This is a story from another era – when people delivered ice, door to door, to those fortunate enough to be able to afford a fridge at home.
People’s ambitions for the future were different. They had prayed for money, for food, and learnt that, by sneaking into a field after the harvesting had taken place, under the cover of darkness, they could find their treasure. Not gold, but tiny potatoes, left to rot in the field. Potatoes that, boiled or roasted, and never peeled, to avoid any wastage, would ensure their survival, helping stretch their meagre rations. This was the reality of Spanish postwar, the real stories that never made it into the history books.
And when two friends grew up, they became lovers, courting each other with chaste love letters, written as messages in code in a book they would borrow from each other, sending their feelings back and forth on the pages of this battered paperback. They got married and they made good on their promise that they would never leave each other’s side until death did do part them.
I was fortunate enough to know them as a child. Fortunate enough that by virtue of their not having children and me being the youngest and quietest of a bunch of boisterous nephews and nieces, they would take me under their wing and make me a bigger part of their life, while my parents worked hard to earn a living for our family.
So we jumped on the car and went on day trips. We holidayed by the sea. I ate a ham and cheese toastie (with cutlery) in a posh cafeteria. They took me to a hotel for the first time ever. All exciting stuff in the eyes of a kid. In one memorable occasion, I stayed for an impromptu sleep over a long weekend in their guest room, sharing on lazy breakfasts devoured while watching South American TV soaps.
Every day for breakfast they would make themselves a large latte Spanish style, with toasted baguette bread (done on a frying pan). On the bread they would spread margarine on it when it was cold, sprinkling enough sugar on it to create a nice, thick crust.
In their middle age and beyond they were comfortable, especially in comparison with their youth. They had an air conditioning unit, a BETA video player (the size of a spaceship), a TV unit with a large, rudimentary remote control. They could afford biscuits, cakes, cereals, cheese. But it was that simple comfort food that they craved to start their day with. How they would have laughed at nutritionists telling us to watch the sugar content on our breakfasts, because they knew that life is nothing but a well-balanced mixture of the sweet, the sour and some salty tears.