Today I was given a whiff of nostalgia. No, not some bottled perfume from my youth (eg 'Evening in Paris', remember? On second thoughts perhaps you'd rather not!!), but the wonderful God-given smell of cowslips from a cottage garden. I was immediately whisked back to my childhood and to the wonderful sight of fields of yellow cowslips and of that never-to-be-forgotten smell of the untouched perfume of wild cowslips mixed with the clean country air. In retrospect, I do not know what use those flower-laden fields were to the farmers, but they certainly brought joy to us, and they would return each year along with the primroses. Alas, of course, they disappeared with the intensive farming and chemicals of the l950's, but the delightful visual memory together with the perfume came back in a flash along with the gift.
The cowslips evoked another childhood memory. How many of you got up at dawn in order to go 'mushrooming'. We only had to look for the 'fairy rings' as we called them (although to adults, they would have been just a different shade of grass), and then we picked mushrooms by the carrier bag full. Mother was waiting with the large family frying pan at the ready and after frying the mushrooms, a thick gravy was added, and then we all tucked in, the only addition to this luscious breakfast feast was the fresh crusty bread used to mop up the delicious gravy. What a flavour! Never to be tasted again and never likely to be. And who would add gravy to today's mushrooms? It just isn't done, and if it were, it would be tasteless, just like today's cultivated mushrooms in comparison. Of course, now I rarely eat mushrooms as with knowledge acquired over the years (and, sometimes I wish that I hadn't acquired this knowledge as it often spoils a favourite meal) I realise that mushrooms belong to the fungus family, and are to be avoided if you have a candida problem. However, we didn't seem to suffer any ill effects from them in those halcyon days, but, of course, they were part of a very varied diet of wholesome food devoid of chemicals and preservatives. Nowadays, we are advised to read the small print on the back of mass produced food packets in order to decipher all the listed additives, e-numbers, preservatives, colourings, etc. The best advice I was given in order to avoid an excessive amount of additives was simply this - IF IT TAKES LONGER TO READ IT THAN EAT IT, THEN DON'T BUY IT.
Apart from the 'fairy rings' in the primrose field, there was a monster that we approached with extreme trepidation - the electricity pylon. Then it was known as 'the standard' and stories of what would happen if we children ventured underneath it made our hair stand on end. Our parents forewarned us with stories akin to The Hobbit and Harry Potter, and we believed them. I was told that I would turn into a pig (perhaps it was the way I tucked into the mushrooms that gave them the idea). No one told us that it was simply dangerous, because, no doubt, that would have had the opposite effect and we would have revelled in the excitement of flirting with danger and proving how brave we were. But to turn into a pig, left to grovel in mud, and then, who knows, perhaps ending up on the Sunday dinner plate .... we trembled at the thought ....
However, a thought that crossed my mind when I was older, was how come that the electricity pylons were so near and yet none of the houses in the vicinity actually had electricity. Electricity did not arrive until my teenage years. Can you imagine life today without fridges, washing machines, vacuum cleaners, irons, hairdryers, etc? Yet we managed without quite happily, because what you've never had you never miss. Happy childhood memories are rarely linked to electrical items, they are usually linked to the pure joy of experiencing what nature provides, plus imagination - IF ONLY TODAY'S PARENTS OF YOUNG CHILDREN WOULD REMEMBER THAT.
Now coming back to the present. Last week I attended a talk by a successful local author who to date has written seven historical novels, and when asked at what age she started writing, she replied that she was in her fifties, and then she added something that has stayed in my mind. She said that all of us should write down a record of our own childhood for future generations as otherwise all our experiences and memories will die with us. So how about it? Just a gift of some cowslip plants brought back happy memories of sights and smells our grandchildren will probably never experience. So why not jot down your memories and send them to us so that others at Mabels may enjoy and reminisce with you? Visit Mabels...Maintaining Bygone Times (HTTP://WWW.MABELS.ORG.UK), containing numerous articles thoughtfully researched mainly for the older person. You may access these articles by visiting http://www.mabels.org.uk/ - You will learn about the best tips to improve your health, fitness, finances, safety as well as information on nostalgic topics, places to visit, leisure & lifestyle, mobility & helpful organisations to make the most out of life.
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