Tag Archives: nostalgia

Spirits?

I have only one relative (apart from my children and their families) living in New Zealand.  This is a cousin of my Mother’s who is only a couple of years older than me.

We talk from time to time on the phone.  Reminiscing about growing up in London during and after the war and generally catching up with each other these phone calls have been known to last an hour or more.  And yesterday was no different.

We talked at length about our families where they were at and how they were doing.  His second wife is Samoan and I always love to hear about their culture and how they do things so differently from us.  Apparently family comes before all else and if you have something and they don’t you either give it to them or share with them.  Isn’t that lovely.  Although as my cousin says, this can go too far.  He is the only one with a car and so he runs a taxi service for the extended family 24/7.  But he is good humoured about it.

We then got back to the subject of London.  His father was killed during the war and he and his mother moved back home and lived with her parents and two aunts.  From the outside it looked like a perfect set up.  There was always somebody to look after the young child while his mother worked.  But there were drawbacks for a young boy brought up in a predominantly female household.  As he grew up he spent less and less time at home and played in the streets amongst the ruins of houses that had suffered in the bombings.

Other times he spent with his grandfather “Pop” whose business was making  spirit levels.  You have all seen these things and no doubt many of you own one.  Well, Pop was a master craftsman and the spirit levels were made of beautifully carved and finished hard wood – sorry I don’t know the type of hardwood.  Each one was lovingly hand made and as soon as he was old enough, my cousin would rush home from school to help Pop.  I never understood his explanation about the little bubble that showed when the surface was flat/level nor the complicated way in which the liquid spirit /alcohol was put into the small glass vial.

On occasion we girls would visit the factory in the mews where in earlier times horses had been stabled for the wealthy.  We would stand and watch in wonder as the liquid was poured into the tiny phials.  I remember it being hot so I suppose that Pop was also a glass blower.

I should like to say that my cousin carried on the tradition being one of  only two males in the family, after the grandfather died, but instead he became a printer and emigrated with his then wife and two small girls to NZ.   I understand he still has one of the levels given to him by his grandfather as a birthday present.

Now of course, spirit levels are mass-produced.  No more the lovingly produced articles of all those years ago.  But wouldn’t it be lovely to own one of them.

“A man who works with his hands is a labourer;
a man who works with his hands and his brain is a craftsman’
but a man who works with his hands and his brain and his heart is an artist.”
Louis Nizer.  British born US lawyer and author.
1902-1994.

Memories of My Father

September 1 is officially designated the first day of spring here in New Zealand, and yesterday it really lived up to its name.  Glorious sunshine, little wind and reasonable temperatures.  We all felt that spring was here.

Today we woke to grey skies but its spring and the first Sunday in September is Fathers’ Day here.  So all around the place fathers were opening gifts, children were excitedly helping and mothers were doing what mothers do, that is keeping the peace and ensuring that nobody became over excited.

What does Fathers’ Day mean to you and your family?  Do you celebrate with gift giving and special dinners or is it just another day to you?  Growing up in England we didn’t celebrate Fathers’ Day – I don’t remember when people started celebrating Fathers on particular day.  We were very lucky in that our Father was worth celebrating each day.

My memories of this man are many and special.  It was he who taught his three girls the appreciation of the English language and shared with us his love of words.  He taught us to be tolerant and to accept people as they are and he showered us with love.  He it was who told us that more could be accomplished with a smile than with harsh words. He taught us the power of positive thought and told he daughters they could have and be anything they wanted.  He made us feel special.

Early memories of my Father are sketchy as he went to war shortly after I was born, but there are some lovely photos of him with each of his daughters.

A very distinct memory was one Saturday way back in 1945 I think – if my older sister is reading this she will be able to confirm which year.  Anyway, Mother and her three girls had been to the market for the weekly shopping and when we returned home there was this man sitting in the living room.  Daddy had come home from the war.  My parents were not terribly demonstrative and I remember the greeting just as if they had seen each other that morning.  Oh how glad I was to have my Daddy back safe and sound.

Another memory is the day I was getting married.  Everyone had left for the church and he had to make sure that I was very sure that I wanted to marry and spend my life with my  Dashing Young Scotsman.  He assured me that it wasn’t too late to change my mind and then sat in the bridal car holding my hand all the way to the church.

When my daughter was born (his first grandchild) he was as excited as a first time father.  And when we gave her Mother’s name as her second name he was ready to burst with love and pride.

When his first grandchild was born he was over the moon; when his great-grandson was born his response on being asked ‘How do you feel about being a great grandfather?’ was “I’ve always been a Great grandfather’.

And years later when he was going blind he taught himself to do the crossword with my younger sister reading the clues to him while he supplied the answers.

Memories, memories so many happy memories.  Lazy winter nights at home while he read to us or we all listened to something special on the radio.  And later all watching television together and debating the merits of a particular play or actor.

When we were growing up he was strict but he was fair.  If he decreed something was so and we could counter with an acceptable argument he was likely to change the decree.  But he was a stickler for being on time, coming home when one was told to and he insisted that we behave as ladies at all times.  I must say that the final requirement in that sentence was not always adhered to.

Unfortunately, my children didn’t really know this very special man as we lived ont he other side of the world, only getting back to see him and Mother every two years.  But they do know how special he was from the tales I have told them over the years.

That was my Dad.  A very special Father who sadly is no longer with us. He was not religious and at his funeral they played Frank Singing “Unforgettable”.  That sums up my Dad.  I miss him as I know both of my sisters do and am grateful that we were blessed with such a great father.

“To live in lives with leave behind
is not to die.”
Judith Baxter, daughter, sister & friend.

Walking Around London

Andy resting

Andy is certainly settling into this new place.  And a friend arrived yesterday bearing a basket that he thought would be perfect for Andy.  And it is!

Lotte and Andy sleeping

Lotte was interested in this little person in his new bed.  But quickly settled down again to sleep.  She is very accommodating and is happy to share with her new friend.

___________________

I have another old book that I haven’t even opened for many years.  It is called The Face of London by Harold P Clunn.

Book frontispiece

The caption on the picture of St Paul’s on the left says “London 1946: St Paul’s Cathedral through the willow herb”.  The willow herb was a weed that sprung up on bombed sites following the bombing of the city by the Luftwaffe during the Second World War.

‘I have seen the greatest wonder which the world can show to the astonished spirit.  I have seen it and am still astonished – and ever will there remain fixed indelibly on my memory the stone forest of houses, amid which flows the rushing stream of faces of living men with all their varied passions, and all their terrible impulses of love, of hunger and of hatred – I mean London”

These words are shown in the preface of the book and were written by Heinrich Heine, who lived in Craven Street, Strand in 1827.  At that time apparently, London was the largest city in the world and had a population of 1,500,000.

I wonder how Herr Heine would react to London now.  Our friend Wikipedia tells us ” In July 2010 Greater London had an official population of 7,825,200, making it the most populous municipality in the European Union, and accounting for 12.5% of the UK population. The Greater London Urban Area is the  second-largest in the EU with a population of 8,278,251, while London’s metropolitan area is the largest in the EU with an estimated total population of between 12 million and 14 million.  London had the largest population of any city in the world from around 1831 to 1925.

London

Image via Wikipedia

The book takes us on 25 walks around London and reinforces my feeling that I am a Londoner even though I haven’t lived there for some 50 years.  It appears that the book was published in 1957 .  I still lived in London then and that was the year that I married my dashing young Scotsman.

Nostalgia is alive and well in Wellington, New Zealand today.  So I shall go away and revel in it.

As you know, I am particularly interested in the East End of London and walk number 17 takes us from The Bank to Shoreditch, Hoxton, Spitalfields, Whitechapel, Bethnal Green, Mile End, Victoria Park and Stepney.

We walk along the roads that are familiar to me from my growing up years.  Cambridge Heath Road runs through Bethnal Green to Hackney which is where we lived.  We walk past the Bethnal Green Museum which was opened in 1872 by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) as an eastern branch of the Victoria and Albert Museum.  This is now commonly known as the Toy Museum and is a source of wonder and delight to the young.  My children were taken there on visits home when they were young and it was always on the list of ‘must visits’.

We pass the Bethnal Green underground station where I used to board the tube for my journey into the centre of London every day.  What memories that brings back.  Rushing to catch the interconnecting trains that would take me from the East End to the West End,  But more on that some other time.

Many tales of nefarious deeds abound in this area.  The siege of Houndsditch in 1911 when a group of criminals occupied several houses.  A police cordon was set up and two policemen were shot dead and the ringleader of the group was mortally injured and died the next day.

There was a large brewery, Charrington & Sons where the famous Toby Ale was brewed and then past the People’s Palace which stood on the grounds of the Drapers’ Company’s Almshouses.

And  on to Limehouse and the West India Docks with the East London Tabernacle which provided accommodation for some 3,000 people at the height of its popularity and into the Mile End Road leading to Victoria Park.

I have waxed lyrical about this park in the heart of London’s East End.  Because of the history surrounding this park, often described as the largest and finest in London, it will have to be covered by a separate post.

When my sisters and I were growing up one of our favourite pastimes on Sunday afternoon was to take a bus into the centre of London and then walk home from there.  We would take a different route each week and this was one of them.

I have enjoyed my nostalgic walk around London and will return for others.

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

The Market

Six word Saturday button

It’s Saturday again so here we go.  If you would like to participate please either click on the picture above or click this link.

Today I went to the Market.

It was still raining this morning what a surprise!  I had arranged to meet a friend for coffee and afterwards I decided to check out the Saturday market in the area. I have seen the notices for the market many times, as it is held in the school grounds in the same street as the Mary Potter Hospice.

The market was full of stalls selling fresh produce, mostly vegetables and some fruit, but one had freshly baked bread and bakery items, another was selling gourmet salamis – but the choice of vegetables was outstanding.

Vegetables

I was told that the vegetables had mostly been picked yesterday and many were organically grown.  What really surprised me was how much fresher they looked and how much cheaper they were than those vegetables currently on offer at the supermarket.

The market was busy in spite of the puddles and the continuing rain; it obviously has a host of loyal followers.  The comments among the customers and stall holders suggested that they were on friendly terms which could only be because of their familiarity with each other.

Of course, I bought far more than I should have, but as it’s coming up to soup weather the vegetables will be put to good use.

And then this reminded me of street markets in England when I was growing up.  I wrote a blog on this in July last year – if you are interested in my meanderings down memory lane please click here.

Road sign

I know that as I get older these memories return and I often wonder are these places, sights and people improved with the passing of time?

I do know that we had no choice on Saturday about whether to accompany Mother to the market.  And only as we became older and in her considered opinion, more able to be responsible for ourselves, were we able to make a decision as to whether or not to accompany her.  But this was a time of sharing for Mother and her three daughters.  It took about 30 minutes for us to walk from the market to our house. Walking along, each carrying at least one shopping bag, we discussed all things that mothers and young daughters discussed.

I particularly remember as I reached the ripe old age of 15 and had a boyfriend, Mother and my sisters ribbing me about him.  Innocent family fun.  Saturday afternoons and Ridley Road market are imprinted in my memory so many, many years later.

Mother and girls

Mother with her three daughters

Mother has now been dead for some 16 years and I cannot discuss these days with her anymore.  But I can discuss them with my sisters and I wonder if their memories of these days are as clear as mine.

“Can it be that it was all so simple then
Or has time rewritten every line?
If we had the chance to do it all again
Tell me would we? Could we?
Memories, may be beautiful and yet
What’s too painful to remember
We simply choose to forget
So it’s the laughter we will remember
Whenever we remember
The way we were.”
Written by Marvin  Hamlisch
and sung by Barbra Streisand

Related Posts

A Train Ride

Steam train

1940s Steam Train via Wikipedia

“I took a trip on a train and I thought about you.
I passed a shadowy lane and I thought about you.
Two or three cars parked under the stars a winding stream.
Moon shining down on some little town
And with each beam the same old dream……”
Johnny Mercer (American lyricist, songwriter and singer. 1909-1976

Early in my blogging adventure I wrote a post entitled “I Took a Trip on a Train”.  In this post I talked about all the trains on which we had travelled over many years.   At that time I think I had only two or three followers and two of them were my sisters.  I note they were the only people to comment on the post.

Anyway, I thought about train travel again today for some reason.  And I remembered travelling between London and Glasgow on the train.  We always made a point of doing so with our children when we went ‘home’ on holiday.

The train was a highlight of the trip.  We would board early in the morning and then when breakfast was called we would make our way to the dining car.  I don’t remember whether you had to reserve a table but there was always one ready for us.

Coffee and tea were instantly provided, cereal and toast and then the piece de resistance, the waiters came round with extremely large silver salvers with bacon, eggs, sausages, hashed potatoes, mushrooms etc.  These people (in memory they were always men) were adept at balancing these salvers while the train was moving along at high-speed.  I don’t recall there ever being an accident with salver and food crashing to the floor.

Tablecloths were pristine, starched white linen as were the napkins.  Silver British Railways cutlery and crockery.  Tea never tasted as good when travelling by air.  There was an aura of quiet distinction and good taste when eating in a BR dining car,

We continued to do this until our children were well into their teens and I do know that they remember this as we have spoken of it to their children on occasion.

I have never been any distance on a train here in New Zealand.  I do know that when I worked and caught a train most mornings, one could have coffee and always at night one could have an alcoholic drink, but I am sure that no service ever existed to match the London to Glasgow British Railways breakfast.

Mcdonalds sign

And I suppose it no longer exists in Britain where everything now seems to have been taken down to the lowest common denominator.  It’s probably McDonald’s and coffee in a paper cup now.


My Lot is Cast

Those of you have read some of my earlier blogs will know that I have two very dear sisters.  One lives in London, UK and one in Los Angeles, California.  We keep in touch by phone and of course, emails.  Emails are always addressed to both sisters on the other side of the world.

Phone calls are rather more rare but it is great to hear their voices.  Recently after several many futile phone attempts I connected with my American sister.

We of course, discussed many things but we always without fail, discuss books we have read and those we hope to read.  Because at that time, I had just finished reading Stephen King’s 11/22/63 I was full of this book.  Others have written great reviews of it so I wont do so here.  Maybe an idea for another blog?

My sister is a prolific reader and she shared several of her favourite authors and  books she had read with me.

She is apparently very fond of Nicola Upson’s series about detective Jacqueline Tey.  She quoted one of her favourite poem’s which came from the book “To Love and Be Wise.

“My lot is cast in inland places,
Far from sounding beach
and crying gull,
And I
who knew the sea’s voice from my babyhood
Must listen to a river purling
Through green fields
And small birds gossiping
Among the leaves”.

I don’t live in inland places – the ocean is about 10 minutes drive away, but I miss the sights and sounds of the ocean that I used to see from all the windows of my home.  It seemed that we were surrounded by the sea and it’s activities. For 15 years we lived in that house.  The children spent their teenage years there and we became almost immune to the fantastic views from most windows.  We could see not only the ocean with all its comings and goings (cruise ships, ferries, barges and tugs for the port)  but the planes landing at the airport, and the trains bringing people and goods into our capital city. So maybe this post should be headed “Trains and Boats and Planes”.

And as in this poem, now I don’t hear the crying gull when I awaken in the morning but I do hear the small birds gossiping among the leaves.  I love the thought of the birds gossiping.

I hear the sounds of busy families getting ready for their day – households waking up, newspapers being brought in, children going to school and parents to work.  The road outside my house is alive with activity for a short time each morning and then, as if a switch has been pulled, the peace descends and only those of us who are no longer living the busy years are left behind.

We have time for another leisurely cup of coffee; time to exchange pleasantries with our neighbours as we retrieve the newspaper from the drive; time to read the newspaper, complete the crossword and as I am getting older, I peruse the death notices just in case there is somebody I know mentioned there.

And so -

My lot is cast
In different places
Not beside the river or the ocean
But in the city with its life and vitality.
Not in the distant years of my youth
Nor the busy years of family life
But the peaceful years of time for me
To enjoy friends and family.
Time to investigate new things
New activities and new friends
Time to be me.

,old lady smoking cigar

Monday Meandering

Go down to Kew in lilac-time, in lilac-time, in lilac-time;
Go down to Kew in lilac-time (it isn’t far from London).
And you shall wander hand in hand with love in summer’s wonderland;
Go down to Kew in lilac-time (it isn’t far from London).
- Alfred Noyes, The Barrel Organ

I received an email from my sister in Los Angeles asking if I remembered the day that a neighbour’s lilac tree fell down.  She went on to say how she remembered the neighbour commenting that she was unaware how dark her kitchen was – over the years, the bush had completely covered the window, and suddenly there was sunlight in the room.

Lilac

This set me off on thinking about lilacs and immediately I remembered the song “On the street where you live” from My Fair Lady.  This was a great hit in the late 1950s (Oh I know that was long before most of you were born but bear with me).

“Are there lilac trees in the heart of town
Can you hear a lark in any other part of town
Does enchantment pour out of every door?
No, it’s just on the street where you live
click here
to see the video from the original movie

Then I was off thinking about other musicals that I saw in those dim dark off days.

Carousel posterA particular favourite was “Carousel”.  This is the story of Billy Bigelow, a carousel barker  and his romance with Julie Jordan, a millworker.  They marry and when he discovers that Julie is pregnant and his is about to become a father he sings the famous soliloquy  “My boy Bill.  Then when “realises that he can’t provide for Julie and the baby he attempts a robbery to do so; it goes wrong and he kills himself rather than spend the rest of his life jail.

Some fifteen years later he has the opportunity to return to earth and sees his Julie and her daughter one time.

A secondary story line has Julie’s  friend Carrie falling in love with and marrying Mr Snow a fisherman.

Carousel was made into a movie in about 1956.  So of course, I went to see it too.

Other well known (and remembered by some of us)songs  include:

  • “When the Children Are Asleep””
  • “(When I Marry) Mister Snow”
  • “If I Loved You” – Listen here to this song
  • “June Is Bustin’ Out All Over”
    “Soliloquy” –
  • “What’s the Use of Wond’rin’?”
  • “You’ll Never Walk Alone”

Pajama GameThen I thought of “The Pajama Game“.  Great memories of this musical.  My dashing-young-Scotsman and I had just announced our engagement (August 1957) and to celebrate he took my parents and me  to the St James Theatre (in London of course) to see this musical. We had a box at the theatre, one of the only times for me and I thought us very grand.

A memory of that night has surfaced.  We all arrived  home to find that my young sister had been carted off to hospital having had an accident on her bicycle.  No cell phones to call with the news then; we had to wait to get home when my grandparents (or was it my older sister) gave us the news.  Note here – we all have hard heads and she was discharged into Mother’s care that night.

The story is set in a factory producing pajamas.  The employees want a rise of 7.5 cents an hour and a strike is imminent led by Babe.  Sid, a new superintendent comes to the factory and these two are on opposite sides of the story.

Yes, you’ve guessed it.  After several false starts and hiccups, they fall in love.

So many great songs came from that one including the very popular “Hey There” sung by Canadian, Edmund Hockridge.  Here’s a version of the song sung by Harry Connick jr – sorry I couldn’t find a YouTube version by Edmund Hockridge.  This one is great too.

Other songs included :

  • “I’m Not At All in Love”
  • “Hey there
  • “Her Is” – Prez and Gladys
  • “Once a Year Day”
  • “Steam Heat”
  • “There Once Was a Man”
  • “Small Talk”
  • “Hernando’s Hideaway”
Kismet

Imasge via Wikipedia

I saw Kismet – meaning fate or predestined course – the story of a poet and his daughter.  The poet enters the mosque to sell his verses but without success.

His beautiful daughter Marsinah  is then sent to steal oranges in the Bazaar for their breakfast, while her father sits down to beg with three others.  When the beggars object the poet claims to be a cousin of Hajj a beggar who has travelled to Mecca. However, Hassen-Ben, a  man from the desert, mistakes him for Hajj and kidnaps him. The poet (who is referred to as Hajj thereafter) is taken to a notorious brigand. It appears that some years before the real Hajj had placed a curse on the brigand that resulted in the disappearance of the brigand’s little son. Now he wants the curse removed.

Of course, there are stories within stories.  Wazir a merchant must have the Caliph marry one of the princesses of Ababu or he will be ruined.  But the Caliph, masquerading as a commoner, has seen Marsinah and is determined to marry her.  As you can imagine, all turns out well in the end for the couple.

Two great songs from this one are :

  • “Baubles, Bangles and Beads”
  • “Stranger in Paradise”. Click here for Tony Bennet’s version of this wonderful song. Note - after posting this blog I found this lovely version of Tony Bennet singing with Hedy Lamarr’s pictures.  Just fantastic.

The King and IAnd finally, The King and I.  Who hasn’t seen the movie but I saw the stage show.

We all know the story, based on the book “Anna and the King of Siam”.  Anna goes to Siam to be the Governess to the King’s children.

The well known scene of Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr dancing to “Shall We Dance” was supposed to be the governess’s way of describing western love to this eastern potentate.

Anna and the King disagree over the fact that she and her small son are expected to stay in the palace while her contract stipulates a separate house.  This is the ongoing conflict between the two.  He also objects to the way in which she is teaching the children.

Their attraction to each other is evident throughout but of course, nothing can come of it.  We later see that after various other trials and tribulations Anna is packed and ready to board a ship leaving Siam forever when a letter is brought from the King who is dying.  Anna hurries to his bedside and forgives him.

So all works out well once again!

And the songs from this musical:

  • Hello Young Lovers
  • Shall we Dance?
  • I Whistle a Happy Tune
  • We Kiss in the Shadow
  • Something Wonderful
  • I Have Dreamed
  • Getting to Know You – Julie Andrews sings here.

How innocent the story lines and the music in all of these musicals!  But what great memories they invoke.

And back to the original thoughts for this post – Lilacs

“I am thinking of the lilac-trees,
That shook their purple plumes,
And when the sash was open,
Shed fragrance through the room.”
- Mrs. Anna S. Stephens, The Old Apple-Tree

Special thanks to my sister in Los Angeles for the inspiration for this post.

Sisters

Oh so very long ago.

“We each hear different drummers,
but still find music to dance together.”
Judith Baxter
, Sister, friend and confidante
1938 -

Lunch in the wind

Husband and wife

 I went to a hen-party at the weekend.  The bride to be is the daughter of a close friend, in fact she is one of my surrogate daughters.  The theme of the party was the 1950s Wife.

What fun we had.  We had to drive about 75 minutes from Wellington over the Rimutaka Range to get to Martinborough.  It was a lovely, sunny summer day apart from gale force winds that raged throughout the day.

The party started at 11am at the house of one of the bride’s future sisters in law.  The house and garden were decorated a la 1950.  Doylies hung from trees, bright red lanterns also swung in the breeze.  The tables sported lace tablecloths (where did they all come from) and there were antimacassars on the backs of a couple of chairs.

After champagne and ‘girlish’ chatter and talk we took off for lunch.  This was in the Trio Cafe at Coney Wines.  The Martinborough area is probably the centre of wine making in the North Island of New Zealand.

We were seated at a large table in the courtyard but because of the wind, the covers were all in place before we arrived.  All 18 of us had an envelope with our name on it and inside was a pithy comment relating to the 1950s.  We were encouraged to join in the wine tasting; each wine was accompanied by witty talk from the winemaker and owner of the vineyard and cafe.

The hostess had prepared a set of cards with questions that she had asked the groom about the bride.  Each of us in turn asked the bride what her groom would have answered to each of the questions.  Questions and answers were hilarious – or was it the champagne, wine tasting and wine with lunch?

After a long. relaxed lunch we went back to the house.  There the games continued.  Because of my big red Santa boot, I was given a seat and with one other woman was declared to be the judge of what happened next.

The women divided into two teams and were given ribbons, sellotape, staples and stapler and white embossed paper – looked like wallpaper to me.  They were charged with making wedding dresses.  They had about 20 minutes to complete the chore but as the timer was me, and as my watch has no figures on it, it was pretty hit and miss.  But what great things these women produced from these basic items.  We declared a dead heat as they were both so good!

Wine all round amidst the laughter and chatter and then on to the next game.

Hoover

Just what a 1950's wife wanted

The bride has 15 minutes to complete each in a series of exercises to decide whether she was fit to be a 1950s wife and this all happened outside in the sunshine, with women of different ages and in different stages of alcoholic consumption cheering her on.

But first the bride had to don a pinny (pinafore/apron) – pink and white frilly; long white stockings adorned with red hearts; a pair of fluffy pink slippers and the final insult, rollers in the hair.  What a sight.  Photos are still on the way.

cookery book

No NZ home was complete without one!

The first task was to make pancakes.  She was given a dog-eared copy of an old NZ cookbook, eggs, milk, flour and a bowl and whisk and was then expected to cook these things on a barbecue – note here that nobody thought to turn the thing on so the pancakes were not very good.  My fellow judge and I awarded her 7 out of 10 because we took into account that she was operating under difficulty.

Task No 2 – wash husband’s shirt.  Well this time she had a small bowl, cold water and some dishwashing liquid.  Shirt was dunked into soapy water but because there was no clean water supplied, had to be hung on the line without being rinsed.  To the accompaniment of much encouragement she hung the shirt but discussion ensued as to the best way to hang shirts.  The two judges decreed that shirts should be hung draped across the line and pegged under the armpits.  Well otherwise the shirt sleeves were dragging on the floor.  Points out of 10 – 7  because she kept listening to the others instead of the knowledgable judges.

And finally, she had to iron a shirt.  Again, nobody turned on the iron and so we had to wait for it to heat up.  But she did so well that we awarded her 10 points and all decided that she had done so well that she deserved a cheer and we said she could keep the stockings, slippers etc because they really suited her.

Vitamins

By this time it was about 6pm and we decided to go home leaving the young women to enjoy the rest of their evening.

As a 1950′s bride/housewife I could remember when a Kenwood Chef or a Sunbeam Mixmaster was considered an appropriate Christmas gift for ‘the wife’.  Fortunately, not for me.  What a fun day we had and I was so very privileged to have been made part of it.

And for some more fun advertisements from long ago visit the post I wrote in August “And Today’s Offers”