Egg for Sheila

England, early 1940. We haven’t yet experienced the bombing of our cities. Town children are sent away to the country where it is thought they will be safe from the inevitable onslaught from the air.

Imagine me, 7 years old, a much protected child, away from home, living in a small house with four other town children, older and tougher than me. We’re taken care of by a woman who gives us food and shelter. For this service she is paid by the government. We are nourished but not nurtured. She offers not a semblance of affection.

Especially not to me, or so it seemed. I was the only one of the four whose mother came every Sunday to visit. Every week she brought an egg.

Food was severely rationed, and our allocation was one egg a week. My mother, insensitively, as I later realised, told the foster mother that the egg was `for Sheila’. I imagine she held the egg as she might have done had it been a piece of Dresden china, or even a priceless Ming vase.

After several weeks of eating `Sheila’s egg’, about which I began to feel embarrassed and self-conscious, because it isolated me from the other girls, I still could not find the courage to ask my mother to leave the precious object at home and leave me eggless. (We did have powdered egg, by the way, which was rather disgusting, although an apology for an omelette could be concocted from it and cakes were baked using the yellow powder.)

Mrs S, the unpleasant foster mother, abruptly ended my embarrassment one Sunday evening, but only by humiliating me. After my mum’s departure for London, Mrs S said: `OK. Your mother wants you to have an egg. Have it now!’ And she proceeded to crack the egg into a glass and force it down my throat. I gagged, sobbed and threw up — and to this day I can’t manage a prairie oyster.

Soon after this incident, I came back to London for a tonsillectomy and survived, with my family, all the stuff that rained down on us in the years that followed.

Sunnyside up! The one egg each week taught me how to economise. If you hard boil an egg and mash it with butter or mayonnaise, you can spread it — very thinly – over three or even four slices of brad. Give me a plate of egg sandwiches, and I pig it!

It doesn’t need an analyst to work this one out.

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