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A pittance

One of the main ways my mam used to upset me was when she’d get the ration books with the coupons in and sell them immediately they were due to be cashed. Then we kids would go hungry and have to scrounge around for food.

As a child I couldn’t understand this. We’d have no food, no clothes and we’d be cold, yet all I could see was her sending me to the shop for more cigarettes with what little money she had. But I can recognise now that the chain-smoking probably held her together.

By this time she needed holding together. The jobs, like the one in the Methodist church, were part-time and low paid. Her pride stopped her turning to the ‘parish’ -- we’d experienced that before. St Vincent de Paul, being full of Christian charity, would hand over a pittance, but not before a cross- examination as to your financial state and an impromptu prayer meeting.
This would see the whole family on their knees before them. Everyone felt the humiliation, and its aftermath when my mam took out her pain on us.

The only regular help we got from the catholic priest was on a Sunday. Come dinner time I’d be cleaned up (in practice I had the snot wiped from my nose) and sent to the priest’s house. I’d knock on the door, and was always told to wait on the step, that I was too early, and that the priest hadn’t finished his dinner.

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