Shirley Glendinning, born 1937, emigrated to New Zealand at sixteen. She married and lived in Australia for five years and the United Kingdom for eighteen returning to New Zealand in 1994. She is now engaged writing her memoirs for her grandchildren. Shirley recently wrote this story at Deborah Shepard's writing workshop, 'Right from the Heart: Writing on Resilience/Surviving a Crisis' at the Devonport library.
During the war years in Lancashire England, I often stayed with my great Aunt Amy. She lived with her husband John in one of a row of six terraced stone houses consisting of two rooms up and two down, no front garden and the back door looked out on a coppice. The houses were originally built for the cotton mill workers.
My Aunt’s daily routine was to get up early to light the coal stove, to give my Uncle John his cup of tea and breakfast before he went to work at the mill at 6am. My Aunt used to do her big wash, down the road in the communal wash-house. I would watch, fascinated, as the women toiled, scrubbing clothes in large tubs, putting the clothes through huge wringers, wound round by hand. I was afraid of fingers going through getting caught. Aunt then lugged the clothes back home to put on a line with a long pole to keep the clothes from dragging on the ground.
Other tasks included black-leading the stove and donkey stoning the front doorstep. The downstairs floors were flagstones and they had to be brushed and mopped. The rag rugs she made out of sacking and old clothes went outside and were shaken.
No bathroom, the tin bath hung on the scullery wall and came down once a week. Water was heated in the stove. Bath times were fun. I had mine under the dining room table with the tablecloth hiding me from view.
The toilet was situated outside, two at each end of the row, I found it quite daunting looking down a black hole, wondering if I was going to disappear. Each household supplied newspaper cut in squares. I hate to think of the print on bottoms.
During my visits we had regular air raids and as soon as the siren sounded we went down the coal cellar as there were no shelters nearby. Uncle John was deaf and slept through it all. It sometimes got confusing as the siren at the nearby mills always sounded when the day and night shifts finished and if you where half asleep one siren could sound like the other!!
My Aunt had a clubfoot and was slow getting around, but she still managed everything. I see her now, a resilient woman, ‘pinnie’ on, arms folded.
Margo Knightbridge grew up on a farm in North Auckland, as a member of a large extended family who all loved music, and in particular, singing. Margo has been involved in singing, either in choirs, small ensembles or as a soloist, for most of her life. She works as a librarian.
I appreciated being able to read your reflection on the year since the Christchurch earthquake. Firstly, I was amazed to read of the article in the Sunday Star Times in which the journalist wrote in such a dismissive way of the experiences of those affected. I had not seen the article in the newspaper, and I can tell you that I was enraged when I read your description of the contents of the article.
I thought about my sister and her family and all the stresses they have been through and continue to go through - and they live in one of the less affected areas. I thought about the fact that they need to come up here for rest breaks every two or three months just to get away from the shaking.
I reflected on my husband's elderly cousin, who was pinned under a heavy storage heater on 22nd February, emerged with extensive bruising and a broken foot and spent weeks in hospital recovering.
I thought about my husband's two nephews and their families and the boys having to relocate to new business premises as their old ones had been destroyed in the quakes.
I thought about my niece, a student midwife, attending births in Christchurch Hospital while the building swayed and rolled around her.
I thought about all these things and more, including all the lost and injured animals, and I include myself among the stressed as I obsessively listen to early morning radio news broadcasts to check on what has been happening during the night.
And I thought about the memorial service that I attended on 22nd Feb 2012, at Holy Trinity Cathedral in Auckland, and during which, at the first sound of the organ playing softly, my at-the-surface emotions took over. I started to weep and could not stop.
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