I recently attended a session with Time and Talent's Monday afternoon social group. Here is a list of the different people I spoke to, and the stories they shared with me:
One of the individuals I spoke to was George. George has had a statue of a tin man sitting in the corner of his living room for the past 15 years. George bought the statue from the souvenir shop at the Maritime Museum in Greenwich, where he and his wife visited when they first moved to London. George is very fond of the statue as it reminds him of that day.
George also very much values the medal he received from the RAF parachute regiment, from his national service days. George remembers very clearly the feeling of jumping out of a moving plane. He rarely experienced what it was like to actually land on the ground in a plane. By the end of his national service George found the prospect of landing in a plane more scary then parachuting out of one. He told me that it felt like his stomach turned to jelly the first time he attempted it. George kept his uniform for a year following the service, whilst he was kept on standby, but then had to send the clothes back for someone else to use.
Another individual I spoke to was Cathleen. Cathleen told me that her twin sisters were run over by a car when they were just 2 and a half years old. Both her twins made a full recovery, and soon after the accident Cathleen's mother commissioned a photographer to take a picture of her twin sisters. The portrait of the pair was printed on to glass, and has been the most treasured possession in the family ever since. Cathleen remembers that during the Second World War whenever there was a bomb scare, and the family were evacuated from the house, the one possession they took with them was the photo of the twins. The photograph became like a good luck charm for the entire family. Cathleen recently had the photograph reframed, and said to the person doing it Don't break it for gods sake, because my life wouldn't be worth living. The photograph has moved from house to house over the course of Cathleen's life, and is currently on top of the cabinet in her living room.
Pat spoke to me about her toy dog. Pat was a carer for her husband, who had Parkinson's and dementia before passing away fairly recently. According to Pat he loved dogs, and very much wanted to own one. It was however quite impossible for the two of them to care for an actual dog. Pat ended up buying him a toy dog from British Home Stores. He adored the cuddly toy and took great care of it. The dog was sometimes referred to as Alfie, as that seemed like a great name for a dog, and like a good match. Pats husband would on occasion feed Alfie and trim his eyebrows. Pat said (in regards to the toy dog) Now he goes to bed with me every night. I never slept with cuddly toys when I was a kid, but I do now. It's what they call a second childhood. Pat bought Alfie a mate, so now has two cuddly toy dogs.
Leah told me about her 3 wedding rings. The first wedding ring she purchased from a pawn shop for just £2, when she was in her 20's. Leah used to visit the pawn shop regularly, and would sometimes stop off at her neighbours and friends houses on a Monday morning to see if anyone wanted anything pawning. Leah used to transport their possessions to and from the shop in a pram. One of the items she regularly took was her father's suit. She would have to pay 1p for the suit to be hung up, rather then put in a heap on the floor. Leah said that she would have to get the suit back by the end of the week so the old man could go out on a Friday night.
Another possession Leah spoke to me about was a necklace she inherited from her daughter, after her daughter died. However she never really wear the necklace, as she doesn't like to have things around her neck. She said jokingly that she thinks she may've been hung in a past life.
I asked Leah whether she'd seen or had an experience in the dance or theatre world. Leah recounted that she used to work in a bar at a theatre in Kings Cross when she was younger, and used to go dancing at the Vermont ballroom regularly. She said that she would go to the New Cross Empire and Ship Mates Ashore Pub in order to find a dance partner. She said: We'd dance with all sorts... If you had half a crown you could go to the dances, and someone would always buy you a drink.
Marge spoke to me about a scarf of hers. Just after the Second World War Marge joined the land army. There she carried out duties such as milking the cows (by hand) and turning over the hay. One year it was very hot, and she caught sunstroke. She explained that the sunstroke would've been much more severe if she hadn't been covering the back of her neck with a scarf. The scarf, which has illustrations of cats and dogs chasing one another on it, has since been handed down to her daughter.
Marge also told me that her late husband, who was awarded a military MBE, used to work in a bomb disposal unit. One evening they had a visit from the police, who informed them that their car had been stolen. The police had caught the burglar, and had their car ready and waiting at their local police station. The police asked them rather urgently to come with them and take the car away, as it was full of bomb parts. They explained to Marge and her husband that they did not want it sitting at the station as they didn't feel very safe. Marge has kept ahold of her husbands medal since he passed away.
One of the items most dear to Eileen is the photo album of her wedding. Her wedding which took place in Rotherhithe almost 60 years ago, has pictures of many friends and family. She likes to go through the album and relive the different memories, asking is that aunt so-and-so, or is that cousin Mary?
Eileen found out recently that she is on the queens honours list for this year, and will be receiving an MBE. This is in recognition to the community work she carried out both at schools, care centres and hospitals in and around the Rotherhithe area. In particular Eileen worked closely with a dementia care centre. She said that until recently Dementia and Alzheimer's weren't things that were really recognised or talked about, they were quite taboo. One thing she remembers very clearly about the individuals at the centre, was that they very much enjoyed singing, and could always remember all the words to the different songs they played.
Elaine spoke to me about her wedding ring, her 25 year anniversary ring, and the different photo albums she had of her different friends and family memebrs. In particular there is one photograph of her and her husband from when they were married whilst in the Caribbean almost 58 years ago. Elaine has 5 sons, 9 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren. She tells me that: They are my life. We are a close knit family. I am living for them day-by-day.