“I guess I was thoroughly spoilt as I was the first grandchild. I always remember a huge teddy bear I had, he was nearly as big as me., he was my best friend I would always talk to him if I was upset about something” (8).
Mike Savage observes how “we meet and socialise with people at work in our neighbourhoods in following our leisure interests” and that “many of us pride ourselves on having contacts from all walks of life” (2015, 129). In reading Savage’s book, I couldn’t find a quote more fitting to describe the leisure and recreational life of Patricia. From childhood to adolescence to adulthood Patricia meets people from all walks of life, from various backgrounds and various social classes. Let me start from the beginning:
From her opening paragraph, its clear to see that Patricia goes into great detail about her leisure time and what she got up to. She recalls having a German doll named Peggy Anne which is quite ironic, given that there was a war going on. Unfortunately for Patricia these memorabilia must have been lost due to the bombings as she never found out what happened to them. Being the only child, Patricia spent a lot of her time playing with dolls and teddy bears. They would help fill a void. A social void that her parents could not fill as she would oftentimes find herself with no kids of her own age to play with. This may be why she enjoyed school so much.
With regards to childhood, Patricia fondly remembers visits to her paternal grandmother’s or ‘nannas’ (11) as she used to call it. This establishment was a large Victorian house or even Edwardian (as seen below) positioned just down the road from where Patricia used to live. Whilst here, Patricia would watch as ‘nanna’ “sat in her dining room table and pick out the horses with a pin from the newspaper” (11). This hobby of ‘nannas’ appeared quite the norm for working class Brits both before, during and after the world war. Ross McKibbin argues that “the very poorest bet least and the skilled working classes bet most” (1991, 112). Going by his premise, we could say that ‘nanna’ was at the time a member of the skilled working classes. Not only this, it appeared that gambling for the working classes as a whole was seen as a common hobby. It was estimated that the turnover for gambling on horse-racing during the time Patricia visited ‘nanna’ as being 400 million pounds in Britain alone” (1991, 107). Whether ‘nanna’ actually bet on the “gee gee’s” (11) was anyone’s guess. Although one thing is for sure, she certainly loved their names!
Its with this trip that Patricia also finds a passion and love for hairdressing. She even confesses of how she “always wanted to be a hairdresser” but if you have already read my life and labour post you’ll realise that unfortunately this dream fails to manifest. Having said that, frequent trips to ‘nanna’s’ allowed her to explore her talent. In her ideal world ‘nanna’ “had the most wonderful titan coloured hair” (11) which Patricia would always comb when she came to visit. Little did Patricia know that a war was on the horizon at the time and that her joyous time spent with family would be short lived.
Regenia Gagnier argues that “most working-class autobiographies do not have “crisis and recoveries just as they do climaxes” (1987, 344). With reference to Patricia’s excursions to the likes of Buckinghamshire, this was indeed the case. One particular detail Patricia recalls is “the blacksmith at the top of the road” (15) and how she would watch him intently while he would shoe horses (15). It was also during her rural excursion that she found a fascination with country life in particular the hens and how the mother hen would “tuck her babies underneath her” (16) during the cold winter months.
After the war, Patricia found that most leisure activities were not only outside of work but also alongside her lifelong best friend, Joan. She recalls visits to Alexandra Palace (see picture below), on the rarity they both got the weekend off work. It was during these times also that Patricia and Joan found themselves “eyeing up the local talent” (26) and going ice skating at Wembley Arena. These were simpler, more nostalgic times. But more importantly rare times for her as well. With evacuation, schooling and work all in the way finding time for leisure and recreation amongst family and friends was never easy.
Moving on towards later life, Patricia found herself married at the tender age of 22 to her childhood sweetheart, Ron. I must admit that this could have been a disaster for both parties. It turned out that this marriage had to be postponed as Ron hadn’t turned up to work one day. It turns out he was hit by a car. David Vincent accurately points out that, “the most sophisticated computer programme can never tell us how much a woman loved her husband” (1980, 223). With reference to Patricia this was certainly the case! Patricia’s earliest recollections of marriage were spending the opening 3 years in a freezing cold “basic house” but to Patricia and Ron what was more important was that through the tough times, they were together.
Later life saw Patricia bear 2 sons when she lived at Woodside Avenue, North Finchley. It was hard going for Patricia at the time in making ends meet but with her and Ron at the post office, they just ‘got through it’ as one would say.
In conclusion Patricia enjoyed leisure and recreation like many of us do. It provided Patricia with a sense of happiness even amongst tough times, children and aspirations of hairdressing !
Proofread by: Tom Dinsdale
Written and Published by LJMU Student Brian McCloskey.
Gagnier, Regenia. “Social Atoms: Working-Class Autobiography, Subjectivity, and Gender.” Victorian Studies 30, no.3 (1987): 335-63 Available from: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3828397.
McKibbin, Ross. (1991). The ideologies of Class: Social relations in Britain 1880-1950. Great Britain: Oxford University Press.
Savage, Mike. (2015). Social Class in the 21st Century. Great Britain: Pelican Books, 2015.
Saville, Patricia. “The Daughter I Never Had”, Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies, University of Brunel Library, Special Collection Library, vol. 4.
Vincent, David. “Love and Death and the Nineteenth-Century Working Class” Social History, Vol.5 No.2 (1980): 223-47 Available From: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4284976.