Friday, June 10, 2011

Coal House and Convocation

Oh I do love the internet!  This past week we have been rationing out episodes of Coal House at War each night.  The BBC produces some fabulous series and documentaries and though it may take awhile, in this case two years, to view them over here I say better late than never.

Three families were deposited in Stacked Square, situated in South Wales, to live as authentically as possible to 1944.  Ration books, power outages, air raids and very little in the way of hygiene products seem at first to be overwhelming.  But it's remarkable how after just one month the families involved not only adapt but embrace their new way of life chock full of hard work, elbow grease and inconvenience.  The arrival of four Bevin Boys to work in the mines alongside the other men add a bit of romance for teenager Annie Starr and speculation for everyone else.  The men toil away in the cramped, wet coal mines while the women work at a munitions factory to support the war effort.  Those washerwomen headscarves and a bit of red lipstick make women look gorgeous, I don't care what anyone says.  Scant rations and scratchy toilet paper lead to pilfering from the factory stocks thanks to the aid of oversize ladies knickers to hide things in.  And the children were such sweethearts, bravely taking their malt extract and cod liver oil by the gulpful everyday...resulting in an interesting change of bathroom habits much to the horror of their mums!

Each episode showing a 'simpler time' has been a welcome relief after days full of talk about visas, timetables and financial statements for The Heiress' time overseas and shopping for just the right outfit for convocation.  Honestly, forget tears at the prospect of parting for what could be years, I can't wait to get back to being an empty nester!

The sea of gowns, bouquets of roses, smiling faces, proud parents and the height of some of the young ladies shoes made for a day full of wonder.  This graduating class also marks the university's centenary which added to the excitement.  Craig Kielburger and his brother, Marc, were granted honorary Doctor of Law degrees with Craig delivering an impressive speech - without notes - about children and poverty in developing nations.  Seeing your child stroll the red carpet behind a robed Marshal, carrying the Sceptre, while fanfare is being played can cause your eyes to sting just a bit.  A beaming smile as she looked back over her shoulder at us a few times made all the sacrifice worthwhile.  Though I couldn't help but wonder how many of these emerging adults still need reminding to put their dishes in the dishwasher or tidy their bathroom? 

It has been a busy week full of the past, the present and talk about the future.  There was also the matter of helping some friends split and stack countless cords of wood, during a heatwave, from a tree they had to cut down in their yard.  My Wonder Woman breastplate has been coming in awfully handy lately I tell you.  Anyway, my hope of getting a nice photo of The Heiress receiving her hood were dashed by things moving along too swiftly and a stream of the recently hooded walking in front of my view.  But a wee glimpse of one end of the stage gives you a slight impression of what things were like.


  1. When I watch series like Coal House Wars it makes me wonder how most people today would cope. I'm sure that if a similar situation ever arose today it would be the down and out people who would survive.

  2. Coal House is one of the few that I haven't seen - must see if I can get the DVD. And congratulations to the heiress - you must be so proud!

  3. What a special occasion. When Jane was graduating, my camera refused to focus on her being 'capped', but I got her coming off the stage. It's annoying, isn't it?

    Have you read any of the Mass Observation diaries? They're fascinating accounts of ordinary people in the UK living through WW2.

  4. Penny, Absolutely frustrating and if I had known I wouldn't have bothered and just enjoyed watching. Now I have no photo and I missed her big moment trying to attempt it *sigh*.

    I know those diaries exist but haven't read any of them. Housewife, 49 on DVD is as close as I've come! Something to keep my eye out for though.

  5. Congrats to the heiress! I've seen the Victorian and Regency versions of contemporary families trying to live as our older counterparts but have not yet seen the WWII one--thanks for the reminder--I find these totally fascinating!

  6. I've rented Coal House from a free trial of an Online DVD rental company - rather enjoying it, especially as it's free!!