Domestic Archaeology

Further developments at work on the leaky roof front. The Head, rather unwisely IMHO, decided to play "have a go" and slept over in the school building on Thursday night. Fortunately for him it paid off – the thieves returned and he managed to summon the police before they knew he was there. He then did a full days work on two hours’ sleep, which certainly shows dedication.

Moves are afoot to replace the missing lead with an artificial substitute that’s less appealing on the black market for building materials – problem is we are a listed building so, even though the portion of the roof in dispute is invisible from street level, we aren’t supposed to do this. Hopefully something can be worked out.

I have agreement in principle for improved lighting. Nothing definite on paper yet, though.

Meanwhile, my dad-in-law has transferred to residential care and DH has been sorting though boxes of his stuff every night as we prepare his bungalow for sale. DH’s parents never threw anything away so this has been something of a revelation to Becky (my 16 year old daughter), as for the first time she sees a purse containing pounds, shillings and pence (unused in the UK since 1971), petrol ration coupons from the 1940s, her gran’s swimming medals from the 1930s and all the paperwork connected with my DH’s transfer to secondary education in 1964. These last documents are a vivid reminder of the days before IT, when even secondary schools had four-figure telephone numbers and typewriters were manual, leaving Braille-like indentations in the back of the paper and words in wobbly lines. Some things change less than others though – the instruction that "diversions and social arrangements will not be tolerated as excuses for the neglect of homework," for example. The language may sound like something out of Jane Austen but the sentiments don’t date. I wonder what they would have made of Facebook?

Also interesting to note – the instruction that to accept the place parents had to "sign under a sixpenny stamp", the information that a year’s education at a grammar school would cost £115 a year (state funded in this case), milk was available daily on request, school dinners were a shilling a day and pupils were allowed to go home for lunch. A bill for school uniform came to just over £6.00 – that included blazer, shirt, tie and swimming trunks.

There’s an element of emotional archaeology involved as well. My in-laws were not sentimental people so it came as a revelation to find a very tender love note from their early married life, when it was a delightful novelty to address J’s mum as "Mrs W…." I think we all felt a little intrusive coming across that. We also found ‘Mum’s’ wedding shoes from 1946 – wonder how many coupons they cost her? It does make you reflect on the objects that define a human lifetime. Philip Pullman fans will know what I mean when I say that the whole collection was filled with "Dust".

Finally, we came across a scribbled note stuck to DH’s bedroom door one Christmas in the 1970s. "Please wake up late, had a very boozy night last night." Apparently he didn’t appear until teatime on Christmas Day, and his mother was not impressed. As my North London husband put it, "She done her nut."

I think I’ll send that little note off to my son. As I said before, some things change, others stay much the same.


3 thoughts on “Domestic Archaeology

  1. It does make you reflect on the objects that define a human lifetime. Philip Pullman fans will know what I mean when I say that the whole collection was filled with “Dust”.

  2. An interesting question. One drawback of the increasing digitisation of life is that post-apocolypse we would have so little of any value to historians. What if Pepys had been able to blog instead of scribble?

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