Keeping Warm in the 1950s

Many of you are currently sweltering in the Northern heat, while I look for ways of keeping warm down here in New Zealand. Yesterday, while dressed in three layers and wearing thick socks, I thought about my childhood. Were the winters really as cold then as they appear now? The aging process has possibly increased my awareness  of the cold.

I grew up in an old wooden house with its share of places for the drafts to creep in, but  I don’t remember being cold at home. Maybe during the day we kept warm busy playing vigorously outside. The evenings inside seemed to radiate warmth, unless I’ve forgotten the cold times.

Our home had a large room we called the kitchen, a bit like a modern house with kitchen, dining room and lounge sharing an open space. The cooking happened in the kitchen on a gas stove and oven. Wedged between the stove and the hot water cupboard, a small fire place, a chip heater, burned all day, heating both the water in the adjacent cupboard and the whole room.

I loved chopping the kindling for the kitchen fire once old enough to be trusted to not chop off too many fingers. The tiny fireplace churned its way through firewood, coal and carbonettes and food scraps after meals.

Not only the warmth from the fire that filled those winter evenings. The whole family gathered, talking, reading, playing cards and board games and listening to the big old radio in the corner, creating a room of family warmth. At bedtime we kids trundled off to bed with a hot water bottle, taking the evening’s warmth with us.

The fire died down over night, but by the time we got up in the morning either Mum or Dad had re-lit it, enabling us to eat our breakfast at the big table in warmth.

Snow rarely falls in the part of New Zealand I live in, but we did experience heavy white frosts during winter months, so the nights were cold. Electricity was never used to heat our home in the 50s, so we maintained a good supply of wood and coal.

Your childhood winters no doubt differed from mine, depending on the part of the world you live in and the era of your childhood.

I sit here in the warmth of my home this morning, heated by gas, thinking about the sunshine that will arrive back here in a few months from now.

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Guilty of Neglect

The lovely ladies dressed in their swimwear stared at me from the screen, chiding me for my neglect.

“You call yourself a writer,” they said in their soft, feminine voices. “You encourage others to write daily. Where have you been?”

“I have been writing,” I said, “just not here.

Disappointment oozed from their silent faces “Your blog was part of the bargain,” thy reminded me, “part of your daily writing practice commitment.”

“I know, I know,” I replied, ‘but I’ve had other writing priorities this month.”

I lowered my eyes in shame at neglecting the lovely ladies who lent me their image. They’ve stared at me each day from my home page, inviting me into the water, trying to entice me into my own writing space. I owe the ladies more attention. So, here I am, ready once more to write the stories of ordinary people. I’ve been away too long.

A Kiss to Make it Better

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Grazed knees and kids used to go together. Childhood should be an active time, a time of exploration and in such an environment kids expect cuts and bruises. They become an inevitable part of growing up.

I remember my childhood days from the 1950s when we wore grazed knees with pride. Sure, becoming brave enough not to cry took practice and the sight of blood made our lips tremble and tears well in our eyes. But we knew where to find the instant cure.

We’d rush inside, wailing about our misfortune, seeking some love and comfort more than any medical attention. Mum would clean our knee, dab it dry with a soft cloth and say, ‘There, now let me kiss it better.’

This involved Mum raising her forefinger to her lips, placing a kiss upon her finger in a display of affection and placing that kiss on our grazed knee, or whatever other part of the body had been injured. Tears were washed from our face and we enjoyed a quick cuddle, before being sent outside to play again.

We weren’t encouraged to dwell on our minor misfortune or the sight of blood. My father made a big thing about the need for blood and he pointed out mine was nice and red, a healthy sign.

I feel sad today when I watch kids turning small grazes into major catastrophes. We live in a plaster or band-aid world. At the mere pinprick of blood many kids fall apart at the seams and limp off to get the attention they crave. A huge manufacturing industry has developed, producing colourful kid like plasters to protect the tiny cut or injury. Having received the demanded plaster, many kids continue with a huge attention seeking display, acting like a wounded soldier, showing off their covered injury, no matter how small it may be.

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Kids are resilient and bounce back. They don’t need mollycoddling. Scratches, small cuts and grazes heal quickly with the wound being cleaned, a quick dose of parental love and lots of fresh air.

I’m so glad I grew up in a home with minimal items in the first aid cabinet. Expectations were different. A quick clean up, a cuddle and a kiss to make it better were usually all we needed.

A Writer in Training

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In the 1960s competitive swimming took over my life. We only had an outdoor pool, so water training took place during the summer months. That didn’t mean we allowed our fitness to lay idle during the winter. Instead we participated in an intense land programme to maintain our fitness and strength in the months we were out of the water. Our endeavour to become the best competitor possible was a year round commitment.

Writing is the same. We go through the same year round process as any competitive sports person. In order to maintain our writing fitness we need to practice writing, even when we’re not working on something important. Whether this takes the form of blogging, journal writing or merely playing around with words in other ways, we need to keep our brain conditioned to enable it  to serve us well.

And, just like an athlete, we need to warm up before our daily output. While some writers say they can take the plunge and dive straight into a new piece, I wonder if they’ve ever considered how much better their writing may be by doing a little warm-up writing first.

Then, there’s a nutritious diet giving the energy to train and compete. Good writers remember to feed themselves regularly with the written words of others, with good conversation and by getting out and about to experience life away from the computer.

Most athletes have a coach to guide them on their way to success. A writer gathers up trusted friends and other writers, those who understand. These could be blog buddies, writing group buddies or others in the writing and publishing world. All writers need to be told when they’re on the right path and when they’re straying from it.

Finally, athlete’s burn out if they work too hard without rest. Not only do they need to give their muscles time to adapt to new work loads, they also need regular sleep to refresh them from one training session to another. So it is with writers. Too much writing without regular rest and time for recovery can result in stale ideas and lack of enthusiasm.

So come on writers, we’re all athlete’s really and need to make sure we’re on the best training programme we can cope with. What sort of writing programme do you participate in? How do you keep the writer within you conditioned and maintained? Practice may not make perfect but it can certainly make the writing process easier.