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.
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