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As Time Goes By: Wet Weekends

Eileen Perrin tells of the indoor fun and games of childhood. .

To read earlier chapters of Eileen's endearing autobiography please click on As Time Goes By in the menu on this page.

I had a very big illustrated book of Nursery rhymes, and I learned them all.

Some were different from the usual rhymes, and I remember:

‘There was a crooked man who ran a crooked mile,
He found a crooked sixpence by a crooked stile:
He had a crooked cat, which caught a crooked mouse,
And they all lived together in a little crooked house.’

When it was too wet to venture out, Dad used to make me what he called Belgian toast, which meant that one side of the bread was buttered before toasting the other side against the bars of the kitchen grate, and sometimes we would roast chestnuts on the coal shovel over the top of the kitchen fire.

Mum taught me my first party piece which I had to recite to aunties, uncles, Nanna and great Grandma.

I’m sitting on the doorstep, and I’m eating bread and jam,
and I’m not a-crying really, though I ‘spects you think I am.
I can hear the children playing, but they say they don’t want me,
‘cos my legs are rather little and I run so slow you see.
So, I’m sitting on the doorstep, and I’m eating bread and jam,
And I’m not a-crying really, though I ‘spects you think I am.

In the winter Mum would light the fire in our upstairs front room, and on rainy Sunday mornings when we didn’t go out, Dad would put records on the wind-up cabinet gramophone. It often rained, so I knew most of them by heart. There was the Blue Danube and the Skaters’ Waltz, William Tell Overture, Ketelby’s In a Persian Market, Moussorsky’s Night on a Bare Mountain, and In a Monastery Garden, and of course the Wedding of the Painted Doll.

I pretended that the couch was a boat, lined up all my dolls on it and sailed away, but this quickly palled. I never had a teddy bear, possibly because it was considered to be American (origin 1902 with Teddy Roosevelt), or it might be that the glass eyes would pull out easily, and they were thinking to protect me from an accident.

Truth is I did not play much with my dolls, preferring to paste scraps into my scrap album, painting magic colouring books with plain water to see the colours appear, playing shops and making mosaic puzzles.

Dad would cut out paper dolls from folded paper, which turned into a string of dolls all holding hands. He also showed me how to cut out lacey paper doilies.

When older I used to buy sixpenny jigsaws from Woolworths and make them up on a tray on the table. Dad would be in an armchair reading the ‘Passing Show’. Mum and I would be eating peanuts which she loved, throwing the shells on the fire.

For a treat we would stay upstairs for tea and have slices of Lyons chocolate swiss roll or a dessicated coconut-covered snow cake, decorated with a cherry and angelica leaves..

I enjoyed the comic strips of Pip, Squeak and Wilfred in the Daily Mirror, and comics Dad brought home from work. We had no radio, but lots of books - Grimms Fairy Tales, Hans Anderson, Swiss Family Robinson, leading up to Gene Stratton Porter’s Freckles and Girl of the Limberlost and Blue Lagoon by H.De Vere Stacpoole.

Later I began collecting stamps.


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