These are the reminiscences of my mother – MMH – née Marjorie Martha Cox (1917-1992), referring to life in Chasetown, Staffordshire in the 1920's/early 1930's. They take the form of notes found in a book in March 2020 during a clearout in the Covid-19 lockdown. They are brief, and sometimes ambiguous, and it's a pity that she never developed them into a memoir (Cow night alone would have been wonderful), or that we never had a conversation about them whilst she was alive (one of life's small regrets for many, I imagine). The reference to the R.101 reminds us that her generation contained many whose lives spanned the first human flight to the first moon landings.
The classic of the full form, referring to a generation earlier, is of course Lark Rise to Candleford by Flora Thompson, warmly recommended.
Playing in the sandpit
Old baker’s cart, high wooden vehicle, covered leather top:
- Sometimes covered wagon, surrounded by Cowboys and Indians
- Sometimes a ship fighting out the storm, rocked by the boys
Cow night: escaped cow, stuck in neighbour’s doorway
Watching the wheelwright. The hooping wheel and oven
The butcher’s slaughterhouse: poling the bullock, bleeding the pig
The smithy: pumping the bellows, my brother [Bill] striking for the smithy. The metal dust on the floor in which we once found a treasure trove (from the card game)
Shoeing the horse (one of our favourite games)
Helping with the haymaking
Kick the can – the forbidden game
Old Bacon’s drunken orgies
The goat in bed. Dr M kicking him downstairs. Climbing up the lamp-post. Drinking meths because alcohol was taboo.
Old Reg Jones the blind man on his rounds
Tying door knobs together - holding the string etc.
C [Cyril, second brother] always in trouble
Kicking the bottle over
The travelling theatre: seeing “Under the Mistletoe Bough” and other plays. Main themes ‘Save my unborn child’, ‘Out in the cold, cold snow’, etc.
Water from the spring
Seeing bread baked in one of the old out-door ovens. My crock jam-jar loaf
Wakes week [annual holiday across many mines and industries in the area]
Seeing the R. 101 [airship]
Shrove Tuesday. All children in long lines going to school singing:
If you don’t give us a holiday
We’ll all run away
Scratch[ing] soles of feet
My older brother’s [Bill] bedtime stories – wonderful imagination. Favourite aunt [?] used to sit at the top of the stairs and listen
The old vault in the churchyard, where if you spat on it and ran round it three times and then placed one’s ear to the stone one would hear the devil clanking his chains
1/2d pocket money [1/480 part of a pound]. Hours with nose glued to the window. Sherbet dabs. Aniseed balls. Gobstoppers (forbidden). Liquorice pipes, sticks, shoe laces. Aniseed and peppermint sticks. A quarter [pound weight] of toffees. Watching the ice-cream churned. Locusts? Pig-nuts?
11 years old. First visit to the sea. Stricken with awe to see so much water (only view previously of small lakes and rivers). Loved it passionately – still do.
Transport. Nearest railway station 4 miles away. Nearest big town 8 miles. One bus every two hours on market days. Otherwise about three per day.
The shilling I ‘found’ in the subsequent lesson (life-long) [?]
My first school prize and its reception.