As a finale to the Easter celebrations, residents of the Isle of Wight are putting finishing touches to preparations for the 50th anniversary of the great string shortage of 1958, when supplies of string almost ran out, leaving local traders in danger of having no means of securing their brown paper parcels. Thankfully, owing to a stringent programme of rationing and responsible wrapping throughout the island a catastrophe was narrowly averted, and the event will now be celebrated with a series of street parties culminating in a full-scale carnival.
All police leave has been cancelled for the duration of the festivities. Chief Constable Eric Foster said ‘It’s going to be very hard on me as the only bobby on the beat, but as Chief Constable I felt that I had no option if I was to guarantee public safety. If things get out of hand I may have to bring in a Community Support Officer from the mainland. The last time we had a big do I called the Home Guard, but they were all listening to The Archers.’
The event is fully supported by 93 year-old Reverend James Bingham. ‘Some of my colleagues in the Church are against holding what they see as a pagan festival at Easter’ he said. ‘But I see it as a complementary celebration of suffering and re-birth, and we younger members of the clergy are keen to make Christianity relevant to important issues that touch our lives in the modern world.’
Long-term resident Amy Chesterton was misty-eyed as she reminisced about the community spirit which emerged during the crisis. ‘Brown paper and string were such an important part of our way of life, especially when standards started to drop after the war and people stopped using sealing wax’ she said. ‘It was tough having to cope with some of the more extreme measures, like the ban on making little string handles for the parcels, but our self-discipline got us through.’
‘Some of the younger residents suggested using Sellotape, but we soon put a stop to that idea. We didn’t fight two world wars to end up with sticky tape, and you couldn’t have had Julie Andrews singing about brown paper parcels wrapped up in tacky transparent plastic. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m just going for a nice sit-down, and then I really must get on. Easter’s almost over already and I haven’t even started to wrap my Christmas presents.’