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Hosiery Old and New

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April dancer entered the office she shared with her partner, Mark Slate, and found him darning a sock.

“What on Earth have you got that sock stretched over?” she asked.

Removing it from inside the sock, Mark showed her wooden, mushroom-shaped object.

“It’s a darning mushroom,” he replied. “I got a hole in this one so I’m mending it.”

April took the object from Mark and examined it.

“Socks are quite inexpensive, darling,” she told him. “Why not just buy a new pair?”

Slate smiled. “My Gran would spin in her grave if I didn’t try mending it first.”

He thought back to his childhood in war torn London. Back there was a shortage of everything and everyone had embraced the Make-Do-And-Mend campaign put forward by the Ministry of Information. As his mother worked all day in the munitions factory, Mark spent most of his time with his gran. His mother had refused to allow him to be evacuated, saying that her husband was already away so she was damned if she would send her son away too.

Mrs Slate senior was a dressmaker, and very handing with a sewing needle. To keep her young charge busy she taught him how to do simple and basic tasks. Mark had protested, claiming that sewing was what girls did. His gran had then explained that his father, and all the other men who were away fighting, had been made to learn how to darn their socks and sew their uniforms when they were torn.

Mark had very quickly shown an aptitude for repairing socks and, before long, he started earning himself a little pocket money. His gran’s customers and neighbours had been more than happy to give the boy a ha’penny* for everything he mended. He’d saved every single one of the copper coins, refusing to spend any of them.

“Why didn’t you spend it?” April asked, completely rapt by Mark’s story. “You would have been like a king to your friends.”

“I was saving it to get something for my Mum,” Slate explained. “Gran had contacts on the black market, which was perfectly normal for respectable people at that time, and I was able to buy my Mum a pair of nylons. Of course, when I really think about it now, even with all my ha’pennies, I couldn’t possibly have had enough. Gran obviously made up the rest.”

“Oh darling, how sweet of you. She must have been delighted.”

“She cried,” he replied. “I didn’t understand at first and I thought I’d upset her somehow. I hadn’t realised that people could cry with happiness.”

“While I admire your loyalty to your grandmother, Mark, I’m sure she wouldn’t mind if you bought new socks when the old ones wear out. You live in a more prosperous time now. You could even try a Napoleon trick and claim them on expenses.”

Mark laughed at the thought. Napoleon probably would try to claim for them. Then again, he was certain that Solo’s socks cost a lot more than his did.

“Tell you what, Luv. Next time I get chance, I’ll buy a new pair,” he told her, taking the mushroom back. “Until then, I’ll fix these”.