« Loving Billy Mays | Main | My War - The Conclusion »

As Time Goes By: Seeds

Eileen Perrin recalls her first hesitant encounter with a new taste.

To read more of Eileen’s wonderfully detailed memories please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/as_time_goes_by/

The scullery window was all steamed up. Mum opened the back door.

“Mum what can I do ?”
“Haven’t you got a comic to read? The one Dad brought home?’’

“I don’t want to read a comic.”

I stood in the kitchen holding the golden globe in my hands. Mum had said we could eat it, but I didn’t see how you could, the skin was so hard. It had a shiny smooth skin. On top was a sort of small chimney. The fuss when Mum bought it, asking if it was alright - was it ripe; it wouldn’t be sour would it?

It didn’t smell of anything. I couldn’t find how to eat it and Mum was busy. I left it on the kitchen table and wandered off to find the cat. He must have gone out when Mum went to hang the clothes on the line in our yard, now the sun was shining at last.

“Can I play shops ? “

“No, not now, the dinner will be on the table in a minute.”

The stew was bubbling away on the gas stove, cooking since before we went up the road.

“Look Mum,” I drew up my skirt, “I’ve got a red mark round the top of my legs where the elastic digs in.”

The elastic in my knickers was too tight, and though Mum said she would re-thread them, there never seemed enough time to get it done.

“Yes, alright. Put the knives and forks on the table.”

“Shall I put the spoons on?”

The stew smelled alright. Before we went out I’d put the Oxo cube in. Mum let me do lots of little things to help. At tea-time I would carefully stick sewing needles in the tablecloth beside each bread and butter plate, ready for eating our winkles, and I washed the water cress. Sometimes I was allowed to put an old saucer in the oven with onion rings and cheese to melt on it, or to hold slices of bread against the firebars to toast, or I made the cocoa at bedtime.

Yesterday, I had gone over to the little shop to get two pennorth of mustard pickle in a cup to go with the cold meat, and a penny Oxo cube for today’s lamb-bone stew, the one that was cooking now with a handful of pearl barley added with the three pennorth of pot-herbs from West’s old green-grocer’s shop. The onion, carrot and turnip all sliced and diced, simmering together in the great big brown saucepan.

My hand hovered over a house I’d just drawn with wax crayons. Red with black smoke coming out of the chimney. I put in a wiggley front path in brown. Bored with drawing houses, I turned the paper over to draw a swan on the other side, like my cousin Vera had shown me. First I drew a large 2, then embellished it with wings and a beak. “Don’t press too hard on the crayon,” I told myself, “it will snap in half.” I envied my friend Louie whose mother had bought her a packet of coloured drawing pencils for her birthday.

“Mum, what’s this thing called?’’

“What thing?’’

“This thing you got for me: what did you say it was?’’

“It’s a pomegranate.”

“.....Mum....what is it ? Say that word again.’’


I said the word over and over. It was a new and different word and rather mysterious. I wondered how you opened it. The gold globe had a little hard spot underneath. I tried to dig my nails in, but it was as hard as wood.

“Mum, when can I have my pomegranate?” I liked using the word. It sounded grand.

“After dinner. I’ll do it for you.”

I couldn’t imagine what it would be like. What did you have to do to it ? Drill holes in it like Dad did with that coconut, so he could pour out the milk? Dad had cracked the coconut open with his hammer and chisel and I’d thought it had seemed a lot of hard work. I was finding out about all these new things. It was funny milk! It looked more like the soapy water Mum swished up in a jam jar for me to blow bubbles with my clay pipe, sort of cloudy-clear, but the coconut juice was nice and sweet once I’d plucked up courage to taste it.

For all their gorgeous smell I had never liked tangerines at Christmas. Full of disgusting pips you weren’t allowed to spit on to the fire; you had to smooth out the screwed-up goldey-pink tissue paper they came wrapped in and collect the pips in that.

I wished dinner would hurry up. I picked at threads on the corner of the tablecloth and rolled the chenille fringe of the table-cover back and forth across my fingers. I heard Mum straining off the potatoes and dishing up. Then just in time, I’d found the scab on my knee that I’d been saving and picked it off. I inspected it closely. My knee started to bleed.

“Mum, my knee’s bleeding. My scab’s come off.”

“Oh for goodness sake; dab it with the flannel.”

Mum stood in the kitchen with two soup plates of stew in her hands: “And don’t come near me!”

I brought the flannel to the table. There were two or three satisfying red spots on it.

“Take that off the table!“ And Mum took it away to be rinsed under the scullery tap, then hung it back on its nail over the sink. Some time later, Mum scraped the congealed onion bits from the edge of my plate. Washing up time. I plopped two big lumps of soda into the washing-up water from the stone jar and swiggled them round to dissolve. Drying up and putting-away done at last, Mum brought an old newspaper and a white saucer to the table, picked up my pomegranate and began to open it with the vegetable knife. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Inside were rows of ruby-red jewels all packed closely together. She dug some out with the little pointy knife and gave them to me on the saucer.

“Well, go on, eat them.”

Eat them! I didn’t want to do it.

“Put one or two in your mouth, go on, taste.”

They had a new taste. They were not as lovely as they looked. They were different to anything I had ever had before. Not sweet, not sour, sort of juicy, but they were so beautiful you could forget the unusual acrid taste and think of eating a gorgeous red shining radiance.

I spat out the little white seeds on the edge of the saucer.

“Don’t do that. You can eat those.”

“I don’t like them.”

“Don’t be such a baby. They are good for you. Chew them up and swallow them.”

I tried, but I wasn’t keen on them. I left the rest of the shining seeds on the saucer and slid away to get my comic from under the cushion on the big old wooden armchair.

I wasn’t usually allowed to waste anything. My Dad was very keen about that. I was always being told that he hadn’t had much to eat when he was a prisoner of war, with the exception of cabbage soup. Every day he scraped his dinner plate clean. Mum would say “That’s enough Fred, leave the pattern on the plate!”

We hadn’t been able to get pomegnates, bananas and oranges during the war years.


Creative Commons License
This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License.