Sunday, 29 August 2010

Tales My Mummy Told Me

After the photographs, I thought should come a tale or two.  I have posted some, if not all, of these before, so sorry if longtime followers get a déjà vu  view feeling.

Ink, school and toilet tales

Because Dorrie had very long hair, worn sometimes in plaits, the boy sitting behind her in class used to take great delight in dipping the end of one of these into the inkwell, and flicking it at her frilly, white, starched apron.

The resulting mess brought scoldings galore from Ada, who was busy enough washing for her large family, as well as others, without this added hassle. (After being widowed, Ada eked out her money by taking in washing, as her Mother, Sarah had done before her.)

Since the Sunday joint's leftover cold cuts solved the problem of getting dinner  ready,  washing day was always Monday.  With the copper boiler in the scullery doing sterling service all day, not to mention bars of soap, washboard, blue bag and starch,  Mum remembered Gran always being less than cheerful(!) at the end of yet another steamy, marathon washing session. . .

Children at school with Dorrie sometimes took their lunch with them, like they do now,  but I don't know that she did, as she lived close enough to go home lunchtime. Anyhow, one of the boys earned the name 'Buppy-Shoog-shoog'  because of his predilection for  bread and butter sprinkled with sugar, for his sandwiches. Dorrie pleaded with her mum to do the same for her, but Ada was firm - 'No such rubbish for you, my girl.'

I do believe the boy's real name was Horace Bumpstead, as many years later, Mum recognised him, working as a conductor on the buses in Portsmouth, and pointed him out to me.  A small, insignificant little man, with old fashioned, round, wire framed glasses, slightly pot bellied (no doubt due to all those sugar sarnies) and what you might call a 'prunes and prisms' mouth - i.e., tiny and puckered. He stammered a bit, and used to repeat everything more than once in a hesitant way, his voice rather high and squeaky, but rusty sounding at the same time. In fact, just as you might expect one named Horace Bumpstead to sound.

I've mentioned elsewhere the 'piano game' Mum played with the meat skewers, but another of her favourites was to take a candle into the outside loo, (don't think there was an indoor one too - there wasn't)  drop gouts of  hot wax onto her hand (painful - I once tried it too) then 'operate' with a blunt knife to remove them.

The earliest memory I have of this loo is a bit traumatic, as I managed to bolt myself in, even though I'd been told not to,  then couldn't work the bolt properly to get back out… Not too disastrous, as the green -or was it brown?-, wooden plank door had a hole right through where the latch was, as well as decorative openings across its top, so a passing grown up easily heard my panic-stricken pleas for help, and gave calm instructions as to how I might get out.

The wooden seat went from side to side of the back wall, and the round hole must have had chinaware below it, but my memory doesn't stretch that far. I was too small to worry about the mechanics of the thing. The water tank was fixed on brackets high on the back wall.  Its chain was long and swinging, and loo paper was squares of newspapers, cut up and threaded onto a loop of string hanging from a hook on the side wall. 

My cousin, Peggy remembered that, as a child, there  were occasionally squares of tissue paper instead, if  our Auntie Glad had brought home some of the sheets used as packing for the fabrics delivered to the factory where she worked.

The well scrubbed, wooden seat was warmly comforting to sit on - about the only thing in the loo that was, as howling draughts were the norm on chilly days. It's  sad, when the toilet was updated in later years, that this seat met its demise in favour  of a more modern, much chillier version...

Monday Bank Holiday. I must add a little more for the benefit of any late comers - Gran's loo was a proper, brick built edifice adjoining the kitchen and attached to its mirror image for the house next door. No thunder box cans to empty! I might have known even the mention of a loo would dredge up some questionable reminiscences in the comments box !



  1. Funny memories Penny. Specially about the outside Loo. We had these at beach houses we stayed at. Occasionly the 'nightcart man' would come around in the dead of night and swap over the cans to take the full one away to empty. My Mum was sitting on the loo in the dark one night when he called. She was surprised!

  2. Have you read 'The Specialist' by Charles Sale? I think you'd enjoy it.

  3. We had an outside loo when I was very young. I remember the thing got emptied once a week, by men in blue overalls and elbow-length rubber gloves. Apparently, before my time, the bucket was emptied in trenches across the garden, topped with grass mowings and filled in. Now that's recycling!

  4. jinksy - thanks for these stories. i love to hear my mum tell of the days when she was a little girl in stretford, (and also knutsford when she was evacuated). thinking of the very great differences in experience between the generations is always eye-opening! particularly the respective toilet experiences!!! steven

  5. I've never lived with an 'outdoor loo'...but have visited a few!

  6. In the Canadian context, that's a luxurious outdoor loo with water and porcelain bowl.

  7. I got lost in this story of recollection Jinsky.
    More please

  8. And loo paper threaded on string? Now, that's posh too, Jinksy! I also remember well the Izal paper from school and elsewhere that could double nicely as sandpaper!

  9. How well I remember those loo seats, well-scrubbed - and the squares of newspaper - or tissue paper if we were having visitors!

  10. Oh Jinksy, life was the same in Germany too, I recognise those loos. Outdoors, insanitary, as I recall, smelly (there was a pit under my grandads loo), cold and draughty, scary at night, because you had to cross the yard.

    Horace Bumpstead? You made that one, go on, admit it!

  11. bother, there's an 'up' missing.

  12. I will now lower the tone of this parcel of reminiscences.
    I remember an M-way Services loo with the following inscription.
    "This toilet is no use at all.
    The seat is too high. The hole is too small"
    and underneath, where else -
    "To that there is but one retort.
    Your botty's too big, and your legs are too short."

    Only it didn't say "botty" - but this is a refined Blog, Jinksy, innit?

  13. I'll take a lead from Doctor FTSE and reply in verse, too.

    This little ditty was penned by Steven Smith, Australia ...

    The thunder-box for those of us too young to ever know,
    Is the olden day equivalent of the Loo.
    The only difference is you cannot flush it when you go,
    So until it's full the contents sit and stew.

    Forewarning: this isn't going to become a habit!

  14. You can't beat those days of the thunder box cold, windy and smelly i do remember us kids calling the people who emptied the pan as the "dunny man". Dipping pig tails in the ink wells and making a mess all over yourself and everything else at the same time. I remember them so well.

  15. Alright! Anyone remember this story about George Washington. In return for never telling a lie, his Dad said "George, I will never use corporal punishment on you."
    Came the day when for a lark, little George pushed the privvy (a wooden shack at the garden end) into the river - and was later much surprised when Dad asked him "George. Did you tip the privvy into the river?"
    "I cannot lie, Daddy. Yes, it was me." Whereupon Dad turned little George over on his knee and gave him a good thrashing.
    "But Daddy, I didn't lie, and you said you'd never hit me!"
    "George . . . I was USING THE PRIVVY . . . . "

  16. Jinksy,
    Thanks for the double-limerick you left on the PiR blog. I've now provided the teacher with her escape route.

    ps- Your new "alias jinksy" link doesn't seem to be working.

  17. Horace Bumpstead... if that is true... poor boy! Love these stories (again a reminder I should write down the stories of my mother before it is too late).


  18. I think this is wonderful. One doesn't often encounter fond reminiscences concerning toilets (at least, this one doesn't) and I think there should be more of them. I'll get to work on it soon :-)

    No, seriously, this WAS wonderful. The subject matter wouldn't seem to lend itself to sighs of melancholy, but it does, somehow. Nicely done.

  19. Oh my, I think you are already aware I too, am very familiar with an out-door loo (well, in my childhood, that is). Thanks for making me smile. I recall, in winter, when one of us kids needed to "go", one of us was sent out to hold the torch for the other, and wait until they were "done". There were lots of spiders down there, and my big bruv' was horrible, putting his fingers over the torch beam, to shine what looked like a giant spider through the door!

  20. It doesn't seem to matter what you write about, outdoor loos and all, and you keep gaining followers, day by day by day by day....

  21. lawd! my adoptive mom's family has a farm in Arkansas, and for many years they had an outhouse - *shudder* - hot as hell in the summer and cold as hell (okay, can't be both but what the hell *laughing*) in the winter . . . and the smell - and the sounds - and the the ..gawd!

    Love the description of Bumpstead! Esp his mouth!

  22. I used to do that same trick with a candle when I was a kid!

  23. Penny, love the delightful walk down memory lane. I have seen the bricked in loo's that were attached outback to the house, in movies. They didn't have that style in Canada. Thanks again. Lyn

  24. Wonderful stories... I can just imagine poor panic-stricken Jinsky trapped in the loo..

  25. My childhood "Loo" (called an outhouse where I come from) still resides behind the elderberry bushes. I have lived in the house I was born in for 60 years. The photo of the outhouse is on the banner of my blog, although most people think it's "just a photo", it is as real as I.

    Only there was no porcelain pot beneath the seat, rather only a long and deep hole as dug by my father, the bottom of this hole was leeched into the base of the creek by long leach pipes through the soil.

    My memories are of cold winds in the winter and the ever present wasp nests inside, in the summer.

    One actually "pooped at their own risk" back then.


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