First Aid – as it used to be.

I was remembering recently a day when I fell in the playground at school and took a lump out of my knee. I still have the scar. I was taken in to school and a teacher put iodine on the wound (which stung SO much!), pressed a lump of cotton wool onto it and tied a bandage around my knee. I’m pretty sure those three things were the main, if not only, components of the school’s First Aid resources. Here are a couple of examples of First Aid kits from the 50s/ 60s. There was a heavy reliance on cotton wool, bandages and lint – to be used with iodine, no doubt.

Vintage First aid kit and original contents 1950s Wallace image 8
Vintage First aid kit and original contents 1950s Wallace image 0

Another First Aid incident I recall from Primary School is my friend having a nosebleed and the headmaster putting his big bunch of school keys down her back. After recalling this I, of course, felt compelled to look it up. Keys down the back for nosebleeds is very well documented! Although it has never been scientifically tested, some experts believe that there could be some foundation to this old wives’ tale as the cold keys possibly trigger something called the mammalian diving reflex. I do learn some interesting stuff when researching for this blog.

24th February 2005. What Happened to Milk of Magnesia? | A Date with History

Some of the things I remember my mum having in the bathroom cupboard are: TCP for cuts and grazes (NOT iodine!), calamine lotion for rashes and sunburn , Gentian Violet for mouth ulcers, Milk of Magnesia for indigestion, Marzines for travel sickness, Hactos for coughs, olive oil (small bottle bought in the chemist’s, definitely never for cooking then) for earache and aspirin for aches and pains. The same things were probably in all homes. There were fewer brands to choose from. It’s pretty basic compared with what we have available now but definitely not as primitive as the vinegar and brown paper we know of from the nursery rhyme Jack and Jill. Once again, I felt impelled to look this up. I already knew that vinegar has been used as a disinfectant/ antiseptic for thousands of years but I was surprised to find a lot of evidence of vinegar and brown paper being used together on cuts, bruises, sprains and even nosebleeds. Here is a quote from one of Charles Dickens’ books:

In Nicholas Nickleby,  Dickens describes Squeers recovering from heavy bruising which required “Vinegar and brown paper, vinegar and brown paper, from morning to night. I suppose there was a matter of half a ream of brown paper stuck upon me from first to last.”

Pray For Lilly: With vinegar and brown paper ...

As always, credit to Google Images and Wikipedia. I make every effort to set my search filters so that I don’t infringe copyright. However, if anyone objects to the use of any image in this post, please contact me and I will remove it.

Time Travelling

This is a fun one. Not a virus in sight! Much of it has been covered in earlier blog posts but I’ve put a few ideas together for a quick, hopefully entertaining read.

 

If I, or anyone else who was alive in the 50s and 60s, had been suddenly transported in a time machine to 2020, what would puzzle, amuse, or confuse us?

 

Paying for goods in a store by touching a small rectangle of plastic onto a gadget.

UK: half of all debit card payments now contactless | Mobile ...

Cars being plugged in to charge up instead of filling with liquid fuel.

England home electric car smart charger

People walking their dogs with little bags of dog dirt dangling from their fingers.

The Best Dog Poop Bags | Reviews by Wirecutter

People walking along talking on a phone which doesn’t look a bit like a phone and fits into the palm of a hand.

People pointing the same object at a thing, person or view and photographing it.

person, talking, mountain focus photography, mobile phone, smartphone, taking photo, wireless technology, communication, smart phone, portable information device

People using the above gadget to find the way somewhere, check the time or the weather, look at their bank balance, buy something, etc etc etc.

Choosing from dozens and dozens of different television programmes – without touching the TV.

Brits have 100 names for a TV remote control - what do you call it ...

Sending a written communication to someone in another country and receiving a reply within minutes – without any paper being used.

Add Gmail and Other Email to Windows 10 Mail & Calendar (Updated)

Reading a book or a newspaper which is not made of paper.

Why Amazon is tracking every time you tap your Kindle - The Verge

Being able to buy strawberries, raspberries, lettuce, and many, many more food items in the middle of winter. For readers out of Britain, you will be able to think of equivalent seasonal produce.

Buying books, electrical goods, clothes, holidays, food and much more – without actually speaking to anyone, visiting a store, or using a mail order catalogue.

Tesco - Click & Collect Groceries - Logo Design - Portrait… | Flickr

Homes having several different refuse bins outside on the path or drive – each one with a different function.

Kendall Drive – bins collection | Howard Sykes

 

There are many, many more of these! I could go on and on.

 

 

 

As usual, all photographs are sourced from images available on the Internet. If anybody objects to the use of a photograph please contact me and I will remove it.

 

 

 

Strange Times.

I have started drafting a few different posts recently but have kept abandoning them. The focus of this blog is life in the 1950s and 60s in Britain as seen through the eyes of a child and I try to stay true to this. However, it didn’t feel right not to even mention what we are all living through just now. Prompted by my friend H, I began to cast my mind back over ‘plagues and pestilences’ I remember from when I was growing up. I do like to brighten my posts up with pictures but this topic doesn’t lend itself to nostalgic photographs so there aren’t many.

This is meant to be interesting, informative, positive and somewhat relevant to the current problem.

Anthrax. Maybe a strange choice to start off with. I heard about it when I was really very young. I’m pretty sure I overheard adults discussing it, and I became seriously worried for a while that I and my family were going to catch it and die. As a child I was a natural worrier with an over-active imagination. Not always a good combination. I picked up on the fact that it could be caught from cows and I lived in a farming area. I have looked anthrax up and I realise that it was in the news a fair bit in the 1950s because that was when a vaccine was developed. I and my family were never in any danger of catching it from the local cows as my childish mind believed but it is very, very nasty indeed and has even been used in what used to be known as germ warfare. Gruinard Island, a remote uninhabited island off the coast of Scotland was used by the Ministry of Defence in the 1940s for anthrax experiments. It remained contaminated until its eventual decontamination in the 1980s using formaldehyde and sea water. It was declared safe for humans and animals in 1990 and returned to its rightful owners. It remains uninhabited.

Gruinard Island is located in Ross and Cromarty   The location of Gruinard Island.

Smallpox is a real success story. It was massive, all over the world. When I started looking into it I realised that it deserves 1 000s of words just to itself. Here are some facts courtesy of Wikipedia.

During the 18th century the disease killed an estimated 400,000 Europeans each year, including five reigning monarchs, and was responsible for a third of all blindness.

Between 20 and 60% of all those infected—and over 80% of infected children—died from the disease.

During the 20th century, it is estimated that smallpox was responsible for 300–500 million deaths worldwide.

 

An 1802 cartoon of the early controversy surrounding Edward Jenners vaccination theory, showing how the use of a cowpox-derived smallpox vaccine was causing cattle to emerge from patients.

The link with the 50s and 60s is that I remember a smallpox outbreak here in the UK which sent everyone running to get vaccinated. We went as a family to our GP’s surgery in the nearby town to get vaccinated and it’s the only time I remember being there and seeing people queueing out of the door and along the pavement.

Thanks to vaccination it has now been eradicated from the whole world. How good is that?

Polio was a very familiar word when I was a child. We all knew people who had either died from it or recovered and left disabled to a greater or lesser extent. I remember hearing about the ‘iron lung’ used in the treatment of polio. In the late 1950s my dad lost a good friend to polio who was 32. It was an isolated case and left two little boys without a father. I well recall the first time we all received the oral vaccine against polio. I was in secondary school then and we all had to queue up a class at a time to go into the library and be given a sugar cube to eat. I’ve been looking all this up and the development of the first live oral polio vaccine was in 1962 and was ground-breaking. With mass immunisation, polio became a distant memory. It still exists in the world but is under control. Europe was declared polio free by WHO in 2002.

From 1956-8 there was a pandemic known as Asian flu. I remember little about it. I was five years old in 1956 so, like my daughters are doing now with their small children during Covid-19, parents probably shielded their children from the full facts. Also, we lived in the depths of the Welsh countryside and people didn’t travel so widely then. Researching it now I see how appalling it really was. Here are some statistics, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Estimates of worldwide deaths caused by this pandemic vary widely depending on source; ranging from 1 million to 4 million, with WHO settling on about 2 million.

Hong Kong flu, also known as 1968 flu pandemic, was a category 2 flu pandemic whose outbreak in 1968 and 1969 killed an estimated one million people all over the world.

In comparison to other pandemics, the Hong Kong flu yielded a low death rate, with a case-fatality ratio below 0.5% making it a category 2 disease on the Pandemic Severity Index. I read somewhere that this was because populations had some resistance following the 1958 flu pandemic as the viruses were closely related.

I was more aware of this one as I was a teenager and we had a TV by then so saw national and world news screened every evening. However, I don’t remember anyone panicking where I lived. People my age who were in towns and cities might remember it differently.

It has been fascinating digging into all this and there is so much more I could have covered – measles, rubella, TB to name but a few. I have tried to make it upbeat rather than morbid and I hope I have succeeded.

 

 

 

Make Do and Mend

Now that most of us are holed up inside until the virus has passed I have no excuse for not keeping up with my blogging. First, I sat down and caught up with some saved posts from some of my favourite bloggers. Having time to enjoy reading them and to add a comment is a novelty. So here’s my latest offering for you to read at your new-found leisure!

I grew up with the expressions ‘Make Do and Mend’ and ‘Waste not Want not’. After a suggestion from my friend Ina, I decided to bring make do and mend up to date. Now we know it as recycle, reuse , repair but it’s not a new idea. Make Do and Mend was the title of a leaflet published by the UK government during World War 2 after clothes rationing was announced. It’s based around clothing for that reason, but the principle has taken on a new, wider meaning now that we are all trying to be more environmentally friendly.

Some of these points have been covered in earlier posts on this blog. Call it recycling!

So, does anyone remember any of these?

Dusters and floor cloths made from old cotton underwear.

For many years I only ever saw dusters made out of discarded cotton vests. Floor cloths were cast off cotton pants. Cotton fabric does make the best household cloths and back in the 1950s all underwear was made of a cotton knit fabric.

 Stale bread and stale cake being used to make puddings and savory dishes.

Puddings were an important part of the British diet in the 50s and 60s. If you look back in a recipe book of the time it’s surprising how often you see stale breadcrumbs or stale cake listed in the ingredients. Many sweet and savoury dishes were bulked up with stale cake or bread. Now you can actually buy frozen breadcrumbs and trifle sponges are still available for dessert making.

 

bread and butter pudding    bread recipeshoney-bread-pudding-recipe  RECIPES-HEADER

A few old recipes using stale cake and stale bread crumbs.

Unravelling old knitted jumpers to reuse the wool for a new one.

I can remember my mum and my grandmother doing this. Unravelled wool has kinks all the way through it and I remember my mum winding it around a glass bottle, wetting it and allowing it to dry out – which removed the kinks.

Darning socks and woollen jumpers.

I can remember my mum teaching me how to darn using her wooden darning mushroom. Jumpers, cardigans and winter socks were all made of wool. There were no synthetic yarns or synthetic/ wool mixes in the 1950s and wool, although warm, is not as hard-wearing as man made fibres. The heels and toes of woollen socks went into holes as did the elbows of sweaters. Clothes were not cheap and disposable as many are now and were less easy to come by. Woollens were mostly hand knitted which was labour intensive and not to be discarded just because of a hole. When any garment eventually had to be thrown away because it was beyond repair, reusable things like buttons and zips were removed and saved for future use.

darning mushroom

 

 

 

Returnable glass drinks bottles and jars.

There was, of course, the good old milkman. I do still have doorstep milk delivered in glass bottles but there aren’t many milk rounds left! It was a very early form of recycling. I didn’t live in a town but in the depths of the countryside. There were no milk rounds there but there were plenty of farms. We went to a nearby farm every evening as they were doing the milking. We always took washed out glass bottles with us, those with the swing-top stoppers, and the farmer would tap it straight from the cooler into our bottles. Pop bottles were returnable in those days and you got a few pence for each one returned to the shop. My mum used to tell me that even further back, in the 1930s when she was a child, all glass jars and bottles had returnable deposits on them. She used to be able to go to the cinema on a Saturday afternoon with her friends and pay with empty jam jars! Glass jars were saved throughout the year for holding jams, pickles and preserves. There were also the beloved Kilner jars used year after year. I still do all that as I make jam and chutney in the autumn. Once refundable deposits on glass containers stopped, it was another few decades before glass was being sorted separately and recycled. I nearly forgot to mention the good old soda syphon! My mum and dad thought they were the height of sophistication when they bought one of these refillable glass soda makers.

vintage-glass-soda-siphon-syphon-waters-robson-artesian-abbey-well-morpeth-northumberland-british-syphon-company-limited-circa-1950s-2086-p[ekm]320x720[ekm]           swing top bottles

 

2-1950s-vintage-the-kilner-Jar-Improved-reg

Kilner jars were originally developed and produced in Yorkshire from 1842. They can still be bought and are as good as ever although not made in Yorkshire any longer.

Repairing broken toys.

We didn’t give up on toys readily back then, either. We had an old baby doll someone had passed on to us. It had a soft stuffed cloth body and a china head. My brother wanted his own doll because I had one and so did my sister so he got it. He decided he was called Billy. When his body started going into holes my mum and my grandmother made a whole new body, arms and legs using old stockings (clean!) stuffed with cotton wool. Then they made him a pair of blue flannelette striped pyjamas using an old pair my brother had grown out of. He was as good as new in our eyes and my brother loved him!

Billy doll

Not Billy but this is the sort of doll he was.

Other assorted things I remember.

Items made using wooden cotton reels. We used to do what we called corkwork, now more often referred to as French knitting. My dad used to hammer small metal fencing staples into the top of wooden cotton reels to make the corkwork spools.

Adult dresses cut down when finished with to make girls’ dresses.

Shepherd’s pie made with hand minced leftover roast beef.

Tab ends of soap bars melted together to make a ‘new’ bar of soap.

Stale, dry ends of cheese (no plastic keeping it fresh in those days!) grated and used in cooking.

 

 

 

 

As always, I have endeavoured to source images which are listed as free to use. If anyone objects to an image I have used just contact me and I will remove it.

 

 

New Words and Expressions.

This is just a quick run through some of the words and expressions which have appeared in the English language in the past several decades. I have made a point of keeping away from technological terms which would fill several blog posts by themselves. I feel that technology is a different world which is constantly evolving and is a subject in itself.

From the world of films and books we have blockbuster, sitcom, romcom, chick flick, chick lit and storyline (which surely just used to be known as plot?)

chick-flicks-1534953768    chick lit

Here are some from the world of fitness and exercise.  Aerobics, planking, spinning, jazzercise, Zumba – I could go on.

zumba    planking

Then there are the media words such as paparazzi,Twitterazzi, YouTuber, podcast and blog – blog just had to be in there!

youtube    Twitter

When we look at the language of environmental awareness there are words like biomass, global warming, freegan.

freegan_logo

Here are a few more with some history on their origins. Credit to Google, Wikipedia etc.

Glamping – not tried it. Although I have done lots of camping in my time.

The word “glamping” first appeared in the United Kingdom in 2005 and was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2016. The word is new, but the concept that “glamping” connotes, that of luxurious tent-living (or living in other camping accommodations), is not. In the 16th century, the Scottish Earl of Atholl prepared a lavish experience in the Highlands for the visiting King James V  and his mother. Here, the Duke pitched lavish tents and filled them with all the provisions of his own home palace.

Humongous – Humongous is an American slang word coined in the 1970’s, copying more proper words like tremendous or enormous. If you want to describe something that’s so big it’s hard to really measure, like the national debt or the number of cells in your body, you can use the world humongous. Just don’t use it in a formal paper.

24/ 7 – The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) defines the term as “twenty four hours a day, seven days a week; constantly”. It lists its first reference to 24/7 as from US magazine Sports Illustrated in 1983. The man to use it was basketball player Jerry Reynolds and he was talking about his jump shot.

 

I drafted this in January, decided it wasn’t that interesting and shelved it. However, we have since had a pandemic and a whole lot of new words have crept into everyday speech. Some already existed but were rarely heard. Here are some of the words and phrases we are suddenly hearing daily.

Furlough – I had heard this before but rarely, and always in connection with people taking leave from the forces. Here in Britain, it has been a lifesaver for many and we now hear it all the time.

Pandemic – we know what an epidemic is, most of us knew the meaning of the word pandemic but we never expected we would actually live through one for the best part of a year – and still counting.

Social Distancing – surely coined especially for a pandemic. I had certainly never heard the expression before.

Quarantine – Yes, we all knew this word already but this year it is in daily use everywhere as well as the expression ‘self-isolate’. The word quarantine comes from quarantena, meaning “forty days”, used in 14th–15th-century Venice and designating the period that all ships were required to be isolated before passengers and crew could go ashore during the Black Death plague epidemic.

Flattening the curve – Essentially a mathematical expression and now in common everyday parlance.

Algorithm – originally a mathematical term and now used a lot during this pandemic.

Staycation – The word staycation is a portmanteau of stay (meaning stay-at-home) and vacation. The terms “holistay” and “daycation” are also sometimes used. The earliest reference to this term as coming from a 2003 article by Terry Massey in The Sun News. It’s what everyone here did this summer when they had to cancel their holiday plans.

Some are existing words and expressions in common use by the medical profession alone and now being used by everyone. These include PPE, asymptomatic, antibodies, ventilators, respirators, community spread, contact tracing, herd immunity,containment.

Last but not least, a word I don’t think I’d ever used in my life before and now even hear my small grandchildren using – LOCKDOWN!

 

Takeaways

I’ve had a bit of a lull in my posting as it’s been a very busy few months. At last, here I am with another one.I keep thinking I’ll run out of ideas to post about but so far I haven’t. I welcome ideas for topics for me to explore.

 

Here in Britain nowadays ‘Let’s get a takeaway (or takeout in some parts of the country).’ can lead to anything from Chinese, Indian, Thai, Pizza, burger, kebab – even the humble fish and chip meal from the local chip shop. Starting with my own memories, back in the 50s and 60s, when I was a child, the only ‘takeaway’ available (and the word didn’t even exist at that time) was the ubiquitous fish and chip shop. Some had tables where you could sit in and eat, many sold only food to take out. We always referred to ours as the chip shop. In different parts of the country the fish and chip shop is known as the chippy, the chipper and here in Yorkshire as the fish shop or sometimes the fishery. Our nearest town in mid-Wales had two chip shops and the locals were all loyal to one of them and never used the other. In Britain old newspapers were traditionally used for wrapping fish and chips until this was banned for health reasons in the 1980s. Many people are nostalgic for this traditional wrapping; some modern fish and chip shops wrap their food in faux-newspaper, food-safe paper printed to look like a newspaper.

 

Musing on this subject the other day I wondered when food to take out first became available here from eating places other than chip shops. As far as I remember, the earliest foreign cuisine here was Chinese followed by Indian and I only recall them being places where you sat in to eat. So I decided to look into the history of the British takeaway.

Image result for chinese restaurants 1950s        Image result for indian restaurants 1950s uk

1950s Chinese and Indian restaurants –  some of the UK’s earliest tastes of food from other countries.

 

Researching, I found a wealth of information on the history of restaurants in the UK but little about the rise of the takeaway. However, this extract from Consumer Culture and Chinese Food in Britain by Mike Featherstone and Tomoko Tamari gives an explanation.

‘According to data made available by the Hong Kong government Office in London, there were 1,406 Chinese restaurants in the United Kingdom in 1970. These restaurants were influenced by the economic setback of Britain in the 1970s, with people unwilling to pay high prices when they ate out. In response, many of the New Territories immigrants have opened take-out Chinese food shop, which are cheaper than restaurants. Another reason could be the introduction of Value Added Tax (VAT) which was resented by most Chinese restaurants and can be seen as further encouraging customers to switch from restaurants to more economical takeaways and fish and chip shops, which require fewer staff and were not subject to VAT. These takeaways could be operated by a family unit and ‘require only ‘hole-in-the wall’ premises. They were able to make good profit as a result of their low cost conditions.’

 

Related image

I didn’t know this until now.

Typical scene from a London chip shop

 

A familiar scene inside a British chip shop.

 

 

Image result for fish and chip shops uk 1950s      Image result for Harry ramsden's 1950s

 

Image result for fish and chip shops uk 1950s  Image result for fish and chip shops uk 1950s

 

Keeping Food Fresh

Nowadays we don’t have any problems keeping food fresh and safe to eat. We have fridges, freezers, vacuum packs as well as the dried and tinned foods which have been around much longer. Also, everything – even tinned food! – has a sell by/ use by date printed on it. The humble sell-by date actually has a surprisingly short history here in the UK. It was introduced in Marks & Spencer’s storerooms in the 1950s before making its way onto the shelves in 1970. It wasn’t even called a “sell-by-date” until 1973. Like a lot of people who date back to pre-sell-by date years, I still rely on the look, feel and smell of food rather than panicking and throwing food away the day after the date has passed. I appreciate that people who eat meat and fish have to be extra careful and to take no risks.

       

 

       

 

When I was very young, in the early 1950s,  we didn’t have a fridge. I remember the arrival of our first one being so exciting! In the summer, my mum used to hang bottles of milk in a string bag in the stream to stop the milk going off. We had a pantry with a stone slab in it which was meant to keep things cool. It is very easy to tell when milk has turned sour. Bread goes dry, cheese goes mouldy, potatoes go green and start sprouting, some foods start smelling bad. When these sort of foods have been kept too long or have been stored incorrectly the result is obvious. The hidden danger is when food has turned and could be hazardous but there are no obvious signs which is when sell by dates are important.

 

A 1950s kitchen with an early fridge.

UK’s first frozen food product was asparagus made by Smedley’s of Wisbech which is a fact which surprised me as I had assumed the ubiquitous pea would have been the first frozen vegetable. Although frozen food went on sale for the first time in Britain on May 10, 1937, the average UK householder did not have easy access to it until the 1950s and 60s. Home freezers first became popular in the 1970s .  Apparently, the sales of frozen food were boosted during the Second World War as metals for tins were in very short supply but I reckon that would only have been in cities and not in the more rural areas such as where I grew up.

The face of Birds Eye in the UK – Captain Birds Eye.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Greeting Cards

It was my birthday last week and I was lucky enough to get a lot of lovely birthday cards. It got me thinking about how greetings cards have changed in my lifetime. They have changed not only in appearance but also in the range of events we can now send cards for and in the way we send them – there are many ways of sending cards electronically including e-cards and the ones which are ordered and designed electronically but send as paper cards in the post. I will explore all of this in this post.

First, here are some examples of the sort of cards which were around when I was a child. I don’t remember ever seeing ‘arty’ cards in the shops or even many funny ones. They were either pretty and floral like most of the ones shown or they were more manly and had cars, footballs or garden spades on them. Children’s cards might have images of children, toys,puppies, kittens or cartoons on them. They all had a certain look which was no doubt dictated by the processes available at the time. Photographic images were used more for picture postcards sent from holidays. Another difference I notice is that there was always a greeting printed on the front whereas now there is often no writing at all on the front, especially on the arty cards. One of the main differences, however, was inside. They always had verses in them.  You can still get cards with verses in them, and some people prefer them, but not every card has a verse. In fact, the ‘Blank for your own message’ style of card has become more common in the last few decades – something which was never, ever seen in the 1950s and 60s! Do any of you remember the dawn of the scented card in the 1950s? What a novelty! One of my grandmothers loved to send cards which had been carefully chosen for the verse and the scent. Fortunately, scented cards are no longer with us.

 

Image result for 1950's greetings cards uk   Image result for 1950's greetings cards uk

 

Image result for 1950's greetings cards uk   Image result for 1950's greetings cards uk

 

Image result for 1950's greetings cards uk

Next, the range of occasions acknowledge with cards today. There were always wedding cards, get well cards, sympathy and congratulations cards and a few more. Also, the 21st birthday was a big milestone. Now we have cards for every decade and sometimes even for half decades like 65 and 75. Below is a selection of current cards – and if you wanted to send one to someone whose cat was going to have an operation, or a friend who’d been made redundant or whose relationship had just broken up, then you buy a ‘Blank for your own message’ card or one saying ‘Just to Say’ or ‘Thinking of You’.

Image result for thank you card for house sitting   Image result for happy 30th birthday card

 

Image result for happy 75th birthday images    Image result for good luck in your new adventure card

Then, we move on to the different ways we can send cards. The good old postal service is still the main one. But, as well as paper cards we now have e-cards. I subscribe to one and I really rate it. It’s jacquielawson.com and the art work is brilliant. There are many more websites doing them. I find it great if I want to send a fun card to the grandchildren as they are animated. Also, if I am away on holiday and it’s a friend’s birthday or some other occasion, I can log in and choose one and send it on my phone. Amazing, isn’t it? There are also companies like Moon Pig where you choose your card on a laptop or phone, using your own photographs if you like, add your message in a style of your choosing then the card is sent as a paper one through normal post. They are somewhere in between ‘normal’ cards and e-cards, a sort of hybrid.

Finally, here are some of the cards I received on my birthday, including a Welsh one. There is a Moon Pig one with a photograph of me on it which one of my daughters had made up for me. Also in there is a hand-made card from a friend who loves making her own cards – a style of card I nearly forgot to mention!

Cards 1    Cards 2

Cards 3

 

 

Libraries

I have loved books and reading for as long as I can remember. I was thinking about libraries the other day and I realised that I use libraries less now than ever before in my life. The reasons are the same as they are for everybody else –

I can now look things up myself on my phone, ipad and laptop using the mighty Google.

I can now buy second-hand books in charity shops for as little as 50 pence and also very cheaply online and often postage free.

New books, too, are extremely affordable when bought in supermarkets or online.

I can also buy e-books and read them on any of my electronic devices. (I don’t, because I still prefer books, but I could.)

It’s no wonder that libraries and independent bookshops are closing in Britain.

All through my childhood, teens, twenties and thirties, being a member of a library was very important to me. Wherever I lived, I joined a library, sometimes being a member of more than one at a time.

As a child in the 1950s, we went to the library whenever we were in the nearby town which was five miles away. Below is a picture of the building it was in – taken a bit before the 1950s! When I lived in that area the building housed the library , the Labour Exchange and my dad’s office – he worked for the Forestry Commission. Although there was no library in our village (it was tiny) there was a lady who lived in a little house next to a chapel who ran a small book lending system from her front room. The main library used to drop new books off with her every so often.

llandovery-clock-tower

What I remember about libraries in the old days (even though I loved them) is how quiet and serious they were. You absolutely did not make a noise of any sort or you would be told off. I loved them because I love books and reading but I can see how someone less committed to reading could have been put off by the interior of a library.

Library 1  Library 2

Above – the interiors of a couple of old libraries. The pictures can’t convey the deathly hush which prevailed!

library files      library book

The pre-digital way of book-lending.

I have no recollection of ever being asked to do any independent research for homework when I was in school – not even when studying for A-levels. Lessons were all based on notes dictated by the teacher then and on learning by rote – but that’s another blog post! While I was at university I preferred to do most of my work in the university library. This was partly so that I could use the reference books but also because the atmosphere was more conducive to study than a cold, gloomy student rented house.

Libraries now often have art or history exhibitions running, they have computers the public can use, they are bright, friendly and welcoming. The children’s sections have toys and games and regular organised activities. Yet libraries are still closing all over the country. Where they have been saved and continue to function, they are often rehoused in a smaller space in a new building. The one shown below is a Victorian library building near where I used to work. In spite of a well-fought campaign to keep it open, it was closed over ten years ago. I believe it now houses offices so at least it isn’t empty or worse – demolished. The new library which replaced it is in a modern purpose built community centre. Public lending libraries began here in Britain in the 1850s, the main pioneer being William Ewart. Since 2010, nearly 500 libraries  have closed in England, Wales and Scotland. Some libraries facing closure have been taken over by volunteers.

normy library

Finally, a nice little tale of recycling!

The iconic red telephone boxes found all over the UK are beginning to disappear but, thanks to a BT scheme called Adopt a Kiosk, many unused payphone kiosks have been transformed into libraries. This preserves the heritage of the red kiosk, particularly in rural locations and provides a library service in areas which lack one. Most of these libraries are left unlocked and are stocked by donations from local people. Anyone is free to borrow a book and donate a used book.

220px-Phone_box_library,_Whitwell,_IW,_UK    517d1d84e2bd9ff5150f1d852f0822bb--telephone-booth-free-library telephone-library-1

reading and And now, a few quotes about libraries:

Reading is an exercise in empathy; an exercise in walking in someone else’s shoes for a while. —Malorie Blackman

Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation. —Walter Cronkite

Libraries will get you through times with no money better than money will get you through times with no libraries. Anne Herbert.

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. —Joseph Addison

As usual, I would like to say that all images and facts used in this post have been gleaned from the Internet and are readily available. However, if anyone objects to anything in this post, for any reason, please contact me directly so that I can remove it.

Mental Health

This post looks, from the title, as though it could be a bit more weighty and serious than many of my others. I hope it won’t turn out that way. What I’m going to look at is the difference in attitude and outlook where mental health is concerned between the 1950s and now. I have to bear in mind that I was a small child in the 50s and so what I remember is a child’s view and might be different from an adult’s. However, the point of this blog is to share my memories of growing up in the Welsh countryside in the 1950s and 60s and I like to stay true to that and avoid putting in all sorts of researched facts and figures and quoting other people’s opinions.

It is a fact that mental health is now discussed more openly than it used to be. I have seen that change in my lifetime. There has been a big push here in Britain recently to bring mental health issues out into the open. There have been famous people telling their stories, mental health awareness events and various films and documentaries. This is excellent – but we still have a long way to go. People still find it much easier to say they’re suffering from arthritis, bronchitis, migraine or flu than to admit to going through a spell of depression or to talk about a lifelong battle with anxiety.

Back in the 1950s, these were some of the expressions you would hear adults using quietly when they thought you weren’t listening. ‘Had a nervous breakdown’, ‘bad with her nerves’,  ‘suffers with her nerves’. We all know now that that mental illness can affect any age, any gender, but at that time I only ever remember hearing women talked about in those hushed tones. Sometimes a person was described as being ‘not right in the head’. Occasionally you would hear about someone who had ‘taken to her bed’. Apparently my grandmother had an aunt who ‘took to her bed’ at some point in her life and never left it.

What we did know about was the large mental hospitals where people ‘ended up’ if they were really bad with their nerves or had a breakdown. Some people with very severe mental disabilities spent their whole lives in them. Fortunately, these places don’t exist any more. Originally they were called ‘lunatic asylums’. This was often shortened to ‘loony bin’. It seems appalling now that we could use such expressions.

st david's

The mental hospital which was nearest to us when we lived in South Wales, called St David’s. It was operational from 1865 until 2002.

denbigh

The one which was nearest to us when we lived in North Wales. Both vast places! This one opened in 1848 and also closed in 2002. I have looked at maps showing the distribution of these institutions in the UK at that time and it seems there was at least one per county. Many are still standing and are either crumbling or have been converted into conference centres, apartments, hotels etc.

Since drafting this post I have been looking in two old books I have here on my shelves. They are ‘home doctor’ books. I believe many homes had one on their shelves for looking up any family ailments and deciding whether a visit to the doctor was needed. In fact I had one which I bought when my first child was born in 1980. After all, we didn’t have the Internet in the 1980s. Neither of these two old books have publishing dates but from some of the adverts and diagrams in them I’ve worked it out that the oldest one is from the late 1800s and the other one is from roughly the 1920s. Always an avid reader, over the years I have often enjoyed looking through them and marvelling at some of the weird and wonderful advice which was given.

IMG_1164

The oldest one (above, it’s lost its cover) came from my grandmother’s house after she died. I remember taking it down from her bookshelves as a child and browsing in it. It used to amuse me that unwell people seemed to be offered a lot of gruel, broth and bread soaked in or tea in Victorian times.

IMG_1162

The newer one (above) was from our house but, as it would already have been old when my mum and dad married in 1950, it might also have come from one of the grandparents’ houses.  I decided to see what was said about mental health issues. In the oldest one I could find no reference to any of the terms we now use such as anxiety, depression and stress. The only item relevant to mental issues which I could find in the older book was Nervous Disorders.

IMG_1167

The main recommendations at this time were active exercise in the countryside, regulation of the bowels and early rising.

Progress had been made by the 1920s and the newer book has Anxiety, Depression and Nervousness listed.

IMG_1166        IMG_1165

By the this time, complete rest and exercising in the open air were still suggested but also the help of a doctor was mentioned.

Compare these extremely brief entries with the abundance of self-help books on the subject which are available today.

self help books