Gerald Ponting -
writer, publisher, photographer, lecturer,
based in central southern England
SCENES FROM A HAMPSHIRE CHILDHOOD transports the reader back sixty years to life in an unspoiled countryside, to a time of cart-horses and hay-wagons. Milk is delivered by bicycle, flocks of geese graze freely on the green … and the privy is at the bottom of the garden!
The author grew up on a small farm in Breamore and, from the age of 11, attended the boys’ grammar school in Salisbury. His collection of personal reminiscences is accompanied by a delightful selection of old photographs. Together, they portray a slice of social history in the mid-twentieth century. Rural life was so different then, dependent on the bus service and on local shops, with few of the amenities and technologies which we take for granted today.
It is hoped that this book will interest younger generations, who find it difficult to imagine what life was like without television, computers and designer jeans. Undoubtedly, it will also appeal greatly to all those who, like the author, lived through the many changes of the 1940s and 1950s.
I have great admiration for writers like Frank McCourt and Laurie Lee, who have evoked their childhood days in detail and in timeless prose. To my continued amazement they capture (or, I suspect, re-create) whole sections of dialogue from decades earlier.
I cannot do this. I even admit that my memory is far better for places and for events than it is for people. But I have one great advantage in producing a volume of autobiography – a large archive of family snapshots and other photographs, as well as diaries and press cuttings.
These photographs, especially the farming scenes, evocative of life on a Hampshire smallholding in the 1940s and 1950s, were the inspiration for this book. The pictures themselves led me to write about their contexts - and the result is a mixture of autobiography and local history.
Part of my aim has been to show my grandchildren’s generation the many ways in which life was different then; and to show that we were not greatly deprived, despite the austerity of the 1940s and despite the lack of today’s technology. No doubt this book will also contain much of nostalgic interest to my own generation.
Millers Dale Publications, 2004, ISBN 0951742361 160 pages, paperback, 212 x 151 mm, 260 photographs, price £6.95