My grandfather was nothing if not an accountant and we are lucky enough to have a couple of cash books of his recording all their expenses from their wedding day up to the birth of their first child…As I am moving home shortly it’s going to be interesting to do a comparison! Here are the 1939 sums…(very faint because they’re in pencil! Sorry.)
And here is a picture of my grandparents on their wedding day (19th August 1939). They first moved into their house on 23rd September 1939.
It’s not so much the different “me”s that worry me. How often have you started doing/saying something only to realise that your parents express themselves in exactly the same way? Or you look in the mirror one day to discover that there is a certain resemblance in the mirror which you are sure wasn’t there yesterday.
I am very lucky that my parents are wonderful people but you spend so long trying to forge your own character and personality that it comes as a bit of a shock when you realise that you have become what you have been fighting against. That whole teen angst thing was pointless; the “nobody understands me” part is void; the rebellious/goth/new romantic period was just a phase; the disappearing off round the world to find yourself was just geography. You create all these different “you”s throughout your life and come back full circle to where you started. The very brilliant Stephen Fry said on a Michael Parkinson interview once that humans are the only creatures who try to be what they are not. You will never find a bear trying to be a duck. Perhaps we should all accept the person we are? In my case, my mother….:)
As part of the Daily Post photo challenge entitled “On the Move”, I looked into the past. I have been collating my family’s history and inherited the photographs from various people. One common theme running through the photos is that we were a family of boat lovers – in fact my great great grandfather was a boat builder on the census lists.
The photos I have chosen show a different time when leisure time still had standards – even if you were on a boat! The table-cloth and tea-pot came out; ladies wore pretty dresses and headscarves and you had a proper afternoon tea. Very “Famous Five” with lashing of ginger pop for the children!
The first three are c. 1950’s with my grandmother looking the part of the “Famous Five” mother.
My grandmother relaxing in style
My grandmother and Dad
This lovely lady is my Aunt Win enjoying tea on the River Wey with her friend Polly c.1930.
Tea party on the Wey
And this is her husband showing us how to survive whilst “On the Move”…I think I prefer the ladies’ way of doing things!
What would you say if someone asked “What is your story?” What would you pull out as the important and dismiss as trivial and insignificant? What value do you give your experiences? How do you begin and where do you end? Does it start with birth and end with death? I was born. I lived. I died. (Who said that? I can’t remember). What happens in the middle part?
I have started keeping a note of my memories and I suppose that they are the most important ones as they are the ones that I can actually remember. They are not always good memories but they have made an impression. I have lots more memories which I haven’t written down yet and they will all form the majority of the middle part. Family. Friends. School. Boyfriends. University. Nights Out. Jobs. Life. Added to all these fantastic things is always a flip side but no less important. Losing family and friends. Heart break. Nights in. Losing jobs. Not being a part of life. Hopefully a healthy combination of all of the above will make for a rich and varied tapestry of life!
Both of my grandmothers lost their memories towards the ends of their lives and I wish they had written down some of their experiences. It would be nice to know their thoughts and feelings and how perhaps things don’t change inside a person, even though times have changed. I would like to be able to give my children and my grandchildren a diary and let them know that they are not the first people to go through what they’re going through. To let them know that grown ups are not completely bizarre creatures.
Hopefully my story would be interesting to them (if not to rest of the world!). What is your story?
I have been looking through some old slides from my grandparents battered old leather suitcase and came across this fantastic picture of my grandmother circa 1958 or 59. The box of slides was entitled “The Broads” where I know my Dad was taken on holiday and they went boating, sailing, fishing – anything to do with being on the water. My grandfather’s passion was sailing and boats which has been passed on to my Dad and Uncle. We also have distant ancestors who were boat builders too…it must be in the blood! But back to the picture…
I love the fact that she wore a rather natty headscarf to keep her hair tidy whilst out on the river. Check out also the provisions lined up neatly inside the boat, with proper cutlery and a tea towel. This was a lady who was prepared and had a family of hungry men to feed! She also obviously didn’t let standards slip outside the home!
But she looked like she enjoyed herself! Here she is with Dad…
Wearing a practical boating outfit – a pleated skirt and cardi. And with a radio on board by the looks of it. It’s like some idyllic scene out of “Swallows and Amazons“, by Arthur Ransome which I would highly recommend reading!
I wonder how much the Broads have changed more than half a century later?
I had a sparkly silver bike which I was showing off on. I was riding it up and down Leveller Road and I thought I would go up to the top of the hill and ride down the pavement as fast as I could. I remember sitting on my bike at the top of the hill and thinking it would be a really good idea to try something different. So I turned the handlebars back to front – it had a front wheel that could turn 180 degrees. Off I set with the handlebars backwards as fast as I could.
Of course I fell off. Right at the bottom of our drive. Grazed knees, elbows, teeth out, cut hands, face – everything. But the best thing was that I had to go to a school BBQ that afternoon and I was dressed as a ballerina in my beautiful pink tutu. A slightly battered, bruised and bandaged up ballerina with no front teeth and a black eye.
Every child should have a camp in their garden or in their house – somewhere where the adults can’t come in without a password. A private space! Catherine and I had a camp in the back garden at Newick behind the vegetable patch…a clearing in the trees with a dirt floor. You could see into the neighbour’s garden. We probably pretended we were the Secret Seven or the Famous Five and had club meetings with our friends.
Oak Tree Leaves (Photo credit: Dominic’s pics)
There was also a huge oak tree opposite our house that we would play hide and seek around. The smaller tree on the green was where we played “52 Bunker”. The trick was to stand right behind the person counting to 100 and then grab the tree and yell “52 bunker home!”. Stuck in the Mud was also fun – a sophisticated version of catch where you had to be freed from the mud by someone crawling through your legs.
It was quite safe playing on the green outside (I wonder if parents would still let their kids play out there?). We lived in a cul de sac and all the kids on the street played out front together. I’m sure one mother or another was watching at any one time, but I remember being very free.
We were allowed to walk up to the rec where there was a playground. We pushed our bikes up there and played on the huge tractor tyre swing. I could curl up inside the tyre while everyone else sat on top. Catherine put her leg down inside the tyre to stop it swinging and it smacked against her knee. She must have broken something but I don’t remember. I think I remember having to push two bikes home. Someone must have come to get Catherine.
I seem to remember horrible things that happened to my sister! I don’t seem to remember what happened next though – maybe my child brain was trying to protect me from the horror? I’m sure people around me were trying to protect me. I’m not sure that Catherine even remembers the details – I shall have to ask her!
Written for The Daily Post – the article is about “A Lost Art”. My take on this is traditions which should have been passed down through the generations but have suddenly disappeared. Do you know what crafts your ancestors did? Mine mentioned below are only a couple of generations back but sadly I haven’t inherited any of the talent! (Or not that I am aware of anyway!)
During my research of my family history I am coming across various professions. We come from a very working class background filled with domestic servants, gardeners, agricultural labourers etc. Occasionally though I come across somebody with a trade which fascinates me. There is my great great grandfather Edwin who was a shoemaker in Brighton and all of the Hutchinsons in Worthing who were boatbuilders. It got me wondering if I have hidden talents inside me that are just part of my blood? Perhaps I could secretly knock up a pair of loafers, or a stylish pair of kittens? I wouldn’t know, I’ve never tried and I wouldn’t know where to learn how to be a shoe maker. Could I build a sturdy fishing boat or sailing boat and guarantee that it won’t sink? Surely there’s a reality tv show in this. We could discover a whole new generation of talent – useful and creative talent though rather than just the same old singing and dancing routine. That would be something worth watching!
Research into my own family continues – today has been a day of discoveries, day trips and revisiting my old suitcase, which is home to all the documents I have. (The suitcase is an heirloom in itself – belonged to my grandfather I believe and is an old, brown leather one.) On my day trip to Worthing I found several of my ancestors homes, or the sites of them – whether they were the original buildings, I’m not sure but it gives you a frisson of excitement when you walk down their street and realise that they must have walked that way too in the 1840’s. How different their lives must have been. This particular part of the family were boat builders and lived one street back from the sea front, close to the pier. More excitingly, I found a local book which mentions them! They were sailors and won several prizes in sailing competitions and were members of the local lifeboat crew. It really came alive today…
So I went home and got the old brown suitcase out and started flicking through things. I found cash books from the first two years of my grandparents’ marriage (1939-40) which made for fascinating reading from a time of rationing; ration books; medals; coins; letters; newspaper clippings and even a silk handkerchief with maps of occupied France and its’ rail connections. The romantic in me likes to imagine being parachuted in behind enemy lines with only a silk handkerchief to find your way home.
Then the words “TOP SECRET” caught my eye. How can you not be intrigued? Date 19 May 1944. A piece of paper that had been torn up and sellotaped back together – this was the sort of piece of paper that surely should have been destroyed as soon as it had been read. “The unit under your Comd is taking part in operation “Overlord“. I have very limited knowledge of the operations of WW2, so I flicked to Google and lovely Wikipedia immediately did its’ bit. Part of the D-Day landings – wow! Codewords and beaches are named: JIG/KING beach, codeword KIPLING. Considering the scale of the D-Day landings, I’m sure these bits of paper are not uncommon, but to me it is unique. Someone I know was there and came back to tell the tale.
Everyone is full of plans and ideas today of all days, but I wonder how many of them will actually come to fruition? Is it possible to harness the hope and strength that people have today and allow it to empower them for the whole year? I hope so…I have two projects to do this year – one of which is dependent on someone finishing their play, which I will then produce! Yes me a theatre impresario…Cameron Mackintosh eat your heart out.
The second came to light only yesterday, but is so obvious! One of my past times is researching into my family history. I find it fascinating to know where I come from; who did what career; who did they marry – how did some of them get to meet in the 18th century living hundreds of miles apart? Maybe I’m just nosy. I also love looking at old photos – you get a real feel for who your grandparents were and what they did. The photos I have attached below were ones that I inherited for the records.
Tea party on the Wey
The ladies having tea in their boat is fantastic – one of the ladies was Aunt Win who was a bit of a photographer herself; tiny lady who lived to a very old age and was bright as a button until the end. My grandfather is the one at the tennis party in sunglasses. There is a whole series of photos at this tennis party and they show everyone is such high spirits – flirting, enjoying themselves and generally being silly. Lovely!
I have some stories to tell, but I think that every family has its own adventures. So my plan is to offer my services to anyone who wants to look back into their own history. It will be my own little part time business! I will do the research, scan the photos in and create keepsakes and memories for everyone. So there is my idea – let’s see if I can keep the inspiration going?