Winter warmers

AS A child born in Crewe at the end of WWII, we didn’t have many toys to play with, and a lot was left to our imagination. We would make what we called ‘winter warmers’. These were made from a brick-sized block of clay that was readily found in all our gardens. The centre was hollowed out and a hole poked through from either end, with a flat lid to fit the top.

When it was made we would go to the entrance of the railway locomotive works as the men were coming home from work. With what seemed like thousands of men cycling home, we would shout to them: “Have you got any cotton waste I can have Mister?” The men used this waste from the Lancashire cotton mills to clean the locomotives, and for wiping their dirty hands on. They would often cycle home wearing their boiler suits, with a lump of cotton waste still in their pockets.

I wonder sometimes if we were not used as targets, as the men would throw a lump of oily waste at us as they passed.

Now comes the good bit.

We would stuff the waste into the hollowed-out brick, set fire to it and put the lid on. The waste would smoulder nicely and the brick got quite hot.

We would run energetically around the streets with them held at shoulder height. With air being forced in through the front hole, thick grey smoke would come pouring from the rear. The heat from the smouldering cotton baked the clay and turned the whole lot into a lovely hand warmer for a cold winter’s day.

I don’t know who came up with this crazy idea, and I often wonder if they were made elsewhere in the country. What I do know is that they gave us hours of fun!

Bob Arrowsmith, Yaxley, Cambridgeshire.