She was a beautiful cook, my mother, she made us some wonderful dinners out of nearly nothing—but Saturdays was the best day. I had to go down to that house that adjoins the post office — ’Rooter’ Holman lived there then, I don’t know what his real name was. There was a little window overlooking the pathway as you go round to the post office and we used to knock on there and he’d come to the door and give you two rabbits for a shilling. He was allowed to shoot on the heath; he had the Common Right.
Mother would skin the rabbits and stuff them with chopped up onions and things. She did it all herself, not with packets, and it was the most tasty meal you ever did have. We had it every Saturday. It cost a shilling and it fed the lot of us. To make the food last, you had a great big Norfolk dumpling, or a suet pudding, and you had that on a plate with a wonderful onion gravy she used to make. The gravy was lovely and you’d have that first, and then if you were lucky you got a piece of rabbit and your vegetables. The idea was that you’d fill yourself up and then you wouldn’t want so much meat. On a Sunday you never had any meat; Father and Mother had the meat. But there was only one real luxury my mother used to have, as far as food was concerned. She used to have a quarter of a pound of butter every week from my Uncle Harry, her brother, because Uncle and Auntie had a sort of a smallholding. We had ‘Pheasant’ margarine, in those days, I remember the pheasant on the packet. It’s funny to think, if Mother had been alive today she would probably have chosen margarine. It’s meant to be better, for you than butter, isn’t it?
Mother used to spend all day Friday cleaning the house, and Saturday was baking day. There was like a little kitchen off the kitchen, with a big oven in the wall, and once that fire was burning you had to do all your cooking because of the fuel. I can’t think she had much of a life, but she seemed happy and I think she was. On Sunday she’d dress up and walk down to her mother’s house, Granny High, at the bottom of Cross Street, and that was her outing. There used to be a houseful down there on a Sunday; all the family congregated there. I can just remember Granny High, a little old lady dressed in black always sitting in her armchair beside the fire, but she could make beautiful shortcakes.
She loved her garden, Mother did, when we went to Bard Hill. I don’t know why we moved, but maybe Church Cottage was too small. There was one bedroom we couldn’t use at all, at that time, because the boards were unsafe, so that only left two bedrooms. My mother and father had one, and seven of us all had to go in the other one, and I suppose we were cramped, so we got a council house.
I can’t really remember being cramped, but I remember being in my mother and father’s bedroom the night Kenneth was born. The other children were all in the other room. I’d been ill or something, I think I’d had shingles.
They used to have the doctor in those days. I remember being in the bedroom and I didn’t know what was going on. I was six years old and I stood up and held onto the sides of the cot, and old Doctor Kay who was there said ‘Get that child out of the room!’ He’s Scotch, and he said it in a Scottish way, and Father wrapped me up and took me downstairs and I can remember sitting on Father’s lap, which is a thing we very seldom did—he never had time, he was always working.
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We sat there waiting until we heard the baby cry and then I think Father left me, but he came back and wrapped me up and he showed me Kenneth lying there on the bed, and he’d only just been born. Of course Kenneth was my baby after that—I mean I did everything for him. He says I dragged him here and there, and I did, I never went anywhere without Kenneth, and I think we’ve still got that bond actually. I was the first one to see him, apart from Mother and Father. Aunt Agnes, who used to live in the house at the bottom of the pub, next to the Woodhouses, was midwife to the village. I think there must have been something wrong the night Kenneth was born, because the doctor and midwife were both there.
THE AIRSHIP AND THE MANOR HOTEL
When I was biking home from my first job I actually saw the Airship, the R101, fly over the marsh. I was fourteen and a half at the time, and just started at the Manor House Hotel in Blakeney. I had to bike back along the coast road and there was this big Airship R101—must have been on trials or something—and I followed it from Cley to Salthouse. I could actually see people. And then I watched it go out to sea.
I lived in, at my job. When you work in a hotel you do what they call a split. You start early in the morning, and get two hours off—1 pm to 3 or 4 pm—and then you have to come back and start again. The time I had off I had to come home and see my mother. She wouldn’t let me stay there while I was off. I had a bicycle and it was brand new; I suppose it was bought on the never-never. I don’t know how it was done but I did have to pay for it each week out of my money, and the rest of it used to go to my mother. I got fifteen shillings which was quite a lot, and that helped to clothe Joan and Kenneth the two youngest.
My mother did tell me I could have the tips if there were any, but you never thought you ought to have your earnings yourself. It went to the family. You see, you just did need money in those days.
I was nearly sacked the first day at the Manor House Hotel because I was frightened of the telephone—they were horrified that I couldn’t answer the phone; they didn’t realise that we didn’t have one and I’d never even seen one I wasn’t the receptionist or anything like that, it was only if you were going through the hall and the phone rang, and you’d have to answer it because there wasn’t a lot of us. I think there were only three or four of us working there. It was quite small; it wasn’t the hotel it is today. It’s called the Manor House Hotel because it was a Manor House, and all the annexe and that, was stables then. They’ve done them all up, haven’t they? In fact, when I went back there the other day and had a meal there, I didn’t recognise any of it—none of it at all! I couldn’t even recognise the entrance hall. It was a long flagged hall—you could have driven a horse and cart in there easy—but I don’t know where it’s gone or how anything can change so much. The telephone used to be in a sort of alcove there, and it was coming down that big hall if the telephone rang—I was petrified.
I left the Manor Hotel when I was sixteen and went to London to work. I was married at twenty and we had two boys and one little girl—who died of meningitis and broke my heart.
We had three more boys, and when they all left home I trained as an occupational therapist and worked for many years with the mentally disabled. I have been living in Holt for four years now but I visit my beloved Salthouse as much as possible.