Cathy Murray’s easy conversational prose tells of her happy childhood in the fascinating fifties – shadowed by the war and the heavy cost paid by the nation, but looking forward to a modern age. We get glimpses of an earlier long-vanished world too as she remembers her grandfather telling her how he went to work in the mines at the tender age of twelve and showing her the field where the pit ponies had their two weeks annual ‘holiday’ above ground.
The author looks with the eyes of a child, quite rightly starting with school dinners, for food is children’s main preoccupation, as anyone will tell you, and she also has periods of reflection when she observes through her adult eyes.
I particularly enjoyed reading about Miss Heaps, the rather formidable piano teacher, and how she managed to get a hundred per cent pass rate by ridding herself of the weaker pupils – a practice not generally encouraged today!
How times have changed we think as we read about liberty bodices, pens being dipped into ink bottles at school, ‘Listen with Mother’ on the wireless, pre-decimal money and the early days of the NHS, but we also realise that some things never change when we read the delightful descriptions of children playing with whatever comes to hand (the Geiger counter!) and having fun whatever the circumstances.
Cathy has described an ordinary childhood in ‘Cabbage and Semolina’, and in doing so, has made it extra-ordinary.