Everyday People – Part 2 – Changing Times

This week, we carried on with our “Everyday People” theme, and took a trip down the high street. We started off with a quiz to identify the high streets of different towns around Derbyshire. It’s such a big county that the people who lived in Buxton couldn’t recognise places further down south, like Alfreton.

We talked about green grocers, cobblers, butchers and bakers, and watched the famous film of ‘Night Mail‘ by W.H.Auden. This inspired us to write our own poems about the amazing everyday things that we sometimes take for granted, disappearing shops on the high street, and old remedies and treatments you could get from the chemist.

I’m at Walton Hospital next week, but this was my last session in Buxton and Bakewell until January, and I look forward to returning with some interesting new topics.

Things we Take for Granted

The car starting in the morning,
Hot and cold running water,
Food to put on the table,
Warm clothes to wear,
Hospitals to look after us,
Electric power for all our gadgets,
Pubs open longer and Sunday shops opening,
The marvels of central heating,
The bin lorry to take away our rubbish.

But some things are a bit more of a pain –
The bin men used to carry our metal bins
Rather than wheeling them ourselves.
Sorting out our own rubbish at the tip,
Separating our recycling into green, blue and red.

But it used to take a whole day to do the washing
With the mangle and the starch
Dolly blue and rubbing boards
Flat irons heated on the fire,
You’d spit on them to check they were hot enough.
Terry nappies were a pain.
Ice on the inside of the window
Peg rugs on the floor;
Army greatcoats on the beds.
Pantries before the age of fridges.
Darning old socks and tights.
Black leading grandma’s range.
Outside lavs down the yard –
With squares of newspaper or scratchy Izal
Your mother used to do your hair
Basin cuts and wonky fringes.

We used to make do and men
Holes in our shoes with cardboard in,
Hand-me-down clothes,
The smart stuff saved for Sunday best.
Nowadays we take too much for granted.


The Disappearing High Street

No more high street Miliners’
Seasons of Buxton, Milligans
Madame Marsh and Madam Owen.
Hats on wire stands, ladies’ gloves.

Scotts’ behind the market for school uniforms –
The blue flowery polyester blouse for Buxton Girls’ School.
With a page boy collar, like an old lady’s nightdress.
A slight improvement on the previous brown one, with matching hat.

Potter’s Outfitters – for home furnishings,
A real old fashioned window display.
The only place you can buy proper curtains in Buxton
With a nice pencil pleat, not those big holes.

Clew’s Chemist shop with those big bottles
Disappointingly only full of coloured water.
Arsenic tablets labelled on the wooden drawers.
The greengrocers, butchers and fishmongers
Are few and far between; the Fairfield dairy shop long gone,
With its two ladies in beehive hairdos.

Now old-style sweet shops have returned.
I wonder what else will come back to our high street!

Old Fashioned Medicine (in Grandma’s handbag)

Butter for a bumped head
Indian brandy for tummy ache
Smelling salts in Grandma’s handbag
Would blow your head off – ammonia.
Camphorated spirits, Epsom salts
Andrew’s liver salt
Henneman’s horse liniment – for humans’ aches and pains!
Menthol crystals or Olbas oild for a blocked nose
Laxative chocolate found in Grandma’s handbag,
Would have an unusual result.
Senna pods and rhubarb to “make you go”
Syrup of figs to “make you go”
Liquid paraffin too – we must all have had trouble in those days!

Udder cream for chilblains,
Caustic pencils for verrucas
Victory Vs for a sore throat
The nit-nurse’s fine-toothed comb.
Zinc and castor oil cream for nappy rash.
Dettol, gargling with TCP
Oil of cloves for toothache.
It all worked.
Sanatogen tonic wine for building your strength
Guinness and Makeson stout for pregnant ladies.

4711 cologne in Grandma’s handbag,
Witch hazel for sunburn
Camomile for conditioning hair
Plants are still our medicines –
Present, past and future.
Who knows what remedies are still out there
In the forests, waiting to be found.

Everyday People – Part 1

This week in Derbyshire Hospitals, we’ve been talking about everyday people who provide essential services – and some that we don’t see much any more. Door to door milk deliveries are dwindling, and the postal service has changed a lot, with fewer letters coming through the door, but more parcels due to internet shopping. We don’t often see our neighbourhood police officer (or “Bobby”), and the traditional rag and bone man, or “tatter” is long gone. Some patients remembered deliveries being made by horse and cart.

We also remembered the importance of hospitals and the NHS, so we’ve written two very different acrostic poems, using the same word! Life in the UK would be very different without healthcare that’s free for everyone, from the doctor’s around the corner to Accident and Emergencies.

Hospital (by the staff and patients of Cavendish Hospital in Buxton)

Healthcare that’s free for all
Outpatients and operations large and small
Sterile and clean wards – good sanitation
Patients getting better every day
Ingrowing toenails to cataracts
Tea and therapy with a smile
Ambulances to bring you in fast
Lasers and computers, now giving treatments

Hospital (by the staff and patients of Newholme Hospital in Bakewell)

Newholme hospital was originally built in 1841 as a workhouse, and was used as an auxiliary hospital in World War One for injured soldiers. We reflected the hospital’s long history in this poem.

Historic building – built as a workhouse
Offering shelter for the needy and poor
Soldiers from the Front came home to recover
Poor people came for their Christmas dinner
Infirmary for patients who need help
Treatments now for young and old
All welcome here throughout the year
Lives are improved by the care that is given

I’ve also put together some reflections from people about how things have changed in our everyday lives.


The bread man
The ice cream van
“Any old iron” of the rag and bone man.
He’d give out balloons for the kids, pegs,
Even new dishes and plates,
In return for the old scrap.
Or a dolly stone to clean the front doorstep –
No one bothers with that any more!
The milkman wouldn’t just bring eggs –
He had eggs, potatoes, orange juice in glass bottles.
The old dairy is where that big Tesco is now.
Now that’s where people get their milk from,
And the supermarkets do deliveries.
I miss the electric hum of the milk float,
The rattle of the crates.
I remember milk being delivered by horse and cart.
We used to take it in turns to feed crusts to the horse.
We collected the milk bottle tops to build a Spitfire.

Buxton High Street

There are no proper fishmongers in Buxton now.
Sometimes a man in a van comes, once a week.
Spring Gardens had a fish shop.
Now it’s a Shoezone.
Mycock’s is the only proper butchers.
There used to be Dewhurst’s and Booths,
Swindells at the traffic lights.
The International stores was the first supermarket.
You felt a bit cheated, loading your own basket,
The Co-op’ still there though.
We used to collect Co-op stamps, Green Shield stamps.
The streets are full of charity shops
Not so many jumble sales nowadays.

Wedding Memories

A 1950s Wedding

A 1950s Wedding

This week, we’ve been looking at weddings, and we’ve come up with some great poems and little snippets. We enjoyed talking about wedding photos through the decades, from 1940s wedding dresses made from parachute silk, to crocheted fashion disasters in the 70s and white meringues in the 80s.

We talked about old traditions, such as inviting a chimney sweep to the wedding for good luck, and the bride wearing a silver sixpence in her shoe.

The Wedding

The banns are read in church
The chimney sweep is called
Three tiers of cake are iced
The aisles are filled with flowers.

The bride excitedly prepares:
Her mum’s old veil,
Her brand-new wedding dress and shoes
A necklace borrowed from her sister
A hidden garter gives her the blues
And an old silver sixpence,
Hidden under the sole of her left foot.

The groom has drunk his last few pints,
With his mates, as a single man.
Feeling nervous, and hoping
That the Best Man remembers the rings.

The relatives come from far and wide
The groom at the altar, hoping she’ll arrive.
She comes down the aisle with her father at her side.
Relief as they both say “I do”!


Love is something you deserve
Something that you earn
And something you keep forever


The guests pinned paper money
To my dress: navy and white
With matching shoes and hat…
And an absolutely gorgeous husband!


When we met, I put my arms right round her shoulders
She was one hell of a girl!
But my wedding didn’t last long.
I was always in the pub!

Bonfire Night, Stars are Bright…

Fireworks lighting up the night sky

Fireworks lighting up the night sky

As I sit here writing, the night is already full of fizzes, pops bangs as people make an early start on bonfire night. This week in Newholme, Walton and Cavendish hospitals in Derbyshire, we talked about the sights, tastes, smells and sounds of bonfire night, from fried onions and hot dogs, jacket potatoes cooked in the fire to the shooting rockets and colourful sparklers held by delighted children.

We also talked about the gruesome history of bonfire night, which is mostly celebrated in Great Britain, to commemorate the unsuccessful plot in November 1605 to blow up the Houses of Parliament and King James I. A group of Catholic conspirators were responsible for the plot, but they were all caught and came to a grisly end, with their heads on spikes outside the House of Lords. Guido (or Guy) Fawkes, was the plotters’ explosives expert, and he was discovered, along with barrels full of gunpowder, under the Houses of Parliament.

Ever since then, Britons have commemorated 5th November with their own fireworks, bonfires and celebrations. Nowadays, mostly, the anti-Catholic element has been forgotten, but people still enjoy lighting up the night sky with a pretty explosion.

People from Chesterfield remembered the (slightly rude) rhyme:
“Bonfire night, stars are bright
All the little angels dressed in white.
One with a fiddle, One with a drum
And one with a pancake stuck to his bum!”

We commemorated Bonfire Night by writing our own poems, which I hope you’ll enjoy!

Bonfire Night Haiku


Whizz, band, crack, whistle
Pretty sparkles in the sky
Gunpowder smoke smell

Hot dog smells

What’s that I can smell?
Sizzling caramelised onions
Frying in a pan.

Brown, green and crunch
Sticky, yummy, delicious
Pappy toffee apple


Orange, yellow, red
Crackling, popping heat
Warming everyone
(Right down to their feet!)

A roaring bonfire - don't forget to check for hibernating hedgehogs before you light it!

A roaring bonfire – don’t forget to check for hibernating hedgehogs before you light it!


Burning bonfires, crackling away
On the fifth November, today’s the day
November nights cold and damp
Fireworks light the sky like a lamp
I see the children scream with delight
Rays of colour light up the night
Evening starts before tea time
Sweet treats and toffees taste sublime


Flashes of colour brighten the sky
I cheer and “ahh” as the colours flash by
Roman Candles and Jumping Jacks
Everyone dressed up warm, wearing macks
We crowd around the fire, keeping warm
Oh no! I hope there won’t be a storm!
Relatives gather to enjoy the fun
Kids make enough noise for everyone
Sizzle, bang, crash, screech – all night long!


Bang! The sound of Bonfire Night
All jump! The noise gives us a fright
Noisy night enjoyed by all
Guy Fawkes burns and starts to fall
Everyone’s ears ring with the sound
Roasted chestnuts – a bag for a pound!

Guy Fawkes (a potted history of Bonfire Night)

Guy Fawkes in front of the Houses of Parliament

Guy Fawkes in front of the Houses of Parliament

Gunpowder expert, put his barrels
Under the Houses of Parliament
Young men, angry with King James

For not giving Catholics rights
And they wanted to blow James up
Why didn’t the plot work?
King James was informed
Everyone was caught
Staked heads all round!


Roman Candles sprinkling
Ooooh! Pretty colours…
Crackle in the night sky
Kindling to light the bonfire
Ey up! be careful!
Terrific bangs everywhere
Sparkling sparklers


Toffee apples and treats
Roast chestnuts
Eating cinder toffee
Candy floss on sticks
Lollies made from bonfire toffee
Embers with jacket potatoes cooking.