Monday, 18 February 2013

Responding to Molly.

                                                       
                                                                                            I lived here, long ago.



A little while ago Molly issued a challenge. I couldn't respond to it at the time, but now perhaps I can see and feel my way into the murky past - something I am usually reluctant to do.

I am from confused memories of air-raid sirens and droning aircraft and a fear of fire in the night. From  a time when there were unfenced pits and ponds and crumbling, glass-sharded buildings to trap the unwary explorer. From a time when knees were scabbed by tree-climbing but hair was constrained into plaits, doubly secured with rubber bands and hair-ribbons.
A place and time where things were rationed, and there were coupons, and clothes were handed down from cousins who were older and larger and very differently shaped.
From a time when food was valuable and had to be eaten no matter how much it was hated, and where there were little children starving in far off countries who could be saved by the scraps I refused to eat, so that the guilt was compounded.
From a time when the long-anticipated taste of chocolate was found to be actually pretty disgusting (until the sweet tooth grew).
A time when so much was scarce that inventiveness was rife.

I am from a joyful, illogical time when ten-year old girls could roam wild and free on battered bikes, only having to return home as it grew dark, but then be caned at school for a failure to learn the nine-times table.
An incomprehensible world of limitless freedoms and savage restrictions.

I am from the magical world of the written word, and the endlessly captivating charms of the spoken word on the radio. A time when the images and visions were all my own, and there was mystery around every corner.

Then, a bit later, I came from a world of deep segregation, boy from girl, clever from not clever, child from adult; a place where our separate worlds seldom collided until, at the age of eighteen, there emerged fully-formed, middle-aged adults from the scarred chrysalis of childhood.

22 comments:

Zhoen said...

Gorgeous and terrible. There seems to be a synchronicity of themes washing over me. Of how children founder and float in families that work and don't.

gz said...

That keeping apart, then pushing together...
"Make do and Mend"...carrying on from wartime and giving the yearning for something really quality and brand new!

Ali Honey said...

Thank you. I can picture a lot of that.
We need a ittle bit of that now but with sense and reason and common sense added.

Relatively Retiring said...

Zhoen: I think we share quite a number of themes from our pasts.

gz: my mother was violently opposed to anything 'common'. I longed for sparkle and skirts that flared out as you spun round - not so much the quality!

Relatively Retiring said...

Ali Honey: Molly really got us going, didn't she?

Molly said...

In spite of all their technological gadgets and myriad organized "activities," I think, if they could experience how we roamed "wild and free" on our battered bikes, children today would envy us! I love how you've packed so much into so few words ---"a world of limitless freedoms and savage restrictions." Beautiful Job! I'd love to know more! There's a whole book hiding in these few paragraphs. Which was your bedroom? Way up on top? That'd be where I'd want to be.....

Thanks for the glimpse of where you're from RR!

Relatively Retiring said...

Molly: thank you, I would have liked to add this to the collection on your blog, but didn't know how.
(The bow window on the right.)

Molly said...

Not to worry RR! I'll add it today....

Isabelle said...

Oh dear, that sounded a bit scary! But very interesting. A book? I'll buy it.

Relatively Retiring said...

Isabelle: thank you. Childhood is often a scary place. Do you agree?

Tyler Thursby said...

This sure made for a foreboding read. You're a really great writer, been reading your blog for awhile now and finally decided to leave a comment.

Check out my adventure travel blog if you can :)

Relatively Retiring said...

Tyler; thank you for reading and leaving a comment. I've been enjoying your blog. It's so different when you are working in a place, rather than visiting or holidaying.
I particularly enjoyed your currywurst experience - and that of the homeless person!

Frances said...

Wonderful and evocative, Relatively Retiring. I agree with Tyler: you're a really great writer.

Jenny Woolf said...

Interesting gathering together of nostalgic fragments. Unless we sit down and think about it, it's hard to realise how different the past was from now - even within living memory.

And how it must have been even more different 100 or 200 years ago.

Certainly our age and time is most unusual - in how many societies is food not valuable?

One day our children will look back to our own times with mild surprise as they realise how different it all is. I wonder if our attitudes to food are one of the things they will remember.

Frances said...

Relatively Retiring: that looks like quite a grand house that you lived in. Yes?

Relatively Retiring said...

Frances: thank you, and the word is 'interesting', not at all grand. it could be wonderful when the sun shone, but was muddy, isolated and mist-shrouded when it didn't, which, being Middle England, was for most of the time.

Relatively Retiring said...

Jenny: I hadn't thought very deeply about it, but you're right - attitude to food shows the huge variation in the way people live, both then and now.

Julia said...

My sixties childhood was similar to yours, although we had no rationing the habit of thriftiness and of 'finish your dinner' remained in a family where money was in short-supply...

But oh how I recall those days when I roamed the countryside on my battered blue bike, and returned home with a jam jar of sticklebacks, a basket full of interesting 'finds' and grubby, scabby knees....

Jacqueline Smith said...

Loved reading that, thank you for sharing.

Relatively Retiring said...

Jacky: thank you so much for reading and commenting. Love to Ellie, too.

Relatively Retiring said...

Julia: very good to meet again.
The freedom of the battered bike was a very special thing, wasn't it?

marigold jam said...

Have just come across this post whilst search for your Looking Hard post! How did I miss this one? I't a masterpiece which sets the tone for post war childhood in Britain and I remember it all!! Lovely beautifully written and so true.