Leaving Home.

This post is not of any historical significance but is a light-hearted look at the life-changing experience of leaving home at eighteen and crossing the border to live in England.

I left Wales to live in England was when I was eighteen and went to university. We had holidayed in England many times as I was growing up but that was mainly in seaside places like Newquay, Paignton, Bournemouth and Whitby. After growing up in such a remote area I was desperate to experience life in a city. Nottingham seemed to me like a big city but not as huge and scary-sounding as London. So that’s where I went. I also fondly imagined that it would have readily accessible green forested areas should I find that I missed the countryside. I had been too influenced by the tales of Robin Hood!

It was so exciting to have big shops (M and S, C & A, Boots, Smiths etc.) on hand, to have a regular and frequent bus service and to see Indian and Chinese restaurants and to know of chip shops which stayed open really late. As a student on a grant I didn’t do a lot of shopping or eating in restaurants but just living in a city so full of life and activity was amazing to a country bumpkin like me. Oh, the novelty of double-decker buses with conductors, a choice of cinemas and the ease of travelling to other cities by train some weekends to visit school friends in different universities like Sheffield and London.

Before I’d left Wales, I and my friends had thought we were all quite cool and trendy. After all, we read Honey magazine and watched Top of the Pops! I soon realised how different the lives of those growing up in or near cities had been for them. Some of the new friends I made had actually shopped in Biba and Carnaby Street and had seen big bands (groups we called them then) like The Stones, The Kinks and Manfred Mann in concert.

Kardomah Cafe, corner of Clumber Street and Lincoln Street, Nottingham,  c1960s. | Nottingham, Nottingham city, Street
There were TWO Kardomah Cafes in Nottingham when I lived there. I can still remember the smell of roasting coffee as you walked in.

I was puzzled in my first term by students commenting on my accent. What were they talking about? I didn’t have an accent, they did! If I became animated in conversation I would talk very fast (South Walean people do talk fast!) and people would laugh at me and say they didn’t understand what I was saying which embarrassed me, made me slow down and made me nearly lose all my accent. People with an ear for accents can still identify me as Welsh even though I’ve lived in England for many decades. And my accent comes back when I’m in Wales or with my Welsh relatives and friends – which makes me happy.

Some of the other differences between me and all the other students were unexpected. When I referred to casual canvas shoes as daps, nobody knew what I was talking about. As we approached the first mid-term I asked a group of my friends whether they were going home for Potato Week and was met with blank looks followed by laughter. We had always referred to the week we had off school in October as Potato Week. I had never known it as anything else. This is because of Pembrokeshire in South Wales being a big potato growing county. Traditionally, schools all over South and mid-Wales closed for a week mid term so that whole families could help out with the potato picking. But at that time I thought everyone in the whole of Britain had Potato Week in October.

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Potato pickers in Pembrokeshire

Some of the expressions English people use mystified me when I came across them. I still remember the time someone was relating a tale which finished with them saying ‘I really had egg on my face!’ and I asked how had they got egg on their face.

Gordon Bennett!! is an exclamation used by the English which is a way of exclaiming without blaspheming. We all know others – Crikey, Jeepers, etc. It was a new one to me. I did, however, know someone back home called Gordon Bennett who had a farm about half a mile from us. Once, when one of my fellow students said Gordon Bennett! when something had gone wrong I had no idea what they meant. I said ‘We’ve got a neighbour called Gordon Bennett.’ much to the amusement of the group.

There was a pub near the university called The Rose and Crown which was popular with students. I hadn’t previously known any pubs called the Rose and Crown but had often come across the name in novels I’d read or on TV programmes. This bit is really, really stupid. For some reason, I thought The Rose and Crown was English people’s way of saying the local. A sort of nickname for your regular pub. One evening, e few students I’d got to know said “We’re going down the Rose and Crown this evening, do you want to come?” I was only just getting my bearings in my new area and there were a few pubs near the campus so I said “Which one? What’s it called?” I could really cringe now thinking of that!

Rose & Crown Pub, Derby Road, Nottingham (C) Roy Hughes :: Geograph Britain  and Ireland | Nottingham pubs, Nottingham, Old pub

The Rose and Crown, Derby Road, Nottingham.

As always, images obtained from the Internet. Credit to whoever is deserving of it. I make every effort to avoid infringing copyright but if anyone objects to my use of an image, contact me directly and I will remove it.

Easter – back in the day

Back in the 1950s and 60s, when I was a child and lived in the depths of rural mid-Wales, Easter was always such an exciting time for us. We had never heard of the Easter Bunny. Perhaps he couldn’t find his way into the heart of the countryside back then! The three of us always received one carefully chosen Easter egg each from our parents. There was a very small choice available in the 50s and they were much simpler than now but we loved to see whether we had a Cadbury’s, a Rowntree’s or a Fry’s. I’ve done a bit of research and discovered that it wasn’t until around the 1950s, when there were developments in production and packaging, that costs lowered and the masses could enjoy Easter eggs. Branded eggs, such as Buttons, first appeared in the 1960s and increased in the 1970s, with attractive, child-friendly packaging.

Easter egg production inside a Cadbury factory (Image: courtesy of Cadbury)

 Easter Egg Packing in March 1953
 Easter Egg Wrapping Bournville, BWM March 1953
Inside the Bournville factory 1953. Credit: Cadbury

But the excitement wasn’t just about chocolate and certainly not the unheard of Easter Bunny. It was a season I just loved so much. A combination of the sound of lambs bleating in all the fields, the sight of daffodils, catkins and Pussy Willow, the feeling of warmer, lengthening days giving us more playing out time, the thrill of something new to wear to church (or if not new, something we hadn’t worn since last summer). We were off school for the Easter holidays and we usually had the same family coming to stay with us who were from my mum’s old home town a couple of hours away. They were a joy to have visiting. The three of us got on well with their three boys and the parents were really lovely people.

In Sunday school the week before Easter we used to make miniature Easter gardens. We used moss for grass, built up small hills, laid out paths with small stones and made flowers, trees and three crosses on one of the hills. We were always so proud to see our little gardens on display at the back of the church on Easter Sunday. Easter Sunday being the end of Lent, I could eat biscuits again, my sister could eat sweets and my mum could have sugar in her tea.

Breakfast on Good Friday was always the traditional hot cross buns. Now you can buy them throughout the year but it was really exciting to have something special to eat on just one day of the year. Chocolate eggs can now be bought through most of the year too.

My mum picking daffodils in the garden Easter 1961. Photo taken by me age 10 with my first camera – a Kodak Brownie 127.

Easter Sunday breakfast was always boiled eggs which my mum used to paint faces on. One year she had made us all little hats for our boiled eggs as a surprise. Then we would walk to church together. In the usual way of childhood memories I can picture we three children, with the three visiting ones, playing out all day long in the woods and by streams and picking wild flowers. We lived in one of the wettest parts of Britain so the truth of it is that we probably had as many wet Easters as fine ones, if not more. But that’s not how I remember it .

Happy Easter to all my readers, regular and occasional. Or, in Welsh – Pasg Hapus.

Every effort is made to use images which do not offend or infringe copyright. If anyone objects to the use of any information or image in this blog please contact me so that I can remove it.

Happy New Year!

Image result for 1950s Happy New Year card uk "

 

On New Year’s Eve, I thought I’d take a brief trip back to the New Year’s Eves of my childhood. As regular readers know, I grew up in a tiny village in a very quiet part of rural mid-Wales. There were around 28 children in our village school aged 4 to 11. Some, like me, lived within walking distance of the school, others had a walk of half to three-quarters of a mile and many of them lived on outlying hill farms and were brought in by cars on regular hire through the education authority from the garage in out nearest town.

Our school was also used as a village hall and on New Year’s Eve there was always a big village party held there. It started in the afternoon with a tea party and games for the children. The women of the village made and served sandwiches and cakes, jugs of squash and enormous pots of tea. Whole families attended. After the tea, seats were placed in a circle at one end of the main room and the games began. The main ones I remember are spin the plate and musical chairs. There were songs and recitations from the children brave enough to stand up and perform – not me! There would be older children there as well who were now at the ‘big school’ in the town and who always seemed frightfully grown up and sophisticated to me.

As afternoon turned into evening, the party morphed (even though there was no such word then!) into an adults evening and younger children would be taken home and put to bed. Slightly older children would stay longer. The evening took the form of a concert. It was informally arranged, with people just stepping forward to sing, recite, play the piano etc. I remember first being old enough to stay for some of it then, eventually to stay to the end. One local farmer had a beautiful tenor voice and always sang ‘Jerusalem’. I think he sang other songs too but the one he was known for was that one – and he sang it beautifully. Tea was served all evening and the night would finish with everyone in a circle linking arms and singing Auld Lang Syne. It was so exciting when you were twelve or thirteen and considered old enough to stay to the end and see the new year in!

 

Happy New Year to all my readers and followers and thank you for continuing to read my blog and to comment.

Law and Order

This post has been prompted by the fact that I have just completed a three week stint of jury service. The post is not going to be about the experience (which was interesting, intense and at times harrowing) but instead is going to have a brief look at law and order and how things have changed.  As always with this blog, I remind readers that these are my recollections and do not necessarily reflect the rest of the UK, Europe or the world at that time because I lived in a remote country area.

In the 50s and 60s there were still ‘village bobbies’ in many rural areas. The familiar image is of a kindly copper cycling around keeping an eye on everything and living in the local police house.

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In our village we didn’t have our own policeman. Our local town (2,000 people so a very small town!) was five miles away and had a little police station with a police house and a lovely guy called Sergeant Walters in residence. Although he was a familiar name in our village, one of the few times I came across him in person was when I was in my last year of primary school. A group of us who could ride bikes were able to take our cycling proficiency test. Sergeant Walters came to school to test us. I was SO proud of my badge and certificate!!

18_1303910255_5381_300_300           cycling-proficiency-certificate

When cycling around the lanes and hills near home we were all aware that should Sergeant Walters drive past and see us cycling without hands or riding two to a bike we would be ‘done’.  It never happened.

When we drove through larger towns and cities, visiting relatives or going on holiday, we used to see busy town centre junctions with a policeman on ‘point duty’. There were fewer traffic lights and roundabouts back then. Also, there were hardly any by-passes or ring roads so traffic went right through the centre of towns. The traffic jams, especially in the summer time on popular holiday routes were horrendous! To avoid them we sometimes set off on holiday late in the evening and travelled through the night. This was very exciting to us as children!

fleet street.jpg     bypass3

 

Throughout my whole childhood and teenage years, I have absolutely no memory of anyone in our locality being burgled or of anything being vandalised. We once had a plum tree which was laden with plums ripe and ready for picking completely stripped of its fruit while we were out for the day. I knew about burglars from story books and comics where they were always portrayed in stripey jumpers, eye masks and carrying a torch and a sack full of stolen goods. The image is still around as seen in these illustrations from the ever popular children’s book Burglar Bill by Janet and Allan Ahlberg.

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Those are my memories of real life law and order in the 50s and 60s where I grew up. The fiction was very different. I loved Enid Blyton’s Famous Five and Secret Seven books. Some people criticise them now but as children we absolutely adored them. They were always solving mysteries, foiling smuggling attempts and handing hapless burglars over to the police. Kidnapping, escaped convicts, treasure and stolen documents turn up in some of the stories and the gang of children (and a dog!) are always the ones who sort everything out. There was usually a reward, heaps of praise and a sumptuous tea at the end for the gang. Wonderful stuff!

FF1     derek

Next, the world of TV law and order. We first had a TV in our home in 1961 when I was ten years old. Dixon of Dock Green was a huge family favourite. PC George Dixon was a kindly London copper. The stories were mostly about small time crimes and the programme always ended with Dixon offering some gentle words of advice in front of his police station before wishing everyone goodnight. The series ran for 100s of episodes and Jack Warner who played PC Dixon was still in the role at the age of 80.

DixonofDockGreen        hqdefault

Things you don’t see any more – and things you don’t see so often.

  • Kids with bare knees in winter.

Boys wore short trousers until their teens – with knee length socks in winter, short socks in summer. Girls wore skirts and pinafore dresses all year with long (knee-length) socks in winter.

boys in shorts

 

  • Most adults wearing hats out of doors.

Whether it was a cloth cap for working outside or a trilby for walking to the shops or the office, men wore hats outside. It was rare when I was very young in the 50s to see a hatless man outside. The hats were always removed on entering a building. They were also removed if a funeral cortege went past. Women, too were rarely hatless. My mum had ‘best’ hats for church, going out hats for visiting people or going somewhere ‘nice’ and everyday hats for popping to the local shops. These came in winter and summer varieties. My grandmothers always had hat-pins in theirs!

hats

  • Women wearing gloves in summer.

When women went somewhere smart they wore gloves even if it was summer. Summer gloves were usually white or cream and made of cotton. I also remember me and my sister having to wear white summer gloves with our best spring outfits to church at Easter and Whitsuntide.

gloves

  • Bus conductors.

I lived in the country so visiting a town was exciting and going on a bus or a tram was part of the adventure. You entered at the back of the vehicle and the conductor came to you in your seat to sell you a ticket from his machine which he carried strapped to him.

conductor

  • Rag and Bone men.

This is another thing we didn’t see in the country but we did have one which used to go past my grandmother’s house which was in a town.When I was small I used to think he was shouting ‘Rainbow!’. What did they do with the bones, I wonder?

rag and bone man

  • Delivery vans selling practically everything.

We had each week (some came twice a week) – a butcher’s van, a bread van, a grocery van, a fish van and a pop van. My mum once cancelled a bread man because he used to put unwrapped loaves on the seat he had just been sitting on to drive while he got his change out.We were only allowed to have pop very occasionally as my mum was very careful with our teeth.

delivery van

  • Shopkeepers adding up on paper.

The tills didn’t add up in the old days. The prices of the items were jotted down in a column and then added up before being rung into the till. The paper they added up on was very often the top one of a pile of paper bags or sheets of greaseproof. My mum used to say she could add up a column of figures as quickly upsidedown as she could the right way up from years of keeping a close eye on the bill and making sure it was added up right!

 

Grocer

 

  • Kids climbing trees.

I, my brother and my sister spent half our childhood up trees I’m sure! I don’t ever remember falling or hurting myself.

tree climbing

  • Metal dustbins.

All bins were metal and were carried on the bin men’s backs and shoulders. Nothing was wrapped in bin liners in those days so they must have got pretty smelly at times!

bin men

 

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Simple Pleasures

Most of my posts focus on what was different when I was growing up in the fifties and sixties. This one is about what hasn’t changed.

We have just been away for a week. By we I mean me and the other half, our three daughters and their other halves plus the four grandchildren aged from eight months to five years. We had rented a house the coast of Northern Ireland and the garden led directly on to the beach. What occurred to me while we were there was just how little children need to keep them happy when there is plenty of space for them to play, run around and use their imaginations.

The beautiful stretch of beach we had next to the house had sand, stones and rock pools. We had a couple of balls and some buckets and spades and they were able to run, dig, collect pebbles and shells – even bury one of the dads in the sand (as I remember doing with my dad), leaving his head free of course!

The photographs are a mixture of our recent ones and their fifties equivalents.

              beach

We had a lovely expanse of grass outside the house with a low bank and the children spent ages simply rolling down the bank – something I remember loving as a child!

rolling_bw          rolling

To the rear of the house was an enclosed garden which they named the secret garden. At dusk we went out with a torch looking for the rabbits which came out to play on the grass.

Indoor time was when they played hide and seek, got the paper and crayons out to draw, or played make-believe games. They were read stories at bedtime. On a couple of afternoons we walked along the coast towards the small local town and stopped off at a playground which had swings, climbing frames and slides.

50s playground          IMG_5105

kids reading                                     IMG_5018

Okay, so all this sounds very twee and idyllic, I hear you say! I’m not saying they didn’t cry, argue, get jealous or grumble. They’re small children after all, and small children are good at all of that.

I’m not saying that children have too many toys these days or that children watch too much TV. There are great toys, books and TV programmes for kids now.

The message, if there is one, is that today’s children can still enjoy the same pleasures we enjoyed years ago.

 

 

Transport

   

    
My memories of car travel in the 50’s includes – and this is a child’s view, so there will be no observations on models, performance etc – bench seats in the front, handbrake coming out of the dashboard, the dip operated by a pedal on the floor, indicators which stuck out at the side of the car, no seat belts, no car radio, older cars being mostly black and smelling strongly of leather, frequent breakdowns.
My sister, the youngest of three often sat in the front on the bench seat in between Mum and Dad. At the top of a steep hill – and I grew up surrounded by hills! – there were always cars pulled over with the bonnets up and steam escaping from the engines. On long journeys, there being no in-car entertainments, we sang songs, played games and spotted things to tick off in our I-Spy books. The books were small and perfect for taking on a walk or a journey. My favourite of the ones we had was I-Spy The Unusal.
In the 60’s there were cars with individual car seats, wider rear and front windscreens, blinking indicator lights instead of flag ones sticking out and more colours including, I remember, some two-tone cars. As kids we spent hours playing outside in the mud and dirt with our Dinky, Corgi and Mathboxcars. We were impressed with the new two-tone look and used Airfix model paints to give our cars a more fashionable look. If we still had them, and we don’t, they would be worth nothing. Unlike the pristine ones in their boxes which can sometimes be seen on programmes like Flog it and Antiques Roadshow. But we had many hours of fun with ours so no regrets there!

in the 60’s came seat belts and reversing lights.  When reversing, the driver switched the reversing light on and had to remember to switch it off or risk getting a £50 fine! I remember this particularly because it was a recent development when I was first learning to drive in 1968.

This is all from my childhood memories.  I haven’t looked anything up (apart from the photos) so I’m sure there will be some slight inaccuracies. My intention is to spark off readers’ own memories of motoring in those two decades.

Although I called this post Transport, so far I have only covered cars. I will re-visit soon with more about trains and buses.

The blog begins – with food!

Hi everyone! I set this page up months ago and have been too scared to start. So . . . .  I am just going to dive in and get it going. I will tart it up at some stage with fancy backgrounds and pictures but for today I’ll begin by telling you all about it.

I was born in 1951 which means I turn 64 this year. It occurred to me recently that those of us who were kids in the 50s and 60s are now in our 50s and 60s. I thought it might be fun to share thoughts, memories and ideas which we kids of the 50s and 60s all have in common. I’m not going to do fashion just yet, there is already a lot of stuff on the internet about 50s and 60s fashions. I will be looking at radio, TV, events from the news, school life, cars, books and so on. More ideas welcome at any time! But this first post is going to look back at food.

Who remembers being given bread and butter to eat with every meal? I think this was a hangover from rationing when food had to be padded out. Shop cakes were a luxury and we bought them when somebody was coming to tea. I loved Battenburg and Angel Cake. Home baking was for the family. Milk puddings were very common – rice, semolina, ground rice, tapioca even macaroni. We were given jam to stir into these milk puddings. Posh puddings came in packets – lemon meringue pie mix and Creme Caramelle. Cream came in tins – evaporated milk, condensed milk, Carnation and later, in a packet, came Dream Topping which was the ‘whipped cream’ favoured by many for the top of trifles (these could also be bought as a dry mix in a packet).

  

Pasta also came in tins, except macaroni which, as I’ve already mentioned, was a pudding. The only pasta I ever came across in the 50s was Heinz tinned spaghetti. I don’t remember ever having rice as part of a savoury meal in the 50s, it was always a pudding.

I will finish with a random list of other foods which were everyday items but seen less commonly now. Fray Bentos pies, corned beef, tinned salmon, Shipham’s paste, tinned Mulligatawny soup ( a rare treat in our house and a change from Heinz tomato soup), spam, spam fritters (loved them!), luncheon meat, Hovis, Nimble, Lemon Puff biscuits (which made all the other biscuits in the tin go soft and taste of lemon!), Camp coffee and tea leaves instead of tea bags which arrived on the scene later.

I hope this has rung a few bells, struck a few chords, raised a smile or two. My next post might continue the food and drink theme or I might dip into something else. Who knows where this will take me?