My niece has sent me a book: 'One Woman's Year' by Stella Martin Currey. First published in 1953 - it is a fascinating collection of country bits and bobs - a blog generator on every page! I sat 'half-reading' it over my Weetabix and strawberries (first English ones and sweet) this morning. Two words leapt out of the page at me - 'Friar's Balsam' and I was away down memory lane.
July 5th 1948 -Aneurin Bevan MP and the very beginning of the National Health Service. Good old 'Nye' - in Northallerton there used to be a road on what was then a 'new' estate called after him - Aneurin Bevan Way - now changed to something a bit more flowery - can't remember what. But I can still see Nye - Welsh of course with a name like that - smiling face, big tummy, Labour of course.
I was 16 and remember it well; now it would be a pretty pointless name I suppose - there would only be a sprinkling of folk on the estate who would know who he was. In those days - so soon after the ending of the Second World War, when Churchill's Government of the war years had been swept away and a good old fiery lot of 'real' men and women, fervent, good at the old chat and so well known to everyone launched into power with such high hopes for the country. We all thought it was the beginning of a New World Order.
The fervency has slipped away now (is there such a word?) but the poor old NHS lives on, staggering from pillar to post enduring strikes, shortage of trained doctors and nurses, always a long list of complaints from folk, ageing population - I won't go on. But I remember the pre NHS days - I remember them with a great deal of nostalgia - but then I wasn't in charge of a household and its finances.
Dr. Harrison was our doctor and 'looked after' two villages in Lincolnshire - Washingborough and Heighington. You either had an Insurance Policy or you paid him per visit (I think). I never gave that side of it a thought. But I knew him well. He lived in Heighington in a lovely house with a super garden, on the side of the beck which ran past the Mill and on through the village. So he must have got paid for his services although I never saw money change hands so I don't know how it worked. I do know everyone adored him and I can't imagine him not treating anyone who had no money to pay. And I do remember his fairly frequent visits to me because I had troublesome tonsils!
He wasn't the first port of call when one of my frequent sore throats erupted. Oh dear me no. The first port was the cupboard at the side of the fire and the Friar's Balsam bottle.
Minor attack - five drops of the balsam on a spoonful of sugar - 'open your mouth' - down it went - nasty, horrible taste. If that didn't do the trick - and it often didn't (I finally had my tonsils removed when I was 21) then it was inhaling time. I remember it well (and with a shudder). Currey puts it better than I can once my mother had put the balsam in the enamel bowl, poured over the very hot water, she bent my head over the bowl and made a tent over me and the bowl with a towel: 'breathe in hard, pull the steam in, shut your mouth, breathe out like a horse. Do it four times and then rest'. Oh yes - the old routine.
If that failed call in Dr Harrison who usually proclaimed that I had 'Quinsies' (don't ask - its too disgusting).
Yes, like all families in those far off days we had the old remedies - always tried first. Anyone remember Glauber's Salts (good for the bowels)? My father drank a cup of the salts in hot water every Friday morning before breakfast - a ritual. I had a sip once -ugh!- I never answered anything but 'alright' to my mother's weekly question 'How are your bowels?' after that. Constipation was preferable to Glaubers thank you very much.
For lesser tummy complaints it was Andrew's Liver Salts or -failing that- Epsom Salts. The old Scott's emulsion on a desertspoon once a week kept one healthy(?).
How on earth did we survive without anti-biotics (remember the old M and B tablets?). Stewed rhubarb and custard was often on the menu - there was plenty of rhubarb in everybodies garden. Best 'clearer outer' of anything in those far off days.