With everyone stuck at home, I’m enjoying the descriptions of domestic life in my Nan’s memoirs. She talks of many things in her daily life as she raised three boys under four. This excerpt is from the time when she was living in a flat within a large country house called Feldemore in Surrey, which was bought by the Admiralty for employees of the Royal Observatory, where my grandad then worked. She only had two boys at that point: my uncle Phil and my dad Neil.
“Life at Feldemore was very pleasant and I enjoyed looking after the two babies. With my next door neighbour Anne’s help, it took off some of the pressures as domesticity was quite a lengthy process – not like it is nowadays with washing machines, liquidisers, disposable nappies, fridges and freezers; although I did get a small fridge with my maternity allowance when Neil was born.
I was in seventh heaven with this fridge as previously one had to boil milk to stop it from going off and find cold parts of the house, or flat, to keep the food as fresh as possible. When they were both babies and when they were weaned, all food was sieved, and later mashed and moistened with vegetable extract, or Marmite, to make it palatable. Custard or milk puddings were made from scratch – no convenient baby foods or packets then. No pre-made mousses or yoghurts then either so, you see, a good deal of time was spent preparing food, as well as washing, which was all done by hand. I did have an electric copper in which the babies’ nappies were boiled periodically to keep them white. Otherwise, they were done by hand every day.
Fortunately, they were potty trained fairly early – at least during the day, but nappies were on the agenda for nearly five years to a greater or lesser degree.
I spent the afternoons taking the boys out for walks, particularly when both of them were toddling and the sleeping routines were not quite so stringent. The grounds of Feldemore were worth exploring and there were lots of pathways between the rhododendron and azalea bushes, which were magnificent in springtime, the area being mainly sandstone and the right sort of ground for these flowers. It was part of the greensand ridge, not far from the chalk of the North Downs.
I spent some snatches of time gardening as we had a little allotment in the grounds by the pathway leading to the gates, where we grew beans, greenstuff and salad, and kept some chickens. You can imagine there was plenty of manure with which to feed the crops, particularly making chicken manure liquid by letting the rain water wash over the manure in a large, disused bath, which had previously been used for bathing in front of the fire and which we found somewhere in the grounds. The chickens were prolific layers I remember and we made a bit of money selling the excess eggs. Every little bit counted then.
Image from Pixabay