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Thursday, 2 December 2010

Winters past

This photo was taken last year but the view this morning is exactly the same! We didn't escape the white stuff after all.
Hydrangea balls!
Brave little snapdragons still flowering!

This cheery soul is just outside the front door and I thought would have died back months ago!
The last 3 photos taken by my personal photographer - yes "Dave" you are not the only one with such a being! - must get myself a camera soon I really miss mine!
As I was getting washed and dressed this morning I thought back to the winter of 1963 and couldn't help but be thankful that this time I have central heating and a flushing toilet! You see back then I was living in a flat shared with 2 other girls and our only form of heating was a little open fire - we had the upstairs floor of house in Exeter so the fireplace was only a small bedroom sized one. We used to put a shilling (remember those?!) in the gas meter and light the oven and sit round it with the oven door open till we had thawed out sufficiently to light the fire! Sleeping arrangements were one double and a single bed and during the coldest nights we used to all three get into the double bed together wearing our PJs plus socks, cardigans, scarves and even woolly hats!! Then the toilet indoors froze up - can't remember what we did there though it might have involved kettles of boiling water to flush it or something. Were we glad to see the spring arrive!!
These musings and thankfulness took my thoughts to other winters way back and although I can't remember the winter of 1947 being only 3 at the time I do remember other childhood winters. As you haven't had a Childhood memories post for a while I thought you might like to hear about winters in the Forest in the 50s? If not look away now!
Winter in the Forest
Winters were much colder then – or maybe they just seemed so without the benefit of central heating, warm bedrooms, hot baths and so on! Bedroom windows were usually iced over in the mornings, decorated by an incredible artist in the intricate patterns frost makes of leaves, ferns and swirls all delicate and glistening and before you could look out you had to scrape the inside of the panes with a finger nail till a small hole had been cleared and your hands were too cold to make it any bigger! Did it snow more back then or is it just memory that makes it seem so? The cold seemed much more bearable when under bright blue skies we could make our snowmen and slides in the playground (it wasn’t forbidden then in the cause of health and safety as happens nowadays – we must have been a much tougher lot in those days). And of course there were snowballs which would wing their way back and forth during playtimes until the bell called us all back into class for more lessons where we sat gently steaming from the melting snow!

I don’t remember the schools ever closing for snow days then but perhaps it was because we all walked to school and because we had no central heating boilers to go wrong as classrooms were heated by means of black cast iron “Tortoise” stoves – so called as they had an image of a tortoise cast into the lid on the top – these solid fuel stoves were fed with coke which stood in a hod alongside ready to replenish the fire. Those children sitting near the stove were warm enough but the ones at the back of the classroom were usually cold! We were often told to “Put down your pens” and then we would have to do some exercises alongside our desks to get our blood circulating before “Be seated and carry on quietly” was the command! Feet and hands were so often cold and many children suffered from chilblains and we nearly all had purple mottled patterns on our legs. Anybody remember that green stuff in a small block that we used to use on chilblains? What was it called?

Our winter garb consisted of vests and fleecy knickers (for the girls at least!) topped with numerous woollen jumpers and cardigans and skirts. We wore long socks held up with elastic garters but our knees were still bare and on our feet shoes, Wellingtons or for the lucky few boots. Boys at primary school wore short trousers and again long socks often wrinkled round their ankles and they too had bare knees usually decorated with assorted scabs from earlier injuries! Out of doors we had coats and long woollen scarves were crossed over our chests (odd that our chests were deemed so vulnerable to the cold when nobody gave a thought to our poor mottled knees) and sometimes pinned at the back with a large safety pin. Boys wore woollen balaclava helmets and we girls had hand knitted bonnets – either the pixie style which was basically a rectangle folded and stitched down one side with ties on the corners of the open side or a “proper” bonet which was more of a cube shape and often made in a Fair Isle pattern - tied under our chins - being made of wool these were quite tickly I remember - and mittens or gloves sewn to a length of cord or elastic which was threaded through our coat sleeves so the gloves couldn’t be lost easily. Getting ready to go out was a proper palaver!

School dinners were of the warming variety and often consisted of stew with dumplings followed by spotted dick or jam roly poly for pudding served with a good dollop of glutinous yellow custard! No thoughts of what constituted a balanced diet or 5 a day fruits and vegetables back then – just fill ‘em up with whatever was available. Every morning before playtime we each had a third of a pint bottle of milk with a straw made of waxed paper – we all hated this in the summer months when it was usually lukewarm (refrigeration was not widely available then and certainly not sufficient for several crates of the mini milk bottles) but in winter when it was cold or even frozen, so that the metallic top sat like a little hat on top of the iced milk which had risen above the top of the bottle as it froze, we didn’t mind. I think the government back in the 1950s was concerned about the health of the coming generation after the deprivations of the war years as they also provided delicious orange juice, in a small glass bottle with a blue and white label, for young children and rose hip syrup too as a source of vitamin C. Speaking of rosehip syrup I remember that being a country school we were encouraged to gather rosehips and bring them into school where they would be collected for sending to the factory to be made into the syrup. Maybe the school got paid for these and it helped to swell the coffers a bit. See here for more on this and to prove I didn't imagine it!
Winters were definitely much harder then if not in actual fact because we had no mod cons to keep us warm but we didn’t seem to mind – what you don’t know you don’t miss but even so we were always glad when Spring came round again!

Those of you who are still with me thanks for your company down memory lane!

I have been awarded another blog award this time The Beautiful Blog Award by Louise over at Gephert 836 Thanks so much Louise. As I have already bored you all with 10 things about me here I will pass on doing this again and also since I could never choose from amonst the lovely blgos I follow just 2 to pass the award on to please consider it done to all my faithful followers!

My Friday outing is definitely off so I have an unexpected day free - now what shall I do with it I wonder - fritter it away or actually achieve something?


  1. I was only one year old in the winter of 1947, but I remember cold winters just like you, although a lot of my childhood was spent living in the Middle East. When we returned to Britain, I did feel the cold - my parents did not have a house with central heating until after I had left home!

  2. White stuff for you too.

    We are under about a foot or so and even though the weatherman said it would stop at lunchtime - still it falls.

    Hope your keeping warm and snug - hurrah for modern technology.....sometimes.

    Nina xxx

  3. Love your musings Jane!
    I remember rosehip syrup!! My mother insisted I had a spoonful everyday and I loathed it with a passion, yuck!!
    Vivienne x

  4. Oooh you've got me started. No carpet on the bedroom floor, freezing cold lino and just a rug by the bed for your slippers. Baby sister put to bed wrapped up as if going outside, with bonnet, booties and mittens. My Gran knitting us bedsocks. In the morning mum warming our clothes on the boiler chimney - I think we slept in our vests, and a wash was sit on the draining board with feet in the sink when it was too cold in the bathroom which had no heating. Oh and did you have a liberty bodice with rubber buttons? I think we were rigid with so many layers of clothes. Chapped knees and lips smeared with vaseline or green cuticura ointment which smelled of scented geraniums - oops I'd better stop now. Crank up the heating and give thanks.

  5. I remember it well......! changing into clothes under the bedclothes so as to keep warm, yes to a liberty bodice, that terrible winter of 1947, oh give thanks for today!

  6. Bleuch! Bleuch! Bleuch! warm school milk...... What a lot of memories you undug for me. Garters on my socks and picking rosehips which our school got money for, so no, you didn't imagine it. The irritation of chilblains and I can't for the life of me remember what it was called, either........... Great post Jane.

  7. This post makes me feel chilled to the bone just reading it Jane! I absolutely cannot imagine living without central heating!!

  8. Thank you so much for sharing your memories - I loved it. My parents stories were few and far between and oh so different - my Dad was the no shoe variety and riding a horse ☺

  9. Thank god for mod cons, my father in law used to tell a story how he went to school freezing with no shoes on, no heating, and then we found out he went to school in the tropics! He was a funny man!

  10. So many memories here Jane. I used to love rosehip syrup and that orange juice, but only drank milk in cold weather - horrid when warm. We used to have hats with long scarves with pompoms on the end attached instead ties (and liberty bodices, Jill.

  11. Blimey look at all that snow! Nothing like that here ;-D

  12. Jane,
    A great trip down memory lane. I've already had a few conversations only this week about 'no central heating when I was a kid' and 'chipping ice from the windows after dressing under the bedclothes'. I also have fond memories of going up to the clinic for orange juice and rosehip syrup. I also remember eating Farleys Rusks when I was a child... perhaps that's where I got my sweet tooth from? Lovely. Lesley x


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