Leisure became a big part of people’s lives towards the late 20th century and although it is not the forefront of Jim Ingrams memoir, we can still get a glimpse into the activities he and his family took part in. Ingram attended school however because of the disability to his leg he was unable to participate in games with other boys such as football: ‘Now at knocking balls about I was hopeless’ (15). Instead he takes himself away from them to do other activities such as exploring and climbing which develops his passion for historiography: ‘I was developing ambitions.. A terrific urge to find out what the world was like’ (14).
Ingrams choice in activities he participates in does change with age as he settles down ‘I was married with a wife and baby daughter and a home of my own’ (21) and becomes a more academic man: ‘I was deputy headmaster of a school for handicapped children, with published books to my credit, and a Master of Science degree’ (21). Ingram becomes the complete opposite to his father who partakes in drinking and gambling in his spare time.
However, it is difficult to trace a certain change in Ingrams and his family’s activity because it is only mentioned very briefly at the end of the memoir. We can learn from this, however, that leisurely activities are linked to your gender particularly at the time Ingram was writing. The mother’s ‘life was her home, her neighbours, the local mission hall’ (20) whereas his ‘father’s life revolved around the local pub, football pools, racing and gambling’ (20). This highlights a definite contrast in the activities they take part in as the mother only has the space she already occupies to enjoy leisurely time, it is all still domestic. The father however, has different spaces away from work and home to enjoy himself. This suggests gender plays an important role in the different activities people took part in.
As mentioned in previous blogs, Ingram’s and his family’s class is ambiguous as they have moved up and down the social ladder so they are most likely working/ middle class. This assumption is based on their emigration to Canada and the fact they were able to come back to Britain and get Ingram the treatment he needed for his deteriorating eyesight and bad hip: ‘I spent four years, in and out of hospital, undergoing operations’ (18). I have also mentioned in previous blogs that their leisurely activities give us an insight to their class as well and we can see that the activities they enjoy correspond to a specific class, working class. John Griffiths claims that by the twentieth century the working class ‘were also enjoying the leisure boom, both as producers and consumers of commercial leisure, and were perhaps less condemnatory of the use of spare time.’ (Griffiths, NPAG). Ingram’s family were not exempt from this finding as his mother and father took part in separate recreational activities during the last years of their marriage. The activities they did take part in were suited more to working class rather than upper class who would take part in more educational activities such as visiting museums whilst Ingram’s father spent his time gambling and drinking.
The Autobiography of the Working Class: An Annotated, Critical Bibliography, ed. by John Burnett, David Vincent and David Mayall (Brighton: Harvester, 1984, 1897, 1989) 3 volumes, 2:430.
Ingram, Jim. ‘A Wartime Childhood’. Brunel University. 1987.
Griffiths, John. Leisure and Cultural Conflict in Twentieth Century Britain. Manchester University Press. 2012.
Image reference: 20th Century Pub
Image reference: Women in 20th Century