Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Left, right or in-between?

King George 6 was left handed

My mother was born in 1910 January 21st one of thirteen siblings, brothers and sisters. It seems she had a disability (a curse back in the old days) she was left handed!

There were all sorts of superstitions about being left handed. Her mother had enough to worry about bringing up a bakers dozen, so it wasn't really a problem for Amelia Alice (Mothers name) no one seemed to notice she had this affliction until she started school, her first day must have been traumatic. When it was noticed she wasn't writing on her slate with her right hand the action was to have her left hand tied behind her back during classes, which must have been more than uncomfortable, but over time she got used to the routine and coped quite well, actually she was able to use both hands to write with no effort at all.

Even King George 6 was beaten and food taken by His Nanny because he was left handed!

 As soon as I was old enough to use my hands apparently I used my left hand, but, thank goodness there wasn't a stigma by then. The only thing Mum worried about was table manners, using the knife and fork the way right-handers did, right hand with the knife and left hand with the fork. I was quite proud of myself to achieve that little drill.

Left hander writing this Blog! 
My biggest fear was meeting people that were new to me especially when my Aunt Olga took me out for a treat and introduced me to a friend or neighbour. I would cringe slightly backing behind her when she would say, “Barbara shake hands with the lady and say pleased to meet you”.  My mind would go blank and out would shoot my left hand. Always my Aunt apologized and say in a whisper, “She's left handed you know, but she'll grow out of it. Won't you dear!” If she only knew what was in my mind at the time, as a 6 or 7 year old I had heard a few swear words, but always smiled sweetly saying, “Oh yes I will learn.”

My son, a left hander painting
See his work
I think the only time people. notice left-handers especially in women is when using a knife to cut or peel vegetables, or  when I crochet or sew with a needle, they seem to have a sort of fascination watching and not connecting to the fact that it's my left hand!

Left-handedness has now become acceptable thank goodness, my son is left handed and a grandchild too. I wonder why it seems to be handed down through the generations? Perhaps it's a missing link.


Saturday, January 22, 2011

From Chamber Pot to Porta Potty

The Chamber Pot  Photo by James Birket /

When I was a kid we lived in a house where the inside toilet was a small pot under the bed, the famous Chamber Pot. This required  a lot of skill when used in the darkness of night, especially in the blackouts during the war. Actually I think use of the pot needed more luck than skill!

Then there was the disposal the morning after, the ultimate chore, needing a steady hand and an insensitive nose.

We did have an  outside toilet, it had  a wooden seat, paper made from the Radio Times and  a long chain for the  flush. It didn’t need an exhaust fan, the gap over and under the door sufficed. No sink though, I don’t think I washed my hands till I was 12!

The domes building is an Outside Urinal in Preston
 photo by Preston Digital archives
Public toilets were readily available in Preston, Lancashire  were I was born. Throughout town there were several Urinals standing in the middle of the road, these were built out of elaborately scrolled wrought iron, the Victorians made everything with style. They were circular in design and you entered as if into a maze. The inside of the outer wall was tiled and had a lovely trough at the bottom which drained away the waste. The place was well ventilated.
Again no hand washing facility.

In the centre of Preston
Photo be Tony Worrall
In the center town  was a magnificent “Loo”, again Victorian, wrought iron, but this one had stairs  going down,  one for “Men” and one for “Ladies“. The “Mens” had the typical urinal,  a sink for hand washing, and cubicles with doors for privacy.

It is from these cubicles that the term “Spend a Penny” came from because you had to push a penny into a slot to unlock the door, nothing for free in those days.

I have heard many a genteel lady arise from her comfy sofa saying “Excuse me, I must spend a penny”, much more dignified than “I need the Loo! Or WC or Bog.

Nowadays things have improved for the better, no fumbling for the pot under the bed, now we can breeze into the on-suite and after wash our hands in warm water and soft soap.

There are very few public toilets nowadays, but  we do have the wonderful Porta Potties, which I’m pleased to see are now offering hand washing facilities, and ,  in an emergency, one can always nip into a Fast food stop!

I’ll talk about bathing another time!


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Pens pencils versus ------ IPad & Computers

A dying craft

Being in my age group I teeter between using a pen and an I Pad. the old way is like the an ancient craft compared to the new technology, these devices don't require to look in a dictionary just touch the screen and up pops the correct spelling, like magic.

The schools we attended had rows of single desks complete with an ink well filled with dark blue ink and we were supplied a wooden handled pen with a nib, (God that does sounds archaic) and  a spanking new writing book. I was always excited opening to the first page dipping the pen into the ink to start a composition thinking to myself this will be the tidiest writing in this class (it never was!) There was a certain standard to be followed and penmanship was judged as part of the mark you got for your work.

Now a days it's very different everything is done at top speed spell check available and not a worry about blotting your copy book or ruining your nib! The only thing that I have been thinking is our grandchildren don't get the time to enjoy the experience to sit back and look at their own thoughts written by their own hand. It is a craft that is dying.
OMG a learning curve here,,, LOL

Learning a new craft as I write with my I Pad, I have yet to learn the new spelling format of shortening the words such as L O L OMG etc is there a spell check?

I'm not complaining about the new way of communicating, it helps me  to keep in touch with folks back in U.K. on almost an every day basis if required, but, I still miss an envelope in the mail that isn't a bill to pay or a bundle of advertising you don't need.

The old  habits die hard though I still keep a journal and use a ball point pen, and  even though I have a collection of fountain pens, I have no Ink, I'll have to correct that….
 L O L.

Any opinions out there?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Photography: Then & Now

My Sister wrote to me the other day saying “Wouldn’t Dad enjoy the new technology” she was commenting on our Blog and the fact that Dad loved writing, but especially photography.

From Grandad's collection from the Boer War.
Whether he took these or not I don't know
He picked up his camera skills from his Dad, who had picked up his love of photography during the Boer war, passed the knowledge onto son Cyril and between them from the 1930s to the 1950;s they experimented with both still and movies and then let me participate.

One of my early memories of Dad was me lying in bed at the age of  4 while in a corner of the room there was a Dark room set up, red light, enlarger, developing trays and bottles of chemicals, and the silhouette of a man concentrating and probably taking time out from the War.
Dad's plate camera a Butcher & Sons 

When my sisters came on the scene (my mother was never pregnant babies just appeared overnight) the bed room started to fill, so Cyril made himself  a dark room in the cupboard under the stairs.

Later when he taught me the magic tricks of the Dark Room I realized that his enlarger had been made out of old tin cans, cast iron pipes and other bits of scrap.

He set up a backdrop in the living room, made himself a pair of flood lights and took portraits of his family.

Vest Pocket Brownie,
the original is now in Lake Windermere
He used a small plate camera using glass plates developed individually by eye under a very dull red light, and then printed onto Printing Out Paper (POP) a method using a frame to hold the negative and paper together leaving the setup outdoors to expose for several minutes until  an image appeared on the paper which needed chemically fixing if you wanted to preserve it

His first camera had been a Vest Pocket Brownie, which was about the same size of these cell phones that young girls carry everywhere, nowadays so quite compact.

He often told the story of how the camera ended up in Lake Windermere, they were out on a row boat, my Mum was taking pictures when Dad asked her to pass the camera, she tossed it, it spun through the air fell with a plop into the lake where it still is to this day.

Later he advanced to 35mm , and in the early sixties we worked together shooting weddings he did the accounting and bookings, we both did the shooting and I did the darkroom work and album assemblies. We did quite well till I emigrated to Canada, but that is another story.

The magic of the darkroom
From Negative...
When I bought my first digital camera in 2002 the first thing I thought of was how my Dad would have loved the thing , the ability to shoot as much as you want, to see instant results, to do processing on a computer instead of the claustrophobic darkroom, and most of all the ease of sharing your creations.

As we do with this Blog

Family Picture 1946

... to positve

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sister's & Mum

Jo & me then
Having emigrated in 1970 with a young family I didn't understand looking back in hindsight, the enormous change that would be in front of us, especially when it came to leaving family and friends behind.

My sister Jo (Josephine) had moved with her husband to London to start a business Mum going later to live with them. We had a small family just me and my sister, almost 5 years apart in age. We were close at times during our younger lives, me being the oldest, responsible for taking Jo to the library or the odd shopping for errands. My job was to get across the road safely at the Belisha Beacons and get us both home in one piece.
However I did let Mum down once by leaving my sister at the park! I had to run all the way back to find her, luckily she was train spotting and wasn't too worried about my absence.

Mum encouraged us in our hobbies keeping a ready supply of pencils crayons and paints with any scraps of paper she could lay her hands on, and a real delight, let us have coloured plasticine to make pretend cakes. She encouraged us to make plaster of Paris plaques which when dry we could paint with pictures ready to hang proudly on any wall available.

Occasionally, one of our special treats, usually on a Sunday, Mum would give us the left over bits of pastry, we rolled it out so many time it became a disgusting grayish colour, she wouldn't blink an eye would put strawberry jam on and cook it!

All this would play a big part in our adulthood.

The three thousand mile distance between us, didn't make too much difference to me at the time we corresponded spasmodically, a few quick visits across the pond, both of us getting on with our lives and bringing up kids, the time really flashed by.

Then  after a trip back in 2009 due to the death of our father I spent 7 incredible weeks alone with my sister. I think we never stopped talking except to sleep or eat. The most cathartic and pleasurable thing that could have happened to two sisters. Best of all we have found that we have so much in common and have become not only sisters but best friends.

Jo & me now
Last year she stayed with us for a month, poor John thought he would have gone nuts but, to our surprise we turned out to be like the three stooges having many laughs, and good times together.

Mum had been what they called “in service” for an old established family and worked her way up to cook where she had the best of ingredients to work with. Good Old Mrs Beaton and her famous cook book still tucked away in a cupboard, she was Mothers mentor along with the Daily Telegraph Tome 'Everything Within'. “that is all you need” she said! I guess that's how mothers were back then.

Both of us now understand her influence. she gave us the fun and the joy of cooking, baking and good food  luckily we were able to follow in her footsteps, in a small way.
And now, not too late, we both understand exactly what she was all about.

Thanks Mum!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Blackpool & the Beatles

Enjoying a rare day in the sun in 1963

There we were in 1963 on Blackpool beach with Janet, Gillian & John (Paul came next year), everybody was just lazing around enjoying the one day of Lancashire sun, a rarity in those days.

The kids built sand castles and we all paddled in the sea, younger people in swim suites (costumes as they were called then ) and older men in suites and ties and ladies with long heavy skirts.

Some even wore a knotted handkerchief on their head to keep off the sun.

Gillian & John building a huge sandcastle
Suddenly the volume on hundreds of portable radios was cranked up and a sound I’ll never forget the Local lads from Liverpool singing “Please please me”. Almost everybody joined in accompanying the Beatles who just the year before had started to become famous.

Later we bought the kids a toffee apple each to keep them happy on the train journey home, toffee apples that later stuck to my shirt as the kids fell asleep on my lap.
Janet in the sea
Happy memories

That was then, but could the scene on the beach happen now? Modern technology has separated everyone with earphones and Ipods, and constant texting.
Radio programs then were multigenerational now everything is specialised to age.

Sad that!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Idiosyncrasies & Frugality

Butter stock

I've often thought that we carry a lot of unnecessary baggage around this stays with us from childhood to dotage, even though I try hard to solve these niggling hiccups in my life.

J the man in my life has a great amount of patience with me. I have a phobia if I don't have a pound of butter in the fridge I feel uneasy I will definitely need it soon, that goes for tins of peaches ,evaporated milk and secret cans of salmon they are must haves just in case!
It has been with me for many years and I think I can blame my dear departed Mother. When rationing had come to an end Mum was as free as a bird waiting to go to the grocery store to buy a piece of butter cut from a big block and passing the margarine mumbling that stuff has no taste.
Her love of real food as she used to call it has never left my thoughts, it gives me pleasure having butter in the fridge of course used sparingly now a days it having the dreaded word of trans fat We use a popular brand of margarine as J has cholesterol problems but, the pair of us like a couple of kids have the occasional melt down and treat ourselves to buttered toasted crumpets with a nice cup of tea, just the job on a winters evening A real treat especially when the butter oozes through your fingers. yum I love this guilty pleasure!

How to drive the Old fella nuts, my worst and most dangerous. I have this mantra going on in my head, especially this time of year.' It's called lighting up time' We lived for many years in the UK with electricity being very expensive so during the winter it was imperative to save and to this day I will not put lights on until it is so dark you can hardly see. J says at our age it is a dangerous practice and lights are essential to see where you are going. I disagree and have the excuse it's more romantic and saves 'hydro'. in my head though is someone shouting my name “Turn off the damn lights it's like Blackpool Illuminations.” All we had back then was one dangling light in the middle of the room! now a days you have soft lights. side lights, ambient light and so on, all for comfort .
Well now living in the 21st Century what happens? encouragement to SAVE electricity do laundry early in the morning or late at night and we have to expect an increase of 46 percent raise in the next few years!
So dear husband my practice of one light on and one light off has now come to pass I wuz right and you wuz wrong pass the candle, watch out for the cat !

Friday, January 7, 2011

It's a Dog's (or Cat's) Life


'Then & Now" is the title of our blog, a way of reflecting on how life  was when we were younger compared to now, but recent experience has shown us that things can change very rapidly in just a few weeks.
"Then" at the end of October, we had a wonderful 9 year old dog and three 14 year old cats.
The routine of life had been set over the last several years: up in the morning feed the demanding cats, let the dog out for some quick relief and then a biscuit to keep him occupied while the cats devoured their bits. Quick coffees for us and then a walk round the village with a sniffing, alert and friendly canine, back to the house for breakfast and a rest.
Squawk at the top,
 Phebe in the middle,
Tiger at the bottom
Early afternoon off out again through the local park and then back for the second feeding, meanwhile the cats, in peace, could eat.
7:30, cats to the basement then out once again with Dudley (the dog) for a quick  walk and sniff then back home for a pet and off to bed he went.
Then in early November, in the course of three days, Dudley came down with kidney failure and died.
That evening I still did the walk, the following day we did the Morning walk and the evening walk. Suddenly a routine had gone and life had to be re-organised, so I started doing the walks but just for me, no stopping to sniff garbage cans and pee on trees now I could walk me!
Then one of the cats became Ill over Christmas and on December 27 he passed away just as his brother started to show similar symptoms then just this Monday off to the vets and Tiger left us.
So that was "Then",  "Now" all the routine and habits of just 8 weeks ago have totally changed, the house is very quiet.
Good things are happening though we are free to come and go as we wish and when we wish, which is refreshing.
Still miss the morning chaos though!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Time to enjoy.

Always time for  coffee and a scone!
Grateful seems to be a popular word these days that and to meditate!
Easier said than done.
As you get older you certainly learn to appreciate the time you have and the opportunity to enjoy the simple pleasures.
I always thought in my working life that when retirement came along I would lay in bed till at least 10a.m. and muse about the day ahead, turns out it works the other way we are up at 5a.m. waiting for the sun. Our energy level is at it's peak.
We have become creatures of habit, we make it a practice of grocery shopping on Thursday, mainly to give the younger set more space in the Super Stores. I have watched many young Moms looking harassed dashing around the store cell phone in one ear shopping cart and small child in the other going at top speed to get to the check out.
So I am grateful today not to be in their shoes, their hectic life today seems to be compounded with a cell phone that never stops, we have the luxury to have a list and some sanity do the job and come home satisfied and not hopefully spoiling anyones day!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Now its all "Out there"

I thought it would be interesting to try blogging, a completely unknown
and incredible thing at my ripe old age of 73. I am the proud owner of
an I Pad, with so many things to learn it is good for my brain.
I have managed to convince myself to write something on it and put it
"out there" and see if anyone else of my age group are feeling that
it's about time for us to experiment get ourselves away from the
Telly and start trying to understand this fascination of the New
way of communicating. Any takers out there?