Family

My (Birth)place in History

http://www.telephonesuk.co.uk/images/large/AB_Box_2.jpg

AB Telephone Box

I’ve been watching old episodes of Call the Midwife on Netflix and I just realized that I lived in what is now a historical drama. (I also lived through my own personal version of Mad Men, but that’s another story.) It is a very strange feeling to know that I’m old enough to have my former life in a carefully staged costumed historical television series. Shouldn’t I be dead before they do that?

If you haven’t seen the series, I recommend it. It is engaging, well-written, and as far as I can remember it is historically accurate. I was born west of London, not in the East End, but nevertheless I see and hear a lot that is familiar. I was a home delivery and I was the youngest in a family with six children. By the time they got to me my parents had run out of names for their children, so my first name is one of my mother’s middle names and my second name is that of the midwife. That fact used to make me quite indignant, but now I’m strangely pleased to know it.

As the story was told to me, one of my brothers or sisters (I don’t know which one) was sent running around the corner to knock on the midwife’s door and bring her to our house. Mum told me I was born in the front room, which is interesting because there was no bed in there. I imagine that it was easier than trying to get upstairs, and I know it was also the room in the house that was kept tidy in case company came. Maybe I was born there simply because the rest of the household could function without going in there.

Not unlike the families in the TV show, my large family lived in a small house; it had only two bedrooms, although one had been divided into two to make a third. The house also had a large garden. It is the garden that differentiates my experience from those of the people in the East End and on the TV show.

What we have in common, though, is pretty much everything else. In watching the show I found myself cringing over the sexism and the underwear. On the other hand, the accents are a comforting backdrop to all kinds of fond memory triggers; prams, scooters, Bing Crosby on the radio, mantelpiece clocks, Flanagan and Allen songs sung by the fire, national health eyeglasses, hair rollers, public telephones with A and B buttons… Lots of things. If anyone in my family cares to know where I’m coming from both literally and figuratively, they should watch this show.

It’s also a fabulous way to realize how far we have come in just sixty-five years. My generation and that of my children have achieved some wonderful things. We should be proud. Yes, I know we’ve screwed up some stuff too, but, honestly, when would you rather live? I’ll stick with a world that has good plumbing, contraception, social media, and comfortable undies, thank you.

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Image source: http://www.telephonesuk.co.uk/images/large/AB_Box_2.jpg

6 replies »

  1. I always think of the Gran and Grandad and you all as children when I watch that show. It’s wonderful to hear it from your perspective.

  2. At, I think, the age of 10 mum woke me up in the middle of the night to fetch nurse Rumbold who probably delivered you. This time it was for Grace.. She lived in the road behind and I went through Ross’s garden to fetch her. There were no telephones in people’s houses in those days. Dad was on night work.So as far as I can remember I was sent back to bed and met my new sister in the morning. I expect dad came home from work and saw the baby for the first time too..
    As for being born in the front room remember you were the sixth child and at that time we were all living at home so every room became a bedroom apart from the dining room and kitchen.
    I didn’t know about nurse Rumbold being called Elizabeth. She rode a bike to her patients just like the people in the series..

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