Monday, 14 March 2011

Round About a Pound a Week

My thoughts on Round About a Pound a Week have been circling and now I think they have settled. I've been living my twenty first century life and thinking about their lives, seeing where my thoughts fit into their lives.

My first jolt was when house hunting last week. We're thinking are they big enough for us and maybe more if we were to grow as a family? Yet how many people lived in these same terraced houses? How large were the families? How many families - perhaps two to what were then two up two down. When they were built were the property developers aware of the cramped conditions people would endure? If the government had played a more central role would larger houses have been built? Would they have limited the sub letting?

"But, when all is said and done, these reforms could do very little as long as most of the present buildings exist at all, or as long as a family of eight persons can only afford two, or at most three, small rooms to live in. The rent is too dear; the houses are too old or too badly built, or both; the streets are too narrow; the rooms are too small; and there are far too many people to sleep in them."

Many of our blogs, my conversations with friends and family about cooking. I love having the time to sit and read cook books to decide what to cook or bake, yet as Maud Pember Reeves notes

"So much has to be done each day. The Lambeth woman has no joy in cooking for its own sake."

These are the women who enable the Jocelyn Playfairs to write the books we read. These women still have hopes, dreams, intelligence yet no time or space or materials to share them. Our female authors may feel trapped - how more so do these women feel. Can there be differing levels of feeling trapped and if so does it make any difference?

"All these women, with perhaps, the exception of Mrs K., seemed to have lost any spark or humour or desire for different surroundings. The same surroundings with a little more money... and a little less to do, was about the best their imaginations could grasp. Mrs K. liked being read to... It roused her imagination in a way which was astonishing. She questioned, she believed, she accepted."

There is so much to say about this book but I'll finish by saying read it and keep this quote in your mind as you read it.

"They are respectable men in full work, at a more or less top wage, young, with families still increasing, and they will be lucky if they are never worse off than they are now."


  1. What a wonderful response to this book Rachel - I think it is an amazing text. And it was also useful for the social reformers trying to make changes around the turn of the last but one century.

  2. So much to think about here! This sounds like an excellent book.... wishing it was in the stack I just purchased.

  3. Sadly for so many, not a lot has changed: these conditions still exist and a great many are still in denial about them. Will have to look this book up, hadn't heard of it before.

  4. Gosh, I missed your first post on this and was just reading Polly Toynbee's grim prophecy in her introduction to the book - it certainly makes you think!

  5. Verity - Why thank you. I wasn't quite sure how to approach it, but knew I wanted to write about it in some way.
    JoAnn - It certainly shows another side to London life. Read it and next time you visit you can explore Lambeth...
    Tonia - Thank you for your comment. I wanted to write something like that in the post but didn't quite know how, with out sound all preachy. You've managed to make the point perfectly.
    potterjotter - Yes grim is exactly the right word to describe Polly Toynbee's prophecy.


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