Sunday, 19 November 2017

Every Lid Opened Is A New Adventure...

More finds from my uncle's (now empty) house. We had to wonder how long it had been since he actually saw any of this stuff himself? Looking through the possessions left after a relative dies is in turns nostalgic, surprising, incredibly sad, wondrous and, in the next moment, hilarious. Who, for instance, would have had any idea of the incredible number of cookery books that Uncle Geoff had amassed? Every now and then he would say he had baked some buns, or made some mince pies near Christmas. But I'm talking a stack of books by TV chefs that would reach as high as three feet...

Upstairs in what had been the main bedroom we uncovered a treadmill Singer sewing machine. My other Nana had one of these and we used to love it when she disengaged the sewing mechanism to let us sit at it, treadling away making the wheel spin so fast it burned your hand if you tried to stop it by grabbing the wheel! Of course (ahem) I was only a kid in my fifties then...

There were tins everywhere. Not all in great condition perhaps, as can be seen from this photograph. The tin is obviously one brought out around the time of Queen Elizabeth II's ascendency to the throne, or Coronation perhaps. But a label had been stuck over her face at one time and although removed, it has left remnants of gum that I couldn't shift. The tin contained oddments of buttons. There's something like it in every grandparent's house, whether a tin or a jar. My other Nana had a big Oxo tin and my Mum had a massive glass sweets jar...

Crawford's Red Lion Shortbread from Edinburgh. Scottish shortbread was one of those regular Christmas purchases. Still is, if it comes to that... I wonder if there's any left...

It contained combs. And a couple of fierce looking fancy combs designed to be worn rather than just for combing through your hair. The spikes on one look as though it is secured right down into the brain and beyond... There's also a couple of forerunners of those 1970s K-Tel comb-with-a-razor-blade instruments of torture. The cream coloured Sabo which bears the message "Do it yourself hairdresser" and the grey Easytrim towards the bottom. Top right is a blue long-handled comb with bristles on the side for that extra tug on your tangles (ouch!) There's enough samples of DNA attached to clone a few members of the family too...

This tin from many Christmases past doesn't give away what it was intended to contain but has a design of fruit trees, acorns, birds, deer and squirrels.

Roka Cheese Crispies. I don't remember these at all. But it all serves to remind us that there was a time before Twiglets and After Eight... Just the thing to go with your Cherry B.

Would you believe it? All the cheese crispies have gone and it now holds a bunch of candles. Memories of all those power cuts during the 1970s perhaps.

Elastoplast in a tin. It came in a massive roll and you cut off how much you needed. As kids in the 1950s our play areas were not spongy, impact absorbing soft-surfaced ground coverings. As likely as not public playgrounds were thoughtfully protected with a covering of rock hard, irregular shaped, lumpy, pointy, nasty tearing things called cinders. They were the charred clinker left over from fires and furnaces that were almost indestructable and would certainly come off best in a match against knees and elbows. Grown-ups would tut in sympathy and wash the grit out of your cuts and then splash on the iodine, which not only stained your skin purple, but was incredibly painful as it stung every exposed bit of flesh. "There, you'll be alright now..."

There were so many tins. My Grandad Burke was a pipe smoker for most of his life. As often as not instead of flaked tobacco he would buy rough cut which had to be rubbed in the hand to break it up before stuffing it into the pipe bowl. We saw an Iron Jelloids tin in yesterday's article. Let's have a look inside...

Paper clips and strips of rubber letters that look as though they have come from some sort of printing toy.

We did, in fact, find a John Bull Printing Outfit No.6. The little letters were mirrored and you arranged them to spell your message between the runners of the stamp (the red thing with the handle on the left in the box). The tweezers were so you didn't get ink on your fingers, but were incredibly good at springing a line of letters all over the room so you inevitably lost some. Inky fingers were much to be preferred than losing letters... Then the stamp pad - the other red bit) and hey presto! You could create a message. Though some letters would be darker than others because you hadn't pressed them as deep into the runners as other letters... The box also contains a rubber eraser that has seen better days and a box of gummed reinforcers. In the days when we used to put a lot of papers into ring binders, these were for reinforcing the punch holes so they wouldn't tear.

Also in the photo are a John Bull fountain pen, a bottle of ink, a Marathon pad for cleaning suede, a Progress typewriter ribbon tin now containing dip pen nibs and drawing pins, a maroon rubber endorsing ink container that was squeezed onto stamp pads in the John Bull outfit, and roll of gummed tape - pre-cursor to sticky tape but requiring you to lick it!

Old halfpennies or ha'pennies. There were several tins with old coins and some complete sets of pre-decimal coinage in old paper change bags. There's a few larger coins in there too. They are pennies.

This one contained farthings. There were four of these to the penny and 240 pennies to the pound. Hands up if you can imagine there being anything to buy using a 1/960th of a pound? The last issue of the farthing had a picture of a wren on the reverse (there's one in the middle of the tin). Earlier ones had that truly British image of Britannia with her shield. Even earlier ones had her between a ship and a lighthouse. There are some of those visible too.

Yardley's Brilliantine. It was hair oil. You put some into your hand, rubbed your hands together to make a horrible squelchy slapping noise...and then slapped both hands into your hair and rubbed the oil and goo all over your head. This gave your hair a brilliant shine as the light reflected off it (hence "brilliantine") and also made it possible to create horns and waves and sculptures of Blenheim Palace with your hair... Uncle Geoff had a habit of plastering on the hair oil and then grabbing lines between his fingers to create four deep waves. Always one for a bargain he must have bought it by the case... He wasn't planning on going bald, was he?

No, he wasn't...!

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