Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Flo's Story - Ashlyn

We seem to have got to episode nine in my mother's life - I never realised I had so much of this story in my head. Perhaps I should apologise at this stage for any inaccuracies which have crept in, after all this is just my memory of Flo's memories, but it's as accurate as I can get it.

Life at Ashlyn continued. Ted was working for Tom Ayres, possibly the most inefficient and backward farmer in the area.  Les and I attended the little village school, and Flo began some part-time cleaning work at Newnham College in Cambridge to try to make ends meet, even so there was very little money for luxuries like holidays.

There were a few changes in the village - some "proper" brick houses were built, the road had been resurfaced and most houses were now connected up to the electricity, though all the lights dimmed if Sid Thomas, the pig farmer down the road, started up his electric feed mill. Sid had started his farming business with two pigs and a few old sheds. The pigs did what comes naturally and his herd began to increase. He realised that he'd need more help and that if he paid a shilling or two more than other farms he'd eventually get the best workforce. He came to our house several times to try to get Dad to work with him, but Dad was worried that this new enterprise might fail and he'd find himself out of a job.

One day Ted had to go to the dentist. Old Tom the farmer said it would be OK as long as Ted and his mate made sure all the work was done as it should be on the farm. Even so at the end of the week money had been stopped out of his wages for the time he was away from work. Next time Sid came past on his tractor Flo waved him down. "If you still want Ted to work for you then come around and see him this evening", she told him. The plan worked perfectly, though Ted never knew Flo's part in all this till many years later.

Grannie had moved out from Ashlyn having got married to her daughter's father-in-law, a man I already knew as Grampa because that's what everybody called him as far as I knew. She now lived just next door and often popped through a convenient hole in the dividing hedge for a cup of tea and a chat.

With Flo now working part-time as well she had ambitions to make things better. Her first project was to save up for a fridge. "Don't be silly," said Ted, "you'll never be able to save enough to buy a fridge!" But eventually she did save the money and got her fridge. Soon afterwards though Flo began to have the health problems which dogged her throughout the rest of her life. Ted insisted that she should have a washing machine to make life easier for her. Flo was dead set against this idea and thought it would never be able to get the washing clean. One evening a man came out to demonstrate the wonderful machine. The house of course wasn't designed for having a washing machine plumbed in so a great deal of improvising with hosepipes and buckets was necessary. Even so it got the washing clean and Flo agreed to have one.

Flo came home from work one afternoon and asked her mother-in-law, "Did John saying anything when he came home for his lunch? Someone on the bus said he'd passed his exam to go to the County High School". Grannie said everything seemed normal and neither of the boys had said anything about it. "It must be a mistake then," said Flo,"people like us don't go to schools like that anyway".

But it was true. We'd just decided that we should tell Mum ourselves. So began a lot more expense as I was provided with school uniform, rugby kit, drawing instruments and all the other things deemed necessary for my further education.

Shortly after that Flo decided that more work was necessary on our little house to make it fit for her children to grow up in. She knew we hadn't sufficient money so went to the local council offices to see if we could get a loan to do the work. The man at the council looked over his spectacles and told her that the house had been condemned as unfit for habitation many years ago and we shouldn't be living there. However new council houses were being built at Comberton and Grantchester and he would put our name down for one of them.

Ted was initially very unhappy about the move. He was being uprooted from the village he'd always lived in, he'd lose his garden and he'd have to find money for the rent. Flo liked everything about the idea except that the house was in a street called Nutter's Close! 

Take care.


  1. Anotger great chapter, John. Nutter's Close? Named after a Nutter?

  2. Such a time you describe here, the first refrigerator and washing machine, the immense changes to life after the war. Your mother's determination and dreams make such beautiful stories of such a time.

  3. Life was still quite a frugal affair, especially for rural places in the US during the late 40's and through the 50's. My mother managed with a wringer washing machine in the basement--complete with hoses and buckets--before finally having an automatic washer installed on the main floor.
    My parents never left the small town where both were born and raised.

  4. Enjoyed this chapter, John. Machines were being introduced around this time, something we all take for granted these days. A great read!

  5. Flo sounds like an ambitious lady!

  6. Hi John - I do love reading these. Flo was obviously built of strong determination in what life should be like ... brilliant lady - cheers Hilary

  7. Loooooooove the Flo and Ted story John and you tell it so well, next installment please .. pronto! 😀😀

  8. This seems like such a far away time. But, modern conveniences are starting to move in during this chapter . . .

  9. They managed, didn't they? Somehow they always found a way to get what was needed. Very resourceful and determined.

  10. Wonderful tribute to your mother, John. She was a remarkable woman. Thank you for telling us her story. Love, Cousin Judy

  11. I have only just caught up with your tributes to your Mum John, I think she would be very proud. Thank you for sharing her stories, I have thoroughly enjoyed reading them. It’s an age that pre dates mine but one that I am familiar with from my own family. They were very interesting times. I used to love listening to my mum telling me all about her childhood and teen years.

  12. Since you said Ted was initially unhappy, I hope that means eventually he is pleased....


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