On the Dole postscript:
The thing with researching working-class women’s lives of the last century (and pre-Welfare State for that matter) - for whom many, unemployment literally meant starvation; homelessness; the poor house; and, for some, death - is that you do appreciate the social security system we have nowadays, and on a good day you count your blessings. However, the thing with being a politically aware individual is that you also appreciate that things could/should be much better: that there must be a better way of living than under a ruthless capitalist system that marginalizes and keeps a large percentage of the population living in relative poverty.
Moving On continued...
After a few weeks, I got restless and started to look out for jobs in the local paper and visit the JobCentre. I was still into the horsey thing and was thinking of getting more experience in another field (no pun intended); you know diversifying. I saw an advert for a riding teacher in the next village. So I went to have a look. The riding school was actually a family owned small-holding. They had an outdoor menage, a field, half a dozen stables and a few horses and ponies. They catered mainly for children. The position was just for weekend work. I can’t remember whether I got paid or whether it was voluntary. But it was fun, I was under no pressure and I enjoyed doing it. I also remember going for an interview for a groom position at a prestigious health farm, which was not too far away. The job involved looking after the horses (obviously) and taking clients out for hacks in the surrounding countryside. I was actually offered the position; I got the impression that they were desperate for someone to start as soon as possible. But entertaining wealthy middle-class folk did not appeal to me, even then, so I declined.
I got another position which was part of some kind of government scheme at the time, the Youth Training Scheme (YTS) probably. I got paid £25.00 a week which went straight into my bank account from the DHSS. I was quite excited about this job as it was working with hunters, which I had never done before. The stables were part of a sort of country house estate. The main house was a really beautiful old listed building, and as it was only about a mile from where I lived it was convenient. The owner was an elderly gentleman, he had a very posh way of talking - a kind of throwback to the landed gentry. He was a married and had a couple of daughters. The elder one was married and she and her husband owned the neighbouring farm. The younger one was about my age. I had little in common with any of them, but to be fair they were all really nice people. My job entailed helping to look after four thoroughbred hunters, which were kept for private use for the family. I say help because a little, lively elderly woman called Leoni was in charge. She had been with the family for years - a kind of throwback to the servant class - and she and her husband lived in a rented cottage by the stables. I got on with her pretty well, but she was hard of hearing so I found it quite frustrating trying to converse with her. The job was relatively easy and I had usually done by lunch time. Leoni had done much of the work by the time I arrived in the morning, so really it was just a matter for me to exercise the horses. Sometimes I had to ride out with Mr… and his daughter, but often I went out alone. The best part of this job was that Mr… had access to much of the farm land and private land of our village, so I was allowed to go where the public weren’t: where trespassers could be prosecuted! This was when I first realised that our village had its own reservoir. I also had to get the horses ready for the family on hunting days, and I sometimes used to follow the hunt around when they were in our area. However, they never gave me the opportunity to go out hunting myself. I did this at another place. It was quite enjoyable while it lasted, but I didn’t really learn anything new with this job and I was still getting paid a pittance, so I only stayed for about six months. Besides, I’d had it in my mind for quite a while that I’d like to buy my own horse.
To cut a long story short: