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!
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