Thursday, March 10, 2011

Caught up in the past

I've been so taken up by the process of blogging my father's wartime letters that I find myself adopting his style of delivery on occasion, although this is not in fact something new for me. As a young teacher I was assailed by the chap who taught next door through the partition wall - he'd heard me sounding just like my father as I taught and recognised it from a time when they were colleagues. But I realise that as I knew him so well, I know when his tongue is firmly in his cheek - as when he is discussing the new family allowance scheme. His reference to the brutal and selfish father could hardly be further from himself, though he is right in describing my mother as an ardent feminist: nice to know it came from somewhere!

Another thing that struck me was the amount of the allowance: 5/-. How many of my readers say "five shillings" when they read that? It's a rare indicator of age, as is the relative value of money. Apparently the average wage for an agricultural labourer at the time was £3/7/101/2 for a 49.4 hour week, according to this site, while another fascinating site points me to a worth of £25.30 for that 5/- if calculated by reference to average earnings (though I'd be happy for someone to correct me in this if I've made my usual hash of reading statistics). It certainly gives a dimension to the other letters concerning money, and to my father's reckoning that he had far too much cash accumulating in his current account because of the lack of opportunity to spend any of his RAF pay.

I've been stymied in my attempts to find any really detailed history of Redlands private hospital for women in which I was born and where my own first son was born four years before it closed, though by that time it was run by the NHS in Glasgow. But it's a fascinating exercise, this digging in the past; my main regret is the unasked questions of my own youth. We don't tend to become interested in our parents till they're history? 

Probably not.

I haven't a clue why the font of this - and the size - are so odd. Blogger is not always instinctive!


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    1. I hope you'll maybe follow up some of the links - though they seem less clear in this layout than they did when I first made the post!