It was a family farm, as I said – mother and father and two sons, though one of them was in the army for a time. Mother was quite a tough cookie. I don’t think Jane liked her much. Jane was an animal lover and she had difficulty in accepting that farm animals were born to be eaten. Or to have offspring that were eaten: that was what they were for.
I know I’ve told you before about her stepmother, whom she hated. When Jane was a child, they kept chickens and she had a favourite. One Sunday lunchtime, the stepmother took pleasure in telling little Jane that the favourite chicken was the Sunday roast. Jane couldn’t eat a mouthful of course and never forgot it. So maybe that was behind her sensitivity, which was not common at the time.
A pig was kept on the farm, because it ate up all the whey from cheesemaking, the leftover potato peels boiled into mash, the lower quality grain and pretty well everything else. And it had a cheerful life in its sty over the summer and became pork and bacon for the winter. Jane avoided the pig. But on her third year, walking through the farmyard, she caught that year’s pig’s eye and couldn’t resist going over, scratching its face, rubbing its back and getting to know it. She told me that she almost starved that winter. The pig was her friend, so she couldn’t eat it. The farmer’s wife, whose name I can’t remember, would make no concessions and gave her no alternative food. So whatever bread and vegetables were available, the occasional egg and, literally, crab apples and berries from the hedgerows were what Jane lived on. She never did become vegetarian but she found the connection between animals and food very difficult.
Jane lived in and life was not particularly easy, not that anyone expected it to be in the early 1940s. On a farm, they probably had better food than anyone else, because the ration book didn’t apply so strictly as in the shops. As I said the other day, she swapped unwanted clothing coupons for her unwanted tobacco (or whatever) coupons with an old farm worker; the one who made her drunk on cowslip wine. I’ve never tasted cowslip wine myself. Those flowers are rare now, compared to then.
I know I’ve written before about the awful accident that changed Bobby’s life, but it’s in the context of Jane’s story, so I’ll tell you again tomorrow.