Pens

I have loved stationery all my life. As a child if I ever had a bit of spending money, such as on holiday, I was always drawn towards the stationery counters in Woolworth’s and W H Smith. Even today, as an adult, I have an abiding love for note books, pens and pencils. In this post I’m going to look at pens and the enormous changes I’ve seen in my lifetime. I’ve covered stationery in general before but this will go into more detail about just pens.

When I started school wooden barreled dipping pens and inkwells were still being used in classrooms. We had ‘ink monitors’ who were chosen by the teacher. A different child was chosen each week. I far preferred being ink monitor to being milk monitor! Each morning blue-black ink was made up from a powder mixed with water. This was then poured into a class set of china inkwells. Each child’s wooden desk had a hole in it which held the inkwell. There was also a groove along the top to stop the pen rolling down the slope of the desk lid. The ink monitor’s job was to put a full inkwell into every hole.

Our pens were not tapered and polished like this one but the picture gives a rough idea.

The pens were the most basic design which you now only see in art cupboards in schools. Each pen consisted of a simple wooden barrel which had a very basic metal nib pushed onto the end. For those of you who didn’t live through this phase of pens the pictures might help to clarify things.

Blotting paper was essential as you couldn’t turn a page over without blotting the writing first or else it would smudge. If you pressed too hard the nib parted and you got a double pen stroke. If your nib snagged on the paper you got dots of ink spotting your book. And was there is no reservoir, you had to dip your pen in the inkwell every few words. And you always ended up with ink stains on your fingers – which didn’t wash of easily!

Ball-point pens (now known as Biros but often referred to as Bics when they were first around) were available in the 1950s/ early 60s but we were absolutely forbidden to use what the headteacher called ‘new-fangled rubbish’. The name Biro is usually credited to a Hungarian-Argentinian inventor László Bíró, whose name inspired a catch-all term for modern ballpoints. As for Bic, Marcel Bich believed in the potential for the ballpoint pen, adapted and improved the ballpoint invented by the Hungarian László Biró, and in December 1950, launched his own ballpoint pen in France under the BIC® brand, a shortened and more memorable version of his own name. To this day I would always rather write with a pencil, fibre-tip, roller-ball or fountain pen than a Biro. Mr Lewis’ legacy!

I didn’t have a fountain pen until I was eleven when I was bought one especially for starting in high school. I used the same one all the way through that school. It was a Platignum and I used to buy Quink (I favoured Royal Blue) ink to fill it with. You put the nib in the ink and squeezed the small rubber tube inside the handle (I can’t find a picture to illustrate this). Later came cartridge pens which made everything a lot easier. A nice pen was a lovely gift to give on a special occasion. There were everyday brands like Platignum and then there was Parker. There were even higher ranking pens than Parker in existence but they didn’t reach small places like ours and were too expensive anyway. Looking up pen history for this post I learned that Platignum wanted to call the brand Platinum but weren’t, at that time, allowed to register a trade name which was also registered as a precious metal.

When I was a student fibre tipped pens appeared on the scene. We had a stationery shop on the campus and I remember buying my first one, a Tempo. I thought it was wonderful. Whilst researching for this post, I learned that the development of fibre tipped pens was based on the brushes which had been used to write with in the East for centuries.

The choice appears endless now. I still love fountain pens best and also like using fibre tips and roller balls. We can add into the mix:

gel pens, marker pens, highlighter pens and, one of the most recent types, the dry-wipe pen which I made great use of when teaching.

As always, I make every effort not to infringe copyright. If, however, anyone objects to my use of a photograph in my blog, please contact me and it will be removed. Credit to Wikipedia, Google Images and Pinterest.

The Traditional British Seaside Holiday

As we approach summer and people start thinking about holidays I thought I’d take a look at the traditional seaside holiday in Britain, particularly the era of my childhood – the 1950s and 60s.

I’ll start by filling in a bit of background.

Although rich people were taking breaks by the sea from the 1700s, and entering the water using ‘bathing machines’, the working population still worked a six day week with no paid holidays and had no access to transport for long journeys. This changed with the coming of the railways and in 1871. The Bank Holidays Act declared that certain days throughout the year were official holidays (when banks and offices closed). The speed of railway transport meant that people could then travel more easily to the seaside. Coastal towns like: Blackpool, Scarborough, Llandudno and Brighton quickly grew into popular holiday resorts. In the UK, the Holidays with Pay Act 1938 gave workers whose minimum rates of wages were fixed by trade boards, the right to one weeks’ holiday per year.

I never heard of anyone going abroad on holiday when I was a child. I lived in a farming area so most of the families we knew couldn’t leave the farm for a holiday. Every year in the summer our village ran two day trips to the seaside for mums and children. One was just known as the village trip, I have no idea who organised it. Perhaps a group of parents got together. The other was the Sunday School trip. A coach would be hired and we would all pile onto it outside the village post office armed with picnics, buckets and spades, swimsuits etc. We sang songs on the coach and had a brilliant day out even if it rained. If it was too wet for the beach there was always the funfair and the shops in the town where we could spend the little bit of pocket we’d been given. We thought Woolworth’s was heaven!

A coach belonging to our local bus company.
A Woolworth’s toy counter.

Our family holidays were always taken by the coast. Devon and Cornwall were our nearest coastal destinations outside Wales. We have some great beaches in south west Wales too which are nearer to where we lived. We used to go to those for family days out on fine Saturdays in summer. The annual two week summer holiday always saw us going over the border to England.

Traffic jams were a big part of holiday travel at that time. There were no motorways or dual carriageways, towns didn’t have by-passes and had very few roundabouts and traffic lights. Now you can travel across the country sweeping past large and small towns on a motorway, ring road or by-pass. Not then. It was such a pain that we often set off for a holiday at night, arriving at our destination early in the morning. We children thought that was so exciting.

A P.C. on ‘point duty in a town centre before the days of roundabouts and traffic lights.

Back then, everyone took picnics to the beach. Sandwiches and flasks were the norm. Deck chairs were available for hire but most people sat on rugs or towels. We knew nothing about long term sun damage. If you got burned your mum would apply calamine lotion to the burnt skin at bedtime.

At some point in the day there would be a visit to the ice-cream van. What a treat! Homes didn’t have freezers then and neither did the shops around us. When we were small ice-cream was only associated with day trips and holidays. I loved 99’s – and still do!

Credit to Wikipedia, Google Images and woolworthsmuseum.co.uk.

I make every effort to avoid infringing copyright. If, however, anyone objects to my use of an image please contact me and I will remove it.

Pets

I was talking with some friends the other day and the subject of budgies came up. We all remembered so many households where there was a pet budgie. It always fascinated me that if you wanted the budgie to be quiet you put the cover over the cage and it immediately thought it was night and went to sleep. Most of the ones I knew seemed to be called Joey. I don’t know anyone with a budgie now. This got me thinking about how the change in pet-keeping since the 1950s and 60s.

Budgies – or Budgerigars, to give them their full name

I haven’t seen a budgie for many years now but when I was a child they were very popular pets. I often used to see them in the homes of elderly relatives we used to visit. I’m sure there were other names but I used to know a lot of budgies called Joey. They were either blue or green. People used to train them to say a few words. I wondered whether I don’t see them now because it’s illegal to keep them so I looked this up and found that it’s not against the law to keep a budgie as a pet. The decline in numbers is simply changing fashions in pets.

Tortoises

I never had a tortoise but they were very popular pets in the 50s. Children in storybooks and comics often had pet tortoises. I remember reading about owners painting their initials on the shell in case the tortoise ever escaped.

Goldfish

It was very common to see goldfish in bowls when I was a child. One common practice, which is still legal here and shouldn’t be, was the winning of goldfish at fairs. This was still happening when my children were small in the 1980s but is far less common now. The ‘lucky’ child was given a small plastic water-filled bag with a goldfish swimming in it. If it was going back to a household which didn’t already have fish there would have been no tank or bowl and no fish food so the chances are the poor fish would be dead by the next day.

Whilst researching for this post I learned that just last year my nearby town, Wakefield, banned fairs from giving goldfish as prizes to children.

Cats and Dogs

I lived in a farming village so most of the families we knew were farmers and they all had cats and dogs. These were working animals. The dogs were sheepdogs and were trained to work with flocks of sheep. Most of the ones I knew on our local farms were called Fly, Moss or Belle. Cats were there largely to keep the mouse population down in the hay barns. These weren’t indoor pampered pets. They lived outside and in the barns and outhouses.

When I was 13 we moved five miles from our village into the small town nearby. Here there were more people with pet dogs who were taken out for regular walks on leads. We acquired a pet dog, a Golden Labrador, when I was 15 and we all absolutely adored her.

Perhaps the range of pets available in the 50s and 60s was greater than I’m remembering. It could be that my experience was different from others from that time because we didn’t have a pet shop anywhere nearby. However, this is how I remember things and I am only speaking from personal experience.

Credit to Wikipedia and Google Images. I endeavor to ensure I am not infringing copyright when using photographs obtained from the Internet. If anyone objects to my use of a photograph, let me know and I will remove it.

Tea

When I was a child, the drink everybody drank was tea. There was hardly any coffee around in the 1950s, not where I lived, anyway. Children drank milk (warmed in winter, cold in summer), orange squash or weak tea with occasionally cocoa, Horlicks or Ovaltine at bedtime. Adults drank tea (most of them took sugar in it, unlike now) and sometimes a warm milky drink at night. People didn’t drink water the way they do now. In cafes and restaurants you were never offered water with your food and many would refuse if you asked for a glass of tap water. We knew nothing about caffeine or about the importance of keeping your body hydrated. This post focuses on just tea, that quintessentially British drink. I really fancied using the word quintessentially, for some reason!

The Tea we Drank.

There were no tea bags then and very few brands to choose from. Tea leaves were the only form the tea came in. I remember Broooke Bond being around and in some grocery shops you could buy loose tea weighed out on scales. Once home, you transferred your loose tea to a tea caddy. Green, decaffeinated, herbal varieties etc. didn’t exist.

The Tea Pots we Used.

Of course, loose tea can’t be made in the cup so we all used teapots. Stainless steel ones didn’t come on the scene until the mid sixties. The everyday family teapot was a sturdy earthenware one, usually dark brown. When anyone came to visit a more decorative china pot would be brought out, often part of a ‘tea set’. A lot of people had a very best set which had usually been given as a wedding present and which never left the glass-fronted china cabinet.

Cups and Saucers

It’s hard to believe now, but nobody drank out of mugs in the 1950s. Every hot drink was drunk out of a cup and saucer. Everyday ones were fairly robust, best ones prettier and more fragile. I have a lovely tea set from the 1920s which was my grandmother’s.

Other Essential Equipment

In addition to the ubiquitous teapot, everyone needed tea strainers to filter out the leaves. As with the pots, there were plain everyday ones and fancier ‘best’ ones. Tea cosies were essential for keeping the tea warm while it brewed in the pot for the standard three minutes. Tea caddies stored the loose tea leaves and there were special little scoops for measuring out the right amount of tea into the pot.

Credit to Google Images and Wikipedia. As always, I have endeavored not to infringe copyright. However, if anyone objects to my use of an image, please contact me and I will remove it.

Primary School Learning in the 1950s and early 1960s.

The school I attended from four years old until eleven was a very small primary school in a remote rural village. The year I left to go to the high school there were 28 pupils in the school which gives you an idea how small it was. Because it was such a rural area, some of the children from outlying farms came from a mile or two away. I was mostly happy in school, I liked the teachers and I worked hard. Many years later, in my early forties I trained for a second career as a primary school teacher. The differences between learning in the 1950s and decades later when I was teaching are many! I thought I’d look at some of the subjects, how they were taught and what we learned. I’m not criticising my teachers. That was just the way it was then and we were not at all disadvantaged by the education we received.

History

I have no memory of finding out about any world history in primary school. As a teacher I loved teaching children about Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, The Vikings, World War II and so on. Our history in the 1950s was very Britain centred and consisted of learning about famous people and heroes like Scott of the Antarctic, Florence Nightingale, Nelson etc. There were no opportunities for finding things out for ourselves by looking in history books or encyclopedias. We were told their stories and we copied out passages from text books.

BBC - History - Scott of the Antarctic
Florence Nightingale - Wikipedia
Scott of the Antarctic and Florence Nightingale. Two of the historical figures I remember from primary school lessons.

Maths

I didn’t come across geometry or algebra until high school. Our maths from four to eleven was strictly arithmetic. Times tables were learned off by heart. This was done by the whole class reciting them together first thing every morning. Other tables which were recited were the weights and measures ones such as ‘Twelve inches to a foot, three feet to a yard, one thousand seven hundred and sixty yards to a mile, eight eighty yards to half a mile, four forty yards to a quarter of a mile . . .’ and so on. This was repeated for weight and time. In our final year we had to sit a test called the ‘Eleven-Plus’ to decide on where you went for your secondary education. The maths we did was all geared towards this test. We had to solve written problems, work out fractions and percentages and even learn how to calculate simple and compound interest.

Exercise book
All our school exercise books had these tables on the back cover.

English

My main memories of this subject are of handwriting practice, comprehension exercises, spelling tests, writing ‘compositions’ (stories, we’d say now) and learning very serious, old-fashioned poems off by heart then reciting them. In readiness for the eleven plus we also had to learn proverbs off by heart. ‘All that glitters is not gold’, ‘A stitch in time saves nine’, etc. were learned and we were tested on them.

Music

Like our history lessons, the music we did in school was very traditional and serious. We learned to play the recorder which I loved. The songs we learned and sang – or played on the recorder – were hymns, in both Welsh and English, and songs like ‘Over the Sea to Skye’ and ‘Hearts of Oak’.

Vintage Recorders for sale | eBay
My recorder was exactly like this one. My granddaughter now has it.

Science

The only science-related activity I can recall doing is when, on a fine day in spring and summer, the teachers would sometimes take us all out for what they called a ‘nature ramble’. They pointed out various flowers, trees and birds and we picked flowers and leaves to take back to school. But I mainly remember how lovely it was to be out of school, enjoying the weather and walking along the lanes around the village. There was hardly any traffic around so road safety wasn’t an issue.

Art and Craft

We did sometimes have art sessions but the only medium I remember using was powder paints. I don’t recall any lessons on colour mixing or technique but the painting was fun. I learned about colours at home from those lovely tins of water colours we used to have back then with the names of the colours written under every little square of paint. I loved the wonderful names they had like ultramarine and burnt umber. Oh, the joy of getting a brand new paint tin for Christmas! I also enjoyed the knitting and embroidery lessons in school.

Vintage Paint Set Divers Design 1960s Children's Paint image 5
I never see paint boxes for children now with the names of the colours written under each block – and I have looked!

P.E.

We very rarely did PE although there in a storage area there were a few boxes of coloured bean bags, balls and quoits. We used to look at them longingly! A few years into my time at the school we acquired a new school radio. Once a week one of our two teachers would tune into a BBC programme called Music and Movement. For fifteen minutes we would follow the instructions on the radio and move around the classroom in different ways. Sometimes we were asked to imagine we were different creatures or to stand still and look like a tree. We absolutely loved it!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image.jpeg
How we would have looked when listening to the BBC’s Music and Movement programme on the school radio.

R.E.

Religious Education consisted of singing hymns first thing in the morning while a teacher played the piano and saying prayers . Being a Welsh school we also learned the story of our patron saint, St David. We all went to church and Sunday School and learned more about the stories in the Bible there. We were completely unaware of any of the other faiths in the world such as Islam, Buddhism, Sikhism etc.

Saint David Biography - Childhood, Life Achievements & Timeline
St David, the patron Saint of Wales.

As always, credit to Wikipedia and Google Images. I make every effort to ensure that I do not infringe copyright but if anyone objects to my use of an image please contact me and I will remove it.

When Tea was Tea and Bread was Bread.

This could be subtitled ‘Another Way in which Things have Changed’. It’s not a complaint, more choice is mostly a good thing. I’m just making a comparison.

Last week we were visiting relatives and whilst with them we made a trip into their nearby city. When we were ready for something to eat we dived into the first café we saw – it was pouring with rain! – to get some lunch. It was a lovely café and we were all able to choose a light lunch from their menu. When it came to choosing our drinks we looked at the drinks menu. There were eleven different teas and seven coffees to choose from. I know this is an unusually large selection but it occurred to me that even the simplest of small cafes will list three or four different teas and in the likes of Costa and Starbucks the choice of coffees is bewildering.

THEN . .

Typhoo tea vintage advertising

And NOW

UK Companies Prepare to Stockpile for Christmas Time No-Deal Brexit

Back in the 1950s and 60s, when I was a child, visits to cafes were usually associated with day trips and holidays. The drinks to choose from would be tea, coffee, orange squash, lemonade and milk. Perhaps a milk shake in some places. Then we come to the milk you put in your tea or coffee. Whole, semi-skimmed or skimmed? Oat, soya or almond milk?

THEN . . .

1950's Memories - The Milkman | Colin Pickett | Flickr

And NOW

Milks of Human Kindness | Veggies

I could cover so many menu items which are different from the 1950s but the next one I’m going to look at is bread. I never, ever remember brown bread being offered as an option when you bought a sandwich in a café. Bread for sandwiches was always white sliced bread. If you ordered a hot meal like fish and chips there was usually a plate of bread (white sliced bread) and butter served with it. In a café or restaurant now it’s normal to be asked if you want white or brown bread. The more up-market you go, the more choices there are. It’s quite usual to see a list of different sandwich fillings and a footnote saying served on white or brown bread, ciabatta, panini or baguette.

THEN . .

Cheese & Tomato – southdownscoffee

And NOW

Chicken ciabatta sandwich recipe | Schwartz
Baguette sandwiches filled with tomato, mozzarella and rocket - Stock Photo  - Dissolve

A 1950s ‘Woolies’ cafeteria. One kind each of tea, coffee and bread. I loved those cafeterias! We never even hear the word cafeteria now.

1950s Woolworths Restaurant

A few more memories of British cafés in the 1950s to round this off. Salad was lettuce, cucumber and tomato. No rocket, peppers, olives and certainly no salad dressing. The only thing which was ever put on salad was salad cream. Tomato sauce was often on the table in a red, plastic tomato-shaped container. Pickle meant Branston, Piccalilli or pickled onions. Egg sandwiches were made with salad cream and some cress and were not known as egg mayonnaise sandwiches. Cafes and restaurants rarely offered tap water as a drink option and would even refuse it if asked.

THEN . .

And NOW

8 Healthy Salad Dressing Recipes You Should Make at Home | Wholefully

Pictures sourced from Google Images and Wikipedia. As always, I go to a lot of trouble to avoid infringing copyright. If, however, anyone objects to my use of an image please contact me and I will remove it.

Space

Those of us who were children in the 50s and 60s were witnesses to the dawn of space travel. I remember hearing about the Sputniks and being excited by the thought of anything travelling into space. When they launched Sputnik 2 in 1957 I was haunted by the thought of the poor little dog Laika being sent up there and not coming back alive.

In 1961, when Yuri Gagarin became the first man to travel into space, my school acquired its first ever television set specifically so that we could watch the lift-off live as a whole school – all 28 of us and two teachers! This was incredibly exciting.

The launching of a man into space was exciting in itself but this was at a time when many families, especially in remote countryside locations like ours, didn’t yet have a TV set in the home. We all know that next came the Explorer, Apollo and Shuttle programmes. Space systems continue to become more and advanced and now space travel itself doesn’t often make headlines but many facets of our lives, are influenced and even sometimes controlled from space. Just think of our SatNavs and Sky dishes!

Although space travel didn’t begin until the 1950s, people have always been fascinated by space and the possibility of extra-terrestrial beings. Here is a brief summary of some of the science fiction which predated real space travel.

The First Men in the Moon is a scientific romance by the English author H G Wells, originally serialised in The Strand. His work The War of the Worlds is a science fiction novel. Its first appearance in hardcover was in 1898. and it is one of the earliest stories to detail a conflict between mankind and an extra-terrestrial race.

H.G. Wells - Books, Time Machine & War of the Worlds - Biography
The War of the Worlds, by H. G. Wells

 Mr Skygack, from Mars is considered the first science fiction comic to feature an extra-terrestrial character in the history of comics. It ran from 1907 to 1911.

In 1942, Isaac Asimov published the first of his Foundation stories—later collected in the Foundation Trilogy in the 1950s. The books recount the fall of a vast interstellar empire and the establishment of its eventual successor. 

Image 1 - isaac asimov foundation series 6 books collection set - (foundation,foundation a

Arthur C. Clarke was a lifelong proponent of space travel and in 1934, while still a teenager, he joined the British Interplanetary Society. When originally formed in January 1933, the British Interplanetary Society aimed not only to promote and raise the public profile of astronautics, but also to undertake practical experimentation into rocketry.

In 1948, he wrote The Sentinel for a BBC competition. Though the story was rejected, it changed the course of Clarke’s career. Not only was it the basis for 2001: A Space Odyssey but “The Sentinel” also introduced a more cosmic element to Clarke’s work. 

Dan Dare was a British science fiction comic book hero (1950 – 1967), created by Frank Hampson who also wrote the first stories. They were set in the late 1990s, but the dialogue and manner of the characters were reminiscent of British war films of the 1950s.

Eagle cover 1989.jpg

Credit to Wikipedia, Google Images, NASA, ESA, BIS. As always, I have endeavored to ensure that I have not infringed copyright through the images I have used. If, however, anyone objects to the use of a particular image please contact me and I will remove it.

The Annual Show

Just when I was fearing that I’d completely run out of ideas for a new post – blogger’s block? – I sat down this evening to watch Countryfile on BBC 1. Readers living in the UK will know what I mean. For people from faraway lands (as they used to say in fairy tales) it’s a weekly programme which goes out on a Sunday evening and covers all matters relating to the countryside. It’s been running for 33 years – yes, I Googled it! – and is a Sunday evening ritual for many people regardless of where they live. It can come from any part of the UK and might focus on farming, nature, tourism, environmental issues, weather, and many, many more countryside related subjects. Tonight’s episode came from a large annual agricultural show in Staffordshire called the Manifold Valley Agricultural Show. Ping! I suddenly had an idea for a blog post!

When I was a child living in a tiny village in a remote valley in mid-Wales the annual shows, which were held in the summer, were something to look forward to. The biggest one in Wales was, and still is, the Royal Welsh Show. We loved going to that one as it was almost like visiting a city to children from a small village. There were so many interesting tents, stands and displays. The ‘show’ bit comes in when farmers show their best livestock and prizes can be won. However, as children, we weren’t interested in that. We saw sheep and cows every day. We wanted to see ice-cream vans, rides, tents selling crafts and souvenirs, to just enjoy being in such a buzzing atmosphere amongst so many people. It was half an hour from where we lived so was rarely missed.

The Royal Welsh, 1950s.
The Royal Welsh 1963 – I was probably there! But I wouldn’t have been looking at the prize-winning pigs.
File:The Royal Welsh Agricultural Show at Bangor 1958 (7636807478).jpg -  Wikimedia Commons
A 1950s scene from the Royal Welsh. I think it might have been raining!

At the next tier down, every county had an annual show. Within those counties the rural towns had their own annual shows. But right at the bottom of the ladder – or the top for us as children – most farming villages also had a show in the summer. My village was tiny. It spread for miles as all the farms were so widely scattered but you could drive through it and miss it. To give you an idea, my village school which took all the village children from aged 4 to aged 11 had just under 30 pupils each year. Many of the villages in the area were as small, in some cases smaller. But there used to be some great shows to go to on a summer weekend.

A prize-winning Welsh Black.

Lleyn Sheep Society :: History of the Society upto 2020 by H Stoney-Grayshon

Another Royal Welsh prize winner,

The modern day Royal Welsh. Still a great day out.

I thought this was a good time to celebrate the world creeping back to normality – very slowly – after the pandemic nightmare of the last eighteen months. There were no shows last year. As open air events they have crawled back into place this year. Let’s hope next year is completely back to normal.

On Being Born in the 1950s.

So, readers, I turned 70 last week. I hadn’t been one bit excited about it as I feel the pandemic prevented me from having a normal year when I was 69. As it turned out, two days before my birthday was officially the country’s second easing of lockdown no. 3. It was a great week to have a birthday as I was able to see some family members I hadn’t seen since before March 2020.

My birthday led me to think, as it often does, of the tales my mum used to tell me about the times when I, my brother and sister were born.

At the turn of the century, birth at home was the normal. Within 50 years, the majority of women had hospital births. Maternity hospitals or homes were usually independent from general hospitals. Men were never with their wives through labour and definitely weren’t present for the delivery.

John Bull 1950s UK babies hospitals maternity wards fathers #7077383
The front cover of a 1952 edition of John Bull magazine showing new fathers meeting their offspring for the first time in the nursery – blue cot blankets for the boys, pink for the girls.

Bottle feeding started to become popular in the late 40s and by the time I was born women were actively encourage to choose bottle over breast. Years later when my mum saw her grandchildren being breastfed she bitterly regretted not having been encouraged to do it.

Back in the 1950s women stayed in hospital for a period from eight days to two weeks after giving birth. My mum used to tell of being in the maternity hospital for two weeks after each of us. This was all very well when it was a first baby but when were other children to care for, and the father had to work, it was a problem. I was three and a half when my sister was born. My brother (two years old) and I were driven to our grandparents in a different town to stay for the two weeks my mum was in the hospital.

Once born, babies were looked after in the nursery and only handed to their mothers when it was time to be fed. If your baby was unsettled in between feeds you didn’t know about it. Feeding was strictly timed. The routine for newborns and for the first few months was a feed every four hours, at precisely 10.00 am, 2.00 pm, 6.00 pm, 10.00 pm, 2.00 am, 6.00 am. Night feeds were given by nursing staff in the nursery so that the new mum could get her sleep. I remember my mum telling of nursing staff walking down the central aisle of the maternity ward with a large trolley containing babies, handing them out and announcing “Feeding time, mummies!”

Giving birth in the 1960s: 'All the mothers were terrified of the doctors  and matron so we never asked any questions'
A 1950s nursery in a maternity hospital.

Before being discharged, the mothers were taught how to bath their new babies. The system then was to fill the baby bath, test the temperature with your elbow, soap the baby all over, then lower it into the water. The first time my mum did this with me after returning home, she soaped me all over then lowered me towards the water. I wriggled and I was so slippery from the soap that I slipped out of her hands and landed face down in the water. My mum thought she’d killed me and had to shout for my dad to come.

As well as being instructed to feed to a strict schedule, new mothers were told to put their babies outside in their prams in all weathers to benefit from the fresh air. They were also told that crying was good for their babies and exercised their lungs. When they were outside, the mums couldn’t hear them crying. They would bring them in to be fed and changed at the exact times dictated by the nurses at the hospital and by the district nurses who visited the home afterwards.

Watch A Day in a Baby's Life online - BFI Player
A 1950s coach built pram.

Credit to Google Images, Pinterest and Wikipedia. As always, I make every effort to avoid infringing copyright. If anyone objects to my use of any images, please contact me direct and I will remove it.

Saint David’s Day – Dydd Gwyl Dewi Sant

Today, March 1st is St David’s Day and a very important day in Wales.

Saint David is thought to have been born around 500 AD in Pembrokeshire on the Welsh west coast. David’s reputed mother Non was also a saint, and he was trained as a priest under the tutelage of St Paulinus.

Various miracles are attributed to him, including restoring the sight of his teacher and, most famously, creating an entirely new hill (now the village of Llanddewi Brefi) during an outdoor sermon. The version of this story which we were told in school was that he was preaching to a large crowd, many of whom couldn’t see or hear him properly. A man stepped forward and put his coat on the floor for David to stand on. When he stood on the coat the ground rose up and a small hill was formed.

St David

Saint David became a renowned missionary in Wales and beyond, and is credited with founding monasteries in his homeland, the south-west of England (including Glastonbury) and Brittany.

When I was in Primary School I remember that our village always held a St David’s Day concert. Our little school was used as a village hall for this sort of event. Various people – adults and children – throughout the evening would take turns to sing, recite or play the piano. One local farmer had a beautiful tenor voice and always sang ‘Jerusalem’. There would also be singing where we all sang together, many of the songs in Welsh.

The traditional dish which all families would eat on that day was ‘cawl’ – pronounced cowl – which is a simple but hearty and nutritious stew made with lamb, root vegetables and leeks. Oddly, it’s the smell of it cooking in our kitchen which I can remember more than the taste.

Our version of the traditional spiced fruit loaf is know as Bara Brith which means speckled bread. It is eaten sliced, buttered and with a paned (cup of tea).

When I was in the Secondary School there was always a St David’s Day Eisteddfod in the school hall. Pupils who were known to be able to play and instrument were often pressured into taking part. Others were happy to volunteer. Most children would have a daffodil pinned to their jumpers. Those who hadn’t been able to locate a daffodil would have a leek pinned to them instead, some of them enormous! I can clearly remember the all-pervading smell of leeks as some of the kids got bored in the audience and started nibbling on them.

Cawl.
Welsh cakes are very popular in Wales and are sold in most bakeries and cafes. Cooked on a bakestone or a griddle pan, they are eaten all year round but especially on St David’s Day.

I have lived in England now since 1973. I have worn a daffodil on March 1st every year of my life as I am doing today. Occasionally if I’ve been in my local town shopping on St David’s Day (not this year, thanks to COVID-19) and seen another person wearing a daff we greet each other and have a little chat.

Happy St David’s Day to you all!!

Dydd Gwyl Dewi Hapus!!

As usual – images courtesy of Google Images, Pinterest, Wikipedia. Anyone objecting to my use of an image can contact me and I will remove it.