On the way back to Lewes, my younger son said that he felt sick and I pulled over into a side road, where we found ourselves next to a church in a small hamlet.
There are quite a few churches in England that sit in isolated places and don't appear to serve any community. Some villages never recovered from the Black Death, whilst others simply withered over time.
We got out and walked around, hoping that fresh air would help my son. On a nearby tree, we found this:
The church, surrounded by daffodils, recalled the rural idyll that appeared on my parents' 'This England' calendars. But as we approached the church, we found something rather unpleasant:
Once we were back in Lewes, I began sifting through boxes of secondhand books. I rarely find old photographs since I became self-employed, so I was delighted when I found these:
Alcoholism appears to have been a big issue in the 1880s and 90s. My great-grandfathers on my mother's side were both late Victorian drunkards, with numerous illegitimate children. My mother remembers her long-suffering grandmother saying "When 'ee dies, I want to 'ave three years to meself."
Her wish came true. The husband died in the early 1940s and my great-grandmother was determined to have her three years: "Hitler's not gonna get me. I'm 'aving me time." She survived many air raids and died just over three years to the day after her husband's death.
The culture of self-improvement and temperance appears to have had a strong influence on the following generation, as my mother's parents (and many of their peers) were strict teetotalers.
In the history of our family, I see myself as a Charles II figure, restoring the traditional merry-making after a period of austere puritanism. But without the illegitimate children and gambling.
The following day, I worked through another collection of books and found this touching note, written by a young girl:
"I am going to save up for a 1/2d light colourd lipstick and a small box of Ponds Powder if mummy will let me, a small scotch red purse for my red handbag and the Penguins Club badge before it starts again."