woensdag 24 december 2008

T'was the night before Christmas

There's nothing like a real tree!
Here's our effort for this year, and despite the bare patch half way up the trunk, where the branches are missing, and the fact that the truck is not straight (compensated neatly by our unique sloping floor as discussed in the previous post) it looks lovely. The presents are stacked under it and the room is lit by candlelight.
We wish everyone a very happy Christmas, and we will be thinking of you as we open the presents you have all sent tomorrow morning

zondag 21 december 2008

Of Sint, suprises and chocolate fountains!


In Holland it is, of course, known that Sint comes on 5th December, but I do not apologise for this lateness of the post - there are reasons!
We had our first family sint party this year, After 20 odd years here I felt we could finally do the occasion justice, and invited my mother and father as well as my sister, husband and new daughter Sascha to celebrate with us. I wanted them to experience a true Sint festival, and there were two extra reasons for the family gathering. Mam's birthday is on December 4, and its a special event to be able to celebrate it properly, also Mam and Dad would have the opportunity to meet their new granddaughter, as Sascha's passport has still not come through and she cannot travel to the UK.
So how did it all go?
We had a lovely time!

Mam and Dad were delayed 10 hours by snow at Newcastle Airport and did not really arrive in time for Mam's birthday meal, but their taxi drew up as we finished eating, which meant we were all able to kiss and cundle and introduce Sascha, before they were fed and then we all had a lovely piece of birthday cake (with candles of course) and Mam got all her presents.
We took them round to their appartment, and they were able to recover from the journey overnight.

Next morning Jolanda went off early to school, because Sint was coming! Its always a big event at this school, and I watch it from my house with amazement are he arrives each year in a different form of transport.

Over the years he's arrived in boats, vintage cars, coach and horses, Harley Davidson motor bike - you name it he's done it, so I could not think how he would get there this year. We got a clue when I saw some balloons rising above the garden wall further along the street, and yes, this year he came in a "hoog werker"! (what is the name of one of thise things in English?)
Once he came over the wall, and walked into the school, that was our excitment done until our party in the evening, so we had a restful sort of day, finishing off the shopping and sorting out the house.
When Jolanda was home, the real business of the day started! We had our presents ready and hidden in their suprise parcels, and we made an extra parcel for Sascha of an enormous pesent with a bow and balloons, which had a smaller and still smaller present inside (russian doll style!).
We set up the present table, and put each present under a black bin liner so no one could guess before we started who had what.
It was round about this time that Man and Dad realised that they had not grasped the concept of Sint, and started to feel very embarrassed!
No matter, we carried on, and had a lovely night! there are no real food rules for Sint, which always throws me, so I decided to do a dutch style buffet, and brought out the new chocolate fountain as a suprise! I am getting the hang of getting the chocolate flowing, however, in our unique sloping floored living room (our 200 year old house built on bogland has settled comfortably over time!) the chocolate fountain resembles a chocolate waterfall.

The strategy is to stand downhill of the chocolate, and make sure there are no small children under your arm, as you reach out with a marchmallow or strawberry, as there is a tendency for the chocolate to drop onto their hair!
After that, we got down to the present part of the night, and everyone was really happy with their suprises, poems, and presents! All in all a prefect evening, with loads of love and laughter.

And the reason for the lateness of the post? most of the photos were on Penny's camera, and she mislaid her handbag on the way home to Berlin. She has it back now, but I still have very few photos, and I may add more later!

zondag 14 december 2008

Jolanda rides again!



My sister-in-law has beaten me to it again by publishing videos of both Molly and Katie skating this weekend! I am totally ashamed that I have not reported Jolanda's triumph two weeks ago at the dressage competition!

She was entered at the L level for the first time, and we were really relaxed about it until the friday lesson, when we found out she would be the only entrant not wearing official concourse clothing!

After a family conference and a review of which presents she had on her Sint list (more about Sint soon) we decided to go out on Saturday morning and get the white jodphurs and white gloves, and she would wear her black body warmer. I rang the local shop (Evenboer ruitersports in Broek in waterland) and they confirmed they had the things we wanted, so we dashed over.

Once there we were captive as the two ladies of the shop produced not only the things we asked for but also a gorgeous jacket (washable) and the white stock and even a hairnet!

Of course once Jolanda put everything on, she looked a million dollars, so we parents (suckers) bought the lot!

Jolanda was thrilled and spent the afternoon polishing her boots and chaps, and getting everything ready.

We got to the stables in good time, but realised we had forgotten the white saddle blanket, so dad went back for that whilst Jolanda and two other girls got Sjakie ready. The only problem was that everyone had different ideas over how to plait his mane, and I could see it turning into a big problem when another mother descended and acted as a sort of horse hairdresser, and turned him out with a fetching "hengsten vlecht", just as John arrived back with the saddle blanket.

Within a few minutes it was Jolandas turn to ride, and she went in happy and confident and produced a beautiful proef. The L is very advanced for an 11 year old, as there is a lot of tempo changes, as well as two "wijk" moments where the horse moves forwards and sideways, crossing the front legs over. (I think this is called a half pass in English).

There are no videos from us (camera not working) but also no photos of the proef itself as I thought the flash could spook the pony; he is a bit flighty.

We had to wait for all the others to ride before the results were out, so we parents settled into the cantine with tea and cake, whilst the kids rushed around in the mud, sleet and snow outside! Within minutes every pair of white jodphurs was spattered with mud and horse whatever.

At the end they announced the winners, and to our surprise and, naturally pride, Jolanda was 2nd, above some much older girls, and only a few points away from the winner!
Go Girl!





donderdag 23 oktober 2008

Truth or Lies - family history in the flesh

Its taken some time to sort out my grandfathers autobiography, which he wrote in the early seventies, not long before his death. Its a collection of memories which he wrote by hand - I remember him sitting in his wheelchair in the living room of his bungalow in Seaton sluice, Northumberland, filling an excercise book with notes.
Not long after he finished, his daughter, Joan, typed up the notes, but I never saw the finished work, and it was only when I got the parcel a few weeks ago that I read them for the first time.
I promised to publish the memoirs here, but then had a sort of block, as it all seemed too grim, he was a butcher after all, and he spent his life killing things.
I had a moment of madness when I thought about rewriting them, giving a cottagey, cosy glow to his life, and taking away the bitterness by adding a soft focus, sepia tint to the words.
But it would not be true, so I've simply retyped them, and added photos to the text.
You can read his story here.

zondag 5 oktober 2008

The "Oma Fiets" Craze


She been pestering us for a "big" bike for ages, and we felt that when she got her brace fitted at the beginning of September, a "Big" bike would be a good incentive to view the process positively!
But I did not realise the latest craze is for these traditional designs. Of course Dad insisted on the added features of hand brakes (instead of pedalling backwards, like in the olden days, remember?) and gears. Although why gears are necessary on flat dutch roads escapes me!
The additional features raised the already high price of the bike to something approaching the cost of my first car, but what the heck, she's our only child!
And you've got to admit its a beauty - trendy matt purple paintwork, and rubber baggage strap on the baggage rack, as well as a painted canvas chain guard. All the features are there - but boy is it big!




its too big for me, but I'm assuming she will grow into it, and the predictions are that she will be a head taller than me by the time she is sixteen! And she rides it beautifully, doesn't she. Doesn't she?

Was that a wobble? nah!

Weekend in Drenthe

I promised to post pixs, so here they are - very late I know, but we've been so busy this is the first weekend I've had a moment to "effe computeren" as the Dutch say. We went to Drenthe because the tourist blurb talked about the "beautiful nature" of the area - does this look natural to you?

In fact, green, open and fresh as it is, Drenthe looks much the same as the rest of rural Holland. However, if you have lived here as long as we have, you begin to see subtle differences in the flatness. We feel a bit like the Inuits, who reportedly have 150 adjectives for snow, in that we can describe Drenthes flatness as very slightly undulating!

The area has been inhabited since prehistory, and we went to the Hunnebedden centrum. Here's Jolanda on top of a neolithic burial site!



And finally to show that we do sometimes spend time together, here is a rare picture (slightly out of focus, I know) of me and John!

zondag 14 september 2008

A really nasty Ecard!

Ever since 2001, I have made positive efforts to enjoy my birthday even though the majority of the western world are remembering the terrorist attacks on America at the same time. Well, as I always say, It was my birth date before those fanatics chose that day.
I keep the day itself low key, but always try to do something special for myself the day after.
This year was no different, so September 11 was a normal working day, and I downloaded my email in the evening, before we went away for a lovely family weekend the next day.
One of my emails was message from a greeting card company, announcing there was an Ecard for me. As several of my friends use ecards I tried to open it, and even overrode the antivirus warning that popped up - what an idiot! This was no birthday card!
My computer was immediately infected by the win antispyware 2008 virus!
Why do these bxxxxxds do this?
Luckily for me, and unknown to the joker who thought it would be a great idea to trash my computer, my techie husband spends his life fighting this sort of virus attack!
It took him more than a hour, but he hit it with all the anti malware programs in his arsenal, and seeing as it was my birthday, he did not charge me the 90 euro fee which is his normal rate, bless him!
Now I have my computer back in working order, I will be posting pix from our weekend away soon.
So sucks to you - win antispyware 2008!!!!!

zondag 7 september 2008

Enjoy this story, by my great uncle Albert!

This photo is of Murton school football team in 1915. Albert is back row second from right. he and his four brothers were all great sportsmen, I hope to be able to tell you more about them in the next few posts, but this story I found written by him many years ago stands on its own - I have not edited his words

"Caseys Court” By J A Thompson

Eddie was the oldest and what he said generally went so when one day he said “lets make a tennis court” we all said “right, lets”
That was how great decisions were made in those days, no question of “how” or “where” or “what”. We just said “lets go” and up we went to the pasture fields to pick a site.
Now there were two fields which father rented for grazing and hay making which were a godsend to us lads. We had football, cricket, racing foot and horse. We used to mount the cart horses and once a genuine race horse was grazing there, “Prince Rupert” or something he was called, and he got so fat the cart horses could beat him.
Also we had many a pitched battle with gangs from the neighbouring villages using sun-dried horse droppings for missiles, and some not so dry.
Providing a site for a tennis court was no great burden on these fields and it certainly would improve the tone of the place.
We picked a site on a right angle corner where the hedges would give shelter on two sides and measured up and found a considerable slope which would have to be levelled up – Snag no. 1.
Eddie calculated (he had been to evening classes at Rutherford College) that it would take about 25 tons of earth to level the site. He was about 100 tons wrong, but that neither here nor there.
Remember we had no money so this was a major problem and we immediately went into a “huddle”. A solution eventually emerged. We would ask the council men to dump their loads of ashes on the site! (This was in the days of the ash pits). One of us suggested charging the council 6d a load for the privilege of depositing it, but this suggestion was squashed.
The council men agreed and it took approximately 180 loads to level up. (we had cut and stacked the turf at the side)
After much hard work and plenty scoff from the local Adam the gardener” who said grass would never grow on those ashes we got it levelled and returfed. Did he have to eat his words.
We made a roller by filling a gas engine cooling tank with concrete. Dad bought us a second hand mower, nets and fencing with our pocket money which we had been saving up while the court was in the process of construction. The whole lot amounting to shillings only.
Then came the day for the first play.
What a riot of colours – two of us in butchers blue coats, one in grocers white and one in engineers overalls all splashed with khaki due to two cows having broken through the fence the night before leaving things rather untidy.
We had one glorious day of exhausting tennis and then the weather took a hand.
You see we would roll, cut, and mark the court for playing one night, then it would rain for a couple of days and we had all this to do again before we could play, and did that grass grow!
Altogether I remember we had to work about 2 hours for every hour of tennis we got for we had one of the wettest summers there had been for years.
Now that tennis court is still there and if anyone has a fancy they could rent ot very cheaply. All it needs is fencing, rolling, cutting; marking, cutting; marking, cutting; and marking!

vrijdag 5 september 2008

Its been over three weeks!

What Have I Been Doing!
I can't believe its been so long since I wrote anything here!
There has been a lot going on, and I've been busy with coaching matters, teaching matters (that's a laugh - me a teacher!) and family matters but it really is time to blog now.
I've had sessions with two new clients, and we had another Open Day at Het Anker . My first session as Native speaking English Teaching Assistant at the Middlebaar School in Volendam went fine, although many of the twelve year olds in the class were taller than me. The exam invigilation I do at the British Council in Amsterdam has started up again, so I get paid to sit and have quality reading time, too!
Jolanda's first weeks back at her school are going well. John's business is very busy, and I've been busy with that, too.

I've also received a massive amount of information relating to our family history in the last couple of weeks, and its really tempting to do nothing but sort through that!

This handsome young man is my granddad Thompson. I finally have a copy of his memoirs. I remember him writing them when I was little, but never read them until last week. I'm hoping to post exerpts here over the next few weeks, for those of you who are interested!

donderdag 14 augustus 2008

Happy Birthday Bev!

I've done it again!

Even though I was in England with my sister in law Bev last week, and I knew her birthday was coming up, I forgot to get the card and present in time!

I do it every time!

So Bev, this message is for you.

Have a great Birthday!

and in case there is no one organising your birthday cake, here are a few ideas from Cadburys:

American Chocolate fudge cake


Magic Flake Cake



And not a cake but a great flowerpot dessert from pioneer woman

Have a great birthday, and a wonderful few days with your family! All our love from Holland!

woensdag 13 augustus 2008

England, and so on!

We made a last minute dash to England on the ferry from Ijmuiden to Newcastle in the last week of Jolandas school holidays.
We visited "between showers" and I was glad to get down to Tynemouth Long Sands for a sunny interlude with all the cousins, as well as "Oma", "Opa", and my sister in law Bev. Bev has already beaten me to the post, with her blog about our trip to Alnwick Gardens - her pics are really good!


Anyway, we got Opa to direct the construction of the Sandcastle project, and all went well untill Katie was caught by a freak wave and got soaked. So we went off to wet 'n wild for the afternoon!
It was a great visit, and Jolanda had a chance to prepare her latest dessert creation during a rainy interlude. We have decided that strawberries in England are not as attractive as Dutch ones, so here is a picture of a dessert she prepared earlier!



The cocktail also pictured is not a tequila sunrise, as theres no alcohol, but as she created that too perhaps it should be called "Jolanda's Sunrise"!

maandag 4 augustus 2008

Adventure forest!

My resident technical wizard finally had time to download the photos from my telephone, so I can now bring you exclusive shots of the Hindess family in action on the zip lines and high wires of the adventure forest at Mont Royal!


Here's Jolanda giving me a wave!


Here she is hanging in mid air!



Here is John hanging from the top of the photo!



Heres John on a 75 meter long zip wire, which dropped 40 meters! Jolanda did this too, but she was going so fast I could not get a shot!

The quality is not so good, but it gives you some idea of the day - which we all enjoyed very much!

vrijdag 1 augustus 2008

From Russia with love

You know about my new niece, Aleksandra. Amazingly I also just got news from my New Zealand friends Rob and Jan that their adoption of Valerii has been finalised and they have finally become parents. This is one of the last pictures of Valerii taken before he left the orphanage in Irkutsk. Irkutsk is in Eastern Russia, Siberia. Aleksandra's orphanage was in Stavropol, in the west of Russia.




The two orphanages are at different ends of Russia, but compare the leaf motif on the chairs in sascha's picture to the wall mural in this photo of Valerii!












Even though these two children lived at different ends of Russia, their lives were similar. Now as adopted children, Aleksandra will grow up in Germany, and Valerii will grow up in New Zealand. They will be worlds apart, but both are now surrounded by love, and part of a real family for the first time in their lives.
All our love to both the Owens and the de Voers.

zondag 27 juli 2008

Holiday on the Mosel!

We've just come back from a fantastic holiday, this photo sums up what we did, which was see as much german wildlife as possible whilst staying in a great holiday villa at Mont Royal on the hills above Krov.
This was the view from our villa

And this was the view from our villa early in the morning at the beginning of a hot day

There is lots to do in the area, we took a day to visit Idar-Oberstein and see how the local semi precious stones were worked and polished using water mills. We wanted to go to the mine itself, and followed a path up a steep, wooded, mountainside for too long - feeling a bit like the dwarfs in Snow White. But we seemed to be moving closer to a hunting area, and as the rifle shots got louder and closer together, and the forest got denser, we turned round and went back. We'll do the mine another day!

But the main thing we did was visit the wild animal park at Daun and the wolf and eagle park at Kasselburg. There are lots more photos to see here.

We spent a day in an adventure forest, too, but I forgot the camera, and took photos on my mobile phone - If I can download them I'll post again later in the week. There were some good shots of Jolanda and John on high wires 40 meters up - I had to stay on the ground to take the photos of course!

We went to some great restaurants, Marikas Stuebchen served 400gram steaks and 300 gram schitzels!


And wine from their own vineyards!

After eating there we felt a bit like this!

woensdag 9 juli 2008

getting paid to write!


I should not be blogging today, I have an assignment deadline!
I've been looking for freelance work for a few months now, and its been a steep learning curve. I'm registered on several internet sites as a freelance writer: They all work in a similar fashion; there are project providers, and service providers. A project is posted, and service providers are allowed to bid for the project. If your bid is accepted and you are awarded the work, you pay the site from the fee you receive at the end of the project.
There are masses of jobs, and loads of bidders; Its a global market and it is not easy pitching your bid at a level that beats writers in other parts of the world who are happy work for a few USD per article.
I was amazed that I got my latest bid accepted, but I'm now in the middle of writing a mini guide on getting out of debt! Its aimed at the UK market so maybe I have an advantage.
That is exciting enough, but today I finally heard from Expatica that my article has been published on their site - with a link to my (other) blog so that's really great too. Heres the link -
I sometimes cannot believe that I actually write and get paid for it. Although I'm still in the "starving in a garret" category of writers!


maandag 7 juli 2008

Welcome to Aleksandra


We've waited for so long for this moment, our newest family member, Aleksandra (Saschie - I think thats spelled correctly).
Penny and Detmar brought her home this weekend from Russia and this is our first photo of her since she was adopted officially.
We wish you lots of love and happiness in Berlin, Saschie!

maandag 30 juni 2008

Carmen in Monnickendam


On saturday night my neighbour invited me to the Opera!
An open air performance of highlights from "Carmen", no less. Now I'm not an opera buff, but I did learn to play "Toreador" on the piano when I was a kid, like everyone else doing piano lessens at the time, so I said yes.
The Open Air bit was also an attraction, and if you brought your own folding chair, there was a reduced price. I suppose I had better explain further.
This was not Glyndborne, or the Prinsengracht Concerts; this was Monnickendam's equivalent - a klapstoelen concert!
So we trotted along at ten to eight with our stools under our arm, and a fleecy sweater for when the sun went down, and arrived at the "Beesten Markt" literally two streets from our houses.
It was a lovely evening, and we were treated to some very good singing from both the soloists and the Operakoor themselves.
"Chapeaux" as they say in Netherland.
And we were home before eleven! I'll have to check the agenda for their next performance.

zondag 29 juni 2008

Molly's Tale Chapter 12 - becoming a Justice of the Peace

Molly writes:

“When the war was over we got a good NEW car.”

But a lot more than that happened. Badens father, George, had been a Justice of the Peace in the years 1930 to 1933. At this time all county Benches in England and Wales included at least one women magistrate, but Borough Benches were generally all male. There was a move to appoint more women to the Bench, and towards the end of the war Molly had been approached to become a Justice of the Peace for New York.

Molly really did not feel she had the time, but once war ended, and she found out another woman she knew, Mrs Ramshaw, was going to accept the position for Percy Main, she agreed and was appointed Justice of the Peace on 31 January 1946. She served until she resigned on November 11, 1970. This would have been around the time that Baden became very ill, and started to required nursing at home.

Becoming a JP meant she was asked to join the Committee of the Lady Mayoress along with Mrs Ramshaw, and they became quite good friends for many years.

In 1949 just after the National Health Service was launched she was asked to start up a Baby Clinic in the YMCA at New York. Each Thursday afternoon, mothers brought in their babies to be weighed and examined by a qualified Nurse. Molly assisted the Nurse and sold formula baby milk. On opening day the Welfare Doctor who was in charge was very sceptical and shrugged his shoulders saying “I give it a month”. However, there was great demand from mothers wanting advice and reassurance from the nurse and the clinic ran for years. Molly was involved until 1955.

That is the end of Molly’s memoirs, I have no more notes on her later life, however, there are many family members alive today who still remember her and can fill in information on parts of her later life. Meg listed for me some of her achievements in later years:

In 1953 Molly was Captain of the Ladies section of Tynemouth golf club
In 1954 she and Baden started to keep bees.
In 1956 she founded the TG Collingwood Guild, which met at St Aidens church in Moorhouses, North Shields.
In 1958 Baden and Molly retired from the butchers business and moved to the bungalow at 1, Simonside, Old Hartley. This was the year they went with the Bee Keepers Association to Rome and met the Pope.
In 1960 Molly started fund raising for ARC.
In 1980 as she became less mobile she began to crochet cake frills to sell as a fundraising item for ARC and then in 1984 for the Lifeboats Association.
In 1989 she decided to give up her driving licence due to increasing disability. By October 1989 she had made and sold 117 cake frills.

I remember her as strong, and determined, invincible, even when she was nearing the end of her life, but until I read her story in her own words, I did not realise how far she had come from her childhood at the beginning of the last century. Its been a privilege to write these chapters, I hope you enjoy reading them.

zaterdag 28 juni 2008

Molly's Tale Chapter 11 - Molly's charity work and war effort

Molly’s car was in demand, and around 1936 she was asked to join the Ladies Sewing club. The club made babies layettes, operation stockings and maternity gowns for the Princess Mary maternity Hospital in Newcastle. Molly would go once a month to the hospital with Aunty Mart, Uncle Peters wife (a Londoner) Dad Elliott’s half brother. (I cannot find any reference to Uncle Peter in the family tree so I am not sure if this was Martha Todds husband. Martha Todd was Molly’s fathers half sister). The two of them collected bundles of fabric to make up into baby clothes, or to hem batches of two dozen napkins. Molly kept the sewing machine in the wee alcove under the stairs so whenever she had time she worked on this sewing. She did this work for about two or three years, but as Molly herself wrote:

“War broke out and we had sheep on the golf course and now we had Jess the sheepdog.”

It’s a bit cryptic, but the sheep kept the grass short, as well as getting fattened up for the butchery, and Jess was used to drive the flock from the golf course in Tynemouth up to New York to slaughter.

Molly had herself joined the golf club just before war broke out but although she won her first cup at Hexham that year, she gave up golf during the war years. She writes:

“Baden still managed his golf but I never seemed to have time with all the activities in new York.”

She became deeply involved in organising a lot of wartime activities in the area. This was probably a combination of Molly’s hard working attitude and unquestioning capacity to serve others and the fact that the Thompson’s still had the only phone in the village. Everyone called to use it, or ask one of the Thompson’s to use it for them. Eddies Thompson’s garage located behind the butchery also used this phone, and Molly would have to take all the calls for Eddie, then run out with messages to him in all weathers.

Just before the war in 1938 she was involved in setting up the YMCA in New York, even helping whitewashing the walls along with the Adie Bros, who had volunteered their services. She cooked the dinner for the opening ceremony and helped run the club until about 1950.

By 1940 she had helped set up the New York knitting party and the New York Branch of the Red Cross. These two organisations continued all during war. Funds were raised by running a regular “Housey” meeting ( sort of Bingo) in the upstairs Concert Room at the Working Mens club.

The two organisations met every Monday in Molly’s front room, having a Red Cross meeting one week and the knitting party the next. The purpose of the knitting party was to provide every homecoming soldier with a pair of home knitted socks. The wool was bought from the “Housey” funds, and the women were very good knitters.

Throughout the war Molly and the Red Cross organised Friday night dances in the School and Working Mens Club. Molly lent their piano to the school but still had to pay a small fee for the use of the School Hall. The dance closed at 10 o’clock but the lady organisers had to sweep the floor before leaving.

In 1941 Molly became the war savings organiser for New York and in 1943 started a Branch lending library in New York School. It was part of North Shields Library. The library cards were all kept in a box at Pretoria House and a Librarian from North Shields called for them every week, on her way to open the Branch.

The war was a daily presence in New York. The Thompsons had a brick air raid shelter built in the garage yard, and the three children slept on bunks while the raid was overhead. Molly often told me that she would be under the stairs during air raids, I think this was so she could keep busy, knitting or sewing. Baden refused to move out of his bed, and a few times when there were big raids, all the windows would blow in. Molly would have to go upstairs when she heard the "All Clear" siren and sweep the broken glass off Baden as he lay under the covers.

Chapter 12

dinsdag 17 juni 2008

Molly's Tale Chapter 10 - Learning to Drive




The first car owned by the Thompsons was a Bull Nosed Morris; they bought it round about 1933-1934. Molly remembers that it cost 10 pounds, which was quite a bit of money in those pre-war days. It was in quite good condition and was a two seater. Meg, her daughter, remembers going on holiday to Scarborough. Molly drove, Meg sat on Grandma Elliott’s knee in the passenger seat, and Bill on the back of the seat will this legs round her neck. Joan and Jack travelled down by train with the luggage. It meant that they had a car to tour in whilst on holiday – and Joan and Jack sat in the “dickie” (the boot) on “crackets” (stools) with umbrellas. If it rained too hard they all climbed inside.

But before they were able to go on holiday Molly had to learn to drive. She was taught to manoeuvre by Uncle Eddy, in the bit of spare ground between the back of the butchers shop and Eddy’s workshop. For the rest she chugged along the lane then onto the Front Street and back to the shop.

The car was useful, as Baden sold meat from the butchers van at various places in the area. On Friday nights he would be outside “C” Pit at Backworth selling meat to the miners coming off shift with their pay packets. Molly’s first motoring venture was to bring more sausage to him there one night. It was getting dark, and going up there she didn’t get into top gear, but once she arrived, Baden turned the car round and put the car into 2nd gear running alongside her, as it was uphill all the way home, and she got home in top gear.

As her driving improved, Molly was able to collect the frozen meat from North Shields sidings. Once the war started, and their butchers assistant, Micheal was called up, Molly always spent Tuesday morning delivering orders to the districts which did not get the van until Wednesday.

There was also a super story of the time Molly had to go up to Hill Top Farm to collect another pig for slaughter as the butchers shop was very busy, and no one else could go. She had the butchers apprentice with her, and between them they caught the pig, and put it in the back, with the apprentice sitting on top of it, and drove it back to the shop to be butchered. I cannot imagine how noisy the pig would have been!

The car was also used for family outings, and not only the trip to Scarborough. On Sundays they often went to Tynemouth sands and Bill would put the tent on the running boards at the side. When they got to the beach Bill sat in the corner of the tent with his bathing costume on. He hated coming into the open.

With the family on the beach Baden would come from the Golf Club for a bit of lunch, then pop off back again for more golf. Often Molly would take the children home, feed them, and put them to bed, then collect Baden from the Golf Club.

Meg, Molly’s daughter, remembers on one trip back from the beach they passed two tramps pushing an old pram. Meg remembers that the woman looked quite young. Molly gave them all the picnic that hadn’t been eaten and the two tramps were very grateful. It made a lasting impression on Meg, but its strange now to think people then could have been so desperate, before the advent of the Welfare state, I suppose.

This first car was eventually replaced round about 1938 by a very good Wolsley. The family were able to use it for a couple of annual holidays, until war rationing limited the petrol available and holidays were no longer possible.

dinsdag 10 juni 2008

Molly Tale Chapter 9 - Living above the shop


Molly and Baden spent a few happy years at Hawthorne Gardens in Murton. But as Charlie and Eddies building business expanded, they began developing Links Avenue in Whitley Bay. Grandfather and Grandmother Thompson and their unmarried family moved into no. 144 Links Avenue, and when Uncle Charlie got married he moved into no 156 Links Avenue. That left the living quarters of Pretoria House at New York empty, so Molly and Baden moved in above the shop. At the time of the move Meg was 6 months old. Molly writes that as a baby she hated the change and cried every time the pram turned into the yard at New York. Once they moved in Charlie was able to start alterations, living conditions did improve and it was not so dreadful to live there again.

All the time Molly had been married, She had been paying an insurance on Baden that his mother had taken out originally. Grandmother Thompson took the repayments automatically out of Molly’s shop wage. This insurance matured, and, although Molly had other plans for the money, Baden used it to buy the big green meat fridge. Installation meant taking the wall between the shop and the back shop away, which was a terrible mess and upheaval, but once installed, the fridge was a great help, and making pies and pasties was no longer a necessity.

Pretoria House was large and accommodated a lot of people, however, it brought a huge amount of work with it. Molly's sister Louie lived with Molly and Baden, and Molly had a live in household help; a lady called Emily Barnfather. Eddie and Granddad Thompson ate their midday meal at the butchery, and Molly writes,


“I seemed to do nothing but cook and wash dishes”.

Granddad Thompson came up from Whitley Bay on the early bus and ate breakfast with them too, and Molly had a struggle getting the kids ready for school in the mornings, as well as cooking breakfasts on the gas stove out in the washhouse.

Each Monday morning a man called in from Broughts in North Shields and Molly placed an order for most of the shopping with him, which was delivered the next day. Anything else Molly needed she got from the Co-op next door.

Managing the spring cleaning was a major chore for Molly, accustomed to her life at Backworth where her whole time was spent on the household. Here she needed get the cleaning done in an spare hour or two though the day when she was not needed in the shop.

When Emily left to get married, a customer asked if they wanted anyone to help in house and that’s how Edna Stobbart moved in.


Chapter 10

maandag 2 juni 2008

Mollys Tale Chapter 8 - Hawthorne Gardens

Baden and Molly were both employed by Baden’s father, and they did not have much money or time off. In order to help furnish the new house, Molly’s mother-in-law Mattie went to local house sales to pick up furniture here and there. Molly did resent this interference, especially as the emphasis was on usefulness and good value. The big sideboard with the ugly gargoyle carvings which always stood in the living room was one of these purchases, but happily the bedroom suite was new and I remember her pride in the bedroom furniture.

I think they must have been very happy in the house in Murton. Little Jack often cycled to visit on his bike, and Louie and Norah always visited on Sundays. Molly and Baden had a lovely Collie dog called Pat and he would take the children back down the road to the Wheatsheaf Public House to catch the bus home.

It was while Molly and Baden still lived at Murton that Baden took up golf, and he cycled down to Tynemouth golf club at every opportunity. The Clubhouse was his refuge when Molly was in labour with both Bill and Meg, he would wait there until everything was over, and he got the phone call to come home. There was not much time for golf in the early years for either of them, but they both enjoyed the sport and were members of the golf club for many years.

Baden’s sister Eleanor was still unmarried, but courting Bill Stewart. She lived at Pretoria House with the family in New York and ran the girl guides group. Molly was asked along on one of the annual camping trips. Uncle Eddy took the whole group, plus Eleanor and Molly with a three year old Joan, in his lorry up to the Farm at Rock, near Alnwick. The farm “Rock Mill” was run by Eleanor’s Aunt Mary and Uncle Bill Reed. It must have been a very uncomfortable trip in the open on the back of the lorry. Molly was taken along to do the cooking for the girl guides, whilst Eleanor took the guides on long hikes in the country.

The guides slept in an empty byre whilst Joan and Molly had a room in the Farm House. The cooking was done over a camp fire with a brick surround which was set up by Uncle Bill, and the farm supplied milk and eggs. Joan had a great time, running all over to find sticks for the fire. It sounds like the fore runner for the modern barbecue, but Molly does not write about the trip with much fondness, again I think it took her out of her comfort zone.

When Molly had been in Hawthorne Gardens for three years Baden arranged for her to have lessons in making Cornish pasties and pies from an old lady who ran a pie shop in Bertram Place in Shields. She made her own pies, but got her meat from Thompson’s Butchery. That summer was particularly hot, and as there was no fridge in the Butchery, the Thompson’s needed to make pasties to clear up the meat, mostly breast of lamb. Once Molly got trained and into the swing of things, she was making up to 200 pasties at a time, depending on how many scraps of meat needed to be processed.

Molly became pregnant with her second child, Bill, and her sister Louie came to stay to help make the pies and later help with the baby. Molly also had the help of Mrs Turner, a midwife who took extra jobs on to help support her two boys.

Molly's house had a garden, and they had a hen house. Once in the run up to Christmas, Baden bought two dozen cockrels to be fattened up. Molly writes:

“Baden had himself a evening suit measured at “Pearson’s”, I think. I never saw
a penny of that, and had to pluck 2 dozen birds before Christmas.”

I think that when she was younger, it never occurred to Molly to ask for payment for the extra value she brought to the business. It’s not even clear whether Louie was paid for pie making, when she came to help Molly out when she was pregnant.

Chapter 9

zondag 1 juni 2008

Eindelijk een beker!



Today there was a dressage competition at "De Drie Merrien"; for the last two years, Jolanda has entered the competition at the B2 level and not won a thing - but finally today...... She Came Second!

I'm so proud of her, she had a score of 184, which was only 1 point less than the winner, so she's finally up there! It just shows the perseverence pays off - now its on the othe "L" - where you have to add more complicated movements.


After the prize giving - both pony (shes called Magnum - by the way) and rider were a bit sweaty!

maandag 26 mei 2008

Molly’s tale Chapter 7 - married life

The five months Molly and Baden lived in Whitley Bay must have seemed like an extended honeymoon on the one hand, but the reality was they were there in order to hide Molly’s advancing pregnancy. If she had stayed in Backworth; at No 10 Northumberland Terrace; the whole neighbourhood would have known the marriage had been unavoidable. The street in Backworth was home to several members of Molly's father's extended family, as well as many of his colleagues from the Colliery.

Dick Mowat and his family lived at No 1; he was Company Treasurer, and presumably Henry’s superior. Other members of the Mowat family lived at No 3 and No 8, and were deputy supervisors. Henry’s stepfather and two step sisters lived at No 5, Another half sister Lily, was married to Henderson Gibson, manager of the Eccles/Maude Pit, and lived next door at no 11.

I don’t think she would have been able to go back home on a visit during this time, and she writes that little Jack, who was only four, went to Henry’s office at the Colliery to ask for sixpence for the bus to go and visit Molly in Whitley Bay. The young children must have missed her terribly.

The peace of Whitley Bay, and the lying in at Princess Mary’s Maternity Hospital came to an abrupt end when Molly left hospital to move directly into Pretoria House in New York with the Thompson family. The house and business were constantly busy; The house would have been full to bursting. I am not sure who was married at that time, but Father George and Mother Mattie (Margaret) had seven children, two unmarried daughters, Eleanor and Dora, definitely lived at home, as well as unmarried sons Albert and Charlie. There would have been help in the home and shop too; those people would have had meals at the house.

Molly writes about the bad conditions in the house, as the toilets were outside, and of course there was a lot of waste from the butchery, bones and offal, which attracted the flies. Molly writes:

One hot day I bought 12 fly papers and hung them up on the wooden line in the
kitchen. They were black with flies in about an hour, I think.

Molly’s baby, Joan, was loved by everyone, which was a good thing, as Molly was busy working both in the shop and back shop. Thankfully, the young couple only lived at Pretoria House for one year as Uncle Charlie had started building. He completed two houses in Merton village, and Molly and Baden moved into 2 Hawthorne Gardens, the other was used as the house for the school teachers at New York elementary school.

Chapter 8

donderdag 22 mei 2008

Molly’s Tale Chapter 6 – What Molly didn’t say.


There is a gap in Molly’s writing, which avoids talking about how she met her husband Baden Thompson. I think this gap should be filled in as it is a defining moment in her tale, and marrying into his family impacted the rest of her life.
The Thompsons’ were tough, labouring stock. Baden’s father George, and two uncles, John and Charles, grittily went out to the diamond fields of South Africa in the 1890’s to “make their fortune” and came back with enough to set up businesses, and provide for their wives and children. Baden was a very promising sportsman, winning three schoolboy caps for the England football team. Perhaps he played cricket, too, or she met him at one of the local dances.
However they met, it was at a time when Molly had been running a household for a good six years, and looking after a baby brother for the last three. She was probably more mature in many ways that other girls of her age, but working in the home may have shielded her from some of the facts of life.
Baden and Molly were careless, or unknowing, and she became pregnant. It must have been a terrible time. I remember Aunty Louie saying that their father never hit any of his daughters, but she remembered him beating Molly once, and they were all really scared. I think that this must have been the day she told them she was having a baby.
On Baden’s side, his mother refused to let him marry her,calling her "that hussy” but his father disagreed, believing there was no question about it; they should marry.
Once the families agreed; Baden bought Molly an engagement ring for 7 pounds, which Gran Thompson thought was scandalous as they could not afford it. Baden, of course was paid a wage as he was working in the butchers shop with his father.
It was decided that Molly and Baden should go to Whitley Bay and live with Mollys’ grandfather Patterson and Aunty Belle (Jane’s sister) until the baby was born, as there would be less talk about the pregnancy.
They were married in the spring of 1922, and had a glorious few months in Whitley Bay. The house was just up from the coast, and Baden was able to swim every day in the sea, and then cycle to work. Molly’s work must have been greatly reduced, and she must have had plenty of time to make baby clothes, and rest.

Chapter 7

Molly’s Tale Chapter 5 – was there any fun?

One thing that must have been quite fun, and a break from the housework, was helping Aunty Lily with the Backworth Cricket Club teas. When Molly was about fourteen or fifteen, she helped put up the the sandwiches, and carry the china, doilies and tablecloths down in a clothes basket. Then she helped put up the tables and set them ready for the cricketers coming at tea break. The food must have come from the Co-op as Uncle Bob was manager there, as well as playing for the team but should they run short of anything Molly had to run to Mrs Taits at 30 Warkworth Street to see if she could help. (Its not clear whether this was a shop, or another players wife) Molly always loved cricket, and loved to watch it on TV as she got older, She was very proud of the cricket club and writes

"we had a very good team and we had very good teams coming to play so everything had to be spick and span.”

When Molly was nearly sixteen she had a period of illness, and was taken by her father on the Stanhope and Tyne Railway to the farm at Stanhope. They were met at Stanhope station by the farmer and she rode a huge horse bare backed up the long railway to the Farm. Molly developed a friendship with Francis, the daughter of the house and has fond memories of her time spent there, just relaxing with someone her own age, going for walks and to chapel together.

That same year, in the October, Molly’s youngest brother, Jack, was born Molly took on the care of a baby, as well as the household chores. She writes that her mother only had strength to feed Jack, and she did all the rest. Jack as baby of the family was the “apple of Dads eye” and they got on very well. She writes very briefly

“the next 3 years were just looking after Jack and I made two new “Proggy” mats.”

What she mentions in another part of her memoirs is the fact that around the time of Jack's birth, was there was another addition to the family. Her father, Henry, had a family of half brothers and sisters, the Todds, and many of them lived in the same street in Backworth. His half brother Albert, and family lived at no. 15.

In 1919/1920 there was a global flu pandemic, and sadly, Albert and his wife Jenny died of influenza within three weeks of each other, leaving three orphan children, Mary aged 6, Albert aged 5, and Thomas, only three years old. The children were taken in by different families. Mary went to her Aunt Lily, Thomas went to his mothers brothers family (they were called Robson),
and seems to have lost contact with the rest of the family, and Albert moved in with Molly's family, at no 10 Northumberland Tce.

Molly writes that she felt Mary was never happy at Aunties Lily's, which implies that Albert was made very welcome at their house, even though an extra small child must have made a lot of work for her.

Chapter 6

Molly's Tale Chapter 4 – Starting work

When Molly was thirteen her father went to her school to get permission for her to leave as her mother, Jane, needed help in the house. She needed more and more rest, although Molly writes confusingly of two different reasons, once that her varicose veins were so bad she needed to lie on the couch with her feet up, and in another part of the memoirs that her eczema was very bad, even on her legs. Whatever the real reasons, from that time Molly left school, and took over the running of the household, whilst her Mother lay on the couch and gave instructions.

She writes
I could only do certain things at first, poor dad had scone and his ginger
every day for his pudding.

Her father went to Newcastle once a fortnight for the ginger, and bought a big piece of bacon, and newly ground coffee from Pumphrey’s at the same time. As a family they had coffee every morning for breakfast.

Washing day was on a Monday, The wash house was over the road and shared by several families, who took turns to use it. Mrs Smith from next door also washed on a Monday, and helped Molly sort the clothes, and gave instructions. Doing the wash required a lot of preparation as Henry put the clothes line up in the front garden before he went to work, and Roy helped fill the boiler and half fill the wash tub before he went to school. Carrying the wet clothes right through the house to the front garden to hang out was a big job for a Molly, so Henry would help too, when he came home for lunch. I guess that Molly would have had to make the lunch in the middle of doing the wash for everyone too.

Since Molly had been ten, her mother always had breakfast in bed on a Sunday. This would have corresponded with the birth of Louie, I think. On Sundays then, Henry and Molly got up first, and Henry got the fire going and tidied up, shaking all the mats as well as making breakfast. On Sundays, breakfast was only porridge, whereas the rest of the week it was bacon and dip. While Henry worked, Molly cleaned all the shoes ready for Monday morning, working outside in the yard. And helped get the rest of the children ready. Then she took Roy, Norah and Louie to Sunday School. On Sundays, Henry did all the cooking but all the children had to help with the dishes. Every 5th Sunday the preacher in the Methodist Chapel was invited to tea, and Molly would bake a cake on the Saturday in readiness for that visit.

Chapter 5

zaterdag 17 mei 2008

Molly’s Tale Chapter 3 – Schooldays

It was Molly who often had to run to the Co-op before school began, as the shop opened at 8.30 . School for Molly, as with many girls of her generation, was not a priority to her family, even considering her father had been a school teacher. She was a clever girl, and very capable, but it was not surprising she failed the equivalent of the eleven-plus exams, with so many other demands on her time and attention. However, the manager of the Co-op was Molly’s Uncle Bob Patterson. He knew that there was a scholarship sponsored by the Co-op and Molly’s father took her to Ashington to sit the exam. Although she passed the examination, she did not accept the scholarship, as it was felt that Ashington would be too far to travel each day.

It was not that she was not encouraged to learn, simply that learning needed to have a reason. There is a charming note she wrote:

Feb 16 1992 – I forgot about this but when Andrew (her grandson) told me he was learning piano I remembered taking piano lessons then playing the old piano at Sunday School for the children doing solos and choir practice for the “Anniversary”. Mr Newlands was very helpful and a lovely old man. I made my dress that I wore on the big day in the Chapel. I even had to play on the organ for them on Good Friday tea and concert and Easter Sunday. Mr Robson the proper organist sat beside me and made everything safe and I didn’t need to touch any pedals. Even so, I had a bilious attack on the Thursday before the big weekend, and everyone was at panic stations!

It seems from her memories there was a constant building pressure on her as she was relied on more and more to support the family, and the families’ way of life. There were moments of relaxation, however.

She writes of the picnic they went on during one summer holiday. Aunty Lily took Molly, Roy, Norah and Louie to St Mary’s Island for a picnic. They walked there over the fields, and carried the picnic in a basket. Once at the beach they bought water, probably from the family at the light house, which was a tourist attraction at the time, and made a fire out of driftwood to make tea. It mush have been a lovely day, but a really long walk home – as I estimate Louie would have been about four years old at the time.

There was also a small note in her writing about a holiday they took once:

Daddy and Mothers brother Rob Patterson always went to Stanhope for their holidays to a wee farm called “Shield Hurst”, and once Mother, Roy and I went with him. I never left the farm as I went all goose pimply with every wild sound when walking down to the burn.

Perhaps in the end she was happy in her role as family support, and stepping out of her comfort zone was too great a change for her.

NB: In the 1901 census The Harrison family lived at Shield Hirst; Thomas, Elizabeth, teenage children, Francis and George, and Elisabeths Mother, Frances Dent - Could this have been the same family?

Chapter 4

Molly’s Tale Chapter 2 – The move to Backworth Village


When Molly was about seven years old, her father got a new job as payclerk in the colliery offices. There was a house tied to that job, and the family moved to 10 Northumberland Terrace in Backworth. As this was a colliery house there was no rent to pay, and in addition we would be entitled to receive one load of best coal a month. These benefits would ease the family finances somewhat, so it was a good move. At this time Molly’s father was also company secretary for the local blacksmith whose forge was next to the pub. He worked there each morning between 8.00 and 8.30 before walking up to the colliery for 9.00 o’clock.

One the day of the move the whole family was up with the larks as the men with the lorry were expected at 8 o’clock. Molly’s job was to look after Norah in her pram while they were all loading the lorry. But everyone was still busy as it neared 9 o’clock, and Molly decided to leave Norah with the neighbour Mrs Archbold at No 4. Mrs Archbold was happy to help, and Molly went off to school.

At dinner time, the main meal in the middle of the day, Molly walked along to find the new house in Backworth. The family were horrified to find she had been to school, and did not have Norah with her. Molly had to walk back to Holywell to get her, before she was allowed to eat dinner. For a seven year old, this was a long walk, at least three or four kilometres round trip, and would have taken the good part of an hour. On her return there was no time to go back to school that day, and she had to help with the move.
Molly writes that

as a child I often suffered from chilblains and had to go to school in mothers boots when my feet were swollen

I hope on the day of the move she was wearing shoes that fitted properly.

Living in Backworth had benefits, but also brought different chores. The free coal was delivered by the haulier with bad grace, and was always dumped OUTSIDE the coal house; meaning the family had to shovel the whole load inside every time.

There were, of course, no carpets, and the new house had to have floor coverings. The usual practice was to make rag rugs or “clippy mats”. Molly’s father would cut the old clothes into strips and all the children would make short “clippings” of the strips. Then Auntie Lily Todd who lived at number 5 would help them push the rag clipping in and out through the burlap backing to make a firm, warm, “clippie mat”.

Each morning Roy and Molly had to carry water from the tap opposite the Todds house (House number 5) before they went off to school. They filled the large jug and the kettle, and topped up the large washtub that stood in the pantry held 5 pails of water. In the yard there was a large butt for rainwater which was used to wash hands and clean anything. On wash days they had to fill the pot of the boiler and half fill the posstub in the wash house over the road too.

Molly remembered an terrible accident one Thursday. Granny Patterson tripped in the back yard when going to the water butt outside. As she fell she broke the big ware dish that was used for the bread making and cut her wrist. It was a deep gash, and severed a nerve. The poor woman was never able to use the arm again. Granny Patterson died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 68, and her death affected Molly deeply; not only did she miss her greatly, but as oldest child at 9 years old, with a younger brother and two younger sisters, the household chores were mounting.

After her grandmothers death, Molly often went to stay a few days with Aunty Belle Patterson and Granddad Patterson at 9 Gladstone Terrace, Whitley Bay. It must have been quite restful there, and she would have had a lot of attention, and love. She writes

Aunty Belle taught me to knit this edging which I put around a bit of real Irish linen and made a tray cloth. Dad put it on a nice tray we had which we used for mother’s breakfast in bed on Sunday mornings.

Even the haven at her granddad’s house was not sacrosanct for Molly. On one visit, she had only been there two days when her father came to "seek" her as her little sister Louie would not eat because she was fretting so much for Molly. Molly writes:

I cannot remember much about Louie being born but once she could walk she was always in trouble somewhere or other.

Molly’s Tale Chapter 1 - Early childhood memories

When Molly was a baby she lived with her mother and father at Normans Buildings, in West Holywell. Henry was at that time a teacher at Cramlington Elementary school. She described one of her earliest memories, a time when she was still the only child in the family:

I remember being about 3 years old It was around about November 5th, and Mother went down the yard for a bucket for water. Three “guisers” came in all dressed up as was the custom then. I screamed and fainted, they disappeared, and Mother dropped the bucket and came running.

Later she remembered the time, her father took her out one night to observe the path of Halley’s comet. This was in April 1910, and Molly was seven years old – her brother Roy and sister Norah would have been too young to go out, so this would have been a special moment alone with her father. He carried her on his shoulders down to the level crossing gates closing Blyth and Tyne railway line from the road to Backworth village where the view of the night sky would have been clear across the fields.

There is evidence that Molly’s father was quite artistic, a beautiful hand painted valentine card survives, which he gave to Jane when they were courting, and later he developed an interest in photography. Molly remembered him having a big camera. He hung a backcloth in the yard of the house in Holywell, and the children would pose for him.

As the family grew, Molly’s mother, Jane, needed help with the heavy household work. They were never rich enough to pay for a servant or household help, so every Thursday Granny Patterson came and baked and cooked while Jane “did” the bedrooms. I expect that meant topping and tailing the sheets (There was one clean sheet a week, the bottom sheet went to the wash and the cleaner top sheet was put on the mattress) shaking all the mats and sweeping the floors, and stairs.
Chapter 2

Mollys Tale - Preface

Molly was my grandmother, and I loved her dearly, she was a strong and forceful presence in our family. I have many memories of her, from my earliest childhood at her bungalow in Seaton Sluice, Northumberland, to the last time I saw her, three weeks before she died. This narrative is not made up of my memories, however, but hers, provided on precious scraps of paper; carefully preserved. The preface to one bundle of papers reads:
25 October 1991

At long last a start at all the events in my life. Please excuse all mistakes in spelling as I cannot remember that very well. Today, Friday, have had two ladies in for coffee from the golf club, and what a lovely morning we have had

She would have been 88 when she wrote this, about 14 months before her death. She had been born October 7, 1903.

She was the firstborn child of Henry Elliott and his wife Jane. Henry had never known his father, being a posthumous child, and life had been hard for his mother, Martha, bringing up five children alone in the late 19th century. When Henry was four she married again, and this union was blessed with a child every second year for eight years. Henry was a clever child, but surviving surrounded by such a big family his talents did not shine very brightly.

In order to gain a decent education, he became a pupil teacher at the age of sixteen, working in the local elementary school. If that had not been possible, he would have ended in the pits, the same as most other young men in the villages in that area of North East England. As it was, he moved on from teaching to work as a clerk in the colliery offices, a respected position, but hardly well paid.

Molly’s mother, Jane, was daughter of a coal miner. She left school as early as possible in order to help her mother with the household until her marriage to Henry. She also came from a big extended family. It was common practice in those days before the birth of the welfare state that support for those in need came from family members; for a period through her childhood most of her family moved in with her mothers uncle William, in order to keep house for him, whilst sister Belle went to stay with aunt Betsy Landreth.

Molly, then, was born into a very big extended family, and a household with a strong work ethic, typical of many working class families at the turn of the twentieth century. Click on each chapter to read about her life.

vrijdag 2 mei 2008

War came and we had sheep on the golf course

I've been working on family history matters for a couple of years now - but my focus has been the internet (my beloved internet!) as the main sources of information are naturally in the north east of England. Mam and Dad are the keepers for family lore, and have boxes of information I would love to get my hands on.
Finally Mam decided she could trust the postal service with some of these precious documents and sent my grandmothers memoirs recorded delivery! They came last week, and I had to take a photo so you could see what I have to work with!
The best part is the fifteen closely written A6 pages of notes you see on the right! Its taken a bit of deciphering but I've finally got a first draft of her life story, helped in that she seems to have written two versions, and I can move from one to the other if somethings not clear.
I took the title of this blog from what I think is the best line in the whole story!
I'm looking forward to moving it forward into a more readable whole, she had such a long and very interesting life; what I feel comes through in her writing most strongly is her simple description of her development from childhood to maturity.


It never rains but it pours as they say, and having the family tree published on the internet means that I get contact from long lost relatives with the strangest pieces of information. The last weeks I have been sent not one, not two, but ten, pictures of gravestones from various family plots scattered around Northumberland; the last resting place of ancestors from both sides of the family. This impressive memorial was sent by Dylane Symm, a relative from dad's side. Dylane added the daffodils as a mark of love and respect! Thanks Dylane!

I've also had loads of information in the last days about my mothers family, Its really hard not to get all caught up in this and work non stop to get everything recorded; when you think about it, some events happened nearly 200 years ago, whether I write about it today or next year, its not going to change history!

zondag 20 april 2008

Geocaching Dutch Style

My sister in law blogged enthusiastically about geocaching: It took me a while to figure out that a global positioning system was, well, global, and it may be possible to do this in the Netherlands, too. She sent me the link http://www.geocaching.com/ and I signed up (its free) to find that here are thousands of caches stashed in the Netherlands.
It took a bit of persuading to get my daughter interested, until she found out

  • its internet based
  • you can’t get lost ‘cos you use the sat. nav. in the car
  • you don’t have to walk too far – just drive to the correct coordinates and get out and stroll around a bit until you find the cache.

Well today was our first geocaching expedition. I had read the instructions on the website on how to prepare for your first hunt but I did disregard some of the more extreme measures, like looking out for bears, and taking a water filtration system. I picked out three sites, and printed out the coordinates, then packed a bag with drinks and mars bars, programmed the navigation system with the first set of coordinates, added two children to the rest of the stuff in the car, and set off into the unknown.
We drove about 10 minutes away into the countryside around our village, and reached our first destination without mishap, now we had to find the cach. My sister in law told me they find caches in Tupperware boxes under trees, so when the kids asked what they were looking for that’s what I told them, but twenty fruitless minutes later I reassessed the situation, and we started looking for something smaller. They finally found a strange plastic tube, filled with concrete, marked with GC, hidden behind a fence post. Underneath this was a Kodak film pot, and inside this was a rolled up log book. I might have known the Dutch would do it differently!


We were so excited; it was our first find. We jumped around bit and shrieked, before we filled in the log book, then realised there was a campervan full of people waiting for us to finish so they could put their names in the log book, too. I had a chat with the mother while their daughter was going towards the cache we had just put back.
I told her it was our first find, and she laughed! They had been addicted to it for a year! They had driven up from Central Holland the day before, geocaching all the way, and had stayed overnight in Hoorn. I’ll be looking out for the “Boompjes” on the dutch geocaching site!
Full of enthusiasm now, we plugged in the coordinates of the next site, and set off again in the car. We came to the next destination, and, now we knew what we were looking for, found the cache within a few minutes.


But pride comes before a fall, and we arrived at the last search area much too confident. This was going to be the best area to search, as I knew we had to park the car in Broek in Waterland and walk to the site. I carried the TomTom, but its not as effective when you are walking, and although I got to the destination, we could not find the cache anywhere. We finally gave up, as I began to suspect that I was reading the instructions wrongly and was missing the most important set of coordinates.


The day was most definitely voted a success, however, and easy to repeat. The final bit of excitement came as we logged onto the internet at home and entered our first finds. When you have a successful hunt the cache on the map changes to a yellow smiley face! Now, I’m determined my map is going to be full of smiley faces by this time next year. Obsessive? Not me!

zaterdag 19 april 2008

Photo frustration

As you can see I've been playing around with my blog header this week - I'm slightly envious of my sister in laws blog http://bevs97.wordpress.com/ which not only has a catchy title, but also a customized banner - so I thought perhaps I could have a go at that.
The photo I chose was taken by my daughter (she takes much better photos than I do) last year in the new buttefly house in Artis. At first I just loaded it to the blog, but it was enormous, so now, days later, I've taken the time to trim it into a banner sort of shape and reload it.
Now the butterfly is too close to the text - and I cannot seem to move the text - I'm going to have to play around with it a bit more, but not today.
The colours on the photo are rather nice, though, and I've always liked butterflies. I love visiting butterfly houses, the warm, lazy atmosphere brings on a feeling of serenity in me.
If you enjoy them too, I can recommend the new one at Artis, but if you don't want to go to the zoo, try popping into the one at Hortus Botanicus - its small, but there are plenty of butterflies, and it smells like a tropical hot house should.

zondag 13 april 2008

Aunty Alices Doll



I’m having the urge to talk about family memories, which I store in many different ways. As I turn out cupboards I find family items, and they deserve an airing every so often, to give them a purpose, and reason for continuing to take up space.

This doll is from around 1890, has china head and hands and a cloth body. It still has the original lace cap, cotton shirt and chain with cross. I redressed it in about 1990. I used a Laura Ashley print for the dress and shawl. The hand crocheted lace trims were from my grandmother, so they are getting a mention and an airing too here. The petticoat and apron are soft linen. I still have her original clothes; a stiff starched white petticoat, a striped purple and white over-petticoat, and a pink silk over-skirt and shawl with blue ribbon trim.
She was was given to me by my Great Aunt Alice. When I knew Aunty Alice she was an intimidating spinster aunt with increasingly strange ways, but this doll reminds me she was once a little girl, part of a large and happy family, with time for imaginative play.