I often look back over my 90 odd years, and think about ‘The good old days’ – but were they all good? Yes, you could borrow a cup of sugar from a neighbour if you ran out, or cadge a couple of shillings for the gas meter if you were short, but what about the downside? What about the yearly epidemics of polio before the Polio Vaccine started to save our children from years of misery or death? And being plagued by flies all summer, uselessly attacked with those awful yellow flypapers because there were always more flies being hatched? Or in the absence of fridges, the milk going sour by the end of the day and the butter always swimming in its dish?
My middle sister missed having a place at the local grammar school, Central Foundation School for Girls (CFS), because the Junior County scholarship she won at 11 didn’t come with a grant for the compulsory uniform my parents were too poor to buy. Then when she won a supplementary scholarship with a grant for uniform in 1939, WW2 broke out. Our evacuation billet was awful and we came home at Christmas to find there were no grammar schools in London. She left school to become a shorthand typist instead of the doctor she’d hoped to become.
And was it OK for the porters in Spitalfields market as I walked through on my way to CFS carrying my cello to make crude remarks about where I might place it? And have to thread my way between piles of rotting vegetables and horse droppings while they whistled and catcalled?
Lots of good things – the wonderful Whitechapel library, free entrance to the National Gallery, weekly visits to the cinema whatever was showing.Spitalfields Market is now tarted up with lots of different stalls and eateries. Just a Sculpture of a pear and a fig to remind you there was once a thriving Wholesale Fruit and Vegetable market there.
But its swings and roundabouts – ain’t it?
Many thanks to all of you who wished me Many Happy Returns on my 90th birthday on October 8th and wrote saying they were enjoying my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’. You’ll pleased to hear that I’m steaming ahead with my sequel ’25 Houses’.