My Great Grandparents’ Garden

As you can see from the picture at the top of the blog, my great grandparents had a beautiful garden and they were very very proud of it.

I loved to visit when I was young and GG made me a swing in a large tree. Unfortunately the tree isn’t there any longer. GG had to get in some qualified tree surgeons to cut it down when it got diseased. I loved watching the tree surgery, as they started at the top and worked their way down to the stump. It was fascinating for a child to see this enormous tree end its days.

But now it makes me sad. I hate to see any trees chopped down and this was a big one. I suppose in hindsight it must have shed a lot of shade on the garden so GG probably didn’t mind losing it.

Around the back of the garden, the part you can’t see in the photo, was the vegetable patch. I loved to help GG hoe the soil and pull out the weeds. It must have been cultivated for many years because the tilth was fine and all the stones had been removed lovingly over a long period.

I helped GG to grow carrots, potatoes and peas. Probably a lot of other things too, but those are the only ones I really remember. In the summer we would pick the peas and I’d help GGma take them out of their shells. We’d sit on the back step together with a big colander and a huge bag of peas. It’s surprising how few peas you get from a massive pile of shells. I must admit a few didn’t make the colander because they were young and sweet-tasting and I loved to pinch a few.

I remember that GG showed me how to double-dig. I’m not sure anyone does that any more but it certainly seemed to help his gardening. He had real green fingers did GG Jones.

When we’d finished our gardening work for the day, GGma would make us a mug of tea and a cheese sandwich. GG and I would sit outside on the garden bench if it was nice, or inside GG’s old shed if it was cold or wet. I didn’t mind either way, I was just pleased to be spending time with the old man.

He told me lots of tales about everything under the sun and delighted me with stories of his earlier life. I’m hoping to pass these on to my children some day, which is why I’m documenting as many as I can remember in my blog.

Grandma Sylvia’s memories.

I’ve been talking to Grandma Sylvia about her memories of her childhood and the things she recalls about GG Jones.

She has wonderful tales of sitting on GG’s lap as he read her favourite books. In those days there wasn’t much money to buy toys and books, so she remembers most of them. It sounds totally different to today when we all have so many possessions and children have hundreds of toys and books. She treasured things and her favourite book was Little Women – although she must have been older when she read that.

Grandma told me about catching her first trout with GG. They loved to go off fishing together and her mother would make them bread and cheese and hunk of bread pudding. All those carbs – but I suppose people were far more active in those days.

They lived near a stream and she grew up loving water. Once or twice a year they got on a train and headed off to the beach at Worthing or Brighton. It must have been a big outing because in those days some people never left the town where they were born. I don’t think they had holidays like we do today – certainly not to Spain or Greece!

It seems to have been a happy childhood, but Grandma also has memories of the war. She was 9 when it broke out and she remembers doodlebugs flying over and sheltering with the dog under the kitchen table.  They had a cage that was supposed to protect them if part of the house fell down and also an anderson shelter in the back garden that GG built himself.

GG Jones didn’t get called up at the start of the war because they concentrated on single men first. But the day came when he had to go off and Grandma remembers it well. She must have been 11 or 12, old enough to understand how serious it was and that her father might never return.

But I suppose life goes on and she won a scholarship to the High School, which made GG so proud. He bought her a lovely book as a congratulations present – she did tell me the title but I’ve forgotten.

Grandma didn’t see her dad for another 2 years, when he came home on leave. He was obviously traumatised, as were many of the solders, but she was so pleased to see him and I don’t think you notice much at that age. He was only home for a short time but they went on a couple of picnics and got to know one another again.

Grandma was so pleased when the war ended and GG came home for good. She must have been about 15 or 16.

Then I heard tales of her first boyfriend and what GG thought of him – but that’s for another time ….

 

 

The Chimney Sweep

When we were kids we all loved to see the local chimney sweep and would rush out to see his brush pop out of the chimney.

That’s one of the abiding memories of my childhood. Something we’d look forward to every year and we’d all rush round to GG’s when we heard the chimney sweep was coming.

The sweep always seemed to us to be very old. And of course he was very black since there was no vacuum sweeping in those days. It was quite a dirty job and piles of soot would tumble down. He’d do his best to contain the clouds of sooty dust, but it was often a losing battle. GGrandma would complain when he’d left that she had to clean the room from top to bottom.

Of course nowadays they use high-tech equipment, but they it was just a man and his brushes.

He’d shout out to us – OK ready, run out to see the brush. And we’d tear off into the garden to see the brush appear at the top of the chimney pot. Such simple pleasures. I’m sure today’s children would be quite bewildered since they seem to be glued to their phones and games – hark at me, I sound like an old man!

The chimney sweep would start GG reminiscing about the old times and he’d come out with a few of his tales. He told us a story once of a poor family who had to send their son up the chimneys in the big houses. In hindsight, I realise he’d made this up, but it seemed very real to me at the time. And because GG was always so old, it seemed feasible that he was a 19th century child, lucky not to be in the workhouse and sent up chimneys.

But he was always fond of chimney sweeps. So much so that he and GGrandma had a sweep attend their wedding. Apparently it was considered good luck, so the local sweeps used to make extra pocket money by turning up at weddings to wish the bride and groom happiness in their marriage.  I always wondered whether they’d have a bath first or perhaps they were expected to turn up covered in soot and coal dust?

GG the Bookkeeper

We come from a long line of bookkeepers and even today my family runs a Horsham Bookkeeping business helping local companies keep their accounts in order.

GG was the first bookkeeper in the family, as far as I’m aware. He was a meticulous man and I would watch him sitting at his desk writing carefully in his large ledgers.

Everything was done by hand in those days, of course, and I’m not sure whether he even had any type of calculator. He probably had an abacus, but I don’t really remember it. But I do remember that we had to be quiet when GG was working. Of course he’d officially retired by the time I was born but I think he made a little pocket money by helping out some of the local shopkeepers.

These days the bookkeeping business is completely different. What would we do without our computers and calculators? Filing tax returns and VAT online. I wonder what on earth GG would make of it all. He even had difficulty with the phone, so goodness knows how he’d have got on with a computer.

I remember, too, that GG had a notebook that he used for all his own notes. He wrote down what he’d planted in his garden and when it should flower. Then he’d keep a record of how well things did and what sort of fertilizer he’d used. That kind of thing. I suppose that was the bookkeeper in him keeping records for other areas of his life.

It certainly paid off for his garden, as I wrote about in this blog

GG also had another notebook, I remember it as being blue. This one was for his woodworking projects. He had a little shed, kitted out with basic tools, and here he made all manner of things for the house: cupboards, stools, step ladder. I suppose they had very little money in those days so everyone had to make do or make their own things.

I remember GG putting up a rose arbour one Easter. I know it was Easter because it was half-finished when we had our egg hunt and one was hidden under a part-built beam. Funny how that sort of thing sticks in your mind.

The blue book was where GG worked out how he’d build his projects and I suppose it also had the materials he’d need. I don’t suppose he had the money to buy new wood like we did today so he probably recycled all sorts of things. I do remember an old chest of drawers a neighbour threw out being converted into a side table. He was clever like that.

And GG always wrote with a pencil. I never saw him with a pen, but I suppose bookkeepers used pencils so they could erase any errors. I think it must have been a brain-aching profession without modern gadgets. Thank goodness for the laptop and smartphone!

 

Meeting Sarah-Jane

Sarah-Jane was the love of GG’s life. They had nearly 70 years together before she died and he remained heartbroken till the end of his own long life.

He often recounted the story of their meeting so I shall retell it as best I can remember.

In the rural communities in the late 1920s they had local country fairs and everyone from all around would have a day out. So it was a lovely place for courting couples and for lads and lassies to meet (GG’s words, not mine lol).

I believe it was in 1929 they first met at a fair near Yeovil. GG must have been about 17 and Sarah-Jane was 16. They were both with groups of friends and I guess in those days that meant that the girls were in a crowd of girls and the boys stayed together too. I think they were good at flirting, not so obvious as we are now!

Anyhow one of Sarah-Jane’s friends knew one of GG’s group so they stopped to talk and before they knew it, the two of them had started a conversation. I think GG must have been a good talker because the girl agreed to leave her friends and stroll around the fair with him.

They were still very young of course, but courtships didn’t seem to last long in those days. They were engaged within 6 months and married within a year after that. It seems so young to me, but I guess we’re in a different world these days.

It was certainly a love match. They had their first baby within the next year, so they were young parents. I think the first child was Charles, then came James, who sadly died when he was only 2. GG didn’t talk about that but I guess he may have had tuberculosis, which was a killer in the 1930s.

GG and Sarah-Jane had another 2 children, Sylvia and Arthur, I’m not sure which one came first. Sylvia is my much-loved grandmother and she’s still going strong.

My Great Grandmother Sarah-Jane was about 87 when she died. I’m not sure what she died from as I was young at the time, but I think it must have been sudden. I just remember the curtains being drawn and everyone going off to her funeral.

GG Jones was sad but he was a strong old man. I think that’s because of his generation. They suffered a terrible war and didn’t have an easy life, but they were happy most of the time.

If you knew my Great Grandfather and Great Grandmother, I’d love to know more about them. Please contact me

 

GG Jones as a boy

Great Grandad was born in 1912, not long before the Great War.  He was too young to remember much about it of course, but he didn’t recognise his father until he saw him again in 1918 on his return.

By all accounts his father had a terrible time in battles like The Somme and Passchendaele. I’ve seen photos and the odd film of those battles and I just can’t imagine how awful it must have been. GG’s father suffered from shell shock and trench foot and apparently it took him a long while to get over his experiences. I suppose we call that post traumatic syndrome these days.

Despite this and the fact that his father was in ill health until he was 10 or 12, GG had a pretty happy childhood by all accounts.  He had 2 older brothers and 2 older sisters, then 2 more boys were born in 1919 and 1921. So it was a full household and everyone had to take their share of the work.

They lived in the countryside near Yeovil and GG’s father returned to farm work. He had a worker’s cottage, so that wasn’t very big. Only two bedrooms for 2 adults and all those children!  I just can’t imagine what it must have been like to have so little privacy, but they seemed to be happy.

GG told me how cold it used to be in the winter. No central heating in those days of course. They had a coal fire in the living room and that was it. Makes me cold even thinking about it. But I suppose they were tougher in those days, they had to be.

GG used to play on the farm when he was little, but by the time he was 9 or 10 he had to start working to help the family. He would have time off school to help with the harvest, like all the country children, and all year round he had lots of chores.

It was the job of GG and his brothers to keep the fire going all winter. This wasn’t as easy as it sounds because they had to collect firewood to get the fire started each morning and the coal stack was some distance away from the house, so that had to be carted in too. They had some sort of wooden cart to use to transport the coal, which they piled up outside the back door so the fire could be topped up during the day. Then every morning they had to take out the ash and sprinkle it on the garden or in the field next door.

The girls had to help around the house. GG told me how the housework was so hard. No fitted carpets or vacuum cleaners then. Floors had to be swept every day and the rugs were taken out and beaten each week. There was no washing machine of course, so all the washing for 9 people had to be done by hand. That must have taken hours.  I’m glad I grew up in the 1990s when we had all the modern conveniences.

 

GG Jones

My Great Grandad Jones was a kind and gentle man. At least that’s how I knew him for the first 20 years of my life. Of course I only know about his early life through other members of the family, but this is about GG as I knew him and heard his tales.

GG Jones was 98 when he died and until this time he lived in a country cottage, just outside the market town of Horsham, where I was brought up.

He was a proud and independent man right to the end and his garden was always a picture. That was his pride and joy so I’ve chosen it as the background to the blog. At the end he had Jim in to help him keep it tidy, but for many years he looked after it himself.

My Great Grandmother, Sarah-Jane, died about 10 years before GG, so I don’t remember her quite so well. It was a terrible time for the old man and it was obvious that he was lonely sometimes, but he was brave and carried on. Luckily we have a big family and most of them live near Horsham, or at least in West Sussex, so he always had lots of visitors.

We used to take him his favourite sponge cakes, usually made by my mum, and his beloved licorice allsorts. He was an old-fashioned sort of gentleman and was satisfied with the simplest of pleasures.

GG Jones’ first name was Jack, but for some reason, in our family we have always called grandparents by their surnames, so to me he will always be GG Jones.

Jack Jones was one of 7 children – they had big families in those days!  He and Sarah-Jane had 4 of their own, although one sadly died in childhood. But their three surviving children, 2 boys and one girl, produced 8 grandchildren for them. The girl was my grandmother, Sylvia, and she’s still living I’m pleased to say.

Those 8 grandchildren produced 19 great grandchildren!  As I say, we’re a big family, although I don’t really know them all as generations drift apart don’t they?

Anyhow 8 grandchildren and 19 great grandchildren mean you’re never really short of visitors and GG Jones loved to see the family.

 

 

Welcome

This is my new blog. It was going to be about nursing home abuse, which is a subject close to my heart. But I’ve decided that’s too depressing to blog about every day, so instead I’m going to write about my dear Great Grandad’s life.

I’m Mark, I’m 26 and I come from a long-lived family. That is everyone seems to live to a pretty ripe old age. And most of my family have had children while they were still young, so it means we got to meet a few of our great grandparents.

My Great Grandad Jones, as we called him, was a great character. He lived till the ripe old age of 98, so we were sad that he didn’t live till his hundredth. But he had a good life and could sure tell a tale.

This blog will recount some of those tales as I remember them. Bring back to life some of his adventures and some of the important episodes in his life.

I think I’ll refer to him as GG Jones, otherwise it’s going to get a bit long-winded. I think he would have liked that.