Monday, 26 March 2018

Weaned too fast off the National Dried Milk

          Today, Monday, March 26th, is my youngest sister, M’s birthday and this blog is my gift to her. It is about a time she won’t remember because she hadn’t yet been born but I hope it will inform her or better still amuse her about what went on before her coming.   If I’m spared I will in the near future write a further blog about the extraordinary circumstances surrounding the time of  M’s birth in 1955 at Clement Park in Dundee, but I need to discuss these matters with my sister before I write about it.

              A couple of days ago I received an email from my nephew, AR, an Aston Villa fan who currently lives in the Howe o’ the Mearns. He told me he was writing a book about Forfar Athletic Football Club. He has written other books about football and he was also the founding editor of Missing Sid an Aston Villa Fanzine. His decision to write the history of the Loons inevitably minded me of my young days in Forfar, from where my first memory stems. 

On October 1st, 1945, I was born in the Dundee Royal Infirmary and in 1946, after spending six months as a baby in Fleming Gardens, Dundee (which, unbeknownst to me at such a tender age, was within pie throwing range of the  hallowed turf of Dens Park), I was moved by my parents to 9 Green Street, Forfar because my father had been appointed as an engineer to the Coventry Gauge and Tool Company which had a factory in nearby Brechin. 

          Six months later my younger sister, J, was born in Forfar. She is the mother of AR, and it is mete and right that he should be the author of a book about his mother's home town fitba club.

          Where was I? Yes, minding my first memory. I think I was about 2 years old at the time. In the years around the time I was born mothers of new born babes were often encouraged to start bottle feeding their infants on powdered milk, which had been stirred into warm water,  as soon as they could. 

I am sure as a baby I was weaned too rapidly off the big tins of National Dried Milk otherwise it would never  have occurred to me - a wee two years old laddie -  to snatch the milk bottle out of the hands of a baby lying in one of those posh high Rolls Royce-like carriages that were the prams pushed by aspirant parents in those days. With that baby’s bottle in my hand I guzzled happily at the milk until, (a), the bereft baby began to cry and scream loudly and  (b), I was discovered by the baby’s mother  who vehemently informed me  that I was a wicked, greedy and selfish boy. My own mother arrived on the scene quite promptly and apologised profusely for her errant son’s behaviour.  If such a state is possible, my mother seemed both ashamed and amused at what had happened. Despite the ectasy of  ingesting a great deal of that comforting warm milk it dawned upon me that the tone of the grown ups’ voices signalled that I had done something dreadful. My sense of my mother’s ambivalence - ashamed, yet amused - was a seminal moment for me. How could something so viscerally satisfying be so wrong? 

An elixir from the giving bosom of the state

This is not to say that things have gone downhill ever since but more to say that things have remained the same. I’ve imagined ever since that those who are close to me have not necessarily been ashamed of me but more disappointed in me. Equally it may be they have been less amused by me and more bemused by me. 
          I may reflect more on those Forfar years.

          As a footnote I would add that at the time about which I am writing, the late 1940s  our newly established National Health Service provided this free milk to all infants and toddlers and so it was a boon to their mothers. It was also a great help to those mothers who found it difficult to provide milk naturally. 
         At the same time Attlee's Labour government provided free cow's milk to all children at primary schools and to supplement our children's diet it also provided all children with cod liver oil and concentrated orange juice. What a caring, concerned approach this was towards the nurture of all our children, especially at a time when our country, bankrupted by war, was poor. Our current government boasts that we are the fifth or sixth wealthiest economy in the world and yet look at our state. Increasing poverty, financial cuts to welfare, to education, to libraries and so on, not to mention the deliberate, considered deconstruction and destruction of this country's greatest achievement, the National Health Service.


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