SSC10: Red Darn

This story was written for the 2010 SSC (Short Story Contest). It was inspired by the following picture.  Go on, play along.

Copyright 2010 to mijita (AT) the treehouse (DOT) net . Please respect this copyright. Don’t distribute or archive this story in any way except for personal use without explicit permission. No, it’s not in the public domain. Ask first, okay? Thanks.


A shout startled the daydreaming girl from her novel.

“Fairfield, what are you about?”

Fiona (aka Fairfield) looked up, annoyed. A pair of navy wool knickers were being shaken in her face.

“I’m not sure what you mean, Miss” said the girl resentfully.

“These knickers, *your* knickers, are shredded. Clearly you took a shortcut on your run.”

“Only once. I–I got lost. I’ll write to my mother — she’ll send me a new pair by return post.”

The matron drew herself up as her annoyance visibly increased.

“No you won’t. Bad enough cheating, but as our headmistress made it quite clear at the start of the term, we are *all* were expected to conserve and ration as part of the war effort.”

“But I can’t do gym without knickers,” replied Fiona, sounding hopeful. Perhaps she would be excused gym.

“Right. And so,” said the older woman, thrusting out a sewing basket “you will give up your free time until each of the tears is properly darned. And remember you have gym class Monday morning.”

As the older woman sailed from the room, the sixteen-year-old eyed the basket with disdain. Fiona hated sewing and darning. Further, it was Friday evening and she’d looked forward all week to finishing her book. With a sigh she examined the long tears in her tattered knickers before opening the basket.

Inside were slim darning needles threaded with several rows of wool stitching, a perfect darn. Perfect save the color.


“Fairfield! What are you wearing?”

Fiona looked up at the games mistress, sulking.

“Matron had me mend my knickers, Miss.”

“I doubt she had you mend them in red, but be sure I will ask. Now stand forth and touch your toes.”

The girl felt the eyes of her classmates burning into her as she stepped forward and bent over. At least one classmate giggled. Her pleated games skirt rose. Tears pricked the corners of Fiona’s eyes as the slipper thudded into her darned knickers, once, twice…

…six times.


Fiona’s bottom still ached as she stood in Matron’s study. The woman’s face flushed as she examined the knickers.

“What a lazy sneak you are! Fairfield, these knickers are truly ruined; they’ll have to be replaced.”

Nervous as she was, Fairfield couldn’t help but feel pleased there’d be no more darning. Unfortunately she couldn’t keep the delight from her voice.

“Sorry Matron. I’ll write to my mother tonight.”

Matron eyed the girl grimly, making Fiona blush.

“Well you should be, and will be when I finish with you. Have you forgotten clothing is rationed, you horrible girl?”

Fiona felt hot with fear and embarrassment, anxiety rising. She was unable to say anything as the matron removed a heavy wooden hairbrush from her side table.

“If only your mother had spanked you longer and harder I dare say you’d be more responsible and considerate. Knickers down and across my knee, Fairfield.”

The matron raised the brush and continued.

“Think of this as me doing *my* part for the war effort.”


Category: A Picture is Worth 500 Words (Your Ration Book*)
Word Count: 500

(*Note: I didn’t notice until after I’d written the story that the ration book in the picture is for food rather than clothing. Doh!)

2 thoughts on “SSC10: Red Darn

  1. Martin

    A GREEN ration book. I lost my treasured one when some of my stuff was stolen in 1977, so I’ve saved this picture.
    Fiona in the story wouldn’t have had a green ration book, she’d have had a buff one. She’s said to be 16 and you got a green ration book when you were 5 and a buff (adult) one at 12. There were ration books for “infants” younger than 5 -blue if you were a little boy and pink if you were a girl (awww!). Actually, as the thin card had been recycled about 90 times, they were more like two different shades of muddy grey. The green ones were a proper colour, however, a bit darker than the impression this picture gives.
    So, getting a GREEN ration book was a big deal. It proved you were a big boy now. I was very proud of mine and could look down on all those little kids who still had pink or blue ones. But I’d only had it a few months (I think), when…do you know what the bastards did? They ABOLISHED ration books! How could they? It was an outrage! An outrage not felt by adults, however, who were delighted. Some of them even had a big bonfire and chucked their ration books on it, whilst singing and getting pissed. Unaccountable behaviour! Very weird, these grown-ups.
    It was also the end of “got any points, mister?” “points” were the undated squares in the back of the ration book which were supposed to be for “luxuries”. I first became aware of them when fags and tobacco were taken “off points”, so the only thing left for which they were required was SWEETIES. As a result, most adults no longer had much use for points. But kids did.
    Popular as the green ration book was with me and other kids who graduated to it, it was highly controversial in the West of Scotland. “It’s no right giein’ the weans green ration books” my aunt argued with indignation and vehemence, and it remained a grievance until her dying day. In the world I was brought up in nothing green would ever be worn or allowed in the house. The reason? “This is a Protestant country”. Sorry, “THIS IS A PROTESTANT COUNTRY!”. That’s all that needed to be said. Or shouted. London bureaucracy was, in those days, largely oblivious to sectarianism in the West of Scotland and the North of Ireland, so green was the colour. Just proved they were in league with the Vatican, didn’t it?
    You’re right that ration books were only for food, plus the items covered by “points”. There were also “clothing coupons”, but I never remember seeing those, whereas the green ration book was a familiar object which had to be produced every time we went to the shops. There was a separate system for rationing coal, which persisted for many more years. And there were power cuts, both scheduled ones and unexpected ones.
    The political reason for abolishing ration books was that the Labour government which had won by a landslide in 1945 was re-elected by only a tiny and unworkable majority in 1950, so there had to be another election. In a blatant bread and circuses attempt to swing the 1951 election, the “end of austerity” was proclaimed, food rationing abolished, brands and advertising permitted to return, the Festival of Britain organised, blah, blah, blah. It didn’t work and the Tories got back in until 1964. One of the chief architects of the fake (and it was fake) “end of austerity” was Peter Mandelson’s grandfather, Herbert Morrison. The resemblance between them is in much more than personal appearance.
    The picture immediately above also reminds me that it was around the time of the loss of the green ration book that I made my first acquaintance with the tawse (though it was never called that). The first day at school featured the teacher whacking it hard on the desk to terrify us, which it certainly did.
    Sorry for such a long comment. Hope it was interesting.

  2. Mija

    Many thanks for the long comment. Your recollections and details were a joy to read. I’m just sorry that life has kept me from saying so for far too long.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *