I have ‘met’ so many lovely people here, on WordPress and would like to wish you all the very best for 2013 and hope it is a happy and successful for you all in whatever ventures you undertake! Greetings also to other readers, who have ‘liked’ my posts, and best wishes to others whose blogs I have read, enjoyed, and admired!!
Anyone who knew my dad Donald as an adult would know he had a mischievous sense of humour, but that he was also quite strict – especially when we were children. However… when he was a child himself he was far from being an angel! He was never malicious or unkind, never a bully – just the opposite, he would stand up for others and for what he believed in…. but he was quite naughty.
I mentioned to a WordPress friend the other night that he had once put a spoon through the mangle .. it ended up with a flat tip, and his mother, Maudie was furious, of course! But there was a reason behind it; he and his sister-Joan used to quarrel over the spoon as to whose it was, so Donald decided to change its shape to prove it was his! Joan who is now ninety-four, still laughs when she tells the tale!
I also told my friend about the pear-tree, espaliered against a wall in Donald’s grandparents house. He was told he must not pick any of the fruit, and his granddad Tom would have given him a fierce telling-off if he had…but the pears were so big and juicy, so ripe and lovely… Donald crept behind the tree and took a bite out of the back of each pear!
Then there was the time he wanted to see what a raw egg tasted like; he pinched two from the larder and took them up to his room, cracked and ate them… I don’t know what they tasted like or whether he liked them, that wasn’t in the story! having eaten the eggs he had a problem as to what to do with the shells… easy, flush them down the toilet! He was puzzled later when Maudie accosted him about the eggs, told him off severely about it… but how did she know? Of course, the egg shells floated, and there was only one person in the family who would put egg shells down the loo!
Donald was a country boy and he often went out with game-keepers and groundsmen; one old fellow used to catch moles and Donald decided he wanted a moleskin waistcoat so the old man gave him all the dead creatures (ugh!) Donald took their skins and pinned them out on board to dry… and put it under his bed! it wasn’t long before Maudie found them when cleaning the room – she was not best pleased and into the bin they went! As an old man, Donald was still aggrieved at this, but as a parent he could also see the funny side!
Yes, ok, I know I’m right in the middle of editing ‘Night Vision’ to publish it next month, I know I have the separate stories of the Portbradden family and Fredrico Milan to finish, oh and other stuff as well, but those Radwinters keep nudging me.
As I mentioned before a set of characters have appeared in my head and they have been swirling around variously waiting to be attached to something, like a plot or a situation. and they have bumped into another idea which has been floating about for a very long time.
The image that comes to mind is from April Fool’s Day, many years ago before I was married when I was teaching in Oldham. My classroom looked out over an area of grass criss-crossed by paths going to the other parts of the school. Directly opposite me was the craft block where all the arts, cookery, needlework, wood and metal work were taught. Adjacent to that and also in my view was the science block. It was a brilliant day like the first day of spring as well as the first day of April and I noticed Stephen, a lad I liked a great deal walking very carefully from the science block to the art block, holding something between his two hands, as if afraid of dropping it. He was a very tall lad and it was a little comical to see this usually elegant young man almost shuffling along the path, his eyes focussed on what he was carrying.
I found out later the story behind Stephen’s cautious walk between the two blocks. As I mentioned, it was April Fool’s day, and whatever the tricks the students try to play on the teachers, the teachers are so much worse (or they used to be, when schools were about teaching more than academic excellence); for example, sending a kid to the art department to ask for striped paint, or to the domestic science department for a long weight (the poor student would then be kept hanging about for a ‘long wait’!).
Arthur, a comic in the Technical Drawing department, had told Stephen to go over to the science block and ask one of the teachers for a bubble for his spirit level. Stephen being a young and obedient lad had trotted over and came across Jim (another Jim, physics Jim this time) and made the request for the bubble for Arthur’s spirit level. Jim went away and returned with a petri dish with some water and two drops of linseed oil… which looked to young Stephen, just like bubbles on the surface of the water. Jim told him he was sending Arthur a spare bubble, and they were both just the right size, so Stephen should walk very carefully and not allow the two bubbles to join together otherwise they would be one big bubble, too big for the spirit level… poor boy, how we all laughed … but Stephen was a great lad and he saw the funny side too when it was explained!
So going back to the Radwinters’ story… my other idea was a plot involving genealogy, which is a a great pastime of mine…. so it is as if my characters are one bubble and the genealogy story is another bubble, floating separately, but if they collided and became a single idea then maybe together they would be big enough for a new story… unlike one large bubble being too big for Arthur’s spirit level.
I threw some clothes in the wash, added some detergent, switched on the machine and walked away. I’ll go back later and take out the cleaned clothes, hang some on an airer and put some in the drier because it’s not nice enough to hang the laundry out today… later I’ll switch on the iron and watch TV while I do the ironing. Mundane but simple chores.
When I was small we lived in a new purpose-built flat and our water heated through something called an Ascot. I’m not sure what it was but it was gas-fired and would roar into life when the hot water was on. I don’t remember when I was a baby, obviously, but I am guessing my mum would wash most things by hand, and have some sort of boiler to do whites and nappies (no disposables then! Most of the fabrics would have been of natural fibres, heavy cottons, wools and linen; I’m not sure when nylon became widely available but I remembered the delight people had with shirts which hardly needed ironing, and sheets which were light-weight and easy to wash. I’m sure in those early days my mum had a mangle, I’m fairly sure I remember one. Clothes would have had to go out on the line, or draped on a clothes horse round the fire – no central heating then!
Irons were by my early years electric, but they were heavy old things, and ironing would have been hard work without the modern easy-iron fabrics we have now. It wasn’t long however, before mum got a washing machine, not a built-in one, but one which had to be filled and the water heated. It was a hugely labour-saving device though! Then joy – a spin dryer, a little round tub of a thing which would spin the water out of clothes. Eventually we did get a twin tub – a single machine with a washer and beside it a spinner.
As the years progressed, not only did the technology of the washing machines and irons improve, but the technology of the fabrics did too; better synthetics, easy-iron fabrics, lighter weights, washable wool, easy-care… and no, how easy wash-day is – if there is such a thing as wash day; now we can wash and dry whenever we want, programming our machines to work while we sleep, half-loads, economy-loads, low-temperature washes… oh and the light-weight irons, easy-iron sprays, central heating to air ironed clothes…
What a world away it is from my childhood, let alone that of my parents when they were children and a copper boiler would have to be lit and the clothes boiled and pummelled with a dolly-peg!