High Days and Holidays

Two weeks ago, we talked about seaside holidays and wrote poems about our holiday memories. Derbyshire is a long way from the seaside, so a day by the sea is a very special occasion.

This week, we’ve been talking about fun a bit closer to home. Most Derbyshire towns and villages have their own well dressing. This  is an ancient local tradition of blessing our wells and village pumps with pictures made from petals, leaves, buds, seeds and anything else natural, pressed into heavy boards filled with clay. Communities come together to design and make the well dressings, and when they’re on show, the community has its carnival. The fair comes to town, the pubs are full, people will have communal barbecues and parades.

Banned saucy cards on show

PIC SUPPLIED BY GEOFF ROBINSON PHOTOGRAPHY 07976 880732. Copyright Donald McGill Museum & Archive PIC SHOWS ONE OF THE CARDS APPROVED A complete collection of SAUCY seaside postcards which were BANNED from resorts around the UK more than 50 years ago have gone on public display together for the first time All 21 comic cards by prolific artist Donald McGill have finally gone on show in a new museum 56 years after the designs were burned because of their bawdy humour. McGill, who was dubbed the King of the Seaside Postcard, published saucy classics from 1904, featuring fat old ladies, drunken middle-aged men, honeymoon couples and vicars. He produced a massive 12,000 designs over nearly six decades and sold more than 200 million cards in small shops in British seaside towns. But in 1954, after a mass clean up at seaside resorts across the UK, he was charged with publishing obscene images and four of his cards were immediately banned and 17 withdrawn from sale. Now these censored seaside postcards can be seen at a new museum in Ryde on the Isle of Wight which houses the largest collection of McGill’s work in the world. It also features the whole series of postcards which had orders of destruction placed on them by censoring committees across the UK. SEE COPY CATCHLINE Banned saucy cards on show

A Perfect Holiday

A trip to California
Many a perfect day
Lying on the beach
And having a sway
On a big, long boat
Cruising around Scotland
Around the sea or on a loch
Or pottering along the canal
On a sunny day.

But you have to watch what you’re doing
When you’re steering that boat!
Sea food and ice cream
Crabs and prawns, cockles and mussels
Not whelks – they take too much chewing.
Lobster salad would be nice.
You’ve got to try new things and be adventurous –
But don’t be dangerous and dive too deep.
Golden holiday memories to keep.

Seaside Memories

Going rock pooling, looking for crabs
Fond memories to look back on.
Going on the donkeys on the beach
Paddling on the shoreline
Feeling the water splashing around your feet,
The sand between your toes.

Daytrips to Blackpool –
Only half an hour away.
Sandwiches and a flask to last all day.
Sitting behind a wind-break
Scrambling to get dressed, still sandy and wet
After a dip in the sea.
Candyfloss sticking to my chin,
Melting in my mouth,
Watching it being made, as if by magic.

Penny slot machines, grabbing canes – you never won!
Shivering with fear on the ghost train.
Bits of string dangling down,
Sixpence to ride the Helter Skelter
Mooching up and down the prom when we ran out of money.

It was rubbish in between, but we’d have picnics,
Paddling in the river at Hathersage,
Pretending we’d been to the seaside.

Derbyshire Carnival Time

Tissington well dressing

A well dressing in the village of Tideswell in Derbyshire

Making well dressings at school
Everyone involved – the children of Youlgreave.
In Eyam, everyone remembers the plague
And celebrates how the village was saved.
Everyone meets around the sheep roast,
Early in the morning, for a breakfast
Of oatcakes, cooked in sheep fat
To line your stomach for a boozy day.
That doesn’t sound appetising to me!

In Buxton, the well dressings are in the Spring Gardens
But everyone goes to the fair.
You can’t even see one of them,
Because the fair gets built all around it.

Big Saturday in Tideswell too.
Carnival day, the whole village celebrates.
Lots of things happening: a duck race in Buxton
(I reckon someone’s cheating)
A wheelbarrow race in Youlgreave
The week before the carnival, all through the village.
Traditions old and new –
Pillow fights on a pole above the river.
Tugs of war, tombolas.
All week, there’s something –
Anything to raise money for local charities
An excuse to have a few pints.
Live music from a lorry in a pub car park –
Marching bands with bagpipes,
Blessing the wells as they go.
Billerettes in Buxton – male majorettes
Shaking their pompoms.

At last, summer has come to the Peak District
And men have an irresistible urge to dress as women
Bakewell Carnival – the first week in July.
Come and join us – give it a try!

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.