Suburbia 1940

Necklace of Stars, poetry
On the Main Street many shops
Pork butcher, greengrocer, baker
Chemist and newsagents too
Wash House, Public Baths,
Where folk went for the 
Weekend scrub.

Mondays, mum wheeled a pram of laundry
To the Wash House, left it
In the drying room for ironing by teatime.
Illicit children in and out 
Long runs of terraces, newspaper in the window 
If you couldn’t afford lace.

A Pawnbrokers was just across.
By hearsay, on Friday Father drank his wages
Mother with no money in her purse
Took a special item to borrow, with interest:
Left a radio, a pair of best boots.
Shabby and respectable. 

Went to the Brownies, then Girl Guides,
I learned many things in 1940:
To make beds, First Aid, hospital corners. 
Taught never to call poor people names 
-- and the cooking of sausages --
Opportunities in the open air. 

Lenton Infants started school
Some sans breakfast.
According to the season, songs of
A frosty morning or dancing round the mulberry.
Junior girls skipped ropes in their playground,
The boys footballing next-door. 

Mr Edwards was Head -- a stalwart man for sure
Mr Beardsley’s voice boomed:
Muffled bombs. Air raid shelter days  
Spent ’til we moved to newer parts
That of course is another tale, ever-different
But still with hospital corners.


A Necklace of Stars is a meditation on childhood viewed from the other end of life. Alongside poems, songs and embroidery themed around childhood lullabies, we’ve invited written responses to the pandemic, so that people can share their experiences as an antidote to lockdown loneliness. Here Jaye travels faraway from the pandemic, into a childhood that carries it threats under a tranquil surface. A Necklace of Stars, working with older people in Derbyshire, is supported by Arts Council England, Arts DerbyshireDCC Public Health and Derbyshire County Council Home Library Service. This project is particularly aimed at countering isolation; during the pandemic we’ve been working using distance methods – post and phone conversations.

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