I left school at the age of 14 with no qualifications other than a fair knowledge of decimals and fractions, and the ability to draw a map. The type of work available to village children required "Brawn as opposed to Brain" Starting work at fourteen and a half I was suddenly plunged into a "new world". They kicked you out of the nest early in those days. My situation was only a few yards from home, Laddingford House. I set off with high hopes, complete with tin trunk carried by my brother. It held my uniform caps and apron. This was a new world to me, getting up at six o'clock, going to bed at ten. It took me sometime to get used to but after a while you fell into a routine. My employers were nice people and did not expect too much of me. The work was not arduous, mainly sweeping, dusting, silver cleaning. I stayed with them for eleven years, during which time I had married. My pay was ten shillings weekly a princely sum. The first week’s money bought me one pound of Bettina toffee, my favourite. I soon learnt not to fritter it, you could get much more with your months wages. A good pair of shoes (leather not cardboard) might cost you eight shillings and sixpence. Lisle stockings at one shilling per pair, artificial silk, two shillings. You had a wide choice, clothes were also very cheap. I went to Maidstone once a month armed with my two pounds. After shopping, there was always enough left to go to the Pictures (the Granada) and swoon over your favourite film star, not forgetting to tuck your hair behind your ear, hoping you looked like “Greta Garbo”!
When I was 15 years old I bought my first bicycle, a very smart Raleigh, all complete, bell, pump and lights for five pounds nineteen shillings and sixpence for which I paid two shillings and sixpence weekly for twelve months. I was very proud of it, but managed to knock two spokes out the first day I had it. Mr. Butler who sold me the bike gave me a sorrowful look but repaired it for nothing. You could hire a cycle from him for sixpence a week. They were often stealthily returned, fully punctured, when his back was turned. He endured a lot.
You could also hire a boat at the Anchor Inn for sixpence an hour. Quite often it stretched into two, so again, we had to watch for an opportunity to tie it up quietly and slip off, we had our wits about us!
The Bakers van was another common sight. He called daily with lovely bread still steaming in a basket covered with a white cloth. Cottage, Tin or Bloomer, beautifully crusty all at fourpence a loaf, so different from the lumps of cotton wool we call bread today. Fresh creamy milk was one penny halfpenny a pint, skimmed one penny, ideal for rice pudding. You could also get new laid eggs one shilling per dozen. No frozen foods, everything was fresh, so you had good value for your money.
The younger generation look upon them as the "poor old days", but to my mind very much the "good old days". There was not much money around then, so if you were earning three pounds a week you were considered quite well off. A labourers wage was thirty two shillings and sixpence. Until gas was brought to our cottage we burnt a fire summer and winter as the only means of cooking and heating water. Nothing was wasted, ashes were riddled, coal dust dampened and formed into balls, together they kept a fire going for hours. This also reminds me of cookery lessons once a fortnight at Cheveney Institute. We were supposed to take our concoctions home, but we usually ate them on the way. This building, like so many others has now been renovated and converted into very smart houses.
However long the road is, it must end somewhere even if it goes full circle and ends at the starting point. They say you cannot live in the past but my generation has - will yours live in the future? You have a highly mechanised world - children of today are brought up on computers - in my day, bead frames. Each generation is different, Life goes on. Everything is developing so quickly and I am left far behind. I must live with my memories; Cockerels waking you at 4. am, horses stamping in the stables impatient to get to work, cows mooing to get into the Paddock, all these things so far away yet so clear in my mind. As time passes we all become "Water under the bridge". I would like to think some of my descendants will have the pleasure of paddling and catching minnows in a jam jar under Woodfalls Bridge.
As she was completing her writing she added:-
A beautiful day-sun shining and birds are flying about. I have been watching a squirrel munching happily at a piece of mince pie clutched between his paws. Who dare say the world is not beautiful?
If one spares, or has, the time to notice. Don’t let it go.