One Lump Or Two

My conglomeration of linens, crockery, cutlery and glassware for any attempt to recreate what dropping in on someone for a cup of tea meant, is quite limiting, but perhaps there’s enough to take your mind back or show what it was like before mugs. Tea was the British drink, anytime or all the time, the kettle was kept on the boil, in case visitors dropped in.

tea-making

There was an art to making a cup of tea, between what we were taught at school and at home. It was important enough to take up a whole period of cookery lessons at school. For a start tea did not come in little teabags. In the average household, a packet of tea from the grocers was emptied into a tea caddy. The teapot was warmed first, it was unforgivable to even think about making tea in a cold pot so it was swirled round with boiling water out of the kettle first and discarded. A spoonful (or spoonfuls) of tea was put in the pot depending on how many it would be serving, the spoon for the tea I have is round and fairly flat. The pot filled with boiling water. It did have to be boiling to make a good cup of tea then it was left by the fire to brew. Traditionally milk goes in the cup first, it was a cup and saucer, not a mug and the tea poured through a strainer to reduce the number of tea leaves finding their way into the tea. Sugar added to taste and the tea elegantly sipped. The cups were usually small so you kept your guest happy by refilling the cup with fresh tea.

A neighbour or a close friend didn’t get such elegant treatment, that was meant for real visitors. Seldom would anyone leave without at least a cup of tea.  Those worthy of having the best china displayed were also spoiled a little bit more with the use of fancy table covers and a ‘properly’ set table, whether it was a small side table or the dining table.

tea-settable I have only three cups and saucers left from my grandma’s wedding china and no plates but with the plate there would have been a small serviette and a tea knife. Sugar if it was served as cubes, would have the sugar tongs or if it was during the war and sugar was rationed, then saccharines would have been put down in small dishes, accompanied by a tiny spoon, (as seen in the centre of the photo). Butter either curled or cut into small cubes, both methods were preferable. A nice touch to a tea table would be flowers.

There would be no need for butter and jam if only cakes and biscuits were being served but pancakes (dropped scones, Scotch pancakes) were quick to make and absolutely delicious straight off the girdle. There was a lot more home baking in the days of my parents and grandparents. There was no need to add artificial smells to your home when home baking and cooking were on the go!

girdle
Known as a girdle in Scotland, most will know it better as a griddle

Being a good hostess wasn’t as easy as it is now, there were no dishwashers, if there were, I doubt there would still be patterns on the dishes now. Cutlery, even EPNS still needed to be polished regularly as it all tarnished fairly quickly. You did that rather than being thought shameful at not being a good housekeeper. Women were proud to be housewives, even more so if they had the opportunity to show off their baking skills but it was also important to have a ‘nice table’.

I would very much like to host a ‘proper’ afternoon tea but my baking skills need to be polished up first. As for tea, although I don’t drink it, I do have a selection of loose leaf teas and no teabags. My tea drinking family assure me they are much better than teabags and don’t need milk or sugar to disguise the bitterness you get from everyday teas.

Tea actually doesn’t get much mention as being beneficial but it is, it’s a powerhouse of benefits. It’s antioxidants could help prevent a lot of serious illnesses, it may not be a miracle cure for any ailments but it’s usually what you reach for if you are tired, thirsty, needing energy restored and seems to offer some cosy comfort if your spirits are lagging a little. Perhaps that’s why it’s termed ‘The cup that cheers’.

 

It’s A Dog’s Life

My maternal grandparents had lots of odds and ends and I have no idea where they came from. It seemed to be customary for homes to have a pair of ‘wally dugs’ (china dogs), and granny fell in with custom. She had a lovely sideboardlight wally-dugsoak sideboard on which she displayed a few of her treasured ornaments including the wally dugs.

Although other breeds of dog were represented, the King Charles spaniel seemed to be the most popular. There is a tale that if the dogs were placed back-to-back on the window sill, it meant the woman’s husband was at home and if they were facing each other, it meant he was away, so her lover would know when it was safe to visit the house.

We have no idea what happened to the dogs but when granny died, my aunt asked for the sideboard for a newly-wed couple who needed furniture. Sadly it was seen in their garden a few weeks’ later, broken up for scrap.

The first real dog I remember her having was a Border collie by the name of Towser. A lovely gentle dog and when he died, he was replaced by an Alsatian – named Towser. She wasn’t adventurous in naming her animals.

She also had two geese, Jock and Jenny who lived at the foot of the garden. Better than any watchdog and woe betide any intruder who tried to get past them. If they were loose one of them would unexpectedly kick you in your back with both feet and you would wonder what happened. By the time you turned round to see what hit you, there they would be, nonchalantly strolling along.

A Touch Of Nostalgia

Some of this is written in Scots vernacular so I have added some translation.

If we could ever go back in time
Back to the days of the washing bine. (wash tub)
The mangle, the Acme wringer clamped to the sink.
The scrubbing board and the bath made of zinc.
Baring the feet and girding the skirt
Tramping the blankets, removing the dirt. (bare feet in a tub to ‘tramp’ blankets)

Inside the house, though simply furnished
We’d see the grate, blackleaded and burnished.
The kettle on the fire, kept hot for the tea,
That was masked in the pot that sat on the swee.(breweda metal plate on a swivel attached to fireplace)
In a corner would stand, a grandfather clock
And up on the brace, there sat the knock. ( mantle shelf, there sat the clock)

We’d hear the birds, cheepin’ outside,
The Robin, the Speug and the wee Yellow Yite. (Robin, sparrow and Yellow Hammer)
You could guddle for trout ‘till caught by the grieve, (tickling trout, game keeper)
He’d gie ye a flightin’ while shaking his neive. (he’d give you a ticking off while shaking his fist)
Under a stane they’d be speeders and gullocks (spiders and black beetles)
And the fields would be riddled with wee mowdie hillocks. (mole hills)

In the back yard were clugs for the fire (logs)
The weans would be playing and they’d never tire (children)
Of kick the can or hide and go seek
Or peeries or peevers or a gird and a cleek, (spinning tops, hopscotch, hoop and stick)
Then a window would open and someone would bawl,
“Jimmy”, “Jock”, “wee Eck,” “yer tea’ll get caul”.

Hard work and poverty we never want back
But somehow there’s something our lives seem to lack.
Warmth and companionship developed through strife
Has made way for machines controlling our life.
Fond thoughts of the past, I know I would wish
That they’d be a bit more than a satellite dish.

©  Agnes M Wilson

Washday Blues


Washing day before the advent of electric washing machines was very much a manual task, and for some would mean filling a huge built-in tub (also known as a copper) in the wash house with pails and pails of water, a fire lit under it to provide ample hot water for a family wash. It didn’t quite start there though, whilst the water was heating, most of the washing had to be pretreated as part of the laundry routine. Whites were left in the sink with bleach to whiten. Before they were added to the main wash handkerchiefs were soaked in borax which was a necessary step, especially during nose blowing seasons! 

Another aid to whiten clothes was the use of ‘blue’, Drummer Boy and Reckett provided blue tablets to mix with water to dip whites in to brighten them, many laundry powders still have blue specks througz-reckitts-blueh them for the same purpose although they say it’s their powder which washes cleaner it isn’t, it’s the blue specks which give the impression of brighter whites, an old trick grannies knew about long ago. Blue has been used for centuries to whiten yellowing cottons. Originally made from ground up lapiz lazuli, making it the most expensive pigment available. Now it’s a mix of synthetic blue and bicarbonate of soda. Cottons and linens also had to be starched, not only did it stiffen the fabric, it made it easier to iron and it stayed cleaner longer.

Wise grannies left bleaching whites to the sun, soaking wet whites hung up, laid out on the grass or hung over hedges until they dried, then repeated the wetting and laying out to dry. The sun is not only the best whitening agent, it’s the best disinfectant as well. Don’t believe the manufacturers of laundry aids about how they have improved washing clothes, the sun was doing that long before they were.

 

 

 

 

Lavender And Old Lace

I live in a small town, once known for lace weaving and when we moved here, there was almost full employment in the factories which had a thriving trade at home and abroad. It was sad to see the fashion for lace curtains and tablecloths etc. start to fade. Cheap polyester imports replaced the cotton lace this town was famous for. Sadly the town will not recover nor can it turn the clock back to having a thriving industry again.

The smells I associate with lace, are lavender and roses. With the lack of insect sprays for home use, little sachets of lavender were tucked into linen closets and drawers to keep moths at bay. The more serious threat was in the wardrobe when it didn’t take long for the clothes moths to feast on it’s contents. Coats, jackets and suits were expensive, not so easy to come by and had to last a lot longer then than they have to now, so everyone tolerated the smell of moth balls for the sake of preserving their clothing investments.

I have a drawer full of handkerchiefs but it’s too easy to reach for a tissue now so the cotton and lace handkerchiefs never really get used. It seems such a shame to not do something with them. I have used some to create pockets for lavender seeds, and home-made lavender sachets have a more intensive fragrance than the manufactured ones.

 

Granny

Someone’s description of a granny was “an old lady who sits by the fire and stops your mother from smacking you”.

I had a granny (maternal) and a grandma (paternal) so it was easy to differentiate between them. Grandma, sadly had suffered several strokes and was bedridden so I didn’t really get to spend much time with her as a grandma.

agnes-brown-daughter-agnes-nannie-wallace

My granny would never have been seen with make-up, nor would she drink alcohol or smoke. She wore front buttoned dresses covered by a cross-over apron. She always pinned a lace handkerchief behind the ‘V’ neck of the dress for modesty. Her stockings were thick, often lacy patterned and she wore gillie shoes. She probably would be a modern miss today with the fashion coming round yet again. Playing cards belonged to the Devil and wearing trousers was strictly men’s apparel but she was a warm, comfortable granny to cuddle into, she set the world to rights if you were upset and mended wounded knees. She had principles and standards to live by and she was the best.

No other person was quite the same for me, my granny wdoily-cas a wonderful person, typical of her day. She was the granny who sat by the fire and knitted, actually she crocheted. Wherever she went, out came her crochet. She crocheted dressing table mats, fashionable at the time, one large and two smaller mats, usually with pansies or roses and sold them locally. She taught me to crochet, that was not part of the school curriculum, it was knitting and sewing, however all of these crafts have come in very useful over the years.

Her sister-in-law, made handbags and purses. I have no idea what material she used, it was thick and strong like imitation leather with a snakeskin pattern. It was what people did in the small mining village where they lived, they used their skills to create sellable crafts to stretch out the miner’s meagre wages.

It’s quite sad now that pupils are not encouraged so much in homemaking skills, in a modern day and age, not so many people have time to spend on such craftwork, besides why waste time and money on a handcrafted garment when you can probably buy a manufactured one much cheaper. That’s it though, it’s manufactured and sold in the shops by the hundreds. Make it yourself, it’s unique, even if you bought a printed pattern, you still customised it to your own design.

I appreciate hand made goods, I admire skills in others which I don’t have, I appreciate the past and the lessons we can learn from it but I also appreciate living with the comforts of a modern era. I don’t want to be stuck in the past, just be glad there were so many good things about it, good enough to want to keep.

My Teddy Bear

My Teddy Bear

If you are ready, I’ll tell of my Teddy
Which was old and was missing one eye.
His coat was threadbare, he was short of some hair.
But he still was a lovely old guy.

His growler was strong, deep throated and long
All it took was a tilt to and fro
Then you could hear, his growl loud and clear
That’s when with pride, I would glow.

I remember his paws, which were soft, without claws
And his body with wood shavings was stuffed
No matter his filling, I always was willing
To hug him and show he was loved.

His face was cute I suppose, with a little black nose
And he had this incredible smile
I’m sure this little chappy, was really quite happy
To stick with me, mile after mile.

But this story is sad, in fact really quite bad
As he’s lost and nowhere to be seen.
But alas and alack, if he ever comes back

Will he tell me of where he has been?

I feared it too late, and he met his fate
when he was accidentally misplaced
but the charity shop, would care not a jot
and think him a bear quite disgraced

 As it happened one day, down granny’s way
When I left poor Teddy behind
she stitched and she patched, though nothing quite matched
he became in fact, re-designed.

 A button replaced, the missing eye on his face
his body, a mix of her crafts, very neat
his face was now knitted, and crochet now kitted
his little paws (both his hands and his feet)

To add to his charms, he had black woollen arms
From the rag bag, he had the best
purple velvet on bum, and covered his tum
matched the purple crochet on chest

 He was a model quite fitting, to my granny’s knitting
Each stitch she created with love
So you see my dismay, when he went away
He’s special, unique, a ‘one-off’

 He’d been born long ago, what date, I don’t know
but around 1890 I believe
No label had he, he was worth more to me
that’s why for dear Teddy I grieve.

 ©Agnes M Wilson

 

 

Welcome to ‘Granny’s Attic’

I remember my forays into my paternal grandparent’s attic. The loft ladder had to be brought down to access it and it was packed full of curious items. I didn’t mind the dust and cobwebs because there was always something new to discover.

I have a strong memory of the smells of their house. Camphor in particular as most of the wardrobes had mothballs popped in the pockets of some of the garments. The attic had a pleasant smell in spite of the dust and cobwebs, just the smell of old wood. There were no objections to me being around as long as I was well behaved and treated everything with respect.

I have kept and stored many things because some day they may become useful. I recycle and upcycle as much as I can because unfortunately the current ‘throwaway’ habit is polluting the planet and the earth is scarred with rotting waste in landfill sites. I also like to know some things are there if I want to use them. I learned a lot from my parents and grandparents, they were the best teachers in the world, and I appreciate what values they have instilled in me.

Attics, cupboards and even sheds are full of treasures you may not have a use for but you don’t want to throw out. They don’t have to be antique or of high monetary value but they are our treasures. I have thrown out many things because I felt the time had come to let go or either that my mind was made up for me if they started falling apart.