Category Archives: Growing up

The Easter Parade

When I was growing up in London all those years ago, Easter was an important time in our calendar.  We three girls went to church to celebrate but of course Mother, who was Jewish, didn’t accompany us.  Friday service was always very solemn and left us in a solemn mood for the day.

But we all looked forward to the Easter Parade on Easter Sunday.  Even as far back as the middle ages, many cultures would strut their new finery on their way to church or visiting friends on this Sunday.  A more spiritual slant is this ritual represents the procession that followed Christ carrying the cross.

Hyde Park, London

Whatever your beliefs, as we were growing up we would go to Hyde Park in London and watch ‘the gentry’ perambulating and  showing off their finery and as three young girls we were very excited at the spectacle.  Of course, we always had new clothes for Easter and thought we were also quite grand.

And each year there was the excitement of The Easter Parade at Collins Music Hall very close to where we lived.  The Music Hall would have a line up of top acts for Easter.  Unfortunately, we were considered too young by our parents to go to this show advertised in 1950.

Easter Parade Poster

Bill advertising 'Easter Parade' at Collins' Music Hall in April 1950. arthurloyd.co.uk

Now Lotte and I are going to be away for Easter and so I ask that you forgive me if I don’t read and respond to your blog posts for the next few days. So enjoy your weekend as you choose.

Hot Cross Buns

 

 

Memories vs Real Life

Shortly before I was born my parents moved into a new block of flats.  Their house had been taken for road widening (I think) and so they were offered this new flat.  It had two bedrooms, a living room, kitchen and bathroom.

I learned that the complex was opened in January 1938 and was originally called Morley House but in 1984 was renamed Nelson Mandela house in recognition of the statesman.  At about that time there was a raft of name changes of buildings and streets to recognise Mandela not only in London but all around the United Kingdom.

Nelson Mandela House

"Nelson Mandela House by sarflondondunc, on Flickr"

 I couldn’t find any photos of the complex from when we lived there – we moved when I was 11 and my family were not into taking photos of other than their three daughters.  It is very strange how different things are in real life compared to our memory of them.  In my memory there were only three or four stories in each of the blocks, but I see from this photo that in fact there were five.  Did someone add to the block in the 60 plus years since we lived there?

Our grandparents lived in the same complex and so they were very much part of our lives.  In the same complex but in a different block, lived our grandmother’s younger sister with her two daughters.  This aunt was more my mother’s age and her two daughters were our age.  So on the very odd occasion when mother wasn’t home for us after school she could arrange for us to be at one or other of these family apartments.

Each apartment had a small verandah that overlooked a common square and each day coming home from school we would look up and see our grandfather sitting enjoying the passing parade.  I think he must have been quite sick for a long time because I don’t remember that he left the flat very often.

When I went back a few years ago I was horrified to see how the whole complex had deteriorated.  The gardens had been concreted over to allow cars to be parked – of course, when we lived there few people owned cars and so the very few garages available to tenants were sufficient.

How different life is now when families are scattered around the country and in some cases (like ours) around the world.  Are our children missing out on the close companionship of cousins, aunts and uncles and grandparents?

So what’s the point of this post?  Just another journey down memory lane.

Nobody has ever before asked the nuclear family to live all by itself in a box the way we do.
With no relatives, no support, we’ve put it in an impossible situation.
Margaret Mead

Butterfly

Photo - Ed Dear

Back to the Real World

After my foray into fiction writing I have returned to the real world with a bump.

Here I am at 4.45pm sitting in front of a blank computer screen with no idea what to write about.  I wish that Maisie and Juliet were here to help me.  They certainly seem to have plenty of good ideas, even if they do get into trouble occasionally often.

When writing about the Terrible Trio (Maisie, Juliet and Imogen) I got to thinking about school and school days.  So I Googled  my old school, John Howard in London to find that it has completely changed.  It is now an ‘academy’ and its name has been changed to Clapton Girls Academy.

When my two sisters and I attended the school there were about 450 pupils, all girls and now I read that the role is up to 900 (still girls only)  and more than 50 languages are spoken at the school and 70% of the students hold English as an additional language.  When we attended I don’t think there were any girls whose first language wasn’t English.  How times have changed.

When we three attended John Howard there were strict conduct and dress rules.  No running inside, outdoor shoes had to be changed into indoor shoes when entering the school building; and the uniform was an indescribable brown tunic with custard yellow blouse.  I think we wore brown polished leather shoes in winter.  For gym we had an awful green romper suit; we had a brown beret and blazer for wearing in the street.  Woe betide anyone caught not wearing the beret in a proper manner (as determined by the sixth and seventh form and/or prefects).  I can’t remember what the summer dresses were like – perhaps green with white trim.  And we wore leather sandals with these.

Sandals

Leather sandals circa 1945

Oh and I do remember that plimsolls aka gym shoes had to be died  dyed brown.  (Well this would surely have killed those shoes anyway.)  Poor mother having to dye three pairs this ghastly colour.

There was a magnificent oak staircase in the main entry hall, but only staff and prefects could avail themselves of it.  The rest of us, the hoi polloi, had to use the back service stairs.  Oh the joy in being made a prefect and the first time we could use that staircase!

I haven’t thought about school for many, many years but today after looking it up on Google I decided to become a member of the Old Girls Society and so I have joined.

We had a scary (for the young girls anyway) headmistress who was called Dr Hunt.  I do believe that even other staff members used her title – no informality here.  She had a magnificent study that overlooked the playing fields and the school grounds and she would sit in her chair and survey her kingdom.  In her way she was a very powerful person.

I attended that school for 7 years.  There I learned my love of the English language and its literary greats.  I learned to respect authority and to take responsibility for myself and my own actions.  They were good years for me and I wonder if today’s young women will say the same when they get to be my age.

 

London Pride

St Paul's Cathedral

The undamaged St Paul's Cathedral surrounded by smoke and bombed-out buildings in December 1940. Image via Wikipedia

If you have read any of my earlier blogs you will know that I was born and brought up in London during the Second World War.

It is a well known fact that London was bombed by the Luftwaffe for 76 consecutive nights in 1940/41 and more than one million houses were destroyed or damaged, and more than 20,000 civilians were killed.  We had an aunt who went to visit her sister and after the air raid warning sounded decided to spend the night.  A very lucky decision because the next day when she and her daughters returned home, they found their house razed to the ground.

So I grew up surrounded by bombed sites where houses used to stand and I thought nothing of it.  I really thought everybody lived this way.  Well I was only a few months old when the war started and 7 when it ended in May 1945.

All through these bomb sites a little flower grew.  Well it grew like a weed and while it did have a Latin name – saxifraga –  it was quickly renamed London Pride.  It came to represent the pride and the unstoppable nature of Londoners at the time.   Noel Coward wrote a song about it.  Coward later said that the song came to him when he was sitting on a railway station in London.   He looked about him and saw the flowers and the people going about their business as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening and  he became “overwhelmed by a wave of sentimental pride”  If you haven’t heard it, click here.  

London Pride has been handed down to us.
London Pride is a flower that’s free.
London Pride means our own dear town to us,
And our pride it for ever will be……..

It is very sentimental and very outdated now.  But at the time it was a rallying song for Londoners during the dark days of the Blitz, when people were mourning the loss of husbands, sons, family members and their homes.

And now I must admit that I love Noel Coward.  I have a couple of biographies and know the words to most of the songs he wrote.  Another great favourite is “I’ve been  to a marvellous party” but that has to wait for another day.

Many and Varied Thoughts

I recently was given another award.  Thank you Dor at Technicolor Day Dreams for nominating me and saying such splendid nice things about me.  I do hope I can live up to your comments.

Candle Lighter Award

This is the first time I have received a Candle Lighter Award.

According to Melissa at Play 101 “The Candle Lighter Award is for bloggers whose words light the way through the blogosphere.  It originated at Believe Anyway  for blogs that bring light to the world (and offer) inspiration, hope, optimism, good advice, faith filled assurances, and even humor. There are no rules for this award.  It’s just a way of pointing out inspirational blogs”.

So no rules and I don’t have to pick from the great blogs I follow.  I just direct you to my blogroll to find some lively minds, great reads, inspiration and fun.

And staying with Dor, in a phone conversation with my sister in Los Angeles yesterday she mentioned that she had begun to follow Dor after reading some of her comments on my blog.

Sisters

Oh so very long ago.

My sister brought my attention to a post that Dor had written in November and that somehow I had missed.  The post describes heating in those days when we didn’t all have central heating and used other means of heating the house.  See the post here.

For both of us this brought back so many memories.  When we were growing up we had not only an open fire in the living room but also a heater in the kitchen that heated water and the one and only radiator in the house.  The open fire used coal and the kitchen heater used coke. For those of you not familiar to this material (and how many are as old as me?) coke comes from coal is grey, hard, and porous and is produced in much the same way as charcoal.

Coal and coke were delivered each week and we had two large bins outside the kitchen door for the coalman to dump them into.  The coalman has now disappeared and open fires are no longer allowed in London.  I wrote about the fog, soot and smoke (smog) caused by open fires in an earlier blog.

Oil heater

From memory this looks like our heater

In memory, the house was always warm but this was achieved with not only the two fires and one water reticulated radiator, but with a variety of other sources.  We had various  electric heaters around the house and we also had a kerosene heater in the bedroom I shared with my older sister.  It had a distinctive smell and it too left pretty pictures on the ceiling.  I do remember that if one or other of us had the dreaded bronchitis so prevalent in London at the time, mother would put a kettle of water with Friar’s Balsam in it on top of the heater.  The resulting steam which we inhaled, helped to clear the bronchial tubes in those far off days before inhalers were readily available.

I don’t remember that there were any problems with the one at home.  Only father was ever allowed to fill the thing but we three girls had to take ourselves off to the hardware shop to buy the kerosene and carry it home in a can.  The can was quite heavy and it seems that there was always discussion as to whose turn it was to carry it.

Then when my dashing-young-Scotsman and I moved into our first “garden” apartment (here read semi-basement apartment), we had a really stylish oil heater.  In the cold winter months following our wedding, we would leave this thing on in the hall so that the apartment was warm on our return from work.  One day, when my (very new) husband was away on business I arrived home to find great stalactites of oily grease hanging from the ceiling.  The heater had blown something during the day – how lucky that we didn’t cause a fire. But what was a very young bride to do?  A quick call to the family home, some ten minutes walk away, resulted in both mother and father arriving and taking charge.  They cleaned, scrubbed and dusted while I looked on providing copious cups of tea and encouraging words!

Of course, the ceiling had to be repainted and my very adaptable clever father did this over the next few days.

What memories are revived when reading other people’s blogs.  Thank you Dor and thank you Christine, for bringing the post to my attention and thus reviving these memories.

Christmas Is Coming

Christmas goose
“Christmas is coming and the geese are getting fat
Please put a penny in the old man’s hat
If you haven’t got a penny, a ha’penny will do
If you haven’t got a ha’penny, then God bless you!”
I have talked/written before about growing up in London during and after the Second World War.
During those years, Christmas was a very special occasion.  Not for us the mad consumerism that is rampant now – there was very little to buy.  But what happy memories I have of those days.
In memory, it always seemed to snow on Christmas Day.   We would rise early to see what had been left in the stockings and pillowcases at the foot of our beds.  Our stockings always held an orange.  A rare treat in those days when one couldn’t buy fruit from around the world or fruit out of season.  I don’t know where these came from.  In the stocking would also be several small things.  Maybe a bar of chocolate or a packet of sweets, remembering that sweets were rationed during and after the war.
Ration books

via Wikipedia

Rationing was introduced in June 1940 and ended in July 1954 as was phased out gradually over five years beginning in 1948.   Sweet and sugar rationing continued until 1953.  For more on rationing click here

Our pillowcases were the next to be explored.  There would be a book, puzzle or game that we had commented on during the preceding weeks.  Perhaps a gift from a particular aunt or uncle would also be included but no bright wrapping paper.  Just the presents in the pillowcase.

Then when we would all have breakfast together.  I don’t think this was any special breakfast the way we have now.  Just the normal fare with perhaps eggs or bacon if the ration stretched that far.

The three of us girls would then go to church for the Christmas service.  I know that Mother didn’t come having been raised in the Jewish faith, but I don’t remember Father being there either.  However, once church was over Father would take us on the bus to visit his Father and family.  This was always a good time – but no presents were exchanged – just the fun of having so many cousins all together.

Cooked goose

Back then to our house for Christmas dinner.  This was always goose, never turkey.  I don’t know how they managed this with rationing, and perhaps my memory is playing tricks.  Perhaps it was only in later years that we had goose.  But I have never eaten goose anywhere but in my parents’ house and if I think hard, I can conjure up the smell of it cooking.  In fact, I can smell it now!

The afternoon was spent as a family, playing the games we had received as presents, or everybody reading their new book.  There would be imported dates and is this is the only time I can remember having dates as a child, dates always remind me of Christmas.

How simple and innocent were those Christmases so many years ago.  No mad rushing around the shops for all the presents; Father and Mother bought a gift for each of us only.  I don’t recall their ever having bought a gift for each other.  Perhaps their gift was seeing the happiness of their three small daughters.

We certainly wouldn’t want to return to those days of austerity, but often, in the midst of the hurry and scurry for Christmas, I think back to those more simple days and am glad that I experienced them.

“I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”
Charles Dickens.

Christmas tree

Image via Wikipedia

Moving House

“I was walking along, minding my business,
When out of the orange colored sky,
Flash, bam, alacazam,
Wonderful you came by. “

It was 1950.  My parents had moved into the apartment after their own house was taken for road widening before I was born.  I had always lived in the apartment but now we were to move.

It was very exciting.  It was the year after I went to the grammar school.  I have vivid memories of house moving day.  Mother was very efficient and we were in the new house by lunchtime.  I am unclear of how we got there or how the furniture got moved.  I suspect that Father and some of his friends did the actual moving as we didn’t have money for moving men.

My elder sister, and I were sent off to the Broadway Market to buy ham and fresh rolls for lunch.  As we were 11 and 12 at the time, and in a totally new area of the city (albeit only about 3-4 miles away) it was quite an adventure.

We were given instructions on how to get to The Broadway.  “Walk down Lansdowne Drive all the way to the bottom and then turn right into the market.”  And “Don’t turn into Shrubland Road that will take you to Dalston”.  Well we had never heard these names before and so were very careful how we went.

Sign for London Fields

No smart signs when we lived there

With London Fields on our left we walked along with our money and shopping basket.  No plastic bags from the supermarket then.  In fact, no supermarkets.  It was many years before the introduction of self service supermarkets.

How very grown up we felt being trusted to go to this new shopping area on our own.  Our youngest sister was only 8 and so she couldn’t go with us.

Every shop sold specific things – the butcher sold meat, the baker sold bread etc.  There were general food stores such as Sainsbury’s and The London Co-op, but most people went to the individual shops.  All shops had long counters with shop assistants standing behind them ready to serve.

We went to the two shops.  Bought the ham from the butcher.  He sliced it on a machine counting out the number of slices.  He was friendly and we told him we had just moved into the area and he gave us a slice of ham each to eat on the way home.  We next went to the baker shop.  Full of bread, rolls and cakes and all baked on the premises.  Amazing smells and the smell of newly baked bread takes me right back to that day and that shops.

There are still some shops like this in parts of London.  We bought the rolls from the baker and went off to our new home.  We were very pleased with ourselves.

We told Mother about the butcher and the people in the bakers and how friendly they were.  As they were the local suppliers Mother knew she would meet them in the coming weeks.  Shopping was done each day – no refrigerator in our house and everything had to be carried home by Mother,

I clearly remember the song that everybody was singing at that time.  Natalie Cole sang “I was walking along minding my business, when out of an orange coloured sky, crash bang alakazam wonderful you walked by”.  To this day, whenever I hear that song, I am transported back to 1950, walking along Lansdowne Drive on the way to the Broadway Market in the east end of London.