I suddenly had this horrible thought. (Here I must warn readers that I am renowned amongst my close friends for openly discussing bodily functions.)
Having said, in My Life #2, that our house did not have a bathroom, I suddenly remembered that some, if not all, of my American readers will have read that as “there was no loo/toilet/lavatory”. Shock, horror. What on earth did they do?
What I omitted to say was that the lavatory, as we called it, was out of the back door and turn right. It wasn’t quite an outside loo, but it may as well have been, as it was situated in an open porch, with the coal shed forming the third side.
We definitely did not linger! The cistern was a high level one that froze in winter. The toilet had a wooden seat. The door had gaps at the top and bottom, presumably for ventilation. This was most definitely not required.
On the back of the door was a large nail sticking out some 2 inches. This, of course was for the newspaper, cut into small squares. Younger readers may need to ask someone why! When I was old enough to handle scissors safely, this task fell to me.
Later we had the luxury of Izal toilet roll, a bit like fine sandpaper on one side and shiny on the other!
The coal shed was filled to the brim during Summer months when the coal was at its cheapest. It varied in price according to the quality and size of the lumps. The cheapest form was “nutty slack” which was mostly coal dust, but with very small pieces within it, taken from the bottom of the extensive coal piles at the merchants. This was only of use once the fire was burning fiercely.
Fire lighting was a skill that needed to be learned by all the family. Sometimes embers were still alight in the morning so this made the job slightly less irksome. It also made it more dangerous, as the ash still had to be collected and emptied from the base of the fire. Normally the fire lighting task fell to Mum.
To start a fire we used sticks, chopped from a stock of logs we kept in the coal shed. To supplement the sticks we also all had to learn to roll newspaper and plait it into firelighters. If you’ve no idea what I’m talking about you can learn here: https://youtu.be/a0_Pxiq5cTI .
In later years, when we had a television, we sometimes lit a fire in the “front room” by carrying burning coals, on a small shovel, through the house. I wonder what Health and Safety would have to say about that?
Don’t get too cosy sitting by the fire. The rest of the house, in Winter, was freezing, sometimes literally! We woke to ice patterns on the inside of the bedroom windows. Very pretty, but not conducive to getting out of bed.
If you needed to go to the loo during the night there was no nearby “convenience”. Under the bed could be found a chamber pot – Yes, REALLY! Emptying? Another job for Mum.
There were fireplaces in the two large bedrooms but these were reserved for times when someone was really ill, or dying. In the bottom of the wardrobe in Mum and Dad’s bedroom were a bedpan, and a “bottle”, a means of having a wee whilst lying down. These had been obtained when Dad had a serious accident at work, and was bed bound for several weeks. This is not a true memory as I was too young to register the fact. It is an implanted memory!
I can’t remember a lot of toys. I don’t think we had many. We played mostly outside, and used whatever was at hand. Dad was expert at making bikes out of old bits and pieces, trolleys for giving youngsters a riding platform, sledges, stilts. You name it, he made it. Where he found the time I have no idea.
We even had the top section of a trap (as in pony and trap) that became a ship, a shop, a lorry, or anything else that our imaginations could conjure up. (I had my first, very innocent, sexual experience in that trap, with a girl called Cynthia!) Later on we learned the skills to make our own bikes, sledges, huts, and so on. If I could freeze my life in any particular time I think it would be here!
We had a very large garden, as I’ve mentioned. For many years it was not accessible to vehicles. I remember that, several times, Dad brought a tractor from work, and accessed the garden from an adjoining field so he could plough and harrow to get rid of large sandstone blocks.
Eventually he brought a tractor, with blade and digger attachments, and carved out a driveway from the road into our garden. This was no mean feat, what with all the sandstone, and it also required quite a steep cutting. Another tractor, and trailer, carried away all the spoil. After completion, it took some skill to drive a car onto the property, as the surface was uneven bare rock, and the initial entry angle was close to 45 degrees.
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