On a recent holiday to St Ives we visited their small museum which houses many examples of the way life was for the locals many years ago. It showed a life of hardship and make-do for most of the inhabitants who were mainly fishermen or miners in the tin mines.
My daughter who is thirteen was fascinated by how incredibly difficult it was for women to get through the average day. She couldn’t believe the old dolly washing tub, mangle and washboard that was used for the weekly wash.‘They must have had strong arm muscles,’ Rosie said, as she tried to turn the large metal handle on the mangle that squished the clothes to squeeze out the water.
My first thought was that it must have taken hours out of the day to get through a family wash, especially if they had young children. There were photographs of woman carrying their clean washing down to the bay where they would hook up a makeshift washing line in the sand to peg out their sheets and towels. Young children would patiently hold on to the long wooden pole that kept washing line up, if it was exceptionally windy.
There were so many old photos of stout and stoic women, leathered and worn, sorting fish in a bucket of cold water, mending fishing nets and picking over the sand to find molluscs to cook and eat. How hard their lives were, looking after as many children as God sent them, and living in damp and dismal conditions, eking out the paltry wages that their husband bought home and working from dawn until dusk just to survive. I wish I had appropriate photo’s to show, but taking pictures was not allowed in the museum.
How lucky we are nowadays. Our clothes wash themselves once they are shoved in a washing machine, supermarkets prepare our food, that ovens then heat for us at the touch of a button and a dishwashers then cleans the dishes. Sounds like Utopia doesn’t it? Yet how easily we take it all for granted.
I wonder what those women would think if they could see the fast food outlets in their cobbled and narrow streets now, selling hot food ready to go, ‘boutique’ apartments with double glazing and central heating that are springing up everywhere, and the the rows of bobbing red fibreglass boats to hire for half an hour, replacing the lines of fishing boats that used to fill the harbour at the end of the day. I would love to see the look on their faces!
Now if there was a time slip novel waiting to be written, that would be the one I’d choose. Hang on, let me just write that down in my notepad of ideas- I’ll earmark it for next year’s “novel to be written.”
Hope you are all enjoying your summer