By “The Photographer’s Assistant”
At last, we are facing the passing of a family era. The photographer’s mother passed away, but not really from us, 12 years ago. Her needlework tools, which were always in use, have gathered dust in a corner cupboard, the photographer’s assistant not being the greatest of practical women.
There is a large baby blue plastic box with compartments for cotton reels, needles etc. and any number of thimbles and pin cushions. These boxes were very swish forty years ago, but the box is difficult to open and outdated.There are some bags of cotton reels, bodkins and sewing machine needles. The item that stands out the most is the bodkin, now rarely used by any one, but how sad. That philosophy is now needed in a time of austerity. It represents a time when every single thing purchased after the war was very precious. Our mothers taught us to darn socks with the bodkin. It was a skill you had to learn together with planting vegetables and cooking everything at home. Biscuits were not packaged in precious packaging but sold in paper bags. Salt came in a block, which you smashed up yourself and a tin of fruit was precious for Sunday tea.
Inside my desk is a ration tin with the word “stamps” scratched on it.
If you think its hard to make ends meet now, you haven’t seen anything yet, that was the message that came out of this country woman’s vital sewing box.
Neighbours complain of dwindling cash, but at the end of our street, on bin collection day there is a pile of ordinary stuff that could help start the fire, be turned into precious compost, beautiful clothes that could go to the charity shop, something shabby that could be painted, and so on. That’s what our country woman did, and she was a widow, so it was extra hard. When we all do what she did and have nothing left that we can reuse or share, then it will be a time of austerity for us all, not just the truly poor.
I have saved the useful items from the sewing kit with great shame that I have not turned the shabby, but useful into something new.
One of the other highlights of the week was the arrival of the Air Ambulance in the village. This is a more frequent visitor than one would think. It is a forty mile round trip to the major hospital through treacherous lanes, particularly, in the winter. We were walking a hill top, admiring the sheep, when it arrived being piloted with infinite skill. It circled several times before landing, our hearts in our mouths as we watched. The helicopter would approach, dive, retreat and circle again; we worried that it wouldn’t or couldn’t land. Eventually skill won through, and another of our residents will have its benefit. A service without which our small community would undoubtedly suffer.