Monday, 21 December 2009

Retro retro

Keeping track of which rations we've used and which we have still got to go should be easy, what with computers and this blog and so forth. But there's an even easier way, and its usefully manual: I've made ration books.

The original ration books divided each period into weeks and each week into points. You could use your points before the week named on them, but not after. The genius of the points system was that the government could vary the "value" of points according to supplies, so one week 3 points was worth 3oz of ham, the next 3 points was worth 2oz. This way, there was no need to reissue ration books or insist on certain coupons not being used. It also allowed the supply ministries to reallocate coupons, so margarine coupons could be declared to be clothing coupons and butter coupons suddenly butter-and-margarine coupons.

The points system required a ready reckoner approach, with press advertisements telling the housewife how many points made five this week or month. Since the points-to-weight allowance is fixed for the duration of this experiment, I've not used points in our books. Instead, I've just listed the weight directly on the coupon, divided up into useful amounts. The exception is "points", which were points without a fixed item or weight against them and were used for luxuries and store items according to available surpluses, and red meat, which was rationed by price rather than weight.

So we're ready to go. At a glance, these books make the ration seem very generous and easy. Certainly they make it look easy, anyway. I'm expecting the "generous" bit to start looking "onerous" by about 10 January.

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