New Year was special, and Easter, and Christmas. At an early age, from home and school, I learned why Easter was special and that Christmas wasn’t only about Santa Claus. New Year was starting over with a clean slate. Birthdays were special, especially mine because I was born on Trafalgar Day! Annabel was born on 12th August, ‘shooting day’, when men with guns could shoot the grouse which later we would see hanging in the butchers’ shops. Of course, Trafalgar Day was also associated with some bloodshed. I had a party when Gordon from next door and Molly and Bertie from through the wall from us came, along with Marion and a few more for tea and games. Auntie Annie and Mum supervised and served meat paste sandwiches with the crusts off, Playtime Biscuits and the birthday cake. Life was simpler then and children were happy with playing games and going home with a bag of sweeties. Nor did the birthday boy or girl expect a gift to be brought. The presents we got from family were usually books or jigsaws, doll-dressing books, paint boxes and paint books, things that kept us happily occupied. I collected stamps for years and was given a big packet of mixed stamps one year. It was a great thrill sorting them all out and consulting my XLCR booklet which showed all the clues to finding out where a stamp came from. I found a Twopenny Blue but never had a Penny Black. Many years later, when I was a married woman with daughters, Blue Peter, which we watched on TV, asked for stamps in their Christmas Appeal. It was for a very good cause so I bundled up the collection and sent it off! I kept the XLCR booklet just in case I got the bug again. In a way I did, but only for first day covers intended for our granddaughters.
One summer, Mum and Dad hired one of Laird’s cars to take us and Granny and Grandaddy to Largs for the day. I was probably about eleven and Annabel coming up to five. People sometimes said of me that I was tall for my age. When I saw one of the photos my Dad had taken I believed it. Granny, Mum and Annabel and I are walking along the Front and I am taller than them! Since Gran and Mum were both about 4ft 11 it wasn’t hard. I ended up 5ft 4 and now have shrunk a bit to 5ft 3! Another photo shows the Grandparents on a seat with pokey hats in their hand obviously enjoying the ice cream. We all had a happy day.
When I was seven I joined the Brownie Pack whose Shed was just a couple of minutes’ walk from our house. The Brown Owl had lovely real blonde hair and Tawny Owl’s was reddish/brown. They were sisters and lived in a big house. I once had to go there for some reason and was amazed as I waited in the hall to see a white cockatoo on a perch, tethered by the ankle. It was lovely and squawked a bit. I didn’t get too close in case it would peck me. It had a much bigger beak than Granny’s hens had! I was Patrol Leader of the Sprites. We all took a penny we had made shiny with Brasso every week. Our Brownie Badge which we wore on our yellow tie also had to be polished and gleaming. A big mushroom replica stood in the middle of the room at the Shed and each patrol went and laid their pennies down in a row then we had the Brownie promise with the salute. We worked hard to get badges to sew on our uniforms. Simple cooking, sewing, darning, first aid and lots more. It was great fun and painless learning. We had Inspection when Tawny would look at our fingernails and see if our tie was correctly put on and uniform clean and tidy. We had games which usually involved a lot of running about. One year our outing was to Edinburgh. I don’t think any of us had been there so it was very exciting. We went to the Zoo which was breath-taking. We saw absolutely everything I think. We had seen pictures of penguins but to see them actually walking about close to us was amazing. But best of all was riding on the elephant and on the camel. It was the kind of camel with two humps. It got down very awkwardly and one child sat up on its neck and the other between the humps. When it stood up it was like being in a boat on a stormy sea. The elephant carried about six or maybe eight of us at a time, facing right and left. We had taken picnics with us and some money to spend, but I don’t think we had time to shop and were almost too busy to eat. It was a special day Indeed. Another Brownie outing was to Finlaystone House, an Estate near Port Glasgow, where we had games and races in the large garden.
Perhaps through today’s eyes our special days would seem tame and mundane. I think on the whole we were more resourceful in many ways. We made our own entertainment. Most ‘special’ things in present times appear to involve a fair bit of cash. We didn’t have that available. I refer to the ordinary hard-working people whose hourly rates were in pence rather than pounds. A day in Edinburgh Zoo probably thrilled us as much as a week in Benidorm would impress a modern child! Or so it seems to me…………….