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Time for self control

I was 3 years old, and living in England, when WWII started.

A few weeks earlier, the family had been on holiday in the Isle of Wight, and I have one very vivid memory set on a beach there.

My brother had dug out a car in the sandy beach but I, as the baby of the family, was not allowed to sit in it!

We had a family car, which my father, who was a mechanical engineer, serviced – not always with the desired results – but that is a whole other story!

Once the country had entered into wartime mode, I understand that everything changed – but I was less aware of that than were older people.

Food rationing was introduced, as were clothing coupons, and purchase of petrol for civilian use was very strictly controlled, so our car was effectively off the road until well after V E Day, in 1945.

Children were allowed extra clothing coupons, for obvious reasons, but we still had to be checked and measured to justify their being issued.

In 1945/46, my older sister had been very ill with pleurisy, and the doctor wanted her to get right out of the London smoke and pollution. We lived west of London, about 15 miles (24 km) from the centre of London, in a very built up area, and I still have very clear – or should that be foggy – memories of the London smog!

The parents of a school friend of my sister knew a Welsh farming family, who had a large farm house but no children, and who rented out accommodation in the summer. So we booked to go there for 3 weeks in the mid-year long break in (I think) 1947. My parents and my siblings are all dead, so I have no means of checking my facts!

We belonged to the AA, who provided us with very clear to follow directions for us to reach the village where the farm house was located. Had we but known to ask, they would have got us to the farm itself, which would have saved us a very delayed arrival.

The farm owner, Mr Williams, had left the gate – with the name of the farmhouse on it – open so that we could drive straight in, so our late arrival was even later than it might have been.

I lost count of how many times we had to stop on the way to mend a puncture – a consequence of the ageing of the tyres during a lengthy period of not being able to put the car on the road!

In fact, just after crossing the border from England into North Wales, a local yokel waved a pitchfork at us, which, after initial concern about the nature of the welcome we were receiving, we realised was alerting us to yet another soft tyre!

We took sandwiches and thermos flasks with us for the journey, because cafes had yet to re-open and the 250 mile journey was going to take a long time! English roads in those days were only direct if you wanted to go to London from a few other major cities!

We had, obviously, a pre-war car, a Singer 11, which had a boot which flapped down and had the spare wheel standing against the back of the rear seat, with a majority of our luggage in front of it. So accessing the spare wheel was pretty time consuming!

Because of the wartime restrictions, this was the first time I had been ‘in the country’ since the war began!

The farm was effectively a largish small-holding, with cattle, sheep – which were up in the hills for the summer – chickens, ducks, plus fields of grain, hay and root vegetables.

My father stayed for a few days, while we visited beaches, the two local towns – Pwllheli (with sandy beaches) and Criccieth (with very pebbly beaches but small canoes for hire) and one of them had a fairground – and then he returned to London by train, coming back to collect us to return home at the end of the 3 weeks.

In the following 4 years we went on a similar system, but for 4 weeks, and by the last time we had each of us had a chance to take a friend along, my brother had learned to drive – and took his driving test there – and he was also already at university.

Initially, toilet facilities were primitive, with a nightly lick and polish with a jug of water and a bowl in the bedroom, backed up with regular swims in local rivers or the sea.

There was an outside toilet for the first couple of years but then we arrived to find an added ‘bathroom’ – with no bath but with spring water to a wash basin and – memory is dim on this one – I think an indoors toilet.

Food restrictions did not apply!

We had butter made on the farm, fresh milk every day, eggs, a chicken at least once a week and, as we lived separately, we did our own cooking.

Shopping in the village was an eye opener, with jars of jam and other goodies on full display, instead of being pulled out from under the counter for a ‘regular’ customer, as happened at our dairy back home where we normally bought our groceries.

We always went to bed early in the first year or two as oil lamps did not make reading easy, and there was, of course, no television.

Later, a wind generator had been installed and we had a reasonable supply of electricity, but still fairly early nights.

I also went up there to North Wales by train for a couple of weeks during the Easter holiday in each of two later years, and essentially lived with the farmer and his wife.

Rationing in the normal run of things continued for several years after the war was over, so we were totally used to not having to choose what to wear.

School uniform on weekdays, changing into something old when we got home so the uniform would last longer, and something good for Sundays.

My mother made most of our clothes, and, later, my sister and I took on that chore.

When my sister turned 21, she organised her birthday party for which she made long dresses for herself, our mother and me.

My mother had a treadle sewing machine, and, later in life, after I had married and had children, I continued to make clothes for them as well as myself, but now with an electric sewing machine, until ready-made became cheaper than home-made!

Why am I rambling on like this?

Age is obviously a factor, but I am also concerned that we have become a consumer society.

We need to be entertained and taken care of and we are used to having every possible convenience.

During the war years we just buckled down, coped with shortages and substitutes, because there was no alternative.

We should be doing the same now, if we want today’s children to have half a chance of living in a world which is not completely and impossibly over heated!

Stop thinking about the possibility that it won’t happen.

It will – and the longer we wait before taking necessary action, the worse it will be!

Since 05/02/20 I have sat outside the NT Parliament House from 1.00 – 3.00 pm every Wednesday afternoon – bar 2.

On the evening of 15/01/21 I experienced a mild stroke. As I live alone and I was not affected in any way that stopped me moving normally, I did not realise what had happened until the next morning, which was actually my 85th birthday!

A friend rang, and I was struggling to talk coherently, so she ended the call and rang for an ambulance.

RDH put me onto blood thinners and admitted me for a bare 3 days, but I was not allowed to drive for a month.

So, coming home on the Tuesday, I had not organised transport for the next day, so failed to turn up.

In March I had a check up with the neurology department – to which I drove – on a Wednesday afternoon, so my vigil was cut short.

But I am now back to routine, there every Wednesday for 2 hours, keeping check on progress on the new greenery outside Parliament House – which is replacing a now demolished building and its surrounds – and talking to anyone who wishes to know why I am there.

I fear the increasing storms and extreme weather events will become the new norm, but real efforts to phase out fossil fuels and single use plastic – as well as a whole heap of other unnecessary sources of pollution – just might enable us to keep the severity of those events under a modicum of control.

But it will take all of us – including a clearly reluctant national government – plus the rest of the developed world if we hope to leave behind us a world in which our successors can survive!

Your help is really needed!

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You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

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5 comments

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  1. Charlie

    Rosemary, doing what one can do to improve the future for those who follow is good. You might be interested in the UK Chatham House thinktank’s take on ‘Futurescape London, What will central London look like in 100 years?’ https://www.chathamhouse.org/2021/04/what-will-central-london-look-100-years
    I like to look at where those advising govs are trying to take us. Some things progressive – cleaner air, less traffic, up-cycling; or dry & intellectual – virtual reality holidays; or outright anti-human – AI clothing to monitor people 24/7; then there is the neo-delusional prospect of “new religious identities”. Just what the future needs – pulpit-banging holograms of techno-nutters?
    Chatham House has a video to go with their future scenario: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wwgCDopXNtw It’s short at 40sec but there are few ideas that give pause for thought, like what happened to coronavirus (08sec) in 2035 and what the future of food (17sec) looks like for those not at the top of the survival heap.

  2. Keitha Granville

    I am sad you have had a set back, but glad you are soldiering on. So many seem to give up and get all kinds of sick leave for the slightest thing. I remember when I was young we seemed to be hardly ever sick enough to stay home from school. If I said I don’t feel well to my mother she would say, that’s fine you can stay in bed all day then. Not a heap of fun on the days before TV! Maybe that’s why we just got on with it. I am, like you, astounded at the way children must have activities provided at the drop of a hat. We made our own fun, played in the garden, rode bikes, made cubbies in the bushes, dressed up. We were never bored! With all the possibilities these days my grandchildren often say I’m bored!

    I knit, I sew, I make do and mend, my husband repairs. These basic things should be taught in school, along with cooking for all.

    Keep it up, we must do all we can to remove the grubs in charge.

  3. Uta Hannemann

    I read with great interest, dear Rosemary, what you wrote about your life during the war years. I too, still have some memories about those years and wrote quite a few blogs about it. Here for instance is something that I published a few years ago about ‘needlework’:

    Needlework – Handarbeit

    ” . . . in 1944 I was taught some knitting and mending at school. That year I also liked to do needlework in the presence of Aunty Ilse. I was nine years old then, going on ten. Come to think of it this must have been about the only year when I did learn a bit about needlework. Any other year I totally shied away from doing anything like sewing or knitting or embroidering. I just wasn’t interested. It is a fact that never again during all my school years was I required to do such work again.

    Mum would always sew a lot of things for us children. When she was at her sewing machine she was not to be interrupted. She wanted to be able to concentrate on her work. She would sit all day at her sewing machine until the garment at hand was finished to her satisfaction.

    The winter 1943/44 was rather severe especially in the open countryside. We lived there because of air-raid attacks over Berlin. Mum had sewn us warm winter coats and hats to match. In the following picture you can see what we wore to keep out the cold.

    (You can see the pictures when you go to the post)

  4. RosemaryJ36

    Thank you, Uta, for sharing your memories.
    Little did we then know that there are wars which are even harder to win!

  5. DrakeN

    When you get to realise that the nation’s ‘fourth estste’ really means trans-national corporations’ ‘fifth column’, then you know that everything that you valued from your past has been appropriated for the already wealthy and priviledged.

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