Monday, 6 June 2016

Aunt Rose a Guest Post by Brian Moses

Aunt Rose lived in a cottage in the Kent countryside. Just her house, the house next door, a farm down the lane, and then nothing till the village, a mile and a half away. She was a small, stoutish elderly lady and I used to stay with her for a holiday. it was a great place for a young boy. There were woods to play in where camps could be built. There were trees to climb and fields to run through. But there was one big disadvantage. Aunt Rose talked non-stop, mostly about things like knitting and jam making, things I wasn't the least bit interested in.

Aunt Rose could have talked for England. She was an Olympic winner in non-stop chat and everyone knew about her. The postman would draw up in his van. I could see him looking into Aunt Rose’s garden to see if she was about. Then when he thought she was nowhere around, he’d leave the safety of his van and scoot up the garden path. He’d push letters through the letter box and be half way to his van before she appeared. Then she’d call to him, ask him to do something for her, some little thing, anything, to keep him from getting back to his van.


Every time I stayed with Aunt Rose, there’d be a morning, when we’d wake up to find that cows had invaded her garden. The cows from the field next door had shouldered their way through a weakness in the hedge and were busily munching on her cabbages and lettuces. I’d be upstairs, looking out of my bedroom window when the door downstairs would open and little Aunt Rose in her dressing gown would appear with a tea towel in her hand. Then she’d hurtle down the garden towards the cows flapping the tea towel till it cracked like a whip. She’d bring this down on the backs of the cows but they didn't seem to feel a thing. They were far too interested in her home grown vegetables. For a few minutes she’d yell like crazy and slap down her tea towel on each cow in turn, but nothing stopped them. Next she would come back to the house and carry on alternately muttering and yelling while she got dressed and left the house to walk down the lane and tell the farmer to remove his cows from her garden. She had no phone so she couldn't ring him but it did seem strange to me that the slapping with the tea towel was a ritual that had to be attempted before she’d go and fetch the farmer.


By far the very worst thing about staying with Aunt Rose was her outdoor toilet. It was really just a wooden box in a shed. Inside the box was a bucket.  A round hole had been cut into the top of the box and there you had to sit until what was needed to be done had been done. For someone used to an indoor bathroom with a flushing toilet this was all too primitive for me. Occasionally it crossed my mind that someone had to empty the contents of the bucket when it got too full but I quickly moved away from that thought. All I knew was that it sure wasn't going to be me!

Equally worrying were the spiders. As I sat in the shed I was aware that all around me, hanging from corners and crevices, there were spider webs. And where there were webs, there had to be spiders! I wasn't terrified of spiders, but I wasn't too fond of the larger ones. In the semi-darkness I convinced myself that there were eyes watching me, small pinpricks of red in the gloom. Worse still were the ones behind me, the ones I couldn't see and who were probably ganging up and planning a mass bungee jump the next time I entered their territory.


At night, of course, the house was locked up. There was no way to get to the toilet outside, even if I was brave enough to risk it. There was, however, a pot beneath the bed - a 'po', as Aunt Rose called it, or a ‘gazunder’ (because it goes under the bed!) If I woke in the night and knew I couldn't get back to sleep unless I had a pee, that was where it had to be done. I hated it. I’d be desperately hoping that I could get back to sleep without using it, but many times I couldn't. And there it had to sit, beneath the bed, for the rest of the night. I was then supposed to carry the pot and its contents down Aunt Rose’s  narrow, twisty staircase and out to the toilet in the shed. No way was I going to do that! I knew what would happen when I tried to get down her stairs one-handed. I would be sure to slip and the contents of the pot would cascade all over me. There had to be a better solution.

So every morning when I woke, I opened my bedroom window, grabbed the pot and emptied its contents onto the flower bed beneath. I wasn't doing anything wrong, just following on from all those people in history who used to do the same thing. But they had emptied theirs out into the street and often over some unfortunate passer by. At least all I was doing was watering the flowers. “Strange,” Aunt Rose remarked one particularly dry summer, “Those delphiniums under your window are looking very healthy.” I'm sure she knew what I was doing, but for once she kept quiet!



Keeping clear of Paradise Street Brian Moses
Aunt Rose is an extract from Keeping Clear of Paradise Street; A Seaside Childhood in the 1950s by Brian Moses. Brian has published over 200 books for children and teachers and has been a professional children’s poet for 28 years.

He wrote this his childhood memoir in response to questions asked by the children during school visits.  He would tell them;

When I was a boy we only had black and white television, and that only had two channels: BBC and ITV. If we wanted to change channels we had to get up out of our seats as there were no remotes. We had no computers, no mobile phones, no Internet, no Playstations, No Xboxes, no X Factor, no DVDs, no iPods, no shopping malls, no pizzas, no MacDonalds... How did we survive?

If you would like to connect with Brian, please visit him at brianmoses.co.uk. If you are interested in purchasing any of his books you will find all the necessary information on the website.



Brian hopes Keeping Clear of Paradise Street will be a crossover book in that adults who had their childhoods in the 1950s and ‘60s will enjoy the memories and find something to spark their own memories.

It certainly sparked memories for me. I read the extract and responded to Brian as follows;
The cows in the garden had me spluttering into my morning cup of tea – I remember it so well!  Only with me, it was my mum, tea towel in hand shouting and hollering as the cows trampled her prize Dahlias. We lived right next to the Dutch barn and cow sheds, so she only had to run to the yard (assuming the men were not all away in the fields) but even so, those cows could cause some damage!

If you enjoyed this post and would like to leave a comment about your own childhood memories or anything else, please do.  Your comments are always welcome.  

I received no financial compensation for sharing the above post and have no material connection to the brands or products mentioned.  

44 comments:

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed Brian's storytelling, Barbara! I LAUGHED OUT LOAD as he described his Auntie Rose; we all had to have someone in our lives who fit her description! The cows....OH MY, I can just see this stout little lady hitting those monuments of cows to no avail! HHAHAHAHAHAHHAHHA

    I have loads of childhood memories. So many that I do hope to make a dent in the memoirs I am writing, but I had to put down my pen during the school year (which is now over!) to continue. I didn't live in such a bucolic setting as Brian or his Aunt or you, but nonetheless, the memories are clear.

    BIG HUGS TO YOU!

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    1. I’m so pleased you liked it Anita. It made me laugh too and filled my mind with memories of my own.

      I had no idea you were writing about your childhood, how exciting. I hope I will be privileged enough to read it one day. I would also be delighted to share something about it on my blog when the time comes for you to publish (assuming you will publish?)

      Hugs back to you dear friend. Enjoy your time away from school.

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  2. Well...I was born...Yes! l was! :).
    I was born at a very early age..In fact 12 months
    after my birth, l celebrated my first birthday!
    Mia Mama, she say..like all Mamma's, l was a beautiful
    baby? Then why did the Doctor slapped my backside a few
    seconds after my birth? I was born at home, in a little
    place called Letojanni...At the base of Mt Etna in Sicily!
    Yes! Yes! I know Mafia country...But, we don't talk about
    that...otherwise l'll have to make an offer...You know the
    rest...! :).
    And, Mia Mama she also say...When l was born, Etna erupted.
    HeHe! No surprise there then...! 18yrs later on my 18th birth,
    l climbed it...Wow! What an experience that was..!
    "Made it Ma.. Top of the World". (James Gagney..White Heat..1949).
    I must be honest though...Like most peoples childhood, it warrants
    a 'film'. HeHe! So does the rest of my life...!
    But, it's nice to think back, especially with a gathering of family
    and friends...Just to reminisce...The conversation always starts with.."Do you remember...." :).
    I suppose that's why it's called 'History'.

    And..That outside toilet takes me back..But that's another story..!
    You used to have to sing in ours or whistle...No lock on the door
    see...! HeHe! Whistle while you work...!!! Once you did the paper
    work..you were outta there...! Bottoms up...! :0).

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    1. Oh Willie you have such a way with words, and you always, always make me laugh! I hope you are writing all your experiences down it would be tragic for them to be lost. They say we all have a book inside us, but I think you have an entire series and a Blockbuster of a movie! Your climb up Etna would be enough for one book. You even have a ready-made title – Made it Ma Top of the World.

      Talking of toilets and memories as you do! My granny Daisy kept a stack of newspapers, and a pair of very large scissors attached by a chain to the wall of her outdoor loo. No, that doesn't sound right, the scissors and newspapers were inside the loo but the loo was outside the house! When visiting the loo you were supposed to occupy your time by cutting a few squares of newspaper for others to use when it was their turn to pay a visit. The trouble was there was always something interesting to read in one or other of the papers, but the loo was not a place to dwell. What with the cold and the spiders and no light other than the little that came in from around the edges of the ill-fitting door, I don’t think I ever read a complete story.
      Happy Days!

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  3. Hi Barbara,
    Brian's charming extract brought back a load of memories for me too, especially the part about the toilet facilities. Emptying the bucket was best done on a windy day ( I know from experience ) which I describe in the guest post 'Last Days of Childhood at Murcott' that you kindly posted on this delightful site thank you. Thank you and Brian for reawaken the past again today.
    John

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    1. I thought you would enjoy it John, hence the email. I remember reading about your experiences but must go back and read it again. I do re-read your posts from time to time, and I always enjoy them, hopefully you will add another chapter one day. I hope your day is going well. Barbara

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  4. Well..You've heard and, probably seen the photos
    of my downstairs (pink) toilet. Which, so l've
    heard, has gone viral...God knows where it is, as
    l don't do social media, but, two lady followers have
    done it...Still waiting for royalties..! :)
    In that loo, l have four different types of toilet roll
    holders...vintage one, porcelain one..and, and also cut
    up squares from a news paper on pink ribbon..!
    Every first Sunday of August is my annual Barby..This year
    it'll be the 36th. When it first started, l'd have 50~60
    people, now it's down to about 30. People keep dying, and,
    letting me down...! :(. HeHe! Bless!
    What l wanted to say, going ALL around the houses, like 'I'
    do...That ALL the newspaper cuttings are ALL used..I hope
    people are just reading the paper...and not using it for other
    means...! :). Perhaps l'd better check, before they leave....!
    See if any of the print has come off anywhere...!
    One thing though...At least the pink ribbon stays in tact....! :).

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    1. I have seen your pink toilet Willie, and very nice it is too!
      It might be time to check up on those two lady followers – they could be sunning themselves in the Bahamas thanks to your royalties! :)

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  5. Oh my goodness, talk about bring back memories! Do you remember our "Thunder box" at East Worldham? How I hated it, but amazing what you put up with when first married. The cows in the garden, well that was almost normal and we had the whole of the hunt through ours a few times!v a really lovely post x

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    1. Hello Sue, I do remember your Thunder box, but had no idea about the hunt!! I remember loads of occasions when the cows trampled through the garden at Well and the times when the herd was being moved from the farm to a field and somehow managed to trample the bank outside. It was always covered with flowers, especially in the spring but a few cows rampaging across it could destroy it in seconds.

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  6. Wow, wonderful memories! I thoroughly enjoyed this post, Barbara! Thank you so much for sharing it! :)

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    1. I’m sure Brian will be delighted to know you enjoyed it Linda. Sharing it was my absolute pleasure. Thanks for your visit, Barbara

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  7. What wonderful memories! I'd love Aunt Rose, as she sounds like a strong independent woman. I know what it is to have to use a privy, but ours was a hole dug in the ground, so no dumping of buckets (yuk!)

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    1. I agree we all need an Aunt Rose! :)

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  8. Fortunately for me I grew up with the flushing toilet so never ever had the experience of the old-fashioned hole in the ground one.

    Wonderful memories.

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    1. You don’t know what you missed Kelly!

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  9. When I was growing up we did not have any nearby cows, but my neighbors did have a goat that liked to follow me everywhere. One morning she even tried to follow me onto the schoolbus!!

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    1. I love the story of the goat, how amazing to think she would have followed you to school if she could.

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  10. A very cute story! Reminds me of growing up on the farm (in Canada). I would sometimes "hold it" until I got to school so I didn't have to use the outhouse. That couldn't have been a healthy thing to do.

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    1. Probably not at all healthy Darlene but I do understand why you would do it There have been a few toilets I’ve preferred not to use, one very memorable one was close to The Great Wall of China! The wall was stunning the toilets less so!

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  11. Wonderful to hear from Brian. Staying with a character like Aunt Rose sounds like tons of fun- except the outdoor toilet. I remember visiting my grandparents in Minnesota and going to their cabin "up north" on a lake and we had to use an outdoor toilet. I was always stressed by the spiders I would see and the smell made me queasy. I prefer indoor plumbing for sure!

    Sounds like a fun book!

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    1. It certainly sounds as if Brian had a lot of fun. I can’t wait to read the rest of the book.
      You have lovely memories of visits with your grandparents other than the outdoor toilet of course!

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  12. Some memorable memories of the childhood. Sounds fun for the most part...well...apart from the outhouse!

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  13. How lovely, I'd love to have spent time visiting Aunt Rose. And may well get to do so as I'm away to add this to my wish list. Great post, thanks Brian.

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    1. On my wish list too Tracy, but then you and I always did have good taste! It would be interesting to see a review on your blog. Barbara

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  14. I had a good old chuckle at Brian's post. Wonderful storytelling, and put me in mind of visits to my grandparents in Kent (maybe they were near Aunt Rose?). They had an indoor toilet, but the outdoor one still existed and my grandpa hung pheasants and rabbits in there - the place of nightmares! I had a horror of being shut in there with all those dead creatures.

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    1. Hi Sue, funny to think your grandparents might even have known Aunt Rose – anything is possible!

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  15. Thank you for introducing me to Brian Moses, Barbara-what an amusing writer. Another book for me to look forward to! I can just see the garden, the cows and his Aunt Rose. I have had cows in my garden and they are no joke! Also adventures in outhouses-I so appreciate indoor plumbing! Another wonderful post, Barbara! You do have fascinating friends.

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    1. My pleasure Colleen, thank you for taking the time to read the post. I can’t claim Brian is a friend, but I certainly appreciate his writing and identify with many of his stories.

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  16. What a great story teller! Brian's recollection about his Aunt and the cows in the garden is hilarious! I also share his dislike for spiders!

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    1. I couldn’t agree more Diane. Brian is an amazing story teller, how I wish I could write like that.
      I also agree about the spiders, I can’t abide them.
      Have a lovely weekend, x

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  17. I’m so pleased Donna. Thanks for calling in, Barbara.

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  18. Beautiful Barbara! HELLO on this fine morning! Well for us, a storm is brewing in a very angry looking sky, but that too shall pass.

    Thank you so much for coming to visit my blog post. It is a pleasure for me to at least TRY to compose something in a very short amount of time, now using my own photos to meld with words that come to me so fast....

    May we never, ever grow old in our spirits, but always grow wiser and more appreciative of this beautiful planet we inhabit. HUGS TO YOU!

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    1. A visit from you always brings a smile to my face Anita, thank you and big hugs back!

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  19. I thought I'd already commented on this, but I guess not. I do remember reading with enjoyment, though. Keeping Clear of Paradise Street looks like a fun book and I can certainly relate to the mysteries of the outhouse as my grandparents had one (along with an indoor toilet, too, thank goodness!).

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    1. I don’t think comments always ‘stick’. I’ve left them on other blogs then gone back to see if there is a reply only to find my comment has disappeared. I wonder if there is a department of un-posted comments somewhere. Thank you for trying again, it is always lovely to hear from you. ;-)

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  20. Oh eww, watering the delphiniums with . . . but I guess I can sympathize. An outdoor toilet? Aunt Rose sounds like a nice lady but honestly, when I catch a glimpse of chatty neighbours, I tend to take a longer route just to avoid being caught in small talk with them. This isn't being very neighbourly, I'm afraid.

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    1. Hello Claudine, thanks for coming over.

      When I was little, my dad was convinced it was possible to change blue hydrangeas to pink ones. Or was it pink ones blue – I can’t remember now but the secret was the application of a little urine. Eww! I didn’t believe it but I’ve just looked online and found this;
      For most French hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla), the flower color indicates the pH of the soil. In strongly acid soil (pH below 6), flowers turn blue. In alkaline soil (pH above 7), flowers turn pink or even red.

      My dad was a genius. :-)

      Avoiding your chatty neighbours may not be neighbourly, but I do understand. It’s really hard when you are busy and just want to get home.

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  21. I loved this post. Reminded me of when I used to stay at my Nanny's, she had a 'guz under' too. I don't remember who took it downstairs but it wasn't me, although the stairs weren't so small or crooked, they went up, round and to the landing.

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    1. I loved it too.
      Thos ' guz unders' got everywhere didn’t they? Mind you, I’m glad they did - a walk down stairs and out into the garden in the middle of the night would not have been my idea of heaven!

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  22. Your experience reminded me when as a child I used to visit my grand parents they used to have not only the loo but the bath room out doors too. It used to be a place just made with 4 brick walls and a door and ofcourse like your aunt's with a hole in the floor. There was no roof just a huge big tree's branches hanging over. No one could over look as there were no high rise buildings. My fear always used to be that a snake or a scorpion would visit while in the loo or the bath room. Because the loo was a wet loo they used to have a huge big urn filled with water inside and I used to be so afraid that some would be hiding in there. When my aunts found out why I used to hesitate to go in there they were so amused. They would then always go and check the bathroom and the loo out in my presence to assure me that there were no nasties hiding in there. I used to always come out in record time to everyone's amusement.

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    1. Hi Shashi, no wonder you were afraid! I don’t think I could have coped with that bathroom. It was bad enough growing up with (harmless) spiders! Trips to Australia to visit Steven always present a bit of a challenge. The spiders are far from harmless there, and they are not the only things intent on taking a bite! I don’t know how Steven deals with it, but he tells me you get used to it, I’m not sure I ever would. I hope you have managed to have a good rest and are feeling much better now, Barbara x

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I really appreciate your comment. Thank you!
Barbara xx

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