As a lad growing up in a crowded city area shortly after the war, I was always getting into scrapes. The highlight of my year, however, was when I was packed off to Auntie Mabel's and Uncle Sid's house in Yorkshire for 3 weeks of the summer holiday. I rarely got into trouble there as I had constant attention and so much fun. Rarely, that is, but not never. There was that time...... Well, I'll tell you.
Each morning, after a fabulous breakfast cooked by Auntie Mabel, Uncle Sid would turn to me and say,
"Now, my boy, what shall we do today? Go for a swim? Fish in the beck? Run on the moors? Play cricket on the village green? Climb a steep hill? Explore the castle ruins? You choose." And I would.
Auntie Mabel would pack us a picnic and off we would go, just Uncle Sid and I. Auntie Mabel rarely came with us, although we always invited her.
"No," she'd usually say, "You two go and enjoy yourselves in the fresh air. I've got plenty to do here and can get on better with no-one under my feet".
Uncle Sid and I always had a wonderful day and got back in time for tea. I did sometimes wonder, though, what Auntie Mabel got up to on those long, summer days on her own. When I trudged back into her kitchen, tired and muddy but immensely happy, she'd hug me to her and remark on my suntanned face and arms and how much healthier I looked than when I'd arrived from the city.
I looked around the kitchen for clues as to what she'd been doing, It smelt good, warm and cosy, with our tea cooking, too, but it was as clean and tidy as the rest of the house. If I asked her, she might say, "Oh, this and that, you know, cooking and things to do in the house and garden."
Then, one night in the third summer I spent there, I got too hot in bed and crept down in the night, for a cup of water. In the long hallway of that large, silent house, I noticed that a door, which had always been locked before, was very slightly open. Curious, I touched it gently and as it slowly opened I slipped inside. There were a few steps down into a cold, dark cellar, with just enough moonlight seeping through some vents so that, when my eyes adjusted, I could see several shelves with rows of bottles of homemade wine. That didn't surprise me, really, as I had seen Uncle Sid some evenings tending to his gurgling demi-johns and he'd explained to me about fermentation and how wine was made.
Gaining confidence, I crept on past the wine to another door. I entered a large pantry that had shelves covering all it walls. The shelves, to my astonishment, we're almost full of jars and jars and jars of jam! Jams of every flavour and colour imaginable, by a young boy, anyway. All my favourites: plum, strawberry, blackcurrant and raspberry, plus many I had never heard of: marrow and ginger, for instance, apple, rhubarb and lavender, apricot and cinnamon and pear with gooseberry. Ah, it dawned on me, so that's what Auntie Mabel did on those summer days, making the kitchen so warm and sweet smelling in the process! I smiled at my newfound knowledge.
Then the smile disappeared as I heard an soft, eerie sound from the wine cellar behind me. Ooo! Oooh! Oooooh! Oooooooh! I froze to the spot. There was no way of escaping from that larder other than back where that noise was coming from. What could I do?
Then I heard a familiar laugh.
"Uncle Sid!" I cried as I fell into his arms. "Was that you pretending to be a ghost?".
"Just a bit of fun, my boy" he giggled. I heard someone come down here. Thought it was a cat burglar, but I see it's a jam burglar!"
"But I didn’t touch anything, Uncle Sid. Honest I didn't! I was just surprised to see all that jam. Did Auntie Mabel make it all?"
"She certainly did, my boy, but we'd better not touch it. She has to decide which jars to enter into the local shows before we're allowed to eat any. So please don't ever come in here again. It's usually locked anyway. Now, let's just go to the kitchen and get ourselves some drinks, before we wake up Auntie Mabel!"
Maybe it's as well Uncle Sid discovered me before I got into a sticky situation.