Her name was Joan Adelaide Goater, her maiden name Adamson. She was my grandmother and she kept a journal. More than 150 hard-backed exercise books covered by a cheap blue paper that fades within half an hour of being exposed to the light. I’ve read small parts of some volumes, which date from January 1st 1947 to the mid-1980s. They are written at “The Ridge” – that is number 27 Hiltingbury Road, Chandler’s Ford, Hampshire. It is the home where Gran and her husband Bill (William Cecil), whom I knew as “Grampa” or “Gramps”, lived and where their children Barry (my father) and Jane were brought up.
The contents appear mostly to be mundane and often repetitive, with daily comments about the weather, observations of wildlife, particularly flowers, birds, butterflies and moths, encountered close to home and on walks, bike rides and bus trips to nearby villages, towns and countryside, and occasionally further afield – the New Forest and the Isle of Wight, for instance. There are relatively few entries, at least in the early volumes, relating to the family, politics or the social scene of those decades in the second half of the 20th century, and it becomes very clear that the changing world, modern developments and the interests and values of the majority are anathema to her.
Nevertheless, her notes do provide some sort of personal record of a life lived during those times. It appears to have been an overwhelmingly sad one. In retrospect, her life elicits a degree of poignancy for me, her second grandson, as during her life (she died on September 9th 1999) she gave me no reason to think that the enthusiastic persona she presented was a façade.
Within her everyday comments, I have found little gems that are worth preserving, and anyway, surely such a long-term effort of penmanship should not be consigned to the recycling bin before being read by at least one person who loved her. Did she write it for somebody’s consumption after her demise? Possibly not. It appears to have been a necessary cathartic outpouring for herself alone and was perhaps even her main reason for living day-to-day.
I certainly remember her addiction to taking notes on every car trip and other outing, where she often seemed to have nothing more worthwhile to write down than the names of the towns and villages we passed through. Now I know that these notes, taken almost every day were assiduously converted to carefully hand-written entries in her blue-covered books, usually as she sat up in her single bed each evening before entering an often-fitful sleep. Her handwriting is superb – unchanging throughout, utterly readable and with barely a correction.
The journal is dedicated to Adrian Turvey, a man she never met but was clearly in love with. Whether this love was reciprocated, I do not know; the relationship was based on correspondence about natural history, initiated through the British Empire Naturalists’ Association (B.E.N.A.).
In all the sections that I have read so far, there has not been a single mention of Grampa, and even the occasional “we” or “our” within the text does not necessarily apply to him – in fact it is usually obvious that it doesn’t. They appear to have fallen out of love with each other early on, and it was not, as I used to think, the appearance of Adrian in Gran’s mental world that caused the rift. Bill and Joan’s relationship was built on nothing but a shared love of tennis in their earlier lives, and Gran’s up-bringing in a household of extreme Victorian prudishness did not auger well for a married life, with the particular intimacies that that entailed.
I find it amazing that she found the time to undertake almost daily trips, by bike mainly I think, to the chalk downs of Compton, Twyford, Shawford and Farley Mount, and to Otterbourne, Hursley, Ampfield, Brambridge, Braishfield and beyond. When did she cook, clean the house, look after her children, garden even? I think the answer is that she didn’t – much.
It appears that these tasks were undertaken by her mother, a constant fixture at The Ridge in my time, whom we grandchildren knew as “Greaty”. Greaty had been the wife of an oft-absent merchant seaman and had been accustomed to running her household alone. My Dad (her grandson) says, “When she came to live at The Ridge after her husband’s death, she took over – was first up every morning, cleaned the grates, lit the fires, did the cooking and washing up, cleaned my shoes – everything. She expected and got, no contribution from Gran”.
Before I embark on the journal, there is an extract from another piece written by Gran in the 1970s, which sets the scene, giving a little of her background and describing the early days of The Ridge:
I have personally known Chandler’s Ford for over 60 years. Park Road was scarcely more than a cart track to the large house on the corner of now Linden Grove, where a school friend of mine lived and we used to walk out of her garden through wild daffodil woods across Hursley Road to Ramally. Water carts were used to lay the dust on main roads, when it blew up in clouds during the high winds of March. I had three school friends living in Chandler’s Ford, and we went to school in Shirley Avenue, Southampton.
My parents and I used to cycle from Bassett, where we lived, to Winchester and Farley Mount, where there were no roads to the Mount, and we used to carry our bikes across fields and over fences to the downland.
I came to live here on my marriage in 1928, when we had the house built, the first one in Hiltingbury Road, as the Merdon Estate had only just been opened up for general building. There were a few houses in lower Kingsway and Lake Road, and one or two, including Sherbourne House School, then the private house “Wattles” owned by Mr and Mrs Howell, in Lakewood Road. There were none on the opposite side except the Lodge to Merdon House.
When our house was built there was a restriction on the size of plot, and we bought our plot of 50 feet by 150, for £100 and had 3½ feet at the bottom of the now, garden, thrown in to meet the plots in Lake Road. Our three-bedroom house was built for £850 and in 1939 the kitchen size was doubled and an extra two upstairs rooms, garage and downstairs toilet were added for £300. This was when my mother came to live with us when Father died and war broke out.
When we first came, Hiltingbury was rural and very beautiful. We had no mains drainage, electricity, no made-up roads and no street lamps, but a house in Kingsway had a generator and supplied five houses, including ours, with electricity for lighting. We did have gas. The telegraph pole in the garden, which brought us our electricity was eventually cut in half and provided a swing for the children. The frame is still here.
I remember it well!
I sit on a high stool at our breakfast bar, in our new house at Doune, in Perthshire, laptop open in front of me, at the end of a day soon after my own retirement from work late in 2016 and I have decided to distil and edit Gran’s words into a document that I hope will be interesting to the family and Chandler’s Ford residents and which may even prove to be a worthwhile historical document. At the age of 61, I fear I know myself too well; I readily lose interest, there are many pages to read and I may not finish the task…
I turn to page one of the journal…
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 1)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 2)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 3)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 4)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 5)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 6)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 7)