Toys I remember

I think the two main ones I can remember are a lovely big teddy bear and a bride doll.

I can always remember the teddy bear. It is one of those old fashioned teddies with yellow fur, moveable arms and legs, and growled when you leaned it forward. I think it was originally one of my older siblings bear but I inherited it. By the time I got it some of the fur had been rubbed off, my Mum had restitched a couple of the seams and the growl no longer worked. I have photos of me with it from when I was quite small. I named him Winnie the Pooh as that was my favourite book that Mum read to me at night. I still have this bear. My kids had it when they were young but neither of them were as attached to him as I was.

brown jenny089     brown jenny093

brown jenny090    DSCF0566


I also had a lovely bride doll with beautiful golden hair. I can remember getting her for Christmas when I was quite small. I found her on the end of my bed (where our gifts were always left by Father Christmas). She had long golden yellow hair and my mum had made her clothes. Over the years Mum made more clothes for her. I still have this dolly as well.


Other toys I can remember are electric train set, meccano, Building blocks and dinky toys.

The Meccano, building blocks and dinky toys I think belonged to my brother but we played with them a lot. We built lots of great buildings with the Building clocks. They were like the precursors of Lego and came in Red and white “bricks”. With half bricks so you could build a strong overlapping walls. My brother used to build great machines with the Meccano and used to have huge networks of roads and buildings for the dinky toys. I know we had a grader so that was used to build lots of roads.. We would have whole cities set up all over the road in front of the house in the sand.

The electric trains belonged to my older brothers. The trains were beautiful and very solid – and I think they were quite expensive. Sometimes the tracks were set up in a room or on a table for quite a long time and I used to love playing with them! We weren’t supposed to play with them as they were so valuable! I can quite understand why there are grown men that still play with trains….

bricks       Meccano

matchbox    dinky



hornby 2

I wanted to find some pictures of some of these old toys – and had a wonderful couple of hours reading all sorts of information about these old toys. I wonder where our old electric trains are? I know I still have some of my sons old trucks and cars. And where that Meccano and those building blocks ended up?


Personal Stories

I set myself a goal to write a personal story at least every month with the idea that by the end of the year I would have created a small book about who I am and what I have done.

Instead of it just being a boring recounting of my life and events I hope this will be a more interesting way to write my story – and hopefully more interesting for people to read in the future.

The first topic was ‘My Favourite Toys’. I enjoyed writing it so much it really inspired me – and so I set the same challenge for my family and friends.

And now I would like to set this same challenge for my readers…. so at the end of the year you too will have a record of your thoughts and memories for future generations…..

I will set the topic each month and will publish mine for you to read. I do reserve the right not to publish anything that is too personal! If you would like me to place your story on this site I will be happy to do so. I think it will make interesting reading for us all!

So join with me on this challenge – and I hope to see your stories online…

This months topic is – My Favourite Toys

And to start you thinking the next topic will be – The games we used to play.

New Year Resolutions

Nothing like declaring publically online for all to see – I will have so many people being able to call me on them if I fail to achieve them – or worse still not even begin them.

So what am I planning to achieve in 2015?

I would like to finish de cluttering my house if possible. At the rate of one room a month I should be able to almost make it! However I feel some rooms (like my September room which took 3 months) may take longer, and I am going away on a European holiday for 6 weeks… see what  good procrastinator I am? I am already making excuses!!

So what I will promise is that I will pick a room each month and try to complete it within the time – but if not I will still do a few minutes every day in that room and aim to finish it in the time allocated. So even if I fail to complete a room a month my house should be well on the way to being completed by the end of the year..

I will also promise to keep the rooms I have completed tidy and not start sneaking stuff back in there!!

The most important thing I will do is not to be too hard on myself if I don’t reach my goals – so long as I have moved towards them in some way. And I will enjoy my achievements when I reach them. Give myself a few hearty pats on my back and indulge in just a little smugness that I have achieved my goals!!

As far as other goals go?

In my Family History posting I set a goal to work on my Family history and try to write-up a family a month towards my family book. I am already working on my first family and researching Birmingham in the early 1800’s towards that goal.

I also set a goal to write a personal story each month about my own life. I have already done my first story. I was so inspired that I sent the same challenge to my brothers and sisters. I asked them to write their story each month as well and at the end of the year I told them I would turn it into a book for them. I havent heard back from any of them since so that might not be achievable!

So apart from the usual resolutions to be a better person, to appreciate what I have and give myself time to stop to smell the roses that’s about it.

So what are you all hoping to achieve? Remember to set yourself small goals and enjoy achieving these smaller goals on the way to achieving the bigger goals. And don’t be too harsh on yourself.

Have a safe and Happy New Year and a wonderful 2015….

Family History

I always spend a couple of weeks over the Christmas break buried in my genealogy research. It seems like it is the only time of the year that I can sit spending hours doing research and not feel guilty! And it is something I never procrastinate because I love doing it!

I can spend 15 hours of the day (and thinking about it the other hours) sitting in front of my computer chasing elusive family ancestors and get totally absorbed in it. In fact I get so absorbed in it I find it hard to do anything else – it is lucky we usually have so much food left over from Christmas that I don’t even have to worry about feeding the family.


Doing family history these days is so much easier than when I began 30 years ago. Nowadays I can look at microfilm on my laptop in my own home instead of having to order the film in and going to view it – or spending hours searching microfiche in the library. I have heard that Family History is the second biggest use for the internet after porn – but that may no longer be true these days now you can play games and view movies on your computer.

I started my Family History comparatively young. I was interested and my Aunty who had been doing some research handed it all to me – including a magnificent old leather photo album of many ancestors – a treasured possession. When she began research it was a case of writing many letters or hiring someone to look for you if your ancestors where in other countries. She would be staggered about how much easier it is today!

So from the comfort of my own home I can research family in the 1700’s in Birmingham. I can see the actual church registers and census forms, the wills and court proceedings. One family I was chasing yesterday I havent looked at for a year or so and there is now new stuff online that wasnt there before that I can use to break down some brick walls I had. Yesterday I also found the first divorce in my ancestors – back in 1880 for adultery. That must have been quite a scandal!

The entire extended family recognise me as the family historian and archivist. When my Mum passed away and we were sorting out her house, my siblings just kept putting any paperwork in my boxes in case it was useful. Some of it certainly was – but much of it I have had to throw out as even my hoarding mind could see it was useless.

So this is why I have so many boxes of papers, letters and photos. Storing them safely is always a concern and as I live in a fire zone I do worry about that. So this is another reason why I need to sort it all so that I am saving only the really important stuff. It is also why I am scanning all my photos so that I can keep digital copies in other places.

So doing the research is something I love doing – and I find no hardship in doing it and so don’t procrastinate about starting it. In fact 10 days of family history is my reward to myself for completing the September room! What I do procrastinate about is writing the family story! So this is my project for 2015!

Every year I say I am going to start it, and at the end of every year nothing has progressed. Last year, over Christmas, I did start writing about one branch of the family. On reflection I actually started doing then what is now my tag line – One Bite at a Time! To say you are going to write you family story is such a huge task it immediately puts you off starting!How do I set it out?  Where do I start? What do I include? How do I make it interesting? Another excuse I have used is that I will write the story when I have finished researching it! Of course that is a very silly idea as you never finish your family story. Not only is there more and more information about so that you can find more of your ancestors – but of course you also grow forward with new members being added over time.

So applying my basic principle One Bite at a Time this coming year I am going to make progress on my book. I am going to break it up into small bite sizes and not try to take on too much with each bite. I am going to try to tackle one family at a time and write about them and the times that they lived in. The family that I started with last year will be a good springboard. Then start another family group.

I also realise that it is important to write my own personal story. When my Mum was alive she told such wonderful stories about my ancestors. I always thought I would remember them – and I mostly do. But I wish I had written them down or recorded Mum telling them. I also asked my Mum to write about her life – and she would say it was too boring. When she passed away I got her Laptop and found she had indeed started writing. She was a writer and so she wrote beautifully. She had written about 5 pages about her Mum – my granny. Such lovely stories and so interesting. How I wish she had done more and written about her early life. I would not have found it boring!

So I have downloaded a list of topics to write about my own life. Lots of small bites – about growing up on the farm, about school, about my travels, even the technology I didn’t grow up with like mobile phones. I might think it is boring but I hope my grandchildren find it interesting and marvel at a life growing up without computers and mobiles!

So this is my second New Year Resolution. Not only to keep tidying one room at a time – but also to take small bites at writing my own personal story and that of my ancestors. Perhaps you need to do the same….


Sorting out my clutter has caused me to muse on many things…not only why some of us keep things that mean something to us and others don’t, but also what we tend to keep….. take letters for example…

Perhaps for younger folk a written letter posted by snail mail is a quaint old idea…every one wants instant answers, instant contact, instant photos. The idea of writing a letter in your best writing whilst trying not to make too many mistakes lest you had to start again, finding an address, posting it, waiting some time for the letter to arrive – and even longer for an answer to come back – must seem a silly idea to the younger generations!

But these letters, especially old ones are a reminder of our past, an insight into what (and who!) we were interested in, what we did with our time and our thoughts. In this centenary of the first world war, letters from the soldiers and nurses at the front lines tell us what the people were thinking and what they were going thru. But letters from less historic times also tell us so much more than what we read in history books.

I have a large collection of letters, some very old, some not so old. I keep them because I can’t throw them out. They tell of past times and connects us to our ancestors in a different way than the spoken word might.

Some people throw out clutter – like old letters – without a moments thought. In the generations to follow there will be very few written letters to keep I imagine. Email and texting is the way we communicate – and who keeps a copy of those for posterity? Future generations may wish that their parents and grandparents kept some of those things for them to treasure…to read and reflect on, to keep in a safe place for no other reason than that they are something from our past which connects us to generations before we were even alive.

All the letters I have lovely stories to tell. I think the most surprising one I have is from my Mum to her granny. So my great grandma – it must be 100 years old. Written in my mum’s childish hand it is just a short note to her granny as it appears the granny had been ill and so my Mum had written her a note. A simple little note but clearly kept by my great-grandmother, my mother and then finally handed down to me. How could I throw that tender piece of writing in the bin?

I have my granny’s little writing bureau – a small wooden box that ladies of that generation had that they kept their writing paper and pen and ink in. When my Mum gave the bureau to me she had a queer look on her face and she said “Granny has some letters in here that are love letters. I found them in there but I can’t throw them out”. Her look was enough to stop me asking any questions. I forgot about the letters until years later. I took out a random letter and read it and realised that these were letters from another man to my granny before she had met and married my grandpa.

I then got all the letters out and read them in date order. It was like reading a Mills and Boon romance where you only got the gentleman’s words and could only guess what was in my grannys’ replies. However it was also strange as it was like you had read the end of the book and knew how things turned out but didn’t know how it happened. I knew that my granny ended up with grandpa and so you knew that this romance was doomed. They were such sweet earnest words from a young suitor to my granny. But also quite proper – and it was clear they did not see each other very often. The last letter had  been written after they had decided (altho I think it was granny that had decided) to end the courtship. The young man told granny of his eternal love but that he respected her decision. So sad!

But sadder still if these letters had been lost. They must have meant a lot to my granny to keep them, and then pass them onto my Mum. My Mum kept them, even tho I sensed that she felt it wasn’t quite proper that Granny had kept them! So now I have them.

They cover events that happened over 100 years ago. They reveal a different world of courtship. My granny had moved to Australia with her family as a young woman – she was used to painting classes with her young friends in middle class England – and here she was in the dry, flat wheatbelt of Australia. Perhaps very homesick. Getting courted by a besotted young man. I can only remember my granny as a frail, unwell woman. Very elegant very proper. But these letters told of another granny! A beautiful, vivacious, proper young lady, used to riding to the hunt being courted (quite possibly) by a number of young men. What a time she must have been having! These letters helped me see my granny as she must have been not as I remember her. Surely that is a wonderful reason to keep these letters….

My Mum had also kept all of the letters from us kids when we were at boarding school. I am a lot younger than my brothers and sisters and I found the letters from my brothers after I was born. Excited letters about their new little sister who they wouldn’t get to meet until the next school holidays. I also found the letters after my younger brother was born. Boys being boys there were not a lot of letters from them. But my Mum had kept them all.

I was away at boarding school for five years. I hated it! Every Sunday evening was letter writing night when we all had to write our letters. I suppose that was to ensure that the parents DID get letters. My letters are all there – written in my best writing. Usually only a couple of pages of boring school life. I note I never said anything to make my parents worry and so they didn’t know how much I hated it. I was a book-worm and pretty nerdy – and just got swallowed up by boarding school tsunami. So my letters sound pretty happy – when I know that I wasnt!

Letters from home were so important at boarding school. It was the only way you had any contact with your parents. You couldnt ring them unless it was something extremely important – and you needed to go to the Office and they would ring the number and would be in the room while you spoke to your parents. So letters were the lifeline to home. When I read my letters home I thought they sounded pretty boring – but I guess my Mums’ letters were only full of farm activities – but it was the receiving of the letter that was the important thing. That my Mum would have to sit down and write a letter amongst everything else she was doing on the farm, get it down to the mailbox in time to be picked up by the mailman or take it into town.

Mail was given out after tea at boarding school. The big calico bags would sit beside the door to be collected by the house prefect as you left the dining hall. Sometimes there would be a huge bag, filled with parcels, if there was a birthday happening. You used to look at the bags and really hope there was a letter in there for you – and be bitterly disappointed if there wasnt! So letters when you were in boarding school were so important. They didn’t need to say anything important – they were just a physical sign that you were loved and being thought of. My Mum kept all these letters that we wrote back to the farm. It must have been very hard to send the kids off to boarding school when they were only 11 – and she must have missed us and looked forward to our little letters!

Fast forward another 20 years and I have my own letters. Ones that I sent to my boyfriend (now husband) as he was travelling around Europe with some mates. The fact that I have them in my letter box is surprising considering they were young men travelling with very little gear and the letters were sent to Post Offices across Europe for them to pick up when they reached that town. What does it say about me, that altho he kept my letters, I havent kept his? My box of treasured did get wet many years ago and I think they might have been lost at that time. Shame tho. Ironically I do have the letters from my first boyfriend! Perhaps they are the only ones that should be binned!!

There are other random letters…. letters my Dad wrote to Mum when he was in hospital in the city and we were all still home on the farm. My Dad had very little schooling and his letters are simple and short. But they show he is hating being in hospital and is missing his wife and family. There are other letters from my elderly granny and grandpa to my Mum. They are difficult to read as granny had Parkinsons and so her writing was very shaky. Finally when Granny was no longer able to write them, Grandpa took over that role.

Even more recently, when my daughter was living in the USA for six months, we used to chat via email and occasionally by chat online (much harder to do that even 10 years ago!). The other day when sorting out a box I found that I had printed out pages and pages of emails and also some of our chats. Perhaps not the same as a letter, but still a record of what she was doing and what we chatted about as she did Camp America and went on Uni Exchange. This was very shortly after 9/11 so is perhaps why I printed and kept those conversations – it made me feel as tho I had something to hold onto and to reread.

So these letters give us insight into our lives and those of our ancestors. They show a devoted grandchild writing to her sick granny, a lovesick young man writing to his girl, children writing to their parents home on the farm, parents missing their kids a long way from home, a father missing his wife and children and a daughter writing to elderly parents of her life on the farm. All of them give glimpses of the people behind the pictures, behind the family stories. We are reminded that old people were once young, that parents always miss their children…

So without these letters we would be missing out on so much. If a granny hadn’t saved the note from her young grand-daughter, if a young woman hadn’t saved the letters from her first love, if a Mum hadn’t saved her children’s letters from boarding school our world would be poorer without them. We would not miss them, as we weren’t aware that these insights existed – but we are richer now for reading them.

So perhaps being sentimental and keeping these links to the past is more important than having a clutter free house. Having a box of special treasures is important to following generations. Will our grandchildren be sad that there are no letters from the past for them to read? No sweet love letters from sweethearts, no cherished letters from grannies or parents, no voices from the past telling us about their lives….

So perhaps next time you will think before you throw out a box of old papers – pause a moment. You may not read them very often, they may just be sentimental links to the past – but perhaps the world of the future will be richer for them. I know I am glad to be the holder and protector of my precious letters…. are you?

September Room Finally completed!

I started this room in September and as I said in my last post I got bogged down doing extra things in there instead of working on the room.

I wanted it completed by Christmas so have worked for hours (10 hours today) completing the room. I am very proud of it!

All the family history boxes (which are hidden under the window in the before photo!) are packed away ready for me to start on that project another time. The scrapbooking albums are all packed away and all the completed pages which were sitting around have been placed in albums. All the paperwork on the floor (my Inbox) has been sorted thru and now in heaps on the desk ready for me to tackle.

And finally a Christmas tree set up for the first time in about 8 years. That is really my only fail as I was so over it after 10 hours that the decorating is a bit sad! I may fix it up a bit tomorrow when I am feeling more inspired…

So enjoy my achievements and be inspired – I certainly am! My January room is a doozy!



Back to Basics – Lesson learnt!

I started my decluttering project in August determined to do one room a month…that way I figured that it would take me about a year to work thru my house. It is only quite a small house (2 1/2 bedrooms and one bathroom) but there is a lot of stuff in here!

August went well and the first room completed on time. However here it is in December and I am still doing the September room! I do have some valid excuses (procrastinators always do dont they?) but mainly I have just become sidetracked doing other things.

It was always going to be a time consuming room. I have boxes of family history archives, photo albums and all my scrapbooking albums in the room.

I think my problems arose by not defining what needed to be done to tidy the room and what could be done later as another project. For example I had lots of completed scrapping pages sitting around needing to be placed in Albums – a perfectly legitimate thing that needed to be done to tidy up the room. So I did that. However I also had books and books of photo albums that I had started to scan, remove the photos and archive them elsewhere. That was where I went wrong! I thought I will finish scanning the photos (a massive job) so that I can pack them all away tidily. WRONG!

So I have spent weeks slowly scanning, sorting and backing up photos whilst not even touching anything else in the room when I should have tidied it all up, thrown out the empty albums, packed up the scanned ones in archive boxes and then moved on to tidy the rest of the room. So 3 months on my room is still untidy and I have many albums to go!

So with Christmas coming upon me and wanting to have the room tidy for Christmas (so I can put up my Christmas Tree for the first time in about 8 years) I decided a new approach was needed! So I have done what I should have done to start with. I have packed up and labelled all the photos I have scanned. I have sorted out all the albums and put them back in the cupboard. And now as a small mini project I will go back to basics and set myself a small goal each month of scanning a certain number of photos!!! And continue tidying up and decluttering my September room.

So in one day I have achieved more than I have over three months by not biting off more than I can chew and overwhelming myself with a massive job instead of setting myself small reachable goals! Lesson learnt!

So my suggestions? Always set yourself small goals. Dont allow yourself to be sidetracked into other jobs that actually need to be made a separate goal to achieve. It is too easy to be overwhelmed. And as soon as you feel overwhelmed it is so easy to procrastinate or get sidetracked.