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On dry land

January 11, 2014

We moved from the houseboat in 1962.  It was to be a difficult time for us all.  Although us children were registered and my mother claimed family allowance; my parents had never married and had not paid income tax or rates.  Moving into a house bought many comforts and security such as running water, electricity and a garden where my mother could grow fruit and vegetables.  However, it represented imprisonment to my father, so he remained on the river alone and we did not see him until many years later.

The tiny cottage was about 3 miles away in a village called Warsash.  It had no mod cons and the toilet was at the end of a very long garden. My mother did not have the means to improve things so it was in many respects ‘out of the frying pan and into the fire.’

We enjoyed the instant lights but the cost was more than my mother expected.  Making sure we had enough shillings became my task and I quickly learned how to beg and borrow and managed to fall short of stealing so that we could at least see to eat our tea – TV was out of the question for a while yet.

My mother found work in a nearby strawberry field during the summer and in the winter she did what she could to make ends meet. The strawberries grown in the area were famous.  They were sent to Wimbledon and London Fruit markets from the railway station at Swanwick a village nearby. When old enough we  all worked in the fields to earn a few shillings  pocket money. I still looked after the little ones, although the elder of my two sisters was now able to share the responsibility and I felt less alone.

Although times were hard, there were some advantages to living in a larger community on land .  My sisters and I joined a ballet dancing class.  My little brother, now 2 years old would come along and wait at the back of the hall while we danced and imagined becoming Margot Fontaine.  Sadly after a few weeks it was a luxury we could no longer afford, it was fun while it lasted and to this day we still tease my brother about his perfect petit jeté.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 12, 2014 12:43 pm

    Helen – I really love reading these excerpts from your childhood. When I was a baby, my mum used to work as a strawberry picker at the farm behind our house in East Boldre in the New Forest. Like many places along that coast, the fruit and veg benefitted from the refracted light off the sea and the milder climate. As a baby in my pram, I have no idea about the strawberries, but my mum told me they were sent all over the place, as they were sweet and early. Funnily enough, all these years later, I look forward to my birthday month (May) as it symbolises the start of the asparagus and strawberry seasons 🙂

    • January 12, 2014 1:09 pm

      Yes! Sent Wimbledon and sold for huge amounts!! it was slave labour albeit a very beautiful product and for a very short and pleasant season …. Thank you for for your kind comments and support xx

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