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Open Features, Open Features: Memoirs Of A Veteran - Introduction

Ninety-five-year-old Elizabeth Kay launches into the story of her life.

Having accepted the suggestion that I should write my life story I have spent some time wondering whether my experiences of life could possibly be of interest to anyone else, after all they have been of very little difference from the experiences of many other people of my generation and for this reason I was reluctant to begin. After some thought however it occurred to me that at the age of ninety five it is the times I have lived through and the changes that have come about during my lifetime that may be of interest to present and future generations, of my own family at least. So here I go!

The first part of my story I have entitled "Coal Fires and Gaslight" as a way of providing background for the recollections I have of my early life, living in what might be considered rather primative conditions compared with lifestyles of today, but I loved my home and was unaware of its drawbacks.

Following on from this I shall resort to writing "episodes" some cheerful and some sad, there were even a few tragedies. These episodes may be disconnected, but it is not my intention to write a chronological history of my life,just incidents and occurrences I have always remembered.

When I read "Cider With Rosie" for the first tine I had an immediate feeling of empathy with the book in which Laurie Lee uses the experiences of his early life and the lives of the people around him to create an evocative narrative of the times he lived through, arousing,with his nostalgic recollections and descriptions, thoughts and feelings of a similar nature in many of his readers. Far be it from me to attempt to emulate him, but in recalling my memories of childhood I hope to reveal a glimpse of how we used to live in the early days of the twentieth century, a time so remote from the present that it seems like another world.

I was born on the 25th January 1918 in the final year of the first world war. My father, John Robert Jarvis, was a soldier stationed in a camp near Sherwood Forest. Previously he had been a coalminer and for this reason was not called up to serve in the armed forces until towards the end of the war. I suppose he was enlisted at this late stage because so many young men had died on the battlefield or in the trenches that older men and those in reserved occupations were needed to serve at the front. My father was lucky. The war ended before he was sent abroad,but he was in the army and my mother alone when I was born. I remember reading a telegram my mother had received from him in response to the one he had received from her, telling him the news of my arrival.

John Robert was the youngest of a family of five, two brothers and two sisters,my paternal uncles and aunts. He never knew his own father who died as the result of a mining accident just before my father was born. Alice (nee Smith) my mother, was the eldest girl of a family of eight, three girls and five boys. From this you will gather that I had plenty of relatives and I feel sure some of them will crop up in these memoirs for I remember them well, but my earliest recollections are of the life I lived in the cottage in which I was born and that is where I shall begin.

(To be continued).


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