Tuesday, 29 January 2013

I'm Ninety Nine You Know.

Much of my time is spent writing. At the moment I am involved in writing four short, non too serious plays; I am on number four. I am not even sure as to why I am doing this. This play is based on my grandmother who died in her ninety nineth year.
Any comments and 'what happens next' welcome. At the back of my mind the idea of plays of mine being performed on stage greatly appeals; I can but dream. (The photo is of my grandmother and wife in our courtship days. We have been married just short of forty three happy years!)

“There are so few who can grow old with a good grace.”
- Sir Richard Steele, 1672-1729

                          I’m Ninety Nine You Know
Scene set in an old fashioned country cottage. An old lady sits in an armchair. She is knitting and hums to herself. She wears a shawl over a cardigan and woollen dress, She has on long woollen stockings, black lace up shoes and horned rimmed spectacles.
NOTE             The whole play can be EITHER acted out as a monologue OR as a play with a second actor, in which case the second actor is a young reporter in a business suite.

Come in. I heard you knocking. The old eyes may be a bit rheumy but me ears still work. I’m not too bad, thank you, all things considered.
Sit down and we’ll have a cup of tea. Now what is it you want to know?

Old? I suppose I am. And you want to know what I can remember about my life? I don’t know about that but I’ll try.

I were born in 1906, it seems a long time ago. I don’t remember much as a little girl though I remember everyone being excited when a great big ship were lost first time out. Terrible it were, all those people drowned. What were it called, Gigantic, or Colossal, something like that.

School were all right, but strict. A slate and some chalk in the infants, a real pen and ink in the seniors.
The boys had plenty of rulers on the knuckles, but we girls were usually spared that. The three ‘R’s were what we did most, Reading, Riting and Rithmetic. And we learnt about the Empire. It weren’t just lessons you remember. Hop Scotch, marbles and ‘What time is it Mr Wolf?’ were great. Plus skipping games. How did it go? ‘Salt, vinegar, mustard, PEPPER!’
Happy days.

Went into service at the big house. Seven shillings a week living in. Up at six, black-leaded the stove, polished the brasses, made the beds, washing, ironing, never stopped ‘til bedtime. Allowed two hours off on Wednesday afternoon, we loved that. Went back home on Sundays and gave me mam and dad me wages. Were allowed to keep sixpence for myself.

The Big War, yes I remember The Big War. The first Big War. So many men in the village never came back, God rest their souls. I remember thinking, it’s always men that cause wars. If it were up to women to decide, they’d be no wars. I remember some women trying to get women the vote. Chained them selves to railings they did, and one threw herself under a horse. What was her name, Mrs Sandhurst, Mrs Panhurt, something like that. I thought she were very brave, though I daren’t say so. Dad wouldn’t have liked that.

Dad believed everyone one had his place in life, women included. Mind you, he had his standards and he kept to them. He would proudly walk our mother to chapel, twice of a Sunday, in their Sunday best. Mind you, if it started to rain dad would take his cap off and put it in his pocket.
Why did he do that? Well, there were no way he were going to sit in the house all night with a wet cap on!

Married, yes I married Baxter when I were twenty three. A fine, God fearing man were Baxter. Hardworking, he were, a plumber, and a painter, and a sign writer, plus he were the village lamplighter. I don’t know where he got his energy from. Mind you, it couldn’t have done him no harm ‘cause we had eight children! Nine if you count the little one buried in the chapel yard, poor mite. Six weeks old, that’s all. All that time ago and I still think about her. And I took on our Barbara’s baby when she died.
Only four weeks old it were. It were a hard life but what else could you do? The doctor had strong words with Baxter when I had me fifth. I weren’t very well at all. Plus the fact that money were scarce, no child allowances in them days.
“If she has any more, it may well kill her,” Baxter were told. But he were having none of it. “If the Lord sends them, we’ll provide for them,” were Baxter’s answer. And that were that.

Let me get us both that cup of tea and we’ll talk while I’m making it.
Why am I cutting up the tea bags?
‘Cause I can’t be doing with putting bags of tea into the cup. It don’t seem right to me. The only thing I reckon you dunk into a cup of tea is a nice Rich Tea biscuit. How many sugars?
No sugar? I don’t know how you young ones survive, I really don’t. Too many fads today, if you ask me. We used to live on bread and dripping and plenty of fatty bacon. Didn’t do us any harm. There you are love, Now where were we?

What do I remember most?
I remember The Second War. I remember thinking, here we go again! All those young men, what a waste! Two of my brothers went and both came back; many didn’t. Hard times once more. Men getting us in trouble again. They never learn!

Politicians? Had enough of them. If it’s not war it’s womanising. I used to like Lloyd George until he found too much time for the ladies. That Major man were just the same. At his age too! Ought to have known better! At least this other fellow seems to look after his wife. What’s his name? Bloor? No, Blair, that’s it, Lionel Blair.

I remember how many things there were for you to catch. Ringworm and impetigo, measles, mumps and chicken pox. If you didn’t get one you got the other. And some children had rickets, poor things. Mind you, everyone had nits, but you didn’t die from nits. Now scarlet fever, whooping cough, and diphtheria, they were really horrible. Chapel yard’s full of children who didn’t make it to five.
What did you say, were it all bad in the old days?
Like I said it were hard, certainly but we were happy as well.
Bath nights were funniest, the old tin bath in front of the fire. The water were filthy by the time it were your turn if you were youngest. And you had to remember to get out on the fire side if you wanted to keep warm.
Fetching the accumulator from the shop for the wireless. Listening to Donald Peers and Joseph Locke, they weren’t half smashing. And Vic Oliver and Rob Wilton. How we laughed!
There were no televisions in them days. I never had one until the children grew up and bought me one. I liked it in a way but I were never sure of them, what do you call them, channels. I used to wait for the children to come and change them. It used to say sometimes ‘Normal Service will be Resumed as soon as Possible’ I often wondered if it were just mine or if next door were the same.

Things in the old days were made really well, made to last you might say. Some of the modern stuff’s rubbish! My children try to make me modern but its too late. They put all my food in containers, Tupper something they called it. I put some in the oven and you should have seen the mess. And the smell, I’m sure it were intoxic. Is that the word? I heard a man say it on the wireless. Mind you, my children didn’t half shout at me when I put the ashes from the fire in a bucket they bought me. I took them out to the bin in the yard but only me and the bucket arrived. The trail of burning ashes nearly set the house on fire. Rubbish, this modern stuff, plastic do they call it? What’s the matter with good old-fashioned tin?

How do I pass the time at my age?

I still gets to chapel of a Sunday and I read, though me eyes aren’t what they were.
What do I read?
Not the papers, that’s for sure. Can’t be doing with them. Full of rude pictures and bad language! I reads me Bible every day. My daughter says I’m studying for me finals. In a way she might be right. Dad’s long since gone and so has Baxter. But they’re both up there waiting for me, that’s for sure.
I have a nap in the afternoon and a little tot of whisky at night. For medicinal purposes of course! I signed The Pledge when I were eighteen, but I’m sure a little to help my constitution don’t count. Would you like to join me?
You’ve got to go. Well thank you for coming.
And will you come back next year when I get me letter from the Queen. I’m ninety-
nine you know. It’s still Victoria, isn’t it?
I’m only joking, my dear, I may be old but I’m not senile yet!


Nota Bene said...

That's a lovely read that is...really quite heart-warming

the fly in the web said...

That was lovely.
Thank you.

Melinda said...

That was just delightful!! Keep writing, and share more.

Star said...

What a lovely way to remember your Grandma!

Valerie said...

That was most enjoyable, Ken. In fact, it was so good I am seeking permission to read it at my WI. The ladies would love it. I hope you will say yes.

Anonymous said...

That was great. I'm only 75 but I remember all those things. I recently bought a pull-along hand painted wooden train for a small member of the family and my niece said "Couldn't you get a proper plastic one then?".

My old dad used to begin every other sentence with "During the whaher (war), when I was a lad, it were all fields round here" whenever he visited me and t'wife in our new house (built in 1970).

Anonymous said...

....and my old gran used to say:

"When I die,
Please do not cry,
for I will leave you riches,
A knife, a fork,
A cabbage stalk,
and a pair of mouldy breeches".

She never did, thank God!

Jay of The Depp Effect said...

I did enjoy reading that! Sounds just like an old lady, set in her ways, not quite catching on to the modern stuff. Remembers long ago better than last week. Sweet story!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bitchy said...

My family does not have that kind of longevity but it sure did remind me of conversations I had with my grandmother before she past. Learned things I never would have thought of. Same with this, funny how one person can change how you might think about some thing.
Love the bit about the plastic on the stove...Truely priceless!

rhymeswithplague said...

First off, Ken, you ought to delete that comment from "Anonymous" -- it just clutters up your lovely blog.

What a wonderful piece you have written based on your Gram. And it's wonderful also that you and your wife have been married for forty-three happy years. Forty-three out of fifty-two ain't bad! (I'm being silly.)

My grandfather lived to be 96 and was active and alert up to the end. Played his violin every night after supper, walked to the library and the dry cleaners each week, taught a Puerto Rican maid how to speak English, stuff like that. I want to be just like him except not die so young.

I think my two most recent posts might tickle your fancy.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Grumpy Old Ken said...

To all of you thanks equally.
I have had a go at moving to anonymous comments, will try again but my technical skills are sad!
Love the idea of others coming to know grannie. Little education yet her influence is far greater than mine. Very humbling.

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