Do you know someone who has been caught up in the Pokemon Go craze? or maybe someone who spends a lot of time on Facebook or Instagram or other form of social media? I’m not a fan of social media or computer games, but my daughter recently introduced me to a couple of games to play on my phone while I’m on the train or waiting for something else. I even helped her to catch a few Pokemon, while she drove. She’s giving this up when she reaches 100, which will be very soon. She has other more traditional interests such as quilting and beading, which contrast markedly with the computer-based activities. Allocating leisure time to computer games differs significantly from my activities in years gone by and certainly those of earlier generations.
I am a member of an organisation which caters to those who are retired or semi-retired; it offers groups for those interested in activities as varied as gardening, scrabble, mahjong, theatre and movies, books, dining, tours, walking. If anyone asks me what my interests are I usually answer genealogy/family history and reading. Sport has never played a part in my life, but this is not the case for many.
How did our ancestors pass their leisure time, if they had any? It’s worth remembering that, dependent upon the time period, they would have had to rely on candles for light at night. No electricity meant no radio or TV, certainly not a computer.
|Pigeon sheds at the
bottom of the garden
One of my grandfathers, a coalminer, bred and raced pigeons; my dad took this up when he was young. I have an early newspaper record of him when one of his pigeons won a prize. In later years he won other awards, which my mum proudly displays in her glass-fronted cabinet. Like his father, and many of his ancestors, my dad was a coalminer and pigeon racing must have been a fantastic release for those who spent so much of their time underground to be out in the fresh air. As well as the camaraderie of the pigeon club, members had to consider breeding, detailed computations of winners and losers, and manual tasks such as cleaning out the shed.
My paternal grandmother was a dressmaker and she had an old-style treadle Singer sewing machine on which she used to make a lot of clothes and other things. She didn’t do as much of this as she got older. This is not her in the photo, but it may as well have been. Her other craft pastime was crocheting and she taught me how to do this. A talented pianist, she rarely used sheet music, playing by ear. One aunt knitted everything from children’s clothes to sweaters as well as suits comprising a jumper and skirt.
|An English pub
Time outside work was really devoted to ‘doing’ something rather than just sitting, apart from the time spent over a pint or two at the local pub, that is. Where I grew up, leisure revolved around family and friends either in the home or in the local pub. Men played games, such as cards, dominoes and cribbage, in the local pub – again a way of maintaining friendships and relationships.
Activities were productive: the focus in the garden was to grow vegetables for the family table rather than produce lovely flowers; keeping chickens for their eggs, as well as to eat, helped the family to manage its food budget. We also used to sell fresh eggs to several friends and family members, which provided a small source of income.
Walking and cycling were the main forms of transport, rather than leisure activities, although I remember going for walks on weekend summer evenings with my parents and brother and sister. Living in a semi-rural area provided opportunities for my dad to identify the various birds and trees for us. The long summer nights during school holidays meant we didn’t have to get up early to go to school the following morning, so as a special treat we would stop off at the fish and chip shop on the way home.
Just as technology has changed our working lives dramatically, it has also impacted on our leisure time. Do you remember what you did when you were young? Have any family leisure activities come down through the generations? do they tell you something about the character or nature of your ancestors? You’ll find reports on a wide range of activities in local newspapers. They are worth following up to learn more about what our forebears preferred to do, rather than what was necessary. Also take the time to dig out your own certificates, medals, and other items such as statuettes and rosettes, to help you document your prowess and achievements.
Until next time