Posted by: Admin | July 10, 2010

The SATURDAY INTERVIEW – 2

THE WARTIME HOUSEWIFE IN THE 21st CENTURY

Blogging, generally, is an anonymous game, so I am intrigued to actually meet the Wartime Housewife (WH to her friends). What will a woman who makes it her daily mission to make “making do and mend” relevant in the 21st century look like? Will she arrive kitted out in full 1940s costume, complete with gas mask over her shoulder?

The Wartime Housewife

From the tone of her posts, I imagine I will meet a cross between Celia Johnson and Joyce Grenfell with a pinch of Winston Churchill thrown in. Not wanting to earn instant disapproval, I decide I will make an effort to sit up straight and keep my elbows off the table in the village tea room where we have arranged to meet. WH, of course, is there before me.  In the flesh, she is much softer and younger than I had pictured her, with striking, pretty blue eyes that flash with  intelligence, humour and passion. The only hint of the 1940’s about her is the shade of her lipstick: it is bright, brave and optimistic.

I have promised to protect her anonymity – we’re here to talk about the Wartime Housewife mission – so you won’t find any revelations here, I’m afraid, apart from those personal details that WH reveals herself on the blog.  Namely that she lives in the area of rural Leicestershire town, Market Harborough, has two boys of school age (Boy the Elder and Boy the Younger, as she refers to them on the blog) and struggles, at times, to make ends meet.

What, I ask her over breakfast, was the inspiration for the Wartime Housewife?  “I’ve always been resourceful,” she tells me as she neatly dissects her almond croissant.

self-sufficiency can taste good too!

“Resourceful, frugal and a scavenger! I’ve never been able to pass a skip without looking in.” There are plenty of people I know who enjoy recycling and craft, I tell her, but none of them have ever created a blog about it. “Ah well, people have always said I should write a book gathering together all my recipes and tips. My friends were calling me the Wartime Housewife long before I went public!”

The final nudge came when a friend mocked up a spoof wartime poster as a birthday card which sported the legend, “Save toenail clippings: they make excellent bubble and squeak.” (Note: I realise this is the second day in a row I have mentioned toenail clippings. I would like you to know that this is a coincidence, not a fetish) Another friend set up the blog for her a year ago while she was cooking dinner and the rest, as they say, is history.

The blog is: “a place where you will find old fashioned skills and values applied to our very modern lives.” A charming, eclectic mixture of recipes, poetry, comment and instruction, it is always well-written and often very, very funny.  Rather like WH herself (funny, that is, not well-written). Coming from an all-female family, she hints at difficult circumstances that made self-sufficiency a necessity, not a choice. Life might not have turned out as she might have hoped, either personally or financially, but it has taught her that: “you might as well do it yourself as no one else will do it for you.”

This is a woman with a mission to teach basic skills. “It’s incredibly empowering to realise you can do things for yourself. There is a large number of today’s young people being brought up over-indulged and under-skilled. They don’t see their parents cooking or sewing or growing vegetables and so they don’t absorb those basic lessons on how to get by.”

Handmade party bags by Sally Selwood

WH has a point. I don’t remember anyone teaching me how to cook, I somehow just knew from being in the kitchen with my grandmother and mum. (And before the comments box is flooded with derision from my family, the fact that I rarely demonstrate this knowledge is a choice. Your father and I have an equal partnership when it comes to food: he cooks it, I eat it.)

Taking responsibility, taking control – these should be our mantras for the twenty-first century”, WH continues. “If a young person is taught not to waste so much as a chicken carcass that can be boiled up into soup then they will always be able to feed a family on next to nothing.”

The Wartime Housewife is now almost a year old and has had 60,000 views.  WH has clearly hit a nerve with her loyal following. The kind of advice she is dispensing chimes perfectly with this new period of austerity. So, what next for the Wartime Housewife?

“I’m launching a new website at the end of this month which will give me more flexibility in presentation and allow me to grow the Wartime Housewife Brand.” Does she intend to market her message, I ask her. “I’d like to publish a practical manual for the modern household as well as a book collecting together all the tips, recipes and poetry that have appeared on the blog in its first year.” She’s looking into merchandising, recognising that what started out as a blog could well morph into an income as her boys grow. How about long term ambitions? “What I’d really like,” she says, “is to create a chain of Wartime Housewife cafes offering good, well-priced, locally-sourced food.” And dispensing good, no-nonsense advice, I should imagine.

Any thoughts she’d like to share about growing older? “I wouldn’t want to be twenty-five again for all the tea in China. Maybe I’d like to be as thin and pretty as I was then, but I feel so much more powerful now.” The waitress arrives and we contemplate ordering cake.

I would like to wish WH every success with the launch of her new venture and will watch her progress with interest. She’s an interesting woman with a wealth of knowledge – if I had my way, she would be retained by the new Government to devise a means of working her sensible, down to earth teaching into the school curriculum.

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Responses

  1. Good Lord – I had no idea I was this interesting! I’m really am delighted with the article and it was so well written. You have a very engaging style my dear!

  2. […] interest you to know that The Wartime Housewife is featured in The Saturday Interview on the blog Project 50.  Project 50 is always worth reading in it’s own right but is particularly delightful today […]

  3. Thank you, WH! I am so glad (and relieved!) that you like it and feel it represents you accurately. Still wish you would have let me take your photograph though 😉

  4. Tag surfing, your blog came up, which in turn led me to take a look at WH. Thanks so much…her blog is great, as is yours!! Thanks!

    • You’re very welcome, Penny – hope to see you again!

  5. WH deserves this spotlight!

  6. I absolutely agree, Vinogirl. She’s quite a lady!

    • As you will know, writing anything longer than a shopping list takes time. I totally admire WH for all her musings, rantings and witticisms while keeping a plethora of plates spinning.

      Am also eligible to contribute to your blog, Project 50, which I will do when I’ve rebalanced a few plates myself!

  7. A fine accolade. WH’s blog always interests, enthuses and cheers me up!

  8. Good to meet you both, Myrtle and Jo. I too am a fan of WH, mainly because her posts often make me laugh out loud – a rare gift, I think!
    I look forward to seeing you again here on project50 😉

  9. […] how many discrete visitors). So far, the most viewed posts have been The Saturday Interview with The Wartime Housewife, Letter to my Sister, and Letter to my Daughters. Interestingly, it’s the more personal posts […]

  10. […] was the article on M.E. (Sad, that, isn’t it?) Most hits? Still the Saturday Interview with The Wartime Housewife. Most searched term? “Hot over 50s” – hahahaha – I don’t think they […]


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