Living Below the Line, a literary perspective

This quote is from Small Island, a book I am currently enjoying as part of a Read Aloud group called Make Friends with a Book. Reading it made me think of the dilemma people on the Live Below the Line challenge would go through when faced with the temptation of free food. Did you surrender, like Gilbert?

I swear I could still feel the fingertip touch of Queenie’s hand on my arm from that afternoon when we first met. Sitting at the table in her mother’s kitchen she had served me with a cup of milky tea. I had gratefully taken it from her hand but declined to add the sugar she offered even though, as everyone is aware, tea is disgusting without it. She had then presented me with a large delicious-looking hunk of crusty pork pie. Despite my mouth watering so that my drooling was visible as a dog before a bone, I refused this repast. Why? Because of Sergeant Baxter. It was this man who taught me, and all his colony troops, that owing to shortages and rationing in Britain if invited for food into someone’s home the polite response was to say no, thank you — perhaps with the excuse that you had eaten already. ‘They can’t go giving the likes of you all their precious food,’ this sergeant reasoned. ‘So act like you don’t need it.’ ‘No, thank you. I have already eaten,’ I had said. ‘Are you sure?’ Queenie asked me. ‘

Homemade traditional English pork pie

Homemade traditional English pork pie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tell me of pork pie?’I then asked. ‘Is it an English delicacy?’ There came that laugh from nowhere — an alarming sound, which suddenly filled every corner of the dull and dour room with dazzle. ‘Well, I think we’re the only ones daft enough to eat it, if that’s what you mean?’ I hoped my envious eyes were not protruding too obviously as I watched her take the first mouthful of her slice. But as she chewed, this pretty woman began to smile. It was then that she had gently laid her hand on my arm. Looking mischievous wide blue eyes into mine, she’d said, A word of advice, Airman Gilbert. Never be polite in a butcher’s house. You eat as much as you like.’ Oh, she was so charming that afternoon. With Sergeant Baxter ignored, I just had to surrender.