Tuesday 6 June 2023

Old Days

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.


 


 

32 comments:

Melinda from Ontario said...

My grandmother sipped a glass of hot water mixed with a squeeze of lemon every morning before starting her day. She never explained why she did it but I've since read that lemon acts as a detoxifier. I happily sip coffee every morning instead. Coffee is supposed to be a good source of antioxidants. Thank goodness it has one healthy property going for it besides the delightful lift it gives most of us.

Anonymous said...

My grandfather was a veterinarian in the 1920/30s and I swear some of the remedies we were given must have been what he gave the large animals at that time. I remember especially mustard plasters for a chest cold..we also got some sort of thick brown stuff every morning, guess it was vitamins. I too remember not owning up to constipation! He was a big believer of eating lots of vegetables as he often got paid for his services in vegetables. A lot of the farmers were very poor. I grew up healthy and am now 82 so I guess all the old remedies were ok. I think too many people these days go to antibiotics first and that is so wrong. GG

Anonymous said...

My daughter always has pharmacy products for her toddler's occasional constipation. I prefer to give the dried diced prune pieces, which I reconstitute and give her that works like a charm, and she loves the little pieces and sipping the liquid. The packet says "Angas Park,100 years in diced fruit, finest quality , established 1911 ..source of fibre, no added sugar". An oldie, always successful, and nothing but yummy goodness.
Our doctors when I grew up were a husband and wife team, European immigrants after WW2 - they knew most families in the district and their generational histories, and he did home visits.-Pam, Aust.

Anonymous said...

In regard to the other Annonymous comment re the vet, I complimented someone once on their lovely strong nails, and she said she used a product used on horses hooves! - P.

Rachel Phillips said...

My mother took a tablespoonful of Syrup of Figs once a week and said she carried on doing so because it was what she did at boarding school but she did not force it upon us when I once asked about it. Epsom salts are still in my cupboard along with Alka Selzer. My youngest brother was born in 1948 just before the NHS and I remember my mother saying she had to pay the doctor for attending. All four of us were born at home and I was the only NHS one. Incidentally the NHS was the product of the war years and would have come into being whether it had been Attlee announcing it or Churchill. In fact it was one of Churchill's great regrets in losing the election that he was unable to announce the birth of the NHS.

Susan said...

It appears you are enjoying your new book and it is taking you very nicely down memory lane. Families seem to have favorite home remedies. My late uncle liked apple cider vinegar with water, cod liver oil, Epsom salts and stewed prunes. He also had a spray that he called Hurricane for sore throats. (It was vile.) I will admit to using some all natural supplements and sometimes prefer them over pharmacy drugs; there are fewer or no reactions. I wonder if house calls will return in some new form? Possibly a mobile healthcare? I also believe that artificial intelligence will transform medical care in a good way. A friend has recently had robotic surgery on her hip and the surgery was quick and precise with a fast recovery. I think most surgery will eventually be robotic.

Eleanor said...

Our family doctor was Dr. Aitken who had been assigned to look after some of the nazi's who were on trial at Nurenburgh after the war (didn't know this until after his death). He always wore tweed jackets and my brother and I thought he was a magician when he rubbed balloons on the sleeves and stuck them on the ceiling. Doctors have no time for such fun nowadays.

gz said...

Rachel beat me to it!
Grandpa always had Syrup of Figs,..and Charcoal biscuits !!

The other cure for most things was Milk of Magnesia.

Anonymous said...

Malt extract and spoonsful of cod liver oil also spring to mind. Cod liver oil seemed to coat your tongue for the rest of the day. At least it is now available in tablet form. Pollie.

Anonymous said...

I forgot the cod liver oil, how could I.. my mother took milk of magnesia every day and at night she rubbed into or under her nose Vicks vapo rub. GG

A Smaller and Simpler Life said...

I love reading a book that brings memories flooding back as it sounds like this one is doing for you. I find myself closing the covers and sitting deep in thought for far too long.

We used to look after ourselves so much more before calling the doctor or taking ourselves off to A&E didn't we. If ever we were too poorly to go to school my Mum used to give us Slippery Elm Food, it was a disgusting concoction, that if I was feeling sick would be guaranteed to make me feel even worse.

And yes, the dreaded question 'Have you been recently?' if we said no we either got two spoonfuls of Milk of Magnesia, or if times were hard that week a huge glass of cold water followed by a cup of scalding hot tea.

JayCee said...

We were given Dad's home made rose hip syrup every day and a large spoonful of sticky malt extract from a huge, dark brown jar. I think we also had Syrup of Figs but not on a daily basis.

Anonymous said...

The name Aneurin Bevan is well used here in South Wales, our local wetherspoons is called The Aneurin Bevan, as it is just a mile from the University Hospital Of Wales in Cardiff and an area Health Authority has the same name. There is also a statue of him on the end of our main shopping street in the City Centre.
I think his name will live on in South Wales!

Janet - Cardiff

John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

When I started at secondary school the prefect in charge of my table in the dining room was an Aneurin, named after the great man no doubt. He must have been brought up as a proud socialist; the school custom was that the youngest boys had to clear away and wipe tables after the meal, but our man was having none of that - everyone on our table had to lend a hand.

Barbara Anne said...

My childhood saw stewed prunes on our table, milk of magnesia, peptobismol (pill form now!!), and Vick's vaporub. Oh, and gargling with salted water. Both of my parents had hated cod liver oil so didn't buy any!

What a wonderful book your niece sent to you!

Hugs!

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Tasker Dunham said...

Goodness, that has sparked off a lot of memories. I actually like cod liver oil, but not mixed with malt. I remember most of what people mention. All can add are the remedies for cuts and grazed: Germoline (can you remember the smell) and something called "flavin" I think, a coloured liquid which stained your skin, but I've no idea what it was. Also used to have Vick rubbed on my chest for coughs - a reason to pretend to be asleep - but I was told that even longer ago, children would be rubbed with goose grease.

Ellen D. said...

I don't remember having to take any of the things you mentioned. I do know that when I didn't feel well, my Mom would have me drink tea and eat saltine crackers. To this day, I have never enjoyed tea! (No offense!) :)

Rachel Phillips said...

I used to have iodine painted on my legs when I caught ringworm from crawling around cattle sheds. It stained my legs red/purple and I hated it and is one of my earliest memories and I made a lot of noise when it was being done.

Heather said...

I did not know you could actually take Friar's Balsam. I remember inhaling it with boiling water and Vicks. I used to like Andrews Liver salts. If we had a headache as children our Nan would sprinkle Eau De Cologne 4711 on a handkerchief for us to smell.
I think rhubarb or prunes with custard were favourite puddings with a duel purpose.
I had my tonsils out aged 10 and remember crying as I had never been without my family before.

Victoria said...

All of these English meds sound very exotic to me. When I was in elementary and high school I always got one terrible cough during the year. My mothers remedy especially at night was to layer Vicks Vaporub on a handkerchief, lay it over the top of a lampshade, get nicely warmed and then tie it around my neck. Inhaling the fumes usually did the trick and I managed to get some sleep after that. For other problems (I don't know what exactly they were) the standbys were syrup of pepsin and cocoquinine. And something else that was quite bitter which they mixed into orange juice to make it go down a bit easier. To this day I rarely drink orange juice possibly because of this memory.

Heather said...

I remember Beecham's pills, Zambuk for chillblains, Potter's Asthma Cure, Liquid Parafin all in the medicine cupboard when I was a child, none of which I sampled, but the thing I hated was Milk of Magnesia which I could barely swallow as I found it so revolting. The most comforting treatment was a remedy of my grandmother's for earache - a piece of hot toast in a sock, applied to the aching ear. Happy days!

John Going Gently said...

Your posts are more reflective and more interesting and more varied. Pat x

gmv said...

Oh how I look forward to your posts and stories.

Joanne Noragon said...

I think our health then was superior. Our food superior. Our habits surperior.

Cro Magnon said...

The worst remedy I remember was 'Liquid Paraffin'. After a spoonful of that you needed to stay very close to the loo!

the veg artist said...

I think Joanne is right. As children, we built up resilience aided by simple food, fresh air, plenty of sleep and exposure to the natural world and its germs. Children of today seem so protected in some ways, and yet so exposed in others.

Josephine said...

When I was on vacation in South England I needed my weekly injection and went to the local GP. Afterwarts I wanted to pay my bill like we do in the Netherlands, but the GP kindly refused saying: ‘ It is payed by the courtesy of the English people.’
I will never forget this. Thanks!

thelma said...

I remember having my thumb painted in, I think iodine, to stop me sucking it, anyway it was a horrible brown. Also remember finding Ex-lax in the bathroom cupboard and eating some of this deceptive chocolate. Paid for that one alright!

Tom Stephenson said...

I too had tonsillitis and remember being given antibiotics in the form of a red syrup which was supposed to taste of cherries. It didn't.

The Weaver of Grass said...

What wonderful memories we have stirred up between us! Thank you for your contributions. I just wonder how many - if any - of these so called 'cures' are lurking in cupboards (or maybe bathroom cabinets now we all have bathrooms). As some of you said - I think we were possibly healthier then as chilcren than today's children are - that is not meant to belittle the NHS - things like TB, Diphtheria and measles have all but been eradicated and if not then treatable.