Rosemary and Rue.
Recollections of a Forest of Dean Childhood
What is a Grandmother ?
"A grandmother is a lady who has no children of her own so she likes other people's boys and girls. Grandmothers don't have to do anything but just be there. If they take us for a walk they slow down past pretty leaves and caterpillars. They never say 'hurry up,' usually they are fat, but not too fat to tie our shoe-laces. They wear glasses and sometimes they can take their teeth out. They can answer questions like why cats hate dogs and why God isn't married. When they read to us they don't skip words or mind if it's the same story again. Everyone should have a grandmother, especially if they don't have television because grandmothers are the only people who have time."
This charming little composition was written by a seven-year old about her grandmother. I suppose I was lucky really, for I still had both my grand-mothers until the early years of the 1939-45 War, and Mary, my maternal grandmother had lived with us for over sixteen years. However, more of her anon.
"Man for the field and woman for the hearth:
Man for the sword and for the needle she:
Man with the head and woman with the heart:
Man to command and woman to obey:
All else confusion." - Tennyson.
Substitute "pit" for "field" and the above male chauvinistic sentiment is an accurate description of Joseph's attitude to his Jane. And if Jane did once have a heart it seemed to have turned to stone fairly early in her married life.
Grancher Joseph was, apparently, rather partial to family photographs. A varied collection of studio portraits of himself and his wife and children are still scattered around the family. But the ones I remember best are the two huge enlargements of himself and Grandma which he presented to my parents on the occasion of their marriage. Some present! A good two foot by eighteen inches, they hung either side of the chimney breast in our front room - Joseph to the left and Sarah Jane to the right. They dominated our Sundays and high days and holidays as they looked down upon our innocent merry-making, grave and unsmiling.
Thinking back, I do not recall any photograph of Grandma Jane in which she was actually smiling. She had very little to smile about. The burden of a loveless marriage, constant child-bearing and an over-bearing spouse soon quenched any small spark of content she may have felt in her new status. In the first four years of the marriage she had produced three babies, and with the three step-children she had taken on, her young life must have been one of constant drudgery. So let us look at what must have been a fairly typical day in her life. The year is 1904, the Boer war had ended; Marconi had sent his first wireless message across the Atlantic Ocean; over in America the brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright had managed to get their first powered aeroplane off the ground - and kept it in the air for nearly a minute; the speed limit for motor cars had been raised to 14 m.p.h. and the little man with the red flag abandoned. But in the Forest all these things passed the inhabitants by. Coal was still King and was to remain so for many years yet.