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On Feeling Gay
by [?]

Gaiety has come back at least to parts of London. There never were greater crowds of people eating with bottles at their sides in public places. On the whole, however, there has been little down-heartedness at the restaurants during the past four and a half years Even while the housewife in the red-brick street was wasting her mornings in the patient vigil of the queue, only to find at the end of it that there was no butter, no lard, no tea, no jam, no golden syrup, no prunes, no potatoes, no currants, no olive oil, or whatever it might be she wanted most, the restaurants never shut their doors as the grocers’ shops and the confectioners’ sometimes did. When rationing came, one could eat the greater part of the week’s beef allowance at a single meal in the home, but in a restaurant one could get four excellent meat meals–in some restaurants even eight excellent meals–in return for a week’s coupons. There were, no doubt, parts of the country in which the housewife was hardly more restricted than the diner-out in restaurants. Travellers came back from places in Dorsetshire, Gloucestershire, and Scotland, as from Ireland, with gorgeous narratives of areas in which the King’s writ did not run so far as coupons were concerned and beef was free if only you paid for it. But in London, and especially in the Home Counties, there was no such reign of liberty. The housewife went shopping, as it were, on ticket-of-leave, and even the sleepiest suburbans began to realise that the arrival of our daily bread is a daily miracle instead of the commonplace it once seemed to be. Had Dr Faustus come back to life a modern lady would have invoked the aid of his magic for some food less romantic than grapes out of season: she would have been content with a tin of golden syrup. As for butter, it is surprising that no one wrote a sonnet to butter during the war. I have seen eyes positively moisten with love at the sight of a small dish of it. Even from the restaurants it seemed to vanish for a time, and some of them are still doing their best to help one to deceive oneself with a curl of what is called butter substitute. The restaurant, however, seem to be better supplied than the home with the three great aids to gaiety–wine, jam and currants. I confess I have never been able to understand why currants should be generally regarded as one of the necessary ingredients of perfect pleasure. But they unquestionably are The child on a holiday will eat a bun with only three currants in it with three times more pleasure than he will eat a frankly plain bun A suet pudding without currants or raisins is prison fare, barren to the eye and cheerless: let but an infrequent currant or raisin peep from the mass and it is a pudding for a birthday. So universal is the passion for currants as an aid to pleasure that during the past three weeks the only matter that rivalled in general interest the question whether the Kaiser was to be hanged was the question whether we should have currants before Christmas. So profound is the disappointment of the public at the non-arrival of the currants that explanations have been put in the papers, calling on us to practise the sublime virtue of self-sacrifice, happy in the knowledge that all the currants are needed for invalid soldiers. But if the currants are needed for soldiers, how comes it that we sometimes find them in the puddings in restaurants? Those who are concerned for the preservation of home life in this country cannot but be perturbed by the way in which in this matter of currants the scales have been weighted in favour of the restaurant and against the home. As for jam, the diner in the restaurant rejoices in jam roll while the child in the home labours its way through tapioca pudding. Is it any wonder if, as the pessimists believe, the English home decays?