I spent a good part of the evening looking through old photos in the hope of finding something in particular. That did not happen but I did find some very old pictures of Vanda and me on one of our first trips to Sydney together. One time we went over on a coach and stayed in a cheap hotel in The Cross. Vanda took this snap of me at a local café. I’m not sure if it is Jeffries or not but I remember they had the best Black Forest cake ever. The photo of Vanda was taken on the ferry going to Birkenhead Point. At one time they had a great little shopping centre where I bought quite a few clothes and stuff. On the way over it was very windy and when I gave my fare money to the young guy it blew out of his hands and into the drink. I still got my change as he said it was his fault which was very kind of him. It was still paper money in those days. Anyway here are some happy holiday snaps.
For this week’s challenge, we ask that you, too, take something ephemeral and non-digital and bring it to your blog for all of us to enjoy and reflect on. Of course, not all of us have access to a collection of century-old journals. So let’s define “transcribing” as broadly as possible: you could share an old photo from your childhood album, or snap a photo of a handwritten note from your best friend when you were 11. Record yourself singing a tune that hasn’t made it to iTunes, draw a sketch of your favorite room in your grandparents’ house, or simply write down a memorable conversation that would otherwise be lost to time.
I am using this old photograph to share a family story from the past.
This is a scan of a photo of my mother’s family. My mother is the tall, dark one in the back. She was about fourteen when this photo was taken she told me. She looks older than the others I think but she was actually the second to youngest child in the family. Her two sisters were about sixteen and her brother would have been around twenty or twenty-one when this picture was taken. The little girl, mum’s younger sister, was about eight years old. The photo was taken around 1934 after the family returned from India where my grandfather was serving with the British army.
During their last year in India the family suffered a tragedy. Mum’s oldest sister Marjorie died after contracting malaria. She was twenty and I believe that she was engaged to a soldier.
The story about this photograph is that when the family first saw it they noticed that there was a white shape in the background roughly in the place where Marjorie would normally have stood in family portraits. You will notice that they have left a space behind my grandfather. They liked to say that Marjorie’s ghost was standing in her spot.
I can’t honestly say that I can see what mum could see in that picture but I think that all of them liked feeling that Marjorie was still with them and that is as good a reason as any to have a family ghost.
Today was Father’s Day in Australia, this is my father Sidney James Bovill 1915-1969
Clothes and toys, recipes and jokes, advice and prejudice: we all have to handle all sorts of hand-me-downs every day. Tell us about some of the meaningful hand-me-downs in your life.
I don’t really like the term Hand Me Downs. It gives the impression of the younger brother or sister who always had to wear older siblings clothing and never received anything new; or of being considered a poor relation and an object of charity. I prefer to think of myself as the guardian or curator of our family history in the form of possessions and memories.
As I am the older of two sisters I didn’t have to wear hand me down clothing often. Occasionally I was given some from a cousin who was a few years older but my sister often complains even now that she had to wear not only my discarded clothing but some from another cousin as well.
I should say that I was not ashamed to wear pre-loved clothes, it’s just more fun to get something new that you have some say in choosing yourself. Pre-loved clothing was not always the colour or style that suited you and was frequently too large.Mum would then utter the dreaded words “You’ll grow into it.” Again, this happened to my sister more often than me as I was solid while she was a slip of thing. As an adult I have worn clothing that was passed on to me by other relatives and have bought clothing at Op Shops. Recycling is great. I just don’t like the term “hand me downs”.
There are other things that have been passed down through both my family and my husband’s family that would only be knick knacks to others but to us are family heirlooms. For me it is a collection of brass ornaments which my grandmother bought while the family was living in Egypt and India in the 1930s. I doubt they are valuable but when I look at them I remember sitting listening to mum telling us stories from her childhood. Even more precious are the old photographs that I am now the custodian of. Pictures of my grandparents as young people, of mum and her brother and sisters as children, a special album of photos taken by the aunt that died in India, mum’s wedding album and the photos she took of us as children. I also have mum’s collection of monkey ornaments. She loved monkeys and people would always give them to her as gifts.
On Hubby’s side we have a ship in a bottle thought to have been made by his great-grandfather who was a sailor and came from Denmark or maybe Norway. We have some pictures that belonged to Hubby’s parents and a couple that came from his grandmother’s house and some ruby glasses that belonged to a favourite aunt. All these things were part of his life for a long time so it feels right to have them here.
Of course there are other things that get passed on too like mum’s recipe for beef stew which my sister and I still both make in winter. There are bad jokes like when one of us says “I’ll go and put the kettle on.” and the other says “I didn’t think it would fit you.” My sister and I remember how mum hated that her in laws referred to cutlery as “tools” so sometimes when we’re together instead of offering to lay the table for dinner I’ll say “I’ll get the tools.” I still have my “lucky” sponge cake pans, they belonged to my grandmother and I used them when I first learned to make cakes and I have a fork she used to use to mix them with. I still use that sometimes although I’m lazy and prefer an electric mixer for most things.
Yes, there is a lot to be said for Hand Me Downs.
My regular readers will know that daydreaming about all the things I could do if only I had the money is a favourite pastime of mine. How nice it would be but I’m afraid all our aunties are already dead and none of them had a spare million dollars anyway. If I’m ever lucky enough to inherit or win a large some of money I’ll have it all planned out. So, an inheritance from an unknown aunt like on “Heir Hunters”. Hmm.
It is very easy really. The very first thing I would do after I’d established that it was genuine and that I didn’t have to pay money to some unknown person in Nigeria to collect would be to give half to my sister. After all it was her aunt too right?
I know she has a wish list as long as mine is and she works very hard at two jobs which are causing her physical discomfort. I’d enjoy watching her buy her dream home and not have to work so hard as much as I’d enjoy all the things I’d spend my half on.Of course I could just buy her a house but I know that she would prefer to choose it herself and own it herself just as I would. I’d still have the fun of going with her to look at houses and help her set it up the way she wanted.
Tamar River, Launceston, Tasmania
One of the nicest memories I have of growing up is the long talks that we would have at mealtimes, especially weekend breakfasts.
I’ve never liked to go out on an empty stomach and mum always made sure that my sister and I ate breakfast before we went to school but there wasn’t a lot of time to chat. We’d eat our cereal, toast, boiled eggs or porridge drink a cup of tea and off we went. Weekends were different though, we weren’t as rushed. We could dawdle over breakfast and dawdle we did.
Mum didn’t approve of staying in bed too late, she liked breakfast on the table by nine on weekends. We usually had eggs for breakfast, it was not considered a crime to eat fried bacon and eggs then and on Sundays that’s what we usually had. But it wasn’t just about the food, it was about having time to talk. Those were often the times when mum would tell us about her life, there would be stories about what it was like to be part of an army family living overseas, the things she and her sisters got up to and the pets they had. I was always fascinated by these stories as it was all so foreign. Mum remembered the names of the servants who helped my grandmother run their household, the children that she played with and the dolls she had. She’d tell us about the bazaars in Cairo and the jungle they lived near in India.
After a while we’d put the kettle back on the stove and brew another pot of tea while she told us more.
Mum was a great animal lover and she needed little prompting to tell us about the dogs and cats the family had owned. She remembered the names of every one of them, the things they did and what happened to them in the end. On other days she might talk about what it was like to come back to England, the different places the family lived, the jobs she had and the war. Mum was not quite eighteen when the war started so her stories were as much about the funny things that happened as the serious side of life.
Many times we said that she should talk into a tape recorder and tell all these stories but sadly we never got around to doing it. I wish we had because my memory is not as good as hers and as I get older I forget some of the details. I’m going to try to write a few of the things I do remember in this blog so at least they will be there for me to read again in the future and maybe other people will enjoy them as much as I did.
Of course we didn’t only talk about the past. Sometimes we talked about the future, how “When our ship came in” we would do this or that. The places we wanted to go, the home we would have and so on. It was building castles in the air I suppose but we didn’t care. It was nearly as pleasant to imagine it as to have it.
Eventually, sometimes after a third pot of tea had been made and consumed, mum would look at the clock and discover we’d been sitting at the table for two hours and that she had to put the Sunday roast in the oven and do other jobs or she would be “thrown back” so we’d break up the party. Of course we talked at other times too but those breakfast talks are the ones that I remember with the most pleasure.