The Diva Challenge being all about Autumn leaves this week has set me to thinking about the changing of the seasons and the passing of time. I liked the Autumn leaves thing, it reminded me of all sorts of things, pleasant memories for the most part. I was just getting myself into a cosy romanticised glow, remembering Autumns passed, roasted chestnuts, playing conkers, kicking through leaves in my wellies, being taken for walks in Clumber Park…
And then I gave myself a little wake up call. When I was a child we had coal fires and no central heating. No fitted carpets, just a square in the middle of the room and oilcloth around the edges. (Linoleum to you posh folks.) No double glazing, but condensation or rime on the insides of the windows in the mornings. If you wanted to be warm; if you wanted a hot bath or even a wash; if you wanted to bake, someone had to get up early and clean out the grate, take out the ashes, bring in kindling and coal from the coal shed outside, to make a fire. Every day.
We were not underpriveleged. We did not live in a slum or get handouts from the state. We were the norm, I think, and this was how it was.
If it rained, and in Autumn rain was a fundamental part of life, you got wet. No car to take you to school, so you spent all day in your wet shoes and socks. Have you read “The Country Child” by Alison Uttley? Do. It’s a gloriously unsentimental but evocative memoir of a childhood in the hills near where I lived but about fifty years earlier. Go on, read it and weep.
At weekends we went Youth Hostelling and often stayed in what even then was seen as fairly primitive accommodation. (Single gender dormitories, mainly cold water, often outside lavatories, open fires in some rooms, miles from anywhere…) There was no entertainment in the Hostels – not even radio – so we played board games or read books in the evenings. Sometimes there was a sing-song but there are only so many times you can sing “On Ilkley Moor Baht ‘At” and find it amusing. Or, how’s this for a novel idea?, we talked to each other. Weird, huh? And then all day Sunday was spent trailing behind my Mum, who trailed behind my Dad, who was marching across hill and dale, moor and fen, homing in on the pub of choice for a liquid lunch and our own sandwiches. Pub lunches? Unheard of. Children in pubs? Do me a favour. And if the weather was inclement? You got wet. And cold. And wetter. “Are we nearly there yet?”
Looking a bit less romantic now isn’t it?
By the time I was sixteen I had visited every county in England and Wales and most of Scotland too. If there was a hill, I’d climbed it. Not always willingly, of course but… Tick them off – Ben Nevis, Ben Lomond, Snowdon, Cader Idrys, Ling Mel, Helvellen, Scar Fell Pike, Langdale Pike, Cat Bells, Whernside, Pen Y Ghent, Ingleborough- the list goes on. I probably spent as much time in the Peak District as I did at home. I suspect the memory is better than the experience was. I can remember moaning to my parents that I wanted to stay in and read at weekends sometimes.
Of course, it wasn’t always Autumn but Autumn was good because it wasn’t too hot for a brisk walk or so cold you had to be wrapped in forty-two layers of woollen garments, usually home-made. And it’s a rare bit of rural England that doesn’t look good in Autumn.
And Christmas was just around the corner.
On which note, a few of my Christmas preparations.
The first one is about four inches square and will be reproduced, I think, to go on some cards.
Not a lot of difference, really, is there?
This tree is for my dining room and measures about twelve inches by eight. Will be framed some time soon.
So tonight I’m going to make a couple more card toppers with a Christmas theme. Holy leaves, perhaps, or sprigs of mistletoe, NOT, Santa’s little elves or cute teddies or kittens, but seasonal as per Winter Solstice, rather than Happy Holidays and cute. I can only take so much saccharine.
And here they are: