Sunday, 1 May 2011

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow.

I have long been concerned with an autobiographical work, hopefully to be finished this year concerning life in the late forties and fifties. (I was born in 1939.) The following is a rough copy of the epilogue. Can you relate to what is almost a list of the period? How many memories can you add that hide in the recesses of my mind? I appreciate it is in a way a very 'British' list, but you all must have your memories, be you young, not so young and those of my readers who are indeed 'quite old!

Remember the past, enjoy the present, cherish the future.

It is often the more subtle, little things in life that indicate the passing of time, ‘the way it was.’
Whatever happened to Spangles, where and when did they go? And the blue bags in crisps or trolley buses complete with poles. Buying shoes entailed having your feet x-rayed, not to be recommended, but an innocuous event at the time. Less aggressive, better mannered times, when AA men saluted and all stood up diligently in the cinema when the National Anthem played. Plus the audience probably knew all the words of ‘God Save the Queen’. Pac a macs, Blakeys and packets of five Woodbines. When cars had side indicators, most goods you bought were marked ‘Made in Britain and the upstairs on double-decked buses were full of smokers.
Change is subtle and sometimes is only remembered in retrospect. How many, myself included remember mother holding us firmly, spitting on a hanky and rubbing furiously inside our ears, painful and humiliating if friends were present!
Gone forever the days when breaks between television programmes meant interludes that fascinated almost as much as the programmes themselves. The potter’s wheel and the pot that was never to be completed; the little white kitten that played forever; plus the soothing effects of Angel Fish or windmills; and my particular favourite, the ploughman and his horse, ploughing for eternity. Jimmy Clitheroe was on the radio on Sunday evenings TV and ‘Sing Something Simple’ was on the radio, or wireless as it was called by many. Small mainly unimportant changes but evidence of transition nevertheless.
I remember black jack fruit salads, Pontefract cakes, sticks of liquorice and the grapes in Carnation and tapioca puddings. Bread and dripping, deliciously salty and cod liver oil plus malt extract spooned out with regular monotony. Spam, which stood for Supply Presses American Meat, yellow fish, Little Miss Muffet junkets and dandelion and burdock delivered by lorry once a week. Where did they all go, and perhaps more important, when?
Spanish root that dribbled disgustedly down your chin, sticks of real, jet black liquorish sticks, a magical laxative.
I remember the days when ‘No spitting’ signs were commonplace, particularly on public transport. So much so that a ‘clever dick’ in a local newspaper was moved to pontificate ‘Gentlemen who expectorate should not expect to rate as gentlemen’.

Memories of trains with a unique smell that blew out soot, real soot. Times when you wore socks not gloves on your hands to keep out the cold. Coats on the bed for added warmth in winter and going to bed in daylight in summer. Omo and Ajax washing powder, Robin starch, Izal toilet paper for the posh and squares of newspaper on a nail for the not so well off. Beecham Powders, Venos Cough Mixture and Iodine; dolly tubs, tin baths and steam, always plenty of steam. Visits from the ‘Pru’ and the ‘tallyman’, both eager to collect money hard earned but easily spent
The days when you had a choice of mild or bitter in the pub. Dark mild to be avoided as the slops of other beers tended to be surreptitiously returned to the mild barrel by some unscrupulous landlords.

I Spy Books, fuzzy felts and basin on your head haircuts; Beecham Pills, Cossor and HMV televisions, Vapex inhalers and Liberty bodices; Zal, Rinso and Quix. Elastoplast and SR toothpaste. Sunlight Soap and Opal Fruits,
Crimpolene, Dacron, drip dry shirts, brothel creepers and bootlace ties.
Roy of the Rovers, goal scorer extraordinaire and Alf Tupper, world class sprinter who trained on fish and chips. Brown paper bags and kites made from newspaper. Plus scrap books, French knitting with the aid of a wooden bobbin and honing one’s tracing skills with the aid of greaseproof paper. Epilogues on the television. Bob a Job Week, bubble cars and Berni Inns. Tiger nuts, locust beans and gob-stoppers that changed colours. Formica, drip dry shirts and H-shaped television aerials dominating the landscape. Lone Ranger masks in puffed wheat packets. Skiffle and the smell of Germicide toilet paper. and collecting BRS lorry numbers. Bus conductors, Sunday dinner with Cliff Michelmore and Jean Metcalfe. Sunday evening and the soothing melodies of ‘Sing Something Simple’ with Cliff Adams.

Summers when it never seemed to rain for weeks on end and winters when snow fell with regular abandon, especially at Christmas.
Our bikes had poor brakes, our sledges no brakes plus we wore no helmets. We climbed trees, slowly and fell out of them quickly. We drank from wells, streams and public fountains and we shared luke warm water with numerous friends from far from clean bottles. We drank cows milk fresh and unpasteurised. We chewed all manner of grasses, bulbs and plants, some species known, others guessed at. We roamed the fields and barbed wire and nettles frequently inflicting pain but soon forgotten.
But the majority of us survived. Happy days! Look back and wonder but look forward too, for it’s not over yet. I'll let Mary have the last word!


Valerie said...

I sailed through the years reading this, Ken, but I couldn't get Mary to speak or sing or whatever she was doing behind a black screen. Had to smile at the spitting on the handkerchief to clean our ears. My Mom went one better, she did it on the bus whilst saying in a loud voice 'Did you clean your teeth today. Open up, let me see.' I would die with embarrassment every time.

sleepinl8 said...

Same problem as Valerie here. But a lovely post anyway - I will be looking forward to reading the finished copy!This post kind of reminds me of "We Didn't Start the Fire"...

Rosalind Adam said...

Lovely. And what about those small coloured bus tickets, rainbow sherbert in a bag that was made from a twist of paper, belisha beacons and the rag and bone man with his horse and cart.

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Thank you ladies, please try again!

Ruth said...

Greengrocers and getting pocket money every Saturday; rushing out to spend it on sweets. Wringer washing machine being delivered weekly so Mom could do the wash and hang it out. Boiling whites in a big pot on the stove. Riding public buses to school with a huge satchel bulging with books. Home visits from the doctor when you were sick. Hot toddies for a bad cold - hated the taste but didn't care how bad I felt once I drank it!

quilterliz said...

G'day Ken. That sure brought back a few memories for me. The bread and dripping was a favourite as I was growing up. I can still remember what it tasted like, though it's been many, many years since I've had it. We used to get our milk delivered by the milkman every day and the sanitary truck would come once a week or so and empty our outside toilet pan. I can remember a door to door salesman trying to get my mother to buy a vacuum cleaner and another one that used to come around selling a product called Rawleigh's Salve and other products in their range.Licorice that used to come in long straps was a favourite of mine.They are good memories. Times really have changed Ken. Take care...

Maggie May said...

What about having Vick rubbed on your chest covered by some flannelette when you had a bad cough?

The conductresses who carried an oblong container with little square tickets inside in bright colours? These were punched when you bought them.

Crossing the school playground to get to the outside toilets?

Going off to play in the morning and coming back home only when you were hungry?

Mangles & dolly tubs, dolly blue, Robin starch, harassed mother on a wash day?

I remembered all the things you wrote about and it brought back a kind of nostalgia.
Maggie X

Nuts in May

Saz said...

love nostalgia and the warm fuzzy feeling it brings...

thanks ken

saz x

Brasil said...

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Rock Chef said...

That is great. It is important to get these things written down - TV shows find it too easy to change things and what we think is safe for posterity often isn't!

I remember some of that stuff too - never got to grips with French Knitting - I was still waiting for mine to clear the end of the bobbin when my brother had one you could trip over!

The bike shed said...

Yes, those were the days. Nice nostalgia

Stranger in a Strange Land said...

I was born in 1967 and remember lots of it so it was still around in the early 70's.
Outdoor loos and carbolic soap and those shaving brushes and cut throat razors at my Granddad's house - the coal shed that had doubled as a shelter...

CatCat said...

"Remember the past, enjoy the present, cherish the future."

This adage is absolutely correct to say that we must remember the past, since it is always related to our present. Memories built before will always be in use today as well as in the future. Gives me an idea to make a blog with regards to my memorable experiences, and the things I don't want to forget, but eventually I will forget in due time.

Thanks for sharing,
Cathy@online scrubs