Friday, 12 November 2010
Living in the past
Is anyone following the new adventures of Ruth, Alex and Peter in the Edwardian Farm, filmed at Morwllham Quay in Devon? I loved the Victorian Farm too, which was filmed at Acton Scott, in Shropshire. If you check back to an April posting this year, you will get the photos from when we visited it on my birthday. Not forgetting Tales from the Green Valley which I have on DVD and could watch over and over again and never tire of it. Everything they did just felt so right to me, so familiar. I have even used a recipe using Elderflowers (where they used leaf buds) for a cream for dry, work-worn hands for many many years. The recipe came from my cherished copy of Farmhouse Fare published in the 1970s, but this recipe obviously has links back hundreds of years.
I think I was born backwards-thinking. I have always loved history, always been drawn to the past. I'm not very good with reality.
I can remember at secondary school, envying the people in the dunces class, as they did wonderful practical things like spinning and weaving. . .
If I was suddenly plonked back in time, I would like to think I could cope: that I would soon learn to use a proper bread oven, to manage by candlelight and oil lamps (I can still remember how to trim a wick from tending the Hurricane Lamp in childhood. . .) Likewise doing the washing in what my mum called the "copper" and putting the clothes through a mangle. I still scrub my kitchen floor with a bucket and scrubbing brush. I can darn and quilt and mend and re-use with the best of them. I think I would struggle with wearing a sit-up-and-beg corset though!!! and the first week or two without a computer would be hard, until the reliance faded.
In the spring, I often put in anything up to 8 hours a day in the garden. I can handle horses from a lifetime with them. I can pluck and dress a chicken and skin a rabbit. We have raised bottle-fed lambs here in the past and still have a small flock on tack. Milking might be a challenge at first, and the ailments of ruminents, but I have made butter and a simple "Crowdie" cheese, and the Still Room has long held a fascination for me.
I can mend leather equipment (as in tack), make simple herbal remedies, recognize any wild flowers as I have loved them since I was in infants school, butcher a lamb carcase, make sausages and faggots. I have cooked from scratch all my life and made my own bread for 30 years now. I have always made my own jams, jellies, chutneys, pickles and preserves. I can spin, knit, crochet and embroider. I would like to think I could step back in time without to many challenges.
Of course, these programmes don't show the dark side of living in the past - the infant mortality, the loss of life from infection and contagion, the days before surgery, the poverty, the starvation, the old folks ending in the Workhouse in Victorian times, the sheer desperation of slum families in the cities, the homeless families travelling from farm to farm begging for a day's work, a meal of fat bacon and taties, and permission to sleep in the barn overnight.
But they inspire me to learn more, to gain more knowledge, more skills, and to have a deeper understanding of how my ancestors lived - my grandparents were Victorians, so that period in time seems so close to me . . .