Is There Any More Tea In That Pot?

Everyday events in the life of a tea lover.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

A Pause for a few days of summer ..................................

Tranquil gardens in Vaison-la-Romaine, Provence, France. June 2011  

Our garden here in England. June 2011 
It is well known in our house, and among our friends that for the past 8 years I have packed my bags and gone off for a week into an "off the beaten track" place called Nyons in Provence, France.
It began as I wanted to improve my spoken French and have some insights into the culture and traditions. 
The first time it was a total shock to my system to have 2 hours each morning and the same again in the afternoons, of "Immersion" French.
We used to laughingly call it "French Boot Camp"
As not only are there (extremely good) lessons, there is also the homework!

Surprisingly enough, I found my French, and my confidence to converse, had improved after the first year.
So passing on, I eventually met another lady, who travelled on my flight a few years ago, who was taking  the same course. We became friends, and up to this year, have gone together. As we lived, then, fairly close to each other, we began to have lessons with a French tutor during the weeks we were back at home.   This still continues for me, as Cecilia has moved an hour or so's drive away

(I can recommend Thierry to anyone wishing to further their studies.)

Timelord then was home alone.........................however this year, he accompanied me, as my friend could not go, having had to reschedule due to having an operation the week we were booked to stay. I have enjoyed showing him all the places I have come to know and love, and he has enjoyed meeting the people there.    
I was still doing some French, mainly this time, a continuation of work begun with Thierry, of translating my father's "Journal of the Blitz", into French. Danièle said to me at the end of the week, " I feel as though I have spent a week with your father as well as you. " 
 Something Thierry has often said. 
Then when "lessons" were ended we would go out either to the old town, or Danièle and Mike would take us to places of interest.    

There are a few English people living in the area, who come to Danièle for French lessons, so she has formed a very informal anglo-french club where there are mutual discussions in both languages, in order to benefit both nationalities!
Last year Cecilia and I were co-opted to the anglo-french match of pétanque, (like boules, or maybe the same!) 
This becomes very competitive and the rules very strictly observed! Measuring tapes are used to adjudicate whose boule is closest to the, (what the English would call the "jack")

It is a bit like watching the English explain the rules of cricket to the French!!
However, my husband found he had a propensity for dropping the boule close to the cochonnet! And so began  a very enjoyable match! Lots of French swear words were heard muttered under the breath when Timelord's boule could not be dislodged from its pride of place!   
Expressive French gestures, like shoulder shrugging and colloquial phrases appeared! 
We won!! 
But I have to say, no thanks to my puny efforts...........!    
I loved the blue skies, the scents of the lavender, the rustle of light in the olive groves and the pastel coloured walls of the provençale houses with their lovely tiled roofs. 
The luminosity of the heat...........................
Some of the French people I have come to know ask me now " When are you going to come and live here?" 

That is a good is always good to be under sunny skies, warmth and beautiful scenery, but as we  began our descent into Birmingham airport yesterday evening, after a journey involving a coach, the TGV, and two flights, via Zurich from Lyons to Birmingham, I looked down at the patchwork quilt of English fields far below. And during the short drive from the airport, with the cow parsley white in the hedges and the lush greenness all around, I thought, "This is home". 
And  when I toured the garden all the roses had come into bloom alongside the poppies and the geraniums. 
Of course we arrived to sunshine and warmth........................and there isn't much difference in the temperatures today. It is 28C.  
The patio door stands open, and Timelord  is in the summerhouse reading, " comme d'habitude" as the French  would say.
But he has incorporated some French into his vocabulary, not I hasten to add, the "Zut alors " type! 
So, who knows, he may return with Teapot encore une fois!!        
At  the very least for another match of Pétanque......................." La Revanche!"     

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Sheila's story of her childhood in Woodcroft, in her own words. (Permission granted to post it)

 Sheila Scott, née Hewitt. 
(This picture is Sheila holding a ball out for a walk with the Stott's.)    

"I was born in Rossendale General Hospital.  It was a very quick birth and made Mum ill.  When she went into the main ward the nurses handed my Mum the wrong baby.  Luckily even though she had only seen a quick glimpse of me at birth she knew this was the wrong baby.  Once seen never forgotten. LOL.

I don’t remember the Coronation celebrations as I was only about 18 months old.

My Mum got a job before I started school.  So Marian Waller looked after me.  She lived at 22  Thorn Street.  She started my liking of embroidery.  Her father lived with her and Harry, as well as daughter Margaret and son David.  If I was quiet I was allowed to play in the hall and stairs.  May sound odd for a kid to want to do that, but at home there was no hall and the stairs were narrow and dark.  At Marians it was big and light with a vestibule.  Up stairs they had a bathroom with a green suite.

My home 13 East Street, had a kitchen come living room.  I remember coconut matting and rag rugs, coal fire with a large guard round it with a brass top,  and two fireside chairs.  A pot sink.  A store cupboard under the stairs.  A kitchenette cupboard where Mum did all her baking.  A large brown wireless playing Sing Something Simple on Sunday night which made me feel sick because it was school the next day.  I did enjoy listening to The Navy Lark and Jimmy Clitheroe on Sunday afternoons.  I remember getting our first fridge.  We had a fish tank.  The story goes that I was mad at my brother Craig and threw my teddy at him.  He ducked and the teddy knocked the fish tank off.  Water and fish all over the floor.

We had a front room where there was a television.  My Dad was a TV repair man till he hurt his back carrying one.  When you see the size of the old ones no wonder that happened.  There was also a green suite with an American rocker chair.  A utility sideboard and a small display cabinet in the corner.  We had a vestibule built round the front door.  The front door wasn’t used much because our front street was unadopted.  Which meant it was a dirt road with grass growing in it.  It was also quite steep and the sun didn’t shine on our side so the flags soon became slippy.

We had 2 bedrooms upstairs, Mum & Dad  had the front one while I shared the back one with my brother Craig until my Dad converted the attic for Craig.  My Dad missed his attic as that was where he would make bits of furniture and toys for us.  I still have the dolls cot he made me.
We had no bathroom.  There were 2 tin baths hung on nails in the back yard.  A small one and a large one for Mum & Dad.  The toilet was outside.  It was a tippler toilet with a wood surround, and the toilet paper made from squares of newspaper threaded on string and hung behind the door.  It was dark in there even though my Dad painted the walls white.  When I was about 2, I would get one of my shoes and say, “shoes on, splash.” And throw it down the toilet and wait to hear the splash.  It became a race for my Mum to get there before me to stop me.  No spare money meant fishing the shoe out and cleaning it.  When I was about 8, Dad took a large cupboard out of the kitchen and plumbed in a bath.  He made a top to slide over and a box to cover the taps.  This made it into a seating area.  When it was bath time the top would be slid off and put against the back door window, for more privacy.  A few years later Dad changed it all again into a shower and changing cubicle.  Now that was good.

We had a communal bonfire in Pickles’ field.  All the kids collected wood.  Some of the older boys sneaked over the river into Brooks Woods for old tree branches.  The week before Reedsholme big boys would come and try to steal our wood.  The slipper shop would give us off cuts on bonfire day.  Goodness knows what toxic fumes we breathed in.   We had a Guy Fawkes and would sit with him outside the factories and on the form outside the Co-op.  Made quite a bit of money, which went for toffees to be handed out at the bonfire.  The fire could only be lit by Martin Hoare.  The kids would meet him after work on the day and walk him home, hoping he would be quick and eat his tea.  A few Mums would have made potato pie for us all to eat around the fire.

(Sheila, in the middle, with friends on her birthday.)    
The back street for East St. & Thorn St. was ideal for sledging down.  Not too steep, but steep enough for a decent speed.  There was a street running along the bottom but luckily not many cars around, and then there were railings before Holmes Terrace houses. 

I believe Peter Fisher went down head first on his sledge and his head got stuck in the railings.  It needed the firemen to get him free.  The street became very slippy and was hard work for our parents to walk up and down.  They used to put ashes down to give them grip, but that would spoil our sledging.  My Dad made a sledge for my brother and I.  He made it from a dining chair back and an ironing board.  It could easily fit 3 on.  Worked well but was heavy to pull back up to the top.

When Marian was looking after me she would sometimes go to Pickles farm.  There was one door which I was told there was a bull behind it.  I never saw the bull but it scared me going past.  At the end of the yard was the pig sty with lots of baby pigs.

In the summer we would fill an old medicine bottle with water and a stick of hard liquorice.  Then a few of us would walk past Pickles' farm and up the lanes.  The liquorice flavoured the water and was for our ‘pic nic’.   It never lasted very long.Mondays was washing day.  The streets would have the lines strung across and hung with sheets.  Woe betides any coal man who came on Mondays to deliver coal.   These same washing lines would sometimes become big skipping ropes turned by a couple of Mums for all the kids to skip into.

The milk was delivered by horse and cart.  The farmer Irvin Nuttall sometimes had a ginger bread which he would share with the kids.  Irvin and his 2 sisters, Nelly and Hilda, came to live next door at number 15 East Street.  Nelly and Hilda taught me to crochet.

The rag and bone cart would come and in exchange for rags Mum would get a donkey stone to edge her clean steps. 

Little Blackpool was a stream that ran into the factory lodge.  It was a magical place.  We built dams which were not appreciated they the men from the factory, caught sticklebacks and had a wonderful time.  Our wet and dirty socks would be hung on the bushes to dry hoping Mum wouldn’t notice.

Once we found a snake on the path to the stream.  Some factory men were near by at the lodge.  They said it was a grass snake. We would pick flowers for our Mums.  In the middle of the field were the 5 trees. My brother Craig, (front left in photo) knew how to climb them, so he showed us.  It was good having a big brother.  Farmer Pickles didn’t mind us going in his field as long as at mowing time, when the grass was growing and ready to cut, we kept to the same paths.  At mowing time some of the men who lived in the streets would help cut the grass."
The last photo is those very same fields, filled with wild flowers. 

Last of the Summer Wine............................ June 2011

At the beginning of this week, on Tuesday morning, I drove up to Rossendale once more, to stay for a few days, visiting several people, then meeting up with Ken Stott and Peter Fisher, (pictured.) We were to begin the initial filming of the dvd about our childhood spent in the community of streets known as "Woodcroft".  
Why? Some people have asked. Because we all want those early childhood years to be preserved. It was a different way of life. A time of close community, where we lived without  television, (me till I was about 11), enjoyed the radio, and had no telephones in our houses, no mobile phones, no i-pods, i-phones, computers, no inside toilets, our mothers had no washing machines, and no dryers, not many had a car, no central heating, and no fitted carpets............. 
In those days after the war in the early '50's, our parents lived with rationing.
 But we were happy.    
Oh we can look back through rose coloured  glasses, I am well aware of that, except, when we all meet up, those folk from the Woodcroft community, that sense of closeness and affection for those years we shared is very tangible and real...................
The last time I met Peter and Ken was at the "Woodcroft Reunion" in 2001, 10 years earlier! 
So here we are again, 10 years on!! 
And yes, sure the years have added grey hair, and the rest(!!) and as Peter commented on one of the photos we took how much we now look like our parents! 

So, Peter is busy collecting local history, and old postcards, not to mention his sets of superb photos at All of this takes time and effort and well done to Peter and Ken, who himself, is taking the time to film and edit the dvd which is in High Definition.Meeting up with the various people, where they are able, who are taking the time to travel to Woodcroft to be included as a vox pops interview. I've just looked up the meaning of the phrase and it translates as "voice of the people"  which is exactly how it will be. 
 Sometimes when I hear myself talking about uploads and downloads, editing photos, and other such very basic terminology, I think what a long way we have come from those 
early days. 
Ken set up his camera equipment and microphone, in the garden which was once a part of Pickles' farm. Of course, like he said, put people in front of a camera and immediately you are very aware of it! But he asked Peter and myself to sit on one of the old stone slab "benches" and just talk about our memories of living there as children. 
He had brought with him the script which my sister has written for a "voice over". This will be read by young lady from "Radio Rossendale" who sounds like Jane Horrocks. So if we ran out of things to say we could refer back to various things which were included, of which there are many.
Well, like an episode from "Last of the Summer Wine" the two of us began............and all those precious moments came tumbling out. Oh how we laughed and as each delicious anecdote was told, it reminded us of more and more.................!! 
It really was a case of " Do you remember when...............?" And off we wandered again down that childhood track. 
How long did we talk? A good 30 minutes!! And, of course, being one of the Smith family, I can talk for England once I start! But Ken was pleased, and his wife, Lynne, who had accompanied him, though not being involved herself, said that she had thoroughly enjoyed it, as it mirrored her own childhood memories, being born in Burnley, which is over the moor from Rossendale. 
There are more people who are going to be filmed, and this is interspersed with old photos, and footage of the area. Ken is busy now editing the bit in which Peter and I are included. And listening to them talk about how to put it on the internet was a foreign language! The file will be very large! 
Then the dvd will be marketed and 
the proceeds go to the local hospice. So thanks Ken and Peter, and look forward to meeting up again.  
And here is the original farm garden, in the picture.