Sunday, 24 June 2012
Birthday friend, M, gave me a little book when I called for her birthday. "Another Time Another Age" is a collection of 'jottings' edited by Delia R Smith. In it are a collection of writings from the last part of the nineteenth and the first part of the twentieth century.
The Editor found these jottings amongst the belongings of her Godmother, Bertha Green, when she died aged 98. They were in small albums which in those days I think were called 'Autograph Albums'. I have just such an album which belonged to an Aunt of mine who died in 1954.
She belonged to that generation of women who never found a husband after the terrible loss of young men in the first world war. The album begins during that war, when I know she had a relationship with a young officer in the army. The relationship ended disastrously when she found out that he was already married and from that date on there are no entries in the album. It is really a testament to a very sad life. In the back of the album a newspaper cutting is folded. It is a poem headed 'Consolation' and of course one wonders - did he send it to her after the relationship ended or did she find it in the newspaper and cut it out and keep it for consolation?
When we think of autograph albums these days we think of collections of signatures which often turn up on programmes like Antiques Road Show, where someone has collected the Beatles and so on. But when I was young we kept Autograph Albums and asked everyone to write in them. What resulted was a collection of verses and bon mots. And this is what this little book contains.
It is a delight to read. And what strikes me also is that all the handwriting is very similar. The same is true of my aunt's album. In those days it seems, if you could write, then you were all taught to write with virtually the same hand. I remember my mother encouraging me to write rows of what she called 'pot hooks' long before I started school - presumably that is what they did in school in those days to get all handwriting the same. (I find many of my American friends now write in a similar hand - do they learn a particular script in schools there?)
I particularly love this little one from the book. It was added by someone called H Busby on February 27th 1916:
In the rainstorms of life
We need an umbrella.
May yours be upheld
by a handsome young fella' My sentiments exactly.
I don't suppose the book is still in print - it was printed and sold in aid of the Shaftesbury Society
- a society which enables people in great need to achieve security, self worth and significance. It
is a registered charity - 221948.