After a long wait (which I spent worrying about the clout I’d get for being away so long) the housekeeper would appear with the weekly gift to us: the dripping from the roast. I’d run home through the back alleys, hoping not to be seen by anyone. When I got home, my mam would check the smooth surface of the fat to see whether I’d eaten any. Sunday lunch would consist of bread and dripping.
Sometimes some of the local boys would spot me running home, grab me, and dig their dirty fingers into the dripping. Of course my mam and the boys would always assume I’d been eating more than my fair share so I’d have to go without.
In the same way that all the Lewington kids knew where to find food, we knew that different churches and religious groups had different advantages. As hunger is non-sectarian, we used them. As long as the different churches offered the chance of food, warmth, or even basic acceptance, I continued going there.
The Methodist church, of course, gave me the opportunity to drink the dregs of the wine. The Baptists, on the other hand, had no bread or wine but they didn’t seem to mind how scruffy I was. And they had better stories! The main enjoyment I got from the Baptist church, though, was from their sewing classes.
It was in the Church that I was first attracted to the written word. While my mam cleaned I’d turn the pages of the massive Bible that stood on a stand near the altar. Its pages were edged with gold and it had huge, flowing letters to start each chapter. I even learned a few words at the Baptist Bible class to enable me to recognise some of the proper names on the page.