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.