Firewood and Batter Bits.

Firewood and Batter Bits.
I’ve copied as best I can, this wonderful conversation between Mark Powell and Philip Amies on Twitter, replying to my post, ‘Documenting the Domestic,  what’s your story:

Mark Powell:  Our family wasn't poor but lived in an old cottage with only an open fire for heating. In the 1960s my mother used to collect fallen firewood using my pram as wheelbarrow. She still sat by an open wood fire in her last winter (2013/14), still didn't have central heating.
Favourite vegetable: broad bean tops (plucked out to deter blackfly) closely followed by broad beans, both with parsley sauce. Favourite treat in 1970s: 'batter bits' from the chip shop.
1970s memories that would give H&S nightmares today: Flicking mercury around like miniature footballs. Getting teenagers to demolish asbestos barns. Shotgun lent against many barn walls. Broken light switches that gave you a jolt if you fumbled for them in the dark.

Philip Amies: yes, organophosphate sheep dipping as a kid, jeans drenched in it, old tractor saw blades belt driven with no guards, no roll bar on tractors, loaded gun propped up in kitchen, also fun, loading hay with pitchforks and community, poor and sort of happy if aching and blistered.

Mark Powell: I remember a smallholder pulling a stump with chain in top-link holes rather drawbar (no roll bar on tractor). It was better angled pull but he knew it was slightly risky. At least he had the experience to know the risk and was judging it. Not sure I would do it though.

Philip Amies: yes we had a big old tractor which was used for that, I had a pal who had a quarry mate in Somerset so they used explosives on stumps, he told me one flew over their head a field away, limestone obviously needed a bigger charge than a stump!
How we survived, climbing down from hay barn on the spiked elevator was another horror, mind you I had safety around bull, and holes in hay stack drilled in to me, I think they were better at teaching you to think, look, and did make it clear where danger existed.

Mark Powell: As a kid, planting runner beans on a 'planter' behind a Fordson Major. Farmer noticed I was snacking on the beans. They were 'dressed' with pesticide. He showed me how to induce vomiting with finger at back of throat. Got the rest of field planted and received pocket money.

Philip Amies: As a kid had to drive tractor for hay making, neighbouring farmer also had me and brother come to help with his harvest, he paid me and gave us a great tea, I found out after I had let the clutch out suddenly and he had fallen off hay trailer, so kind he did not want me to know
  
Joanne B Kaar:  who did most of the cooking when you were younger? Were there any indoor house chores you or your siblings had to do? Who made breakfast? When was bed time?

Philip Amies: My mother would not allow you in the kitchen, father was a builder / carpenter and he did garden jobs, mum cooked, cleaned, made clothes, and did book keeping. She was born in 1924, he was born 1914, hence having a much older brother.
I had less chores than my brother & sister had, I was born in a rather different time and my parents had mellowed and relaxed. I did get taught how to use tools, and had a little play part of garden, and built my own little brick wall. I mainly ran about collecting fossils bugs
Bed time was very strict when I was little, and early, but I sneakered a torch to read under covers, as a teenager I stayed up watching all sorts of TV I should not have done! A mix of discipline and freedom.

Mark Powell: My mother did almost all of the cooking. We didn't have many indoor chores that I can remember: helping lay table and tidying room. I knew how to wash up, can't remember whether I did! Bedtime for ages was 9 pm, can't remember what age.

Philil Amies:  9pm for me for a long time, I did help with drying and putting away, setting table, and your room had to be tidied up, sitting in front of TV watching the comedy shows of day or reading was main activity in evening, school homework was not mentioned by parents.
My mother spent the war in Nazi occupied Brussels and father was Dunkirk & D-day, I think both felt if you could have a bit of peace and pleasure that was worth a lot, I think they wanted childhood to not be all about having to do things, father did his first farm work at 5.
feeding chickens on a farm, he had known hardship in the depression, my grandfather was a miner out in general strike, my dad did not want we working as a kid.
My dad did not like living in a town, I guess if we had been in country as his childhood had been we would have done more practical things, we did when we used to go and stay with them, fruit picking in orchard etc

Joanne B Kaar: Which garments did your mum make? Seeing /knitting . Were they for all the family? Was that unusual at that time, or were all mums doing similar where you lived? Did you like the garments made for you ?

Philip Amies: She was skilled and made her dresses, using bought patterns, she and my grandmother knitted jumpers. Less clothes made for me, but hand me downs were the norm.
She had a singer sowing machine, treadle wheel then electric. Most food made from ingredients, pies, cakes, she was Flemish so pig head cooking for brawn was not normal at time!

Mark Powell: Most clothes were bought from shops (school/best)/jumble sales (scruff). I will take a photo another day of a home-made shopping bag, 1970s nylon material, still going strong!


Philip Amies: we had those canvas rucksacks for school, bomb proof, and cycling in snorkel parka, tiny field of view, not as deadly as chopper bikes, which I did not have.
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Click here for Philip Amies on Twitter: Naturalist living at Holme, Norfolk, birds, botany, nature. Retired land manager, maintain interest in ecological land use. Historical ecology and geology.


Click here for Mark Powell on Twitter: Lichens. Anyone with a hand lens can make discoveries. Add a microscope and a couple of chemicals and you can help rewrite the books. Mark featured in BBC Gardeners' World, talking about lichens. You can watch it here: