Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Friday, 29 October 2010

A golden era? More like leaden

Bloggers guilty of cynicism, practical jokes, inaccuracy, boasting, intellectual snobbery, phillistinism and ostentation should at least reveal their age, often the reason for these defects. As a regular practitioner of such vices I sought indemnity by including my age in my profile. Blogger has now removed this facility and I feel honour-bound to prove I am of a great age.

My primary school was lit with gas mantles.
Corporal punishment (by hand, ruler, cane and curtain-rod) was administered to pupils’ faces, the back of their necks, the front and back of their hands, their backsides and their thighs at my primary and grammar schools.
Our milk was delivered daily, ladled from a large bucket into my mother’s jug.
Waste metal was collected by a man with a horse-drawn cart.
Once a man appeared in our street (eight houses on either side), took off his cap and, without amplification asked us to vote against Sunday cinemas.
Dead cats abounded in the gutters of the main road.
Cashiers at Lingards, a one-floor department store in Bradford, sat in a central cage on a raised platform. Cash spent at counters travelled to the cashiers on wire-supported containers.
Barges used the Leeds-to-Liverpool canal commercially. We swam in it.
Ever hungry, I could never come to terms with canned snoek.
My preferred bought-in treat was chips with “a cake” – two discs of potato on either side of a thin slice of fish, deep-fried.
My father bought large quantities of eggs, illegally, from farmers. My mother preserved them in a gloop based on isinglass.

I feel no nostalgia for any of this.


Sir Hugh said...

I am of similar vintage. There is little to add. I recognise all on your list, and although my memory has never been strong, the winter of 1947 is vividly embedded there.

The Lingards thing - a similar store is referred to in Under Milk Wood “..where the change hums on wires”.

Cake and chips - we used to ask for it to be accompanied by “scraps”. These were the little bits of crispy batter that had broken off whilst fish, and or cakes were being deep fried. I don’t think there was any extra charge for this bonus.

Avus said...

Cake and chips? LUXURY! Our dad made us eat gravel without a knife and fork.
As with Sir Hugh - little I can add

FigMince said...

Gravel? SELF-INDULGENT MILQUETOASTERY! We had one big rock we had to break up with our bare (and constantly bruised) hands if we wanted to eat.

And to rub salt into injury, on Mondays during the late 1940s we little Australian kids used to take cans of real food to school whence they were consigned as Food For Britain.

Another childhood memory, incomprehensible to today's consciousness: In our street of perhaps twenty houses, only old Mrs Huggins had a telephone. Everyone's relatives had the number, and if she came to your door to say you had a call, it usually meant something bad.

Barrett Bonden said...

Sir Hugh; Yes, scraps were free, a surprising benison in "narrow-gutted" (One of mother's favourite adjectives) Yorkshire. They were regularly scooped out of the fryer and cast on to the heated shelf that held the fish/cakes. However some scraps got left behind and these gradually turned black from over-cooking. When they were eventually trawled and added to a customer's chips, they proved to be intensely bitter - a Yorkshire reminder that "free" had a price.

Avus: Ah, how grateful all Home Counties viewers were when Monty Python turned Yorkshire life into a modern-day equivalent of Der Ring des Nibelungen. For those of us who had sat through such topping and over-topping conversations there were mixed feelings.

FigMince: So Pom-resentment wasn't born out of Douglas Jardine and the bodyline tour but during the handing over of tins of cocktail fruit in which the white cubes always seemed to resemble turnip.

In attempting to go back the furthest in personal experience I could have mentioned we had a pre-dial phone. Our exchange and, in fact, the suburb where we lived, was called Idle (source of a million jeers) and the number 540. Long-distance calls (eg, to Birmingham) had to be booked several hours in advance.

Plutarch said...

A stirring, memory-provoking list. I remember the milkman's horse being fed by the roadside with the help of a nose bag. Sainsbury's in those days a counter service grocer with a tiled aisle, dairy products on one side and dry goods on the other - used the same system to deliver cash to the cashier and retrieve the receipt.
I could go on ...

Barrett Bonden said...

Plutarch: There was a Sainsbury operating in the way you describe in New Malden in the early seventies. For some reason or other we used it but I was always uneasy there. One of the burdens of childhood (I've blogged about it before) was shopping at the local grocery in a state of suspended animation: surely, I would ask myself, those women ahead of me in the queue can't find anything more to chat about across the counter. But I was always wrong.

Hattie said...

All this reminds me of Fungus the bogeyman.
I was spared most of this, not being much younger than you but having grown up in California. I'm a dry cleaner. I had fresh fruit and vegetables all the time! Kind teachers! Music and laughter! Electricity!
I've read Angus Wilson on the exhausting domestic situation in England that WW II created and that did not ease up for a long time. I have English friends who still have that hard-bitten look around the mouth from the austerities and squalor they suffered as children.

Barrett Bonden said...

Hattie: Let's face it, Third World Country, Third World rat-faced people. Now you know why I'm not keen to post a picture of my face, resembling as it does the Artful Dodger.

One advantage. A youthtime of deprivation offers more literary opportunity than a youthtime of plenitude.

Lucy said...

I meant to come in on this one too! So glad I did, and didn't miss the comments. The Sunday cinema thing reminded me of my brother's memory of queuing for the cinema of a Sunday in the 1950s, and being buttonholed and berated, along with his mates, by our Uncle George, who had got religion in the Western Desert during WW2 and become a Plymouth Brother, and who told them they would be much better off coming to his evening service instead. About 40 years later, at my dad's funeral, Uncle George beckoned my brother over and asked him if he's thought any more about it.

Barrett Bonden said...

Lucy: If you listen very carefully you'll hear me clapping. But not for Tinkerbelle. I was going to say your comment was the perfect skeleton for a short story, but no - it is a short story, perfectly faceted and beautifully set in time. Thanks for that. And for the inspired reductio ad absurdum of brethren to brother.