In 1990, for a short time, I worked as a dairy maid on a Victorian museum farm in the Black Country region of the West Midlands. Being in the (then) industrial West Midlands, it was a rare opportunity to be outside a lot, as well as doing something totally different to anything I’d ever considered doing before. Having spent so much time over the years thinking, ‘I wonder how you do xyz’ and ‘I wonder what it was like to…’ it was also a chance to sate my curiosity about at least one thing and find out what sort of things might have happened on a Victorian farm. What did they do?
I was only there for about ten months, before bowing out with dairy maid’s elbow, but it was a fascinating experience and one that I look back on with memories of carefree sunny days, out of another time altogether. It was my first real taste of proper physical work and the first time I realised that the old ‘upstairs-downstairs’ attitudes are still very much alive today, but more of that later.