Nursery Rhymes

nursery rhymes

I grew up hearing, reading and singing Nursery Rhymes. I brought my daughters up knowing them all too. They are a part of our history. Talking with friends the other day I was lamenting the fact that many children starting school at four years old (in my school anyway – it could be different elsewhere) know hardly any of them. They might just know Twinkle Twinkle Little Star or Baa Baa Black Sheep but rarely more than that. I said that I would hate for them to be lost from out culture. A friend then pointed out that many of the words were, in fact, violent and dark.

When I thought about it I recalled cats being drowned in wells, choppers chopping heads off, babies falling out of trees, helpless blind mice having their tails cut off, robins being shot with bows and arrows, a boy and girl falling down a hill and the boy fracturing his skull and an overweight lad chasing little girls and trying to kiss them. I could go on!

Apart from the literal meanings, we now know that most of these rhymes refer to historical events and people, albeit in the form of a simple children’s rhyme. I won’t got into all the meanings and origins here, they are extensively covered in texts and on the Internet. I thought I would take a few of the ones I knew and loved best as a child and say whatever comes to mind.

HumptyDumpty

Humpty_Dumpty_1_-_WW_Denslow_-_Project_Gutenberg_etext_18546

One theory is that Humpty Dumpty was the name of a very large cannon used in the Civil War in Colchester in 1648 which fell off a church roof and become damaged beyond repair. That might or might not be true but what is known is that Lewis Carroll was the first person to illustrate Humpty Dumpty as a comical egg character.

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary

Mistress_Mary,_Quite_Contrary_1_-_WW_Denslow_-_Project_Gutenberg_etext_18546

This was one of my favourites as a small girl. I think that was probably because it has such pretty girly images in the words! The Mary in the rhyme is reputed to be Mary Queen of Scots.

Old Mother Hubbard

Old_Mother_Hubbard_Illustrated.png

Until I researched this picture I hadn’t realised Old Mother Hubbard had so many verses! There is a cottage in Devon which is supposedly where the real Mother Hubbard lived. I always felt sorry for the poor dog. My daughters and I always refer to having a Mother Hubbard cupboard if supplies are running low and we need to go shopping.

Lucy Locket

lucy locket

When I was in primary school Lucy Locket was a circle game we played a lot in the playground. Lucy Locket and Kitty Fisher are believed by some to have been courtesans in the time of Charles II who had a quarrel over a lover.

Are nursery rhymes sweet and historical or are they gross and the stuff of nightmares?

I love them and think it would be very sad if they disappeared from children’s lives.

 

1950s Mums and their weekly hair dos.

My daughter recently drew my attention to an article on the demise of the shampoo and set and suggested it might be a good subject for a blog post. So I started thinking and I kept remembering more and more things – here is the result.

Back in the 1950s when I was a child nobody had showers in their homes and the norm was for people to bath once a week. Going back even further, houses didn’t even have running water and baths. In towns and cities there were public baths which were places where you could go to pay for a cubicle with a bath in it and running hot water. That’s why many of our older swimming pools here in the UK are known as ‘the baths’ because that’s how they started.

public baths

This bit of background is to help explain why the weekly visit to the hairdresser was so important. Nowadays we go to a salon every so often for a decent hair cut by a proficient stylist. In between cuts we wash and style our hair ourselves, most people daily. In the 1950s the current hair styles for women were all quite bouffant and structured. It was not a look which could easily be achieved at home with the equipment and the bathrooms we had at the time.  Once a week a woman had a ‘shampoo and set’ or a ‘hairdo’ at a salon. The hair was washed, covered in setting lotion, set in rollers and dried (baked!) for ages by a massive metal hood drier under which the client sat. If the hair was straight or very fine a perm was essential in order to achieve the desired look. The trim was incidental and was added to the procedure every few weeks to keep the do in shape. It seems strange to us now but visiting the hairdresser weekly was seen as normal rather than extravagant.

50s hair driers         Women's Hairstyles in the 1950s (6)   Elizabeth-Taylor-1950s-hairstyle-9   1950s

The usual sight at a ladies’ hair salon and some of the current styles.

During the week in between the hair was kept in shape with the help of rollers. These could be put in at night and slept in or put in in the morning and left all day (under a net or a headscarf) until being combed out later in the day before the family came home.

My mum had a shampoo and set every week of her adult life. She also slept in rollers. She never needed a perm as she had naturally thick, wavy hair. I remember that when we went on holiday for a fortnight in the summer holidays my mum would visit a salon in the place we were staying for a shampoo and set in the middle of the two weeks.

This is what was used then . . . . . . . .

rollers            rollers 2   hair-spray-helene-curtis-ads-1950s.jpg    setting lotion   50s hair

 

and what can be used today.

ghd   tongs 1

serum         blow-dry-hair

 

 

Blogs I enjoy!

Today I want to spread the word about a few of my favourite blogs. I have several but to begin with here are a few from the top of my list.

https://femininematerz.wordpress.com/author/bisimodupe1975/

Based in Nigeria, this woman blogs on feminist issues and so much more besides. Her posts are always thought-provoking, interesting and informative. This make her blog sound dull and heavy – it isn’t! She can lift the spirits too.

http://thebrightnessofthesedays.com/

This young UK woman with two small children has just returned to work and writes about her life in a mixture of poetry, prose and photographs. Deliciously entertaining and at times exquisitely moving.

https://hometogo232.wordpress.com

This Canadian blogger writes about her life, her family, her faith and sometimes about her health and growing older (which I can identify with!). She writes in such a warm, natural style that you feel you know her personally.

I will be publicising a few more so keep looking out for them.

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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Home Made Clothes and Entertainment

When I was a teenager in the mid 1960s my friends and I were all caught up in the fashions and music of the times. We lived in a remote area,  money wasn’t plentiful and as we were still at school we didn’t have spending money apart from a bit of pocket money.

The latest single (known as a 45) was saved up for or, if you had a birthday coming, up you might be bought it as a present. At home, my dad bought a reel to reel tape recorder, I remember it was a Grundig TK14. We used to tape pop songs from the radio (I believe it was illegal but we didn’t know that) by holding the microphone near to the speaker of the transistor radio. The quality must have been terrible but we were happy! You had to be smart on the record button to make sure you didn’t get the presenter’s voice at the beginning and end of the song.

dansette01      TK14 good pic

My brother, sister and I used to have fun pretending to be radio presenters and putting our own commentary on the tape in between songs.

I loved Honey magazine and used to read each issue cover to cover many times. My mum was an excellent knitter and sewer and made most of our dresses, jumpers and cardigans. Once I spotted a delightful green dress in my magazine and showed it to my mum. She copied it for me by combining three different dress patterns and I was SO proud of it! I think I wore it all the parties and dances I went to that year. The picture and the patterns aren’t the actual ones but similar.

green dress                    Dress5                         mccalls-8755

I had a lovely pair of cream T-Bar shoes for best which I wore throughout one year with a camel coloured A-line dress. The following year camel was out and turquoise was big so I bought a Lady Esquire shoe dye and dyed the shoes turquoise. My sister and I also used to use Dylon dyes to give clothes a new look.

60s shoes                                     shoe dye

One winter, when capes were in fashion, I longed for one. My mum had an old policeman’s cape which had belonged to my dad’s policeman brother. She cut it down for me, put new fastenings on it and lined it with emerald green satin from one of her old dance dresses. I thought it was fabulous!

 

cape

Children’s Books

Children’s books now are brilliant and the choice is bewildering. We had fewer books in my childhood but we loved our books and bedtime stories. For small children the picture books were usually (as far as I remember!) about fairies, puppies, children playing with toys and happy family scenes.

$_12           Bedtime Stories

Even when we were very young our mum used to read to us from the ‘harder’ books. We loved listening to all the ones now referred to as ‘classics’ such as Alice in Wonderland, Winnie the Pooh and Black Beauty. Good stories were read over and over again. I knew Black Beauty inside out!

railway-children-book-cover                                                         five-on-a-treasure-island-book-cover

Sambo  Nobody would write a book like this nowadays!

We were also read the The Water Babies and Paddington Bear. Other books we had were the collections of;  traditional tales, children’s poetry, nursery rhymes and fables.

Nursery Rhymes                Boys annual  Boys' Stories

When I was a little older I loved The Children of the New Forest, Heidi (the whole series), The Secret Garden and A Little Princess. Boys’ books tended towards adventure and heroes – Treasure Island, Robinson Crusoe –  whereas girls’books were of a gentler nature! There was very much a gender divide especially in the collections and annuals.

image  These are some of my own books from my childhood. I think I badly wanted to be Heidi for a while!

The books which all three of us (two girls and a boy) loved were the Enid Blyton Famous Five and Secret Seven series. Unusually for the time they appealed to both boys and girls. They were so easy to identify with as the kids were our ages and they had such exciting adventures.

Dressing Up

All children love dressing up. Dressing up outfits are plentiful and cheap nowadays. My two grandsons, aged five and three, love to be dressed as Power Rangers, Storm Troopers, Spider-Man and Iron Man.

Image result for dressing up outfits for kids       

When I was a child dressing up at home involved whatever we could find – Mum and Dad’s clothes and shoes, drawn on beards and moustaches, Nana’s hats, any belts and bags from around the house plus various other props. One year we (that is me, my brother and sister) were given a dressing up outfit each at Christmas. Mine was a nurse’s outfit, my brother’s a cowboy one and my sister’s was a cowgirl’s costume – cowboys were huge at that time in films, books, comics and on TV. We thought they were amazing and wore them for as long as we could squeeze into them as we grew. When I wore my outfit and had my red, plastic pince-nez on the end of my nose (they hurt me, but I didn’t care!), I really felt like a proper nurse.

            

Apart from dressing up at home there were fancy dress occasions. Every town and village had an annual carnival – in some parts of Britain this would have been known as a gala or fete. There was always a fancy dress parade with prizes for the best costumes. The mums went all out to create outfits for the children and often for themselves as adults dressed up too. People dressed up as famous characters past or present, story characters, pirates, fairies, witches and so on. Dressing up as a tramp was always good fun. At that time the ‘tramp’ was a common sight. They were vagrants who walked (tramped) from place to place living on handouts from well-wishers – and their wits. The other name for tramps was ‘gentlemen of the road’. I now know that many of them had been traumatised in the two World Wars and had been unable to settle back into normal life so took to the roads.  At that time Post-traumatic Stress Disorder was unknown or mis-labelled ‘shell-shock’ and with no such thing as counselling they were left to get on with life as well as they could.

     

Anyway, back to fancy dress. My mum was a skilled seamstress (from necessity) and was also very creative. Some of the costumes I remember her putting together are; my brother as a golliwog (I know, they’re not PC now but to us at that time they were just toys), Little Bo Peep (my sister, complete with a big black spider made by my dad and suspended by elastic) and Dr Fuchs (my dad dressed in a duffle coat and wellies accompanied by my brother’s ride-on tractor with the name Sno Cat on a sign attached to the front).For those who don’t remember the name, Dr Vivian Fuchs’ Trans Atlantic expedition reached the South Pole in 1958. The vehicles they used to cross the Antarctic were known as Sno-Cats.

This is a picture of me and my sister dressed for a fancy dress parade. My mum made the costumes on her Singer sewing machine out of crepe paper. We were dressed as the soldier and lady on the Quality Street tin – note, if you can see it, the Quality Street tin my sister was carrying! Next to it I have put a picture of an old Quality Street tin in case anyone doesn’t know the man and woman I’m talking about.

Qual St       Qual St 2

To this day I still love fancy dress and would rather put my own outfit together than hire a ready-made one. It’s more fun!

 

As always, I have used a mixture of my own photos and relevant one sourced from the Internet. If I have infringed copyright I fill happily remove any offending photo.

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.

 

 

Keeping Warm

Back in the 1950’s I knew nobody who had central heating in their home. In fact, I don’t think I ever heard the expression. We all had open fires which burned coal and logs. Even in school, the classroom was heated by a large coal fire. There was an enormous fire guard around the school fire and on a very wet or snowy day there would be loads of hats and gloves drying out on it. There were less than thirty children in the village school so the guard was big enough to dry all our things out before we went out again.

In our house we had two fires, one in the dining room and one in the lounge. In the evening the whole family would be in the lounge together listening to the radio, later in my childhood watching television. We could get really warm and cosy in front of the fire, especially our fronts! Leaving the circle of heat to use the bathroom, get a drink or go to bed was something to be put off as long as possible. . . . and then done as quickly as possible.

In the very coldest weather we children had a paraffin stove in our bedroom. We were so glad of the warmth we didn’t notice the smell of paraffin.

imageOurs was just like this one.

In the morning there was always ice on the inside of the bedroom windows. The patterns formed were beautiful like this example.

image

Later on, in the 60s, when the family lived in a bigger house, we children had a bedroom each and each bedroom had an electric fire. We were allowed to use them when we were getting up and going to bed. We would not have even tried to spend leisure time in our bedrooms in winter as the electrics fires were known to be expensive to run. We had heaters like each one of these.

 

Bedding consisted of

. a top and bottom sheet – all cotton, brushed ‘flannelette’ in winter.

. two or three blankets – these were not soft and cuddly, they were hard and scratchy. As they were purely for warmth and sandwiched between sheet and cover the textures didn’t matter.  They weren’t pretty colours either. Some were beige, others were grey or brown.

. a candlewick bedspread.

. a feather-filled eiderdown.

 

 

Books, Comics and Magazines.

As children my brother, sister and I loved books. There was a lot less choice than there is now and we were a long way from any shops so the books we had were read again and again. Enid Blyton featured largely in our lives; from the Noddy books when we were very young through to the adventures of the Secret Seven and the Famous Five. We even had a record of Noddy tales and songs read and played by Enid Blyton herself. When I was devouring Blyton adventure stories my sister, who was younger, adored Tales of Green Hedges. The books now referred to as ‘classics’ were also read and loved. Wind in the Willows, Alice in Wonderland, The Water Babies, Black Beauty and King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table are some I remember with great affection. My absolute favourites were the Heidi books. I had all of them and I believe I actually wanted to be Heidi!

My Princess cookbook and some of my        A few of my childhood books.               many recipes from Princess.

Once a week our comics were picked up from the local town when my mum went shopping on a Friday. The arrival of the weekly comic was so exciting! We had one each. My brother’s comic of choice was Hotspur. I took Princess magazine and my sister liked Bunty. We read every word. I can remember a family called the Days who were a cartoon strip in Princess. I still have a lot of my recipe cuttings and my Princess cookbook.

image.

In later years, in the mid-sixties, I was in my early teens and took Jackie magazine. After a few years of enjoying Jackie, Honey magazine came out. I immediately switched from Jackie to Honey. When I left to go to university I had a complete set from Number 1.  My mum and dad threw them out in a house move. I was mortified!

image

I love books to this day – and I still cut recipes out of magazines and save them!