Duration: 52 minutes 33 Seconds
This is an interview with Betty Squib on the 9th December 2016 at her home in Ryde.
Lisa: Betty, can start by you telling me how old you are?
Betty: I’m 94.
Lisa: And where were you born Betty?
Betty: I was born at St Helen’s and I was born in The Diggings but I don’t know what house I was born in, but I’ve often walked, when I used to walk a lot. I’ve walked The Diggings and I used to think I wonder what house I was born in but of course I don’t know, you know.
Lisa: Were your family Islanders?
Lisa: On both sides?
Betty: Squibs. I’m not Squib now, I’m Prescott and my husband came from the Isle of Man.
Lisa: OK, so your married name is Prescott. So you’re Mrs Prescott now but you were Betty Squib when you were … that’s your father’s name.
Betty: Yes, John Squib.
Lisa: And your mother’s name?
Lisa: And what was her maiden name?
Betty: Rowlands. But she came … she was born in London but I don’t know anything about her really. My son, he’s not very interested. Well, I suppose he uses [inaudible] but I don’t want to, but I would like to know really where she came from but … her father was on the Union Castle Line. That was every six weeks he used to home and he lived in St Helen’s then.
Lisa: Did you grow up in St Helen’s?
Betty: No, I …. That’s that one … oh, yes this is it.
Lisa: Betty’s about to show me a photograph.
Betty: Now that is Pondwell. That’s where, outside of our house it was in April and I think my brother … he was either born then or just before whatever, and my dad, when he hected some hedging he had a little … we had lovely little animals there, dormouse, and he kept that in the cold weather and it got to April and we were letting the dormouse out.
Lisa: So that’s what you’re actually doing in that photograph?
Betty: Yes, that’s my dad, yeah.
Lisa: And is the house that you grew up in then?
Betty: This was the house. We moved from St Helen’s to Pondwell.
Lisa: And what’s the name of this house?
Betty: Pommel Cottage. Well, it may be changed now. I don’t know.
Lisa: Do you think it’s still there?
Betty: Oh yes, definitely. I mean it’s been reconditioned and I believe it’s a beautiful home now. Like, my Gran and Grandad, that was their house at Attrill’s Lane near St Helen’s and eight children were brought up there. Water outside, loo outside and you think of the warm clothes that they wore. You know they had no soap powder and all that kind of thing, did they? A very hard life.
Lisa: Very hard, yes. Was your Grandfather a farmer?
Betty: He was a Carter for the farm, so he used to walk, 5 o’clock every morning from here to what was Puckpool Park, not Puckpool Park …forgotten the name of the farm now but there it will come in a minute when I don’t want it to (laughs). And my dad, he kept chicken and geese and there was a pond outside. Ducks, we had ducks in the pond and yeah, it was lovely.
Lisa: What was your father’s job?
Betty: He worked on the farm.
Lisa: He worked on the same farm as your Grandfather?
Betty: Yes. And he lived in Attrill’s Lane and then when he married, they moved to Pondwell and that was Bright’s Farm.
5 minutes 8 seconds
Lisa: So did you get …when you were a little girl then Betty, were you ever involved in any of the jobs on the farm or anything like that?
Betty: Well I used to have to fetch the milk, and that was over a mile so that was a mile there, a mile back and little legs then (laughs) so yeah, it was pretty tough but I loved it and I mean mum would sometimes say, “Oh”, and I was getting ready for school, “We’re nearly out of milk Bett, would you go and get us some.” So I trotted off to the farm to get the milk and take it home.
Lisa: So what would you go … would you take something to collect the milk in?
Betty: Yes, we had the little … I can remember this little jug and it had a wire handle and they used to put a pint of milk in there and if it was a good day, they’d give me a little bit extra.
Lisa: Did you pay for it or was there an account set up or how did that happen?
Betty: Oh I think it was very … I never remember handling money but I did used to have to take the rabbits and eggs to Sea View and I think I was allowed to … bus fare because of the weight but I had to walk home and of course it was dark, no street lamps there and I can remember this. The rabbit’s fur, if they were skinned they were one and three but if they had their skin on, they were a shilling and then the eggs …I used to have to take some eggs to Mr Colderbank. He was the Chemist in Sea View, and if there was a cracked one, he would take money off and then I’d be in trouble. Yeah, and I mean that was a long way to walk from Pondwell to Sea View.
Lisa: Were these eggs that came from the chickens that you had at home?
Betty: Yes, that was my dad’s perks, chicken and geese.
Lisa: And what about the rabbits? Where did the rabbits come from? Had your father killed them?
Betty: Yes, they used to … I mean it’s cruel I suppose but it wasn’t considered cruel then. Yes, that’s right, they used to … it was stick that went into the ground and then there was wire and of course the poor rabbit would hop in and [inaudible] put there and … I can’t remember, what was I going to say?
Lisa: We were talking about how your father used to catch the rabbits.
Betty: Oh, that’s right. Well I think you’d face prison these days wouldn’t you?
Lisa: Where did he go rabbiting then? Was it close by to where you lived?
Betty: We were right in the fields yes. Do you know another sad thing gone. The Wishing Well? Well if you go down the hill and up to Nettlestone, well the lane there was where our house was. So that was that.
Lisa: So all around that area there, that was your playground in a way I suppose?
Betty: Oh yeah, and we used to love … my dad had a double saw, so Pete and I used to be one end, my dad at the other end and we’d saw the logs up and that. We loved doing that, yeah, that was our playground but we just loved it and I mean upstairs, we went to bed with the candles and all that. I loved that life. That’s why I went on the tomato thing because I said, “Don’t ever let me …” that’s it. I just loved that life.
10 minutes 7 seconds
Lisa: So we’re looking at a magazine called ‘The Sporting and Dramatic News’ and it was published on September 4th 1942 and the article is called ‘Tomatoes instead of Ryde Rock’. So tell me about this photo of you Betty and what you are doing?
Betty: I had to … I mean you had to do something when you’re 18 and I wanted to go in the Wrens, but I had quite a big operation and I was haemorrhaging quite a bit and my Doctor said, “There’s no way you’re going to pass that medical” so I said, “Don’t ever tell me to go in a factory or anywhere shut in, I shall die” so they came up with this idea that … and this was all started because as you know probably that the tomatoes all came from Jersey. Well when the Germans invaded, no tomato business, they couldn’t do it and one of our bright Counsellors said, “Well why don’t we give it a go?” so we took over from Jersey and that’s how I came to be there. And we used to cycle, a friend of ours, if there’re weren’t many staff from Ryde, over The Downs to Knighton. And that was quite a ride, you know, hard ride. And then we’d go home.
Lisa: This is where they were growing the tomatoes then, at Knighton?
Betty: That’s right, yeah.
Lisa: So what was your job then? What did you actually have to do?
Betty: Oh God, we started off at Rink Road. The Council had greenhouses there so we started pricking the tomatoes out and that was Rink Road. And then from there we used to go to Knighton, over The Downs, and that was just wonderful, yeah. And here, you see it looked flat but it was a very steep each side and you had a wheelbarrow to put the tomatoes in when we picked them so that’s what we did. And we made the boxes for them to go in made the stakes to keep the tomatoes upright and oh, there was so much to do, it really was. I wondering, if anything comes of this, I may know of some of the others are alive, I don’t know.
Lisa: Are the young girls a similar age to you that also volunteered?
Betty: Yes. There was one girl, she left school and … Mavis Scarroway but my sight is very bad because I’ve got this horrible … you will know what it is … so, my sight isn’t very good.
Lisa: Yes, OK.
Betty: But that’s not bad, is it?
Lisa: So, you were involved in the whole process of this tomato growing over a number of months?
Betty: From the time they were brought up in the greenhouse and then taken over to Knighton and then we had to make the boxes and oh, there was a load of stuff that you wouldn’t really think about.
Lisa: So were you going over every day then, for working over to Knighton?
Betty: Yes. I thought it was an eight hour day but it was a nine hour day apparently.
Lisa: And was it Saturdays as well?
Betty: Yes, I think it was every day.
Lisa: And what was the pay?
Betty: Oh, about a shilling an hour or something like that. Not very much.
Lisa: Did you keep it or did you have to give it to your mother?
Betty: Oh I had to give something, a half crown … I can’t remember. Yeah, I had to give something to mum, so that was that.
Lisa: So were you actually part of the Women’s Land Army Betty?
Betty: No. It was run by the Council. They took it over, not knowing if it would work or not. But you see then, my dad, he wouldn’t be allowed to do that now without a mask on his face because that is deadly to the chest.
15 minutes 18 seconds
Lisa: Was this something your dad was involved with in as well?
Betty: Yes, that’s him.
Lisa: Oh, that’s your dad there. He’s doing spraying.
Lisa: Is that some kind of pesticide that?
Betty: Yes, well that was to keep the … there was a disease for the tomatoes and that was to keep it down. But as I say, these days my dad would have to wear a mask. He wouldn’t be allowed to do that but they didn’t do that kind of thing then.
Lisa: The methods have changed haven’t they?
Betty: Oh definitely.
Lisa: And there all the different chemicals and …
Betty: Exactly, yeah I mean, luckily my dad didn’t suffer with his chest but it’s a wonder, I mean I’m surprised he didn’t really.
Lisa: Were they nice tomatoes? Was it a success?
Betty: Do you know we used to put a little bit of paper, put the salt in, screw it up, put it in our pocket, and when we got to the top of the hill, we’d pick a really nice looking tomato and sit on the bank and put salt on it and oh, I’ve never tasted tomatoes like it. They were absolutely wonderful, yeah. Now, we got very busy, hot weather and we needed more help and so they sent some Navy boys in and they come strutting in and think they were God’s gift. And I got to the top of the hill and they’d … one of these hills and they just collapsed. They couldn’t cope with it.
Lisa: Did you find it easy or did you find it hard work?
Betty: Well I did first of all, but like everything else you get used to it don’t you and that’s why I think I’ve walked the Wight three times and I walked every week, on a Wednesday, with a 50 Plus, so I ‘ve done a lot of walking.
Lisa: And I suppose as a girl living in the countryside, growing up somewhere where you had to walk, like you said, you had to walk to Sea View with the eggs, you were used to it I suppose weren’t you?
Betty: Exactly. But it’s a wonder I love it like I do. I mean it’s a wonder I wasn’t fed up with it.
Lisa: Was this all part of the War effort Betty, in terms of needing to grow more food and being more self-sufficient?
Betty: What was it called? ‘Dig For Victory’, that’s right, yeah. It was very good thing to do actually.
Lisa: And this is something that the Ryde Council were organising?
Betty: Yeah, and the Mayor at that time was a Mr Weekes and he kept the Post Office in West Street, so I can remember him quite well.
Lisa: Was there anything else that was growing apart from the tomatoes? Were there other …?
Betty: No, not there, no.
Lisa: And did this happen … were you involved in this throughout the War?
Betty: Yeah I went in at 18. Oh, I know. Why I left was because I was having a baby. No one knew except my mum but we were waiting, we were getting very posh, taken in a dust cart to Knighton, and what did I do, I fainted away so of course everyone knew Betty was having a baby (laughs) which I wasn’t very happy about. But there we are, yeah.
Lisa: Were there any tractors that were used on the fields then Betty or was it all done by hand and horses?
Betty: No tractors, no.
Lisa: So how were the tomatoes taken away? Were they taken away on carts?
Betty: Yes. We made the boxes and we put the tomatoes in and sealed them down with a hammer and then they used to pick them up and take them to Ryde, so I suppose they went across the water then. So, it was a very good thing.
Lisa: Did your father work on the land his whole life?
Betty: He was a farmer, yeah. He worked at … we lived in Pondwell and he worked for the farm, Park Farm, that was between where my Grandad and Grandma lived in this cottage. That was Attrill’s Lane and I remember my Grandad telling me, you see it was very low. They had a snowstorm and he got out of the window. He couldn’t get out of the door because there was a snowdrift so he had to get out of the window and walk up through Park Farm. Now my son and I, he wanted to see Attrill’s Lane. He was here from Brighton, so off we went to Attrill’s Lane. We were looking over the gate and a lady came out and she said, “Could I help you?” and Robin said, “My Grandma used to come and see her Grandparents here.” We used to go every third Sunday and have tea with Grandma and Grandpa and so he said … I remember him saying getting out of the window because of the snow. Don’t get snow like that these days do we?
Lisa: Do you think the countryside has changed much in your lifetime, Betty?
Betty: Oh definitely, yes, yeah I do. I can’t remember in which way but it’s very different. I mean our lane was so muddy that we used to put wellingtons on and walk down the lane, hide our wellingtons in the hedge and put our shoes on because it was so muddy and horrible. But it was lovely, it really was. I loved being at the farm. And I remember once, my brother, he died at 52 unfortunately, anyway he loved climbing trees, and he slipped and he got hung up by his braces and there he was, “Get me down Bett, get me down.” I said, No, you shouldn’t climb so stay there” poor little devil. Anyway, in the end I did … I went over up to mum and said, “Pete’s stuck up a tree.” She said, “Oh, why does he …” you know, “climb these trees?” So anyway, she went and got him out. I always remember that, yeah.
Lisa: Did life differ according to the season, living in the countryside?
Betty: Did it what … sorry?
Lisa: Did life differ according to the season when you lived in the countryside?
Betty: Oh yes.
Lisa: What sort of things did you do in the summer?
Betty: Oh well, we used to go up to the Wishing Well, along that … down to Oakhill Road and that’s where we swam, Springvale, and then in those days there was a little shack which sold ice cream and sweeties and that kind of thing. Yes, we spent hours at Springvale. I still love it, it’s lovely. And now they’ve done that new walk, it’s just lovely, yeah.
Lisa: Did you ever get involved with haymaking in the summer?
Betty: Yes. We used to help pick the … they call them stooks, and stand them up and did a lot of things like that, yeah.
Lisa: And what about in wintertime?
Betty: Wintertime …
Lisa: What did you get up to in wintertime as children?
Betty: No radio, no television, no.
Lisa: Climbing trees (laughs).
Betty: Yes, that’s my brother.
Lisa: Did you go blackberry picking?
Betty: Oh, we loved blackberries, yeah. Lovely, and Motherstowe, we used to pick the wild flowers, no bought ones.
Lisa: And what about the wildlife? What wildlife do you remember being around?
25 minutes 6 seconds
Betty: Well I loved the birds. I mean I used to know all the names and that but sadly I don’t really remember them now very much.
Lisa: Did you have squirrels in your garden?
Lisa: No squirrels.
Betty: No. And I love squirrels, but they’ve got them in Calthorp’s haven’t they, now, and they’ve got a rope bridge for them to cross the road, but that is now. No, I don’t think I’ve heard a squirrel.
Lisa: Your Grandfather, you said he was a Carter.
Lisa: Did he have a horse of his own?
Betty: No, no, no. I mean their wage in those days was dreadful. And to think that the poor old boy … I mean when he retired, he went to live with his daughter Lucy at St. Lawrence, and Thelma, my cousin … there was only three weeks difference, she used to go to Whitwell School and she in the end went to university, and that was unheard of. She was very clever, and her daughter we’re in touch, and her other sister Susan, she’s married to someone in the antique business, and then we’re all going to meet up in the New Year, so that’ll be very nice.
Lisa: So what are these other photos we’ve got? Who’s this horse?
Betty: Now, I wanted Graham. He didn’t want me to know. I cannot think where that … I just cannot … and I bet Brian … he probably gave it to … but I can’t remember …
Lisa: Okay, not to worry.
Betty: Now this is the golden wedding of Grandpa and Grandma. I’ve got a magnifying glass somewhere. Thelma …that is me, and Gran and Grandad, at the golden wedding.
Lisa: Oh, he looks very Victorian doesn’t he, your grandad? … with the beard.
Betty: Yes. Yes, that’s when they retired to St. Lawrence. That … I say retired, they had a Nursery and poor old Grandad was dragged into help with the nursery, and he thought he was going to retire, but there. They probably … I don’t know.
Lisa: And what was Grandfather’s name?
Betty: I do know it but I can’t remember it.
Lisa: Is he your father’s father?
Lisa: Yes, so he was a Squibb as well then.
Lisa: Yes. And they had eight …
Betty: And this … Thelma, was New, and … oh, that was her mum and dad, Lucy and Fred New.
Lisa: And are you in this photo Betty?
Betty: Yes. That’s me and that’s Thelma.
Lisa: This is you here?
Lisa: In the spotty dress.
Betty: Yes. I was working then and I worked for Handley Page, the … I was head Parlourmaid, and I … I’d never seen a wine glass, so it was lovely. I learnt … it was awful going from home in those days. I mean Middlesex was a long way away.
Lisa: Oh so this was on the Mainland?
Betty: Oh yes.
Lisa: You moved to the mainland? How old were you then?
Betty: I was thirteen, fourteen.
Betty: I’d just left school, and my mum knew Handley Page’s sister. She lived in New… mum care took her house and …
30 minutes 6 seconds
Lisa: And so off you went, fourteen years old, over to the Mainland to work?
Betty: Yes. Parlourmaid. But I was very lucky. I mean I learnt so much being a Parlourmaid because this was life. I’d never seen a wine glass and I got to know so much. Oh, I was blessed ‘cos I could have been sent as a Kitchen maid and that was a dreadful job. You know, no washing up liquid. Soda, that’s what poor Kitchen maid did, so I was very blessed, going there, yes.
Lisa: Was it a bit house that you worked in?
Betty: Oh yes, Lime House it was called, and it was quite a long way from the Vine hotel at Bushey Heath, quite near Watford, yes.
Lisa: And you lived in the house did you?
Betty: Yeah, yeah. We were in the attics.
Lisa: And how many staff were there then, working there?
Betty: There was me, the head Parlour maid, Kitchen maid and two house maids, yes. And it was very good because they had a house, or an apartment at Sea View, so they spent the month of August at Sea View so I was home for that month, so that was good as well.
Lisa: So how many years did you work there for?
Betty: Oh well, we moved up to London because the eldest daughter was presented at Court, but of course that doesn’t happen now. It’s stopped, but … so we moved to a house that was 4, Cornwall Terrace and it was just around the corner from Baker Street, so that was another bonus. I mean to live there, it was wonderful, yes. 4,Cornwall Terrace. Don’t know how I remember that but I do.
Lisa: So you came back to the Island at some point then, because this was when you were about 18 or 20 wasn’t it, that you were working in the fields at Knighton?
Betty: Yes. Oh, why I came back was I had to have an operation and it was very difficult to get to the Island. You had to have an identity card and …
Lisa: Because War had broken out by then?
Betty: Yes, yes, so that’s why I came back to … and that’s when I wanted to go in the W.R.N.S. but there’s no way with you doing … having a haemorrhage, to get in … so I said, “Well I’ll go on the land.” And I did love it, I really did.
Lisa: So after you had your children did you have any other jobs?
Betty: Oh, I had a guest house in Nelson Place and I used to take ten people. I had no help whatsoever. I’d cleaned, I shopped, I did the lot, and so that’s what I did, yeah. And I did dinner lady, because that meant I was home when my son was home.
Lisa: And what school did you work at?
Betty: Bishopweather, yes, and then we had a flat before we moved down into Nelson Place.
Lisa: Going back to when you were younger, one question I didn’t ask you was where you went to school.
Betty: Oh I went to Nettlestone and there was a lovely … and I believe it’s still a lovely little school and I remember going to the Music Festival and I had a dreadful voice but they definitely …. I don’t know why, wanted me in there on the front line and they said, “You must mime, don’t sing” (laughs) that’s how good I was at singing.
Lisa: How did you get to school? Did you walk?
Betty: Oh I had a bike in the end, that was good, yeah, but I mean that Nettlestone Hill you know what that is. One day I was walking up Nettlestone Hill and a car went by. Well, hardly any cars in those days and there was painting on the door so when I went back to school, I said to my Teacher, “There was a car passed me and I don’t know why, but it had a painting on the door.” “Oh, that was Queen Mary” and she actually did a little wave when she passed me and that was nearly at the top of Nettlestone Hill so I did see her, yeah.
Lisa: And about how old do you think you were then?
Betty: I think I was coming up to my leaving stage, yeah, 13. I left at 14. I’m trying to think of my Grandad’s name.
Lisa: It will come to you.
Betty: It was Edward. Yes, I thought it would.
Lisa: Edward, OK. Do you remember any of your teachers from school?
Betty: Yes. Eva Young, well she won’t be here now ‘cos you know, she wasn’t that much older than me but I don’t think she would be here now. They lived in Mayfield Road. She lived with her mother and I lived in Pellhurst Road at that time, on the corner. Now that has changed considerably since we moved there, my son and I and there were no traffic lights, no shop and one council house, one road. That’s how it’s altered there, very much.
Lisa: That part of Ryde?
Lisa: Do you remember going into Ryde when you were younger to go shopping or anything like that?
Betty: Oh yes, we used to walk to Ryde … no, we were … oh yes we did. We walked to Ryde and bus home because of the shopping and Saturday night we went in because my mum … you see they had no ‘fridges in the Butcher’s in those days so we used to bus home because of the shopping. And then Woolworth’s was there and we used be allowed a bag of sweeties there.
Lisa: Was that one of your favourite shops?
Betty: Yes, definitely. I still, you know, it’s a pity it ever closed because you know they good things, you know?
Lisa: Where did your mother go to get groceries?
Betty: Oh, International. There was International, Home and Colonial, and Pinks and there was the Men’s Outfitters. My dad would not go shopping. He hated it so mum had to get everything on approval and then … oh he was naughty really.
Lisa: Did you ever go to the Cinema?
Betty: Yes, I think Saturday morning. Threepence for Saturday morning. That was the Commodore.
Lisa: The Commodore which is still there isn’t it? Because there was some other Cinemas in Ryde as well weren’t there, that aren’t there anymore?
Betty: There were what, sorry?
Lisa: There was another Cinema in Ryde wasn’t there?
Betty: Oh The Theatre, burnt down, Easter.
Lisa: Did you ever go there before it burnt down?
Betty: Oh yeah, we loved it. It was a nice Cinema and the Bank is there now, isn’t it?
Lisa: Umm. You mentioned about going swimming in the summer. Who taught you to swim?
Betty: Oh, our teacher I suppose. Yeah, because she used to walk with us from Nettlestone to Seagrove Bay. That’s where I learnt to swim and when I moved down here and I retired, I swam every morning, eight o’clock with four … there were five of us. Every morning, rain, shine, whatever. We went to the Pool and I swam there until I was 90 and that’s when I had my last swim, yeah. I just loved to swim. And the sad thing is, I mean there’re were five of us, we used to laugh, we cried, it was wonderful. It was like a social thing but in those days, there was only Coral and I left out of the five of us. It’s very sad isn’t it? Then I suppose I was getting old.
Lisa: Do you think the Isle of Wight has been a good place to live your life?
Betty: Oh it’s wonderful. Yes, I do.
Lisa: What’s special about it?
Betty: Well we don’t really get the bad things happen here do we, not really? I mean you hear of all the bad things but you don’t hear of the good things. I mean my neighbours here are … I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for all across the road, because I had a stroke one day at the Canoe Lake and I rang up St Mary’s … oh St Mary’s rang me, that’s right, and they said, “We would like you to be here at 12 o’clock.” And I said, “I’m very sorry but I don’t feel well at all.” So they said, “Be here, you must be here, we want to some tests” and I didn’t feel well so I rang Paul across the road, he’s wonderful, and I said, “Paul, I’m in trouble. They want me to go to St Mary’s but I don’t feel well. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.” “Hang on, I’ll be over.” I could see him there looking round the door and saying, “Betty, we’re going to get the ambulance.” I said, “I don’t want to go to hospital.” “We’re going to get the ambulance.” And the ambulance arrived and I had three resuscitations and you know those wonderful men, they would not give up on me. They said, “No.” Anyway, they got me out into the ambulance and I did another one and Paul was over in his garden then and he said, “Whatever is that ambulance doing, it’s gone potty.” But apparently I’d done another one and the men they come into the ambulance and they worked and worked and got me back again and here I am, isn’t that wonderful?
Lisa: That’s incredible. How lucky you are.
Betty: If Paul hadn’t done that I wouldn’t be here, I just wouldn’t. No, it was wonderful.
Lisa: It’s not your time yet (laughs).
Betty: No exactly.
Lisa: You’ve still got life to live.
Betty: And then I fell down, didn’t I? Broke my arm, but I’ve had metal taken out a week ago now so …
Lisa: It’s looking good. You’ve got lots of movement in it haven’t you?
Betty: Well, when I went for physio, they probably said, “You’ll need quite a six … and there was a lovely lady, Dawn, and she said I’ve got to do some exercises. I did my own thing and she said, “But you’re doing them right. I’m supposed to tell you to do, and I said, “Well, that’s why I do it because I had to do them.” She said, “You’re learning me to come. We don’t want to see you again because you do it all yourself.” If only young people would listen and do their … but they don’t. I mean I was sent to Freshwater to recuperate and wonderful home, wonderful, but we had that lovely weather and they used to sit in the garden. A walk, or do my exercises whereas the other ladies, they never got out of their room. They’d sit watching that and it was such a lovely little garden to sit in.
45 minutes 8 seconds
Lisa: You’ve got to keep the body and the mind alert, haven’t you?
Betty: Exactly, yes.
Lisa: Do you have any hobbies Betty? I know you’ve given up your swimming. What do you enjoy to do now?
Betty: I mean I can’t walk like I did. As I say I’ve walked the Wight three times and used to walk it with my 50 plus, and now the leader, she came to see me yesterday and they’re wonderful. I’ve been invited to the February … they always have, on their anniversary, they have a luncheon and I’ve been invited to that, so I’m definitely going.
Lisa: Oh, very nice.
Betty: I mean they still include, which was very sad, I loved my Max. She was a twin to Claire, who’s still with us. They were twins, but they didn’t look alike, talk alike, their humour was different and she died. She had cancer. And the unfortunate thing was, should I go on about this?
Lisa: No, it’s OK. Where are your favourite places on the Island, Betty?
Betty: Oh, I love Bonchurch and Sea View. I love Sea View. I don’t know, I love the Island and Whitwell. I love walking from Whitwell down into Niton. That is a lovely walk but I can’t walk as much as I did but I give it a try. And I love going over onto the Marina because a dear friend of mine, how lucky I was, he had a stroke and he was a film maker, in a small way but he loved talking. John just loved talking. He gave me that golly and …
Lisa: Did you go walking together?
Betty: He hated walking. He lived in Rink Road, a lovely flat, quite new, and he’d get in the car to get a paper down here, or if he was coming to see me, he’d get a paper. “John, your legs were made for walking.” “No, don’t like walking” and he was a lovely, lovely man but when he had his stroke, of all the lovely things he loved was talking and we used to sit on the Marina and we used to talk about everything because he was very knowledgeable but there we are. But when he had his stroke, the thing he loved most, he was ‘nil by mouth’ until the time he died which was a year, so not to eat at all for all that time and he never complained.
Lisa: Have you walked around lots of parts of the Island?
Betty: We’ve walked the Island completely in the Millennium year. Our leader, who come and saw me yesterday, we’re going to do something special. We’re going to walk the Island, so that we’ve walked round it, we’ve walked across it and yeah, we’ve done everything with the Millennium.
Lisa: Did you do the Coastal Walk?
Lisa: Did you?
Betty: And it was in April and we thought all sorts, the lot and do you know, it did everything but snow. It rained, it hail stoned. We were up on The Downs and I said to Claire, “I’ve got to pay a penny” and she said, “So have I” we’ll find a bush to hide behind. Lovely little bush and we’re just going to do our thing and hail stones came down like that. Oh, our poor bums hurt … ooh forgot … But any rate we did it, it was wonderful, so yeah, we’ve walked the Wight, we’ve done everything on the Wight and do you know, there was a place, Hamstead, you probably know it. I’d never heard of it and we came through Hamstead, it’s quite near Cowes actually isn’t it? Yeah, I’d forgotten all those walks. It was wonderful.
50 minutes 56 seconds
Lisa: And it sounds to me like you’ve got a connection with the sea.
Betty: Oh yeah, I don’t think I could live away from the sea. You know, even if I’m away, I’ve got to be near a river or … I’ve just got to be near water, I don’t know why because St Helen’s … not near the sea but it maybe from my mum’s Grandad who was on the South Africa Line. Yes, it maybe to do with that. And he was 13 when he went on the boats and I was 14 when I went to the Mainland, which was quite a thing then in those days.
Lisa: Had you been over to the Mainland much before you moved, when you were 14?
Betty: Only at Christmas time and that was to get the oranges … what was the name … Charlotte Street …
Lisa: To the Market in Portsmouth?
Betty: Yes, to the Market yes. That was about the only time I went I think because we didn’t have the supermarkets then.
Lisa: Well it’s been lovely to talk to you Betty. I think we’ll draw it to a close there because we’ve been talking for nearly an hour ….
52 minutes 33 seconds
Transcribed September 2017 by Chris Litton