SNOW ON THE HILLS
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
KNITTING - CAN YOU HELP?
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!
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.