Thursday, 10 January 2019

Thursday Cogitation

The tenth of January twenty nineteen, yet another year has almost finished before I have got over Christmas, and that itself appears far in the past!   Staring out into the gloom does not cheer me early in my morning, neither does Radio 3 cheer as it ought this morning, the wrong choice of music for me.  I wish for something more cheery, ah, Brandenburg Concerto's, that's better, I need something cheery as in a minute the news will appear bringing tales of Brexit, squabbles in parliament and little encouraging me to go out and meet the world.  The world itself is gray and chilly, the people wrapped up, gloved and woolly hatted as if the Antarctic was on their minds rather than Tesco, only young girls heading to college dress skimpily to attract the strange creatures attending them, tardily attired males who consider themselves 'trendy' while looking, as all youths do in every generation, a mess.

My mood might be affected by the pile of paper lying beside me.  This contains information regarding the graves in the Bocking End Congregational Church graveyard.  This has been in use so long many of the tombs are now unreadable and others soon to be similar sadly.  However I checked up some of the names and was struck by how much many achieved, at least in child rearing, and how quickly their life had passed, life is much shorter than we realise, and only after fifty do we realise we are next!  The age span of the names is also great, one church minister was serving the church there for nigh on fifty years, greeting many when they entered the world and burying them around him when they left, while others failed to reach five years in their Victorian life.  Many women lie there dying in their twenties and thirties, childbirth often the cause.
Others appear to have been successful in business, a builder married the girl next door, began as a carpenter, became a builder, then a master builder and eventually died in what I presume to be a house he himself built in one of the more prestigious streets.  Today that house will cost well over half a million, possibly much more, it is an outstanding building!  His other buildings will stand all around probably for many years yet.
I sometimes wonder how people survived the physically tough eras in the past.  Walking was the most common form of travel until railways appeared, and then we would not venture far unless we sought a new life or had a public day off.  Medicine was rare, mostly old wives tales and experiments, until the mid Victorian days when ether arrived operations were rather drastic, germs were not discovered until much later and sickness was dangerous.  Hard labour, poor wages, poor prospects, even though life improved as the century came to an end, in comparison to today the opportunities had to be fought for and life was strewn with difficulties.  We have it so much easier and I am aware of many faults and difficulties we all face today. 

Our next exhibition reflects greatly on one of the large businesses that once employed thousands of townsfolks, Crittall Windows.  By the end of the 19th century Courtaulds Mills, Lake and Elliott and Crittall's employed thousands here, all were decent employers and workers happily remained employed at these companies for most of heir working days.  All paid decent wages, good working conditions and social clubs and events.  Crittalls had a large social club almost opposite their extensive factory, now all gone and replaced by housing, and paid good wages with excellent conditions for the time.  During the Great War they replaced men who had gone off to serve with women paying the same wages and prepared 18lb shells for the war.  One of the Crittalls built the small town of 'Silver End' around one of his factories for the workers, social clubs, parks, shops etc all available in a modernistic setting.  While few of the early settlers remain, most must have passed away by now, the village is still clearly well laid out although the benefactor 'feel' may now have long gone.  If only our millionaires today acted like this towards their people?  I suppose they have no contact with workers and therefore have no idea what the workers lives are like, politicians today mostly failing to have ever 'worked' having always been politically minded.  They are indeed far from us all.  The Crittalls however knew their people and this exhibition will show oil paintings made by the company of workers at all levels from shop floor to boardroom.  These were made in the 20's and at least one person I have met has a granddad who is among those portrayed by the artist (whoever he was).  This ought to being in the public, half the town worked there or knew some family member who did, and it will run on until the new year to allow schools a chance to bring the kids in and learn about the towns past.  
No-one paints portraits of their workers today.

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