17 April 2017

Nettles, nasties and netball

A-Z challenge - My memories of life on the farm in the nineteen fifties and sixties


Remember those stinging nettles? Just when we thought to find a fine place to play in the grass, the sting stung, painfully and irritatingly. Often when climbing through a fence, concentrating carefully on avoiding the strand of barbed wire that ran across the top, I stepped straight into a patch of those nettles. A pain for the child and a pest to the farmer.

The cure-all in our house for stings, rashes and mosquito bites was calamine lotion. It came in a large brown glass bottle. This had to be shaken and agitated before opening otherwise a thin watery pink trickle was all that appeared. It dried hard and crusty on the skin but I remember well many days covered in blotches of pink calamine lotion.
Never have I tried nettle soup. Nettle anyone?

Nasty visitors

No, not the human kind. The mean, munch through anything mice, the silent slithery snakes.

Just picture that horrible grey mass of mice when one uncovered a nest of the pests. The smell of a mice infestation has left me with a loathing. I have no understanding of those who allow their children to have them as pets. Mice would infest every nook and cranny, nibble and destroy everything in their way.

Snakes and small children, not a good mix. A long, rigid wire hung over the back fence to be grabbed when a snake invaded the house yard. A swift swing down with that wire did the job. After we moved to the new house, the old house was a great place to play. One day when I was happily playing down there, I heard a swishing noise. I thought it was one of my sisters or my mother sweeping the old linoleum in the next room. No, a snake was sliding across that floor. I shut the door, turned and hid as there was no way out except across that old dining room. As I know now, snakes go their own way if left alone, but that day I was frightened.


It was not called netball then, it was called basketball. We played in the local Tarlee teams on Saturday afternoons against teams from nearby towns. Boys played football, Australian Rules, in the same towns.

The basketball courts had a bitumen surface so many skinned knees and hands were not uncommon at the end of the game. We wore uniforms with box pleats that fell from a square yoke. Underneath that we wore a button up blouse. A girdle tied around the waist stopped the uniform from flying all over the place. Those girdles were like a plaited silky rope with a tassel on each end. On Saturday mornings it would be a rush to get all the uniforms and blouses ironed before the matches. This was well before stretch materials made sportswear comfortable.

Next O - Oranges in the orchard and some offal


  1. Yes I remember what is now called netball being called basketball. I was confused when my daughter started to play basketball, she later played netball too.

    Visiting from A to Z N is for the Labour candidate for Newark in 1945

    Anne Young

    Anne's family history

    1. I played both in years past, but netball was.the game we played through high school years.

  2. Hi Carmel - nettles .. yes lots and lots of stings - we used dock-leaves as a natural aide to easing and then stopping the sting - always worked. Calamine lotion we didn't often use ... I'd say for jelly-fish stings when we came down to Bexhill to visit my grandmother. I have eaten young nettles and nettle soup ... similar to spinach -I was very happy with it! Nasties ... yugh - those 'piles of micelets' ... fowl! We had grass snakes - my father used to hatch them in the house - I wasn't happy!!! Still not happy with snakes ... cheers Hilary


    1. Yes, I still have no desire to be near snakes or even see them in zoos or nature reserves.

  3. On our farm, we had bats in the back barn. My parents warned us children to "never go in the barn" for fear of a bat attack and rabies -- but of course we stepped into the barn anyway and stood in the dark to listen to their peeping. I don't remember seeing one, though, perhaps because I had such an early bedtime as a child.

    1. There's a colony of fruit bats in a park not far from where I live now, smelly noisy creatures. They fly over just after dusk and are quite a sight as they head out for a night of feeding.

  4. My idea of nasty visitors as a child, and now, is mosquitoes. Nothing seemed to stop the itching. I do remember calamine lotion, though, and the song it prompted with each use: gonna need an ocean of . . . Glad we didn't have poison ivy on our property.

    http://gail-baugniet.blogspot.com Food For Thought
    N is for Nacho with Flat Stanley Rose

  5. I remember the calamine lotion when I had chicken pox. Snakes terrified me. I uncovered one when I lifted a hessian bag off a box and ran screaming "snake!" Netball! I played at high school but was never very good. Then as a teacher I had to coach a netball team because no-one else would. They did quite well in the comp in spite of their coach.

  6. I can smell that bloody calamine lotion! 😁


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