Mother learnt to keep her opinions to herself

ALTHOUGH well liked in the village as an approachable vicar with good relations with the non-conformist church, Rev Rossiter was not the perfect father one imagines:
Ruth writes: I shall always respect Dad for being a man who had the courage of his convictions. He was extremely "prot" (Protestant) and wanted the pure Word of God to be believed by all Christians.
But he was strict, and often could be inconsistent, spoiling the boys at some times and coming down on them for even imagined naughtinesses at others, so there was often tension between them.
He would give Mother barely enough housekeeping money but come back from a seven- mile trip to Braintree with a lovely cricket bat, or football for the boys. He was an athlete himself and it was important to him that they should excel in games (which they did, later at Cranford and Oxford).
He laboured hard, a few years later, to level a patch of field to make a tennis court for us, and there we had many a game, which stood us in good stead later.
He didn't tolerate any discussion or argument with Mother, so she very soon after marriage learnt to keep her opinions to herself - and the result was a tremendous harmony between them.

Dad and boys
Rev Rossiter was determined the boys should excel in games
Mother, nonetheless, was the one on whom Dad really leaned. How often have I seen him bring the results of a morning's work on his Parish Magazine out to her as she stood cooking in the kitchen to say "Margaret, could you listen to this, my dear, and see if it’s alright?". She had a good brain - had had a good education, and was an asset to him in every way and she made our home, for me certainly, a lovely place.
She was never too busy to read to us or take us for picnics by the river, or up in the warren. She also used to play the piano and gather us round her to sing together - hymns or songs. She was a natural disciplinarian, so that we didn't want to disobey her. What she desired us to do always seemed the right and reasonable thing".
Mother and girls
Ruth, on her mother's knee, and sister Mary
Even in her latter years it was obvious that Ruth had always been a person of some spirit, dutiful daughter though she may also have been.
Ruth: I don't think my older sister Mary was nearly such a pickle as I seem to have been. She was a great reader. She never joined in the games or cricket or football I enjoyed with my two twin brothers - nor did she have the urge that I had, to be always climbing trees
She was more help to Mother than I, so later I used to seek out jobs that I knew she wouldn't be doing (mainly washing and cleaning) as she was so good at cooking, etc. But we all had our regular jobs, and mine, which I hated, but had to do, was to lay the table for lunch every day. I can still feel that sinking feeling I experienced on a fine Spring morning, when the call came to me out of the kitchen window, "Ruth, it's time to come in and lay the table".
The worst thing about that was putting on the cloth, for Mother had made a
flannelette one that had to go on first to protect the table, then the white damask one had to go on over that. It was so difficult to prevent rucking.
However the penance of laying the table was soon forgotten in the enjoyment of the lovely meals Mother produced with cheap cuts of meat (once even a meal of
home reared goat) and the delicious home-grown vegetables that Dad grew.
Fruit was abundant as, in addition to the apple trees Dad had put into our garden, we were able to rent a little orchard in Blackmore End and from it we got pears and plums galore which Mother cooked and bottled - also damsons - which I hated then, but I like now.
In the middle of that orchard was a tumbledown cottage and what fun we had when Mother took us up there for the day - a luscious apple tart was usually on the picnic menu - and when we'd gathered up enough pears and plums, we'd climb up into the upstairs part of the tumbledown cottage, looking for relics, or birds nests, in the thatch.

The orchard had, of course, been just a very well stocked cottage garden and the best tree was a greengage. We could tuck into those ripe plums to our heart’s content but had to be wary of the many wasps.”
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