Aunt Eliza by Dulcie Wing

Dulcie Wing now sadly deceased used to live in an old people’s home in Falmouth. She was wonderfull lady who had a great memory and way with words.

I knew a little old lady in a seaside village, years ago. Everyone called her Aunt Eliza. This woman lived in a semi-detached cottage which had a thatched roof, it consisted of one room, with a back kitchen and I think two bedrooms. I used to call in and see her when I was a child, and she told me that I was the only one who came in to speak to her. She had a grassed garden at the side of her house with a shed at the back, the hedge of her garden was Cornish stone walled, grown over with ivy and grass. I only went into her one room which had one window facing the road and one the garden, the room contained two tables, one a beautiful polished round table and the other a well scrubbed kitchen table.
She had an old Cornish grate for heating and an armchair near by. Aunt Eliza was a widow and she made me sad when she told me she had a son who was married with a little boy of his own, but he never visited her. I used to try and comfort her by saying “Perhaps he lives so far away in Cornwall that it costs too much for him to come into our village.” Poor comfort that! Aunt Eliza always wore a long black skirt and dark blouse with a grey knitted shawl around her back and shoulders. It was her habit every day to go to the beach and gather all the driftwood she could get to keep her fire going. Also she would pick up any bit of coloured glass or broken shards and bring them home and put them between the stones of her Cornish hedge. I loved to go out in her garden with her and see all these shining bits that she had picked up. She had a grape vine growing up the wall of her house, the garden side, and an apple tree.
This garden was high up from the road which was on a hillside and looked out over the sea and the lower part of the village. So pleasant, but I do not know if she spent any time there, as she was always going to and fro to the beaches picking up her wood, which she slung across her back in another old shawl. On the polished table in her kitchen, she had some lovely bits of china ware, glass and ornaments, also a lamp with a glass base, fun-nel and globe. All this was set out on her kitchen table, so I think perhaps she had not enough room in her cupboard to store all her nice things and she loved to see them displayed in view so she could see them. I myself, loved looking at these things; to me it was as if they were displayed for sale. She would tell me that perhaps one day she would find something really valuable in her beach combings, and one day she was pleased when she found half a crown (26p today) and a couple of farthings between some rocks. But to see her gathering wood every day, making many journeys to and fro, up and down the hill, must have been a hard and wearisome task for the old soul, lightened at times by a find of a thrown away ornament or bauble. How she managed to exist and keep warm in those yesterdays was due to her own endeavour.
Today the welfare state would have looked after her well and when she could no longer carry on; would probably have put her in a nice county council home where she would have been well looked after; let our thoughts go out to the Aunt Elizas, and many of the lonely old, of our yesterdays.