Living the Life of my Ancestors – ‘When I was Young I Didn’t Have….’

I am sitting in semi darkness reliving the lives of my ancestors and wondering how long the computer battery is going to last. 2 hours 30 minutes it says but it was 4 hours something only 20 minutes ago so who knows. We have a power cut. So much for the photo voltaic panel sales talk – ‘you won’t have a problem in a power cut’. For which read ‘you won’t have a problem in a power cut in the daytime’. How often are power cuts in the daytime? Typing this is a tad tricksy as I have to angle the lap top screen down in order to be able to see the keys. I can touch type a bit but the result is often akin to some seriously poor optical character recognition.

It was someone’s idea not to turn the Rayburn on until after it was serviced. That would have been fine if the servicing appointment (booked in September) had not been at the end of November. I have already been blacklisted by most Rayburn servicing firms in the area. They usually try once, fail miserably and say something along the lines of ‘I wouldn’t have bought that model’. Well, no dear not-actually-servicing-anything man, neither would I but it came with the house. Well anyway, what I am getting at is that, during the sub zero (well almost) temperatures of the last few days, I have been huddled in one room wearing every layer of thermal clothing I can find (I have a few, I went to Lapland remember). This means the power failure does not make a great deal of difference to the temperature. I do have the trusty woodburner but even that hasn’t been man enough for a whole house this week. However it is doing very nicely at the moment thank you and I am quite cosy.

Being a historical interpreter has its advantages. I have Victorian candlesticks and candles that I actually know where to find. I am not yet reduced to creating more light by extravagantly burning the candle at both ends but when the light from the lap top is no more I may have to, or at least light another candle or two. I do have a free with something torch. It has a handy facility – a mugger deterrent. This means it emits a high pitched whine when the switch is in a particular position. Actually it emits a high pitched whine every time I try to turn it off because I can never remember which way not to turn the switch. No idea what my neighbours are thinking is going on, at any rate they haven’t come rushing round to rescue me yet.

So I have light (sort of) and heat. Hot food may be more of a problem. In the interests of economy, I regularly boil the kettle on top of the woodburner but cooking a main meal may be more of a challenge. I knew I should have bought that cauldron. Fortunately my ability to time travel means that I can telephone a colleague who is still in the twenty first century and get him to bring out a hot food parcel in the form of chicken and chips – the diet starts, as ever, tomorrow.

The lap top and comfy settee are clearly anachronistic and it would be an open fire not a woodburner but this is closeish to the conditions that my ancestors would have endured. No wonder they all went to bed when it got dark. Without the lap top this would be seriously boring. We do take electricity and all it brings for granted. I fear we may have to go back to managing without more often than we would like in the not too distant future. Even my mother’s childhood was spent without the advantages of electricity. Of course she did have gas. Sore point this, no gas out here in this part of darkest (literally at the moment) Devon. We need to think more about what different generations did or did not have in the way of facilities and labour saving devices. Do your descendants understand what is new to their generation? Have you recorded the ‘when I was young I did not have …..’ Not just the computer and the mobile phone but depending on your generation and where you were brought up – a fridge, a car, a television, a bath every day (or a shower at all). We need younger people to understand how things have changed (I won’t say progressed). Not with the ‘you don’t know how lucky you are’ attitude – although they don’t – but in a celebrating difference sort of a way. In some ways of course we were the lucky ones – mothers who were at home to play with us, the ability to walk to school safely or play outside. You’d better hope the power comes back on soon or I shall never get off this soap box. Stop reading this drivel and go and write down 10 or 20 or 50 things about your childhood that are absent from those of today’s children – for better or worse. Your descendants will thank you for it.



One comment on “Living the Life of my Ancestors – ‘When I was Young I Didn’t Have….’

  1. Caro - Claire Wiles says:

    I just had this sent to me earlier this week
    I think it fits into your story line here.

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