My Mum gave up her work as a teache rof Domestic Science when she got married – she had to because in the aftermath of World War 2 only single women or widows could work as teachers. The idea was that the men returning from the army needed the jobs. Which man would want, or be qualified, to teach domestic science is a moot point!
She never had a job outside the home again. Whilst I was small she had no fridge, no washing machine, no vacuum cleaner and no-one had a freezer. Milk was delivered to the doorstep by a milkman with a horse drawn cart but she must have had to go shopping most days to get fresh food and because everything had to be carried home in bags. With washing to do by hand, cleaning everywhere with lots of elbow grease and me to look after she must have been busy.
But by the time I was a teenager, and not a very messy one, things were different. She still shopped locally – there was a small parade of shops at each end of the road so about a quarter of a mile from home – and carried her purchases home so couldn’t do the kind of weekly shop most of us do now in a supermarket. But she had a full set of time-saving appliances and our house was a modest ‘between the wars’ 3 bedroom semi so fairly easy to manage. For reasons I have never been able to fathom she refused to join any of the social groups such as the Women’s Institute or Mother’s Union even though there were neighbours who would have enjoyed her company there. When I was in my mid teens she started going to an evening class in cake decorating each week but never seemed to make friends with any of the other students or talk about them at home.
Luckily for her housework has expansionist tendencies! However much you have done there is always something more you can find to do. So that and knitting endless jumpers for all the children in the extended family and neighbours filled her time.
Gardening is a bit like housework outdoors. There is always more I could do.
I therefore really appreciate having marker points in the year which encourage me to stop, notice the way the seasons are changing, reflect on what I have achieved and look forward to the next bit. It is why my friends Jeni and Rob and I have been trying to mark the 8 old festivals that marked the solstices, equinoxes and the 4 cross quarter days. Midwinter is especially rich. There is Yule at the solstice, then Christmas and here in Wales, Hen Galan, the old New Year’s day in mid January. Before leap years were included the calender got more and more out of synch with nature until one year it was brought back in line. In some parts of Wales they continued to celebrate New Year according to the old calender – Hen Galan – old new year. We don’t have a Mari Lwyd (a horse’s skull on a pole like a hobby horse and with a big white cloak and ribbons which went from house to house and pub to pub) to drink and dance and parade with but we do follow the other tradition of wassailing our apple trees on that night.
With birthdays and anniversaries added into the mix there are plenty of reasons to stop working and have a celebration!