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!