An old man stopped right by my husband and asked him a question.
My husband was stretching post-run, in the way runners like to do, but trying to be discreet, in a little side lane.
“Do you know what this used to be?” the old man asked, pointing to the building my husband was leaning against.
This building is one we have walked past and enjoyed for years – it houses a favourite coffee shop. We’ve not really thought of it as being anything else.
“Well,” he continued to the shake of my husband’s head, “It used to be the food hall where we collected our rations during the war – the Second World War, I mean.”
My daughter eyed the building in her serious way, and saw the neglected window through which food was once issued.
She also observed the old man in her serious way, reckoning that he was about eighty, fit and sprightly, and she noted he was wearing a flat cap too.
My husband offered up his grandfather’s memory of collecting food rations long after the war was over, until he decided to take his family away from Scotland to settle in the States.
“I don’t blame him. Life was hard!” exclaimed the old man with a laugh. Then he waved goodbye and carried on his way.
A small piece of history, almost lost, shared freely in passing by an old man with a younger man, under the watchful eye of a teenaged girl.
The latter two then collected our own rations from the nearby Saturday market and shared the story with us.
And now I share it with you.
Rationing finally ended in the UK on 4th July 1954.