Daze Of Yore…

I thought that today I would start with a Song, Dear Reader, as this post will feature an extract from the scribblings mum was writing for me and my sister Juju before she died. It’s about her mother, Eileen… my Nanny Packer

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Extract from ‘A Family History for Ruth and Julia (Gawd ‘Elp Us!**)’, a.k.a. ‘The Ma Papers’ by Judith Eileen Newton (formerly Shewan, née Packer)

Now comes the hard part, my immediate family. Do I write nicely or do I write warts and all?

What can I say about Eileen? My Mum was a lovely lady even though I had loads of ups and downs with her. She was funny and intelligent and very obstinate. In a way I feel that she was held down all her life, and had quite a big chip on her shoulder because of it. She was the second eldest daughter and because Mary, the eldest, was living with her Grandmother (referred to as Grammum), a lot was put on Eileen’s shoulders work-wise; she felt that she had been a skivvy all her life.

She always believed she was plain and Ann, who was born only ten months after her, was the pretty one, getting more attention than her. She remembers that she was bony and never smiled, and that Ann was cuddly and fluffy, using her charms to get out of doing things.

Nanny Alger kept having children so the brunt of the work fell onto Eileen. She gave birth to fourteen children but Eileen remembers her mother as always being pregnant. There were several miscarriages and often Eileen was sent off to the chemist with a note, a shilling and a cup. She would bring back some liquid for her mother to take. Although she never knew what it was, I think it was a substance called ‘slippery elm‘, which was an age old remedy for unwanted pregnancies (it was still around when I was fertile I never had to take it because the pill was out but it might still be around now).

I just watched an episode of ‘Rome‘ and I believe that was what was used on a poor lady so it probably used for hundreds of years.

Eileen left school at 14 years old and went to work at Peek Freans. Apparently the factory came to the school to see all the girls and took them all on to work at the factory, which was in Drummond Road. Then they sacked all the 18 year olds because they had to pay adult rates at 18, replacing them with 14 year olds. People say ‘the good old days’ but imagine having no security or education, and knowing that you were like cattle rather than individuals.

Incidentally they had no secondary schools or further education in those days unless you had money. You started school at 5, if your parents were that way inclined, and left at 14. The boys, if they were lucky, were taken on as apprentices and parents had to sign papers called indentures (no, Julia, nothing to do with teeth lol). They had to work for the employers for 5 years and then they had an exam to prove that they were qualified in their skills, before being sent into the big wide world to ply their trade. A carpenter or electrician or tailor would take a new boy on every year. Those boys and their parents considered themselves lucky if they were indentured. And you can see how women were kept down – the only choice was factory work, maids, or waitressing. Remember it was not that long after women’s suffrage.

Because of the area they lived in was right on the docks, lots of the boys’ dads were dockers or stevedores, and they had to have a ticket to work. It was always a foregone conclusion that the a boy would get a job in the docks if his father worked there, as it was usually kept in the family. Funnily enough none of Granddad Alger’s sons wanted to work in the docks.

God I do digress

Eileen for some reason was not put on the production line but in the kitchen of the staff canteen. I think it was because of Aunt Mary, who already worked there – she pulled strings through her husband and got Eileen an easier job (I would rather be on the production line any day). I think it was because Mary thought they would get more to eat if Eileen was in the kitchen because food a home was not plentiful; adequate but certainly not plentiful.

Can you imagine living in a house that was straining at the seams and just Granddad Alger Working? You had a breakfast and an evening meal. No crisps, no chocolate bars, no fizzy drinks. Life was barren, but fortunately Eileen would buy 6 penny worth of broken biscuits, the only luxury.

Eileen had no choice: Nanny Alger was dependent on her wages and that’s how life was in those days. She carried on for a couple of years and then one day she prepared prunes and custard for afters, and instead of prunes she opened a tin of pickled walnuts and served them up with custard. She got the sack. She was coming up to 18 anyway, so got herself a job with J Lyons and Co as a waitress. In those days Joe Lyons had a tea shop in every high street, and he also had posh tea shops in the West End called Corner Houses. The high street shops were very reasonable.

Ordinary people used them all the time if they had the money, but the Corner Houses were special for high days and holidays. You could walk through the ground floor and posh sales assistants would sell you special handmade chocolates, beautiful gateaux and deli like smoke salmon and such. Even when I was a teenager they were still around but they were self service places by then.

The waitresses were called ‘Nippies‘ because they gave fast and quick service (take that how you will), and Eileen was fast, so was quickly promoted to Gold Star Waitress. She was sent all over the country, wherever she was needed. She even went on a course in Jersey somewhere. She was born in 1910 and in those days manpower was cheap and service was expected at all times. She even served at the Ideal Home Exhibition when Edward the 8th came for the opening.

There was not a lot to do in those days for leisure except going to the pictures, parading up and down looking good, and the odd, rare dance. Eileen was really into fashion and always had her clothes made in the East End, but she said she always got the rough boy and Ann got the handsome one. The pictures of her show her looking very smart and she was good looking, but she never smiled and it makes her look standoffish.

Funny but I always had the same problem, people in the street would say to me, “cheer up it might never happen!” when I was perfectly happy and not aware I looked miserable. Julia is the same – we have just got miserable faces, I suppose. Ruth on the other hand lives in a world of her own and is totally oblivious to anybody even calling out…

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*Ah, so he was knot King then, Clicky?*

I have another post brewing on The Fourth Turning, Dear Reader, so will be back soon with that. In the meantime, do enjoy the flowers placed on the sidebar, sent from The Okie Devil, as described in his last missive

… And enjoy the Song ❤

Eric and ‘Erbie

Dear Reader, inspired by a recent conversation with the JenEus Burger woman, in comments at the LoL last week, I thought I’d delve once more into Mother’s family remembrances of war.

This post will be about Herbert, my grandfather, and my great uncle Eric. He was born in Germany, but let’s start with some photo/images of Grandad Packer, Herbert… ‘Erbie…

grandad-in-ww1
The lad Herbert Stephen James Packer ran away to fight in WW1
grandad-in-egypt-ww2
Capt. Herbert S.J. Packer wearing a fez in Egypt in WW2
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Mr H.S.J. Packer Importer/Exporter until he retired
grandad-and-grandaughter-roobee
Grandad Packer, with pipe, entertaining his grandaughter Roobee some time after 1967 and before 1977

Extract from ‘A Family History for Ruth and Julia (Gawd ‘Elp Us!)’, a.k.a. ‘The Ma Papers’ by Judith Eileen Newton (formerly Shewan, née Packer)

I do not know when or how Aunt Anne met Eric because she had been engaged before, but she met him and brought him home for tea. What a shock for Poppy Alger! He did not like strangers at the best of times, but when Eric arrived, and he turned out to be German, well for God’s sake…  Although we were not at war at that point, Poppy still remembering the First World War, and had not altered his opinion that the only good German was a dead one.

And Eric was very Germanic, he would clicked his heels when he shook your hand. There was even a strong suspicion that he was Jewish. It appeared that when Eric’s mother and father, on realising what was happening in Germany with the Black Shirts and the like, wanted to get Eric out. They sent him to England, to an aunt, when he was in his teens and she had brought him up.

He could speak English and German, of course, and was very upper crust. At this point Nanny Packer had not yet met Grandad, and I suppose that when she did meet him, Ann and Eric were the only people that knew that Grandad was already married. They set up a close friendship between them and used to go on holiday together. They were often in Switzerland and Germany.

On one trip to Germany in the thirties, they were all of them having dinner in a restaurant when the doors burst open and in marched a bunch of Black Shirts demanding everyone’s papers. They were all petrified because although Eric had changed his name from Erich Zonningfield to Eric Summerfield, and they were scared that someone would smell a rat – Eric had been speaking in German to the waiter. But, as luck would have it, the Black Shirts were only interested in checking passports; they believed the family four were all British and left them alone. However, none of them visited Germany again until after the war.

Eric joined the army and fought for the British. It was very important that he held a British passport – it would have been suicide to fight for England with a German passport. Grandad Packer said he worked in intelligence and translation, but we never did find out what exactly he did.

Anne and Eric got married in September 1939 on the day war broke out. The air raid sirens actually went off during the reception.

By this time Grandad Packer was technically too old to fight as he was born in 1903, but because he had fought in the First World War and he was an army reservist officer, they asked him to come back as they were desperate for experienced soldiers to train the new soldiers. He re-enlisted and they had him training troops and other things to do with Intelligence.

He was a very intelligent man and trying to get information from Grandad Packer was very hard; to say he was a silent man was an understatement. My biggest regret is that when he was alive I did not talk to him enough. Basically I really was not interested, but now, of course, that it is too late, I would like to know everything.

Dear Reader, I searched through the Huntley & Palmers biscuit tin containing all the photos and papers that came to me following Mother’s death last year, but could find scant information and no images of Eric in his salad days…

anne-and-eric-in-paper-celebrating-ruby-wedding-anniversary
Local news announcement of Anne & Eric Ruby Wedding Anniversary
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Notice of Eric’s Death
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Eric’s final resting place

Have a Song…

 

A C.R.O.N.Y… Mmm…

Dear Reader, following the death of Grandad, yesterday I had the sad duty of posting */knot-eyes* on MEROVEE of the death of U.N.C.L.E  Mr Napoleon Solo… You know, Han :D’s twinnish bro…

roob-announces-death-again
Click for ‘Love Trumps Hate’

*/taps feet and whistles… Ah, butt as I was telling Leggy at the time, Click, I always fancied Illya Kuryakin...*

 

legs-and-roob-discuss-the-invisible-man
Click for TV Intro to The Invisible Man

*Wild Swans… /scratches chin… Clicky that’s another weird sync ‘cos I mentioned swans to the Texan Okie Devil, Cade, just today…*

wet-and-dry-ties
Click for the The Five Doctors Who Have Ties That Bind

*Yeah, the boys’ blazers are black, so the swan motif on the pocket is, essentially, a black swan, outlined in white thread…*

*Ha! Yeah, ‘cos he sent me that Song overnight and my bedwear was kinda… Soviet…*

roobs-nightwear-front
Click for back view

*/Slaps forehead… Again!? FFS, Clicky, watt is it with you and posting embarrassing photos of me? …/folds arms and taps foot sternly… I mean… Why, for Gawd’s sake? …/turns in exasperation…*

*Butt, I’m Roobee… /:O… You’re trying to tuffen me up? …/squints… Oh Doo Foxtrot Oscar!!*

Dear Reader, we interrupt this LoL post for the precise, technical reason that my bleedin’ dolphin assistant needs a clip round the ear.

Please accept the following Song */nods thanks…*

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rawr

Click5 Special: Wanna Dance?

clicky-says-hello

Extract from ‘A Family History for Ruth and Julia (Gawd ‘Elp Us!)’, a.k.a. ‘The Ma Papers’ by Judith Eileen Newton (formerly Shewan, née Packer)

The worse part of being a girl was that if your mate was prettier than you she would be asked to dance and this would leave you on your own if you weren’t. You felt embarrassed and even though you both agreed at the beginning of the evening that one would not dance and leave the other alone, when the crunch came ‘all’s fair in love and war’.

It was on one of these memorable occasions when Daddy ambled up to me and it all started. Margaret and I were dancing when the boys came upstairs and I saw these two blokes eyeing us up. I said to Margaret, “There are two boys coming over. Say No.” Terry asked Margaret to dance and she said, “Yes”. Daddy asked me and I said “No.” Margaret waltzed off with Terry and Daddy said to me, “I have just walked the whole length of this dance floor to ask you to dance. Don’t make me look like a fool now.” I danced and your lives began.

v-for-victory

Can I recommend a book to you, Margo? It might explain this period in time to you. It did for me:

http://www.fourthturning.com/

Basically, during the Crisis (Winter) Season, i.e. now, a Gray Champion arises from the masses, to galvanize the younger generation, generally to war. FDR was the last one. However, in this digital, electronic age we live in (h/tip Marshal McLuhan), it’s not just one ‘Gray Champion’ but the collective ‘gray people’, i.e. Old Uns.

And in the case of this particular blog: Stop behaving like Nazis and let us enjoy our pint in the pub with a smoke. We’re the Allies. We’re not the call to go to war this time, we’re actually the Voice of Reason.

I’ve written some posts about it:

https://roobeedoo2.wordpress.com/?s=the+fourth+turning

rbd2

*/smokes whilst waiting…*

shining-twins

*/sparks up and offers light to others…*

tobacco-control-science

*/keeps on smoking and waiting…*

roob-x-kubrix

*/mental facepalm with rolling eyes…FFS, Clicky go give yourself a Song…*

Dunn and Dusted…

Sad news today, folks: Grandad has passed on to the great butchers shop in the sky…

*Knot 19, Clicky, he was 92…*

*/lights up and smokes… I ain’t panicking, gno… Well, it had to ‘appen, Clicky... Everybody goes eventually…*

*/nods sagely… That’s true… /sniffs… Ooh, smells like dinner’s nearly ready – fancy a Song, Clicky?*

 

Gawd ‘Elp Us… period

Just a month to go and Project Fear’s UK tour is in full flow. So far, we’ve been assured, a vote to leave the EU (pronounced ‘ew’) would result in warfamine, pestilence and the other one…

Brexit causes cancer
 

CLICKY: Have you seen this?

 

*/rolls eyes… well, 23rd June does fall within the star sign of ‘cancer’, Clicky.* 😉

So wrapped up in making us fear for the future, our esteemed Chancer of the Checkered Past seems to have missed a trick in the here and now…

Tampon Tax Headline
 

CLICKY: Bloody moron!

 

‘But in March the EU regulations were relaxed, allowing countries to extend the number of zero rates for VAT and therefore making it possible for the UK Government to scrap the tax.’

*Clicky, I know. The idea of actually demonstrating recent flexibility within the EU, to roughly half of the voting population, hasn’t occurred to those that wish us to remain…*

Shit a brick

*Ha! And that’s the only ‘follow through’ the Project Fear Mongers appear to be interested in*

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Extract from ‘A Family History for Ruth and Julia (Gawd ‘Elp Us!)’, a.k.a. ‘The Ma Papers’ by Judith Eileen Newton (formerly Shewan, née Packer)

Ann and Eileen shared everything including boyfriends. Because Ann was flighty, it was not unusual for her to have more than one boyfriend at a time, so confrontations were not rare.

The front door at 4 Wilson Grove was never locked; the family was so large that if you were to open the door to every member of the family, with all the comings and goings, you would never get any rest. The key was on a piece of string, hanging behind the letter box and you simply pulled it through to open the door.

Of course this meant that it was quite easy to do a bunk, so to speak, and the sheer of inhabitants made it virtually impossible for Grandad Alger to keep tabs on everybody. A great deal of shenanigans went on over the years, but everybody banded together and covered for each other.

The girls were quite strictly brought up with regards to virginity and wholesomeness. But, as we know, that really doesn’t make much difference – if the urge is there, we will find the opportunity.

I will add a note on growing up in those days. Although Nanny Alger was always pregnant Nanny P said that she and Ann knew nothing about sex. She said that nobody at school talked about it and certainly their Mother didn’t.

When she was in her early teens, Eileen didn’t even know about periods. One day she woke up and started to scream because she thought she was bleeding to death. Nanny Alger came up and said ‘hang on I will get you a sixpence’.

Intrigued? You will be.

‘Take this sixpence down the road to Mrs Johnson and she will tell you all about it and fix you up’. Nanny P duly went down to Mrs Johnson, who told her about the facts of life and gave her a bundle of rags with a length of bandage. The rags were wadded up and strung on the bandage, and the bandage was tied round the waist. There, you have a sanitary towel circa 1922.

What happened when you were heavy? Well, you had to wash them and hang them on the line. I know that on more than one occasion, when Nanny Packer was strapped for cash, I too had to use this method. But was never reduced to washing them – Dickie had no idea where his old clothes when to. Nanny P never did come to terms with a tampon.

On a political note, girls, do you realise that you have to pat VAT on sanitary wear? I have always believed that it was disgraceful. They should be free on the NHS or make them zero rated for VAT purposes; after all it is not our fault that we suffer this medical condition on a monthly basis. If one bled in an emergency room, one would get plastered for free after all. I once wrote to our MP to complain but got nowhere. Mind you I waited until the wrong MP was voted in. He wrote back saying, ‘I know, dear, I have the same problem.’

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in or out

*Oh, I’m voting ‘out’ – I think we’ve been tucked up enough already, Clicky. Now, why don’t give Dear Reader a Song?*

 

British Home Stories

This week the BHS bubble went pop.

*Yes, Click, I was familiar with the original store having grown up in the 70s, above the glass canopied market in Brixton. But the one I knew best was on Oxford Street during the 80s.*

*Ah, I think I know what game you’re playing Clicky! Juju and I used to call it ‘Fish’* 😀

Eddy

*Eddy… /rolls eyes…*

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Extract from ‘A Family History for Ruth and Julia (Gawd ‘Elp Us!)’, a.k.a. ‘The Ma Papers’ by Judith Eileen Newton (formerly Shewan, née Packer)

I remember Mary and Tub’s son Tony because I lived with Nanny and Poppy Alger, so hardly a day went by without some child or another visiting with their children. And, remember, there were still unmarried Alger children living at home.

Grandad Packer was still in Egypt, so Nanny Packer and I lived at 4 Wilson Grove with Nanny and Poppy Alger. Uncle Jim lived there because he was not married. Auntie Clare, too, because she was not married. Auntie Winnie, who was Auntie Clare’s friend and Agnes who was another, also lodged with us. Uncle Bernard lived there before he was married, so together with assorted cats, dogs, chickens, rats and bugs, you can imagine what a nightmare it was.

I did what every self respecting Packer (as I was then) would do and that was to watch, listen and learn. Some people without soul may call this being nosy, I ,on the other hand, prefer to call it ‘interested’.

Because I lived there, looking back on it now, I can see that I was incredibly spoiled. When the other grandkids came to visit, I always felt that I had the upper hand and by God I used it. Poppy Alger might have been theirs temporarily, but I knew he was mine and I made sure they knew it, horrible bitch that I was.

Poppy was a bully. He bullied his wife, his children, and he bullied his grandchildren. Not only did he bully, he hurt, physically. He would beat his sons and some say his wife. He kept a razor strop on the kitchen door to beat them with.

It was not unknown for him to wait until everybody was assembled for dinner or tea and then upend the whole table full of food for no reason other than he had woken up bad tempered. His argument was that he had paid for it, he could do what he liked with it. They were all scared of him.

By the time the grandkids came on the scene he had somewhat mellowed. By age? Perhaps, but Jim says it was because all the boys had rebelled and had all, at one time or another, belted him one with his own strop.

However, in the true tradition of a dyed in the wool bully, Poppy Algar thought he would find his grandchildren easier prey. He tried it with me but I hit him on the head with his own poker (so to speak) and he never touched me after that.

The visiting grandchildren, on the other hand, were petrified. Whilst the women were gossiped he would torment the children. He would pinch the pads of their fingers, dig them, even put the poker in the fire till it glowed and threaten to burn them with it. When the grandkids cried he would call their mums and say, “Take your squalling kids back home to the suburbs. They’ve got no backbone.”

Nice man, huh? And believe me I have not used poetic licence – he really did those things. So the kids were not only scared of him, they were scared of me too. It felt kinda good actually.

When Tony came to visit, he was perfect fodder for Poppy Alger’s little games. Tall and skinny with glasses, Tony acted like a frightened rabbit and Poppy went to town on him. We both thought him weird. What his adolescent years were like I don’t know because Grandad Packer had returned from Egypt and we had moved into our new home.

Next thing I know, Tony is getting married to a very pretty girl called Maureen. It must have been in the 50s because I was about seven or eight when we attended the wedding. It was a big do with all the trimmings and they both lived happily ever after.

NO NO NO! What do you expect from our family?

One day, Mary came to our house in tears (watch, listen and learn). It seems that Maureen’s Mum had a big house in Brockley, and as immigration had just starting in a big way, had let out rooms to newly arrived West Indians. Anyway, during the course of visiting her mum, Maureen decided to test the sleeping accommodation (while a lodger was still in residence) and had gone and gotten herself impregnated. You can’t hide that for long; divorce ensued.

History lesson: when I was a kid there were no black faces. Then in the 50s, everybody had jobs but there were not enough people to go round, so the Government did a massive recruitment drive in the West Indies. They gave assisted passage to the UK, with guaranteed jobs in the NHS, on the buses, trains and the Underground. I had never seen a black person until I was about 10. When I did, I ran and hid because I was frightened.

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That’s enough for now, Clicky… /stretches… I’m off upstairs now. Thoughtful Man wants to watch ‘X Men: The Last Stand’ – we’re having a bit of a fest… Wanna choose the Song to end on?