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The Day Before Yesterday: 50 – Reg’s News

Gladys Schofield recalls drinking stout to help feed her baby.

To read earlier episodes of Gladys’s story please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/the_day_before_yesterday/

I knitted a blue fuzzy-wuzzy wool hat and mittens for Alan, and at six weeks thought I would take him down the road to see Aunty Miriam. It was a good walk but I was strong enough by that time.

They had visitors. I hadn't expected that, and as I knocked on the door my cousin answered it. I didn't see much of this man as he was my Aunty Kitty's son and about five years older than me and had the habit of always addressing me as Gladys Mary, my full title. This annoyed me a bit, as I was used to being called Glad by most people.

What surprised me most was seeing my cousin dressed in the uniform of a Highland Regiment. Still, we hadn't been in contact since my wedding and things changed quickly these days. I was ushered in, my precious cargo as well, and was pleased. After all this aunt could see how well I had managed so far in my life.

Albert was on Embarkation Leave. He was in the Black Watch, so he would have a tough journey ahead. Both my aunties seemed thrilled with my little bundle. I stayed long enough to take tea and eat a piece of my aunt's lovely sponge cake, then excused myself saying it was near baby's feed time. As I made my way home I wondered if my aunt and cousin had walked through the Golf Links to see my mother before they went back home.

I started my long walks again but up and down the roads this time, as the pram wasn't built for pathways and stiles. At three months they didn't need me to call at the clinic as my baby was thriving well, so I had to find other ways of getting to know his weight. Now and again I journeyed on foot a much longer route than before, to the long street of shops under the viaduct, the trains still hooting and hissing above, and got my baby weighed at the chemist down there. They always owned a pair of baby scales, I don't know if it's the same today.

Maybe I did too much walking. I found as Alan grew, his demands on my milk increased and I was not filling up enough in the evenings. This bothered us, as Alan was not the least bit interested in any other milk. It was Mum's milk and his thumb as a substitute.

Someone said a bottle of stout would help to increase your milk supply, so we got a bottle to try. I was not at this time used to drinking this kind of liquid and to me it tasted revolting. Both of them watched as I tried to drink half a glass of this and laughed at the faces I pulled, as I was determined to get it down. How people could drink this for pleasure I could not understand.

But, although I was half tipsy, it worked for me and I got a half a glass each evening. I had no more problems and what's more, Alan started sleeping through the night.

Things were going well, our young boy was like a comedy act with his expressions as he lay kicking his legs on the rug in the evening. We were pleased the winter was not so cold as the one previous.

Reg was always well mannered. I liked him. He appreciated what we had done for him. The baby had brought us all so much closer together.

So we were surprised one Saturday when Reg arrived home with a friend we had not seen before. We could see they were just bursting with news as they sat together on the settee.

“Well, what is it?” I said, not being able to wait any longer for them to tell us.

Reg looked down at his hands in his lap, not wanting to catch Cliff’s eye, and said, “We’ve joined up.”

“What?!” said Cliff. “You young fools. You were safe for another two years. Whatever made you volunteer?”

Reg looked up at this, saying, “Paddy and me were in town. We saw the crowd at the Recruiting Office and decided to volunteer. We thought we’d have a bit of excitement. All our mates are joining up.”

What could we say after that? They were having their medicals on Monday.

They may have been a couple of tough young lads, but it’s a pity they didn’t realise what they were getting themselves into. The Army was eager for young recruits.

In no time at all it was time to say goodbye.

“Look after that little lad,” Reg said. “He’s smashing.”

I looked at his eager young face and wondered if it would be the same the next time we saw him.

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