Children’s parties were so different when I was a child; for a start there would only be about half a dozen guests, the party would always take place in the birthday child’s home, they would all follow pretty much the same pattern.

Everyone would arrive at the set time, wearing their party clothes, hair brushed, shoes shiny, carrying a small gift for the birthday person. I seem to remember receiving such things as bath cubes (the forerunner of bath bombs) coloured pencils, colouring books, that sort of thing – inexpensive, useful and no doubt bought by the parents. There would be a few games, moving about games if the house was big enough, then a tea-party with sandwiches or bridge rolls with fillings, buns, and a birthday cake – oh and jelly, there was nearly always jelly! After tea there would be more sedentary games, pass the parcel, Kim’s game, and when we were older the murder game where we sat in the dark and things were passed round supposedly parts of a someone cut from the gallows – a peeled grape was his eye, a rubber glove filled with water was his hand, a string of sausages… it sounds really gross and disgusting now, doesn’t it!

One more innocent game we played was ‘oranges and lemons’, a very simple game played as we sang the nursery rhyme of the same name. The song lists many of London’s old churches, and has many variations, however thinking about it coincided with me reading Ruth Drew’s wonderful book, The Happy Housewife, where she has three pages of uses for the fruit. Here is just a selection of her suggestions:

  • quarters of orange are good in a green salad. This fruit combines well with chicory and watercress
  • try adding a few sections of orange to stewed rhubarb. Add after stewing to preserve the vitamin in the oranges
  • lemon juice is good for stained or discoloured finger-nails. Soak them in a solution of warm water and lemon juice – 1 pint of water plus 1 dessertspoonful of juice
  • here’s a way to make an old fowl tender. Rub it with lemon juice. Wrap it in a sheet of greased paper and steam for at least 3 hours
  • would-be slimmers drink the juice of a lemon in a tumblerful of hot water every morning before breakfast
  • for shampooing greasy hair, try adding a tablespoonful of lemon juice to the last rinsing water
  • everyone knows that a squeeze of lemon juice improves the flavour of fish. But have you ever tried combining orange with fish?
  • dried peel of oranges and lemons is good for helping to kindle a fire
  • if you spill orange or lemon juice on a porcelain enamel surface, wipe it away at once. left on, the acid makes a permanently dull patch on the enamel
  • do you ever use lemon juice instead of vinegar in salad dressing?
  • to get all possible juice out of a lemon, put it in some very hot water for a few minutes before squeezing. Oranges shed their white pith easily if they’re soaked in the same way before peeling – a help when you’re making a fresh fruit salad
  • a hint for marmalade makers. Have you ever tried combining grapefruit and lemon? If you use 3 grapefruits you’d need 3 lemons as well

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