Originally published 12th Jan 2011


New Year New Challenges

Another Christmas has passed and we have moved into another year. We all have in mind a list of important things that happened during the last twelve months. Some of us had a good year while others suffered in many different ways.

On reflection, how many of the plans and resolutions we made this time last year were fulfilled? The media continued to spread the usual doom and gloom reminding us of the serious economic and social downturns we had to face in the coming months. All much the same as they do now. Fortunately for most of us, the reality over the past twelve months did not turn out to be quite as bad as their forecast.

Can we take heart after a Christmas spree and feel sure the problems will all be addressed? We will have to face coming to terms with many ongoing changes that will affect us all and very few of them will enhance the lifestyle we are accustomed to. We must find more ways to reduce our spending:  – But won’t that affect the economy the wrong way?


Did You Know?

During the years between the wars everyone suffered from the depression. Those fortunate enough to have a job were paid barely sufficient to pay the rent and feed their families. Of course they didn’t have the problem of finding the money for the gas, oil or light and there was no community charge. Nor were there any costs for water and sewage to be worried about because they didn’t have the benefit of such services. They did have to find the money for coal or wood for the fire and paraffin for the stove. These were probably the most expensive things they had to buy.

New Year New Challenges

People living in those days had always been used to a hard lifestyle where everything was done manually both inside the house and out. Going to the pump or well for all of their water. Having to light a fire, not just for warmth but also for the cooking, doing the weekly wash and on the given day of the week when the family bathed, carting the water to fill the copper.

Bath night had to be a special occasion. It involved filling the copper and lighting the fire under it. When the water was hot enough the tin bath was brought in and cleaned before it was filled from the copper. This had to be done using a hand basin. To ensure there would be enough for all of the family the water was very hot. It was cooled in the bath with cold water straight from the pump or if there was a rainwater cistern or butt outside, it might be taken from there.

Families usually bathed in order of seniority with the oldest being first. As each one finished and set about drying themselves the bath would be topped up from the copper to keep the water hot. This was also the time when everyone had their weekly change of underclothes. For most families this made Saturday evening the best time to bathe so everyone was clean and tidy for Sunday and all their dirty clothes could be sorted ready for washing on Monday.

Today we are able to bathe, do the washing or household chores any time we wish, to fit in with a busy lifestyle. It is difficult to imagine how much more time consuming regular events like this must have been when they had to be fitted into a strict weekly routine.

Oil stoves that required constant cleaning and attention to avoid smells and greasy smoke were often used to boil a kettle for that essential cup of tea. Especially the ‘early morning cuppa’ when the fire was only just about to be lit. No matter how poor the family might be, tea played quite an important part in almost everybody’s life.

camp coffee
The only coffee consumed in any amount was ‘Camp Coffee’ which was a liquid and bought in bottles. There was always a Tea Break during the morning and afternoon when men at work stopped for a few minutes and housewives popped next door to exchange news and gossip. Manual workers who had no facilities for boiling water would very often take a bottle of cold tea with them when they went off to work. More often than not without milk.

Looking back, it seems people between the wars and earlier had so many worries to maintain any sort of living standard that, even though they were concerned about where the money would come from to feed and clothe the children, they had no worries about such things as Tax or Inflation. 

Only the better off concerned themselves with things like the Budget, Economy, Market Trends and Cash Flow. Very few families had a regular newspaper and even less a radio. News was always old when they heard it. Consequently, the Media had little access and practically no influence on them and even if it had, very few in the community would have been able to understand what it was all about.

They say that ‘ignorance is bliss!’ Perhaps that is why people in those days are always portrayed as being far more content than we are today?

valley lad – [EIGHTY-SIX]

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