This is the first part of what could become my autobiography. A previous post (A life of Badges) promised more to come. I have been slow in fulfilling the promise but here it is at last.
I was born on 19th January 1948 in the back bedroom of a farm cottage in Staffordshire. I arrived just in time for breakfast.
My big sister, who was 12, was delighted. I had been born on her birthday.
My little sister was probably not so delighted as she was now condemned to no longer being the baby. She was 3 and a bit!
I didn’t know much at the time!
One of the things I didn’t know was that Mum had given birth to another child, in between big and little sisters, and that child had died shortly after birth.
The farm cottage was actually a semi-detached house.
The living room was furnished with a dining table and chairs, 3 easy chairs, a sideboard and a large battery powered valve radio on a table in the corner. This room contained a coal fired range with a water boiler behind, an oven at the side, and a warming oven at the top. The boiler had to be hand filled with water every day and, in winter, topped up throughout the day to prevent it boiling dry. At the side of the fire was a homemade oblong stool with a lift up lid. Inside were a box of buttons and the current copies of John Bull.
The kitchen, or scullery as we called it, was a cold, tile floored space. It had a copper boiler in the corner, a large butler type sink, an electric oven, and a bath! The bath was a conventional type of heavy cast iron, enameled bath, it was fixed to the floor and was fitted with a drain but the taps were not connected to any water supply.
Off the kitchen was a pantry with stone floor and a cold shelf. This was a thick, solid chunk of some material that magically remained near to freezing, no matter what the outside temperature. This acted as our fridge, a thing we’d never heard of! Even in 1959, only 13% of British homes owned a refrigerator, compared to over 90% in USA.
The third room downstairs was the Front Room! This was used only for very special occasions. It had a 3 piece suite, a china cabinet, a small table and, of course, a piano. It also had a fireplace, although a fire was seldom lit here.
My immediate memories have this room being used for Mum and Dad’s silver wedding anniversary party, as a sick room for the only grandparent I ever knew, as a room that could be used by my big sister and her fiancé (with regular visits from Mum of course), as a birth room for one of my nephews and, later, when I was 14, as the TV room.
Upstairs were 3 bedrooms, 2 doubles and a single, and a boxroom that held a myriad of exciting treasures. Old watches and watch bits, a derringer pistol, bits of old material, old wallpaper, cases.
So, where is the bathroom you say? Simple, there isn’t one!
Next door, the Allman’s, had a conventional sized garden and we had the rest of the plot of about ½ an acre. Within this space we had a very large shed, pigsties, a hen house, and an open fronted lean to. A large area was cultivated and provided our vegetable needs in exchange for a great deal of hard work, mostly carried out by Dad.
I had an idyllic childhood roaming the woods, farmland, hills and valleys, with gay abandon. This was in the days before “gay” was hijacked.
When needed back home, Mum, if she could see me, would knock on the window with her wedding ring. If I was not in sight she would go outside and clap her hands. I could hear this for well over a mile. It was very quiet! There was very infrequent traffic, and there were no aircraft overhead. The road outside was so quiet in fact that we could, and did, play tennis on the road. We could hear a car coming, literally, for miles.
When I first started to prepare this for posting it was entitled “Birth and life before badges” until a distant memory surfaced. Amongst all of the fascinating junk in the box room was a solid silver ARP badge. Dad, being a farm worker, was in a reserved occupation during WW2 but served as one of the local Air Raid Precaution wardens.