As the Twig is Bent

It wasn’t until I reached Part 2 of As the Twig is Bent that I remembered that I’d read it before. Yes, it reminded me of that other book, and I meant to try to find it to compare the two; then, I realized this was the other book.

The “Sketches of a Bittersweet Life” in the first half of this book describe Poll’s childhood in the Forest of Dean (Gloucestershire) from 1914 to 1928. The daughter of a miner, Poll and her many siblings never have enough to eat, and rarely have enough to wear. Although the poverty is ever-present, the stories focus on the people: her Aunt Lizzy, who went to America and ran a boarding house in California during the gold rush; her Dad, the coal miner, who spends every free moment with his nose in a book or discussing Einstein, Darwin, Shaw and Lenin with his “butties”; her Mam who is chased out of an orchard and threatened with the law for gleaning the fallen apples after the harvest; and her Granny who is credited with breaking the drought when she sends a few choice words God’s way.

Each sketch in the second half of the book describes one of the jobs during her years in service from the age of 14 until she is married at 23. She rarely stays with one employee more than a year, for she is always homesick for her kin and her woods. In the 1970s (when this book was published) one of these stories was dramatized by the BBC as “Abide with Me”.

Bittersweet Life

“We were never anything but poor, but while we may not have been able to hold our noses in the air, we did try to keep our heads above water.” — p. 15

The Cat and the Hat

“Sacred, nebulous, amorphous, (the hat) resided in its own special cardboard box, to be brought out and worn for the significant occasion…After the efforts of the day (Aunt Lizzie) decided to go to bed early. But soon she was back; she opened the kitchen door and stood there forlornly holding a battered black object.

“‘Me ‘at! Oh, me ‘at! I thought as ’twere that dratted cat on me bed, so I gi’ed ‘im a whack wi’ me stick. The pestering critter never budged. I’ll teach him for once and all, I thought. So I really laid into ‘im wi’ me stick summat cruel. No wonder ‘im didn’t muv. ‘Twere me ‘at I was whackin’.” — pp. 78-79

Breaking the Drought

“For a minute or two the shock of the cold water robbed Granny of the use of her tongue. Then with a withering look skyward, she announced: ‘If cleanliness be next to godliness, let ‘Im see vit to send us down a drap more rain.’

“During that night such an almighty thunderstorm blew up we thought the end of the world was coming….’I shall ‘a’ to be more polite ‘ow I do ex fer things in the future,’ said Granny.” — p. 86

Happily Ever After

“We made our own dreams.” — p. 254

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