Saturday 26 October 2013

Hot summer days, long lost afternoon teas, slam door trains.

I had a lovely time with my friend Chrisi while the kids were at school.  We often used to pick the children up and take them to one or other house and have tea together.  Sam was friends with Mark and they used to wander along like little old men talking about their toys, the weather, what happened in assembly or Lego.  They mainly talked about Lego.  They both loved it.

Sam is working in a toy shop at the moment and he plans to use his staff discount and buy some Lego.  He is 27.  Some people never grow up.  He has promised to let me put it together with him if I am good.

Somehow I always got my children back from school in a dishevelled state.  Other kids would come out looking neat and clean, but mine looked as if they had been in a speed dressing contest with a blindfold on.  Shirt untucked, tie under left ear, buttoned up wrong and stained.  Later when it was George he would also come out covered in sticking plasters with holes in his trousers.

The boys played in their sand pit whenever they got the chance, Sam especially liked the hot weather and George enjoyed being wet and preferably muddy as well.

I am sorry about the speedos.  At the time I thought they were cute and although I now realise my mistake, it is simply too late to remove the evidence.  As they were only little boys, they didn't realise the fashion faux pas, but they are aghast when they see old photographs of them in speedos now.

Well personally I think they should count themselves lucky.   As a small child I wore speedos too.  And there are photos to prove it!

The sand pit was very robust and we kept it until last year when I decided that it was no use any more. Unfortunately I now find it would have been just the thing for bathing the dog when he has found a deliciously odorous fox poo to roll in.  This happens almost every time we take him out for a walk, and ALWAYS happens when I have just cleaned the bathroom.  Foxes have a lingering and pungent smell which seems to get into the wallpaper given half a chance.

Jim was dieting this particular summer.  He never had before so it was a bit novel. It didn't really last, but 20 years later he is dieting for the second time.  Let's hope it is less fleeting this time! Jim came home early from time to time which was always a treat for all of us.  He often did if it was really hot, to avoid the crowds and heat on the train.  

Standing up all the way from Waterloo station on one of the old carriages they used as rolling stock in those days was no joke, especially if the weather was hot.  We were on the track known as the Hounslow loop and often the trains would be short and therefore very crowded.  Somehow the modern trains with their pneumatic doors are not half so romantic as the corridor trains with slam doors.  I suppose they in their turn were not half so romantic as steam, so there you go.  Progress.

Here is one of the lovely old slam door trains.  I think I remember them fondly because it was so exciting to go to London with Mum and go on the train. I couldn't open the doors as the locks were incredibly stiff.  Often, even after I started work and commuted, I would have to hope that some strong man would open the door to get out so I could nip out behind him.  I was too shy to ask!

In idle moments I wonder what it was really like then, I can't see things as clearly as I would like, I need a time machine to go back and have a good look round.   If only I could go back to the roof garden at Biba and pay what seemed like an arm and a leg for afternoon tea. I certainly wouldn't go somewhere cheaper if I had the chance again! I would also like to go back to the Ceylon Tea House where we had tea in about 1965.  It was a good tea out even to my childish eyes.  how I would relish it now!  And just imagine all the lovely things you could buy at the prices then...

Sunday 20 October 2013

More stay at home parenting, and some 1920s bon mots.

I make no apology for showing the world that I worked hard.  It is very easy for people to think (admit it!)  that stay at home Mums do nothing much all day, or that they do a bit of housework and then put their feet up.  "What do you find to do all day?" was something I was asked from time to time.  This resulted in an answer of varying savagery, depending on how tired, benevolent or hormonal I was feeling.

I will be the first to admit that it was fun doing this stuff (although I know not everyone would agree with that), but it is physically tiring doing housework, and if you are doing it properly it is mentally challenging bringing up children.  They do not naturally grow up well on their own, they need good solid parenting.  They do not always co-operate in this!

So there is a sample of a typical day.  Other stuff happened as well.

George was home from about 12 and had a drink to keep him going while I got his lunch.  He was growing so fast and was frantically hungry when he got home from playgroup.

Tots TV was supposed to introduce the child to the idea of French as a separate language.  Apart from the theme tune I don't think they remembered anything.  They still don't know what a 'sac magie' is any more than the next person, though it featured heavily!

A lot of children's TV was very trippy in the 80s, but probably only from a 70s raised adult's point of view.  Mind you, look at the Tellytubbies!  And nowadays the Night Garden is a bit strange from what I have seen.

I always sat with George to eat.  He was a messy eater and a wobbly sitter so I was keen to stay close to catch the drips and possibly the child.  We used to chatter about what happened at playgroup and who he was best friends with ( everyone).  He used to tell me all about Tots TV too, but from what I overheard from the kitchen, it bore no resemblance to what actually happened in the show.  The good thing was that it was a lovely programme so I felt he could watch it without being corrupted in any way.

He used to add bits of playgroup games into the story and sometimes talk about the Tots coming round for tea.  He lived in a world of pure fantasy, and I wouldn't have had it any other way.    A strong imagination is a wonderful gift.

My grandmother was still alive and living in her own little flat at this time.  We used to go and visit quite often.  She was the daughter of an East End mounted policeman.  She took lessons as a young girl in the 1920s to improve her speech, as she felt at the time that a London accent did not allow one to 'speak properly' which was really the only acceptable way if you wanted to get on in the world at the time.  She looked after her mother-in-law for a while.  'Don't say "ain't", Mother', she would chide, say "isn't"'.  Luckily Great Grandma was very deaf, so never learned where she was going wrong.

She was a stickler for the correct forms in table manners and speech and just generally.  'Cleanliness is next to Godliness' she would say, and mean it.  'Don't put it down, put it away' 'A place for everything, and everything in its place'  'Elbows tucked in and not on the table' and my favourite 'horses sweat, gentlemen perspire and ladies glow'.

I think girls learned these sayings at school.  They produced their own problems - my uncle says he still finds himself putting things away half way through using them, and then spends ages wondering where they are...

Tuesday 1 October 2013

Lemon trees, Narnia, Peter Pan

Here we are sitting drinking an early morning cup of tea in our lovely conservatory.  The carpet was an evil brown 1970s creation in very hard wearing wool...  I had it in my bedroom before I left home. The conservatory was a great place to wake up properly because it was light and warm.  Jim had hair in those days!
It was also ideal for growing houseplants and my epiphyllum never flowered so well before, or since.  I had two lemon trees in there, but I think they were outside for the summer.  I grew them from pips in my gin and tonic at the office Christmas party in 1979.  I remember stumbling to my desk (no hot desking then!) and inserting the pips into my silver leaf begonia's pot.  I scooped some water out of the goldfish bowl to water them in and by the beginning of January they were up and off.  They grew up and out and eventually had to be taken home due to size considerations...  They finally fruited in 1999 just the one lemon each.  Sadly after thirty two years of me carrying them in and out of the house every spring and autumn, they got too heavy so I gave up and left them out.  The winter of 2011 did for them.

Sam was very, very good at procrastinating.  He hasn't changed a bit.

Sam, George and I are walking to school along the lane between the park and the hospital.  It was very pretty in the summer. Lots of birdsong.  Birdsong is one of the things that makes most people happy.  It's a shame that we are not more careful about keeping them safe.

I had read the Narnia stories so often by then, sometimes out loud, that I could remember them pretty much scene for scene.  This came in extremely useful on the way to school.  I think I was reading them as Sam's bedtime story and if he fell asleep half way through I could re-tell that bit on the way in the next day.

They were just starting to knock down the Victorian Nurses' Home judging by the yellow skip in the picture.  It was red brick, damp and tall.  I didn't miss it in the least.  I am sure it had rats.

After dropping Sam off I took George to one of his playgroups.  They had a lovely lady of about 70 who wore tracksuits in shocking pink, with matching trainers.  George loved her, almost as much as he loved Peter Pan.  We had a dressing up box and both the boys dressed up all the time.  George had a little Peter Pan outfit, but he really preferred to dress as Hook with a plastic hook and sword.  Look at those trousers with that jumper -pretty psychedelic - I like it!