Archive for January, 2014


Money was still a problem for my parents. They could not afford coal for the fire, which was essential as this was the only means of cooking and heating water. Dad started to chop the branches off the trees in the woods behind us, just enough so that there was a fire for Mum to cook the evening meal, and make a pot of tea. Someone must have informed Lady Blandy-Jenkins that Dad was taking the wood, and we then had a visit from the local police. They warned Dad that he was stealing, and if it happened again he would be prosecuted. Dad then started to go out late at night to collect the wood and told us not to tell anyone.

48151 The Welsh Borders Steam Special Approach...

One day, my sister Lil told my parents there was a lot of coal scattered along the railway lines at the bottom of the field. She had seen it when she was collecting watercress which grew in the stream near the line. From then on, our first job when we came home from school was to go and pick up any lumps of coal that had fallen from the trains’ coal tenders. Nobody seemed to worry about the danger to children walking along railway lines. I wonder if the train drivers ever reported us, as we always waved to them. If they did, we never heard about it.

Our one form of entertainment was the wireless. Dad was interested in the news, as he liked to keep up with the latest stories about the war. The rest of the family would listen to any serial or play that was being broadcast.

The wireless worked from a battery and an accumulator. The battery lasted a long time, but the accumulator had to be taken to the village every week to be recharged. This cost threepence (just over one new penny now), and sometimes there was no money to spare to have it done. Dad would be very miserable then.

Old Radio Player

As the winter nights drew in, we needed more candles, and although they were cheap to buy we could only afford to have one burning. This meant that from about four in the afternoon we would all be in the kitchen, as that was the only room with a little light and warmth. Mum would be cooking the evening meal and needed the one candle near the fire, which left the rest of the kitchen quite gloomy.

After eating our meal, we had to help with the washing up. As there were eight of us, there would be a huge pile of dishes to clean. It was a time-taking job as there was no sink, so we had to use a small bowl on the table. The water in the bowl had to be changed a few times, and this meant we had to keep heating more water (usually using our small supply of wood). By the time we had finished nearly all the evening had gone.

Most evenings Dad would play with the boys. They had a few lead soldiers and some paper cut-out ones. They were set out on the table and they had mock battles with them.

English: Rug constructed out of fabric strips ...

Lil was always busy helping Mum with mending and darning clothes. My sisters Mary and Kath made rag mats, and my job was to cut all the rags into strips. The problem was finding material, as our clothes had to last us as long as possible, and the sheets and towels were used until they were threadbare. When the first rag mat was completed we took it in turns to have the new mat by the side of our bed, and it was lovely to step onto a warm rug rather then the cold floor.

My favourite evening was when Dad would get out the ludo board. This had been bought when Dad was in work. We then had turns playing Ludo, or snakes and ladders with Dad. We also had two jigsaws, one was a picture of a submarine, and the other one had the portraits of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. We had completed them so many times that we knew where every piece went.

Old skool game - ludo

Before going to bed we had to wash and clean our teeth with salt. As we never had toothbrushes we used to rub the salt on our teeth with our fingers.

As the winter set in, life became very hard for all of us. The house was always cold, and the clothes we had were not very suitable for a winter in the country. In the summer we had loved the walk to school, but now the mile-long walk was miserable. Winters in Wales always seemed wetter and colder than London. We often had to sit in wet clothes all day, then had the long walk back home. Dinner time was the worst during the school day. Everyone else lived in the village, so school was closed for the lunch hour. In the playground was a lean-to, so we sat under that to eat our lunch which consisted of bread and cheese, or bread and margarine.

Now and again, if Mum had twopence (just under one new penny now) to spare for the bus fare, Lil would catch the bus home and bring back a cauldron of hot soup Mum had made. How we enjoyed it, even though it was only warm by the time Lil had carried it from the bus stop.

English: Kids bathing in a small metal tub. Th...

We would have our Friday night bath in the kitchen sometimes, as it was so cold in the scullery. There was many an argument over who was going to get the water from the stream as it was so cold it would freeze your fingers. To settle the arguments, Dad said we should all go together to collect the water, and if we each had a pot, we would only have to make one trip to the stream.

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