I have a pen knife. I have carried one in my left trouser pocket since I was at primary school; I have one now, with my loose change. Presumably if I went anywhere by air I would have to surrender it. One of the blades, a little saw, is broken – from when I tried to trim a wild cherry tree in my London garden. That was the garden where I attached lidless teapots to several trees, hoping the birds would nest in them. No success there but my daughters’ friends derived great amusement from the scene.
How simple the world of teapots and pen knives seems now. My grandfather had a pen knife. It had a curved blade and wooden handle. He used it to sharpen his pencils and wrote with them in flowing Victorian copperplate, as people did who left school as early as the age of 12. Meticulously he would pare down a pencil to a needle point and use it to record the football results from the BBC wireless at 5pm on Saturdays.
About the same time he would have winkles for his Saturday tea. He would extract them from their little dark shells with a pin and dip them in vinegar.
All this was long before New Pence when, by a coal fire in the gathering autumn dark, my grandfather took down the football scores off the wireless.
The next day he would listen religiously (maybe truly so) to ‘Sunday Half Hour’ on the Home Service, a time of community hymn singing.
On Sunday he carefully read the then broadsheet ‘News of the World’, with its slogan: ‘All human life is here’. When we weren’t listening to the wireless we played the card game, Rummy, for matchsticks. My grandma was an adept at cards and would often bring me National Savings Stamps, her winnings from the local whist drives which she enjoyed.
She would sharpen the carving knife for the Sunday joint on the kitchen doorstep and we all enjoyed the lamb or beef. Chicken was for Christmas and came from her brother’s farm.
Why all these reminiscences? My computer told me yesterday that I couldn’t pick up a message because I had an ‘old’ version of Word.
‘Old’ is 50 years ago.
‘Old’ is me, coming up to 76.