In those long-ago days when we lived on Kerridge and were very
young, toys, as we now know them, were very few. Books were our
first love and I think Dad was responsible for cultivating this
desire to read. During the long winter nights when darkness fell
about four o'clock, we would sit round the fire after our evening
meal and before it was time to go to bed. Mother was always busy,
knitting long stockings (for me) or beginning a rug to be laid
down at Christmas.
Dad had always loved to read and he would read aloud to us.
I can't remember the stories that he read, but I do recall the
eagerness to hear just one more chapter…
At that time books, or anything that did not have a strictly
practical purpose, were hard to come by. Lack of money played
a big part in this of course and so we treasured our books, read
and reread them many times.
We always had a book for one of our Christmas presents from
Mother and Dad. This was an 'Annual', a book containing a miscellany
of stories and poems which was published each year, and bore
names like 'Girls Own Annual', companion to the 'Boys Own Annual',
and often compiled by the same organizations who prepared children's
Sunday School was another source of obtaining books. Prizes
were awarded for regular attendance and we never failed to come
home with a book each. The better your attendance, the better
book value you got!
Whether it was because Mother and Dad had strong beliefs about
children attending Sunday School, whether we had strong religious
convictions (I don't think so!) or because Mother wanted us out
of the way on Sundays, I don't know. Whichever, or maybe for
a combination of all three reasons, but we were amongst the top
in attendance records.
Each child was issued with a card, which bore their name and
was folded in the middle, like a little book. The inside was
set out in squares and during every Sunday session the card was
handed in to the registrar to be stamped with a little star.
So it became known as a STAR CARD. These emblems were totted
up as prize-giving drew near and books were purchased according
to the total attendance over the year.
I remember several of the books I had (and still have) and the
thrill of walking up on to the stage when my name was called
out. No choice was offered and whether by coincidence or just
because we were all bookworms we always enjoyed our prizes.
The first book I ever received was from Kerridge Wesleyan Infant
Day School and it was an illustrated Bible story book. Then came
prizes from the Bollington Wesleyan Sunday School 'The Happy
Hours Story Book'. The end papers of this book were a source
of endless fascination to me. On the front papers were scenes
of a circus setting outside the tents, and the end papers showed
the same scene, except everything and everybody had either fallen
or been pushed over.
Then came the school books, so popular then. 'Marie MacLeod,
Schoolgirl' the author long forgotten. 'Bosom Friends' by Angela
Brazil was my favourite book. During my long illness, about the
age of seven, I could always read this book when time dragged,
as it often did. I still have it and treasure it.
It was one of Dad's greatest disappointments in life that I
didn't share his love for Dickens. He had read all the books
written by Dickens that be could get his hands on. I found them
depressing and melancholy. The poverty and unhappiness which
was reflected in these books did nothing to foster any eagerness
to read in me. and yet, I was so eager to read that every printed
word, even the bottle of sauce on the table appealed to my quest
From these beginnings I read books like 'Jane Eyre' by candlelight
in bed! … and most of Edgar Wallace who was a popular novelist
of the day. Then someone introduced us to the Richard Crompton
books called simply 'William'. William was an average boy who
was always in trouble and I think his charm was that we could
identify ourselves with him.
The only children's magazine I can recall was a newspaper type,
issued fortnightly called 'The Children's Newspaper' and written
by Arthur Hill. It was an interesting paper, with all kinds of
information from a wide source, I always read it if I could borrow
it, but it was too expensive to buy on a regular basis.
At this time in our lives Mother was responsible for the laundering
of all the linen, both household and personal, for a family named
Jones who lived at Endon House. The money she earned supplemented
the household income during one of the bad times in our lives.
The Jones' were extremely nice people and regularly passed on
children's clothes to us. I can't remember how many children
there were in the family but I came in for some school uniform
clothes which were probably outgrown rather than outworn. They
had name tags in the back and I was so proud to wear the dresses
and the name tag seemed to make them extra special.
These girls were at boarding school in Eastbourne. They must
have had a monthly magazine too, as I recall a heap of them being
enclosed with the clothes. It was called 'Little Folks' and though
I can't remember the gist of the paper, one thing I read always
remained with me. It was a story of someone travelling by train
to the south and evidently the journey took them by the coast
line. The highlight was that the people involved had a meal,
sitting at a table by the window of the train, overlooking the
sea as the train steamed on to it's destination. I didn't know
that such things as meals on trains were in existence. I didn't
know that people were able to afford to travel and eat at little
tables. I didn't know that people travelled for pleasure. Everything
in our lives was strictly practical. We went by train to Macclesfield
to shop and to Manchester when it was a dire necessity. All these
journeys had to be done the cheapest way possible and we ate
before we left home and when we returned.
I went back to this story and the illustration, which showed the
table set with a snowy white cloth and a pink shaded lamp, again
and again, to soak up the idea that somewhere, sometime this might
happen to me. It did, and I was about twenty-two years old! Though
I wasn't on the south coast and there was no pink shaded lamp the
glamour was there despite the long time which had passed before
I achieved it.
© 1985 Enid Simpson