Twelve Days of Christmas London Style – Day 7



The daily schedule of trainee nurses at St Thomas’s Hospital

Long, long ago, in a country far, far away, I trained as a nurse at the Royal infirmary of Edinburgh. On our first day, we were told that our School of Nursing had been founded by one of Florence Nightingale’s own nurses. And indeed, Florence’s influence was everywhere; from the long Nightingale wards we worked in, to the clear hierarchy between doctors and nurses and almost military discipline.

I’d long promised myself a visit to the Florence Nightingale Museum. Set within the grounds of St Thomas’s Hospitaldirectly across the Thames from the Houses of Parliament, (the original hospital was bombed during WW2), this is where Florence established her first nursing school in 1860. The museum is divided into three sections; Her Early Life, The Crimean War and Post-War Work.


The view of The Houses of Parliament from St Thomas’s Hospital

Born in 1820 in Florence (hence her name) to affluent and well-connected British parents, Florence rebelled against the expectations of becoming a dutiful wife and mother, refusing at least one offer of marriage. Highly intelligent, she worked hard to educate herself in mathematics and science, both through traditional book learning as well as travel. Financially supported by her father, she began nursing in 1840 in Germany, later becoming Superintendent at the Institute for The Care of Sick Gentlewomen in Harley Street.


This Turkish lamp, a fanoos, is more likely what Florence carried around the wards rather than the genie lamp depicted in pictures of the time.

In 1854, at the request of the Secretary of War, Sidney Herbert, Florence brought together 38 volunteer nurses (including 15 Catholic nuns) to sail to the Crimea. Arriving at the hospital in Scutari they discovered total chaos with little care offered to the sick and injured. Most deaths were caused from illnesses such as cholera or typhoid, rather than wounds sustained in battle, so through basic nursing care, good food, fresh air and adequate sanitation, she is credited with reducing the death rate amongst soldiers from 42% to 2% following hospital admission. It is during this time the legend of The Lady with the Lamp arose – although it’s more likely she walked the wards carrying a Turkish lamp rather than the one portrayed in images of that time.

Florence also met with Mary Seacole, (voted the Greatest Black Briton in 2004), a Jamaican nurse who set up the British Hotel near Balaclava for the care of sick and convalescent soldiers. Although they never worked together, the relationship between the two women appears to have been friendly, with Mary staying overnight at Florence’s hospital on her arrival in the Crimea.

nurse picturesHaving succumbed to Crimean Fever (probably Chronic Brucellosis) Florence returned to Britain where she remained an invalid for the rest of her life. Even so, she founded the Nightingale Training School at St Thomas’s and continued to be extremely influential, writing and advising on nursing, sanitation and hospital design until her death in 1910.

The museum doesn’t just focus on Florence Nightingale herself, but on the evolution of the profession/vocation of nursing over the years. There are fascinating interviews with nurses of all ages, including modern military nurses who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Edith Cavell’s dog, Jack. Using him as ‘cover’ on early morning walks, she helped approximately 200 allied soldiers escape.

One exhibit includes the story of Edith Cavell, the British nurse shot in World War One, and her dog, Jack, who was often her cover for helping allied soldiers escape.

For more information on this intriguing little museum, please click here to check out its website.


Twelve Days of Christmas London Style – Day 6



Hampstead Heath

If I ever win the lottery (mind you, I’d have to start buying tickets first!) I’m going to buy myself a house in Hampstead and walk my dog on Hampstead Heath every day!

This park of 790 acres (with its own police force) is, according to the guide book, less than 6km from Trafalgar Square and just within Zone 2 on the Northern Line.

I adore London, but, even so, the crowds and traffic can sometimes become rather suffocating. Even in the city parks it’s hard to get away from The Madding Crowd. In contrast, I found few tourists walking the heath; most walkers were locals out with their dogs. (The downside of this is that once you’re actually on the heath, there are no signposts.)

parliament hill

The view of London from Parliament Hill.

A quick google search revealed that Hampstead Heath has been used as a location on over 50 movies and TV shows – including Notting Hill, The Omen, 101 Dalmatians and Mansfield Park – so it’s possible you’ve seen it on-screen before. Especially the view from Parliament Hill overlooking London. And that was my goal.


“Which way to Parliament Hill?” I asked one of the underground personnel when I arrived at Hampstead Tube Station.

“Turn right and go up the hill,” he said.

Which is what I did.

And got totally lost.

Moral of the story? Just because someone works in a location, doesn’t mean they know the area.

heath 1

The opposite direction to Parliament Hill!

When I found myself inside the park going downhill through a tangled path of trees, I cottoned on that I was probably heading in the wrong direction. About a hundred yards away I saw a man walking his dogs. I reckoned he was bound to know the area. “I know you,” the voice in my head said as I drew closer. “I definitely know you,” it repeated when he started to speak. And then I gave an Oscar-winning performance of my own, pretending not to recognise the Downton Abbey actor, as he pointed me in the right direction!  Turns out there are two heaths – west and east – and I was on the wrong one.

turn left here

Downshire Hill. Turn left here and follow the road all the way down to the park entrance.

If you want to visit Parliament Hill on Hampstead Heath, turn LEFT as you exit the tube station, and head DOWNHILL until you reach Downshire Hill.  Turn LEFT and walk to the end of the road. Hampstead Heath is just across the road and you’ll find a signpost there to Parliament Hill.

I’d also hoped to visit a few of the museums in Hampstead – Kenwood House, Burgh Museum, John Keats’ House and 2 Willow Road – but none were open that day. (Second moral to the story – always check museum opening times in advance.) But after a fabulous walk across the heath, I enjoyed a leisurely stroll back along the main street.

Despite its village feel, Hampstead boasts some of the most expensive houses in London.It was great just doing a bit of window shopping – apparently Judi Dench has been known to shop for clothes at The Hampstead Bazaar just opposite the tube station – and I stopped in for a lovely cup of tea and scone in one of its tea rooms.



I’m definitely going to revisit Hampstead on my next trip to London – striding out across the parkland after being hemmed in by people and traffic was a real joy – but this time I’ll take my own advice and check out the museum opening hours ahead of time.

Kenwood House: Daily 10am-5pm

John Keats House: Winter hours: Friday-Sunday 1-5pm

Burgh House Museum: Wednesday to Friday and Sunday noon-5pm

2 Willow Road:Check website

Twelve Days of Christmas London Style – Day 5



The Great Hall. Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studio Tour

If you’re visiting London in December, and you’re a Harry Potter fan, then you HAVE to make the trip out to Watford to visit the Harry Potter Studio Tour to see The Great Hall all decked out for Yule.

Getting there:
London Euston to Watford Junction: Trains leave from Euston Station to Watford Junction, but be aware there are two possible lines to take; Midland and London Overground. You want Midland. Midland takes approximately 20 minutes while London Overground takes 50!

Watford Junction to the Studio: Exit the station and turn left into the bus park. You can’t miss the bus stand – and the bus itself is painted purple and covered with pictures from the movie. It costs 2GBP per person and takes around 10-15 minutes. The bus leaves every 20 minutes.


Diagon Alley. Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studio Tour

Timing: You want to give yourself at least 3 hours to see everything on the tour. Some people do it in two hours, but that’s rushing it. And don’t plan anything ‘timed’ (eg theatre) for that evening. Once you’re ‘in’, you can stay as long as you want, so take your time and enjoy.

If you’re travelling by public transit, I would suggest you book a tour for around 11.30am to give yourself plenty of time to get the train, make connections and exchange your online booking voucher for tickets when you get there. If you’re early, the cafe serves great snacks and meals, and of course the shop is amazing! Everything Potter you can dream of is there!

common room

Gryffindor Common Room. Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studio Tour

The Tour:
First of all, what the tour is not. It’s NOT a theme park. (Two girls sitting beside me in the cafe were surprised there weren’t any rides!) This is a studio tour of the MAKING of the films where you get to see the genuine sets, costumes and props up close. The first soundstage walks you through the sets; the Great Hall, the Gryffindor common room, The Weasley’s kitchen etc., and also shows you how they create snow and fire in movies.


The Potters’ House. Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studio Tour

Outside, you see the exterior of 4 Privet Drive, the Knight bus, the Potters’ house, and the bridge at Hogwarts. It’s also where you can sit and have a Butterbeer – or just regular coffee and snacks if you’d prefer. I had to try the Butterbeer – which I enjoyed! Especially with fake snow falling around me.

Then it’s back inside to see Diagon Alley and all the models, prosthetics, wigs, animatronics etc they created for the films. There’s even a full size Hippogriff, so make sure you bow politely to him as you pass by.


Masks. Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studio Tour

I loved the tour and could have spent all day there. My only regret – that I booked the 1pm tour and had to be back in town for a theatre show at 7.30pm, so I was constantly watching the clock.

Is this suitable for very young children? Probably not. But a child (of any age!!) who is into Harry Potter and has seen the films will love it!

For the Studio Tour official website, please click here.

Twelve Days of Chirstmas London Style – Day 4


The Geffreye Museum, Shoreditch

Tucked away, a 20 minute bus ride from the city centre in Shoreditch, is one of my favourite London museums – The Geffreye Museum. Built by Sir Robert Geffreye in 1714 as an almshouse, it was turned into a museum, focusing on the home and domestic life of the ‘middling sort’, in 1914. It’s a glorious oasis of calm and tranquility in the heart of a busy neighbourhood. Locals who live and work in the area often come here to enjoy a picnic in the grounds of this beautiful building.


The Geffreye Museum, Shoreditch

Spread out the length of the main block are middle-class living rooms, ranging from Elizabethan to Victorian times. The exhibition continues downstairs with more rooms featuring our evolving lifestyle throughout the 20th century. Although I’d visited the Geffreye before, I wanted to go back to see the rooms decorated for Xmas – and it was a treat.


Room of ‘the middling sorts’ depicting the 1600s. Geffreye Museum

First off was the Elizabethan room in a home ‘over the shop’. Panelled in rich golden oak with green curtains at the windows, this was the room where the household gathered to eat, socialise and entertain, a fire burning in the grate. With the walls and mantlepiece decorated with greenery for Christmas, the table is laid for a feast.  But look carefully. Disguised as hard-boiled eggs and strips of bacon are sugar treats!


The Geffreye Museum, Shoreditch

Over the next few centuries a change started to take place in the middle class; home and workplace became separated. Further division occurred within the home itself; instead of one great room for all social activities, these were separated into dining rooms and parlours. Also, there was a growing distinction (and separation) between the family and their servants. Interesting to note, too, how little Xmas decoration there was during this period. A hangover from the Puritan era perhaps?


Victorian room decorated for Christmas. Geffreye Museum.

Contrast that with the full explosion of the Victorian room! Although Queen Victoria’s husband, Albert, is credited with introducing the Xmas tree to Britain, apparently Xmas trees had been seen in homes earlier in the century. What surprised me about the tree was the decoration at the top. It’s neither star nor fairy but a union flag! (The tree at the Dennis Severs House – which I blogged about a few days ago- was also topped by a flag.)


1950s Christmas. Geffreye Museum

Downstairs, we enter the 20th century. This room depicts the 1950s. This was the era when my parents bought their first home, so there are some elements here (the paper chains hanging from the ceiling, a miniature artificial tree) which I recognise from my own childhood Christmases.

Behind the museum you’ll find a collection of gardens matching the time periods of the rooms inside. Our gardens have also evolved over the centuries just as much as our interiors. Unfortunately, the gardens are not open to the public during the winter months.

And the purpose of the great room appears to have come full circle. Once again, in the 21st century, common modern home design is to create one large open-plan space on the main floor where the family eats, socializes and children do their homework together. The more things change, the more they stay the same?


Ginger/Lemon tea. The Geffreye Museum

During your visit, make sure to stop and have a meal or snack in the museum’s cafeteria. Backing on to the gardens below, it’s a lovely, bright, open space. The food is great quality – I dare you NOT to have a dessert – and very reasonably priced. I chose to have a cup of ginger and lemon tea (along with a delicious chocolate brownie!) and was delighted to be presented with a small teapot holding slices of fresh ginger and lemon, a tiny dish of honey on the side as sweetener. That’s something I’ll be trying at home.

Entry to The Geffreye Museum is free and it’s open most days except Monday. For further details on the museum and how to get there, please click here.

Twelve Days of Christmas London Style – Day 3

streetWhat I love about London is you will be walking down a regular looking street and, unless you know it’s there, can be missing an absolute treasure. When doing some research for our trip this month, J and I came across a reference to Charterhouse. I was vaguely aware of it – Wasn’t it a school? – but knew absolutely no details, let alone its history. After checking out their site, we saw they offered tours so we signed up.

courtyardWhat we discovered was a mediaeval jewel in the heart of the busy city. Spread over six acres(!) Charterhouse is a former Carthusian monastery founded by monks from Chartreuse in France in 1371. (‘Charterhouse’ is the anglicanisation of ‘Chartreuse’.)

Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII in the 1530s, many of the monks were hung at Tyburn for refusing to take an oath recognising Henry as head of the church in England, and the monastery became a possession of the crown. It was granted to Lord North, who sold it to The Duke of Norfolk, who later sold it to Thomas Sutton in 1611.


The chapel at Charterhouse where services (which can be attended by members of the public) are held.

Sutton was an extremely wealthy ‘commoner’, having made much of his money in munitions.  He turned Charterhouse into a charitable foundation to educate boys and offer residential care for single elderly men.


The cloister at Charterhouse where several rules of football were invented

Former pupils of the school – which relocated to Surrey in 1872 when it outgrew the space – include Lord Baden-Powell (founder of the Scout movement), William Makepeace Thackery (writer) and John Wesley (founder of the Methodist church).

If you’re a soccer fan, you might be interested to learn that two of the rules of the game (the offside rule and throw in) came into being on this site where the boys played the game in the cloisters.

Charterhouse continues to offer accommodation for single elderly men. Known as ‘Brothers’, they must be between 60-80 years of age and men of limited financial means. (Teachers, artists, clergymen, etc.) They live independently in their own flats in the grounds but meet together daily for meals. Although Charterhouse is an Anglican community, there is no obligation to attend services – or even be a member of The Church of England.

burned door

Note the burned door on the right hand side of the archway.

Charterhouse was damaged by bombing during World War Two. You can still see the evidence of the remnants of a burned door which protected the chapel.

Today, Charterhouse is open for tours on Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday and alternate Saturday afternoons. They last for approximately an hour and a half and cost 10GBP per person. Tours are led by Brothers and must be booked in advance.  Please click here for the online application form. Members of the public can also attend services in their chapel. Please click here for information.

tv location

One of the many courtyards in Charterhouse. Brothers live in flats in these buildings.

Charterhouse can also be hired as wedding venue and is used quite often by film and television companies for location shooting for productions such as Downton Abbey and Great Expectations.

If you’re a history geek and/or looking for something just a little bit different during your visit to London, both J and myself highly recommend Charterhouse. With history stretching back over 700 years, it really is a jewel.


Twelve Days of Christmas London Style – Day 1

I just got back from London last night after a great trip.  I love London at any time of the year, but there’s a special magic about the Christmas season; the city – literally – lights up.


Grimm Tales, Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf

My travelling companion J and I both agreed that the highlight of our holiday was a visit to the Grimm Tales theatre production at the Bargehouse in Oxo Tower Wharf on the Southbank. This is an amazing space and was a fabulous evening’s entertainment.  Of all the places we saw and things we did on our trip, this is the one that lingers.

Grimm Tales is playing until February 15th, 2015 and if you haven’t seen it, I can highly recommend it.


Grimm Tales, Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf

I was unable to take photos during the performance, but afterwards you are encouraged to explore the four floors of the old warehouse where the production takes place. The audience is split up into groups and each one sees five out of six of Grimm’s tales.  (Thousandfurs, The Three Little Men in the Woods, The Frog King, Faithful Johannes, Hansel and Gretel and The Goose Girl at the Spring).

Sitting mere feet away from the performers, you are drawn into their world; for the twenty minutes or so of each individual story, you are right there with the characters. Adapted by Philip Pullman (The Golden Compass), this is no Disneyfied retelling of these old stories. When  one tale ends, the lights go up and you are shepherded up a magical flight of stairs in the four-story building into yet another enchanted setting.

Dolls in baskets

Hansel and Gretel, Grimm Tales, Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf

This is not a production for very young children – there is a darkness that might frighten some –  but for the right child of the right age (or any adult) it’s sheer magic.

Reviews for Grimm Tales:



London in December – The Essentials

bigbenbirdL-o-n-g time ago, I lived and worked in London for a year. I loved it. And it doesn’t matter how often I come back for a visit, or at what time of year, there’s always something new and different to see.

If you’ve been to London before and seen Big Ben and The Tower of London etc. – or big tourist attractions just aren’t your thing – I’m going to be talking about some unusual sights/museums or out-of-the-way places you might like to visit over the next few weeks. Especially at this time of the year.

And if you’ve ever seen the movie Love Actually, you know how wonderful this city looks in December. But travelling in winter can throw up a few challenges. Here are some things I think are essential to consider if you plan on visiting London from overseas.

1) ACCOMMODATION: Where are you going to stay? Hotel? Apartment? Hostel? In the heart of the city? Outside? My preference is an apartment in the heart of the city. Often they come equipped with washer/dryer, which is a great boon.  (Allows you to leave more space in your suitcase for goodies to take home!) Currently we’re staying in a flat just two streets away from the British Museum.  At 120GBP per night, it has one double bedroom, kitchen, bathroom and a living room with a double sofa bed, (allowing us each our own ‘bedroom’) and is very comfortable for two friends sharing or a family of four. We can enjoy breakfast here in the morning before setting out for the day and, if we come home exhausted, we can pick up something from Marks and Sparks for dinner in the evening. The only disadvantage? This particular flat is on the top floor (49 steps!!) – but they’re getting easier as the days go by.

2) MAP: Whether you have an old fashioned fold-out map, A-Z book of London, or a map on your cell-phone, it’s an essential. As is a map of the tube. Do a bit of planning beforehand.  What attractions do you want to visit? Are they close to each other? Sometimes it’s much easier to walk between venues than take the tube.  For example, walking from Covent Garden Tube Station to Leicester Square takes about two minutes on foot. By tube? Much longer.

3) OYSTER CARD: Get one of these for travelling on the tube and buses. (You can’t use cash on the bus anymore. You must either use an oyster card or special travel card.)  We took the tube into town from Heathrow on Sunday afternoon and it cost us 3GBP. A taxi runs about 70GBP. (Many taxi drivers don’t take credit cards, so make sure you have plenty of cash!) The tube takes about 50 minutes but it brings you right into the heart of the city on the Piccadilly Line.

4) CELL PHONE: Consider picking up a cheap phone and pay-as-you-go sim card instead of using your own from overseas.  I’m still using one I bought for 5GBP in 2005.  With phone calls, texts and and an alarm clock function, that’s all I need.

5) MUSEUM TIMES: Before you visit, check on the opening times/days for museums you want to visit.  Many are closed on Mondays and some close early on Saturday.

6) paddingtonCLOTHING: A warm coat, scarf, gloves, hat/earmuffs are essential at this time of year. Dress in layers. Always be prepared for rain, no matter the season!

7) SHOES:  Ensure they’re comfortable.  Bring two pairs (in case one gets wet) and bring along some moleskin, blister band-aids and Ibuprofen… just in case!

8) TIMING: Thursday-Sunday are the busiest days. If possible, try to visit the major tourist attractions Monday-Wednesday.

9) TRAVEL: Try to travel during off-peak hours. (After 9.30am.)  It’s much cheaper. And remember that although you can experience flight/train delays at any time of year, you’re more likely to do so in winter time. Make sure you have enough money on your credit card in case you have to book into a hotel for an extra night. (Or two.)

10) TRAINS: Do a bit of homework before you visit, especially if you plan to go out of town for the day. There may be two different train companies that can take you to your destination.  One might take 20 minutes to get there… the other, 50! (For the same price.)

11) THEATRES: What’s London without a visit to the theatre. You can buy tickets online from home or wait until you get here. Deals can be found at the Ticket Centre in Leicester Square, and many theatres offer 15GBP deals at 10am on the morning of the show. (Available from the theatres’ own box offices.)

12) DAY TRIPS: If you decide to take a day-trip out of town, take your time and make it a DAY trip. Don’t plan anything for that evening. You don’t want to be in the middle of visiting somewhere totally delightful and have to cut it short to rush back into town for a meal/show. Slow down. Enjoy the day. (And take along a book for the train back. If it’s after 4pm, it’ll be dark and you won’t be able to see anything out the train window.)

13) CHURCHES: Visiting the big churches (St Paul’s/Westminster Abbey) is very expensive. Even if you’re not religious, consider attending a service for a small donation. Especially Evensong. Think of it as living history. There’s nothing more beautiful than hearing 14th century music sung in a 14th century church. And it calms the soul after a busy day of shopping and sightseeing.

14) PHOTOS: Always – always – back up your photos every night.  And charge your battery!

15) unisexTOILETS: Most travellers know to use the ‘facilities’ when they can.  Be aware that many in London are unisex.  That’s right, gentlemen. Welcome to the world of queueing to use the toilet.

16) IT’S DARK HERE AT 4PM! That’s right, 4pm.

So those are my suggestions.  I would love to hear what advice you would give to visitors new (or old) to London.

Wartime Rations – Day 26

burgerDinner tonight was real hot comfort food before going out into the cold Hallowe’en night trick-or-treating; homemade hamburger, roasted squash and mashed potatoes.  Burger: ground beef, breadcrumbs, chopped onion and seasoning to taste, bound with a little tomato ketchup.  For the squash; I chopped it into  bite sized pieces, sprinkled the pieces with a tiny bit of sugar and cinnamon, tossed them in some melted butter and roasted them uncovered in the oven at 190C for about 35 minutes.

For dessert, my husband and I chopped up one of the toffee apples I made yesterday into pieces and shared it. It tasted so delicious that we decided we’re going cut up the apple next time before dipping it into the syrup and leaving it to harden. Sounds decadent… but within our wartime ration allowances!

I’m heading out trick-or-treating with my granddaughter shortly (her first time!) so a very quick catch up with The Glasgow Herald for October 31st, 1944.  One article in particular caught my eye.

The Population Problem:  Scotland is definitely a younger country than England or Wales, but an examination of the Registrar General’s figures show that in both countries the population is ageing. Women of child bearing-age between 15-45 in 1937 formed 24.2% of the population but within the next generation they will drop to 18.5%.

At the end of the South African War, children formed 1/3 of the population, today they form 1/4. If the same story continues, in 70 years time the number of children in Scotland would be halved to 1/6th.

Population breakdown: Scotland 1944
Population 5 million
2 million live in 4 cities.
1 million live in 26 large towns
1/2 million live in 66 medium towns
1/2 million live in small towns
1 million live in rural areas.
2/5 of the population live within 20 miles of Glasgow

Given that it’s now exactly 70 years since that report looking into the future, I thought I would check out the current statistics. It makes for interesting reading.

In 2011, the population of Scotland was 5.2 million.

The population of the 5 major cities was as follows:
Glasgow:   592,820
Edinburgh: 486,120
Aberdeen:  217,120
Inverness: 56,660
Stirling:  89,850

If children are defined as aged 0-19 years of age, they made up 22.39% of the population in 2011.

If children defined as aged 0-14 years of age, they made up 16.14% of the population in 2011, almost the exact prediction from 1944.  Fascinating!

Wartime Rations – Day 25

toffee apliesI know it’s not Hallowe’en until tomorrow, but I thought I might get ready early and make some traditional toffee apples.  After all, apples are within my rationed fruit for this time of the year, and I have plenty of sugar left over. So even in the midst of war, there would be some cheer for the children. It turns out that the recipe is extremely easy (this would have made enough for 4 large apples); 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup water, half a teaspoon of vinegar.  Heat until the sugar has dissolved, then boil for about 20 minutes. When the mixture hardens when you drop a little into a bowl of cold water it’s done. Being very careful, dip the apples into the mixture and place on some greaseproof paper to set for about an hour.

But what of a traditional Hallowe’en (October 31st) or Guy Fawkes (November 5th) in wartime? An editorial in The Glasgow Herald of October 31st, 1945 (page 4) suggests that both customs disappeared during the war but had quickly resurfaced: One peacetime practise of Scottish youth has already established itself – guising. A colleague reports that on Monday night three urchins liberally bedaubed with soot, came to his door with the traditional chant of, “Please, sir, gie’s war Hallowe’en”. The black-out banished the ‘guisers’ – or galoshans -and it is pleasant to see that at least one old Scots custom has survived the war.

anne2013Here are some of Anne’s thoughts on Hallowe’en and Guy Fawkes back in the 30s and 40s.

The full title was All Hallows Even(ing), the day before All Hallows’/All Saints’ Day in church, the night the dead were liable to come back to haunt you.  So Hallowe’en was the time for dressing up (to disguise yourself to avoid the ghosts)and fancy dress parties.   I’ve often wondered if guising, not guysing was the word originally used, but transformed itself into Guysing for Guy Fawkes’s 5th November.

At Hallowe’en parties there were usually a few sparklers, the sparking fireworks children loved to hold in their hands – though the sparks were hot if you didn’t hold the sparkler carefully.   Children did go knocking on people’s doors – any doors, not just their neighbours’, and the usual request was, ‘Please, missis, gie’s oor Hallowe’en’. (for 5th Nov, the plea was ‘Penny for the guy, please’, but this usually happened in the street, not at the front door, and was more common in England).

For the Hallowe’en children, Mother always had apples and handfuls of nuts or sweets to hand out: ‘Don’t give them money, their parents are often waiting round the corner to take the cash to the nearest pub’.  For these goodies the children were expected to perform in some way, maybe sing a song or recite a poem.  We were taken aback once by a girl of about 7 or 8, hand-in-hand with a much smaller brother, who said, ‘I’ll sing and he’ll harmonise’ – difficult to keep one’s face straight till they’d performed and left!

dookin 1

Dooking for apples


Dooking for apples with a fork.

Yes we all dooked for apples, both at home and at school where we’d been told to bring two apples – in the genteel fashion of kneeling over the back of a chair and dropping a fork from your mouth in the hope that the prongs would stick in one of the apples floating in a bowl or bucket of water – there were many failures if the bucket had a wide top!  Less genteel was the practice of kneeling beside the bucket and grabbing an apple with your teeth.


Scones with treacle.

I much preferred the other game when Mother dropped the ceiling pulleys halfway down, tied strings around them to ‘mouth height’ and tied on large triangular scones liberally doused with black treacle.  These we tried to bite a chunk off with our hands behind our backs – great fun;  the floor had to be washed afterwards, as did our hair, unless we did the dooking afterwards and washed out the treacle in the apple water.

The other treat was the Hallowe’en dumpling, which ranged from wealthy folks’ almost Christmas-rich puddings down to a plain one with a few sultanas, or even down to a potful of mashed potatoes – what was special were the tiny silver charms, wrapped in greaseproof paper, which had been mixed in before boiling or mashing – each ‘charm’ would tell your future: a little silver threepenny coin was the best, or there could be a baby, a horseshoe, a ring etc.  During the war it was usually mashed potatoes!

Wartime rations – Day 24

fishpieWar time meals, in this experiment at least, seem to involve eating a lot of leftovers. I had baked fish yesterday, so tonight made fish pie with the leftover fish and cheese sauce, topped with mashed potato and a little grated cheese, then cooked in the oven at around 180C for about 20 minutes. For lunch… I ‘broke down’  and used a whole fresh egg in an egg mayonnaise sandwich. Very extravagant – but completely delicious!

As I’m getting close to the end of a month of wartime rations, I thought I’d jump ahead a little in the newspapers and see what they were saying about the end of the war. But when DID the war end exactly? My understanding was that World War Two ended on May 7th (8th in the Commonwealth) with VE Day in Europe (Glasgow Herald May 8th 1945 Page 4) and then VJ Day on August 15th 1945 with the Japanese surrender.

But as with everything to do with the war, nothing is clear-cut. I clicked on this great link on Yahoo which offers the following:

The Japanese surrendered on August 15.45 THEIR time, which was August 14th in the US.

However the paperwork on surrender was not completed until September 2nd, Japanese time, September 1st US time. (Check out this edition of the Glasgow Herald from September 3rd, 1945 which gives all the details on page 3.)

But those were papers of surrender. Technically, according to the reply on Yahoo, wars don’t end until a treaty of some kind is signed.

Who knew?!

In that case, a peace treaty with Japan was signed on September 8th, 1951 but the US only ended their occupation of Japan on April 28th, 1952. I couldn’t find an entry from The Glasgow Herald for September 8th but did on the front page of The Calgary Herald. If you click on the link, it appears that 48 countries signed the treaty despite Russian objections.

In Europe, the French, British and US all ended their formal occupation of their areas in West Germany on May 5th, 1955, but had effectively done so on May 23rd, 1949. (Glasgow Herald, May 5th, 1955 Page 6.)

Interesting.  (And for all you high school history students out there wanting to impress your teachers, it’s those little nuggets that get you extra marks in exams!! ) :o)