My late grandfather was a coal miner in his day. And like many miners’ families of his time Gavin and his wife Mary knew how to make ends meet. The back garden was dedicated to vegetables – immaculate lines of cabbage, cauliflower and potatoes. All looked after from the garden shed at the bottom of the council house back garden, carefully monitored with reeeking pipe in mouth from a makeshift seat.
I don’t remember him growing turnips – but he always could find a free one when Halloween came around (normally from a farmers field). His coal fire always blazed – a benefit of subsidised coal from the Coal Board, even in retirement. And Mary could cook, she knew how to stretch a budget and make a “clootie dumpling” – I always seemed to get the sixpence wrapped in grease proof paper (do you think that was deliberate?).
A couple of years back the remaining family dedicated a seat at Stirling Castle to Gavin and Mary (he was an Argyll in The Great War). The seat is very different from the makeshift back garden seat that graced his vegetable garden – far too fancy for sitting on – it overlooks a blaze of grass in the Douglas Gardens – not a tattie in sight.
It’s a strange thing sitting on a seat dedicated to someone you knew – it makes you think…..my thoughts?
“Gavin would have that grass dug up and tatties growing there! ”
As the economy does it’s best to echo the 30’s I started to wonder about how auld Gavin coped in his day. For one thing there was “no tick” – no borrowed money – no bank account – no savings account – no mortgage – no credit cards- no HP – no overdraft – just their savings in a handbag in the wardrobe apparently (I only learned this once the two of them were away). So Gavin and Mary saved and never borrowed to my knowledge.
Their Green credentials were obvious but driven by need and not by global warming concerns. Gavin made his own compost and grew his own veg while Mary recycled everything – Jeely Jars for home made jam, and Brown Paper & Brown Paper Bags kept in a drawer used and re-used as required. Rag and Bone men swapping curtains for balloons (my mother could have killed me). Scrappies that gave you a shilling for a couple of bags of woolens.
Strange how the values of Gavin and Mary are the ones that we are embracing today. A different time with different problems perhaps – but the same values seem to be burning through. Strange what you think about when you sit on a seat dedicated to someone you knew.