I am nine
Age Rating: 7 +
I had just had my ninth birthday. It was February, and it was cold. The snow was only inches deep, apart from where it had drifted. I hated it. I detested the chapped legs, the chilblains and my constantly runny nose. Handkerchiefs were none existent, a piece of towel or a rag of some description was all we had. That or your coat sleeve.
Of course the kids were out in force having snowball fights, building snowmen, or just sliding along on home made sleds.
I did not want to go out there. However, I was the leader of my own small gang, so I had no option, I had to show willing.
My sister, who was six years older than I, thought to help me stay warm by making me a hat. Not the thing to wear.
She made one by stitching an old woollen scarf together for about half its length. She placed it on my head and secured it by tying the ends under my chin.
It was only when I went outside, and the other kids started laughing that I realised that it did not look good.
In fact as one of them said, I looked like a garden gnome. He was of course only saying what everyone else was thinking, unfortunately, he said it. As a way of thanking him for his opinion I smacked him in the nose. I still remember how red his blood was on the snow.
One of the worst things about snow is it turns to slush. Slush is very wet stuff. In those days we did not posses rubber boots, or as they were called then, Wellingtons. I think they were named after the famous duke of that name, but I digress.
Consequently our feet quickly became soaked, and very cold, hence the chilblains, a most painful thing.
We used to wrap cardboard around our ankles trying to keep some of the slush out. It was not very successful. The cardboard quickly became soggy and fell apart. We would leave a trail of cardboard pieces wherever we went.
To try and stay warm we made something we called ‘winter warmers’.
These consisted of an empty tin can, usually an old bean tin. A staple diet in those days.
We would punch holes in the tin with an old nail, attach a long wire handle to the tin, fill it with wood or maybe small pieces of coal we had acquired. Then light the contents.
Swinging it around at arms length soon had a mini bonfire going. They actually were quite efficient little heaters. The down side was that occasionally the wire handle would break. When this happened it was like a rocket trailing flame behind as it flew though the air.
Of course, we were boys. Therefore some of the accidents were deliberate. How we never burned anything down is beyond belief.
Something that I will never forget was the open fire in the living room grate. It was a huge black iron affair, complete with an oven, and places to put the pans to cook. It was so big that I used to climb up on the pan side of it, when it wasn’t to hot of course. The sheer bliss of the heat thawing my bones was beyond description.
The iron oven plates were removable, mother would get them out hot, wrap them in old coats or similar, the put them into our beds. A crude but efficient hot water bottle. Of course you had to take them out before you fell asleep, if you forgot, you would certainly remember the first time you rolled onto or kicked one in your sleep.
Our school was Church of England, as were the pupils, not that we were particularly religious, in fact for the most part we were little heathens.
Across the road was a Catholic school.
In those days in Liverpool, religion was a thing people fought over. I do mean fought. Especially on what was called Orange Lodge Day.
This was when the Protestants walked through the main streets of the city, complete with banners and flags depicting King Billy, better know as William of Orange.
They were on their way to the train station, for the day out at the seaside.
The Catholics would line the roads, jeering and name calling, that was not bad. It was hours later when the day-trippers returned that the fighting would start, all fuelled by the vast quantities of the booze both sides had consumed.
Of course we kids were not to be outdone, we would fight the Catholic kids on a daily basis. In winter it would start with snowball fights. The watching teachers from both schools considered this harmless.
. It was only when the blood started flowing that the teachers realised that something was not quite right.
We were moulding the snow around stones. They did smart when one hit you.
The winter seemed never ending, but as it always does, it ended.
Spring arrived. I was overjoyed.