Friday, 25 February 2011

A skip down Memory Lane

I went for a happy skip down Memory Lane this week. It all started when I read a few Milly Molly Mandy stories and it ended with the making of this little dolly. . . . . . But more of her later, first the books.

I'm sure these delightful stories will be familiar to most of you. They were written and illustrated by Joyce Lankester Brisley. The first tale was published in the 1920s and more appeared on a regular basis until the 1960s.

Milly Molly Mandy lives in an English village in a nice white cottage with a thatched roof. You can see it in the top left hand corner of the map (click on map to enlarge). Across the lane lives her little friend Susan. Wouldn't you love to have a home here and be part of this happy village community?

Milly Molly Mandy lives with what today would be referred to as an 'extended family'. There's father, mother, grandpa, grandma, uncle and aunty and happy family meals are always taken at the kitchen table. When this story was written there was no TV so there were no 'unmissable programmes' to lure anyone away from the table.

Little girls who wanted to look 'grown up' would try on mummy's old clothes and grandma's hat. Cosmetics for children were unheard of in those days and applying real lipstick was not encouraged. So youngsters would rely on sweets like Smarties. The red sweets when licked and smeared on the lips would obligingly deposit a rich scarlet stain (needless to say the tongue was also stained scarlet but that didn't matter).

Toys were few and so treated with care. But who needed toys when the 'bestest fun' could be had from building tents from old table cloths and counterpanes draped over chairs and broom handles.

Or how about a game of 'horses' played by galloping astride a sturdy stick.

Perhaps the picture I find most poignant is this one showing the two little girls heading off alone into the open countryside in search of blackberries. With so many of today's children confined to their gardens for reasons of security I can't help wondering when and why childhood became so very different. 

My own childhood spanned the 50's and 60s. We were free to roam in the surrounding countryside and the simple games we played were very similar to those described in the stories. My early years were spent at a village school that had just 50 pupils which was considered large compared to other village schools in the area.

After my nostalgic journey through these lovely books I decided to make a tiny doll that would resemble the little friends I once had at my village school. I trawled my memory for the way we looked in those days and this is the little character that evolved. She's 15cm (6in) tall and wire framed which enables me to pose her (something I like to do with dollies).

Girl's hair was often short and tied with a ribbon at one side. Long hair was never worn loose but always plaited (braided). Cheeks were rosie from much outdoor activity including the walk to and from school in all weathers (mums with cars were rare).

Cardigans and jumpers were usually hand knitted in 3 ply or 4 ply wool. DK yarn was only just putting in an appearance as were synthetics. Dresses were short and had full skirts and were often handmade by mum or granny. A petticoat was usually worn under the dress.

White ankle socks were worn in summer and grey or beige knee length ones in winter. Fashionable and trendy shoes were not an issue as little girls (and boys) wore the same style of summer sandal with a ‘T’ bar. These were brown leather although occasionally girls wore red in the Mary Jane style.

I hope you've enjoyed skipping down Memory Lane with me. Perhaps some of you have similar memories to my own . . . . . happy days indeed.

Have an enjoyable weekend, wherever you are.