I Can Believe it’s Not Butter!

Over my younger years, there have been two or three things that I’ve obsessed over.  My love of books, Victory V lozenges, comics, Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, Poe…and siblings messing up my bedside homework table; where my lamp, pens, paper and journals would sit uniformly, neat and straight.

Playing out in winter after school, for the most part just wasn’t possible…  Friends kept in touch at school and would only really gather again outside of class at the onset of Spring.  The exception being the weekends, should the weather be half decent.  Other housebound pursuits were sought to stave off boredom between tea-time and supper; toys, tv or, on occasion, tantrums, where familial conflict between adults and children would entertain everyone…   I’m not a great fan of winter – avenues and woodland, lined and in clumps of naked, wet trees, sometimes shrouded in bleak, dull mist; resplendent in their ugliness, soft, summer-like swathes of waving, green, lush leaves a far cry from the icy-cold grasp of a thousand misshapen, miserable arms of branch and bark.  Pray for snow and frost to bring a picturesqueness to them that would soften their gnarly, cold overhanging reach.  My beloved wheat fields, all bare, flat and dead…  Nope, I’m not a fan…

There was nothing inviting about the dark outdoors in winter.  There were, however, a few times such as going out carol singing, dragging your bonfire night guy around the houses asking pennies for it, and there was the pumpkin and candle at Halloween – well actually, a hollowed out turnip with a stumpy inch or two of white wax, which never burned for more than two minutes before you had to dash home and have it re-ignited.  Now and then though, someone may have sneaked out some matches.  Which actually reminds me of a certain type of novelty match that could be bought around bonfire time of year, London Lights – anyone remember them?  They had the look of perhaps a posh safety match and a bit bigger?  When struck they would either flare up and burn a bright blue, green or red; many a thumb was sucked with London Lights after suffering a burn from hot, flaming sulphur… After the novelty of London Lights wore thin, I for one, would go back to wasting money on those tiny glass bottles full of light brown liquid…yeah, stink bombs.  I lost count of the amount of times I was made to undress in the back yard, in the winter too, because we’d been throwing them at one another.

Bored and fidgeting one particular winter’s evening, and in mischievous mode, for some reason I don’t recall, I poked my fingers into a large jar of vaseline, then, without the slightest of hesitation, quickly wiped it over my brother’s hair!  This was enough to incite him into an act of violence, that if done hard enough for me to at least pretend that he’d hurt me, would land him in trouble, thus allowing me the pleasure of watching his punishment.  Revenge for former crimes was sweet…very sweet.

After the blaming and the shouting it was actually quite a giggle having dad convince us that he dared eat some vaseline from his thumb!  No way!  He did!  He stuck his thumb right into the jar, pulled out a huge greasy blob of the stuff and popped it straight into his mouth! “Want some?”, he said, with a look of, this really tastes nice on his face but his eyes gave it away!  Now, I’ve never been one to shy away from anything that tickled my imagination and curiosity, so I dove in there with an eager forefinger and sucked a reasonably sized lump of vaseline from my little digit, swallowing with a tenacious, I can do that too determination!  To my surprise, actually, amazement, it wasn’t at all too bad a taste.  So much so that I just managed another little bit before dad wrenched away the jar, “that’s enough, or you’ll eat the whole lot!”  Dad insisted that it was good for ‘loosening’ things up – better than oranges or prunes…  Well, thing is, I didn’t mind oranges but you know, I can’t stand prunes!  I’d rather eat vaseline!

Okay, so I’m a thief.  I stole that jar of petroleum jelly, and had a plan.  Me sneaking this to school and amazing my chums with my dare-eat-anything attitude would have me swimming in adulation!  I’d already eaten half a candle, some pva glue, the occasional worm, oh and once, and only once, a wax crayon, complete with paper!  I once tried some moisturiser…but quickly gave that up…  The problem was that that particular jar didn’t last long.  Before long, I would make a trip to old Herbie’s shop in the village, and with money from the return of empty pop bottles, and pocket-money, I would buy a jar of vaseline.  Throughout the winter it was impossible to purchase midweek, so, Saturdays were the easiest – those days we were allowed out in the light and the dry – although we did often get out in the damp providing we were wrapped up properly.

Now then, sneaking vaseline onto bread was a little tricky because mum would always make any sandwiches, and they were eaten in full view around the table – never anywhere else; crumbs away from the table were simply not allowed!  The easiest things to get my hands on were biscuits.  Rich Tea were ideal.  Flat, and well, almost smooth, meant that I could smear my greasy cache of jelly and eat like a Jacob’s cracker with jam!  Oh, I adored cream crackers…must buy some…  A handful of biscuits were always allowed, just enough to put you off until meals, however, it was expected that we eat them either sitting by the hearth of the fire, where any crumbs could be brushed into the grate, or, over the sink in the kitchen.  I’d perfected the knack, depending on which trousers I was wearing, of removing the lid from the jar, taking a finger-full of vaseline and smearing onto my biscuits.  You know, it wasn’t long before mum was complaining here and there around the house that someone was leaving little greasy finger marks – the wooden hand rests on the arms of the sofa; around the edges of the doors on the glass china cabinet – yes we had one; greasy tap tops and, cupboard and door handles to name but a few, had my giveaway print all over them…

In hindsight, I realise now that I wasn’t the only one who knew I was eating vaseline on a regular basis – mum and dad actually knew.  Dad knew and he watched.  In later years, he explained it away as just seeing for how long I thought I could get away with it.  It wasn’t an addiction or obsession as such, just mischief and I liked the taste.  There came a point that when my dad and  mum were fed up and didn’t want to play this game anymore – it didn’t last long and the amounts consumed really didn’t amount to much, it was just the greasy trail I was leaving behind me that was the irksome thing…

Dad confronted me so I lied.  I fibbed.  I actually recall telling him that it was probably my brother – I’d have used anything to repay his antagonistic attentions at times.  Anyway, dad wasn’t having any fibbing and swore that if I didn’t tell him the truth then he’d make me eat a whole jar, spread over bread!  I found that hard to comprehend as i liked eating the stuff!  I swore and swore and swore it wasn’t me!  What a fruitless exercise that was.  I felt ashamed at being discovered – and feeling ashamed that I’d let my folks down by sneaking around, nicking vaseline from home and fibbing.

Dad did make the sandwich, two slices of thick bread and a whole tub, and I mean a whole tub of oily, thick vaseline spread across them!  I didn’t eat and dad smiled a smile as wide as can be – we were mates again, however, he said he was going to make me drink milk all week long to bung me up because he was fed up of my trips to the loo!

On a promise that I wouldn’t fib or put anything else that wasn’t food down my throat, he bought me a Hammer House of Horror sticker book.  I was content.

Mind you, I did come across a Vic Nasal Inhaler too…

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About Robert

A forty-something Celestial Travel Agent. Walked many paths; some good, lots bad. Meandering through the past, plodding in the present, crawling toward the future.
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