Sunday, 3 August 2014

Reflecting past times

The last two weeks have been very rewarding in many respects.  Having made contact with contacts from long ago - circa 1943 onwards - I see how important it is to occasionally dig up the old roots.  Having always had a very soft spot for my widowed grandmother who passed on at the age of 70 in 1965 it was fitting that I should commence digging in my native village of St Clears.  It has changed a  great deal from when I left in 1959.  I have to say that the by-pass brought immense advantages, so much so that one can actually park up, stroll around, do some very worthwhile shopping, have a pint, and especially those 'fish and chips'.  Visiting my grandmother in the cemetery I realised that it was high time her headstone was revamped along with those of her mother and father, and sisters.  Indeed so many of her family rest there that the visit became quite nostalgic - one might say just like old times visiting them. So became my reflections on the good old days.  Living as we did without any form of transport, going to junior school was a one and a half mile hike each way , through all weathers even the snowdrifts of 1947.  My first schooldays I was accompanied by the then deputy head mistress Miss Thomas. On the way at 8am and returning by 4.15pm.  Lunch in school was not the most excellent of culinary experiences.  Mostly stewed beef.  One needed to have mastered the art of chewing as what was presented as beef must have been on the hoof since the time of Noah.  Not eating it meant one went hungry or raised the wrath of the cook Mrs Saer.  It was war time after all and a shortage of nice things coupled with rationing.  On top of the beef one had Roly Poly stodge; semolina with half a spoon of jam to make it look a shade of pink; Macaroni, and occasionally a piece of fruit.  School routine was very routine - first thing morning prayers followed by endless tables, learning to read and write and that awful arithmetic. I could do most things with ease.  Sums as we called them was a nightmare.  writing was not much better except that I enjoyed doing English with a pencil.  Being left handed, when it came to ink and  nib was much more of a nightmare.  Making such a mess with my left hand moving to the right over wet ink the school authorities decided to tie my left hand and and make  me write with the other.  I haven't been right ever since.  Totally confused.  Today it would be child abuse I suppose.  I am very content being Left handed.  I can write with both hands simultaneously, individually, even mirror write, not that it it is of any use.  Using tools is no problem except a hammer.  Playing the piano/organ is no problem.  I started playing piano when I was seven.  I had been competing in local eisteddfodau singing and reciting since I was four, so mother decided I should do more, so Piano lessons and they lasted until I was seventeen when beer fags and girls took over. A nice combination not necessarily in that order.  I eventually settled for one woman, dropped the fags long ago, not so much of the beers as I used to, but Piano still rests high on the agenda.  Gone off beam a little there so returning to the forties - they were hard times for everyone. My uncle came back from somewhere in Italy in March 1946.   He came home by train and all the family greeted him in St Clears Railway Station.  It was a very nice reunion as I recall, obviously been away a longtime.  My grandmother was particularly relieved as she reflected on the loss of my grandfather in 1918.  Uncle owned a motorbike and one of the early experiences following his return from war was to take me sitting astride the petrol tank of his  motorbike to the barber for my first official haircut.  I was curly haired until that day when the barber Mr Thomas, who could do only one style gave me a short back and sides.  Must have thought I was a boy soldier.  Whatever that style remains very much to this day, even in the sixties I couldn't grow my hair like most of my friends, as by then I was a Police Officer and short back and sides was the order of the day.  Returning to reflect on the forties  I have to agree that by and large they were very happy times despite the austerity of post war problems.  As a family we were never really short of anything.  There was the occasional bit of black market activity in making butter, or sharing the ration with a neighbour in need in return for a bit of this and that.  Trout in the rivers were abundant, rabbit roasted, boiled, stewed, or stuffed was a delicacy.  Even the occasional chicken well past her egg laying days was a treat.  Clothing was a bit of a problem, apart from Sunday best.  Everything had to be patched up where holes appeared until they became threadbare and daylight shone through everything one wore. Really good old days.  I will reflect some more on another occasion.  Today I am going to reflect on the commencement of World War One and wear my Grandfathers medals to remember the sacrifices of those brave men and women who fought, died, became disabled, and who are no more, for it is One Hundred years to the day that it all went so terribly wrong.