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Cold Meat, Soap Suds and Croquet Voices from the Past 1930-1960: Peasemarsh


You never knew what you would get!

Moving, interesting, laughed a lot.

A happy event.

How good it would be if more people could hear these stories.


INTRODUCTION

THE PEASMARSH GROUP The Peasmarsh Group met through the summer of 2006 at the glorious venue of Peasmarsh Place, now a residential care home owned by Lord Devonport and once the occasional home of the Liddell family. It is not difficult to imagine Lewis Carroll entertaining Alice with the stories he created for her and one could easily picture The Red Queen and her curious entourage playing croquet on the well-tended lawns. The sessions were attended by a group of venerable ladies in their eighties and nineties. Young women during the Second World War. They could recall Britain as far back as the early twenties. During the sessions hidden memories were sparked by each other’s stories, by the music, or during a moment of dressing-up in exotic scarves on Midsummer’s Day which evoked childhood memories of fairies and games played. Passing unusual pebbles around inspired the writing of Pebble Poem. Some members’ memories were fragile; one lady remembered only fragments of her

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life but sang every song with word perfect recall in a strong and melodious voice. Others had clear memories and produced marvellous descriptions of people and places which had impressed them, for good or ill, as you will read in the stories in this book. The group appreciated the creative and imaginative elements of the sessions and performance as much as they did the reminiscing itself. There is a sense of self-validation that the sessions and the performance, in particular, give to group members, as well as generating an enormous amount of fun and a feeling of belonging. These stories are pen portraits of individuals in the group, taken on the whole from their own words, whilst others have been created from pieces of memory woven together to reflect the personality of a life mostly forgotten. And throughout it all Alice, the eternal child, wanders in and out of Wonderland. Jane Metcalfe Sarah Norris Shaping Voices 2006

About the group:

“Thinking back to those days, I get the feeling you get when you think you made it up.� 2


Cold Meat, Soap Suds and Croquet COLD MEAT, SOAP SUDS AND CROQUET

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PEBBLE POEM

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MOTHERLY MARJORIE

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ROYALTY

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DAUNTLESS DORIS

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GAMES

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ANGELIC AUDREY

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MISS BOSS

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CHILDHOOD ROOMS REMEMBERED

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PHILOSOPHICAL PHYLLIS

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GRACIOUS GWENDOLINE

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MIDSUMMER EVE REVELRIES: FAIRIES

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FABULOUS FREDA

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WHAT IS CREATIVE REMINISCENCE?

VOICES FROM THE PAST: 1930-1960: BATTLE

Creative Reminiscence sessions lead to informal performances of original stories based on the personal reminiscences of people over the age of 60. The sessions are run by facilitators with a strong background in the arts and provide an interesting, light-hearted and stimulating environment where those taking part can enjoy rediscovering and sharing their memories in a new and meaningful way.

THE PROJECT A series of five Creative Reminiscence projects for people over the age of 60 living in Rother, funded by the Heritage Lottery fund in partnership with Rother District Council (Indian Summer Project). Group sessions and performances were hosted in Battle, Peasmarsh, Bexhill, Westfield and Etchingham, with participants joining from surrounding areas.


Cold Meat, Soap Suds and Croquet Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank and of having nothing to do; once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it. “And what is the use of a book without pictures or conversations?” Suddenly a white rabbit with pink eyes ran close by her. There was nothing so very remarkable in that; nor did Alice think it so very much out of the way to hear the rabbit say to itself “Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!”...she ought to have wondered at this, but at the time it all seemed quite natural; but when the rabbit actually took a watch out of its waistcoat pocket and looked at it and then hurried on, Alice started to her feet... and burning with curiosity, she ran across the field after it, and was just in time to see it pop down a large rabbit-hole under the hedge...

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Pebble Poem

Stones found in odd places. Mapped like the inner surface of the hand. Each one unique. Tiny specks of black catching the light; a lone worry bead, hard but smooth, as if made to fit in an ear; a stone the texture of cold rice pudding, with slices in between. Marvellous colours, dropped from a cliff, round, speckled, lovely to hold; like a big chocolate – warm to touch, good enough to eat. A hag stone with a hole right through, a pumice to soften the feet. One with a picture of horses and dogs, one with the stamp of a tree; a crystal that looks like an acid drop, cluster of diamonds, marcasite. A stone the perfect shape of a heart. Every one unique.

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Motherly Marjorie

Mine was a practical family – we were doers. There wasn’t much time for anything fancy, but we knew what we liked and we did it. I was born in Rolvenden but when I married I moved to Wittersham. He was a farmer. I’ve never gone far – I’m a bit of a home bird. We went to Scotland once but I didn’t like it much. I was glad to get home. My husband and I had five children in ten years. I rode when I first married but I stopped after I had the children. They all had ponies so the holidays were taken up with Pony Club. There were gymkhanas and they always came back with a rosette – now and again one of them won. And then there was Camp. They always went to Chilham, down a long track right down into the Tillingham Valley. And what a to-do it was to get them ready – all off to different age groups, tack to clean, shirts to press, stains to get out of lapels, ties to find and every year at least one of them lost their badge. They did look a picture when it was all done – good, sturdy children on good, sturdy ponies. When they came back they’d be so tired they could hardly stand up, and so hungry they could eat a horse. But first it was see to the animals – that was the rule in our house. Animals first, people second. “They can’t do for themselves,” we used to say to them, “and you can!” We had a big old lorry to transport the ponies – generally my husband drove it. He’d be a bit grumpy about it – he’d rattle the gear stick just to let you know. 7


One day the lorry stopped dead on Rye Hill. He couldn’t get it to move. “You’ll have to get out and unload the horses,” he said, “You’ll have to walk them up the hill.” You can imagine how long that took – we made quite a procession, I can tell you – me, a row of children and those ponies, clopping up Rye Hill as if there was all the time in the world and him sat there at the top, puffing away on his cigarette as if we were nothing to do with him. And those children could eat! The children didn’t think much of school food. We’d say to them, “What did you have for lunch today?” and they’d say “YMCA – yesterday’s muck cooked again.” I made a lot of brawn. You get a pig’s head and cook it, then press it. You’d get a fair few basins of brawn from a pig’s head. It didn’t last: it didn’t have to! Term time was quiet with them all away, but the horses still needed doing. In spring there was always a little flock of sock lambs to see to. That didn’t leave you any spare time – three or four times a day I’d make a big jug of milk and feed them all by hand – the greedy ones butting at you to try and speed the milk up. You couldn’t let them have too much – they’d choke. And then you had to get the new-borns to take the bottle. You didn’t want to get too attached because they’ll die on you, sheep. They’ll be all bonny one day and breathing their last the next – no good reason! The children always had their favourite, following them round like a little dog. They were good times – I’ve still got my family around me though and plenty to do – always a bit of knitting or sewing. I like to be busy with my hands and see something grow. I can’t understand people who say they’ve got nothing to do. The boys live nearby and they come in and see me. Two of the girls are in London and one in Spain – she comes home for the hottest time of the year. 8


You start off on your own and then you marry and there’s two of you and before you know it you’re surrounded by children and grandchildren and all the wives and husbands – a whole flock of them. Marjorie Gunther

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Royalty

I remember seeing a newsreel of a boys’ camp that George VI and Queen Elizabeth used to visit – 1938. They were singing Underneath the Spreading

Chestnut Tree. It got quite a lot of publicity – the King being all matey and down to earth. The King was nervous of speaking in public. He had a terrible stammer. He didn’t expect to be King. With Queen Elizabeth’s help they got over it. They did the Christmas broadcast live – so he had to get over it! I’m sure it must have spoiled their Christmas lunch.

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Dauntless Doris

Doris – They called me Squibs when I was a little girl because I was always jumping around. I’ve always been like it – that physical energy that pulses through you and doesn’t let you sit down until everything’s done and you’re still looking out for the next thing. First husband – That’s one of the things that drew me to Doris, – she fizzed. You couldn’t take your eyes off her, she was tall and slim, shiny auburn hair and green eyes – but it was her liveliness I loved. I was at university with her cousin and there she was – only sixteen, but she was up for anything and she’d see right through any humbug. She’d make you laugh until you cried, even then. We got married when she was twenty. Doris – There was a crowd of us – we went to a café in Prince’s Street. It was my 21st birthday – we took the bus into Edinburgh for a high tea, ten of us. Scones and jam and pots of tea. At 6 o’clock we were back on duty. We had to be in uniform – we weren’t allowed civvies – ghastly rough khaki, trousers and battle dress on duty, a skirt to go out in. So it was khaki, lisle stockings and brown shoes but I had on my own underclothes because it was my birthday. We must have looked young and carefree, an afternoon off from the ATS. But I was a widow by then – he died three months after we married. First husband – It would have been so much worse if we’d never married. 11


We’d been together, we’d known each other so well – the sweetness of it was almost unbearable. Sixty missions I flew and then that last one... Doris – I got married again in ’45. We got engaged in the summer and he went to Arnhem with The First Airborne Division. He went missing. My mother said,

“There you go again.” Second husband – We looked down as we flew over the bridge, and the tracer started swinging toward us and we ducked back, looked at each other and started laughing, because why were we ducking behind this little thin skin of the plane? It would not stop a bullet. He stuck his head out of the door and shouted, “Watch out, you dirty bastards, we’ll be down and get you in a minute.” Doris – It took them seven weeks to get out. He took his men down to the river: 37 men early in the morning. There was a boat floating by empty and a few of the men stripped off and went and got the boat and they crossed the river in it. It was that simple – they’ve all got a story like that, the ones who came back, a stroke of luck, a twist of fate – how they survived when others didn’t. 2,167 of them came back; some were taken prisoner but more than half the division was wiped off the face of this earth. It was years before he ever spoke about it. Second husband – The bullets hitting the water looked like a hailstorm, kicking up little spouts of water. Doris – My second husband gave me a chain with little things on it at the beginning of the war. I was a bit upset because I thought it was his good luck charm, but he came back. Twenty years after the war ended I went to my first husband’s grave and buried 12


my ring in the corner. It was Welsh gold. His grandfather was a mine superintendent in Wales and he came to Kent to open the coalmines. 1842. He brought some Welsh gold and my ring was the last of it. They’re buried, he and his navigator in the churchyard. He was in the Lancasters, a pathfinder. I was probably around the same age then as his mother was when she lost him – it broke her heart, she didn’t live very much longer. Sometimes now when I think about it all my head spins – it’s been a good life – two daughters and now the granddaughters and a couple of greats as well. And so much travel – we had a job staying at home we travelled so much. But always there is that first fiery love, never dulled by routine or familiarity. All those young men – I don’t want to forget! Doris Ellis

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Games

My mother was very good at organising card games: Slippery Ann, Ludo etc. Rummy was a terrible game because families all had different rules. Happy Families had very funny cards. One family we knew had a pack and their mother would not let them use it. The pictures were too ugly. Racing Demon! One stood around the table and it got noisier and noisier. Tiddlywinks – Up Jenkin – passing with a 3d bit. Musical chairs, Pass the Parcel, Bumps, Blind Man’s Bluff, In and out the dusty Bluebells, Here we go gathering nuts in May, Farmers in the Den, Bobby Shaftoe, Hunt the Thimble, Hide and Seek, Sardines, Pin the Tail on the Donkey, Noughts and Crosses, Boxes, Consequences, Postman’s Knock, Oranges and Lemons.

Alice – “Oh! Who cares for you? You’re nothing but a pack of cards!”

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Angelic Audrey

I was born on April the 24th in the middle of the Great War. I don’t remember there ever being a father. Just girls. Oh yes! Always dancing, always singing; swirling round the house and in the garden: Muriel, Olive, Vera, Edna, and me – the youngest by four years. Angelic Audrey. I had a bit of talent for everything, but best of all I loved singing. My sisters were the dancers – fluttery dresses and floaty scarves – all type of dancing. We lived in Lewisham – Ladywell – a lovely name for a horrible place. Lots of houses close together – all built up. I had a room of my own. At night I’d gaze out of my window and dream... I’d climb out onto the old apple tree, sit on a branch and sing to the night at the top of my voice, all the songs I knew, “You are my Heart’s Delight, The Lark is

Singing on High” and the lights in the windows of the houses would wink back at me like stars. Sometimes I’d tiptoe downstairs in the early morning in my nightdress, creep along the little passage by the side of the house to the garden and dance in my bare feet on the dewy grass. I can see my garden every inch of the way. We used to go on holiday with mother to a country cottage near Tunbridge Wells, Kilndown. It was a big thing getting ready – all the things you had to take. We’d go hop picking. We’d get up really early on a misty morning and walk across the fields to the hop gardens. There were green tunnels – rows and rows of them. We worked inside these picking the flowers. And the pollen – oh yes, I remember being covered in it. We had to scrub ourselves when we got back to 15


the cottage. We’d hose ourselves down in the yard, laughing, having fun – all girls together. It was hard work, picking and throwing, picking and throwing into the bin, but I liked being outside in the fresh air – away from horrible Ladywell. Oh yes! I remember they used to burn sulphur. I can smell that now. I was always working. When I left school I worked in the accounts department in a big store. On Saturday afternoons I would go to the cinema. I loved to see films, all those handsome men – Ronald Colman, Cary Grant. And the musicals, One Night of Love, The Great Waltz.... Oh yes! I’d choose an Eldorado tub from the ice cream lady’s tray. That was my favourite! Better not say more – it’ll give my age away! In the Second World War I did fire watching in Lewisham. I worked very hard to do that – you had to trace the people who were missing. One of the worst times was when Woolworths was hit. Oh yes, I remember that. I have a ring I always wear – gold, plaited. My mother gave it to me. It’s inscribed inside: To Audrey from mother 1937. It might have been for my 21st. I was married – I think. I don’t really remember... But when I'm on my own I think of a lot of things, things I did or might have done. Oh yes! Audrey Wood

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There’s a rose garden here where they might have painted the roses and a strip of lawn just the right size for the croquet lawn. Alice thought she had never seen such a curious croquet-ground in all her life: it was all ridges and furrow; the croquet balls were live hedgehogs and the mallets live flamingos, and the soldiers had to double themselves up and stand on their hands and feet, to make the arches... The players all played at once without waiting for turns, quarrelling all the while – and in a very short time the Queen was in a furious passion and went stamping about shouting: “Off with his head! Off with her head!”

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Miss Boss

There’s only one word to describe the food at the school I went to: horrible! I used to leave very large cabbage stalks on the side of my plate. The music teacher said “Bridget dear, cabbages can’t grow without stalks”. I muttered “But

they can be cooked without them.” She overheard me and I got into trouble over that. Then mother wrote and complained about the food. I was reduced to a shaking, sobbing mass because of the head teacher. It was bad psychology really because I’d been a good little girl until then and afterwards I didn’t care. Mother said, “Just get your certificate and then we’ll have a think.” It was a small boarding school in Malvern. The food was very, very bad. There wasn’t very much of it. For breakfast there was one bit of fried bread, a rasher of streaky bacon, porridge once or twice a week and piles of bread and ‘scrape’ – very thin butter – not enough. For lunch on Mondays we had cold meat and salad with too much vinegar, which I hated and for supper we had a lot of cheesy dishes. There was no choice. At home we always had an extremely good cook and lots of choice. And Mother was a good housekeeper. Tea was piles of bread and scrape again and a dish of jam shared out round the table; cake on Sundays. We ate because we were hungry. It was the thing that made me choose the boarding school we sent our daughter to. We were shown round by a very nice girl and I asked what the food was like. “Not half bad!” so I thought this will do for Alice. Ancaster House, Bexhill. I grew up in two different houses in Mansfield. The family business was coal. 18


Grandfather sank two pits. I’ve been down a couple of coalmines in my time. In the first house my parents had a lovely garden. There was a tennis court and a big veg garden and a friendly old gardener called Martin. Then my father took a step up and we moved to the chairman’s house when I was about 18. My father didn’t want to go but my mother was very keen. It was a bigger house and there was a maze that was the same plan as the Hampton Court maze. It was beechhedged. My brothers and I knew our way backwards. There was a little mound with a nut tree on it in the middle. We’d have visitors for tea on Sundays and the idea was to get them lost in the maze! We could just see the tops of their heads from the trees and if we were feeling kind we would help them. My father said it required a gardener of its own. Then the war came and it got dug up. For my 21st birthday my parents gave me a most wonderful dance. It was packed with family and friends – two of my three brothers came – not my younger brother who was in disgrace. My elder brother produced some of his London friends and we had a lot of fun. One brother was married to a dress designer and she made dresses for me and mother. Mine had a white background with bunches of crocuses on it and a halter neck also made of crocuses. We danced to the music of Harry Roy and Henry Hall. We also got into Viennese Waltzes and Vic Sylvester. I used to love Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Two or three years before the war I joined the FANY’s. I thought they were toffee-nosed little so and so’s! Apart from learning the workings of a car I had no use for them at all, so I got un-joined and joined the ATS. One brother was in the Territorial. The war was looming and the Manager was told by the War Office we had to form a Women’s Corps so I was put in charge of recruiting about 20 young women. I had had no sort of a job before and no training. I put ads in the paper and hoped for the best. We met outside the Drill Hall in 19


Mansfield. All went off fine. Then we went in an open truck to Nottingham Race Course. The girls slept in a building on the racecourse for a while. I had a separate room. Then I was suddenly told I had to find them private billets. I went around the new estate on the hill knocking on doors asking if people would take them in. I found accommodation for them all! It was all cooking and clerical work in those days. One day the CO of the battery gun site was showing me a new implement for spotting planes and he said, “This is the sort

of job girls will be very good at.” We were there nine months. Then they said we’d be split up and moved. I said, “You can’t take all my girls away from me!” But they did. After my certificate I was sent to the Eastbourne School of Home Economy. We had to make our own soap jelly and had to boil it up in a canister. We certainly didn’t have an ironing board. One of our awful tests was ironing a man’s white cotton shirt on a table. It was a sort of pyramid, gas. We had irons all round us of different sizes. You could choose a titchy iron to do a titchy part. I’ve always had a soft spot for Eastbourne and when my husband retired we moved there. I could pour the memories out: the bandstand, the pier, the camera obscura, its beautiful front, the wonderful carpet gardens. The only thing that terrified me was the cliffs. I could never stand near the edge of the cliff! I used to say “Wild

horses wouldn't drag me south of the Trent,” but somehow they did! On a very, very clear day you can just see a strip of sea from my room. Bridget Meyer,

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Childhood rooms remembered

Doris – The place that I wasn’t supposed to go that I loved was the scullery at the bottom end of grandmother’s house in Dulwich. I’d creep along the corridor and get in the door. If grandmother was around I’d hide behind the door. There were larders where a man brought slabs of ice to cool the food and at the top was the maid’s room. There was a huge copper, which was fired in the morning by the gardener. The maid had to get up at 4am on a Monday to get the washing going. There were these enormous sinks. They threw in handfuls of washing soda to soften the water, scrub on the washboard, rinse once or twice, beat the things when they came out. Boil, haul it out – every Monday. It was a long, long day. There was a big bag of soap to hand wash things and big galvanised tubs to carry the washing in. The washing would be mangled and piled up at the outside door for hanging up. There were lines and lines of washing. I’d ask the cook

“What’s for lunch?” and she’d say “Cold meat and soap suds.” It was the quantity of everything. Everything was white. Ironing done by hand on flat wooden tables. Irons heated on the range. Two coppers, one for ‘dirty’ washing. Everything boiled up and starched. Bed linen was linen then. I loved that room – the smell of hot soapsuds! Gwendoline – There was a sitting room on one side. We had two kitchens. Marjorie – A room. Hmm. The kitchen. Rolvenden. Mum had a black-leaded range. Coppers in a scullery. 21


Audrey – Oh yes, I remember where my grandmother used to live in Ellersdale Road, nearby. I liked my Granny. There was a cellar. No, two cellars. Bridget – So vivid in my mind. The Nursery – my little brother and I and our dear nanny – a fire with a guard round it. Jim – James – had one corner with a built-in cupboard and I had a dear little chest of drawers, so high. I kept my dolls’ clothes in it. The canary didn’t sing until Nanny had a lot of mending to do. She would turn the sewing machine and it would go clickety-click and the bird would sing.

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Philosophical Phyllis

I wasn’t very philosophical as a girl. My nickname at Boarding School was Toppy, because I was very competitive and always wanted to be top of the class. Boarding School sounds nice when you read about it in books, but it isn’t fun. It does something to you, gives you a sense of loneliness. Sometimes I get the feeling that I have made it all up. As if I’m inside the dream of my life. The Nuns, our holidays by the sea, my school in Wales, the War... Perhaps that’s why I never married. A little girl asked me the other day “Why

aren’t you married?” I said, “No one asked me.” “You poor little girl,” she said, and I thought that was so amusing. You poor little girl! When I was five, I went to a convent kindergarten even though my parents were non-conformist. It was blissfully quiet and peaceful and we used to sit at little tables on little chairs, and outside there were lots of beautiful plane trees. The nuns were lovely, but when I got a little older, and began proper school, there was one nun who loathed me. She used to say, “Protestants stand!” So of course I had to stand! She made us feel that protestants were beyond the pale. The catholics were asked if they had been to Mass, and if they hadn’t they were given a real wigging, and made to stand on a chair. We lived next to St Michael’s Church in Highgate then, in a grand house with lovely gardens and flowers, called Wittenhurst, owned by Baroness Coutts. 23


Our Little Venice of the North. It had very large rooms, and my sister and I each had a room of our own. We always had someone to look after us. We were brought up very strictly; we almost had to ask permission to go from one room to another. We had to eat everything on our plate – everything, otherwise we didn’t get second helpings. I loved sweets, and I made them last. One day when I was watching out of the window, I saw Princess Elizabeth. I have Welsh and Scottish blood in me. Very Celtic. We used to go to Tenby in our summer holidays. Pembrokeshire. The Little England beyond Wales it was called. I wanted to learn Welsh but I wasn’t allowed, it wasn’t the done thing in those days. It was very beautiful there – sand and sea anemones, and buckets and wooden spades. We stayed in my Grandparents’ house. The garden was on a cliff beside St Catherine’s Fort, and it looked across to Caldey Island, where the monks lived. We were so happy. There was a path from the end of the garden that came right down to the North Shore. The beach was a mile long, and we used to play on the shore and dig for cockles, and then the person who did the cooking used to prepare them for us. I loved them. I can still taste those cockles – after all these years. My parents didn’t get on, and they parted. My sister was sent to one set of grandparents in Bude in Cornwall, and I went to my Welsh/English grandparents in Wales. It wasn’t a very happy time, a lonely upbringing. One felt that there was something wrong with us, a big black mark which we could do nothing about. During the war I worked in the Foreign Office. We were not allowed to say where we had been, or where we were going. I was also a firewatcher at the Blood Transfusion Laboratory. We were told, “When you hear a crunch on the

gravel after an enemy plane has been shot down, it means a ‘prisoner’ is 24


escaping. You must never utter a word. Not a WORD!” I was scared out of my wits. I seem to have spent my whole life either at Boarding School or at War. I signed the Official Secrets Act in 1940. I’m 92 now and I’ve never divulged a thing. I feel that I’d be struck down if I said anything. Cowardy custard! I hate custard. But I do like good fish. At school we had brawn, it was horrible but we had to eat it. I woke up the other night with this in my head: Look thy last on all things

lovely, every hour – Walter de la Mare. I learnt it at school. I can remember writing it out a hundred times. Now, I say it in my dreams... Phyllis Davies

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Gracious Gwendoline

We had a dog when I was a girl – a large deerhound kind. You had to take it out a lot on the lead and let it run off steam in a field. I loved dogs, but I was really keen on cars. We had a Citroën when I was still living at home – a grey one. I could see it from the sitting room window. It gave me a thrill to see it standing there in the drive – as if it were waiting for me to take it out – like the dog, only so much more fun. I liked the feel of taking charge. Just me and the car and an empty road. You could drive then for long stretches. Not like today. It was beautiful inside – cream leather seats and lacquered wood. My father kept the car polished so it gleamed. I was musical and played the piano when I was young. Debussy – Clare de

Lune, those gentle, shapely sounds – unmistakably French – like the car. I married twice. My first husband was an officer – with the big guns. I can’t recall when it happened but one day he didn’t come back – killed in action I suspect. I think that must have been the reason why I joined the FANYs – 1941 or 2. First Aid Nursing Yeomanry. I had no nursing experience. I drove a small ambulance and a staff car, which suited me very well. We were taught all about the workings of a car, so should anything go wrong we could fix it. I enjoyed being involved – doing something – and there were always dances to go to, a perfect excuse to dress nicely and to wear some of the jewellery I had inherited. There were hardships of course, but I didn’t complain. I considered myself lucky. We were a comradely group. And I got to drive 26


every day! I married again after the war and had one child – a boy. I never did have another dog but there were always cars to take out, to let off steam in. I was happy behind the wheel. Alive. Gwendoline Stephens

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Midsummer Eve Revelries: fairies In Wales, glow worms were fairies – thousands of them all over the mountain. Fairy lights! Moonlight fairies; Go far enough into the wood and you would see where the fairies lived. My grandmother used to say they eat honey. We left a matchbox for the Tooth Fairy for a silver thruppenny bit Makes me feel young again I'll fly away I think I used to love fairies when I was a kid I still do!

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Fabulous Freda

I used to love fairies when I was a kid. They fly when and where they choose. I remember the days when I’d fly all over the world. Family trips to Le Touquet – before and during the war. We’d fly from Shoreham Airport in a small plane. I always loved Le Touquet. Days spent shopping – I couldn’t help it. Of course I shopped. How can one help but shop? Such beautiful shops with so many things to buy. There were wonderful days spent on Paris Plage soaking up the sun, bathing quite often. Just enjoying ourselves and taking in the wonderful atmosphere. Although I spent most of my life travelling the world, I liked France as much as anywhere, because of the clothes. Good clothes are very important (any fairy will tell you that!). And naturally, in order to have good clothes, you have to shop! I loved Paris – the latest fashions – haute couture. The French are best at it of course. They understand how a woman should look. I was particularly fond of Coco Chanel. My husband and I used to fly over to Paris for weekends. So many beautifully laid out shops. I got a bit fed up with people speaking French all the time and pushing me around but it was worth it! It used to be all French at one time but I don’t think it is anymore. Wonderful times! When it comes to jewellery only London will do. That’s where I bought my pearls. Diamonds of course are special, but there’s a kind of coldness about them. I prefer pearls. They are beautiful to hold and each pearl has a different 29


feel. There is something more alive in a pearl. That’s the kind of stone I like! I think fairies would prefer them to diamonds as well, because they have their own in-built brightness and the warmth of pearls would reflect more of a fairy’s inner glow. Horse racing has always been a love of mine. Trips to Epsom and Newmarket. I love to see those horses flying down the track like the wind – especially when my money is on them. I met such interesting people. I just talked to the people near me. I used to meet the Queen Mother at the races. Now there was a lady who wore good clothes. Some of her beautiful floating summer dresses reminded me of fairies wings. I liked to go round the stables chatting to the jockeys, praising the horses. I was determined to win – win at any price. So many glorious memories for a girl who spent the first 7 years of her life living near Blackpool on the shores of the wild north sea, believing in fairies. Isn’t it lovely to remember past days? I sometimes appreciate them more at this time than I did then. I can go back and think about the good times and lovely people. Makes me feel young again... I’ll fly away I think. Freda Williamson

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Sister –“Wake up, Alice dear! Why, what a long sleep you’ve had!” Alice – “Oh I’ve had such a curious dream!” Sister – “It was a curious dream dear, certainly; but now run into your tea; it’s getting late” She pictured to herself, how this same little sister of hers... would herself be a grown woman; and how she would keep, through all her riper years, the simple loving heart of her childhood: and how she would gather about her other little children, and make their eyes bright and eager with many a strange tale, perhaps even with the dream of Wonderland long ago: and how she would feel with all their simple sorrows, and find a pleasure in all their simple joys, remembering her own child-life, and the happy summer days.

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The Peasemarsh Group Doris Ellis

Facilitators/writers

Bridget Meyer

Jane Metcalfe

Marjorie Gunther

Sarah Norris

Audrey Wood

with

Gwendoline Stephens

Tina Bloor

Freda Williamson Phyllis Davies

Project Manager Rachel Lewis

Shaping Voices in partnership with

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Shaping Voices Shaping Voices is an East Sussex-based not-for-profit Arts Company whose aim is to bring the arts to groups of people in East Sussex who would not normally have the opportunity to explore this area of activity.

www.shapingvoices.co.uk

Design: www.designraphael.co.uk Print: www.elephantgraphics.co.uk


COLD MEAT, SOAP SUDS AND CROQUET What is Creative Reminiscence? – a series of creative group sessions which lead to informal performances of original stories and monologues based on the personal reminiscences of people over the age of 60. Contact Shaping Voices 01424 718 048 info@shapingvoices.co.uk www.shapingvoices.co.uk

This creative reminiscence project and book were funded by The Hertiage Lottery Fund and Rother District Council

Š Shaping Voices April 2007


Cold Meat, Soap Suds and Croquet