Having written my introduction last month I began considering just how much things had changed since I left Kingsley. In fact,when I got down to it, I was actually very surprised just how much life had changed since my early childhood. The memory is an amazing thing as the period between my earliest memories and the present doesn’t actually feel the sixty two or three years that, in fact, it is.
Daily life is undoubtedly very different, attitudes have changed dramatically and people’s expectations are much greater than in those days. Travel has opened up the world to most people whereas back then many country folk spent most of their lives in or around the village of their birth.
It seems to me that Mr. Cameron’s present idea of The Big Society actually existed in Kingsley, it probably still does. People did help one another, they had time to stop and chat. If a person was ill friends and neighbours did the weekly shopping for them and other tasks as required. The sense of community was great, the Church played a much greater part in people’s lives than it does today and with the pub, school and shop, formed the hubs of village life. Women, in general terms, in Kingsley did not have full time jobs, they stayed at home and looked after the family. Some had part time positions, usually cleaning jobs, and there were always the odd seasonal agricultural jobs. These included picking up potatoes and hop picking.
After the war times were tough, rationing was still in place but people were both resilient and inventive, they had to be. The welfare state was nothing like it is today. The nanny state, as we know it, had yet to be conceived and political correctness had yet to be invented. Everybody grew their own vegetables and often fruit as well. Men went shooting pigeons and ferreting rabbits in order to supplement the meat rations which were very small. Plover and moor hens eggs were collected in season. There were then large flocks of peewits or green plovers and they nested in the fields around the Sports Hall on both sides of the road. Those fields then belonged to Old Park Farm. Chickens were kept for eggs by lots of village people but a chicken for the table was rare being confined to high days and holidays.
Both rabbits and hares were snared and almost all of the animal was eaten. A rabbit would be skinned completely and this included it’s head. As children there was much competition between my brothers and I for the head which included the brains and the tongue. Today, I suspect,most children would turn their noses up at such delicacies!! I know my two daughters would have done when they were young. Rabbits are still sold in butchers shops but it is many years since I have seen one with its head still on. They do still sell them like this in rural France.
As children in Kingsley, our freedom was much greater than children enjoy today. After reaching school age groups of us would pursue many pastimes which are now illegal, ( egg collecting ), and would have with us all manner of items that would not be allowed today. Knives, catapults, bows and arrows, spears and air rifles. It was common place for groups of us to leave home after breakfast and be gone all day until tea time in the evening We either took a snack with us or didn’t bother. Everybody knew each other within the village and we had a resident village Policeman who lived in the community with his family. Because travel was rare a stranger stood out like a sore thumb. I suppose paedophiles existed in those days but we knew nothing of them and there were never any cases in or around Kingsley. Murder and armed robbery were rare. A murder was front page news and the death penalty still existed. In short Kingsley was a very safe place for children to grow up in. Of course, Kingsley is the centre of the writings to follow, but the reader should be aware, that as children we travelled quite long distances during our daily pursuits. We travelled as far as Headley, Oakhanger, Worldham, Wyck, Binsted and Buckshorn Oak. These places were reached on foot and always for a reason, we did not go to any of them unless there was an objective. The reasons for such excursions were various and diverse and included mushrooming, chestnutting, hazelnutting, ferreting, primrosing, blackberrying, bluebelling, birds nesting, collecting hazel poles for bows and spears, fishing, shooting and scrumping. All was governed by the season and what was available at the time. Playing soldiers and cowboys and Indians also featured high on our lists of essential out of school pastimes. These were, after all, our daily occupations as toys were scarce and entertainment had to be made.
I have, in this offering, endeavoured to provide a broad overview and to set the scene for what is to follow. Contained within this edition is a flavour of how things were but I will endeavour to put a little more meat on the bones in future. Next month I will start with life in The Straits as it was then, the people who lived there and the things they did.