Tag Archives: children

The Wartime Housewife’s Secret Project Revealed at Last!

Do remember that for the last few months I have been teasing you in a naughty way about having a Secret Project on the go?  Well my darlings, it has come to pass and this is the last post I’m going to write …… on this site!

From Saturday morning ( don’t try to sneak a peek before then) The Wartime Housewife will be a Proper Website at


It will still have all the regular recipes, household hints, advice, stories, culture, reviews, muttering and unreasonable ranting that you’ve come to expect from me, but it will also have lots of new bells and whistles including


The Corner Shop will be very much open for business from Saturday and will stock lovely, high-quality things for Home and Garden, Gifts for Children, Books, Something for the Chaps, Wartime Housewife branded goods, Seasonal Gifts and items from the Robert Opie Collection.

There is also a section called ‘Limited Editions’ and this will have things that I find – at antique markets, sales, auctions, second-hand bookshops and so forth – that I think will be of interest.  These may change on a weekly or even daily basis, so you’ll have to keep checking, as you just never know what you’ll find!

The items for sale have been carefully chosen to fit in with The Wartime Housewife ethos of buying good quality, well-designed things that will last, that will be treasured and won’t end up in landfill after a couple of months.
I have started with a relatively small collection but this will grow and develop as time goes on.

Anyone who has subscribed will automatically come with us to the new site and there will be an automatic re-direct if you inadvertently tap in the old site or forget to change it in your ‘Favourites’.

One little ‘bug’ that we haven’t fixed yet is that on pages where there are a lot of products, you will see a little italic sentence at the bottom left of the page saying ‘older posts’.  You will need to click on this to see the rest of the stock.  This will be rectified soon but if you could just remember to click this so you don’t miss anything.  This is a brand new site and there could conceivably be the odd glitch, so please bear with me – it will all come right.

I will take this opportunity to thank you all for your interest and support and look forward to hearing from you at the new site.  I also give my heartfelt thanks to Freelance Unbound, without whom absolutely none of this would have been possible.



Filed under The Wartime Housewife Blog

Bullying remembered and a school reunion dilemma

"Let's steal Daryll's bathing suit and say she's a lesbian!" shrieked Gwendoline

In July, my old school is having a reunion.  When I went to boarding school, aged ten, I was very badly bullied by three girls who had the power to get any other girl on their side, simply by saying it should be so.  This went on for years.

Now, in order to set the scene, it’s quite important to have a (very) brief overview of why my sisters and I was sent to boarding school in the first place.  Our mother was very ill with depression, agoraphobia and addiction to benzodiazepines and was not in a fit state to look after us.  Our father had left when I was four and we pretty much had to fend for ourselves.  A charity stepped in and paid for us to go away to school as our mother was unable to cope.

I started at the school when I was ten.  Sister the First had left the term before and Sister the Second was in the Lower 6th.  I was really looking forward to going as it was a beautiful school and I wanted to do what my sisters did.  My mother always got hysterical as the end of the holidays approached and would frequently threaten to kill or harm herself if I left her, although my grandmother was still living with us at that time.  School, then, was a double edged sword; relief that I was away from home, and worry about how she would cope without me.

Two days before the start of my first term, I fell off my bike and sustained a huge, grazed lump on my forehead.  This was not a good way to start and I was teased unmercifully, being called alien and mutant.  I was also well spoken, prudish, I didn’t swear or fart, I did as I was told, I was keen on lessons, I couldn’t stand up for myself, I was emotionally vulnerable and I didn’t seem to have much in common with the other girls.  My card was marked.

At that time, the school was mostly made up of girls who had suffered misfortune of some kind.  The pastoral care wasn’t great and 400 girls in close proximity seemed to develop a pack mentality.  Unfortunately I was not in the pack.

Three girls in particular made my life hell, two in my own year and one in the year above and they would incite others to join in.  They teased me constantly about the way I spoke and behaved, and suggested that I was always telling tales to my sister.  There were no grasses in that school.

They would take and damage my things so I would get into trouble with matron, they put used sanitary towels in my nightdress case, they poured water under the bathroom and toilet doors and watch me just to upset me and then call me a prude for making a fuss.  Another favourite game was to grab people and pull their knickers off to see if they were dirty, although I wasn’t the only victim of this charming little pastime.

Once, one of the perpetrators asked me if I would like some of her outgrown clothes as she knew I didn’t have much.  I said I would look at them and let her know if I wanted them.  She brought in a bagful after exeat but none of it fitted.  I told her this but she said that I had promised to take them and give her money.  This was not true, but all the girls in my dormitory backed her up and I was made to hand over my entire half term’s pocket money to pay for the clothes.

I had the added problem that I used to sleep walk.  The houses had four dormitories with long corridors and I would sometimes waken, curled up in a doorway or on a landing.  One night I had been sleepwalking and went back to the wrong bed.  I woke up in one of my tormentors’ beds and thought that that she had climbed in with me.  I asked her, forcefully, to get out and then realised that it was me who was in the wrong bed.  I tried to explain and went back to my own bed.

In the morning, she told the whole dorm that I had tried to get into bed with her and that I was a lesbian.  By break time, I had girls all over the school whispering “lesbian!” at me in the corridors.  I was twelve and this was just about the worst thing anyone could say to you.

This went on for four years.  I used to pray every night that the girls would change schools or die.  One did (leave that is), but the other two stayed.  In the interests of balance, it wasn’t horrible all the time, I certainly have some happy memories as well and there genuinely were Midnight Feasts and Dorm Raids.  There was always that underlying fear that it could all kick off again at any moment.

But when I was fourteen, I met this wonderful girl from a different house, who not only lived near to me at home, but was also really cool and naughty.  She smoked and drank and listened to punk and had spiky hair.  I actually believe that she saved my life.  My whole attitude changed; I discovered charity shop clothes, I changed my make-up, my hair, my music and, almost immediately, the bullying stopped.  I had taken myself out of reach.

At the end of 5th Year, the two remaining bullies left (as, sadly, did my naughty chum) and I moved into the 6th form house and made a new set of friends.  This is a very truncated version of the story, but you get the picture!

* * * *

In July, my school is having a reunion which is being much discussed on a certain social networking site.
I would like to go with The Boys and show them where I spent eight years of my life.
One of the girls who made my life so miserable has stated that she will be attending.
If I go, how do I respond?  I know she remembers me but I wonder what she will remember?
It was more than thirty years ago but at some level I want her to know what she did.
At the same time, my life’s fine, so what does it matter?
She’s probably charming now.

What do you think?


Filed under Children, Family and Friends, Life in general

Burrough Hill, Leicestershire – a lovely day out (and it’s free!)

Ancient ramparts at Burrough Hill

Borough Hill is one of our favourite (and free) places to walk, winter and summer alike.   To get to it, you have to park your car at the bottom (there is a small charge for parking) and walk along a farm track, past pleasantly smelly cow sheds and farm machinery, past a field full of hairy cows with big horns and through the gate to the bottom of the hill.

This is an Iron Age Fort, rising up out of the Leicestershire landscape, near the village of Burrough on the Hill, just south of Melton Mowbray.  It is 690ft (210m) high and on a clear day, one can see several counties.  Its bowl-shaped grassy top makes it excellent for kite flying, model aircraft and running about and falling over.  The land around  is predominantly arable but there are cows and sheep grazing the land on and  immediately round  it.  This also provides plenty of dried sheep poo which we never fail to enjoy throwing at each other.  We know how to enjoy ourselves in the country, I can tell you.

What you can see from the top of Burrough Hill

In fact, Borough Hill has a long association with sports and leisure activities.  As far back as 1540 local people would converge on the hill on Whit Monday for competitive games such as races, shooting and wrestling, as well as taking the opportunity for a dance.  These entertainments were abandoned  in the 17th century, and apart from a brief  revival in the 18th century they tailed off.   The Whit Monday Games did happen very occasionally after that and may well have happened as recently as 1955.  Someone should start them up again – it would be glorious.

However, for about 70 years  in the 1900s, it became a popular spot for horse racing, especially the Melton Hunt Steeplechase.  The bowl shaped nature of the hill made it a perfect natural grandstand for spectators and there was even a race horse called ‘Burrough Hill Lad’ which rejoiced in the connection.


This fort was built with ramparts of stone but faced with turf, and knowledge of other hill forts would suggest that there would have been a strong wooden palisade.  Natural erosion has occurred but also stone was taken  for road building in the 17th and 18th centuries, so there are lots of gaps in the ramparts now, which provide excellent stalking opportunities for imaginative and bloodthirsty boys and girls.

Archaeologists have excavated the site on several occasions since the 19th century and there have been finds dating from the Mesolithic period which would suggest that the site was in use long before its function as a hill fort.  They also found pottery and coins of Roman origin which indicate that the site was still in use in the 4th century AD.  In more recent excavations, they found a cobbled road, the remains of a guard house and evidence of large timber gates at one end of the entrance.

Hill forts were not only defensive structures, they also shouted loud and clear that these were communities to be reckoned with.  In some ways they fulfilled the same purpose as small towns would today,  in that they were centres for economic, political and religious purposes, albeit with fewer people.  Hill forts were also useful rallying points for markets, festivals and the election of leaders and there is some evidence to suggest that they acted as protected grain stores for the locality.

Nowadays the hill not only provides recreation for walkers and lively children, but also important habitats for plant and wildlife.  Wild Thyme, Milk Thistles and Lady’s Bedstraw are to be found there as well as species of Waxcap fungi and other specialised fungi which thrive on sheep and rabbit dung.    The gorze bushes are a delight, not only to look at and smell, but they also protect the slopes from grazing.

Birdlife thrives: Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Kestrels, Linnets, Yellowhammers, Tree Sparrows are all to be found there, and you can imagine the joy on a summer’s day of lying on your back, listening to supersonic, singing skylarks  high in the sky.  Hares and Muntjac are to be seen in the open grassland and the rabbits build burrows large enough to shove a small child into.  Believe me, I know.

Sunshine on a rainy day at Burrough Hill


Filed under History, Leisure, Outdoor Activities

Easy cupcakes for any occasion

I’m not one for jumping on fashion bandwagons of any kind and I’m sure many of us having been making cupcakes or fairy cakes for as long as we can remember; what’s the big deal?

Of course, there isn’t one.  Cupcakes are simply 4442 sponge mixture with the decoration of your choice on the top.  You can take a week making sugar flowers or you can go to a decent kitchen shop and buy some, it all depends on the occasion.  Cookshops usually have a fabulous selection of ready-made decorations, food colourings, edible glitter and pearls.  You can have such fun and don’t need to be a skilled cake decorator to produce something lovely.

Boy the Younger will be 8 tomorrow, so I am sending him in with a tray of simple cupcakes to share with his school friends as he won’t be having a proper celebration until next month.  I’m going to do the same thing that I did for Boy the Elder’s birthday and take him and his chums to an English Heritage property and take a picnic.

  • I trebled the amount of mixture, doing 12 12 12 6 quantities which made 36 cakes
  • I trebled the quantities for the mock cream for the top. 
  • I tinted the mock cream with a tiny bit of pink food colouring – pastes are better than the cheap liquid stuff you get in the supermarket
  • I piped it through a wide serrated icing nozzle such as one might use to pipe mashed potato
  • I bought the sugar flowers and edible pearls from the Kitchen Range shop in Market Harborough
  • I used co-ordinating paper cases for the type of decoration I was doing

I was really pleased with these.  Unused as I am to blowing my own trumpet, I have a duty to let you know that I have a trumpet, so that you can have a go at making these yourselves.


Filed under Children, Family and Friends, Food, Food Presents, Recipes, Storecupboard

Home Made Sweets 3 – Coconut Ice

Coconut Ice

I love coconut ice.  Unfortunately my children do not. 
Their friends do, though, and they love me for it.
This is a good recipe for you to do with your children over half term.

You might also like to have a go at Fudge and Truffles.


1 x large heavy based pan
1 x cooking thermometer (ideal but not necessary)
1 x shallow 8×10” cake tin (20x25cm ish?)

1lb / 480g granulated sugar
¼ pint /150ml milk
5oz / 150g desiccated coconut
pink or green food colouring
a little butter for greasing the tin

Grease the tin with a little butter
Put the milk and sugar into the pan and put it on a low heat, stirring continuously until the sugar has dissolved
Bring to the boil, then continue on a rolling boil, stirring frequently, until the mixture reaches soft ball* or 14oC
Take great care not to let it burn or you will completely spoil the flavour
Take the pan off the heat and add the coconut, mixing it in well
Pour half the mixture into the tin and pop it in the fridge to cool
Add a little food colouring to the remaining mixture and stir well in
Pour the coloured mixture over the first, white, half in the tin
When cool, mark into bars or squares with a sharp knife
Leave to go completely cold then cut it up properly

* I would recommend buying a sugar thermometer if you don’t already have one, as it saves a lot of time dropping boiling gloop into saucers of water.  If you don’t have a thermometer, the mixture has reached ‘Soft Ball’ when a teaspoon of the mixture dropped into cold water forms a soft ball when rolled between your finger and thumb.


Filed under Children, Food, Food Presents, Recipes

Sleeper – Part 2

Now today we’re going to talk about sleep and children.  Before we say anything else, let’s establish one thing.  Children need a lot of sleep.  Babies need around 17 hours, young children between 10 and 12 hours.  Teenagers, it would appear, genuinely need more sleep than adults at around 9.5 hours per night.

So.  How many children are actually getting enough sleep to function properly?  According to The Independent newspaper, up to two thirds of British children are not getting enough sleep and have missed as much as 4,500 hours by their 7th birthday.  Blimey.

An increasing number of children are chronically sleep deprived.  This leads them to be bad-tempered, unable to concentrate at school, have poor memory, reduced creativity, have cognitive impairment, they are more clumsy, have lower immunity, behavioural problems and a wide variety of health problems including obesity, diabetes and depression.

Good sleeping habits have to be taught like everything else.  Babies can be taught from a very early age that there are times for feeding and times for sleeping and this should continue into childhood.  Babies and young children are exhausting, particularly if you have more than one and, as a parent, you owe it to yourself to train your child to go to bed at a sensible time, not only for their sake, but for your own.  Parents need child free time and time to rest and be with their partners, even if it’s only for a short time.  Children must not be allowed to dictate the timetable of an entire household.

Another area where chronic sleep deprivation seems to have an impact is children with ADHD (attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder) and inadequate sleep appears to be a contributing factor.  In a study in  Finland, children between 7 and 8 who got less than 7.7 hours of sleep per night were significantly more likely to be hyperactive or inattentive than the children who had 9.4 hours sleep or more.

Now this would appear to be common sense surely.  Our parents’ generation sent us off to bed early as a matter of course, so what’s happened?   I think it’s a combination of several things:

Too much television and time on computers:  although we think TV is soporific and that we’re veg-ing out, it actually stimulates brainwaves but not in a way that aids brain development.  The fast pace in the editing of many children’s programmes leads to difficulties with attention and hyperstimulation.

Not enough fresh air and exercise: not only will this prevent them from becoming overweight which can cause sleep difficulties in itself, but it helps with respiration and a healthy heart.  They will also be tired for the right reasons, all of which promote healthy sleep.

Poor diet: Sugar and refined carbohydrates create fluctuating blood sugar levels that can disrupt your sleep in the middle of the night. Another side effect of excessive sugar consumption is insulin rebound, in which the body is overwhelmed with an influx of simple sugars and as a result cannot digest food properly. This condition causes a stress reaction in the body that prevents sleep.

Lack of parental control:  As a parent we have a responsibility to make sure our children go to bed at the right time.  It’s our job.  We have to set boundaries; 8 o’clock must mean 8 o’clock and when you say one story, only read one story.  If they’re getting enough sleep, there’s a reasonable chance their behaviour will be better and therefore cause fewer disruptions, making you less stressed and therefore better able to cope with enforcing a routine.

Lack of routine:  Children need routine – it makes them feel safe – and this ties in with the paragraph above.  Do the same things every night; warm milky drink, wash, teeth, bed, story, goodnight.  It’s not always possible to stick to it, but do try.

Many children are sent off to bed with no supervision whatsoever.  Many parents don’t read bedtime stories, don’t supervise washing and teeth cleaning, don’t tuck their children up, and let them fall asleep in front of television of computer games.  There’s no security in this.  To be tucked up in bed with a warm kiss goodnight, is sometimes all a child needs to settle.  In my opinion, young children shouldn’t have computers or televisions in their rooms in the first place.  How can you monitor what and when they’re watching?

As adults, we know that when we are chronically tired we cope less well with stress, so why should our children be any different?  Will a permanently tired child turn into a permanently tired adult who can’t cope with the vicissitudes of modern life.  We can’t risk it.

Children do suffer from stress and even if you have a good bedtime routine, life events can cause children to become anxious and not sleep.  Talk to your child and listen to what they have to say.  If it persists, take them to the doctor in case they need some counselling or treatment for a physical problem.

So to recap:

  • Make sure your child has fresh air and exercise every day
  • Set your routine and stick to it
  • Remove televisions, computers and mobile ‘phones from the bedroom
  • Have soft lighting in the bedroom
  • Don’t have dinner too close to bedtime – a milky drink and a biscuit or a banana should be sufficient
  • Have half an hour’s ‘wind down’ before going up to bed
  • Keep the bedroom cool
  • Supervise bedtime, tuck them in, read them a story, then leave the room
  • Make sure they know you’re pleased when they stay in bed – maybe keep a star chart so they can earn a treat

I understand that this is sometimes difficult.  Boy the Elder needs 23 ½ hours sleep a night and Boy the Younger needs 9 or 10.  When they shared a room it was horrendous as Boy the Elder was getting massive sleep deprivation and in the end he would often have to come in with me.  It is much better now they have separate rooms and, combined with a stricter regime, star charts really do help because they can see immediate evidence of their successes.

I’ve just realised that we haven’t even started on babies, so I shall have to do a Sleeper Part 3, but don’t worry, it won’t be as long as the first two!

Royal College of Psychiatrists
The Sleep Disorders Centre, Sacre-Coeur Hospital, Paris
British Medical Association Journal August 2000
Paediatrics – April 2009
The Sleep Apnoea Trust
The Independent newspaper – May 2003
The Times newspaper – November 2009
Loughborough University, England
The University of Montreal, Canada
The University of Helsinki, Finland
The Good Night Guide for Children booklet


Filed under Children, Health and Fitness, Medical