English Childhood Memories
My Trike and the Bank
My first memory in life was falling off my tricycle at the age of 2 which I remember because it HURT. I somersaulted over the handlebars because the kerbstone stopped my trike dead.I ended up face down with my nose stuck in a drain grating! The village nurse who lived in the cottage across the road had her front door open and heard me hollering and bawling, so she came running over and rescued me. She took me into her home where she cleaned me up and put iodine on my cuts and bruises, especially my nose, and it STUNG. So I hollered and bawled some more then she carried me kicking and crying to my gran's house just around the corner.
I was pedalling on my way to meet my father who always cycled home from work in Lewes at the same time every weekday. I would pedal halfway up The Street then sit on top of the grassy bank (which seemed like a hill to me) and wait for him to come into sight down The Street from the main road. Although I had the run of the village where everybody knew me and who I belonged to, I knew, even at that young age, that I was not allowed any further up the road because a) there was a pub up on the corner (the Abergavenny Arms) and b) the odd motor car or tractor might come swinging round the corner and knock me off my trike. As it turned out, I didn't need any help with accidents, I was quite capable of creating my own!
Sometimes my estranged granddad would walk by on his way home from his job as a farm labourer at the neighbouring Northease farm. I could hear his brown leather boots topped with brown leather gaiters tapping down The Street, and thought, that's my granddad. But I wasn't allowed to talk to him nor him to me because he had left my gran for another woman and had moved in with her in the same village. Ironically, their rear gardens backed onto each other, but luckily there was a flint stone wall dividing them which they couldn't see each other over.
The Banana and the Fete
One day my gran came home with a funny looking yellow thing in her bag. This turned out to be a banana, the first one I had ever seen. Because of the war all imports had stopped and everybody was on rations. Yes, we had no bananas! However, on this day mum made sandwiches with this banana, cutting it into fine slices and carefully arranging them between hand-sliced and thinly buttered bread. My four little sections were put on a tea-plate and I don't know why but I do remember carefully carrying my plate of banana sandwiches out of the cottage, around the corner and over the style to sit on a grassy bank (yes, another bank) to eat them. I had my very first picnic and can remember it as if it were yesterday.
The bank is still there, as is the other one up the village and I go and pay homage to them every time I visit Rodmell.
Then there was the annual village fete with classes for best flowers, vegetables, fruit and craft work. It was held in the village hall, which the famous resident Leonard Woolf donated by purchasing an old army hut from Seaford Camp.Today it has been replaced with a brick building on the same site.
Gran used to enter me into the children's categories, one of which was to make a miniature garden, (I am assuming we had a tin of biscuits for Christmas here because I remember mine was in a round tin lid). I used my mum's round make-up mirror to make a pond, then arranged the rest of it with mud, grass, little stones, bits of hedge and daisies. That year I won first prize!
Another annual event was the fancy dress and sports day in the top field next to the Abergavenny Arms pub. The field is a car park and housing now. One year my gran hand-made me an outfit which she called the Lavender Girl and I won second prize. The cowboy won first prize, I guess it was because he was the only boy!
Every Spring we would go and pick primroses on the verges and in the fields. My mum would put some in a newspaper lined cardboard box sprinkled with water and post them off to her mum in London. I made little bunches tied with string bows and took them round the village, where the people usually gave me sweets as payment. That's how I learned to tie my shoelaces!
We would go down to the Brooks and gather watercress, hooked out of the flowing stream with gran's walking stick handle, then go home where she would make egg and watercress sandwiches for tea. The eggs were from our chickens and the watercress always tasted peppery. The bread was always home-made and hand-sliced and it was easier to butter the end before cutting off the slice with a serrated bread knife.
In the autumn we would walk up Mill Lane to the top fields where there were blackberry bushes aplenty and fill our hand-made wicker baskets with blackberries (okay, I ate mine). Then mum and gran made blackberry and apple jam, some to keep and some to share. The apples were a local variety called Beauty of Bath, small, stripey and sweet. The villagers sometimes left wheelbarrow's full outside their cottages, free to passers by. That was how village life used to be. Give and take. Make do and mend. The good old days!
In my great aunts house I learned to knit when I was eight years old, a bright green bobble hat and the bit I liked best was making the bobble by winding the wool around a circle of card. Every village girl learned how to knit, sew and cook back then. Reading was important and bedtime stories were a must.
Counting and adding up was easy because the village shop was attached to our cottage and gran ran it after the war so I was always in and out watching her slice bacon on a hand slicing machine, cut cheese with a cheese wire, weigh up potatoes, loose sugar and other groceries, and if I was lucky I got to put the takings into rows of the same coins, then count them up, on the floor at home before bedtime. I liked that game!
The milk, by the way, was delivered every morning by horse and cart ( a by-product was the manure in the street which gran ran out and shovelled up to feed her vegetable plot with). The farm milkman had a big churn on the back of his cart, you went out with your china jug or pitcher and he filled it up with his ladle. To store it you had to find a cool shady place indoors and put a muslin net over the top weighted down with beads sewn around the edges. No fridge and keep the flies out!
I still think those were the good old days, despite the war, rationing and the lack of modern appliances. Life was so much more carefree, simple and more fun then. Well, I think so anyway!
I hope you have enjoyed my journey back into life in the 1940's in an English village as much as I have. If so, I recommend the books below because they are both set in the wonderful county of Sussex. The first book is my Memoir from which I have drawn my Hub stories. The second one is my novel, the story of Dolly and her boyfriend set in early 20th century Sussex. Enjoy!
My trip down memory lane book
Which Decade do you Prefer, and / or Wish you had Lived in?
© 2015 Bren Hall