My parents were hard working and industrious folk. We wanted for nothing but, waste in any form, was not tolerated. Mother, a culinary magician, could feed, at the 'drop of a hat', a family of 4 plus unexpected guests from a strictly rationed larder. Corned beef hashes, hearty vegetable soups etc. were conjured up with the minimum of fuss and, of course, NO WASTE. The family's potato and vegetable peelings were given to our neighbour, Mrs. Edmund's, who boiled them and used the resulting potage to supplement the food she gave to her hens. In exchange for our peelings, Mrs. Edmunds' would give us a few eggs now and again.
Carrots were plentiful and, over the war years, a greatly valued source of nutrition for the nation. Creative minds at the War Office devised recipes using carrots as the main ingredient so that, when combined with other available vegetables and seasonal fruits, then creatively named, the populace were encouraged to believe they were dining variously and well. Dishes such as Woolton Pie, Welsh Mutton, Sweet Marmalade, Carrot Cookies, Farmhouse Scramble, Pathfinder Pudding, and Pigs in Clover were some of the poetically named dishes which appeared on our family dinner table right up to the mid 1950's. Years after rationing ended my Mum bemoaned that she could no longer source dried egg as, she said, 'Crisp Crust Omelette isn't the same with fresh eggs'.
Necessity, the Mother of Creative Invention during World War2 and its austere aftermath became a way of life in the family. Everyone 'med summat out o' nowt' My sister sewed and knitted toys for me, recycling scraps of wool and fabric from Mum's rag bag, toys in the 1940's were difficult to find... .........and expensive. Great Aunty Nellie always bought overlong coats and dresses so that she could cut a good wide strip from the bottom and fashion a matching turban or small hat. Great Aunty Nellie could, and did, 'get away with anything,' she embroidered flowers over rents and moth holes on jumpers and cardigans, fashioned corsages from random remnants, and, in the summer, stained her legs with diluted gravy browning drawing 'seams' up her calves with a dark brown eye pencil to simulate fashioned silk stockings.
Aunty Nellie's creative juices flowed, outpoured from her Mother, my 'Great Grandma Eaves, an excellent needlewoman and an expert in 'mekkin summat from nowt '. During WW2 Great Grandma crocheted curtains from fine string for the front windows of her 'two up, two down' terraced house. The house needed new nets and string was one of the few things not 'on the ration', Great Grandma had the time and the talent so, in 1940 she began the project which was finished in 1942. The curtains were bleached, boiled and 'Dolly Creamed' annually, they were still 'on the go' in the early 70's, outliving their creator who died in 1953. Aside from crocheting string curtains, Great Gran seemed always to be knitting or re-heeling socks and stockings using four fine knitting needles. She also produced finely edged table mats, handkerchiefs etc. using the good parts of ancient sheets which, themselves, had been 'turned' in a previous decade. Great Gran's photograph and an article appeared in the local paper under the heading 'AGED 92, CAN STILL THREAD A NEEDLE WITHOUT THE AID OF GLASSES'.
My Mother, born in 1910 and reared within such a climate of family resourcefulness was, like Gt. Gran a dynamo with both needle and hook and in visualising possibilities. In 1949 I needed a dress for the Sunday School Christmas party. Mum utilised the white muslin from two flour sacks, stitching rows of pink and green ribbon round the skirt, tatting edging for the Peter Pan collar and the puff sleeves. The finished frock starched and ironed was a fairylike fantasy. I loved it. My Aunty Sadie, Mum's sister, worked in a Blackburn cotton mill and occasionally she sourced bags of fents which, inspired by Woman's Weekly, Mum would deftly stitch into tops, shorts, tea cosies, bags or indeed anything that could be created from the miscellany of short lengths.
Pegging rugs, using strips of cloth from articles too worn to be re-sewn was an ongoing, creative family affair. Aunty Nellie and Mum would sometimes work together on a rug and thus recycled in tandem! There were therapeutic benefits to 'pegging'. If someone was 'worked up', being difficult, or irritable Mum would say 'Oh go and peg the rug!' It was a phrase well used in our creative but often capriciously natured family circle. Dad used his creative skills too. He had trained as a joiner in his youth and usually had work in progress in the garage. He made small tables, sewing cabinets, book-shelves, poker work pot stands and dolls' houses for our immediate and wider family using recycled timber gleaned from any legal source where it was free and available.
During the war Dad worked as an aircraft engine fitter at Dick Kerr's factory in Preston and, in his leisure time, made model aircraft from scraps of waste aluminium for Fred, my brother, who was mad about planes. Incidentally Fred, recycled a leather flying helmet passed on to him by Norman, a family friend. The helmet was Fred's favourite headgear, worn Winter and Summer as Fred careered all over the village, arms outstretched, fighting imaginary air battles. When Norman, aged 21, died at the Battle of Britain it acquired special status and became a family heirloom. Dad enthusiastically joined the 'Dig for Victory' campaign and sacrificed the side lawn of the house to grow carrots (of course) potatoes ,beetroot and onions. His vegetable patch flourished throughout the 50's and early 60's well manured by the droppings of Bert Blackstock's carthorse. My Dad was a man adept in 'mekkin' summat from nowt'.
Granddad Hesketh, Dad's father had skills honed on the New Zealand railways where he had been a mechanical engineer. Engineering was his passion and he'd had the foresight to build a huge workshop at the rear of his house, a home which, in 1930, he had designed and built himself. During the war Granddad Hesketh built a family sized air raid shelter beneath the work-shop. The shelter had a ventilation system, bunks, electricity and water. Post war, when materials became more available Granddad Hesketh designed and built towing caravans which the family used for holidays. In 1951 he created the first Motor Home that I ever experienced. Mum, Dad and I travelled to Stratford in it and created quite a stir. Grandma Hesketh was long suffering of the hours Granddad spent toiling in his workshop but encouraged his projects, with the exception of one. Granddad greatly admired the canals and the innovative engineering utilised in their construction, He had a 'pipe dream' to cruise all over England via the canals. However, when he told Grandma that he was going to build a narrow-boat to facilitate this, she said, 'Well, alright, but you can go on yer' own'. The project was shelved.
Incidentally Grandma Hesketh's creative flair was largely manifested in producing lemon curd, rosehip jam and bramble conserve .She also successfully grew huge amounts of lavender in her garden which she dried in bunches on her windowsills prior to making lavender sachets, Grandma's house always smelt divine. Granddad and Grandma Hesketh were also pretty good at mekkin summat from nowt'. Creative ingenuity seems to be the essential 'raison d' etre' of the human race enabling physical and emotional well-being and promoting an enhanced environment.
In Neolithic times spiritual inclinations persuaded the cavemen to decorate the walls of their dwellings. The Beaker people of the Bronze Age produced artistic pottery and jewellery whilst later Iron age Celts mastered smelting and decorated the most humble surfaces with intricate knot-work patterns. The Romans brought glass, mosaics, figurative sculpture and painted plaster to Britain. This was followed by the distinctive ScandInavian wood carvings and patterns etched on weapons and jewellery by the invading Vikings. Norman Art and Architecture is still, thanks to English Heritage and the National Trust, a strong influence on the British landscape. If walls could talk they would evidence that the most humble Medieval serf worshipped in lofty cathedrals surrounded by wondrous stained glass, stone masonry and embroideries, all this far removed from his humble cruck cottage home.
The Tudors refined building and weaving techniques and entertainment for the masses. Stuart England saw the invention of seed drills, steam engines, the fork, microscopes, colour fast dyes, public transport, pendulum clocks and fountain pens, all of which, ultimately, had a profound national influence. 'The creative Georgians enriched society with a diverse selection of creative innovations including cast iron, the Davy lamp, power looms, Faraday's electric motor, Josiah Wedgwood's pottery and Harrison's precision time keeping.
Emanating from Victorian creativity were; the Penny post, effective domestic water supply and sewerage, photographs, telephones, electric light bulbs and the motor car. Edwardian England gave us Charles Rennie Macintosh and The Arts and Crafts movement, Rudyard Kipling, trams, air flight, the vacuum cleaner, asphalt and tarmacadam. Creativity in the 20th and 21st century is exemplified by British inventions such as The Hovercraft, television, the Jet Engine, cats eyes, radar, Concord, DNA and by the artistic talents of, to name but a few, L.S. Lowry, Paul Nash, Ben Nicholson, David Hockney, Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, Banksy, Vivienne Westwood, Zandra Rhodes and Mary Quant. I haven't mentioned the rich seam of British musical talent and internationally renowned film directors, actors and actresses.
According to Wikipedia creativity is defined as 'a phenomenon where something new and valuable is created, such as an idea or a joke, it can be artistic, the literary word, painting, musical composition, a solution or an invention. Creativity originates from ideas and concepts, most often becoming something sensory. All very 'high falutin'! I prefer Great Gran's definition. i.e, 'mekkin summat from nowt'.
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