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.