Geddington – A life in words and memories – February

Welcome to February 1929

The Holding sisters continue to live in The Bungalow on Kettering Road; Carrie works as a tailoress and applies her skill to everything from evening gowns to corsets. Daisy, struggling with ill health looks after the young boarders who stay with them during term time at St Alban’s School, Geddington.

January has been a long month and much of it has been spent looking after their father so the two sisters were pale and weary as they anticipated February and the start of spring.  Daisy  mentions that three of the old elms on the New Road have been cut down. ‘it seems a pity but I suppose they really were not safe on a main thoroughfare’

How topical given the recent storms!

Sadly the winter was to remain harsh and cold and the reality of life with no central heating and limited water resources gave the sisters the pain of chilblains, the misery of damp beds and the dreariness of frostbitten days. There was some fun though and, at the end, a larder full of marmalade and a garden full of snowdrops and spring bulbs.

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February   28 days

1st: The heavy rain I wished for came last night and, like many another wish fulfilled it was not exactly perfect. For oh! how the wind blew and the rain beat on the roof and windows. We were all restless.

Somehow we have felt tired and off colour all day. I finished my book and listened to the Boxing Match at the Albert Hall between Phil Scott and Sandwina. Was it depraved taste? I like to experience most things and judge for myself.

2nd: Candlemas Day.  There is nothing like work,especially housework when one feels rather grey and so we bustle about and clean up generally. Just before dinner, as I was expending my energy polishing floors , I was surprised by a tap at the back window and there gazing at me in a scared manner was a gander! Poor old boy he didn’t like leaving his familiar farm yard but I hear he has settled down now in his new home with his two wives.

3rd: St Blasius, the patron saint of throats. Colder but bright and beautiful. Sitting listening to the Wireless Service I heard Cowper’s beautiful hymn ‘Oh for a closer walk with God’ and at once I was in a little old summerhouse at the end of a worn, flagged path in an old world garden at Olney. In thought I had gone back to a sunny summer evening not so long ago when Little Sister and I sat there after hearing stories of the poet.

I think to myself how many famous men and women began life in a tiny village. The towns need the villages, and the villages the towns.

4th: I think this must be the sharpest frost of this very cold winter. Nearly everything in the pantry was frozen and we had ‘frozen mutton’ for dinner. Whilst watching for our daily Carrier, a most marvelous person by the way, I noticed more spikes of bulbs pushing up through the frost bound soil. I have just been complimented(?) Joan (a child boarder) has asked me if I was alive 600 years ago and did I know Queen Eleanor?..The children have no idea of age and I have been trying to explain to them the allotted three score years and 10. They were greatly interested in Great Grannie Croft’s photograph.

6th Wednesday: A lovely bright morning. I discovered I needed a few things from town badly. Well, it really was time to buy Seville oranges for the marmalade and off we sallied! It was delightful to step from our warm cosy ‘Bus right into the Picadilly Cafe and to sit sipping coffee and eating cream doughnuts. The shop next door was a galaxy of splendour. Golden oranges, gleaming lemons and grape-fruit, lettuce, celery and all the things my soul loves. Bowls of snowdrops, hyacinths, sheaves of tulips, baskets of mimosa and there in a gilded cage in the corner, a pair of brilliant green love birds.

11th Monday: The children come in all aglow and rosy from their exercise in the chill air. I wish I looked as fresh and happy when I am cold! Whips and tops are the great thing now. Marbles are quite a secondary consideration.

12th Pancake Day: We had our Pancakes last night! The very sharpest frost we have had for many winters. Everything frozen. It seems the best thing to take the children for a run after tea. They are surprised to find I can really spin a top. We run races to keep warm. The new moon was high in the sky. Ominous cracks are heard in the red water tank.

13th Ash Wednesday: Winter tightens its grip. We keep fires going and the stove is in requisition. What shall we do if it lasts? The brook is frozen and this morning the children were sliding on it as they came from church.

14th St. Valentine’s Day: The scene is more wintry than ever as the air is full of feathery snow. Our ruse of sending the kiddies valentines is quite a success. They are properly deceived and duly delighted. The icicles still hang from the eaves in spite of the sunshine. The eggs were frozen in the hen roost. Roast potatoes and hot drinks send us all warm to bed.

16th: We are constantly hewing and melting ice.

18th Monday again: Quite early the marmalade was on a-boilin’.  So severe and cold was it we were glad to light the stove to assist in warming up the icy air. All the water, hard and soft, is frozen and we are as careful as can be of every drop. As soon as the girlies come from school they are off to play in the Wood Yard. Eagerly they remove the ‘ice-berg’, otherwise the solid block that was once a zinc of soft water. They are resplendent in ‘camphor bags’ suspended by a cord round their neck.  A preventive of colds I presume! May the charm work.

I am obliged to sit with my feet in ‘mustard and water’ sipping hot grog.

This water business is as worrying as a Summer’s drought. Soft water a solid block and when we do manage to hew it and thaw it, it is dirty and acid. Hard water pumps frozen, or otherwise out of gear, and the village well such yards away. The dykes so far are full of frozen mud. So nasty is the water we cannot wash our faces clean. Today Little Sister gave me some of her lavender water and I cleansed my skin with that!!

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