Section I: A lone leaping woman and other jobs

This page in a notebook references
Rural England 1066-1348 by H.E.Hallam
(Harvester Press, 1981)
'A lone leaping woman' opens the collection and as the photo shows, the phrase came from a book by H E Hallam, although I've altered Hallam's translation of the old English. I was interested in women who worked as gleaners and casual workers because I wanted this section to hold true today. All the jobs in this section are still carried out, somewhere in the world, many of them probably still in Brighton even if job titles have changed.

I know women who rent rooms, work behind bars, deliver children, sell secondhand clothes and do washing for other people. I know girls with Saturday jobs. And there are still women who clean feathers for a living, gut and fillet fish all day, make corsets, buttons and have their own forges. 

So these poems are not meant to be folksy or quaint even though the job titles are, in places, historic. Some of these titles came from censuses because this section is the one in which I was trying to find a way of approaching Jane's idea of making up family portraits. It took me a long time to find a solution that wouldn't be too obvious or illustrative. The solution was in the census and in lists of jobs that exist on genealogy sites - tantalising, fascinating job titles. 

But the first poem, with its roots so far back in England's past, was the one that I felt was also the most modern: about a landless, poor, unmarried casual worker. Hallam lead me to it in a section of the book about foraging for grain. It resonates strongly now. 





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