Mrs Rutter’s Dolly Blue…

This poem was first published on the 5th of July 2010. I was prompted to post it here by nemo’s poem about distemper…


The streets are all cobble, where large horses puff,
Pulling dust-carts and coal, dead people and stuff!

Gas-tar in summer that melts in the sun,
Then in the winter home made sledges will run.

Old corner shop with terraced house view,
Where old Mrs Rutter buys her dolly-blue.*

Patches on trousers – split shoes on our feet,
Shopping on Thursdays, but not much to eat!

Two mile walk every day to Victorian school,
Freezing in winter – never have fuel.

Women alone now, men off to their fate!
Washing the lino,* black-leading* the grate.

Wail of the sirens the Germans are back!
‘Please spare our house – get the one at the back’.

With conkers and rounders shrapnel and such,
Skipping and marbles, laughs – but not much.

I remember those times they all seem so clear,
People were frightened – but didn’t show fear.

Look out of my window, mangy dog’s fight for bone,
And there is old Mrs Rutter
With her Donkey stone…*

*Dolly blue –- a small sachet for a couple of pence that made ‘clothes white’.
*Lino –- ‘Oil cloth’ floor covering (if you could afford it)
*Black lead –- a substance that was rubbed on fireplaces and ovens to keep them ‘clean and shiny’.
*Donkey stone –- For yellowing the frontage of terraced houses (steps and window sills)

No telephones, televisions, computers, cars, holidays, clothes, money, and very little of anything else. Think about it, before you complain …


© gerry 2023
critique and comments welcome.
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A lot of people talk about the good old days, modern life is so comfortable and offers such vices, gizmos and comforts that it is annoying that people still find things to complain about. Things that would make other generations laugh with disbelief. Back then people struggled and made the best of it. Maybe if people could tread a mile in their shoes they’d be more thankful and grateful today. A nice thought provoking poem.


Awww A bit before my time but I can still remember some of it. Life seemed simpler looking back but boy how stoic people were then, compared to the cossetted lot now. A really lovely poem that warned the heart. 🙂
Alison x

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