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The Spike or Victoria College Review 1938

Working Day

page 27

Working Day

Mum was up at half-past five. She had three lunches to cut—Dad's, Jack's, and Mary's. A slight shiver went through her as she slipped out of the warm bed and quietly dressed in her old woollen frock. Dad was snoring a little, and an untidy wisp of hair hung loosely across his face, a face that twitched occasionally, even when he was asleep. A legacy of nerves from the war . . . the War—funny, Mum thought, how the world revolves on war. It's just like the parson said in his sermon last Sunday—in the midst of life we are in death.

This still hung on her mind as she pushed Felix, a compact bundle of fur, off the sack mat before the kitchen sink. . . . One thing about Felix, the only war she will know is with all the stray toms around the district. . . . Lunches cut and packed, she scraped a piece of butter off one finger with a knife, and smoothed it into the pound. . . . Butter's dear, and we can't afford to waste it. A little saved is a little earned. And why is butter so dear when the farmers can afford to send it away and make such huge profits? Strange and peculiar—but I suppose it is the way of things. . . .

Breakfast ready!—Mum's voice filled the house. She had one of those strident voices that could have easily moved a regiment. It moved Bill and Don, the younger fry of the family, when she found them disobeying the laws of the household. When the breadwinners had gone, Mum washed-up and scrubbed the kitchen out. . . . Don't you come in here with your muddy boots or I'll give you a lamming! . . . The kids, dressed and washed by half-past eight, were sent off to school —to get them out of the way.

Mum's asthma was making her a little short-winded. . . . Must buy some of that medicine advertised in the paper—might be able to save five bob out of the house-keeping money. Let me see, 1/- a week —five weeks. Oh, well! I suppose I can stand it a little longer. . . . After sweeping out the hall and scrubbing the back door step, Mum went out into the back yard. A beautiful day. Mrs. Jackson, next door, already had a long line of washing out. . . . One of her sheets looked a bit dirty. . . Mornin', Mrs. Jackson, nice day! No, haven't started mine yet. Just goin' to light the copper. What? Betty's down with the measles. There's a lot of it about now.

With an armful of wood Mum went into the wash-house. . . . Seven in a family makes a lot of washing. Dad's clothes are dirtier than usual, he's doing boiler work. And even though he is he likes a clean shirt. Ouch! rubbed a piece of skin off. This wringer needs oiling. Half-past eleven. Kids will be home soon—full of learning. What good does it do them— when I was young the only learning I got was a good belting from the old man. Besides, even if they do go to school they can only get ten bob a week at the factory for the first three years. Freddy Bloom skipped school when he was ten, just because he was a big kid, now he's getting 15/- a week, while my kids get nothing. Education—hump—only good for rich kids.

Must get this sewing done. May wants her new dress tomorrow—and the boys' socks are full of holes. My eyes have been funny lately. Can't thread a needle like I used to. Must peel the spuds and put on the meat. . . . Mum mused over the spuds. . . . What a waste with these eyes, yet Dad says they look dirty if they're not cut out.

Set the table and when everyone finished dinner, Dad reading the paper, and the boys fiddling with a scrap motor cycle, Mum washes up. Brings in the clothes, dampens them down, and starts ironing.

page 28

Don rushes in—Mum, I've ripped a hole in my school pants. You wretch, Mum snapped, take them off and get me a needle and thread.

How about some supper, Mum? Dad said sleepily about 10 o'clock. When I've finished this sheet, Jim. After supper Dad laid down his cup, yawned, and said— Tough day, think I'll go to bed, night.

Mum ironed on for another hour, wheezing a little less, as the ironing meant no moving around. . . . Poor Jim, she thought, has a tough time. What with the union, the reprimand the boss gave him because he accidentally broke a new drill, and the kids. Those kids are more worry than they're worth. Still, they'll soon be earning enough to keep themselves. Then they'll have children of their own, and will be the same as Dad and I are now. Funny, that seems all we live for—to bring kids into the world. Except to go to the pictures occasionally. Funny.

The last pillow-slip done, Mum turned off the lights and went wearily to bed. To a bed already warmed by Dad, who turned restlessly as she slipped in.