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'Fings Ain't Wot They Used T' Be'
on 3 December 2012
A book written with the authority of a participant and historian, Sheila Hardy's reproduction and recollection of life for a housewife in the 1950's is remarkable. I was born in 1950 and my brother in 1946. So much of the author's plight of the problems and discrimination are vividly recalled. Much of it was through necessity. Husband was the bread-winner, wife was the domestic, totally reliant on the income from her spouse.
I recall lucidly the daily account of mother's humdrum routine. Early to rise, get the fire on, cook breakfast for husband ( out to market at 4.30am) and get the children ready for school. All before 8am. Walk the children to school ( when my brother was 8, he took me the two miles to school and back without fear). Mom went out shopping. Made the beds. No cars or buses. No supermarkets, filling a shopping bag with fresh goods. Dad was a butcher, fortunately, so post-war years saw meat. I'm not digressing, just consolidating the author's own experiences and memories. Evenings with sandwiches and then dad's cooked tea. Only saw him on Sundays when well-spoilt. Washing, ironing, cleaning without today's contraptions. Larder and no fridge, yet this was normality.
Sheila Hardy discusses all of this. She takes things beyond nostalgia ,because this was reality. (Looking back it must have been purgatory). The rapid changes that occurred with relaxation of shopping hours (how we hated Sunday School), television arriving (closed for most of the time at home). The stigma of 'living in sin' or 'having a baby out of wedlock' were taboo. My children ( all in their thirties) cannot conceive of, despite interest, the life my mother,( their grandmother) and her tales of what she went through, and my own grandmother was on a different planet. That was her lot (she was a suffragette), I found later she had 12 children ,no effective birth control and fostered more!
It took the 1960's and beyond to equalise rights of women, still being pursued. Hardy's book may seem unbelievable in 2012. It happened and the slow progress of a housewife and her perseverance is expertly written. Shame it has taken so long to progress, no doubt due to the masculine superiority! Essential reading to put a part of life's development into perspective. My reading is that the strength at home was the backbone of the woman ( mother in my case). Lose that and it's gone down the pan (outside of course). Hardy's book recalls the fun times, as do most children, with innocence leading to the more complicated times. Not so much grumpy, but never had it so good? No thank you, mother, but my brother and I had some great times. No regulations. I suppose no one of this generation or social class knew anything different? A read for all. Highly recommended and a great gift. Having read it, this is my mother's (aged 90) 'pick off the tree' as we call it. Headphones for a present would be appreciated by me as I've heard it and lived it many times. As a family these are entertaining, sometimes exaggerated (especially with my brother). My daughters are intrigued by the pre-war ,war and post-war years. Read the book as well. More illustrations would have been appreciated. This is how it was. The transition to 'modern' times was rapid as expectations increased. Wonderful.