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Yellow - Daffodils

By Ashleylister @ashleylister
Yellow - Daffodils

Yellow is the color of sunshine, something there is so little of in these bleak, January days. Thinking of yellow and sunshine brings back treasured memories of my childhood and Nanna Hetty’s spotless, shiny kitchen in her bungalow at Heald Green. Perhaps the cupboards were yellow, or the Formica topped table, I’ll never remember, but the coffee pot with the pointed handle definitely was. I don’t think for one moment it was a Clarice Cliff, but whenever I see one it reminds me of Nanna’s sunny kitchen, her delicious fruit cake and the perfect scrambled eggs she made for me.

I hope that sunshine isn’t too far away. It’s almost impossible to imagine when it’s so cold, there’s scarce daylight from a dark grey sky and everlasting rain. Dreich. And, there is still the Covid pandemic hanging over us all.

Being surrounded by such doom and gloom at the moment, my recent choice of television viewing, BBC 4’s The Victorian Slum could be considered questionable. To give a brief outline, modern day families have taken up the challenge of living in the slum building exactly as the Victorian slum dwellers did, cramped in one room, two if it could be afforded and with the most basic of facilities. The lucky ones who found daily unskilled work could earn a meagre amount of money, every penny needed for rent and food. In the beginning, it is 1860, moving along a decade with each episode, exploring changes and differences and the hardship each family faces. Social history is very much my thing, so I’m glued to it and at the same time, thankful that I’m living now and not then. The only cheerful looking things were the artificial flowers that the children were making to sell. Within the slum is a doss house, somewhere to sleep, nothing more, for a penny or fourpence a night. The next step down is the workhouse.

One thing leads to another so with my head full of slum life in the 1860s I did some Google research on workhouses in the U.K. at that time. I was instantly transported to Bristol workhouse to be horrified at how people were treated so cruelly yet fascinated at what I was reading. The uniform for unmarried, pregnant women was a red tunic style dress. Prostitutes wore yellow. I smiled eager to share this snippet of information.

Don’t bother to tell me that’s how it was in all workhouses, not just Bristol.

Dad’s favorite color was yellow. His mother was my Nanna Hetty, so maybe the color yellow had significance. It was at Easter time when he suddenly passed away. Daffodils in full bloom filled each side of the front path that curved from the drive to the door. They became symbolic. Each year, I plant daffodils in remembrance of him, making sure there are some rich yellow ones. Some Tete-a-Tete are already in bud.

My poem,

    Bristol Workhouse, 1860

    I smoothed the cotton as I sat, and thought

    Who wore this dress before me?

    What became of her? Good fortune or death?

    What happened to set her free?

    Others were watching me, nudging, judging,

    Nodding and whispering low.

    My nervous hands gathered the threadbare skirt

    As I glanced along the row.

    Young women, not much older than children,

    Some were dressed in washed-out red

    With swollen bellies straining at the seams.

    Those, the sinful un-wedded.

    And me, I needed to feed my children

    And pay the over-due rent.

    There was no other way I could recoup

    Money I shouldn’t have spent.

    So I stood in the doorway, shoulders bare,

    Brassing it out, being bold.

    Closing my mind to demands of the men

    While I shivered with the cold.

    There’s no love lost in the Bristol Workhouse.

    Pleading eyes, tear-stained faces

    Cut no ice with those in authority

    Looking down on the disgraced.

    Downfall has brought me to sit here in a

    Faded yellow dress of shame.

    Of all the men who happily paid me,

    No one even knew my name.

    PMW 2021

    Thanks for reading. Stay safe and keep well, Pam x

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