A Piece for November – ‘Butter’ by Angela Grunsell


‘Butter’ by Angela Grunsell

QBB read the brand on the label, long before people talked about branding, although they did refer to brands in those days: Marmite, Mc Vities, Manbre and Garton. {The last produced sugar crystal lumps for after dinner coffee}. In the 1950s one of the children was given the Harrods list and asked to phone the Harrods night staff on Tuesday evenings, each week, so as to catch the Wednesday delivery.

h1891 showbag - q.b.b. ghee clarified butter (1)

Q.B.B. (est. 1925) advertising bag from the collection of Queensland Museum.

QBB, the butter marketing board, Brisbane, produced this tin. A map of Australia in gold on the side, pinpointed Brisbane on the coast. By the time of the move in the 1980s it had sat on the shelf, together with another one for forty years odd. It was a little dented, perhaps from its original journey, but the shiny gold lettering, on the discreet yellow and dark green tin, was undimmed. Take a quick look and it seemed no older than those alongside it.

QBB, butter concentrate for hot climates, had stood by the family, unassuming modest, heavier in weight than the 12oz net claimed for its contents. Nobody remembered any longer who had sent it or how it had arrived in the worst winter of the war, when food was short; but the consolation of receiving this gift, was the way it spoke of other British people on the far side of the world being in touch, getting through. Its existence on the shelf made ordinary things like breakfast remain in reach: solid, reliable, practical, a dairy product with a long life that could be called upon if needed.

Mother died twenty years after the house move. She died as quietly as she had lived, reserved, undemanding, a reliable backdrop to her childrens lives, always there to call upon, until she wasn’t.

The tin, never opened, is no longer on the food shelf, but it got left behind. Now 70 years after the end of the war, the two tins exist as artefacts, museum pieces. For the children, now old themselves their tin reminds them of the stone stairs, the larder, the old house and mother.


The ‘One’ of the two remaining tins.


About thehaywriters

The Hay Writers : a highly active & forward thinking writing group based in Hay-on-Wye, the world famous 'Town of Books'. ✍️ In 2019 we celebrated our 40th anniversary.
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