The English Patient

The English Patient

Monday, 18 October 2010

Snowed In

Our small village was built in a valley.  One winter I remember the snow being so deep that we were completely snowed in. I woke up early as usual and ran to my bedroom window. Inches of snow lay on the branches of the ancient pear tree outside.. Everything was covered in a blanket of pristine, crunchy, white, snow. I put on my slippers and ran downstairs.

Grandad and Nanny were already up making mug's of hot tea for everyone. The front and back door would not open, snow blocked our way. My Uncle Darrell had to climb out of the window and dig us out. He took about an hour to clear the front doorway and path. Then he came back inside and removed his boots and warmed his toes by the fire. Time for another mug of tea.

All the roads out of Belton were under such a thick layer of snow it was impossible for mum to cycle to work. The church and the little village school remained closed.Everyone stayed inside in the warm. For this reason everyone was home from work. Even if mum was able to get to the river, the water was frozen, so there was no ferry to take her accross to the factory on the other side..

It was like Christmas. The house was full of voices talking, laughing. Best of all mum was awake and sat at the table eating breakfast with us. All the coal and log fires in the house were burning. Nanny was already baking bread, the smell of which always reminds me of that day.

My aunt who usually worked at the hospital in Great  Yarmouth was home and she was such fun. She told me stories of her life in Ireland, which seemed such a magical far away place. She talked of Leprechauns, Irish "little people." Tiny old men, with firey red hair, dressed all in green. They spent their time making mischief but if caught, they could grant you three wishes. Of course I never found any. They were supposed to live in the forest , where they hid a huge pot of gold under a rainbow. I never found that either.

In the afternoon nanny played the piano in our best "front room", which we usually kept for special occasions, that never came. I knew some of the songs and we all sang along. Nanny played the piano so beautifully. She called it "the old Joanna", I never asked her why. She always said she played a little, as we were taught not to "blow our own trumpets", and be modest. If I hear those songs now on the radio or television I always cry.

All day I had my family around me. The people I loved most in the world. I remember wanting those three wishes so badly. I wanted that day, with it's roaring fires and layers of bright white snow, and most of all the people I loved... to last forever.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Outside the nursery, on the landing wall was a picture. It was a black and white etching, so frightening that  I used to run past it, covering my eyes in fear. It portrayed  the true story of a young woman in a rowing boat on a wild, storm tossed sea. She was trying to reach and save the lives of  terrified people who were clinging onto sharp rocks. The etching portrayed waves crashing against the rocks, drenching these people and covering them in cold salt water spray as they clung on by their fingertips, waiting to be plucked to safety into the small boat..

Nanny explained that the young lady in the boat was a real heroine and that she had saved the lives of some those people that night.. She tried so hard to convince me that because the people were saved from the jaws of a watery grave, it was not scary. She never changed my mind. I used to tiptoe up the stairs and along the landing, then I held my breath covered my eyes and pelted to the nursery to play. Safe in the nursery and surrounded by my toys I was able to exhale.

The young woman in the picture was called Grace Darling. She was born and brought up on the wild north  east coast of England in Northumberland. She lived in Longstone Lighthouse with her family, her father being the lighthouse keeper, whose job it was to warn sailors to steer clear of  hazardous rocks.

On the night of September 7th 1838 when Grace was only 22, there was a terrible storm. The SS Forfarshire, a cargo ship, was sailing from Hull to Dundee with a full cargo and passangers.. The ship got into trouble and despite the warning from the lighthouse, it ran aground on rocks off the Farne Islands. Grace had been watching the storm from a window in the lighthouse and she actually saw the ship crash onto the rocks. She also thought she saw sailors clinging to the rocks. She alerted her father William and they both rowed  2 miles out into the storm at great risk to themselves. There were 60 passengers on that ship and 6 crew. One passenger escaped in the ship's lifeboat. Five crew members and four passengers were saved by the quick actions of Grace and William Darling that fatefull night.

Grace became an instant heroine. The story of her  bravery  spread far and wide and was even told to Queen Victoria. Many people especially those who lived near the sea like us, proudly displayed paintings and scetches of that stormy night and Grace's bravery. When you live by the ocean you learn to love it and respect how dangerous it can be. Poor Grace died 3 years later of tuberculosis, and became a true heroine to all English people. She was born in her grandfathers cottage and it still survives today, a place of pilgramage along with her gothic-revival style tomb which stands proudly looking out to sea in a northern towm called Bamburgh.

On cold wet days when I was not allowed outside to play I became Grace Darling. A simple cardboard box became my rowing boat. All my toys hung onto storm tossed rocks and I saved them all one by one. Nanny never convinced me that the picture on the landing wall was not scary. As I grew older and was tall enough to reach it, I used to turn it around to face the wall. Without saying a word nanny always turned it back

Saturday, 16 October 2010

My Pear Tree

Rose Cottage  had an elderly orchard in the back garden. There were peach trees grown in fan shapes against the warmer, south facing wall and long straight rows of plum ,apple and pear trees.. These trees were well past their best but still fruited abundantly. Right underneath my window was a gnarly old pear tree. I think that it was a variety called "Doyenne du Comice" which is French for "Queen Mother of Pears". A very popular desert pear which came originally from Europe.

The large tree was the first sign that spring had arrived for me, it blossomed weeks before the apple trees. The blossom was a beautiful pure white and I loved to watch the flowers flutter in the wind. When the blossom fell from the branches like hundreds of butterflies onto the path below the soft, white, petals looked like a snow fall..

The fruit from my pear tree was delicious. It melted in my mouth. The flesh was smooth and juicy and as I bit into the flesh, juice used to run down my chin and cover my hands. I wasn't allowed to eat too many pears for a special reason. The large golden yellow and russet fruit was picked in November. Nanny and I used to carefully wash and dry each fruit and wrap it in thin paper to be stored. The peel of the pears was quite thin and bruised easily the individual papers kept them pristine.. The fruit would store until Christmas. Baskets of Nanny's Christmas Pears made wonderful presents. We gave them to the doctor, the post mistress  and other families in the village. Grandad always put a sprig of holly on top for decoration.

I loved to lay awake in the mornings and listen to the birds in the branches of the tree. Blackbirds are highly territorial and they always sit on the same branch singing loudly to advertise their presence. Grandad and I used to put food out on the window sill for the blackbird. Although they are  usually ground feeders they did not turn down our little snacks. Wood pigeons were my favourite I loved their cooing. This sound instantly transports me back to my childhood now. The pigeons were so unpopular with the farmers as they could strip a crop of greens in a day. These big round grey birds always woke me up at the crack of dawn either cooing or by the clattering of their wings as they took flight.

Laying on my soft feather bed and breathing in the smell of fresh cotton sheets for hours before anyone else was stirring, I used to feel so safe and loved. The winter months were so different. The tips of the branches of that old tree scratched against the glass of the window panes. It didn't matter how many times Nanny explained that it was the branches of the trees against the glass that made this terrifing noise....I could not be convinced.

I lay there in the dark and the night was still and quiet except for the cry of a fox. Then the scratching would start. I tried to be brave, but I always imagined that there was something hidious trying to get in. I used to scream for my grandad to come and save me. He used to stagger down the landing in his striped pyjamas and checked slippers. He swept me up in his arms and held me tight always talking gently to me. He was never cross and he always understood. Then he picked me up and took me to bed with him and nanny. She used to groan and tell him I would never toughen up if he spoilt me. he was so kind he used to say...

" We don't want her to be tough Elsie, I like her soft just like she is now."

 Then he would kiss my forehead and we always prayed together. Before the prayer ended I was fast asleep. Sometimes I woke up in my own little bed. Those  cold, winter mornings  I used to wake up cuddling grandad. Warm, cosy, and safe.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

On Sunday We Went to Church

 There was a wonderful house by Fritton lake. It belonged along with farm land and surrounding forest to Lord Somerlayton. Fritton Church was also part of his estate and my Mum and Dad were married there. Fritton House, Lake and gardens were open on  sunday for lesuire persuits including rowing, fishing and walking in the beautiful gardens. The head gardener had been a German prisoner of war. While the war raged he was in charge of growing vegetables in Fritton, as part the war effort. After the war he stayed on and returned the flower gardens to their original beauty.

 On Sundays mum worked in the small tea rooms, making sandwiches and pots of tea and selling mouth watering cakes. She  also charged a small entry fee to the grounds. I knew every inch of the woods and gardens. Sometimes, if the weather was nice, mum  took me to work with her. The german gardener used to take my hand and show me to garden. It is thanks to him that I still love gardening today. I  also loved to draw and if mum had a few free minutes, she would show me how to draw and sketch the trees, flowers, ducks and swans swimming on the lake.

 Lord Somerlayton lived in Somerlayton Hall an extremely grand house. The Hall was famous for it's extensive gardens, and huge yew maze. The Lord was in charge of the Queen's horses and he was a wonderful old man. You could also walk around the hall for a small charge. I was taken around the Hall many times. A huge stuffed polar bear stood in the magnificant entrance hall I always wondered why he ended up in Somerlayton????

On the days when I did not go to the lake with my mother ,grandad took me to Belton Church. It was a mile walk to the tiny, cold ,church. I loved the church because I got the chance to sing hymns.I looked at the wonderful stained glass windows and flowers arranged by the ladies of the church community.I also got to hold grandads hand all the way there and back. Grandad was my hero. He was over 6ft which in those days made him extremely tall. He always wore braces and on a sunday he dressed so smartly in a suit and tie.. I thought he looked like John Wayne. Though the Duke had far more hair. We didn't speak much, he and I were quiet. On the way home from church he pointed out song birds and taught me the names of the different species. I still take great joy in attracting birds to my garden.

By the time we got home Nanny had made the sunday dinner. It was always the same. Roast meat usually beef, with yorkshire pudding, vegetables and brown gravy. It is traditional to eat "norfolk dumplings" with gravy as a first course. Originally the dumplings were given to the children with meat gravy to fill them up so they ate less of the expensive meat. The men were given the meat especially if they had heavy physical jobs and needed stamina and energy. The dumplings were also called "Norfolk Swimmers" as they swam in a layer of brown gravy. We loved them. Nanny always cooked a fruit pie and custard. I loved sunday dinner.

On Sunday night we all sat around the fire watching the old black and white TV. I sat as close to my mum as I could.  We always watched "Sunday Night at The London Palladium". There were beautiful dancers in sparkling costumes, comedians and popular singing stars of the day. Now the world has gone full circle and we all watch Dancing with the Stars.

Those nights were so perfect. We were warm safe and so cosy. Mum tucked me into bed on Sunday night. Then she kissed my forehead and told me ...."don't forget to pray Ninny." I just wanted to see her more and I always prayed for that first..

Thursday, 7 October 2010

On Saturday I saw my Mum

Although my parents lived at Rose Villa I only saw them once a week. They both worked very hard on the night shift, at a frozen food factory in Great Yarmouth. It was a fishing town and the local catch was taken straight to the factory ,to be transformed into what we Brits call Fish Fingers. Elsewhere they have been given the name Fish Sticks.

My mother often described the conditions of the factory where she worked so hard.. It was cold wet and the job of gutting the fish was smelly and revolting.She stood for hours in cold water and was allowed a few minutes break to go to the bathroom where she had a few sly puffs on her cigarette, a high point of the day.  However working the night shift  put more pennies into the wage packet.

 Mum worked a six day week. All week from Monday to Friday I maybe saw her for 30 minutes, when she came home from work. We sat by the fire and I got a cuddle and was able to talk to her. She wore her factory uniform. White trousers, white shirt and knee high rubber boots. Her beautiful black hair was hidden under a hairnet and hat. Of course she smelled of fish, but I worshipped my mum and it didn't matter, so long as I was able to have some time with her, it made my day. Then she washed and went upstairs and literally fell into bed. Then slept till long after my bedtime, so nanny tucked me in.

My mother's name was Shirley, she shared this name with a famous child actress called Shirley Temple a great favourite od my grandad at the time of her birth.. My mother was beautiful. As a baby she was so attractive her photo had been used on the front of Glaxo Babymilk. She was slim, with violet eyes and long tumbling gypsy curls. Such a shame they were covered by her factory hat. She had trained as an artist at Great Yarmouth Art School. She was so creative. Many of her oil paintings graced the wall at Rose Villa. However she was married by 19 to an American Air Forceman, Jay Morgan from Clinton Oklahoma and before she knew it she had 2 small children to feed. She took the highest paid job she could find.

We had one day together, Saturday, it was the best day of the week. Dad worked weekends at an amusement park in Great Yarmouth  mending the penny slot machines. So I saw even less of him. He was a shadow in my early childhood.

First thing in the morning I would run to mum's bedroom and snuggle under the quilt with her. She would tickle me and I would tell her about my week. We even had breakfast together. it was magical. Then Mum, my sister Debbie and I all took the bus to Great Yarmouth. I was so proud to walk down the road with her holding her hand. Filled with pride because she was beautiful and had such a warm smile. Everyone smiled at her and she had so many friends.

Once we arrived in Yarmouth our first stop was the bakery. She always bought poppy seed bread and grandad's favouite macaroon cakes and vanilla slices. The slices came in a cardboard box as they were so fragile, layers of choux pastry, fresh cream and pink icing. The bakery always smelled  wonderful and made me so hungry. If we were good Debbie and I were given a cake of our choice. We were never allowed to eat in the street, it was thought to be the height of bad manners. Later when we went to the market for chips and sat on a bench we were allowed to eat our cakes.

Window shopping was a great thrill. Looking in Palmers window to see the latest fashions. I remember seeing a pair of shoes I thought were fit for a princess. They were bright yellow with a plastic white and yellow daisy on the front. I wanted those shoes so badly it hurt. Mum explained to me that I had to wear sensible leather shoes because of my childhood Polio. My feet were important and I had to take care of them. I hated those heavy leather sensible shoes I felt so ugly, but I would do anything for my mum. When Palmers had their summer sale these shoes were reduced in price and I begged my mum to buy them for me.. The story never changed I was lucky I could walk .Then I was reminded yet again that "some children" who had suffered from polio never walked and  had to be in a wheelchair. I had to promise mum I would always take care of my feet.

I always wanted to meet those "some children" mum talked about. They sometimes did not have a meal to eat for days. They didn't have parents who loved them and worked as hard as my parents to give their children a good life.  Of course they did not have the luxury of a TV in the house. Worst of all they did not have a mum. This was so profoundly sad to me, that all my life I have given money to charity for hungry, lonely, children who had no mum. I thought not having a mum was the worst thing that could happen to any child.At night I always  silently prayed for the "some children" in wheel chairs, hungry alone and scared.

After chips on the market and a cake if we were lucky we went to visit our father. He worked on what was called "The Golden Mile" of Yarmouth sea front. Facing the sandy beach were tourist shops, cafe's, restaurants and penny slot machine amusements. Dad worked at "Marshal's" amusement arcade. It had a small bowling alley and dad Debbie and mum played a game together. Because of my polio I had weak arms with no muscle at all and I couldn't pick up the bowling ball. Debbie was so different to me. She was pretty and sassy and full of energy. Dad adored her. She ran and jumped ,climbed ,trees rode a bike. Of course she was ashamed of me.She hated it that we were made to play together because I was no fun and slow. I still have arms like spaghetti and Debbie still hates me.

When we got home to Belton there was so much to tell nanny and grandad. Everything I had seen and done. Of course I stuck as close to my mum as I could. I would sit quietly near her while Debbie got all the attention twirling and doing something cute. I would look up at my mother and pray to God that she would always be safe and be there for me...two days a week would be nice.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Friday was Bake Day

On Friday Nanny baked. With a large house full of family members, baking was so important. Nanny always made our bread, but there was so much more she had to do. She made scones, meat pies, apple pies, jam tarts, cakes, rice puddings and cooked whatever was in season.

We didn't have a huge supermarket in those days. I was born in 1958 and England was still recovering from two world wars. For many years there had been rationing of food. If you grew your own vegetables you shared whatever was left over. By the late 1950's England was changing fast. But not for Nanny. She still did everything the way her mother taught her.

In the garden there was an old orchard full of apples and pears.In the fruit garden there was a strawberry patch and fruit canes. Nanny made jam, huge bubbling pots of simmering fruit and sugar. The smell was wonderful. She made apple pies , but any apples we could not store were dried in rings in her huge oven. She did not bottle or can food. We had a large pantry where our jars of jam, dried fruit, pies and cakes were kept.

I have never had baking skills. I was told that my hands were too hot to make good pastry? I handled the pastry too much. Nanny was quick and that was the trick. Her pastry was awesome.A slice of her apple and blackberry pie with cream from the dairy down the road was beyond wonderful!!! We collected our wild blackberries in buckets from the hedgerows around Belton.I loved it when i was allowed to stir the cake mixture and lick the spoon afterwards. Often a pie was donated to some of Dr. Deanes patients who were sick and not able to bake themselves. When Nanny was ill they returned the kindness. Our little village was so close knit.

Packed lunches were made for my Grandad and Mum who worked at the Local Birds Eye Factory  in Great Yarmouth. Getting there was difficult for them. They cycled 4 miles in all weather to the river Yare which separates  Gorleston from Great Yamouth .When they arrived at the riverside in Gorleston they chained up their bikes in a shed along with so many others. Then took the ferry across the river. The ferry was always packed. people leaving the factory and going home. Others going in the other direction to start a another long shift. Grandad and mum had their lunches in a box made up by Nanny the night before. They had home baked bread made into sandwiches, slices of pie and dried fruit. Whatever was in season in the garden.

The Birds Eye Factory was a huge employer of local people. The fishing industry was flourishing then. The fish was packed in ice out at sea and transported up the river to the factory. It was unloaded, gutted and cleaned then frozen. My mother had the job of gutting and cleaning the fish. She stood with her rubber boots on in ice cold water for hours doing it , her hands were always sore.What an awful job. She was saving up to put a deposit on a house of our own. She worked the night shift to make extra money. By the time she came home she was exhausted. Sometimes I sat with her over a huge pot of tea before she went to bed. She chattered to nanny and I about the girls she worked with. The work was hard and they tried to laugh and joke to make the shift go by quickly. There was always someone getting married or someone having a baby. Women came, then left quickly the work was so hard. Mum had her eye on a new housing estate being built in the next town. The house was modern and up to date. I wanted to stay in Belton it was what I knew and loved. Through a childs eyes Belton which was lost in time so old fashioned was perfect. I did not understand how hard my parents and grandparents struggled.The good thing was we were family and we were doing it together. I didn't want to live without my extended family.

Uncle Darrell was a farm boy. he drove the tractor's, ploughed the land picked the fruit. He started fixing the broken farm machines. He had a natural skill as a mechanic. He loved driving and he eventually worked as a lorry driver. He worked long hours at the farm but always bought home some of the harvest. He also took a packed lunch made by his mum.

Aunt Elanor known as Auntie lane was a trainee nurse. She dreamt of a house for her and Darrell. they wanted to start a family of her own. I loved her irish accent. She was full of fun and so pretty. The best auntie in the world. She still is. She used to love the radio and could master all the difficult dances. Darrell saw himself as a rival to Elvis, he styled his hair the same way. Nanny used to joke that her daughter-in-law couldn't bake. She eventually became a cook. So it was just a mother-in-law thing. It was what nanny was good at and she loved baking for her son, and her big family. She was so proud of her skills and didn't want anyone to surpass her.

The kitchen was always warm on baking day, as enough food was cooked to fill so many growling tummies over the weekend. I was so proud to say I helped but my contribution was small...I just licked the spoon...LOL

Monday, 4 October 2010

The Milk Cart

The one special part of my childhood that I remember so when the milkman came. As we lived so far out in the country our milk was delivered every day by the farmer from the local dairy. He had his own horse and cart. The horse was a huge old shire horse which was a working animal. It pulled the heavy loads, especially the milk rounds. The days of using a horse to pull the plough had long since gone. However our roads were little more than tracks and cars were no use, especially in the deep snow drifts and puddles.

The milkman came very early in the morning. He had milk churns on his cart. It was my job to go out and collect the creamy milk from him. I had two big china milk jugs. I could only carry one at a time. Grandad always made our morning oatmeal with fresh creamy milk. It was so tasty with a little honey on top.

I loved that huge shire horse. I used to take apples and suger cubes out and give him a snack. While the farmer filled the jugs with still warm milk.When the house became so full of family, we needed a churn every so often. Especially on bake day. My nan made the most wonderful creamy sweet rice pudding. She always grated nutmeg on the top. She kept nutmegs in her pinny pocket. It was an old fashioned gypsy rememdy, to put a blessed nutmeg on or about your person to help the pain of arthritis. If I had a penny for everytime nanny handed out a "charmed" nutmeg, I would be very rich today.

Our old farmhouse was in the bottom of a valley. There were steep steps leading from the front door. I climbed those steps every morning, carefully  counting each one. Then I used to swing on the front gate and wait for the milkman. I could hear his horse before I could see them. The loud clip clop the horse  made as came around the bend. Then the creak of the wooden cart.I loved it, even in the cold weather. I was given a strict talking to in the winter if I went outside in the cold without a coat, hat,scarf and boots.

In the summer the garden smelled of roses and honeysuckle in the morning. There was lavender to help you sleep, we put it under our pillow.. Sage to flavour greasy meat. Rosemary was used to make a rinse for our hair. The wonderful aroma of those plants and flowers after the early morning mist was lifting from the valley, was heavenly. I still have all those plants in my garden today.

The milkman brought us new laid eggs from his chickens. I loved the brown ones. It was supposed to be good luck if you got two yolks in one egg. We called boiled eggs "chukky eggs" and we had then soft boiled with bread soldiers for lunch. Dipping the soldiers of bread into the yellow yolk. Nanny always drew a face on my egg I loved that. Grandad's father was a sea captain. He taught us to make a hole in the bottom of the egg shell after we had eaten the contents. He siad it stopped the witches using the shell to sail out to sea. Nanny told us it was nonsense but being a fisherman is such a dangerous job, sailers have so many old wives tales like this to tell.

 Butter came on his cart as well. The milkman used to put a buttercup flower under my chin. If my chin reflected the yellow of the buttercup it was supposed to mean, I liked butter. All these old country ways are lost now. I knew every plant that grew wild in the garden. Maybe that is why I love my garden so much now. The smell of roses, lavender, sage and honeysuckle reminds me of  my childhood at Rose Villa. My son used to love me to tell him about the horse and cart over and over.

Now we go to the supermarket and we all drink skimmed milk. Everyone worries about their weight and all the extra calories. But nothing tastes as good as milk straight from the churn newly lais eggs and fresh butter.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Thursday was shopping day

There was one shop in Belton. It was very small. On one side was a Post Office on the other canned goods and dried food was sold. The postmistress thought that my sister and I were wonderful as we still spoke with an American accent having not long since been living in Oklahoma.. She would ask us over and over to call...
The toilet....the bathroom
She could not resist us say every oppurtunity..
and so on. nanny did not like all this fuss. We were her English grandchildren now and she found our piroette in the post office "just not the done thing!!!!!". But the post misteress was enchanted and we got candy/sweets by the mothfull. I find this amazing as when I go to the US people love my English accent and ask me to repeat whole sentances over and over...words like gosh and crikey always getting a laugh. No sweets/candy is ever forthcoming. I guess I lost my touch over the years...LOL
The best place to go shopping was Gret Yarmouth. It was a large sea side town with a market.  There are about 1,800 markets in the UK and they all hold the royal seal of some long lost King. So we took the old bus through every small village to get there. This was part of the fun.Nanny knew everyone on that bus ride. Who was pregnant, what difficulties they had, who had work, who was stuggling. Gossip was whispered. As if they thought whispering made it OK LOL
Wednesday was "Big Market" day but we could not go then, because it was ironing day? I asked my Nanny why we went on Thursday, when the market was didn't make sense to me. But I got my answer "Wednesday we mother ironed on a Wednesday and we do to???" Still the market sold vegetables, meat, flowers, eggs all local produce. Nanny was a tyrant with the stall holders. She picked out her produce herself. Turning over apples for bruises and putting them back if they were not good enough. The Rumsby's had a market garden in Belton so we always stopped at their stall. Pat Rumsby had been my mother's bridesmaid. years later we got our little dog Candy from them. They were people we knew, Belton people, so we could trust them.
There were 3 large Department Stores in Great Yarmouth. One of them Palmers was owned by a local is still there. Palmers was posh. Nanny and I took tea there. If you are posh you take tea, you don't drink it. Tea was thought of as a luxury, it was very expensive back in the day. People got together and partook of tea as a ritual in the afternoon. "Shall we take tea now Ninny." I can hear Nanny's voice now. We took tea from a real china pot in real china cups and milk jug. The sugar was always in cubes it was thought declasse to take granulated. take sugar too????. It had to be China tea too. Nanny didn't dring Indian tea it was not for It was too strong. The men drank Indian tea. It was seen as a sign all was well if you had the pennies to take tea in Palmers. All the ladies on the bus were there. We stayed in Palmers longer when it rained or snowed. But the cruel reality was we could not afford to ever eat there. But chips on the market were magic and filled an empty tummy. When I shop in Palmers today I always eat something and remember those days when we were too poor.
But our lunch was on the market cheap and filling. Chips (fries) a great local delicacy. We still say "cheap as chips" The chips were hand cut and thick and cooked in beef fat. They came in newspaper. There were benches and we sat there come rain or shine on benches chowing down on chips. Then played the lady taking tea at Palmers. Hub and I still eat market chips, they are fried in vegetable oil now. When my Uncle Cecil from Oklahoma came to stay, David took him on the bus to have chips on the market. Like it was a real treat. The more things change the more they stay the same.Cecil said it was "neat".
Going home we all compared prices. Who paid the most for fruit. Nanny bought "scrag end of lamb" to make stew and dumplings to feed a huge, ever growing household. But we didn't mention the cheap cuts of meat. That was just not done. By the time we arrived home I had seen so much. The fancy goods in Palmers like leather goods, fancy dresses. NOTHING HAND KNITTED that had belonged to someone else. But I am glad for all that Nanny taught me about making ends meet. I still never throw anything away. it always goes to the charity shop or the church.Nanny lived through 2 world wars when times were tough. She worked in the factories which made guns. She escaped the bombs. Grandad braved the fires pulling people like me and you out of the rubble. they were good people. Salt of the earth. I still hear nanny's voice..."Shall we take tea Ninny?"

Wednesday we ironed

 By Wednesday all the laundry was dry. We did not have a fancy drier. When it was sunny and warm the laundry was pegged out. When it rained the house was full of washing hanging around the fire places. As the steam from the washing rose up, there was the delicious smell of drying cotton sheets. A smell which always takes me back in an instant to my childhood. We had what we called wooden "horses" that the clothes were hung on. This was a chance to check everything which need to be darned. As clothes were passed on from child to child and they had a patchwork of darns. Sometimes if the clothes didn't fit but were just too good to throw away. They had all sorts of uses.Quilting or cut out onto smaller pattern to fit one of us. Anything made of wool was unpicked and made into cardigans or jumpers Nanny reknitted. Bobble hats,or scarves in jolly colours. If it was not recycleable it went to the church for a jumble sale, to raise funds for the church roof..... whick leaked like a sieve!!!!
Nanny carefully taught me to knit, darn and iron. I loved sitting together by the fireplace mending. There was a bond between us as we both knew that what we were doing was, helping everyone keep their money in their pocket. If nanny was busy she "top and tailed" the sheets. Turning them over and updide down to save on laundry. But I will never forget crawling in to clean cotton sheets which smelled of her home made rose or lavender water. This water made the sheets steam as they dried under the hot iron.
I loved these moments together. If when we had enough "puff" to chatter. I loved hearing nanny's storys. Especially about her mother Kasia. Kasia had a trade...going from town to town making baskets for farmers. They stored their crops in the baskets. But like everything nothing was thrown away. If you had a hole in the basket the "basket lady" came once a year and mended them . She had a wagon and a couple of horses. When she got to the farm she was allowed to sleep in the barn. She was jewish from Eastern Europe is all I know.
The worst part of the day was putting away the ironing. Apart from me my sister and our grandad and nanny, we had other members of family staying. Cousin Barbra and her father George. And later my Uncle Darrell and his new Irish wife Elenor. We always called her NannyLane and still do to this day.. She still lives round the corner. Cigarettes, so glamerous then, played havoc with her lungs.She is a big part of my childhood and I love her so much.
That night we were always so tired. But when it was dark outside there was always a roaring fire to sit by and get warm. Grandad Charlie came home for the fish factory and always played with me...his bubbles...for half an hour before Nanny got the meal on the table.
Life was very orderly in those day...Washing Monday, Doctor Tuesday, Ironing wednesday. And you know I still stick to those days today???I wash and change sheets on a Monday????? It just stuck with me. But life had a rythmn and you kept to it and it worked!!!

Tuesday the doctor came

On Tuesday the Dr came.........................

Our hamlet was too small to have it's own Doctor. But there were many farmers and families who lived around Belton who needed to be seen. In those days we lived hand to mouth. Always searching for new ways to make money. My Nanny had the biggest house in the hamlet. So a scheme was cooked up where a phone was to be installed at Rose Villa. Technology arrived in Belton!!!!
Every Tuesday Doctor Deane came in his rolls Royce Silver Cloud. Mrs Deane always came with him. She sat in the front seat of the car and never came into the house. Her face was almost plastered with makeup Her mouth was like a bright red gash and sometimes she had red lipstick on her teeth.She had a white poodle on her knee.I used to take Mrs. Deane a cup of tea in a porcalain cup and saucer with a silver spoon. We gave her an apostle spoon I loved those spoons.She always took out a flask and added "a little drop of something extra" years later I found out Dr. Deane always took his wife along with him because she drank alcohol when she was left alone.Back in the day she was a dancer and was beautiful.It was also my job to put out chairs for the patients in the hallway. Nanny  made everyone mugs of steaming hot fragrant tea. The patients would not have thanked her for a delicate teacup and saucer with an eyeful of tea in it!!!!! This was where the gossip started. Nanny was first to know who was having a baby and who needed help in the house. She often made a big stew and dumplings and cycled off with it to a house where Mum was "off her feet". Feeding the family when dad was ill and out of work.
Dr Deane had 4 children. they all became Doctors. I girl and 3 boys. The youngest was the adopted illigitamate son of his cook/secretary/nurse. he looked just like the other boys....but we loved the family and lips remained sealed.His oldest Tony was a glamerous playboy who rode with the local Hounds. Women fell at his feet. He was called Young Dr. Deane. His middle son William took over his practice when Old Deane no longer practiced. Young Deane prematurely bald had the worst wig ever made and he always had it on back to front.It looked like a ferret on his head. The daughter set up a Posh Swiss Rest home.
Nanny fell for a change of life baby. But she only carried it for 5 months. I was 4-5 then. I remember when she was in pain I called Dr Deane. He told me to put a pillow under her head and a blanket over her. Then boil water in the copper and get out all the towels. By the time Old Doctor Deane arrived she lost the baby. I held her hand and talked to her as she went through her pain. She told me stories of her life in service.  When I was 16 she told me really wanted that baby to replace Rudy. But it was not to be. 
At the end of the day the house went back to normal. Nanny earned a good wage by letting out her house. She also gained good will. Farmers often bought her meat and vegetables and fruit and logs for the fires by way of thanks.It helped a lot in those difficult days. We were poor but there was so much love.

Monday was wash day

Monday was washing/laundry day. It was hard work. On Sunday a huge roast was cooked so there was plenty of left over meat to eat cold or grind up to make a shepards pie. Beef and chicken for cold meat...lamb for a hot meal in the winter.
Nanny was always up early. She wore her old clothes and always a floral pinny. The pinnafore always had pockets for pegs to hang out the clothes. First job strip the sheets from the bed. Sheets were always Egyptian cotton white as snow.They were washed every Monday come hail or shine. We had what was called the a basement. The copper boiler was in the skullery. It was huge and shone brightly in the sunshine. My job was to go to the water pump in the yard and fill up buckets of water. Heavy work. I had long hair....I still have it!!!! It was tied up in plaits or braids so it did not get in the way while I worked.Nanny always put a blue bag or "dolly bag" in the copper.
DOLLY BAGS or BLUE BAGS held a mixture which was like magic. it was a chemical which was in a small muslin bag. It took all the yellow out of the cotton and made the sheets blindingly white. I used to make dolls out of the muslin and sew them up as toys. Putting woolen hair on them and sewing on little faces. Eyes and big mouth with a wide smile. Dolly bags were my friends they all had names...Nanny starched the shirts and collars which were separate then.
I poured the water into the copper to boil. It was an endless task but important no slacking. The skullery filled with smoke. It got into your eyes and it sometimes became so bad you could not see. There was a huge belfast sink and the sheets went into it to be scrubbed on a washboard. Nanny had really strong arms like a builder...she used a scrubbing brush. Her hands were always bright red and chapped from the washing.
When the sheets were clean they went through the "mangle" to get out all excess water. The mangle was 2 big rollers and you fed the sheets between the rollers and the water was squeezed out. Turning the mangle was back breaking work.
Pegging out the washing in the garden was an art. Ladies compared each others whites!!!! It was a matter of pride. The pegs were made of wood. I drew little faces on them. There was an art to careful folding and hanging to catch the breeze. Mrs Warner and Nanny spoke over the fence at pegging out. " Lovely dry out today Aylice". " How is your sister Pegy....sciatica improving?."..." My Ninny got 10 out of 10 for her spelling" Spelling test was Friday. The geese in the garden always came running when we pegged out. I got to feed them.
When the whites were done we started on the colours. Knitted jumpers and cardigans were hand washed.....was there any other kind of washing in those days????? We hung the cardigans and jumpers on pantyhose which we threaded through the sleeves. In those days nothing was wasted.
When clothes were dry Nanny darned. An art which is now rarely seen. She had a wooden mushroom to stretch the fabric. There were always holes in socks. Mine were darned so much the white socks were like rainbows.  Washing took all day. if the clothes dried we bought them in and the ironing started. Often shirts especially cotton were ironed when damp they didn't ever have a crease
Dinner in the evening was cold meat and fries or jacket potatos. Nanny pickled her own onions and red cabbage. Shepards pie was minced lamb with mash on top.Sometimes we has Bubble and Squeak. mash with left over vegetables form the sunday dinner. Cabbage onion carrot greens and mash fried like a corned beef hash. Lovely with pickle. In England it is Bubble and Squeak because it made this noise when fried. Ireland it's called champ and it has scallions in it. Scotland Colcannon. Don't ask me why it's a mystery.
Then monday was bath night. The copper was filled again water boiled then poured into a tin bath. I had a not a real one lol. The bath was in front of the fire and clean pj's hung up from the mantle over the fire. They were so cosy and warm to put on.
Monday night was early night eyeryone exhausted. Country life was hard work. But so rewarding. I guess it was an innocent time.