Having freed up my Saturday mornings by removing myself from Art Classes, my father, who didn’t like us to be idle, would put us all into the Holden (no disc brakes, no air-conditioning, no electric windows, no air-bags, no CD-player, no sun-roof and no heated seats), drop my big sister off at Art Class and then take me and my younger sisters to the local library.
‘It’s very important to read’, he’d say, ‘TV is a waste of time and it’ll rot your brain; there’s nothing worth watching anyway. Instead you should be reading and you need to read everyday.’
We’d step inside the warm and cosy library where the rules were we could take out three fiction and one non-fiction book per library member, per week.
My father would head over to the adult section where he would enthusiastically turn over the pages of the latest edition to the World Book Encyclopaedias and Em and I would head on down to the children’s section. We loved the challenge of being quiet; it seemed such a novel thing to do. Occasionally we’d forget and speak out loud but there’d be plenty of adults nearby who with a quick finger to their lips would loudly utter, ‘Shush’.
I was a huge Enid Blyton fan and having read The Enchanted Wood and the Magic Faraway Tree I then progressed to The Famous Five where I just wanted to be the sixth member of their group and I couldn’t understand why my life was so utterly boring by comparison. Then I read the Malory Towers series and wished I was going to an all-girls boarding school where I could play lacrosse and star in a pantomime. I was so sad when I’d read the last book in that series and wished Enid would have written more than just six.
Given I could only take out three fiction books (I was never interested in that fourth non-fiction book), I used to plead with Em to take out a couple of books on her card that I just had to have and couldn’t wait an extra week for. ‘But you’ll love these, you’ll really like them and when you’ve finished, we can swap. Oh go on, please?’ And Em would break down under pressure and agree to take out my extra books.
At home I shared a bedroom with my big sister and Em. We were all put to bed at the same time and were allowed to read before ‘lights out’. I think we were granted around 30 minutes of reading time and then we had to switch off our bedside lights. We’d switch them off but as soon as I heard my father’s footsteps had descended to the bottom of the stairs I’d switch my light back on and read for a couple more hours while my two sisters were fast asleep.
It was no trouble to get through those three fiction books each week nor the extras I secured using Em’s library card.
While we were at the library my mother would be at home, baking. It seems there was always something coming out of the oven. She would make a variety of things including these Chinese Chews. There’s nothing Chinese about them but they are chewy.
Makes: 16 squares
Degree of Difficulty: 2/5
Cost: Minimal. I didn’t need to buy anything. This recipe is a great way to use up a lot of leftover goodies lying around in your pantry.
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 75g (3 oz) melted butter
- 1 tspn vanilla extract
- 1/8 tspn salt
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1 tspn baking powder
- 3/4 cup fresh dates, chopped
- 3/4 cup walnuts, chopped
- 3/4 cup crystalised ginger, chopped
- 1/2 cup rolled oats
Preheat oven to 180C (375F).
Grease and line a square cake tin.
Beat eggs and sugar, add melted butter and vanilla, pour into dry ingredients previously mixed. Lastly, add fruit. Bake for 30-40 mins. Cut while hot.
This recipe has been adapted from the Edmonds Cookery Book.