Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Going to the Cinema

When I was young, the film at the cinema was usually preceded by a ‘short’ – this was either a newscast, a brief documentary (“Today we take a look at the manufacture of glass...”) or occasionally a second, short, film.

Sometimes the cinemas had programmes, something which was apparently far more common before the War.

And, of course, the ice cream girls appeared at the bottom of the aisles at the half-time break. Apparently in some cinemas in the 1930s ice creams were only supplied during children’s matinee films. Evening performances (which at 9d were more expensive) included a tray of tea and fancy biscuits.

The above photo of the Abbey Cinema in Wavertree was taken when I was in my teens and Cinerama had just recently been introduced.

Things I remember

Things I remember that don’t happen nowadays – at least not to me!

Taking a can to the hardware store to get it filled with paraffin for the paraffin heather.

The rag and bone man with his horse and cart and later just a handcart coming down the road shouting ‘Any Old Iron’ though it sounded like ‘Neeien’ . The shout and clip clop of the horse’s hooves are probably the most evocative sound of the road in the 1950s. By the time the 1960s came the horses had disappeared and vans from Hunter’s Handy Hams hurtled down the road at great speed to the real annoyance of the residents.

Elasticated belts of red and green stripes with an s-shaped metal snake clip.

The knife sharpener wheeling his bicycle to the door to sharpen Dad’s shears.

The black burned bits on the top of a rice pudding floating around one’s bowl in a most off-putting manner.

The chimney sweep (Mr Downs) with all his brushes on his bike. Putting a great dustsheet over the fireplace and slowly feeding his brush through, screwing each successive section onto the handle.

We didn't have school trips from prep school - the furthest we went was occasionally across the road to King George V playing fields where a grumpy groundsman would watch the girls tucking their skirts up into their knickers and rolling down the hill or making daisy chains. I can't recall what we boys did (apart from watching the girls!) - I suppose it was catching a tennis ball or handstands or something, we weren't allowed to kick a football there.

Mr Judson driving his Morris Traveller up to the gate and unloading the groceries on the rare occasions we had them delivered.

The fish van coming around and the neighbours looking in the back to choose some fresh fish. I can’t recall Mum ever buying from him.

Standing around, hopping from one foot to the other, as Mum talked to some neighbour or other on the way to the shops.

Being caned by Miss Twomey who had a strong right arm and used it to good effect. She also used a thick cane which bruised your hand and made it throb. Mr Illingworth - who only caned me once - used a thin whippy cane that momentarily stung but the pain of which was gone in a few minutes.

Mum working from home doing jobs like making hares for the race track. Her boss would drop off wire frames and loads of calico and she would sew the hares. Special occasions demanded posh hares and these were of a gold plush material which was awful to sew because it kept slipping.

The attic room at Nana’s with thousands of locks and keys from Grandpa's case-making days.

When a horse (presumably pulling the coal cart, milk cart or rag and bone cart) deposited its droppings outside our house one time Dad went out with a brush and shovel to get the manure for his roses.

Fish and chips served in newspaper.

Sugar butties with plenty of butter – how’s that for healthy eating! (I should point out they were an exceptional treat!)

Monday, 19 January 2009

Collected Sayings of a Big Brother

Here are some of GB’s more frequent sayings -

“Completely, utterly, absolutely..."
"That's not an issue"
"I have to say..."
"In actual fact...."
"Nothing on the face of the earth...".
"Really..." and "Really, really...."
“The answer to your question is – I don’t know.”
“Success to temperance”. (This was our grandmother’s toast on those rare occasions she had a sherry or a cherry brandy).

Saturday, 17 January 2009

21 plus

I have, with GB’s help, mentioned a few of Dad’s phrases recently and I thought I should balance it up by recalling some of Mum’s but I’ve had problems remembering many special things that she said.

Apart from always giving her age as “21 plus” (until she was about eighty and allowed her age to be mentioned), the only catchphrases we could recall was the answer to the question ‘What's for dinner?’

Mum's answer was sometimes "Asquith" or "Asquith Pudding". (In 1916 PM Herbert Asquith was much criticised for his 'Wait and see' policies in relation to the Easter Rising and, indeed, despite introducing liberal reforms much of his time in office was one of a ‘Wait and see’ attitude and a lack of positive leadership in a crisis. )

Thursday, 15 January 2009

The Lune

Do you know what this number (E22b) is on the corner of a tablecloth? I suspect many folk of the younger generations do not. It is a laundry mark. Each week the laundry would be collected from the house by a laundry firm like The Lune and every household had its own laundry mark so that the items could be identified when they came out of the wash. Some of the laundry marks were on tags whilst others were written in indelible ink in the corner of the item. Both Mum and Nana used The Lune.

Stan Kelly’s Liverpool Lullaby – as sung by The Spinners - celebrates The Lune in this verse –

"Although you have no silver spoon,
Better days are coming soon,
Our Nelly's working at the Lune,
And she gets paid on Friday."

The Lune Laundry was on the north side of Lawrence Road, Wavertree, beside the railway embankment. It was demolished in 1987 to make way for the Rose Court housing development.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

I Did It

When I was very little Mum read me a story about Trotty the pony who succeeded in jumping a fence. Forever after, the words “I did it,” (said as a sense of achievement rather than an admission of guilt!) would be marked by another member of the household saying '“I did it, I jumped the fence,” cried Trotty'.

A few years ago – after much searching – I found the book on the Internet and bought it. It turned out the story of Trotty was in a book called Farm Babies and was not an isolated story. That had made my search that much harder but persistence paid off. Once I saw the other stories I recalled most of them as well: stories like Woolly Lamb’s white wool, Dan Duck learns to swim; and Pooky gets a curly tail.

I tried to get hold of a copy of Farm Babies and eventually I did it. “I did it, I jumped the fence,” cried Trotty.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Wash Day

When I was young Wash Day was traditionally Monday. At that time the laundry was not done by shoving the lot in a machine and pressing a button. It was a lengthy process involving a lot of hard work.

There was no need to nip down to the gym to get fit – by the time the housewife had swilled a few wet sheets around the tub and wrung them out she had biceps like a Chippendale.

Then the wash went through the mangle and had to be hung out to dry. Rain at this time was a darned nuisance and resulted in items hanging by the fire on a wooden drier or over the bath. In larger kitchens a contraption of wooden rails and ropes that lowered on pulleys from the ceiling helped to some extent. Nana had one of those.

Then there was the pressing and ironing and airing – virtually everything seemed to need ironing in those days.

Leaving the washing until later in the week was said to be the sign of a sloppy housewife and
They that wash on Monday, have all the week to dry
They that wash on Tuesday, are not so much awry
They that wash on Wednesday, are not so much to blame
They that wash on Thursday, wash for shame
They that wash on Friday, wash in need
They that wash on Saturday, Oh! They're sluts indeed.”


Thursday, 8 January 2009

A Present

Dad once bought me a present. That may seem a strange statement but presents, other than at birthdays and Christmas, were very unusual. Sending us to private school took a lot of Dad’s salary. Having money left over for an extra ounce of tobacco (for him) or an ice cream in Calderstones Park (for GB and I) was about the limit of the financial largesse for some years.

One time when Dad and I were going down Holt Road (I don’t recall why) we passed a sweet shop with a wagon in the window. I was about eight years old and I stopped to admire it . Totally out of the blue Dad asked if I would like it and almost without waiting for an answer he went in and bought it. Even at that age I knew money was tight and for ever afterwards that wagon was one of my favourite toys – not just because it fitted in so well with my cowboys and indians (no Native Americans in those days) – but because I appreciated the generosity of his purchase. (The one illustrated above looks just like the one Dad bought me except that the wagon body was brown not green.)

Sadly (in a way) because of the increased disposable income in the household nowadays my son has never had such an experience.

Monday, 5 January 2009

To the woods to pick Bluebells

My father was not a great drinker but he did like his occasional pint and a game of darts. Traditionally, Thursday night was his dart’s night and he and a friend would head out to one of the local pubs or the RNA Club and have a game of darts and a pint or two. When I was tiny, if Dad was going out and I didn’t know where I would ask. The answer, on a Thursday night would be ‘Off to the woods to pick Bluebells’. Even at that age I knew I was being given the brush off but what a super way of doing it! Definitely beats ‘Mind your own business you nosy child!’

Saturday, 3 January 2009

The Doughnut Shop

When I was about nine there was a shop down some steps on the opposite side of the main road (Bowring Park Road, Liverpool) at end of our road. I cannot recall what it was before that time or afterwards (though GB may remember) but for a brief, heavenly period it was a The Doughnut Shop.

It contained a couple of deep-fat fryers like a chip shop and sold only doughnuts. You went in and they cooked the doughnuts to order in the space of moments. Sprinkled with sugar, the hot doughnuts were a real delight to a young boy, fresh from a day’s schooling.

The original doughnut is said to have been a solid sphere of deep-fried dough with no hole in the middle. Allegedly first thought of in Germany, the idea was taken to America by the Dutch settlers. In the early 19th Century Washington Irvine described a Dutch table in New Amsterdam as being set with “an enormous dish of balls of sweetened dough, fried in hog’s fat, and called dough nuts or oly keks.” (In Scouse Oly Keks would mean marble trousers but I assume that is an irrelevancy!)

Spherical doughnuts often have jam in the centre while the Doughnut Shop used to have various alternatives for the ring-shaped ones. My favourite was the one sprinkled with caster sugar but they also had ones with a sugar glaze; a pink icing coating; icing and hundreds and thousands; and, I think, a chocolate coating...