inch Ekco black and white television complete with doors, and two channels.

Of course we had no telephone. A red call box was a mile away replete with buttons A and B. It was exciting for an eight-year-old to use. I can still smell the cigarette smoke!

My parents didn’t smoke or drink, and we never went hungry although food rationing did not fully end until 1954. My dad was a keen angler and we often had trout and salmon. Returning fish to the river after being caught, as is the practice today, would have been met with incredulity.

Mother was a great cook; we always had a three course dinner made with fresh produce; and scones, rockcakes and sponges were baked regularly.

For recreation my parents had a tandem, and I went on a buddy seat at the back, shouting “faster”!

Later we would go on camping holidays every summer in the rain and midges of the west coast. The transport then was Dad’s Triumph Thunderbird and a Watsonian sidecar.

Later, as he was promoted, and promoted again, we graduated to four wheels – 
a Standard Eight, a Ford Anglia with an Aquaplane engine which Mum crashed into the Black Water Bridge at Contin, and then a new VW Beetle.

Coming back from Lorne on the last day of a fortnight’s wild camping, Dad pulled into the Esso station at 
Arrochar and gave the attendant all the money he had, which was just loose change, to put petrol in the Beetle.

We had to get home to get to the bank to draw his salary paid in at the end of the month. There were no credit cards. So Dad emptied the paraffin for the Primus stove into the tank in the hope we would get back.

We did, the engine pinking like billy-oh.

In those days, people were prudent, avoided waste and lived healthier lifestyles.

My parents were 87 when they passed away. They never lived beyond their means and their expenditure was always less than their income.

William Loneskie is a retired geography teacher. He lives in Oxton, Lauder in the Scottish Borders.

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