Category Archives: Advice

A lady I wish I had known

In looking through various sources – like notes – and ideas – and luck for posing I often find something that is new to me.  That has happened today when I found something by Dawn Powell.  She was new to me so I dug a little deeper and discovered that she died in 1965.  Going deeper I found her work was very nice and I’ll certainly ‘come back to her again’.  The piece I chose is perfect for this – it was published on Wednesday 3rd November 1954 and reads as follows:

‘Notes for talk – people like different books at different times in their lives.  It seems odd that such difficult ponderous writers as Walter Scott, Dumas, Victor Hugo are so often pets of our youth when later in life they seem almost over our heads.  It must be that, at 12 or 13, our heads need filling – there are few experiences and knowledge to furnish resistance, so the story has a wide screen.  The young reader has no experience of his own to debate the story; he accepts it wholly, is gullible, it blooms in his mind completely.  Trollope is certainly a writer for adults.’

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Nellie’s last three days with her Nature Diary

Thursday May 29th – Chiefly south wind – very strong.  Honysuckle in full flower.

Friday May 30th – Weather just a trifle windy.

Saturday May 31st – Crops are growing fast and everything so far has the appearance of a good harvest.

So Nellie’s project has come to an end.  I wonder what she thought about it.  Was it interesting or boreing; was it something she would do again or a case of ‘no way’?
How would you have coped with it?  Would you/have you read the first week then left it alone; read it each week and are now moving on; or done a similar project to that Nellie completed?
I must admit that I have done a sort of ‘half-way-house’ – or is it a two-way one?
I have been taking notes from my small garden and I have also been keeping some notes from my ‘summer’ job.   That is rather more challening in that it is a magnificant 16th century house with a large and varied range of nature’s handiwork.  I’ll be working through the two very different sets of notes while June is hopefully ‘bursting out all over’ and will pass them on as soon as I can.

      If you have done a similar ‘Nellie’ please send a copy through to me on           ‘talkinghistory@msn.com’ and all post elements of those as well!

Brian

Nellie at Higher Grade Girls’ School, Cambridge

Back in 2002 I was a part-time tutor for the Worker’s Education Association and, after one series of talks, one of my audiences kindly allowed me to copy some essays written by her mother. I felt they were worth publication and was given a freedom to proceed providing accreditation was given to her mother who would be 100 on 4th August 2002.  I was very happy to agree with that.  Unfortunately things didn’t go quite as planned from my end and the world never had a chance to read some of the writings of Nelly Gladys Lant age 15. Fortunately I kept those photocopies the family kindly gave me.  A lot has happened since then – but I still have Nellie’s writing, it doesn’t age even if mine does!  We’ll be picking up bits of Nellie’s life in school in the next few weeks but to start with let’s have a look at her term report of 31st March 1916.

Nellie Lant is in class IV – and is one of a class of 54. She has been absent twice during the term but has never been late.  She has been marked on 18 different subjects in class – one of which is homework! Three of the class subjects – Composition, Arithmetic and Algebra – have also undergone examination as has the non-class test of Dictation.  Shorthand, Typewriting and Book Keeping are on the sheet but do not appear to be part of this term’s work.
Her marks are good and her Class Mistress remarks: ‘Nellie again deserves prais for her steady managing of cooking.’  She is registered as: Position 6   Exam 15   Class 7

Beneath all of this is the notice that:- ‘The next Term begins on May 1st when every girl is expected to be present.  No one is permitted to absent herself at any time unless she is ill.

We’ll learn more about Nellie in the weeks to come.

A cold wet cheerless Wednesday

Wednesday morning was wet, cold and cheerless.  The sort of day that was easy to feel depressed about.  For Ian it was his ‘very nice’ day because it took him out of the town into the surrounding villages.  There were six visits to make and all were to nice, lovely, welcoming people.  All had challenges in their life that could have made them bitter, grumpy, rude or abusive.  But everyone had a smile that lit up the room when he arrived.  Tea would be offered at every visit and woe-betide him if he refused or said he would make it.  They all insisted on doing it while he ‘got on with his work’.  He had long since given up any challenge.

His work was indeterminate but vital to each.  He helped Caroline make sense of any ‘official’ letters she had received and usually had an entertaining conversation about EastEnders and Coronation Street.  ‘Things were never like that in my day’ was a guaranteed comment about something or other.

Wilf made a strong cuppa and talked proudly about his window box.  As a younger man he had always been out in the garden but now a man came to do it – under Wilf’s strict guidance – while he created miracles in the boxes.  Ian often brought him seed or plants – many of them from Mrs Williams down the street.  Ian was sure she had a soft spot for Wilf because she was always talking about him.  Ian often thought that they would make a lovely couple and at times mentioned the thought to Wilf.  It always provoked a snort of indignation but today, Wilf smiled a little and said ‘You never know young man.’

As Ian finished the visits and headed back to town he felt at peace with the world.  Everyone today had told him how much they looked forward to his visits, and wouldn’t it be nice if he could come twice a week.  It would be nice, he thought, but there were too many people in need of visits and care, and too little time.  That jolted him back to reality.  Instead of increasing the number of visits it was quite probable that they would be decreased, or at least shortened.  He knew it would be hard to tell them this but time, people resources and funding pressures were already biting into the work they did.

‘I bet that’s what that invitation’s about’ suddenly came into his mind.  ‘A softening up before the crunch, or maybe both would arrive at the same time.  Damn the world.’

As he pulled into the parking spaces at the office he noticed Julie’s car there.  Everyone else seemed to have gone home.  He looked at his watch.  It was just after six.  ‘That answers that then’, he thought.

Are you coming Friday evening?

On Tuesday morning Ian bumped into Julie at Cyma Tower – the 22 story relict of 1970s modernity that was hell to live in – just as she was leaving.  “Are you coming Friday evening?” she asked in her bright and cheerful ‘Julie’ manner.  She was probably the longest serving member of what had become a great team to work with.  Her enthusiasm and compassion appeared to be boundless – and was most definitely contagious.

“What’s happening on Friday?”

“It’s on the invitation.  It’s a reception at ‘The Bull’s Head’ and most of us are going.  You’ve got to come along.”

“You know I don’t like things like that.  I’ve got better things to do with my time than stand around exchanging pointless conversation with people as they become more and more childish under the influence of whatever they are drinking”.  There was an edge to his voice that made Julie mentally back off.

“Fine”, she said as she shrugged her shoulders.  “Oh, by the way, the lift won’t go above the 19th floor.  An engineer has been called the notice says.   Take care.” 

With that she went on her way while Ian mentally fumed about the lift.  Mrs Peterson had enough difficulty with her claustrophobia in the lift without the added problem of two flights of stairs.  With that he mentally straightened his back and got on with his life.

‘I’ll make her a cup of tea when I get up there,’ he thought, ‘then we’ll look out of the window across the town where she has lived all her life.’  That’s a big plus for her living up here.  She can see for miles and loves talking about her childhood beyond the town centre in the Wellworth area.  From this height it appears to have hardly changed but down at ground level it is a real problem area – but there is no reason to upset her memories with modern-day truths.

You are invited to …

Just one envelope lay inside the door when Ian got up on the Monday morning.  At least it was addressed to him by name – Mr Ian Brockett. Ian hated those that just said ‘To the occupier’.  The downside was that it was on what looked like a mass produced mailing label with no stamp or franking on the envelope.  It was obviously local and had been delivered by hand.

He wandered into the kitchen with it, picked up a knife from the draining board and slit the envelope open.  Inside was a single white card.  As he started to pull it out he saw the words ‘You are invited to attend…’ 

He let the card slide back into the envelope and left it on the worktop with the other bits and pieces of paper that had accumulated there over the weekend.  People could have no idea how much that phrase ‘You are…’ turned him off, whatever the subject might be.

He was happy with his life as a carer for a group of lovely people in the area.  He could not think of anything that suited him better.  He loved the one to one relationship that developed.  He became a part of that person’s family – very often the only part of the ‘family’ that connected with them.

He got himself ready and set out for another day.  He had two clients to see before calling into base for the regular Monday morning briefing.  First stop was Mrs Jeavons, a nice lady in her early 80s and still fiercely independent.  She had been suffering from a cold for the past few days and he just wanted to check that she was getting better.  It had taken him six months to get her to allow him to do anything for her except sit on the sofa for a chat while she made them both a cup of tea.

Second stop was Will Rowlands – an independent old soldier who loved to talk about today’s ‘soldier boys’ and the ‘Chelsea Pensioners’ he had been watching on television over the past few weeks.

When Ian arrived for the morning briefing most of the team were there.  They were hanging around, waiting for team leader Freda to arrive to start the meeting.  Julie said something to him about an invitation she had received.  Had he had one?  He couldn’t remember what he said, but it wasn’t important, anyway, and Freda had arrived and the meeting got underway.

As the meeting was breaking up Freda asked him if he had received his invitation for Friday.  “Why are people so fixated about invitations?”  Ian thought to himself as he mumbled “It’s on the table or somewhere” in reply before heading out to see Mr & Mrs Scott.  Helping them cope with Charlie’s increasing immobility was a lot more important than some invitation to something or other.