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Open Features: The Lost Teacake

John Brian Leaver tells of the saga of a missing teacake, a saga that has echoed down the decades of his life.

To read more of Brian's words please click on http://www.openwriting.com/cgi-bin/mt-search.cgi?IncludeBlogs=1&search=john+brian+leaver

Ewart Fletcher, a man with a brilliantine sheen and a stalwart of the Shakespeare Lodge, managed a large, edge of town branch of Bolton’s, purveyors of peacetime comestibles to the local gentry, He was known as Old Grump to mother. He had developed, by grudging necessity, a dual personality, refined by dint of the egalitarian, ubiquitous, Ration Book.

It was said that he was of the opinion that the war, with its ration books, had fractured the established lines of social stratification, Folk who shopped at the Co-operative were now venturing far beyond their given station. He found himself catering to the "lower orders'', those of mean quality. With a marked reluctance he flipped through their well-thumbed ration books perchance a malign contagion lurked within their folds. He was monosyllabic, downcast, giving no quarter to special pleading or whispered requests, and he imposed his own rules on items that fell outside of rationing’s constraints.

So it was that early one morning mother despatched me the half mile to Bolton’s with a list of needs, together with our ration books. Her wicker shopping basket hung from the butterfly handlebars of my faithful steed, an Armstrong all-steel bicycle. One of the pencilled items was for teacakes, ‘four if possible, please, Mr Fletcher’.

When mother emptied the basket on my return she discovered only three teacakes, but I had paid for four.

‘Well, he’s either fiddled you out of one, or you’ve lost one down the lane,'' she said. "Off with you. Go look for it. If you don't find it go tell Ewart he has only given you three and you paid for four, so we want another.''

Down the lane I walked, but no teacake was to be seen. As I lifted the sneck of Ewart’s establishment I recognised a parked maroon Armstrong Siddeley 16 saloon, with its polished sphinx. It belonged to Sam Jessop, the local mill owner. The doorbell rang to closure and there was Ewart, his oleaginous parting reflecting the light, giving the ermined Mrs Jessop his unabashed attention.

It was something of a revelation to see Ewart in this new light, generous with his provisions, obsequious, waiving away her ration books, promising that her order would be delivered tout de suite to the Big House.

Had I caught Ewart in a generous mood? I put my plight to him, banking on his recent display of munificence to furnish a teacake.

‘No. I gave you four,' he said. 'You must have lost it.'

Then he showed me the door.

'You haven’t found it, and he’s not given you another, so you must have eaten it,' said my mother.

‘No, I have not eaten it, It must have fallen out of the basket and someone found it,'

‘A likely story. You’ll have to come clean in the confessional. Your stubbornness will be your undoing, lad. You've eaten it, haven’t you?'

This was the commencement of the pathetic saga of the lost teacake that would last on and off for the next fifty-three years. Over the passing decades my younger brother made sure to kept the teacake pot boiling. When he came visiting he asked 'What about that missing teacake, mother?’

With a twinkle in her eye she would unfailingly reply: ‘Yes, he ate it alright. Our Brian is such a stubborn cuss.' She spoke as if I wasn't there, but she was hoping that one day I would wilt to confess.

Life would perhaps have been easier had I eaten it. Naturally I could not admit to something I had not done.

My mother died in her 89th year, still denied a confession.

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