Friday, 23 October 2009

Down Memory Lane- social history- family only.

This was taken yesterday morning in a fleeting moment of dazzling sunshine. I took many more but each time the pesky sun flitted back behind clouds at the moment my camera( with it's 9 second delay before each picture) was ready. Hence most of them are not worth using.
It's those yellow leaves: WOW.
The rest of the day was spent cleaning in readiness for a cosy and nurturing home for Half Term! And while I scrubbed, hoovered, tidied and dusted I ran a story in my mind. That is when I wasn't singing along to the radio... but I digress. I went down memory lane and thought I'd share it with blogger, except it's going to be VERY dull and BOOOring to most/some people so I apologise unreservedly: please move on as this is really FOR FAMILY ONLY.
I won't mind and I promise I'll have something crafty/crochety and interesting again soon.
Meanwhile so as to keep family reading I have posted a set of random photos from 3 years ago to amuse. It's the ONE and only time we did this for a Christmas card. To go with the annual update for old University and other friends....mmmm yes we don't do those anymore either.
Pippa was a puppy 5 months old .

OK so yesterday was exactly halfway in the year to my next birthday, A VERY BIG birthday. An event that in the Netherlands is celebrated with a very special cake. I know this because my Dad had one AND a special party just before he died a year or so later....
Anyway here I am thinking about what to plan, how to celebrate and how very much has changed since my birth and childhood.
Then in addition a school in Aylesbury is celebrating this very same birthday THIS year and a flyer proclaimed the following:
1. you could buy a house for £2,500.
2. Cliff Richard was in the charts with Living Doll
3.A MINI went for sale at £500
4.The Barbie doll was launched
Where to begin? Mum and dad met after the war as mum's friend had been a penpal to my dad who was hiding in French caves in the French Resistance and later in a Swiss sanatorium as he'd contracted TB. The friend( my godmother) took mum as chaperone to Holland to visit dad after the war and mum and dad fell in love. Mum moved to a small country town first to live with dad's parents and later in their own home. It was a domestic life where to be respected your front step had to be spotless and scrubbed DAILY. Mum even got up at 4 am one day to hang out the washing so as to be the first with her washing on the line was a good and upstanding thing to do! It was a ''beat the neighbours at this game kind of thing.''
From having his own business with his brother- inherited from his dad: more of this later- my dad sold his share and went into teaching, got his degree and his postgraduate degree by evening study and became a lecturer in economics. We moved from the small home-town to The Hague and later to Wassenaar. I was an ''accident'' and should have been a boy as it was my mum's last chance for her great wish for a son.She had her first daughter in London as she wasn't going to have her first baby in a foreign country!My middle sister and myself were born in the Netherlands as this was 5 and 9 years after her first girl. The first delay was planned as this was the advice in those days for a Rhesus negative mother having Rhesus positive babies.
Like I said: I wasn't planned. Ooops. Not sure telling this to a small child is helpful, but hey I survived it. For years I just did not understand how I was an ''accident''...
Born more than 2 months prematurely I am very blessed and lucky to be alive because I set a new record for the local hospital: youngest baby to survive at that time.The attending paediatrician stayed by my bedside day and night and worked a miracle. For the first few weeks my parents didn't name me as they didn't think I'd make it. Then my father's Sarah was rejected because mum argued that as he was supplying the sirname it was her right to choose a Christian name.
I am also extremely LUCKY to be as I am as during pregnancy mum had terrible morning sickness and as she had recently visited England where Thalidomide was all the rage at the time, she came back to her elderly country GP in Holland and demanded to be given some.This GP refused stating that he did not ever consider prescribing any medicine to a pregnant lady, unless it was a life threatening condition. Mum was furious, but was told to go home and if feeling sick to stay in bed and have a cup of tea and a biscuit until she felt a bit better.
My childhood was a very happy one, strict but loving where study and good behaviour were rewarded.Our pocketmoney depended on the grades we achieved at school.I walked to the primary school with the neighbour's children,there was never an adult with us. Sometimes I walked home alone.I cyled to secondary school with friends or by myself. Mum didn't have her own car until I was in my teens and she only used it for shopping. There was no ferry-ing as we do as parents now. We got ourselves to our sports,dance or art classes by bicycle. My older sister would cylce me to guitar lessons with me plus guitar wobbling on the back of her bicyle- through the very centre of The Hague! We did not have any helmets.
We were free to come and go and play or cycle anywhere as long as we let mum know.
We weren't ever supervised.
We did a lot of ice skating in winter- on the canals and streams and rivers!
Rollerskating down the pavements- preferably downhill was another favourite and the usual skipping and hopscotch. Canoe-ing on the waterways in summer.
Our TV was black and white and we were only allowed to watch one half hour evening programme. There were no daytime programmes, no computers, no mobile phones,no nintendo games. We had a list of chores to do each week, but homework was the priority. We had no say in: our clothes choice ( up to age 16) - even though there was no uniform it was Mum's decision what we wore-, the decoration of our rooms, where we'd go on holiday...
Obedience was expected and enforced. There was no democracy: mum ruled.
My sisters and I washed up every day while singing together, this was a lovely time of the evening. We all took turns in the washing up/ drying/putting away. We always ate all of our totally homecooked meals ( from raw ingredients nothing was ''ready made'') together at the dining table and only breakfast was eaten in the kitchen.Mum's cooking was SUPERB. Dad worked long hours( as he taught at evening school too)but we would walk our dachshund together in the park or a wood at weekends. Mum did not work except to occasionally teach English in the International school.
Her earned money was for her Wintersports holidays which she took with a lady friend.
Dad always washed my hair at the weekend and helped me cream my eczema .
We didn't always get given what we really wanted and this was a way of engendering ambition in all of us girls. Dad brought us up to think we could do ANYTHING and we were equal to any boy and he encouraged science and maths and discouraged any tendency to girly art things.
I can still remember my desire for a purple suede fringed waistcoat....I can even SEE it still!
We were allowed art as a hobby as long as we excelled in academic subjects such as Latin,French Maths,Chemistry and Biology.
Due to the Second World War no German was allowed to be spoken,learned or practiced in our home. We did this at school and were careful not to bring any home.
Dad had lost many friends in the war and one lung was removed in Switzerland, where he was also fed on double cream as a ''cure'' for TB.....
Both parents smoked when we were growing up, dad progressed to a pipe and then gave up. Mum continued despite us kids complaining and finally gave up after dad died. He died of a heart attack in the middle of the night. This I will not go into although it's etched on my mind, I was a young teenager.
In the holidays we walked a LOT and dad was in his element when we went to the Yorkshire Dales for the first time.He would have retired to live in a cottage with a view in the Dales had he survived long enough.
Evening amusement was often a strategic game such as mastermind or Cluedo, just between us kids but my middle sister( labelled genius) always won everything. My first taste of wearing what I wanted to wear came when my eldest sister taught me how to sew and I could MAKE clothes from fabrics and patterns bought from my pocketmoney.
I could not afford to buy the clothes I liked ready-made.
I would sew on a table in the corner of dad's study while he sat marking student's papers.
He said: '' I'm dreading the day you learn to drive if that's how fast you'll go!'' as I sewed fast but accurately, mum's Singer machine humming along.
My paternal grandmother endowed me with my penchant for all things textile and needlework and apparently she was famous for her tatted masterpieces in the town where she lived.
Her lace was exceptionally fine and my maternal grandmother praised her work highly, but alas I never saw any of it nor ever knowingly met her.
Her story is a sad one: she wanted to travel and explore the world but her parents would not let her study or travel. ( not seemly).
She met my grandfather who was a dashing officer in the army ( but penniless apparently) and thought if she married him she could travel and finally leave the town ( small country town) she was born in. He would be posted abroad and ooh what exciting times she would have!!!
Thailand perhaps or the West Indies!
However her very well-to-do parents struck a deal with her fiance to keep her safe.....
They bought him a business in the town, which he then ran for the rest of their married lives and passed onto his 2 sons.
They were progressive enough to put their eldest: a daughter through Medical School but she failed some exams and fell in love so they decided neither of their sons would go to University they would go into trade. This dissappointed my father for the rest of his life as his dream was to become a ( medical) doctor. He gained his doctorate in Economics at night-school.
Guess what? 2 of my dad's daughters studied Medicine and the third Law......
( He only approved of ''proper'' professions) He got his way even long after death. Promises had been made....
How times change!!! These days you are more likely to make your name -and your millions- in business than in a profession.....
Doctors and lawyers are not necessarily as respected as footballers or anyone ''famous'' on TV?
A house is more likely £450,000 than £2,500 and a car £18,000 versus £500?!!!! And your children do what THEY want to do, NOT what parents might think best... My kids have chosen their clothes volubly even from about 18 months old!!! And they have a say in their rooms, our holidays and so forth... Regular family meetings are held to agree holidays and so on.
Obedience? Forget it for most of the time! Chores? Well I can dream can't I?
Freedom? I had it, but this is a taxing topic between JJ and me, I'm for allowing more and he for less. Difficult.
Then again I wasn't aware -or interested as a child- in the news or current affairs or climate change or any such things. I was blissfully childlike well into my teens, with very few cares and lots of fun. I did win a prize for raising the most money for Oxfam by selling diaries door-to-door for Africa one year, I was still in Primary school. We were aware that there were people ''in need'' elsewhere in the world and partook in fundraising events, sponsored walks and so on but it didn't make me actively worry until I was in my midteens.
My kids wear helmets( well some of the time), are supervised, are cosseted, almost always get given most/some of the things they most wish for on their Christmas/Birtday lists.....
Are taught about smoking,drugs and alcohol at Primary school and Tsunamies as well as famine in Africa.... We had covers for electrical sockets, stairgates, safety rails on beds,rubber bits on marble fire-surround, brakes on prams..
I fell down a steep metal staircase to our attic in Holland: I was about 4 or 5. BIG bump on the side of the head. Then I did it again a few months later. Big bump on the OTHER side of my head. As they are symmetrical: no-one notices.
It didn't do me any harm. I learned to be more careful and NOT to play on stairs.
However of course this could never happen today. My mum would be prosecuted for neglect!
Especially as nothing changed after the first bump, I had been warned that's all. We agquired a dog by ''accident''. As with eczema and hayfever and asthma I was diagnosed early on as an ''allergic type'' : I was tested age 11 for lots of substances. Alas I was found to be allergic to horses, dogs, cats, rabbits and all ''hairy'' animals- there went my future as a vet!!!
Then a little boy( I was 7) I happily played with at school let me walk his dogs with his mum.
They were wire-haired dachshunds: black and tan.
One day he told me at school: '' I'm giving you your own dog: would you like her?''
I ran home more excited than I had ever been, mum was doubtful. Parents communicated and apparently this boy's granny who bred dachshunds had died leaving 6 or 7 of the dogs and would we like to take one?
Annetje was a 7 year old prize winning- multiple FIRST prize rosettes!!!-BEAUTIFUL black and tan standard size bitch with a grand German sounding Aristocratic pedigree name.
Mum and dad decided she could come for the weekend and IF I was NOT allergic then......
Allergy or not, ( not as it happened) it would have been no different.Annetje came and Annetje conquered. Veni Vidi Vici.
She completely took over mum and dad's heart (and soul) and that of us kids too. My eldest sister had already left home for University.
She was stubborn and full of character, ruled the home and stole our hearts.
Amazingly from being a show-dog owned by an elderly frail lady and in the constant company of her mother and brothers and sisters , she took to our family life as the proverbial duck.
We lived in a tall 3 story house in Scheveningen- I've been back and they are smart doctor's premises now- how ironic!- and she would dash up the steep stairs like no tomorrow. There was no carrying HER! The ONLY time we carried her was
1. When she found a hedgehog: there'd be no budging her. She'd bark and poke at it furiously.
2. When she dived into a rabbit warren and only a madly wagging black tail tip was left visible.
3. When she refused to walk, usually because she'd decided she was going in another direction.
(not because she didn't want to walk, she LOVED walking)
She also had a knack of showing her dislike of being left on her own for a bit. We had - in the 1970's- a very trendy pair of high-backed swivel chairs: one in pine green and one in orange.
They would both be left facing the fireplace. Annetje would run at them, leap onto the cushions and- while swivelling -jump off again.
Thus on our return they would both be facing the door and look all askew.
I'm going now. That's enough reminiscing for the time being. That's Pippa up there, just before arriving at the groomers for a stripping session. She's NOT happy about it.
We call her our teddy-bear when she looks like this.

No comments:

Post a Comment