Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Spinning Yarns with the Past

For many years I have been visiting spinning galleries in the Lake District. They usually date from the 16th century and are attached to either cottages or barns. Perhaps the most well-known is at Beatrix Potter's Yew Tree Farm near Coniston. This one is at Townend near Windermere (formerly known as Winandermere). The house is now the property of the National Trust and is filled with a wealth of decoratively carved oak furniture and fittings. I had visited with the intention of helping make a rag rug for the house. However, I swiftly fell under the spell of the volunteer tutor and guide and was more than happy to listen to her reminiscences about early days. Aged 16 she was about to be 'finished'. But the year was 1939 and instead of leaving home for a genteel school in Switzerland, she left home to work on a farm as one of the Land Army Girls where her job consisted of heavy labour, carrying full milk churns up the farm lane for collection, birthing and rescuing lambs (and if you have ever wrestled even a small lamb free from a barbed wire fence, you will know that it feels like a round with Mohammad Ali), and harvesting. She told me she still enjoys a swim and when I suggested she upped her practice sessions in time for the Olympics, she laughed and said that since a horse fell on her left leg, she tended to swim in circles. I have spent a few days now writing down all she told me and I shall pass it on to my daughters. It made me think how much I lament that people in the past didn't write down more about their needlework, but the truth is, there are so many memories we can still gather today and write down for reseachers in the future. I am thinking of my rag rag tutor now since perhaps she is one of the few remaining Land Girls invited to take tea with the Queen this afternoon.

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