FRONT PAGE / POSTS
by Myfanwy Jones| St Asaph, Wales
Thursday, 23 August 2012
tags: culture, europe, making sense, sequencing
The cupboard on top contained the food – in tins and jars, the shelves lined with the Daily Mirror, our newspaper of choice. On the side of the cupboard above the settle was the calendar, courtesy of ‘Hughes Bros, Llansilin’, who operated the local garage and bus service. Later on there would be a second calendar, a bit more fancy this one with smaller date pages and a photograph of some well-known Welsh beauty spot above it; this was from Criddle & Co, who supplied our animal feed. I think we had the Menai Bridge up there for a year.
There was a lot of time to notice all these things because that kitchen was the centre of our world; we ate, played there and did homework in later years. Dad took his daily after dinner (lunchtime) nap there so we soon had to learn to be quiet OR ELSE…… Oh and it was also our bathroom. There was only one tap in the house so anything to do with water had to happen in the sink. Hot water was in extremely short supply so we soon mastered the art of washing from head to foot with a couple of pints of water. This came in very useful may years later when I started travelling and hitchhiking and had to manage without baths and showers at times. Bath night was a Sunday night. A small tin bath when we were toddlers, replaced by a 4ft tin bath as we got taller. There were never more than a couple of inches of water in either size of bath. Lynda first, then me, then David, poor lad! I think Mum used to sneak a bath occasionally when there was no-one else around, but Dad never did. He used to strip to the waist and have very noisy washes, with Lifebuoy carbolic suds flying everywhere. If he was in a good mood, he’d even start singing – his voice wasn’t at all bad. It would be some song we had heard on the wireless – I think he fancied himself as Eddie Fisher. What happened below the waist will never be known! I think there was ritual foot washing from time to time but I don’t know about anything else.
The kitchen table was not only the centre of our universe; it was also the centre of the universe for Siannie, our fox terrier. She lived in a wooden crate under the table. This also seemed perfectly normal.
Beyond the cupboard behind us was the back door to the yard outside, thick planks nailed together and covered with some ancient brown paint that had separated into a shiny reddish under-layer and a crusty, bubbly dark brown coating on the top. It was closed with a latch and there was a big, old-fashioned lock below, which we didn’t generally use. The other exit from the kitchen was up two high stone steps to the original kitchen/living room which by our time had been improved by the installation of a 1940s fire grate and the inglenook covered over with tine sheet and wallpapered. The stone step was useful as an occasional seat and the Shoe Box was kept on the middle step. It contained shoe brushes and two tins of Cherry Blossom polish – black and brown.
We played and played in that kitchen. Plasticine was guaranteed to keep us busy, plotting out fields for our plastic farm animals, making troughs and shelters for them. The Plasticine would get too soft in our hot little hands to make any serious structures or models, so our creations weren’t very interesting. In time, all the colours would merge into a nondespript grey and small pieces would escape from the table. For many years, the patchwork kitchen floor was also decorated with flattened grey Plasticine patches that had set rock hard on the rough concrete surface. All Mum could do to clean the floor was slosh the mop over them. Later, we read our comics there then progressed to reading books. I can remember the day I read my first story, that was all words and no pictures. It was a short story in a women’s magazine and it was about a pair of pink shoes, pictured at the top. My world was populated by black, brown or dusty grey shoes, so I was so desperate to learn about these pink shoes. I probably didn’t get half the words and I probably didn’t get the story at all, but I was off the starting block and started reading anything that came to hand after that.
There was no electricity in the house for the first 7 years or so. We had a brass oil lamp in the kitchen. The draughts in the room kept wafting the flame onto the lamp glass and cracking it, but fortunately, the diameter of the lamp fitting perfectly fitted the rim of a 1lb jam jar. Mum would put the base of a jar into boiling water, a perfectly circular crack would appear and the base would drop off leaving a clean, but lethal edge. We knew to keep right away. But thankfully we did have that source of lamp glass, otherwise the lamp would have been useless. We were given a Tilley Lamp later on, which was much brighter, but often ran out of the meths to prime it so we relied on that old oil lamp. The wireless ran on acid batteries, so we did get news of the outside world and listened to Children’s Choice on a Saturday morning and Forces Family Favourites on most Sundays.
© Myfanwy Jones 2012