As luck would have it one of the early visitors to the shop this morning was a chap from the Ukraine! He had brought an Italian friend in looking for London souvenirs. Braintree ones would not mean a great deal back in Naples for some reason. Interesting talking to him, a man who spoke very good English, better than the locals can, and understanding as a Scot can his opposition to a dangerous Russia with a mad leader threatening his nation. His pride in not being Russian was clear! This lucky man now has his wife and new child to care for and I suspect one day they will return home to the Ukraine, but not yet! The situation there is indeed tense, and it has become clear there have been bad boys on both sides, and as is the way in those far flung regions few politicians are to be trusted. Talking of untrustworthy politicians I note David Cameron has been talking tough yet has plans made to do absolutely nothing when the balloon goes up. It is one thing to send jets into Libya or 'aid' to Syria but Mr Putin (is his first name 'Ras?') with his nuclear weapons, thousands of soldiers and big guns is a different matter. As it is if we do anything the gas will either be turned off or trebled in price and only Mr Gas Chairman wishes for that!
The day began by discovering the place was not yet opened up properly. Lights were off, TV's off, and no money yet in the till! This was sad as the first visitor was awaiting entrance. However she was keen to talk, so keen that once the money had been placed in the till, lights and TV's on it took me fifteen minutes to get her actually into the museum proper. Even then she talked as I attempted to log the photo machine on. A real nice woman with interesting things to say, the kind we need to have visit, but I could not get things done. I had to dump her suddenly as another lass appeared ready to spend money, that could not be allowed to wait.
This woman had a relative who worked for Courtaulds' for many years, beginning by 'knocking up' workers early in the morning for one shilling and sixpence a week, good money at the time for him. It appears he spent his life there and enjoyed every minute so last week she bought one of our £20 books on the company. There are three volumes in this history and today she returned for the other two! Lovely lady! I sneaked a CD of talk into the bag free of charge, £2 in the sale, as it featured the voices of workers from all the towns past industries and fitted in with her purchase. The relative will have a very happy Christmas this year! I also told her last week to get him to write down his story, all he could remember, as this would be good history, and he is doing this! I am looking forward to seeing his work.
All these one time industries died after the second world war. Competition from Asia and elsewhere reduced their lifespan sadly. These were highly industrial companies for the most part, elements of which survive, but the days men worked forty years in one company have long gone. In the middle of the nineteenth century the mill employed around two thousand people, mostly women on five shillings a week, alone! Being Unitarians they shared the social concerns of many and treated the workers well in spite of the wage. They built schools, hospitals and churches in all the towns the operated, the churches were for many denominations also, and doctors and houses were also built. They would not tolerate unions, such people were removed but they had a paternalistic approach as did many in their day and to some extent this lasted until the end. What remains of the company appears to be based in Asia today.
Other welcome and weary travellers passed through today, enjoying the offerings and spending cash in the shop. How nice to see them and the cash! In today's world we need this as the money we obtain is dying out daily. Desperate measures are required to bring in sufficient resources just to keep
the museum running.