Time I put a new posting up. It seems ages since I wrote one, but I have been so busy getting the Daisy Lupin Poetry Fest Website up and running. If you haven't seen it yet click on the link in the sidebar under the little girl reading or follow this http://daisylupinpoetryfest.blogspot.com/.
It is fascinating watching the poems come in and seeing what people's favourites are around the world. So many people have had a childhood of Walter de la Mare and R. L. Stevenson poems and they are such wonderful children's poems, though I don't know what today's children would think about them. Some people have picked other favourite poems of mine and some have picked poems I don't know which is a good way to learn more. Please keep sending them in, you can post more than once, if you think of more poems or another one you wished you had chosen.
Annette Mills with Muffin the Mule
Reading the poems and watching a series of programmes last week on television has got me thinking about childhood. The BBC [public broadcasting] ran a series of programmes, every evening on one of its smaller channels about the History of Children's Television. It took every decade and showed programmes made for children and discussed them. My decade was the 1950's, as the older I got the less I had time for television. What struck me most about these early black and white programes from the BBC were two things. How class conscious they were, and on the other hand what an innocent world it was. A strange combination. The programmes were solidly aimed at 'nice' middle class children, showing them how to behave and what to think. Everyone spoke with these strange strangulated 'BBC perfect English accents' of the time. and if they interviewed children, the poor children sound so pompous, more like middle aged people of the time. Then ITV arrived, the channel funded by advertising, it was not bound by the mores of the BBC and had what was called at the time a 'commoner' approach to children's programmes. At least the kids acted and sounded like the real children you met at school or in your neighbourhood.
I think the thing that fascinates me is that at the time, I didn't get these nuances from the BBC programmes, but was often annoyed by them without knowing why and the patronising attitude of the presenters. I am afraid I was not a Blue Peter kid, but a Magpie kid, some people will know what I am talking about, as they were two opposing channel's magazine type programmes for children.
Apart from the above, I do look back with a rosy and golden glow around my childhood. I was always a bookworm, and had a father that loved reciting poetry to me. I know I played out a lot, alone in the garden, making gifts for faeries etc, or outside in my garden or neighbourhood with my friends. Yet I can never work out where in amongst all this I found the time to read as much as I did. I got four books out of the library every Monday evening and returned them the next week read. If it was rainy weather, I would go top a friend's house, or a child would come to my house to play, so where was my reading time? I feel I must have read secretly for hours after I had been put to bed.
My favourite reading time of all was on Sunday afternoons. What happened on a Sunday was at midday we would have our Sunday lunch. That is the works, every Sunday without fail, Roast joint of Beef, Roasted potatoes, Yorkshire Pudding, two or three types of vegetable and gravy. Followed on by something like apple tart and custard or rhubarb crumble and custard. Then the dishes were washed whilst I was sent to clean my self up and My Mum, Dad and I, would then go to my Grandmother's [my Mother's Mother] for tea. At 2.00pm we left our house, and this is the amazing thing. as long as it was fine we walked there, a good hour's walk. I can't imagine anyone doing that these days, but lots of families were walking to various places at that time.
Jessie Wilcox Smith
We would arrive at my Grandparents, my Aunt would already be there as she lived at home still, she married late in life, when I was about twelve. We would all sit down with a cup of tea, never coffee, and a glass of juice for me and talk about the week that had past. I was asked about school and anything else I had been doing. After about an hour of this I was allowed in the garden to play, there was a big lawn, and lots of flowerbeds, paths and a vegetable garden to be turned into wild places by my imagination. Unfortunately, the Avenue my Grandparents lived in had no children in it at all, mostly older couples whose children had left home. But I enjoyed my solitary time in the garden and would construct tents out of old blankets or make dens and generally play imaginary games. I did also have some old toys of my Mother's that I loved to play with there.
Then I would become aware of the women, my Mum, Aunt and Grandmother, moving around the kitchen, I could see them through the kitchen window, this was the beginning of getting the tea ready. The talk in the kitchen would become whispered and gossipy, but it is surprising what 'little ears' heard as I popped in and out of the kitchen. Let me tell you, children miss nothing. My father and grandfather would talk men's talk in the main room, though I don't think they had any interests in common, which every Sunday would end up with a tale from my Grandfather about the First World War. He would never tell of the horrors of the trenches, but talked about his comrades or about the time when he was a Prisoner of War. He was placed on a farm, where he was very well treated by a pair of German Farmers, and he was together with another English man and a Russian. It all seemed so very civilised, unlike the Second World War. He kept in contact with the German couple for many years and the Russian, until he disappeared into the upheavels of the time in Russia. Consequently my Grandfather could speak German and a smattering of Russian. Unfortunately his lungs were damaged by gas in the trenches and that seriously affected him as old age struck. I often wished I had been more interested in his tales, as I then thought them boring, but now I realise what a wonderful insight into history it must have been.
The table was set and we all went through for tea at 5.00pm. My Grandmother was an expert at teas and a traditional Sunday tea at my Grandparents was as follows. There would be two types of sandwiches, probably, egg mayonnaise and come type of cold meat and mustard or pickle. A cold sliced beef mince pie and a cold sliced egg and bacon pie, a plate of fruit scones, always a plate cake [ tart] with fruit in season ie apple, blackcurrant, gooseberry. a sponge cake either victoria or chocolate then something like a coconut cake or maderia. My Grandmother did all this baking herself, the only concession to Sunday was a plate of 'fancies' [ fancy cakes she had bought at the bakery]. All this was washed down with gallons of tea. Imagine though, all this was after the large Sunday dinner we had eaten at midday.
After tea, I didn't usually go back into the garden, the Sunday had left the lawn, and I was supposed to let my tea digest, so I was allowed to go into the formal sitting room, and snuggle down on one of the deep comfortable chairs that were part of an art deco three piece suite, how I wish I had these chairs and settee now! This was when I brought my book out and would spend an hour happily immersed in its story. All my Famous Five books I remember reading in this chair. At around 7.00 we would leave my Grandparents and if it was Summer and a nice night we would walk back home instead of getting two buses to go home. Probably all that walking on a Sunday helped us burn up the calories from our two huge Sunday meals. Home again, meant, for me, immediate bath, a plain biscuit and drink for supper and to bed, for a sneaky read.
I suppose when you look back in this way childhood does seem a golden time, as you probably remember the sunny days best and the mostly happy family days, not days or rain and crisis which happen occasionally in every family.