littlemavis

Little_Mavis' rants and musings


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When I were a lass

After my Infant School post I was going to move straight on to Junior School but I thought some background context might be useful.

This isn’t going to be a carefully structured, well-thought-out post, more random musings as I remember things.

I grew up in a small market town in South Yorkshire that was surrounded by pits. Back

cadeby

This is the pit where both my grandfathers worked

then, it was reasonably prosperous as such places go. (When I went back last year it was dingy and run down. I already knew that all the places I played as a child had been built on but there wasn’t really anything left. Every school I had attended had been demolished. But that’s all beside the point)

The vast majority (of men) were employed and it was normal for women to leave work after they had children. The jobs were mainly in mining, both my grandfathers and one of my uncles were miners, and there was a large locomotive loco (railway locomotive maintenance and stabling depot), though this closed in the mid sixties. My dad was a railway fireman. He started as a cleaner at 17 or so after leaving the local technical college and ended up, before he retired in the early 90s driving InterCity 125s. My mum went back to work in some kind of factory after I was born and I was looked after by my grandma. She gave up work after my brother was born four years later. For the first three or four years we lived with my grandma (My granddad died when I was 2 or so) in a council house but then bought a small terraced house.

The house we moved into was a terrace with three bedrooms a front room and a living kitchen. No bathroom (It had been built in 1924) and no heating apart from coal fires. I’m not sure if there were fireplaces in the bedrooms. For cooking, we had a built in coal oven in an enamelled range (rather than the cast iron ones that were still in some houses) ovenThe nearest I can find to what it looked like was this. We also had a 2 ring gas burner and a geyser for hot water. There was only a cold tap. Over time (don’t ask me when) we had a bath installed in the kitchen in the alcove next to the chimney. And a back boiler installed to heat water. My dad boxed it in with a lid to cover it when it wasn’t in use and when we had a bath we used a clothes horse covered in a blackout curtain to screen us off from the rest of the family.

There was an outside toilet, not too far from the back door rather than across a yard. We kept a paraffin lamp in there to heat the pipes in winter.

Again, over time a bathroom was added, with some sort of government grant, and eventually central heating, though that may not have been until after I left home. We had no phone (hardly anyone did. If we needed to we used the phone box at the bottom of the street), no fridge and the TV had 2 channels.

We played out a lot. You had to be careful where you played and often be careful how much noise you made as there were always people on night shift. As well as in the street, where it was reasonably safe to play because there were very few people in the street with cars, there was plenty of waste ground to play on. Having looked at old maps these tended to be places that had previously been used as quarries or clay pits though there was a big park nearby with hawthorn bushes along the side to make dens.

Kids tended to play out together in mixed age groups. The older ones looked after the smaller ones. Any adults around kept half an eye on everybody. Disagreements sometimes ended in physical fights without any serious harm done.

We walked to school from quite an early age, but there was far less traffic then. Lots of corner shops, in fact they were on pretty much every corner. Within easy walking distance of our house I can remember a couple of grocers, a post office, an off-licence (beer-off), a butchers, a newsagents a chip shop, 2 cobblers, a Co-op which was a big grocers where you could buy sugar or “best” butter by the pound.

We also had a “potato man” come round every Friday delivering vegetables with one side of his van open & laid out like a market stall. The milk was delivered by a woman pulling a sort of electric handcart.

I spent a lot of time at the library in town and had pretty much read my way through the children’s library by about 11, not difficult if you’re getting through a book a day. You encyclopediaweren’t allowed to have an adult ticket until you were 14 so my dad let me use one of his tickets. You weren’t allowed to join until 5 (I think?) but although I was too young I proved I could read so they let me. I did have books of my own and I got a lot of information from Arthur Mees’s Children’s’ Encyclopaedia which was in 10 large volumes (most of Volume 10 was the Index) which I think had been published in 1920 something. At first I was only allowed Volume 1 but that got so tatty from my reading it my parents eventually relented and let me have the rest.

buntyI also was given comics by the boy who lived next door to my Grandma so I was well versed in boys’ comics such as Hotspur, Valiant and (possibly) Rover which was mostly text stories. At home I got Bunty (best bit was Bunty’s Cut Out wardrobe on the back page)

I went to Brownies at St George’s Church Hall. After the meeting we used to go to the nearby shop & buy a bag of crisps. When you bought them they had a small screw of blue paper with salt. I remember getting excited when you could first but cheese & onion crisps as well as plain. Other sweets Spangles, Penny Arrows (I liked the banana split ones), Kayli (sp?) A summer treat was frozen Jubbly.

Anyway. To finish, because I don’t really know how to finish. Things change. You don’t notice them all that much while it’s happening. I grew up,  went to university (family first), discovered a whole other world. Looking back I realised this way of growing up was similar for many, many years. The war may have speeded up development of some things but may have slowed down others. Going back now, I can hardly recognise the place. It has changed, both in the way places change over time and in a wholly different way because I think the heart has been ripped out of towns like that. It’s changed from a busy bustling town with a purpose to a collection of houses and run down shops with no direction. Apparently the HS2 line is scheduled to go right through a new housing estate there. That’s pretty awful for the people living there but I think the real damage was done years ago.


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Infant School

Infant school was a very different place when I was small.

My first school was Park Road Infants. This seems to be the only building left standing of the schools I attended.

feb8001-2I’m trying to remember what it was like but it’s a long time ago now. I think I would have started school in 1958 and things were different then. You may also need to take my memories for what they are, just memories. I haven’t checked the accuracy of any of these. My parents are dead and I doubt there are any accessible records.

The school was infant only and had 2 classes per year (I think) and possibly a nursery class. My first teacher was Mrs Swan who had long beautiful auburn hair and I remember as being kind. I remember nothing of the lessons we had, though I still have a few of the books my parents kept. If I can track them down, I’ll include photographs.

I’m not going to try to make this chronological, more a stream of consciousness recollection. I’ll note things down as I remember them.

Shape

The school was essentially classrooms off a single corridor. The hall stuck out the other side and the headteacher’s room was in the middle.

This is from memorypark-road-plan-jpg

And this is the school now

park-road-school

Teachers I remember

Rec     Mrs Swan

Yr 1    Mrs Gelder, Mrs Batty

Yr 2    Mrs Seagrave

Head  Miss Fletcher

 

General memories

  • No uniform. I don’t know of any primary schools that had uniform then.
  • The school day was generally 9am to 4pm with 1½ hours for dinner. Lots of children went home for this.
  • We had to put our heads down on our arms on the desk after dinner for a while
  • We sat in rows. At desks. I can’t remember what we kept in the desks. I don’t remember playing. Except at playtime.
  • We were given halibut oil capsules to take with our milk. They tasted vile
  • We had a maypole & learned dances  like these. It had red, blue, yellow & green ribbons. Boys held blue or green, girls held red or yellow.
  • We had a May Queen, though I only remember this in the first year I was there. I have a photo somewhere I’ll dig it out.
  • There were cupboards at the back of the hall with things to play with. I think we only got them out for wet play which was in the hall (maybe). These included wooden stilts like these or others made from Golden Syrup tins with strings through, hula hoops etc.
  • I seemed to spend a lot of time in year 1 standing behind the blackboard as a punishment for something (I really can’t remember the details but I think it was to do with disagreements with another child)
  • The year 2 teacher took a slightly different approach & punished the other child too. I remember being very pleased about this – I suspect, though again cannot actually remember & I’m basing my conclusions on what happened when I was older – I was asked if I hit her & I would have said “yes”. She was asked the same & said “no”. My downfalls over the years have often been because of my ridiculous level of honesty.
  • We learned to read with Janet & John books – no idea if it was phonics. I just learned.janet & John
  • We did an infant nativity. I was Mary. I had to sing a solo. I remember the headdress being hot, itchy and uncomfortable. I kept taking it off then putting it back on again so I’d look like Mary. I cannot remember the song. At all.
  • And at the end of three years, they sent home a report.

infant-report

I feel it is important to note that I actually only got one question wrong in Maths (¼ mark) They docked me a whole point because I spelled my name wrong at the top of the paper – I was excited!!

That’s it by the way. That’s all my parents got to inform them of progress.

Is it better now? What was it like when you were in Infant School? Can you even remember?


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Temper Tantrum

I lost my temper (a bit) today. It was over something fairly unimportant in the greater scheme of things, but it left me upset and a somewhat shaky. I have always had a bit of a problem with a short temper. I deal with it mostly by avoiding things that I know will annoy me where I can. I do this by muting certain tweeters, avoiding some people, not watching Question Time, not reading below the line. If I cannot avoid I do my best to walk away. Pro tip here folks. If someone walks away from you saying “I’m going now before I say something I’ll regret”, DO NOT FOLLOW THEM TO CONTINUE THE DISCUSSION. It will not end well.

I realise that some people never lose their temper. I used to think they just had iron self-control but I’ve come round to the idea that some of us are wired differently. So. For those of you who have never had this problem, here’s what it’s like.

Imagine you abooksre carrying a pile of books. Every so often, someone comes & balances another book on top of the pile. They add them, not you, so they don’t do it very carefully but you still do your best to balance them. You don’t go down some roads because you know people with lots of books lurk there just waiting to add them onto your pile. When you get the chance, you dump some of the books in handy spots which are designed to help you dispose of them safely. Places like beautiful countryside, gyms, and cinemas.

But sometimes, no matter how hard you try, the books will topple anyway. It may happen, for instance when you are doing all the carrying with one hand because the other is occupied looking after a toddler or an elderly parent or dealing with a troublesome client or colleague at work. It may happen because you are so busy and stressed you don’t have time to remove any books because life is getting in the way. Sometimes, you are taken completely by surprise by a sudden influx of books. Someone or something comes rushing up behind you and dumps a huge number of books suddenly. You don’t see them or hear them. You’re trundling alpicture1ong, coping nicely with the pile but you weren’t expecting this and you lose balance. That kind is especially frightening and tends to leave you shaken after the sudden and completely unexpected …well…almost an attack really.

The final kind is what I suspect happened today. The pile of books has grown for reasons entirely beyond your control. They’ve been put there by circumstances that are distant and all encompassing. My pile of books just now has built up because I’m worried about my country and the world. I’ll probably be all right, well, unless someone lets Trump too near the nuclear button. I’m worried about global warming. I’m worried about the effects of leaving the EU. I’m rather selfishly sad about that partly because we’ve only really just discovered the joys of overseas travel and I suspect this will curtail future adventures. I’m worried about the apparently rampant racism and xenophobia that seems to be taking hold in the UK, US, France and elsewhere and the sheer nastiness, selfishness and lack of compassion that seems to be all around us. So. Because of this, only one tiny extra book can cause things to tumble and my temper to snap. I’d obviously been carrying this pile around for a while and hadn’t noticed how high it had become. I know now, I’ll carry carefully and make sure I can offload. I’ll make time for minor treats (I know I am lucky I can do this) I will watch where I walk and make extra sure I know when to walk away.

Ultimately, I shouldn’t have got cross today. But then, the person who annoyed me shouldn’t have done what they did either. Almost without exception what makes me cross are people who are rude or inconsiderate. I’m not excusing myself here but I am pleading provocation. I don’t get angry with people who are polite, civil and considerate. (Apologies if you think this sounds like victim blaming) I still agree I was wrong.

Writing this has helped. I hope it might help some of you understand what is happening when someone “snaps”.

As an extra, my advice if someone you know has this problem. Give them space. Let them rant a bit. It will pass. They (mostly) don’t mean most of what they say. They will be upset afterwards too. (I’m not expecting sympathy here btw just describing what happens). And above all, unless you want to drive someone to further fury, never, ever tell them to “calm down”calm

 

 

 


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Clearing my mind #2

Misunderstandings

Do you remember this?

I got into a couple of heated discussions at the time & even lost a follower or two.

My basic point was that Prince Harry showed a lack of judgement which I felt threw doubt on his being in charge of dangerous military equipment. I’m open to discussion on this but somehow people seemed to think I was saying that I was simply condemning his private behaviour and I had no right to do that.

Several points come to mind

  • I did not approve of his sexual behaviour. I’m a bit prudish in that respect but I agree I have no right to attempt to control this.
  • I do however judge it. Everyone judges other people’s behaviour to some extent. They have a right to behave as they do (within the law), I have a right to think it is wrong. I’ve no doubt there are other people who do too.
  • I make no call to ban the behaviour
  • It is not the behaviour that makes him unfit, it’s not realising that it might be an issue.
  • He is famous. He is in the public eye. This has tremendous benefits (money, free stuff, access to places most of us will never see) It also has drawbacks (public scrutiny of behaviour). The two are pretty much inseparable.
  • It’s no good saying people involved with him are expected not to sell photos. If you party with people you’ve just met you cannot possibly know whether or not they will adhere to your expectations. Women, sadly, meet this problem with terrifying frequency.

I may be wrong in my views, I may be right. But I get a bit cross at being attacked on Twitter for things I never actually said. I get very frustrated at being backed into a corner & challenged to support things I never actually said.

Now it may be that I express myself poorly, or it may be that some people don’t read what is actually written (I hold my hand up to doing that sometimes). In fact, some people seem to wilfully misinterpret what is said. Lets be generous to all concerned and assume faults on both sides.

These days I just block & move on before I get too upset to think straight. But please read tweets carefully before jumping on someone, please read the other tweets from that person to give context before you criticise and do ask for clarification of what is meant before you jump on someone.

That’s all.


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Things I Don’t Understand #3

How do the Current Government get away with behaving the way they do?

In general, I am stupidly optimistic about life. I try not to be, as optimists are often disappointed. One alternative is to be a pessimist with no surprises except pleasant ones but existing in a perpetual state of misery. The sensible approach is a sort of positive realism. Knowing what things are likely to actually be right but looking on the bright side as much as possible. This avoids the general misery but gives you the impetus that comes from being positive.

This is all increasingly difficult to do just now. Every time I think things must surely start to look up, they don’t. I’m sure you will realise that the cause of my constant disappointment is the current Government. I still manage to be regularly amazed by their arrogance, hypocrisy and lack of empathy. Below are just a few illustrations.

We have Mark Hoban telling us that the £500/week benefit cap will encourage people back into work and in the following sentence justifying it by saying that working people have to manage on less than that.

We have Iain Duncan Smith telling people he could survive on £53/week after apparently previously attempting to claim £39 on expenses for a breakfast

We have Michael Gove insisting that his new curriculum is designed to enable poor children to progress and improve their lot while ignoring the obstacles that the current wave of welfare reforms are strewing in their path like modern day caltrops. Laura McInerney wrote eloquently about it here

The implication is that if you go to school, work hard (leaving aside the additional effort and dedication required to do that if you come from a deprived background) you will be able to go to a “good” university (don’t worry about the enormous debt you will build up to cover the fees and assuming your accent and/or lack of smart clothes and social capital don’t reduce your chances of a place too much) Of course, even if  you do get a place at a top university, you still  have to follow this up by actually getting a job. These days it really does seem that you need to know the right people to get into some of the high flying positions that Michael Gove wants all our children to aspire to.

Gove talks a lot about the value of Cultural Capital. I’ve been reading up on this since it has been talked about so much and I understand and agree that it is important. I come from a working class background and went to an old fashioned Grammar School and then a “good” university. I acquired cultural capital along the way (although there is a lot I still don’t know about the Arts). However, what I also read about was Social Capital and that is where I start to get really cross.

Recently posts were written about this statement and focused on what an unpleasant man IDS was and how he had arranged for his wife to be paid a salary for apparently doing very little. However, what struck me most about it was some of the incidental information. For example

Mr Duncan Smith had chosen to move his previous Private Secretary, Miss Annabelle Eyre, the daughter of Lady Monica Eyre, a long standing family friend of Mrs Duncan Smith, to become Head of Planning and Tours.”

And

“Mrs Watson was given responsibility for finding a replacement private secretary for Mr Duncan Smith’s constituency office and Miss Cara Walker, a graduate who had left university that summer (2002) and is a friend of Mrs Watson’s daughter who is of a similar age, was immediately appointed.”

Well, that’s all very cosy isn’t it? I have no basis on which to judge their competence at the job or their qualifications for it but I doubt that someone brought up on a council estate in Basildon would have connections they could use in this way. Social Capital not cultural. And no amount of fiddling around with the curriculum will fix that!

So. What is my point? To be honest I’m not sure I can put it into one sentence. The current politicians seem to be blinkered and unable to see anything outside of their tiny, over-privileged world. They have no embarrassment about wanting everyone to tighten their belts while claiming still ridiculous amounts of expenses, and they think this is acceptable! Does anyone think this is OK?


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Death & Celebrity – An apology (sort of)

First, please do not be offended by this. I am attempting to explain my point of view. Now we are in the cold light of day I am not trying to tell you that yours is wrong. (I may have done just that in the heat of the moment. sorry) I’m working at understanding it.

I was awake late the other night. I had just read a tweet about this article about NHS health reforms showing how much influence McKinsey & Company’s had on the bill. I thought this was important so I tweeted the link. I planned on tweeting again in the morning. Just as I was switching off for the night, Twitter exploded (metaphorically of course) with news that Whitney Houston had died. I saw the chances of the NHS story being noticed as news receding quickly. Remember the whole “good day to bury bad news” furore a few years ago?

Full disclosure. I actively dislike her type of music and I do not like her renditions (see I’m trying to step carefully here by saying I don’t like it rather than making absolute statements as to its intrinsic quality)

I got a bit cross. I find the whole business of getting upset when a celebrity dies quite distasteful. I don’t understand it at all. You don’t know them, will not meet them, in the case of musical artists you can still buy the records. Also 48 is not especially young after alcohol and drug abuse, many died at a much earlier age. (OK this may sound callous but I’m trying to be honest here)

In the normal course of things, I don’t actually think I would have said anything. I did this time because I felt it was overshadowing something I felt to be more important. I’ll try to exercise more restraint next time. (By the way, I wouldn’t joke, even I’m not so unfeeling)

A few people responded to be about this so (in my usual fashion) went off to look at research. Views on why this happens include people feeling closer to the celebrity than friends & family because they see more of them and identifying with the celebrity though age and other perceived similarities. Someone told me they felt it keenly because her music had been around through their formative years, it certainly wasn’t through mine. The great icons of my youth who have died did so at a much younger age, and just as pointlessly. It was probably as well there was no Twitter when John Lennon was killed. I get it more now than I did before, though not totally. I’m still happy with my view. I still believe people over-react to celebrity deaths, but I accept that it is a facet of the world we live in now.

For a measured response, and good advice, go and read Peter’s (@PME200) blog

It did lead me on to think about the way we react to death. I asked a question on Twitter and got quite a lot of interesting and enlightening responses. I’ll cover that another day

Oh and please, continue to fight for the NHS. It really is worth saving. Sign here if you haven’t already