Saturday 15 August 2009

Memories of Mother

On reading through my diary of 1985 I suddenly realise that my mother's birthday would have been last week. (On the 5th of August.) It was in fact the only year of my life I kept a diary for the whole year. A godsend in view of an autobiographical work I have been writing for some considerable time. Meticulously written in biro, it already seems archaic at the side of our blogging exploits of 2009.
August 5th 1985
'The birthday of Mary Elizabeth Stevens, my mother. An incredible, independent, stubborn, beautiful fighter. What do I remember thirty two years on?
I remember a little, busy woman working, often, almost always working. Preparing school meals, cleaning for the rich, cleaning our home for her pride. I remember shopping in Derby at Cheshires, an old family business, returning usually with 'yellow fish' or pyclets, two favourites that we could ill afford.
I remember a home maybe lacking in the trappings of wealth, but a happy home scrupulously clean. We lived in three different houses until Mary died in 1953. try as I might, only fleeting memories can be retrieved. A cherry lady ornament in a window, cherries held aloft invitingly but never consumed. A Westminster chimes clock, erratic in its timekeeping. A pet cat with an amazing long neck and amusing expression. (Made out of pot.) A black leaded dog, almost certainly a Scottie.
Sweets lovingly made from flour, cocoa and other forgotten ingredients.
Rather secretive visits to her nightwatchman friend, also I recall named Stevens, the nearest Mary came to romance as a hardworking widow and mother of two. Similar secretive visits to Stockbrook Street, home of Ernest Steven's sister Elsie. (Ernest was my mother's husband and died in tragic circumstances in 1942. Stockbrook Street was an area rated lowly in many eyes. This would be particularly so in the eyes of my mother's chapel attending, rather insular family.)
Strange days, long ago days, but happy days nevertheless.'
I honestly believe that all our experiences in life are stored forever in the brain. Whether or not we can retrieve them at will is another matter. A difficulty that inevitably increases with age. All the more reason to commit pen to paper whilst we are still in charge of our faculties. How many childhood memories have you retained for whatever reason. And how many of you have put pen to paper?


Bernard said...

What a lovely way to spell "pyclets".
Of course the spell checker doesn't like it! We had yellow fish and pikelets back in the 40's.
We lived in Bournville and Dad, after demob, worked at Cadburys.
Mom used to make all our sweets as they were still on ration until '53.
The sweets you mention used milk powder, not flour. Mom melted butter and then added dried milk and chocolate powder. When cold they set hard. Sometimes she swapped the chocolate for peppermint essence. We used to roll them into little balls like marbles and then press them flat.
I still have my mothers handwritten recipe book with all these gems still there.

Grumpy Old Ken said...


You pendantic old devil,you! And me an ex-English teacher! Do you know, I've never seen the word spelt before, isn't that strange. Not convinced my mother's sweets were not flour based. we were very poor to say the least. Love your comments every post.

Rosaria Williams said...

Good for you for putting your memories down.

Bernard said...

I thought it was a "local" way of spelling it, not a mistake!
And by the way, I forgot the Golden Syrup in the sweets.
PS I only passed O level English at the third attempt!
In those days you had to have it to go to university.

Valerie said...

Grand memories! Maybe you and Kippers Dickie could settle an argument: are muffins the same as pikelets?

Grumpy Old Ken said...

I must admit I never heard the word muffin used in conjunction with food here in Derby so maybe they are one and the same thing depending on where you live. (Though muffins in the dictionary seems to refer to 'bready' products with a German connection and pikelets seem to have a Welsh/West Midlands connection.) Crumpets, yes?
When I was a boy Muffin had rude connotations seemingly to do with Muffin the Mule but we won't go into that!

I bet a cook would have the definitive answer. Any takers?

Lakeland Jo said...

I used to buy pikelets at M and S- not sure if they still do them

Bernard said...

A challenge from Valerie, Ken.
Well, I have done a bit on sweeties today.
So will study all about 'bits of crumpet', and muffins and prepare a response

Valerie said...

I can't wait for the result of the investigation. It's seems like a location variation, I'm West Midlands so I claim the pikelets, hubby comes from up North and he calls them muffins. I seem to remember that muffins and crumpets both had rude connotations.

VioletSky said...

Had to look up "pikelets" - and found it is an "Aussie & Kiwi treat", some type of sweetened pancake.

But ... I fear blogging has replaced my journaling. I used to keep an almost daily diary for many years, and I still miss it.

My memory of my childhood is unfortunately very spotty. I found an old diary I kept as a teenager - and finally threw it out as I didn't recognize most of the initials I had used and and the entries so erratic as to be almost useless to follow. I do wish I had been a better writer back then.

I am amazed at your memory.

Bernard said...

The "Muffin Post" is now up on,
Ken, Valerie, Jo and Violet.

Shammickite said...

I have never heard of pikelets or pycelets, but I have heard of muffins.... here in Canada muffins are a small bready sort of cupcake, often eaten for breakfast.
And don't get me started about toasted crunmpets....

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Great piece. You seem to like research. How about twitchell, gennel and jitty. (spelling may vary)

Thanks for the visit and comments

Grumpy Old Ken said...


You really started something there. Great!

Interesting. I was also a fan of Little Miss Muffet junkets but you are far too young to remember them!


Was your diary full of 'secret' astarisks that always bring back memories!


I can guess food is high on your list of favourite things!

Colette McCormick said...

Wonderful post ken. I remember the pikelet man used to come around every Saturday afternoon selling pikelets out of the basket of his bike. I haven't thought about him for years. Thanks for reminding me.

Valerie said...

I think it was Kippers Dickie who started it, but it's fun to have an ongoing discussion. It certainly keeps people coming back to your site to put in their four-penn'eth. Okay here's another one, how do you spell the abbreviation of four-pennyworth?