Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Childhood memories 1

Childhood Memories JLB 01/01/16

A beginning ...

We moved to Orchard Cottage, Worksop Road, Aston in or around 1954, when I was four years old and my sister Anne was a baby. My memories are mostly fragments but may be of interest to my children and future generations.

In the beginning the dining room was separated from the kitchen by a serving hatch through, which my paternal grandmother and aunt would have served meals to Mr & Mrs Allen, the well heeled older couple from whom my father bought the house. The Allen's had now retired to Ireland. My mother rebutted all offers of help from my grandma and aunt. preferring to manage alone, however difficult this was with an ailing husband, two young children and soon a third on her way. I was brought up to do my share to help her. There were always tensions between my mother and my father's family who felt rejected. My grandma, on her infrequent visits, sometimes expressed regret that my mother wasn't able to keep the house spotless, as it had been in the Allen's days. This incensed my mother who took it as criticism rather than an offer of help.

Access between the kitchen and dining room was through a large open pantry which was two or three steps down from the rest of the ground floor. I was four and liked marching up and down the steps when sent to get things from the cream painted meat safe on a cool shelf in there, this was before the days of refrigeration.

My parents quickly employed the Armstrongs to remove the serving hatch and make other alterations. They had a busy house and builders yard, on the opposite side of Worksop Road, just before the corner with Aughton Lane. There were shelters where coal and building materials were stored, along with former stables which now housed their van. It's buildings are still there, renovated and upgraded as period dwellings. The Armstrongs were three tall men with large noses, father and two sons. One was called Edward, shortened to Ted.

The serving hatch went and with it the old black fire grate with integral oven, much beloved of my grandmother, who had blacked it weekly for the Allen's, I was sad to see the fire grate go as it was warm and cosy. It was replaced by a rather boring fireplace of some kind of beige stone, which my mother had seen or read about and regarded as a status symbol, I wish I could remember where it came from. We weren't allowed to put drinks on the mantle piece for fear of marking the stone. I spent many years making and cleaning out fires in the new grate, it was my daily job.

A few years later I had to do a written test (replacing the eleven plus) to help my headmaster rank all the children in order for secondary school entry. He would then be told that the first so many went to the grammar school, the next tranche to the technical college and the rest to the secondary modern. One of the questions asked, was why did they have advertisements on independent television? I wrote that it was to give you time to get the coal in without missing part of the programme and that I wished the BBC would do the same. Nevertheless I got to the grammar school. I think the headmaster took parental occupation into account as the children of the few professional parents in the village all went to grammar school, the children of farmers went to the technical college and the children of coal miners went to the secondary modern. In many ways an examination would have been fairer as it seemed to me that not all the cleverest children went to the grammar school, but I digress and that's another story. I was telling readers about the alterations to Orchard Cottage.

The serving hatch was replaced by a door, but the rooms weren't exactly at the same level and the wall was thick, so there's a small slope where you walk through the gap in the wall from the kitchen to the dining room. My mother wanted rid of the steps to and from the pantry and disliked its open nature, so a partition wall was built and the floor level raised to make a corridor or hallway between the other end of the kitchen and the rest of the house. A reduced pantry remained with half of its floor raised for easy access and half still at the lower level to keep the meat safe and other items cooler. Later, when refrigeration arrived, the lower level of the pantry was largely redundant and became a junk store, although butter and eggs still lived in the former meat safe.

Once the Armstrongs had finished the alterations and much to my mother's annoyance, four year old me, with little Anne toddling behind, found it great fun to repeatedly complete the new circuit through the kitchen and hallway, past the foot of the staircase, through the dining room and back through the kitchen. My mother wanted all the doors kept closed but I found it much more fun to open them and charge around. Anne enjoyed the adventure as it was quite a long trek for her.

My father had periods of better health and maximised use of these to work in the garden, where he created a swing and a sandpit as well as growing potatoes, beans cabbages and other vegetables. The large orchard provided apples galore.

One weekend, Granny and Greatgran, my mother's mother and grandmother came to stay. On Saturday morning Mummy stayed in bed whilst with Anne's help or hindrance and water everywhere I scrubbed potatoes and carrots for the next couple of days meals. The doctor arrived and was shown upstairs, I hoped everything was alright. Eventually Granny came down to complain about the wet mess we had created and to tell us that we had a new baby sister called Rosemary Elaine.

To be continued.......  I'm a member of a monthly writing group and occasionally write autobiographical bits and pieces - this is one from January 2016

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