Renovations, Reminiscences and Recommendations

After the mayhem of sleeping in six different counties in ten days, I returned to the relative calm of having my house turned upside down. Conservatory builders and house painters are now joined by kitchen fitters in week ten of entertaining workman. After the debacle with the freezer there was the incident of the large tub full of white emulsion in the shed. Suffice it to say that ‘full’ is no longer an appropriate term but I do have a very white shed floor. This was not part of the planned renovations. Then there was the wall that was considered to be too inaccessible to be plastered. I was prepared to concede that it was indeed impossible and went to relay the project manager’s decision to the plasterer only to find that he had somehow managed to accomplish the impossible by dint, I think, of lying on top of the oil tank.

In general though it is all going pretty well and I have already spent the odd ten minutes relaxing in the conservatory. Only the inability to see the lap top screen when it is sunny is preventing me from living out there. Today I had the fun of trying to fit things into my new kitchen units. I feel a certain amount of reorganising coming on and by Christmas I shall probably still be wondering where I have put things under the new regime.

Appropriately my 1946-1969 women’s memories project has got underway in Women’s History month. My lovely ladies have been exchanging memories of the clothes of the period. I was surprised to find that there was little difference across the class divide. Clothes were minimal in quantity, washed only when visibly dirty and thrown away when beyond any sort of repair. Who remembers The ‘New Look’, liberty bodices, popper beads, roll-on girdles, knitted swimming costumes or soaking net petticoats in sugar water to make them stand out? This brief twenty four year period saw so much change, particularly for women, in all aspects of their lives. We are all having great fun with the project and I have unearthed some gems from the family album. I happily whiled away a whole day writing up my own recollections of such sartorial delights as florescent green stockings and purple nail varnish, which I teamed with a jersey mini-dress in narrow stripes of florescent yellow, pink and orange.1951 Bexhill 1948 Carisbrooke June 1950 March 1951 Roof of the Elite Cinema May 1947 Ryde June 1949

I have been back to the seventeenth century to entertain and inform in one of our regular schools. My voice, which still hasn’t fully returned to full volume, managed to last for the full four hours of presentations and the feedback from the school says it all:- “Another great day from the Team who brought us ‘How to Swallow a Fork From the Outside’, ‘My Favourite Use for Urine’ and ‘The Boy’s Book of Really Worrying Ways to Treat Vital Parts of Your Anatomy’. I taught one of the groups this morning and their feedback was wholly enthusiastic -‘I learned how to torture a witch’ – a vital skill for the future, clearly.” I was a little disconcerted nonetheless when one of the incoming twelve year olds to my classroom commented, “Oh look we’ve got an old woman for this one.” This grandparenthood has obviously taken its toll. I will also share a little known fact, vouchsafed by one of my audience, “The Puritans banned the cinema.”

My attempts to get underway with my One Place Study project on World War I military personnel, in company with fellow members of The Society for One-Place Studies, were hampered by unsolicited phone calls this afternoon. Firstly the man from a well known telephone company who wanted to give me a new mobile phone. He seemed somewhat stupefied at my response to his question about how often I topped up my existing phone. Apparently the free phone he was offering could not be worth more than my average monthly top up. As this worked out at 4p he was at a loss. He was swiftly followed by another of the ‘I am not trying to sell anything’ brigade. I am never sure why these people always assume that I am more likely to succumb if they use my christian name. ‘May I call you Janet?’ – well you may but I am still not interested. His question was easier to answer – would I say I found it more difficult getting in the bath or out of the bath? He had obviously been talking to my twelve year old fan in the school. I debated a while and then put him out of his misery by explaining that I have no bath. Finally, back in the First World War I have been studying the ten men from my village who lost their lives, on the Somme, in Basra and less exotically but none the less tragically, in Weymouth. The helpful suggestions provided to members of The Society for One-Place Studies have been invaluable and I am enjoying being part of a collaborative project.


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