Conversing with Cows


Joan Cool nee Tomlin (1906 to 1992), Jay Cool’s Paternal Grandmother – Pendeford Mill, Tettenhall, Near Wolverhampton

My Nanna hated her christened name, Jennifer, and insisted on being known as Joan. (Little did she know what grief this name change was destined to cause her grand-daughter, Jay Cool – in future investigations.)

Grandad Arnold Cool complained about layabouts, whilst his wife, Joan, left him having his lie-in, whilst she got on with the hard labour. I guess that has forever been the role of women throughout time.

The constant squabbles between my brother and I, back in the 70s, were the bane of Joan’s third age. Her motto seemed to be that girls should ‘put up and shut up’, a point often relayed to me through tales about her own brothers:


Yes, Nanna, I would think, but your brothers didn’t use your dolls to practise their torture methods on. This, after I had just found a black ([1]) baby doll of mine, punctured with lots of holes from some rather large knitting needles:

“It’s you,” my brother Simon explained. “This doll is you and now you’re going to have bad luck forever, because I just did some Voodoo doll magic! Did you feel the needles going in?”

Indignant and tormented, I showed my ruined doll to my Nanna, rather hoping for some female empathy, but was to be sorely disappointed.

She just shrugged and carried on with her food preparation, whilst filling me in on my expected role as a female:

“Think yourself lucky, Sulky Sue! I had three brothers to put up with and I didn’t complain. We didn’t have lots of dolls like children do nowadays, but I did have one special doll, a gift from one of my Uncles. He made it himself; it was handcrafted from wood. The only toys we had were made from the materials we already had at home. I loved that doll; it had a nose like Pinnochio’s. But, do you know what my eldest brother, William, did! One day he grabbed the doll from me, and held it over the coal fire, burning it’s nose right off! And my other brothers stood there enjoying the show! And you’ve only got one brother and you’re complaining? Make yourself useful – peel some potatoes for Grandad!”

My Grandad was the grumbler; my Nanna just got on with things in her no-nonsense sort of way; and it was my duty to learn from her example.

“When I was brought up at Pendeford Mill,” lectured Nanna, ” I had to do my chores. I had no choice. I was up early in the morning getting the fire going and helping mother get the bread in the oven. And my brothers were sent out to work as soon as they could stand up. It’s no wonder the boys had to let off steam with their silly pranks – smoking and choking up my wooden doll, indeed! You don’t know how lucky you girls are these days.”

‘Pendeford Mill Nature Reserve’ from Wobaston Road,
Copyright owned by Derek Harper (Creative Commons Licensed)

I did wonder why in all her tales about her three brothers, my Nanna neglected to talk much about the fact that she also had three sisters to share the workload with. Surely, with the girls outnumbering the boys, her bully brothers wouldn’t have stood a chance? Maybe girls just didn’t feature on anyone’s radar in those days, or maybe they just didn’t lend that much credence to her moralising. I was never quite sure, either, why she always referred to me as a ‘Sue’, a name nothing like ‘Jay’. Perhaps all the girls in her day were called Sue, a likely explanation considering that the chances of surviving beyond the first year of life, was still a bit touch and go in the early 1900s.

Still, Joan was made of tough material as, against the odds, she survived to see her eighty fifth birthday and remained in sprightly ignorance of her true age for all of that time.

Pendeford Mill Farm, published with kind permission of Wolverhampton Archives


Copyright of text owned by Jay Cool, April 2018

Who is Jay Cool?

Sources: dolls from Google images, labelled as ‘free to share & use’.

Very important postscript: Having spent forty-seven plus years of my life under the delusion that my paternal Great Grandfather was the Miller at Pendeford Mill, I must now confess that, during the course of writing this masterpiece of a blog post, it has come to Jay Cool’s attention (thank you so much!) that Great Grandfather Tomlin was a mere lowly ‘cowman’ at the nearby Pendeford Mill Farm, who just happened to be residing in the old Pendeford Mill, prior to it being converted into two cottages in 1912. I’m guessing the rent must have been cheap and the rundown accommodation extremely cold. No wonder my Great Uncles commandeered their sister’s wooden doll for firewood. No further explanation needed, except that it does also explain why I have a ‘gift’ [2] for conversing with cows. (I am currently in negotiation with J K Rowling over rights for using me as the central character of her forthcoming ‘Jay Cool – Cow Converser’ series! So slither off Voldemort and Potter. Snakes are out. And the Cool Cow is in!)
Other useful local history sites:

[1] It was all the vogue in the 70s to own a black doll and I was very pleased with mine, a prize from a fairground stall in Felixstowe. It was unfortunate that in our childhood ignorance, we associated black skin with Voodoo magic. As adults, we have sought to cast aside such racial and cultural stereotypes. I am now baffled as to why, as enlightened adults, 48% of the American population, voted in a-still-ignorant‘child’ as their President. A president who wants to build a wall to re-establish racial barriers. Don’t they realise that their Top Trump card is outdated and underpowered? Still, with an energy rating of zero, at least Trump in unlikely to get further than laying the first brick? 


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