Living through interesting times
When I was little I thought everyone had been born in 1945. It was such an important year. The war ended. I thought everyone had to have a war in their lives too, but perhaps I was right there.
One of my earliest memories is of waiting with my mother in queues for rationed groceries. It was cold and boring, so perhaps that is why it stuck in my mind.
Startng out then meant beginning life in an era which echoed older times. Milk was still delivered by horse and cart. Houses were heated by coal fires. People made their own clothes. There were meat safes and pantries not fridges. Washday was a whole day’s work.
As a result children learnt all sorts of practical skills. Making old newspaper into neat rolls for setting the fire, shelling peas, turning skeins of wool into balls, running messages to the local shops. They were expected to be useful or keep out of the way. Few people had cars, so quiet streets meant even young children had independence to wander near and far.
So I’ve seen huge changes in how people live and work. I can (though only if pushed nowadays) do lots of things: sew, knit, darn, cook and bake from scratch, gut fish, skin a rabbit, light fires and keep them alight, bath, feed and change a baby. A good number of these I had learnt even before I reached secondary school.
Also growing up in the shadow of a recent war meant you always had an awareness that awful things happen. All the uplifting propaganda that cosily surrounded you couldn’t wipe out that knowledge. We played out our own battlefield games on overgrown bomb sites.
It’s been fascinating to experience how attitudes change.
When I went to my grannie’s house on holiday, we children used to love market day when all the sheep were driven down through streets from the hills around the town. We had a favourite vantage point on Killing Hoose Brae, the steep street that led down to the huge market at the bottom. We would perch on the wall next to the abbatoir beside a railway incline. There we could watch the trains that needed two steam engines to get up the bank, one at the front and one at the back to push. And all the while the sheep would be driven back up from market to the killing hoose. It was a great morning’s excitement.
There weren’t many vegetarians then.