It is now (February 2009) more than ten years since I finished my story. Re-reading it and thinking a bit about my life and times, mostly in the 20th century, I realise I have been very fortunate, in many respects.
The 20th century has been one of very rapid progress, perhaps not all good. The two World Wars, of necessity, made us a bit more inventive to help us survive and enable us to be able to live the lives we lead now. It saw the rise and fall of Communism in the USSR, and has seen the break up of the British Empire and the exploration of space.
In the year I was born (1917) we were at war with Germany. That influenced the course my life would follow, as I lost my father when I was only 14 months old and never knew what it was like to have father, but I was fortunate in having loving and caring grandparents on both sides of the family. Nostalgia has rose-tinted spectacles and we are inclined to remember the good things and forget the bad. The first tragedy I can remember was the National strike in 1926, although it didn't affect me directly. The striking miners from West Fife came to the East Neuk, with their bands, begging for money. Money, which the local fisher folk could ill afford, but I’m sure they would support them as best they could. My schooldays were, I think, amongst the best of my life. I enjoyed school, and, although not a very good student, managed to keep up with the others and pass my exams.
It’s funny the sort of things that you remember about your youth. My Granny was an excellent cook I have spoken in an earlier Chapter about her cooking) and the food she produced was not only good and wholesome. She was venturesome too, cooking offal, like liver, sweetbread, kidney, all of which I thoroughly enjoyed. There were two items I thought I didn't like- potted head or potted hough and tripe. Tripe, I am still not very fond of it, but I now enjoy potted head or hough. One afternoon there were friends in for ‘high tea’, potted head was on the menu, of course I wasn’t given any, but the little girl of the family friends, about my own age, was given some and that made me want some too. I got some and discovered that I really liked it and have enjoyed it ever since.
In those early days the radio, or wireless as it was called then, was in its infancy. I can recollect sitting with headphones, listening to the local Philharmonic Society, Anstruther when it was broadcast. My mother was a member. Our first proper wireless was a Cossor five valve, screen grid with a loudspeaker, powered by two or three batteries. A large 120 volt dry battery, a grid bias battery, (sometimes the gridbias was part of the larger one), then the accumulator, a wet battery which required to be recharged every two or three weeks. My favourite musical programs were Henry Hall and his orchestra and, from Radio Luxemburgh on a Saturday night, Jack Jackson with his cat, Tiddles.!
I think I worried a bit when my mother remarried. I couldn’t imagine life with a ‘strange’ man in the family. Things worked out OK and my Mum and her new husband continued to live with her parents, where my stepsister, Wilma, was born. Eventually they got a house of their own. I stayed put, -- after all, that was the only home I knew and loved and I also continued to visit my father’s family at the farm which was like a second home to me. I now consider what a good upbringing I had, living in in a small fishing village where most of the children were not nearly as fortunate as I was, plus the facility to go and live on a farm at holiday time.
My biggest worry was trying to get a job when I left High School, as I have already told you, I must have come down in my exam to enter the banking profession as I failed to get a post, despite my grandfather’s business being good customers of the bank in question. String pulling probably didn’t work in those days. At that time jobs were hard to come by. I suppose I could have got a job as an apprentice joiner, carpenter or engineer in the family boatyard, but I cannot remember that ever being thought of as an option, for whatever reason.
I suppose I would be about
15 or 16 when I met Elspeth. Our courtship, if it can be called that, was quite
innocent. I can recollect that on a Sunday evening the youth of the area gathered in Shore Street, Anstruther and
promenaded back and forth in little, separate, groups of boys and girls. I
suppose many a romance started then. We had no sex education in those days,
but, after puberty, it seems to be a law of nature that certain members of
opposite sexes are attracted to each other. That certainly must have been the
case with Elspeth and I, even although we didn’t appreciate the reasons for the
attraction at the time.
Some Childhood Games
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