Saturday, June 21, 2014

Walking to see grannies

Walking to see Grannies

Hopefully children frequently visit their grandparents.  But of course it is not always easy, time, distance etc.  How many primary school age children today walk to see their grandparents, do you think ?  There has not been a study, as far as I know, but I would guess that there has not been . (Do think there is a research grant out there for this ?)

Up to the age of five, I and my siblings (except we didn't have any siblings, only brothers and sisters) spent Sunday afternoons alternately visiting our grandmothers. Both the grandfathers had died before we were born so we did not know either of them 

It wasn't that far, about three quarters of a mile, and the route could be varied.  Normally,  straight up Green Bank,  past the Gibbs toothpaste factory which always smelled soapy even on Sundays when there was no work going on.   The factory building, by the way, is still there, unlikely many of the other structures we would pass on those Sunday afternoons.
Turn left into Old Gravel  Lane  which for some reason is now called Wapping Lane , past the small group of closed shops up towards the  bridge. Going  past St. Peter's church we would be careful to keep to the other side of the road; being good Catholic children we didn't know what terrible things could happen to us if we went too close to a Protestant church.

Sometimes the bridge which went over a short canal which joined two sections of the docks was closed so we would have to wait for some barges or a ship went through, but was not often on a Sunday.   The bridge and the docks  are gone now of course but the one on the right hand side was filled in and trees were planted on it and called "Wapping Woods".  It was not a particularly successful project. 

Up to the Highway at the top of Old Gravel Lane.  Sometimes via a short cut through St. George in the East  church yard, even though by then it was a public gardens, there were still gravestones around the edge so we still had to be careful of any dead Protestants that might still be lurking.

 By then,  if we were going to "big Granny"  we were nearly there. She lived in Shovel Alley, at least that is what they called it, buts it's proper name was Mayfield Buildings.  During the summer months she would be sitting outside the front door on a wooden chair with a thick Sorbo cushion.  Invariably she asked "have you got a hankie". Whether we had or not she would always produce some from underneath the cushion.  We never stayed long, she was not a cuddly sort of grandmother, very stern of face which seemed to disapprove of you, even if you had been good. I have the impression that most grandmothers were like that in those days, not like the huggy kissy Nannas and Pops of today.
So it was question and answer sessions, and then, duty done  off we would go on the return journey.

If we were going to see our other grandmother "little Granny"  then it was a slightly longer walk as she lived with our Uncle Joe and Aunt Martha further along the Highway in Pell street.  We much preferred this visit, we only had to go into grannies room and say hallo as she was always unwell in bed.  Then we could go and look at the rabbits that Uncle Joe  kept in the tiny yard out the back, which also contained the outside toilet, so you could never tell where the worst smells came from. 

The return journey would often take us along Pennington Street passed the house that my father was born in, but that is not there either.
When we got home to our top floor council flat, we passed by the front door of the flat occupied by our family friends, the Connolys.  That flat was sold a couple of years ago for £295,000.

You could make this same journey today using Google Earth, but you would see very little today that we saw then.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

My Great Grandad went to Brazil in 1857.

My Great Grandad went to Brazil in 1857.

There was no World cup of course and there was no organised Carnivale either, the only street processions in those days were on religious festival days.

He was on board HMS Ganges a Royal Navy sailing ship, which at the time was the Flag ship of Rear Admiral Baynes who had recently been appointed Commander in Chief of the Pacific Squadron based in Valparaiso.

They arrived in Rio in November after 71 days after leaving Sheerness without any of the crew having been ashore.  The ship spent two weeks in Rio and it is hoped that the crew were allowed ashore there to sample the delights of this special city.

My Great grandfather, Alphons Eder was a bandsman on Ganges and had been born in Laibach (now Ljubljana) in Slovenia.  He was 20 years old and would never have experienced anything like what he found in Rio.  It would not have been just the distant scenery which was a new experience for Alphons and his band colleagues. There was the tropical heat even in November and there was no football !!

In most respects Rio was a modern city for its time with some fine buildings including an opera houses amongst the numerous churches, gas street lighting and electric trams.

HMS Ganges went on to go round Cape Horn and on to Valparaiso and other ports in Chile before going on to Canada.

Alphons Eder and Ganges finally returned to England in 1861. Two years later the Football Association was formed and thus changed the world forever. The first Football international took place in 1870 between England and Scotland and it seems as though the match isn't over yet..