black paper

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minhduc

Senior Member
vietnamese
Hello
This is an excerpt from Life after life by Kate Atkinson. The story is set in London in 1939 just before the World War II.

She had spent the morning on Kensington High Street, stocking up – batteries for her torch, a new hot-water bottle, candles, matches, endless amounts of
black paper, as well as tins of baked beans and potatoes, vacuum packed coffee.

I don't understand the meaning of "black paper" in this case. Would you like to help me? Thank you.
 
  • lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I expect it was for the wartime blackout. As a precaution against becoming a target in enemy bombing raids, everyone had to cover their windows so that no light could be seen from outside. I think this was done mainly with curtains made of black fabric, but any gaps had to be covered up with paper.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    Vacuum-packed coffee in Britain in 1939? Impressive - presumably she had time travel. Black paper wasn't a normal choice - heavy curtains, cardboard and paint were. But I agree, the writer thought that people bought black paper for the blackout, just as she thought that a nation of tea drinkers bought vacuum-packed coffee before vacuum packing was invented.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Actually, Andy, it seems that vacuum-packed coffee was invented well before 1939:

    1900
    The turn of the century provides a Happy New Year for coffee and a couple of brothers. Hills Brothers packages roasted coffee beans for the first time in vacuum tins. R.W. Hills, a passionate innovator, developed a process that removed air from coffee packaging, resulting in fresher beans. Known as vacuum packing, this discovery is the most used method to this day.
    Source: Coffee History 1900's, Melitta, Starbucks, Peet's, Espresso
    As regards the intended use of the black paper, it appears that some people did try using paper as well as blackout material: see Home Sweet Home Front - BRITAIN IN THE BLACKOUT.
     
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    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    Ah, but it doesn't say "tins" of coffee. The vacuum packs we know so well were first developed in the 1940s. But maybe she meant "tins" and I made an incorrect assumption.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    And, Loob, you've triggered a memory. Cocoa powder came in vacuum tins when I was a child. There was a small blade in the lid that was slid across, and the lid rotated, to cut through the foil that sealed the tin. I haven't seen one of those for 50 years.

    My apologies to Kate Atkinson. :oops:
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I'm sure Ms Atkinson will forgive you, Andy!:D

    I've been doing a bit more digging on the blackout paper front, and came across this snippet from BBC - WW2 People's War - My Childhood Memories. Kate Atkinson's heroine buys her black paper on 2 September 1939; the extract covers the same week:
    The weekend before the war started we heard that the coop had blackout paper in case of air raids. We then heard that Farnons in Newcastle had blackout material so my mother went to get some material and my mother sewed the blackout material onto Army blankets to hang at the windows. On Sunday 3 September there was an announcement by Chamberlain that war was declared.
    ........
    PS for minhduc and anyone else who might be puzzled: coop here = Co-op, short for Co-operative Store.
     
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