I grew up just after WWII, and times were lean in the UK, you just made do, but there was always the local smithy up the road where I used to drop in on the way home from school and watch this mountain of a man shoe the big draft horses with hooves the size of dinner plates. I can still recall the smell of sweat, wet leather and coal as I disappeared into endless clouds of smoke and steam as they burnt those huge horse shoes into place.
Mum would berate me on my return home, “You’ve been in that blacksmith shop again, haven’t you? I can smell you in the other room”. There was no hiding it, as I reeked of smoke and sweat and my face, hands and clothes were covered in a fine film of soot.
My face, hands and clothes were covered in a fine film of soot.
Food was simple then too, it was either from the vegetable garden, eggs from the chickens, bread baked fresh that day, jarred, pickled, dried and stored in the pantry. Yes, we did have a corner store, run by Mrs Brookes, where we could buy biscuits out of a tin, cheese was cut and weighed, milk was in glass bottles you returned and sweets were in big jars along the front of the counter, and if you were good you got to take home a small selection to savour. Prepackaged goods, what were they?
Those were the days when you swapped cakes, produce and homemade ginger beer with your neighbours for something you needed and the telephone was this big black thing in the hallway, that was out of bounds, unless dad gave you permission to use it. There was no TV or radio to speak of either, unless you liked the BBC Home Service and Stephane Grappelli or Django Reinhardt, so you amused yourself.
There was no TV or radio to speak of, unless you liked the BBC Home Service and Stephane Grappelli or Django Reinhardt, so you amused yourself.
My childhood days were filled with wonder and excitement, exploring the woods, fishing, reading, fossil collecting and spending quality time with my mates. I had my daily chores too, bringing in the wood and coal for the fire, helping mum in the kitchen and garden and cleaning dads car on the weekend for a couple of shillings!
Your were so grateful for what you had, life was much slower and simple, and you lived in a community where you looked out for each other, where people stopped to talk to each other in the street or over the fence.
You lived in a community where you looked out for each other.
A time when the local Bobby was treated with the upmost respect and had permission to give you six of the best across the handle bars of his bike, because he’d just caught you scrumping apples from a local orchard, and you didn’t go home and tell you father about either, because if you did he’d give you six more!
In those days you fixed things, or mum did. Or there were people who could fix things for you, like your pots and pans, clothes, tools, garden utensils, chairs etc, etc. A time when the local Pharmacist made you your own very special cough mixture that blew your bloody brains out but worked and when GPs visited you at home when you were sick. We didn’t throw everything out in those days either for the latest and greatest, because things were made to last.
Pharmacist made you your own very special cough mixture that blew your brains out but it bloody worked and GPs visited you at home when you were sick.
I look back on those days with fond memories and smile, because I do believe the pendulum is swinging back the other way at last. Thanks to the powerful Vegan Movement globally, the Hipster and New Age Hippies and the groundswell of handmade, locally made and produced products, organic food, going off the grid, the corner store, food co-ops, community gardens, self sufficiency and sustainable living. Is it a passing fad, will it be sustainable?
Is it a passing fad, will it be sustainable?
I believe it is, as I see communities coming back to life and long forgotten crafts being used again for the common good, people growing their own food, even on roof tops in the city, natural medicine is making a comeback and spirituality is now openly discussed and is at last back on the table.
So switch off your iPhone, tablets, laptop and Netflix.
So switch off your iPhone, tablets, laptop and Netflix, find a field, lie in it and look at the clouds, make something with your hands, walk bare feet through the forest, get your hands dirty, enjoy your children, spend time with them, smile at people, help somebody, give of yourself and smell the roses…