What follows is a short story from Rosemary’s past. After talking with her, I have taken our discussion and turned it into a series of small stories highlighting the incredible life that she has led. Direct quotes from our discussion are highlighted in quotation marks. All else is a retelling written by yours truly.
For anybody who knows Rosemary, it is not a surprise that growing up she describes herself as a tomboy, always wanting to be outside and always wanting to explore. Life on a farm had its positives and negatives and perhaps the biggest positive was the space she had to run around and adventure.
“Of course being on the farm there was plenty to do. I could go a long way and still be on the farm. I could go down into the fields, I could go down to the river. I could go up into the yard where the animals were.”
The farm itself was approximately one hundred acres and used mainly for dairy. This meant lots of cows. And a few sheep and chickens too. In fact, one of the jobs that Rosemary had when she was old enough was to take care of the chickens. She still remembers the duties she had to carry out, making sure the chickens were fed, collecting the eggs, helping with the hatching of the baby chicks. Rosemary was an outdoor girl living on a farm and she found herself very interested in the farm’s ways.
When she was around eight or nine she and her sister were even given a lamb each to take care of. The mother had died giving birth so Rosemary and her sister had to make sure the lambs were cared for. That meant feeding with baby bottles and trying to stop them from getting into the garden and eating the vegetables.
Rosemary’s was called Rascal and it was very naughty, always trying to steal a bite of the growing vegetables. But she loved it and the two grew very attached.
Then one day Rosemary got back from school and it was gone!
“We were so upset. My father had taken them to the market. He hadn’t even told us.”
For the next couple of years Rosemary wouldn’t bring herself to eat any sort of meat in case it was her dear Rascal that she was consuming.
“It all seemed so unfair.”
There were also the chores, including pulling weeds in the garden. She would be given her bucket and for every bucket of weeds that she brought back, she would be given six pence.
“That was an awful lot of weeds in a bucket.”
There was also picking fruit in the summer, a somewhat less arduous task. All kinds of fruit grew in their garden and Rosemary was always summoned to help. After all, there were no tools to pick the fruit for them and the fruit only stayed ripe for a short period of time.
Rosemary grew up during World War Two (more on that next week) and the rationing that came with it. But she remembered in times of more when they would make jam and other preserved fruit, bottling it for the winter. It was one of the ways they lasted in the winter. The diet for those living on the farm was a simple one. Rosemary’s mother would write down the shopping list once a week and father would drive to the nearby town for the few essentials. They didn’t have giant supermarkets like they do now. Most of the food was grown on the land.
“Fancy restaurants and well-known chefs are much more recent. It was a long time after the war before our diet in England changed. In the summer, my parents would grow runner beans and broad beans and peas and potatoes and we ate those all summer until you were really tired of beans and peas. Then in the winter you got carrots and swede and turnips and that was even more boring. You had those every day. Oh and cabbage and brussels sprouts. But we grew all those things. And we didn’t eat a lot of chicken but we would eat a lot of beef.”
They also had rabbit. There were always wild rabbits on the farm and whenever her dad shot one they ate it for dinner.
And milk. They had plenty of that and would give some to the rest of the folks who worked on the farm as well.
But overall, life was simple and the effects of the war did not dissipate for some time afterward. In fact it wasn’t perhaps till Rosemary grew into her mid-to-late teens that her way of life began to change. When she was deciding to go off and become a teacher.
But that’s a story for another day.
Stay tuned for more stories from the life of Rosemary. Please note: these stories will not necessarily hold any chronological grounding. I chose to begin with the journey to Sicily because travelling played a major part in the life of Rosemary. There are also more stories from Sicily which might crop up. But these stories are designed as snippets of understanding into the life of Rosemary and while some will hold chronology, others may not.