Saturday, 23 January 2010

In every family - a story

I was looking through some old photographs and wanted to share these with you. Although I was brought up in suburban Essex I always feel a country girl at heart and that is because for most of my childhood I spent many school holidays with my Norfolk grandparents.

This picture always shocks me - my grandfather is wearing his working clothes and what a life he led. He was a WW1 soldier and returned to Norfolk to work on the land and sea. He would be away for long stretches when my mother was young in  Lowestoft  working on the drifters fishing for herring, then he would work in the sugar beet factory. He used to work repairing the roads and  at harvest whatever was required. Picking potatoes was another job and hoeing fields. I can remember him working on the the harvest and in his later years on the local estate feeding and caring for the young pheasants which were being reared by broody hens in coops in the wood. We used to take him his lunch which was often a lemonade bottle of cold sweet tea, a 'door step' of bread, and chunk of cheese and a raw Spanish onion.  He used to pare bits off with his penknife to eat. My poor old Grandmother was crippled with arthritis but she loved to have us to stay. 

Here she is with my baby sister and me in front of the 'shed' which was the coal store and and also had the boiler in it for doing the laundry, although I cannot remember it being used. 'Round the back' was the privy - quite a trek once it got dark! Outside the back door was the pump and water for the laundry would have to be pumped up and carried to the boiler. Luckily the Co-op mobile shop also did a laundry service so she did not have to slave over hand-washing bedclothes - what a life! Although my Grandmother died in her seventies my Grandfather lived on, on his own for many years.
Here is a photograph of my Mum giving him a hair cut in front of the same shed in 1980 when my grandfather was 90! He still had an excellent head of hair!

He still had the pump for his water and the privy was still 'round the back' although at this time he had a 'home help'. Every Sunday, his neighbour, a chicken farmer would send his two children round with a hot roast chicken dinner - and I can still hear my Granddad grumbling in his almost undecipherable Norfolk accent that a bit of beef would be nice for a change!! He finally had to succumb and moved into the local nursing home where he lived until he was 93. He had had more than one heart attack, and had bad stomach ulcers, but he was a strong man and as tough as his old boots -or 'high-lows' as he used to call them. I wish I had a gift for words to record the many wonderful memories I have of my grandparents' cottage which was a time capsule. I can see it so vividly, I am sure you have similar memories, I hope you've enjoyed mine.


Anonymous said...

From your grown up little sister-

Ah, Jill, such memories - funny thing is I showed a friend of mine the very same photos today. I think it was triggered by that photo of us on the beach, in our shirring elastic swimming costumes!

sis x x

marigold jam said...

Yes indeed - I think we should treasure these memories of a different way of life - what a hard time people had back then didn't they? You do have a gift for words so let's have more of your memories occasionally after all blogs are a record of life and life is a mixture of memories and crafting and daily doings isn't it. I certainly intend to add more of my memories if other bloggers don't mind!


Printed Material said...

This is a very evocative post telling of a time gone by. The phrase 'they don't nake them like that any more' springs to mind but our grandparents knew nothing else so the hardships we think they suffered were the everyday things of life to them. This reminded me of mine and the outside privy with Izal toilet paper and the red carbolic soap that was all over the house. If I close my eyes I can still summon up the smell.... Lesley

sea-blue-sky & abstracts said...

Yes, Jill, thanks I have really enjoyed your memories and accompanying photos. All to be treasured. Best wishes, Lesley

Sandra Hall said...

Jill, there is nothing I love more than the privilege of sharing someone elses' memories! Its precious. They are part of who we are. Thank you for letting us 'in'.
x x

Menopausal musing said...

Oh wow! I adore old photos like these. I am posting some tomorrow. Having read the comment re swimming costumes, I have searched and searched for mine of me in a shirring elastic one but think my brother must have it. I am so pleased old photos survive.....

Kate said...

Those photos are wonderful. I love the first photo of your Grandparents. Grandma's dress would be just right today, but unfortunately you couldn't say the same about Grandpa's trousers! Such memories, I do love hearing about times gone by.

WrightStuff said...

Lovely memories you shared Jill - sharing keeps them alive.

Lizzie said...

Those are fabulous photographs - the sort to be stored carefully, with a note to say what they show, who they show, where they were taken... so your children and grandchildren can look at them and wonder.
I remember our downstairs loo - we were lucky that it was attached to the house and accessible via the kitchen. It had a wooden seat and a long pull-chain. My own first house also had an outside loo, but we preferred to run upstairs to the bathroom!
A friend's parents lived in a little cottage in Suffolk, with no heating or double glazing etc. Mrs B. did her washing in an old copper, til we gave her my old freestanding washing machine and spin-dryer, when I moved to a house with an automatic plumbed in! She slept with her window open, all year round and never seemed to feel cold. Her kitchen had an electric cooker, an old china sink with an enamel drainer and one of those electric water-heaters above it. The bath was in the kitchen and she kept a piece of hardboard on top, to use as a work surface. If she took a bath, we all had to visit the loo first (her husband build a loo attached to the kitchen a few years before I knew them - before that it was "down the garden"). She'd lock the back door and close the curtains, tell us not to disturb her and disappear into the steam-filled kitchen, to fill the bath from her old copper that stood under the draining board. She preferred to have a bath when we visited, in case she got stuck and needed rescuing!
I last saw her about 15 years ago. Don't know if she's still about - she would be over 90 now - but I suspect she no longer lives there. The landlady probably sold the cottage and perhaps the garden was used as a building plot, as it was pretty big.
It's sad in a way, that we have lost some of the old way of life, but we are so lucky with our homes and our gadgets, which my friend's mother never had.

Meggie said...

What a lovely post! I so enjoyed reading. Your way with words seems quite gifted to me. You should write more of these memories.