Latch-Key Kids

The Summer Olympics of 1972- Munich

In those days it really did take a village to raise a child.

The 1970’s is a decade often forgotten and often undersold, a decade where the post-war affluence bubble burst with a bang and successive governments were plagued with political and economic unrest. The decade began with promise but Ted heath faced early challenges by strikes financial crash and energy crisis, and some of us went hungry. Callaghan famously told colleagues in 1974 “If I were a young man, I should emigrate.” For some of us the backbone of our extended family had already emigrated in the late 60’s  as £10 POMS and were already seeking a future promising fame and fortune in new and exotic lands.

Not surprising that it was often called the lost decade and growing up perhaps that is what we were too, the lost generation, generation X, a generation of latch-key kids who brought ourselves up because nobody knew any different. Nobody even realised we were doing it on our own. We had it all, freedom and then some and yet we had nothing, no prospects but kind hearts, glam rock and big dreams.

Our parent’s generation were the first generation of latch key kids, born towards the end of World War two against a backdrop of poverty, harsh winters and a changing workforce, there was food poverty and many families were living in urban slums and the housing stock was in dire need of upgrading and repair. At the outset of the forties the menfolk were away at war and women were required to fulfil working roles in factories, munitions works, and even on the land and the docks, it meant that an entire generation of working-class kids was forced to get itself up and ready and off to school and fend for themselves at the end of school, it meant that older siblings carried the responsibility of caring for younger siblings and often completing the household chores.

The mothers were responding to the needs of the war effort and had little choice, and it was this generation of children that found themselves with a world of opportunities in the later fifties and early sixties but as new parents themselves in the late sixties and early seventies due to the economic downturn and the increasing phenomena of the working mum were to become the parents of the next generation of latchkey kids, our generation, the latchkey generation of the seventies, generation X.

My parents both worked and so in the holidays we really were home alone. Dad was working for the Post Office and mum worked as a machinist at the Isle of Man Mill, where Mr Harold Dugdale had an active workforce of about twenty working at the Rossendale Quilting Company, they made ironing board covers and continental quilts (a forerunner to the Duvet) and they were all exposed to asbestos and cotton fibres in a harsh hot noisy mill. The village was home to at least three working mills, across the river from our house and across from the Isle of Man mill was Wood-eel, it had a great timber yard to play and explore in and all the local kids would collect bags of sawdust from the mill for their pet rabbits, surprisingly it made wooden heels that were used up and down the valley in the still proseprous and busy boot and shoe factories.

Mum left us under the watchful eye of our next-door neighbour Rosina Giddens, known to us as Nana, even though we were not related. She would make us lunch, and we would wake her up to call for help in the event of breakages, windows, arms, and legs, or toys that were broken in our sibling squabbles. The older folk did that, watched out for the youngsters and we paid the kindness back and in later years when we had moved to the Post Office we went back to Nanas every evening to make her tea and make sure she was well for the evening ahead. She looked out for us and made us lunches and we looked out for her, and the day when she slumped into her sausage and mash and her gnashers fell off the table and onto the floor, we looked after her, quickly raising the alarm that Nana had fallen asleep and wouldn’t wake up. She had suffered a stroke but our speed at raising the alarm meant that she was on the mend in a matter of weeks.

If it was dry- we were outdoors, we met up with whoever came to call, who ever knocked on the door to see if you were playing out, and everyone did that. There was an unwritten rule that no-one came in the house and you didn’t go in their houses unless they were invited but you could pretty much do what you like outside the house. And we did. If it was climable- we climbed it, if you could make a game out of it, you made a game, if it needed exploring we explored.

We were very young that first summer we spent home alone, it was 1972, and I know this because we loved to watch the gymnastics that were on. It was the Olympics in Munich and we were enraptured by our favourite gymnast Olga Korbut. We thought she was amazing. Tracey loved her work on the beam, I loved to watch her floor routines. She was so small but so incredibly athletic. I was 5 and Tracey was 7.

Tracey preferred Olga, who was small and petite and in some respects the underdog, to a very womanly Ludmilla Tourishiva. I thought she was the most graceful swan I had ever seen on a gymnastics floor and at nineteen she no longer had the angular bones of the minute Olga. Tourishiva won Gold, but Olga won hearts and inspired an entire generation of young girls to take to the gym floor.

Nana would pop in and out and would get us lunch and we would sometimes go out with her in the afternoon, she would walk us to the stream at the back of Crawshawbooth and she would sit I the sun and she taught us how to wash stones from the river bed. Sometimes we would play in the garden in front of her house and make dens from sheets, and she would show us how to make clothes for our dolls with old stockings. So we weren’t officially abandoned, it was just that we were really latch key kids.

It isn’t something that you would do now, but in those days I suspect it was the same story up and down the valley. We were all home alone. When we were old enough to go to the park alone, it was obvious that this was what all the kids did all summer, the park was our meeting place and there were never any adults around and even when Lesley Stansfield broke her leg and the bone came through the skin, after she got dragged under the roundabout after falling off because it was spinning too fast when we were playing pick up sticks- it seemed to be ages before any adults arrived.

©Alison Jean Hankinson

Simple things

It was a simple gesture

………………….  As the sun rose the seedling grew

Nosed its way nonchalantly through the weeds.

…………….  Caressed by early summer sun,

Nourished by November rains.

 

With all its might it pushed through the merriment

Of opportunistic pumpkins and weary watermelons

And reached high for the sky,

……….  One leaf at a time,

stretching                sighing               saluting the sun.

 

It was a simple gesture

…………. It spoke of unfaltering love.

………………………… The sunflower smiled

…………   And reminded me that life is enriched

By the simple things.

 

©Alison Jean Hankinson.

This is for d’Verse meeting at the bar, where we were asked to consider silence. This sunflower was in my garden in NZ, planted as a seed by my husband to cheer me up in  Spring/summer 2014 when I was unable to tend the garden following major surgery. I could see it from the bedroom window.

And the band played on…

 

English summers wouldn’t be the same

If families didn’t enjoy fun in the sun

Carnival queens and burger vans

Seaside singalongs and festival fun.

 

We went to the Morecambe Carnival

With bagpipes and drums on hand

The parade moved stately down the prom

To the sound of the big brass band.

 

Seagulls on standby to have a feast

Candyfloss and greasy chips on the ground

The Bay belting out across the stage

And fairground rides spinning teenagers around

 

Toploader took to the stage

Boogie-Storm boogied on down

Sandcastle competitions throughout the day

Magical show-stopping firework display at sundown.

 

English summers wouldn’t be the same

If families didn’t enjoy fun in the sun

Carnival queens and burger vans

Seaside singalongs and festival fun.

 

©Alison Jean Hankinson

So tonight it is Magic over at dVerse

My magic in this is a bit like Puff the magic dragon…

“Oh I do like to be beside the seaside…”

Yes I know I always have seagulls and chips…perhaps it is my signature…

 

 

 

 

Solway Firth Haibun

We drove north today to visit my dad, it is the start of the main school holiday and the traffic was less problematic than I had expected and we spent a glorious few hours up on the Solway Firth throwing sticks in the water for the dog and enjoying a lazy amble at High tide. The marsh was thronging with walkers fervently following in the footsteps of their forefathers along the route of Hadrian’s wall which separated Scotland from England in Roman times. It keeps this part of the Solway alive and buzzing in the summer months. The church where I got married is open to the public and there is a small kitchen and some supplies and an honesty box for weary travellers who stop by on their journey.

By late afternoon when we began our journey home the sun was beating down and it was much hotter and I longed for air-conditioning in my little Kia Rio. Along the motorway the traffic snaked its way south and even at the top of Shap it was quite clearly the height of summer, there was a constant train of caravans travelling northward to Scotland as we meandered our way down through Tebay. Blink and it will be gone and already in Whangarei NZ the magnolias are in bloom as they head towards spring. Time and tide stop for no man.

Wild roses blossom

Heat haze on the horizon

Swifts fly south to Spain.

©Alison Jean Hankinson

This is for Haibun monday at d’Verse. Where we were given the following directions:

Today is Free For All – meaning, you can choose your subject for the haibun. However there are still some rules: The haibun must be one to three tight paragraphs (2) Ended with a haiku (containing kigo and kireji words – season and cutting words) (3) Must be true (4) Must have actually happened to you.

Seaside sandcastles

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Isn’t summertime just grand

Children playing by the sea-shore

Building seaside castles in the sand

 

Poolside picnics we demand

Sand in sandwiches we deplore

Isn’t summertime just grand

 

Sun cream to give a safe tan

And stop our shoulders getting sore

Building seaside castles in the sand.

 

Sea breeze blows across the land

We can hear the ocean roar

Isn’t summertime just grand

 

Music mellow from the brass band

Across the pier soothing sounds soar

Building seaside castles in the sand

 

Collecting seashells and seaweed by hand

Decorating the creations we adore

Isn’t summertime just grand

Building seaside castles in the sand

 

Alison Jean Hankinson

For d’verse– an attempt at a villanelle…..

 

 

 

 

Is Urban Walking a Sport?

So this is my sport and I have had to invent it for me. For many reasons like lack of coordination and skill and other critical factors like health and well-being.  I have had to develop my own sport where I can compete against myself. I call it urban walking. I do it with dedicated regularity, attempt an element of speed and finesse and probably walk many kilometres over the course of the average week. The general aim is for about 45 minutes to an hour about 5 times a week and I try to find circular routes and make sure they have a measure of incline and a rewarding and bountiful view. I think it must be a common sport because when I am on the promenade I find many others doing the same thing but usually in sportier attire than I.

It is a rewarding sport, the view and vistas change with the weather and the seasons and pathway travelled. I have my favourite haunts and my own little challenges along the way, do we need windswept today or are we more content to smell the flowers. Often my husband joins me in my urban wanderings and then it is more competitive, he has a slightly longer stride than I and he is always on a mission to push and exert and add a little extra challenge, sometimes it is I that lead the challenge following a day of solo exploration and I will encourage us to take a new path to add to our familiar routes. Our favourites always take in the seashore where we feel exhilarated and catch our breath as the wind blows cold and howls around our ears, we ride through our daydreams on the wings of gliding seagulls.

 

Rocks awash with waves

On the shoreline seagulls soar

Sweeping summer storm,

 

Alison Jean Hankinson.

This is for d’Verse…haibun Monday… we were asked to share on Sport so it might be a long shot but can I count urban walking as a sport?

Childhood remembered

Childhood memory haibun for d’Verse- Haibun monday #28

Joanne and Alyson Abel had a goat. It lived on a messy piece of land adjoining their house which was probably actually their garden. Our garden was similar- a messy piece of land over a footbridge and formed part of a field. It never got mowed it wasn’t that kind of grass. I caught endless fish in a bucket using old stockings and coathangers and always put them back.

I lived and played outdoors in the summer and I don’t remember the rain, I borrowed other people’s distant sheds and turned them into “ganghuts” or dens in Doubledeckers style. I would track the rivers back to streams and back to source and wash stones in the summer sun. I ate gooseberries from the bushes near the Goyt (not it’s real name) which was a dammed swimming hole behind the school which all the children were forbidden to use- but we all did and no-one died, floating in inner tubes late into the day until we heard the din of the mothers cooking dinner and shouting for their off-spring.

Summer glow in heart

Friendships echo through the blue

Childhood re-kindled.

 

 

 

Images

Water School from the fields

Isle of Man Mill. Courtesy of Wikimedia- Photo by Robert Wade 2011. (My mum worked there as a seamstress)

Isle of Man Mill

Beauty in the eyes of the beholder

Tutukaka and Wellington’s Bay from the Lookout point.

Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder but I suspect you would find it hard to find someone to fault the beautiful day and the beautiful vistas. We took a trip out to what have been some of our favourite local haunts over the years. Tutukaka for lunch and to take in the Marina and the sound and smell of the boats, and then on to Wellington’s Bay which has always been our safe beach when the children were smaller and our family favourite. Today I wanted to visit the lookout point as I had never ventured there before. It was  a little windy to say the least but it was worth the effort and the views from the top were stunning. A good day to live. A good day to be out and about.