Saturday, June 4, 2011

Aunt Olga and Me!

Aunt Olga. lighting up time
Aunt Olga was to me different from a lot of ladies of the time, she was straight laced, straight back very particular in her dress and in her home. Her favorite saying "there's a place for everything and everything in it's place " her favorite colour was powder blue, her favorite fragrance was lavender and Aue de cologne, the scent she used frequently was made in France for soldiers in the Napoleon War, they couldn't wash so the cologne, made from oranges and lavender was a deodorant,

She always carried smelling salts in her handbag in case of emergencies. and pretty lace handkerchiefs that were never used, white kid gloves for winter and white cotton ones in summer, for protection when touching unfamiliar door knobs etc. Her biggest investment was a Beaver lamb fur coat from Canada she wore for years for Sunday best along with a light blue hat, similar to the Queen Mothers.

Beaver lamb fur coat
Her interests were embroidery, she worked from a small walnut sewing desk that had cushioned pink silk with all her embroidery floss, needles, and special scissors with thimbles.
She enjoyed her past time a lot.

One of my duties every Sunday after Sunday school was a visit with Aunt Olga for tea. It was a regular event, as soon as I arrived shoes were taken off at the front door slippers put on and hands had to be washed toot suit!

She always made a Victoria sponge sandwich cake iced to perfection with homemade strawberry jam filling, Sandwiches were usually cucumber thinly sliced on Hovis bread and a smidgeon of butter. I had to sit up straight at the table and eat veeeery slowly chewing a lot before swallowing this was for good digestive habits she explained.

Victorian Sponge cake
Tea was served in bone China flowered cups a little sugar and milk added, you never could drink tea it had to be sipped. All I wanted was a good slab of the cake to eat that was set on the table on a glass stand and a special cutting knife. It was cut in a small piece and I had to eat it with a dessert fork. When we finished out came a little silver pan and brush to match, the table was swept of crumbs and put into a jam jar ready to feed the birds at the local park. That was the “waste not want not” bit taking the precious crumbs to feed the sparrows sitting on a park bench, then the walk around the park looking at the plants and flowers and knowing I would be questioned as to what flower I was looking at and did it have a fragrance. I suppose looking back over those visits it was all a learning experience for manners, on being a lady and appreciating food, and cleanliness.

Food was never eaten walking along the street or being casual, she always treated food with great respect, relishing every bite she had.  
Day Trip
Back then not many families owned a car, most of the time using buses. My Aunt Olga eventually invested in a Morris minor powder blue, it sat most of the time in the garage with a plaid blanket covering the bonnet and a paraffin heater to keep it warm. It was treated well, never a scratch, wheels were always washed after any outing.

Typical Morris minor of the period
We did go out a few times, but, Aunt was particularly quirky. A picnic seemed a most complicated arrangement. Time and place was set by the radio announcer for weather which included the shipping forecast. We gathered around the radio to find out if it would be a suitable day to travel if it was, all hell would be let loose I would watch in fascination. A hamper was found and  Aunt would have the sandwiches cut into quarters and a Victoria sponge at the ready wrapped in serviettes, a primus stove tea kettle best china and a chamber pot in case!
We would do a very slow trip to a place called Chew Magna it was a village flooded to make a reservoir. Arriving at a suitable spot off the road  (with traffic passing) we would unload spread a table clothe and pump up the primes with aplomb Aunt used to always have a treat of Darjeeling tea which took ages to prepare especially if the wind blew out the primus stove out, meantime I had the duty of setting the plates, cups and saucers. I know to this day it was one of the most embarrassing day trips ever, we were close to a field watching cows on one side and waving to other travelers from their car on the other side (I had to remember my manners!) it sounds disloyal but when it was time to pack the car I said a prayer in thanks, I decided to decline any other invitations from then on, being all of 8 years old it was too much for me !

Chew Magna reservoir
I flatly refused to use the chamber pot even though she had a blanket for privacy.!

The powder blue Morris minor lived to tell many stories it was sold after over 17 years! without a dent or scratch on it to a collector.  He was thrilled as it was in such mint condition.

How times have changed!


  1. Aunt Olga sounds like a true lady!! I did wonder if she had ever been in service or worked in a grand house in her youth to know all about the niceties of life? The only lady I knew that was similar had been a ladies maid before she had married and left service.

  2. I remember Aunt Olga teaching me to make a proper cup of tea : )

  3. She sounds like a wonderful character! I do love reading bits and pieces of your memories. Very special, thanks.