Introducing the Past

Today I walked my son through Worthing town centre, along the sea front and to the end of the pier, which looked stunning in the sunlight.  I was explaining to him the long line of ancestors who came from Worthing and although a 9 month old is only going to babble and yawn at my incomprehensible ramblings it gave me a great sense of peace to introduce him to the past.  I supposed that many of them had walked along the same route, some pushing prams like me possibly.

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One or two people stand out not for being famous but for having exciting adventures or amazing things happen to them.

James Hutchinson had a boat building yard near the lifeboat house inWorthing and it is said that he built one of the largest yachts to grace Brighton beach for a Captain Thulleson in 1858.  The yacht was 32 feet on the keel and 10 feet on the beam.  She was said to be much admired by everyone who saw her.  How satisfying must that have been to have created something with your own hands that was so well thought of!

There was also Henry Finnis who owned the Running Horse pub – a merchant seaman for 50 years since the age of 12 and worked his way up to the rank of Captain.  In the course of his career he sailed around Cape Horn, to Eastern India and to Chile during the mid to late 19th century.  How exciting would it have been to have seen those places for the very first time arriving after an immense sea journey?  You don’t arrive anywhere these days without having a notion of what it’s going to be like.  For the last 30 years of his life he ran the pub and was one of the oldest licensed victuallers inWorthing.  He died aged 71 in 1911.

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Moving House 1939

My grandfather was nothing if not an accountant and we are lucky enough to have a couple of cash books of his recording all their expenses from their wedding day up to the birth of their first child…As I am moving home shortly it’s going to be interesting to do a comparison!  Here are the 1939 sums…(very faint because they’re in pencil! Sorry.)

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And here is a picture of my grandparents on their wedding day (19th August 1939).  They first moved into their house on 23rd September 1939.

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On the Move

As part of the Daily Post photo challenge entitled “On the Move”, I looked into the past.  I have been collating my family’s history and inherited the photographs from various people.  One common theme running through the photos is that we were a family of boat lovers – in fact my great great grandfather was a boat builder on the census lists.

The photos I have chosen show a different time when leisure time still had standards – even if you were on a boat!  The table-cloth and tea-pot came out; ladies wore pretty dresses and headscarves and you had a proper afternoon tea.  Very “Famous Five” with lashing of ginger pop for the children!

The first three are c. 1950’s with my grandmother looking the part of the “Famous Five” mother.

This lovely lady is my Aunt Win enjoying tea on the River Wey with her friend Polly c.1930.

Tea party on the Wey

Tea party on the Wey

And this is her husband showing us how to survive whilst “On the Move”…I think I prefer the ladies’ way of doing things!

Written for the Daily Post “On the Move” photo challenge. http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_photo_challenge/on-the-move/

The Story of Your Life

What would you say if someone asked “What is your story?”  What would you pull out as the important and dismiss as trivial and insignificant?  What value do you give your experiences?  How do you begin and where do you end?  Does it start with birth and end with death?  I was born.  I lived.  I died.  (Who said that?  I can’t remember).  What happens in the middle part?

I have started keeping a note of my memories and I suppose that they are the most important ones as they are the ones that I can actually remember.  They are not always good memories but they have made an impression.  I have lots more memories which I haven’t written down yet and they will all form the majority of the middle part.  Family.  Friends.  School.  Boyfriends.  University.  Nights Out.  Jobs.  Life.  Added to all these fantastic things is always a flip side but no less important.  Losing family and friends.  Heart break.  Nights in.  Losing jobs.  Not being a part of life.  Hopefully a healthy combination of all of the above will make for a rich and varied tapestry of life!

Both of my grandmothers lost their memories towards the ends of their lives and I wish they had written down some of their experiences.  It would be nice to know their thoughts and feelings and how perhaps things don’t change inside a person, even though times have changed.  I would like to be able to give my children and my grandchildren a diary and let them know that they are not the first people to go through what they’re going through.  To let them know that grown ups are not completely bizarre creatures.

Hopefully my story would be interesting to them (if not to rest of the world!).  What is your story?

 

Boating on the Broads

I have been looking through some old slides from my grandparents battered old leather suitcase and came across this fantastic picture of my grandmother circa 1958 or 59.  The box of slides was entitled “The Broads” where I know my Dad was taken on holiday and they went boating, sailing, fishing – anything to do with being on the water.  My grandfather’s passion was sailing and boats which has been passed on to my Dad and Uncle.  We also have distant ancestors who were boat builders too…it must be in the blood!  But back to the picture…

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I love the fact that she wore a rather natty headscarf to keep her hair tidy whilst out on the river.  Check out also the provisions lined up neatly inside the boat, with proper cutlery and a tea towel.  This was a lady who was prepared and had a family of hungry men to feed!  She also obviously didn’t let standards slip outside the home!

But she looked like she enjoyed herself!  Here she is with Dad…

scan0016 Wearing a practical boating outfit – a pleated skirt and cardi.  And with a radio on board by the looks of it.  It’s like some idyllic scene out of “Swallows and Amazons“, by Arthur Ransome which I would highly recommend reading!

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I wonder how much the Broads have changed more than half a century later?

Games we used to play

Every child should have a camp in their garden or in their house – somewhere where the adults can’t come in without a password.  A private space!  Catherine and I had a camp in the back garden at Newick behind the vegetable patch…a clearing in the trees with a dirt floor.  You could see into the neighbour’s garden.  We probably pretended we were the Secret Seven or the Famous Five and had club meetings with our friends.

Oak Tree Leaves

Oak Tree Leaves (Photo credit: Dominic’s pics)

There was also a huge oak tree opposite our house that we would play hide and seek around.  The smaller tree on the green was where we played “52 Bunker”.  The trick was to stand right behind the person counting to 100 and then grab the tree and yell “52 bunker home!”.  Stuck in the Mud was also fun – a sophisticated version of catch where you had to be freed from the mud by someone crawling through your legs.

It was quite safe playing on the green outside (I wonder if parents would still let their kids play out there?).  We lived in a cul de sac and all the kids on the street played out front together.  I’m sure one mother or another was watching at any one time, but I remember being very free.

We were allowed to walk up to the rec where there was a playground.  We pushed our bikes up there and played on the huge tractor tyre swing.  I could curl up inside the tyre while everyone else sat on top.  Catherine put her leg down inside the tyre to stop it swinging and it smacked against her knee.  She must have broken something but I don’t remember.  I think I remember having to push two bikes home.  Someone must have come to get Catherine.

I seem to remember horrible things that happened to my sister!  I don’t seem to remember what happened next though – maybe my child brain was trying to protect me from the horror?  I’m sure people around me were trying to protect me.  I’m not sure that Catherine even remembers the details – I shall have to ask her!

Earliest Memories

Who knows what your earliest memory is?  I have flashbacks of all sorts of things but they are jumbled up and confused.  How accurate can they be?  We rely on what other people have old us, photographs, bits of songs or books and if you have a slightly over-active imagination like mine it gets worse.

I remember being a teddy bear in the primary school play.  My sister was still at primary school with me – and also in the play, so I can’t have been more than 7.  We were four bears in bear suits singing the Teddy Bear’s Picnic.  It was put on in Newick Village Hall and Sam did an amazing routine with a light sabre – she was a wizard.  I remember that my sister was a messenger.  God knows what the play was!

I remember ballet lessons with my friend Nicola when we were very small – good toes naughty toes and galloping madly up and down the hall.  Miss Wendy was our teacher and Mrs Stone was the pianist.  This was before tape recorders were common.  Nicola moved when we were 8 I think so ballet must have been aged 5 or so.

I remember Dad coming home from work.  Mum would put us in our pyjamas and dressing gowns and we would drive to Haywards Heath station to pick him up.  I knew he worked in London but had no idea what he did.  When Dad did bath time he would play silly games – hiding us under the towel and saying “Where’s Christopher Robin?” and pulling the towel off.  Fits of giggles!  I am guessing that we were very young then.

Me and Catherine were always put in the bath together and we made cocktails out of all the lotions and potions around the bath topped off with bubble foam.  It was a bit more crowded when our friends came to stay and all four of us girls were put in the bath together.  I was probably made to stay at the tap end, being the youngest.

I remember my sister falling onto the green ceramic soap dish attached to the wall while we were in the bath and gashing her arm open.  She still has the scar.  She must have been taken to hospital but I don’t remember that part.  In fact I don’t remember very much else about that.

I have very vague recollections of Mum being horrified about turning 30 – she was very depressed.  I was only 3 though so I don’t know how accurate that would be.  She tells me that it is true – she didn’t want to be 30 at all, but then who does?

I also remember getting lost all over the place.  I remember I got lost on a cross channel ferry and got bought back by the purser with balloons for everyone.  I got lost in John Lewis on Oxford Street.  Ali and I went to the loo and I somehow got lost and picked up by the store detective.  I was taken to a very odd room and an announcement was made over the tannoy.  My poor mother – how embarrassing!

I also got lost in the Eastbourne Arndale Centre playing on the toy dinosaurs that they used to have and went back into the wrong shop.  Nobody there – I don’t remember how I was found then.

I remember weeping in Uckfield Picture House when we were taken to see The Fox & The Hound, Bambi and ET.  I remember that we used to collect the stickers and sticker albums for all these things.

I remember the sweet shop at the top of the estate after school when Mum gave us 10p to buy sweets.  Penny sweets, Dipdabs, quarters of cola cubes.  All in huge jars behind the counter like something out of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

These are just some of my childhood memories – what are yours?

Shared in The Daily Post’s “Memoir Madness”- http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_writing_challenge/memoir-madness/

Ready-made talent

Shoemaking

Shoemaking (Photo credit: daryl_mitchell)

Written for The Daily Post – the article is about “A Lost Art”.  My take on this is traditions which should have been passed down through the generations but have suddenly disappeared.  Do you know what crafts your ancestors did?  Mine mentioned below are only a couple of generations back but sadly I haven’t inherited any of the talent!  (Or not that I am aware of anyway!)

During my research of my family history I am coming across various professions.  We come from a very working class background filled with domestic servants, gardeners, agricultural labourers etc.  Occasionally though I come across somebody with a trade which fascinates me.  There is my great great grandfather Edwin who was a shoemaker in Brighton and all of the Hutchinsons in Worthing who were boatbuilders.  It got me wondering if I have hidden talents inside me that are just part of my blood?  Perhaps I could secretly knock up a pair of loafers, or a stylish pair of kittens?   I wouldn’t know, I’ve never tried and I wouldn’t know where to learn how to be a shoe maker.  Could I build a sturdy fishing boat or sailing boat and guarantee that it won’t sink?  Surely there’s a reality tv show in this.  We could discover a whole new generation of talent – useful and creative talent though rather than just the same old singing and dancing routine.  That would be something worth watching!

Top Secret!

Top Secret orders

Top Secret orders

Research into my own family continues – today has been a day of discoveries, day trips and revisiting my old suitcase, which is home to all the documents I have.  (The suitcase is an heirloom in itself – belonged to my grandfather I believe and is an old, brown leather one.)  On my day trip to Worthing I found several of my ancestors homes, or the sites of them – whether they were the original buildings, I’m not sure but it gives you a frisson of excitement when you walk down their street and realise that they must have walked that way too in the 1840’s.  How different their lives must have been.  This particular part of the family were boat builders and lived one street back from the sea front, close to the pier.  More excitingly, I found a local book which mentions them!  They were sailors and won several prizes in sailing competitions and were members of the local lifeboat crew.  It really came alive today…

So I went home and got the old brown suitcase out and started flicking through things.  I found cash books from the first two years of my grandparents’ marriage (1939-40) which made for fascinating reading from a time of rationing; ration books; medals; coins; letters; newspaper clippings and even a silk handkerchief with maps of occupied France and its’ rail connections.  The romantic in me likes to imagine being parachuted in behind enemy lines with only a silk handkerchief to find your way home.

Then the words “TOP SECRET” caught my eye.  How can you not be intrigued?  Date 19 May 1944.  A piece of paper that had been torn up and sellotaped  back together – this was the sort of piece of paper that surely should have been destroyed as soon as it had been read.  “The unit under your Comd is taking part in operation “Overlord“.  I have very limited knowledge of the operations of WW2, so I flicked to Google and lovely Wikipedia immediately did its’ bit.  Part of the D-Day landings – wow!  Codewords and beaches are named: JIG/KING beach, codeword KIPLING.  Considering the scale of the D-Day landings, I’m sure these bits of paper are not uncommon, but to me it is unique.  Someone I know was there and came back to tell the tale.

Family tree trails

Everyone is full of plans and ideas today of all days, but I wonder how many of them will actually come to fruition?  Is it possible to harness the hope and strength that people have today and allow it to empower them for the whole year?  I hope so…I have two projects to do this year – one of which is dependent on someone finishing their play, which I will then produce!  Yes me a theatre impresario…Cameron Mackintosh eat your heart out.

The second came to light only yesterday, but is so obvious!  One of my past times is researching into my family history.  I find it fascinating to know where I come from; who did what career; who did they marry – how did some of them get to meet in the 18th century living hundreds of miles apart? Maybe I’m just nosy.  I also love looking at old photos – you get a real feel for who your grandparents were and what they did.  The photos I have attached below were ones that I inherited for the records.

Tea party on the Wey
Tea party on the Wey

The ladies having tea in their boat is fantastic – one of the ladies was Aunt Win who was a bit of a photographer herself; tiny lady who lived to a very old age and was bright as a button until the end.  My grandfather is the one at the tennis party in sunglasses.  There is a whole series of photos at this tennis party and they show everyone is such high spirits – flirting, enjoying themselves and generally being silly. Lovely!

I have some stories to tell, but I think that every family has its own adventures.  So my plan is to offer my services to anyone who wants to look back into their own history.  It will be my own little part time business!   I will do the research, scan the photos in and create keepsakes and memories for everyone. So there is my idea – let’s see if I can keep the inspiration going?

A tennis party
A tennis party