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Sunday, 4 November 2012

Mixed bunch today.

We woke this morning to snow - unusual this early in the year and probably because I was only saying recently how we used to dress up in scarves, gloves and all the warm clothing we could find for Bonfire Night (5 November) and that nowadays we don't seem to need to and my gloves are still hidden away since last winter.  As it had been pouring with rain in the early hours it didn't settle here and the sun is now shining though still very chilly.  I notice that the hills beyond Sherborne towards Wincanton are still covered though.  Brrr winter is upon us!  See on the internet that round Bath and Radstock (not a great distance from us) they have had up to 6 inches of the stuff - see here

You may be interested to learn that the winner of the first prize in the Patchwork exhibition I went to recently was the one many of you liked best - this book one with the hare and the tortoise pages.  The prize this year was a leather bag - last time it had been a super dooper sewing machine donated by the manufacturer.  Economic climate affects everything!

When I was in France my friend and I took a meander up the main street of St Junien and stopped at a wool shop as my friend had noticed a box of oddments outside and one of the balls would be perfect for the hair on a doll she was in the process of making.  Once inside to purchase her yarn I noticed a lovely scarf - I think they are called shawlettes being a shallow triangle knitted in simple garter stitch and with a fringe.  Scarf was not for sale but the yarn was so I bought a skein.  However although it would be really simple to knit I have no idea how to calculate how often I would need to increase to get the required angle.  Any of you knitters able to help?  Apparently I should use size 5 or 5.5 mm needles but that was all the info I got.  I was assured that one skein should make said scarf but they had no patterns and even if they had I can't read French knitting patterns!

I mentioned recently that I felt another Childhood memories post coming on so if you are not interested look away now!

Medicinal Memories

Wandering round the supermarket recently I noticed how many items they have for sale of what might be called a medicinal nature - cough medicines, pain killers, vitamins, and so on and I thought back to the ailments we seemed to suffer from and the medicines we took back in the early 1950s. Of course there were no supermarkets back then and if one purchased any remedies it was from a chemist shop recognisable by the large glass bottles filled with coloured solutions in the window.  I think that the chemist used to actually make up the prescriptions and not just dispense manufactured one as now too.  For an interesting article about old fashioned chemist shops see here. Olive oil could be purchased in very small bottles at the chemist - I don't think it was ever used for cooking or certainly not in our house! 

From a very young age we were dosed with cod liver oil - provided for those under a certain age by the government along with delicious Clinic Orange which was supposed to ensure the upcoming generation grew strong and well after the deprivations of the war years.  Cod liver oil was disgusting and a big teaspoonful was administered daily and left a horrible oily coating in the mouth and the taste was awful.  No sweets to be offered after either since sweets were rationed!  Then there was Virol which I loved and was happy to take with its lovely malty flavour and the thick sweet texture like condensed milk!  I remember the orange and blue enameled advertisement boards on every station saying things like:  "For Health and Vitality" or "Growing boys/ anaemic girls/ delicate children/ nursing mothers need it"!  We all needed it seemingly.  Having recently watched The Wartime Farm one might see why!!

Keeping "regular" was considered important too and to this end doses of Syrup of Figs were often administered.  I remember my mother once accidentally giving me 2 tablespoonfuls instead of 2 teaspoons and worrying herself sick but needless to say I was fine!  We were made of sterner stuff in those days I think.  Not sure if it gave me a clearer complexion as mentioned in the ad or not!

Children back then suffered from the usual childhood illness like measles, mumps, whooping cough, chicken pox and so on and sometimes from more serious ailments like scarlet fever, diptheria, TB or polio and sometimes diabetes. One thing we rarely suffered from was obesity - getting enough food was the problem rather than eating too much in the post war days. Luckily I never had any of these last illnesses and was quite happy to have time off school when it was closed due to an outbreak of scarlet fever but then realised I wouldn't have anyone to play with as we were all in quarantine, I did get the other more usual illnesses though apart from whooping cough!  Being ill in those days wasn't a pleasant experience when you could lie on the settee and watch the television all cosy and warm with the central heating on but rather a miserable lonely time when you were tucked up in bed with a book and left to get on with it most of the time!

Winter of course brought the usual crop of colds and coughs - hardly surprising considering that we had bare legs even in the depths of winter.  Below the knee we wore long woolen socks kept up with elastic garters and our bodies were well wrapped up in warm coats with scarves tied crosswise over our chests (for some reason it was considered necessary to protect our chests from the cold) and woolen hats or bonnets for the girls and knitted balaclava helmets for the boys but as girls wore skirts and boys shorts the bit between our garters and our knickers got chilled and our knees were usually blue with cold!  I do remember as a child of about 3 or 4 having a green woolen tweed coat with a velvet collar which came with a matching bonnet and leggings like the little girl in blue above so I must have been a bit warmer then.

When I had a cold or a cough my mother used to make a little saucer of butter, sugar and vinegar all creamed together for me to take with a teaspoon.  I guess it was a home made version of glycerine lemon and honey but using what we had to hand!  Another option was to liberally coat my chest with goosegrease (usually only possible after Christmas when the goose had well and truly been cooked!)  Can't imagine how or if this worked and must surely have made my vest all greasy!  Then there was Vick vapour rub which I always thought had something to do with my non existent father whose name was Vic(tor)!!!  Or the dreaded Friar's balsam whch was added to boiling water and one sat with one's head covered with a towel breathing in the vapours - it worked for a while but the effect very quickly wore off and you had the added danger of getting scalded too.  Tissues hadn't been invented and so old clean rags were used for wiping noses- not sure if they went on the back of the fire after use or were washed for next time!

When we lived with my grandfather any ailment could be cured with a cup of his "herb tea" made by drying elderblossom, horehound and other nameless herbs and then steeping these dried herbs - I remember them living in the cupboard beside the fireplace after being dried on a sheet of yellowing newspaper in the sun - in boiling water.  It was truly foul stuff and so worked a treat for any imagined illnesses as rather than drink the stuff I always felt suddenly miraculously better!

Chilblains were another thing that some of us suffered from - again probably caused by getting chilled and then warming our hands or feet on the stove at school or in front of the fire at home.  The recognised treatment was to rub them with a block of green waxy stuff called Snowfire.  I remember one girl at school had to wear fingerless gloves as her chilblains were so bad and this was long before such things were a fashion accessory and they were normally only worn by old men at that time!!

I remember little pink strips of Aspro 5 or 6 tablets to each and obviusly cheaper than a boxful - bought by my mother or aunt at the little shop nearby.  I used to read the things that it could be taken to relieve and always wanted to know what period pains were!  Maybe that was why they had needed them I don't know and I never had any of the tablets though I liked popping them from the little blister they were packed in.

Were we any better or worse off back then I wonder.  I think we had to be more self reliant and I do wonder if the pendulum has swung too far now that there are pills and tablets for all manner of problems most of which as well as relieving the original problem are the cause of another for which further medication is required which causes..... ad infinitum.

Sorry to have wittered on  and if you are still with me many thanks to those of you who left such welcome comments on my previous blog - I read and appreciate each and every one.


  1. The pattern I use increases one stitch either side of a central one on alternate rows. Starting from a three stitch cast on.
    I had all the childhood illnesses and whopping cough, scarlet fever and pneumonia before I was eight! Medicine from the Dr came in two sorts - pink and brown (pink if you were lucky ). Beecham's powders were my mother's standby for all adult ills!

  2. Oh, did you have tp wear liberty bodices ?

  3. Because we were in the middle east a lot my mother always made me wear Liberty bodices when we were back in England! I remember the little rubber buttons...

  4. No idea about the knitting I'm afraid, but I share all your memories. I suffered from terrible catarrh as a child and my mother was told I should eat honey instead of jam!! I also took part in a special programme of Sun-Ray treatment which entailed walking miles in the winter to the clinic to sit under a UV lamp in our knickers and eye shields - I think it was supposed to boost our vitamin D. My friend's rather glam mum asked if she could join in too which I seem to remember meant we got a lift in their car and her mum got a free top-up on her sun tan. ( I think she wore more than her knicker!)

  5. You didn't mention Delrosa Jane, my mum used to give me a spoonful every day, yuck I hated it. it was made from rosehips and sounded like it should have tasted nice, but no and if she ever forgot to give it to me I never ever reminded her!
    I do remember most of the things you mentioned. There are so many medicines now it is hard to know if that is a good or bad thing.I had measles, German measles and had whooping cough as a 6 month old baby and obviously survived the lot!
    Re the apple on my apple pie, I used a pumpkin cutter and modified it with a knife, the leaf was freehand.
    Vivienne x

  6. I can't help you with the knitting, sorry. If you search on Ravelry you might find a pattern to help you..
    I love reading about your childhood memories. I wish my grandmother had written about hers. I must ask my mum if she could reminisce about her childhood, before moving to Australia in the fifties. I do know it was a rude shock for her moving to Aust. as a 13 yr old, missing a lot of things she was used to in England.

  7. What a great post. I really enjoyed reading it. There is a chemist in our town that opened in the 50s and it still has the big brown and green jars. They make their own cough, iron and vitamin mixtures. Until a couple of years ago they still had the walls covered in small drawers and shelves of all kinds of old fashioned remedies. It was like stepping into a different time. Then they renovated and changed it all. A lot of people in the town were very disappointed. Sometimes progress isn't always that good.

  8. Oh, memories!
    Yes, liberty bodices, spoonful of malt every day, Delrosa, gargles with TCP, cod liver oil, yuk, lemon and honey for sore throat, et al!
    Think Pearly Queen is the person to ask about knitting.

  9. Lovely post Jane. I always enjoy reading about your childhood. Some of it is quite familiar from my own, although I only ever remember my Mum giving cod liver oil to the dog!

  10. I'm no help with the knitting. What an interesting post about childhood remedies and illnesses. I think you are right about us relying so much on bottles and pills from the pharmacy - we take too much medication for our own good. I think of all these antibiotic resistant superbugs around now.
    Some of the remedies sounded utterly nasty!

  11. I am knitting a shawl at the moment,, and I increase (yo) on a knit row, 4 times. Once at each end and twice in the middle either side of a single stitch. I remember the snowfire,, had that as a youngster. Good memories,, thank you.

  12. That pattern made me smile. My mum used to knit balaclavas for us, can you imagine the ribbing we used to get from other kids?

  13. I made a 'shawlette' which sounds similar to what you want, and it increased 2 stitches every other row (1 at each end). It was a ravelry pattern, 'Holden Shawlette' by Mindy Wilkes and was free. It's lacy but if you downloaded it you could ignore the lace and just have the shape.

  14. But the old remedies use to work in the old days! I remember an awful pink medicine I had to take and it has put me off medicine ever since!

  15. You had me reliving the misery of chilblains.......... ouch. I couldn't STAND the taste of Virol. Syrup of Figs was also administered daily. What a lovely post Jane.

  16. Hello,

    I just found your lovely blog, via The Quince Tree, and wish I'd found it sooner.

    Gripe Water was what I remember being given as a child. Not bad tasting, but I can't remember what on earth it was for!

    I live in the West Country too, and am renovating a very old cottage. I love crafting and hope I'll have time for it again soon. I want to have a go at quilting, especially after seeing the lovely photos from your previous post.


  17. I remember Delrosa just like another of the comments above but most of all, my memories of being ill are forever wedded to the arrival of a bottle of Lucozade wrapped in orange cellophane. I guess it was the glucose that was meant to get you up and at them again! I never suffered chilblains... just the mention of them reminds me of my Nan and how her hands were always so painful.As for knitting, the last shawl I did started with one stitch and then I increased at each end on every other row after that. Why not try a small sample doing it on each row or every other row until you get the angle you like? The Ravelry suggestion is a good one too. Plenty of free ideas there.

  18. It's so interesting to hear about your childhood to see the similsrities and differences in our lives. The similarities are many and the differences have a lot to do with climate. I guess that's not supprising since our ancestors came from the UK so traditions are much the same.

  19. SO much to take in in this post! But the thing I'm going to comment on is LIBERTY BODICES! Whenever they are mentioned there is always a chorus of rememberance from women of a 'certain' age! God, yes, I do and the funny little buttons that got flattened by the mangle! I hated wearing them, btu I'm sure they kept the cold out- see, layering is not a new idea!

    Those pink apsrin tablets, oh yes, and GERMOLINE pink ointment! Ah me, how we loive to reminisce! Lx

  20. Loved this post, your childhood memories are so fascinating! Some of them do coincide with mine :) I think I love my woolly tights so much now because of those chilly childhood days!
    Sorry I can't help with the knitting pattern, though I do love your yarn very much!
    Helen x

  21. We had 'horse' liniment to rub into all sprains and strains ... brilliant stuff, no idea what was in it but you can't get it now!

    Knitting. I'd suggest having a look at Ravelry for a pattern you like, or drop me an email and I'll forward you some basic instructions for a triangle shawl :)

  22. I love the childhood memories Jane. You brought back many memories for me. I had scarlet fever as a child and remember having to lie in a darkened room so I couldn't even look at any books! I think we are over medicated these days and seem to suffer with sickness much more!x

  23. Oh, I did enjoy your post, and it brought back such memories... knitted pixie hoods with a button under the chin, and knitted gloves and mittens, threaded through the arms of coats and gabardine macs with elastic.

    I remember that vie cod liver oil, and the little bottles of olive oil - Mum used to heat it gently, in a teaspoon, when we had earache. And there was wonderful, wonderful rose-hip syrup (can you still get it I wonder?). And there was cooling, soothing calamine lotion dabbed on rashes and when we had measles, German measles and chicken pox, and witch hazel for bumps and bruises.

    Mum made hot lemon and honey drinks (with fresh lemons) for colds, coughs and sore throats,and the only time she ever bought Lucozade, which we adored, was when we were ill!

  24. Oh, you do stir up some memories, all good too. I loved Virol as did my daughter but I was never given Cod Liver Oil, thank goodness and I certainly never needed Syrup of figs.

    My mother used to make me leggings to wear in winter and my pride and joy was a winter coat with a matching bonnet. Mittens and scarves were always hand knitted, Fair Isle were the best as they were thicker.

    Oh, the Snowfire! I used to get chilblains on my toes and they were hellish. Being ill in bed was wonderful for me as it meant that I could have a whole bottle of Lucozade by my bed and could read and draw and knit to my hearts content and when I was well again, I could have a packet of Smith's crisps with the twist of blue paper; I always craved salt after an illness.

  25. I enjoy reading your childhood memories. As I read, it just seemed like we were all much more innocent back then. It seems as if evil was not around every corner as it is now days.

  26. Yes it was a bit early for snow. None here just rain.

    That quilt is amazing. Wonder how long it took.

    How I remember the Syrup of Figs every Friday. Certainly not a good idea but back then they thought it was. Very interesting account and one I can identify with lots.


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