Thursday, 29 April 2010

Photographic memory

Have you ever found an old photo in a box that raises a lot of questions? Here is mine. Here is the Grandmother I never knew with two of her 7 children. I am guessing that the shot was taken in the early 1930’s. The family were quite well off for the time, as they had a car, and here is my grandma, my aunt and one of my uncles sat on the running board. I don’t know where it was taken, or who took it, but someone thought it was important to capture the moment.
Where were the other four children (no 7 probably wasn’t born when the photo was taken)? Did my grandfather take the photo? Is that why my grandmother is sitting in the driving seat? Why was it so important to take such an ordinary photo? Was the photographer just trying out a new camera? I find it puzzling that there was a moment of spontaneity from my somewhat austere grandfather. Or perhaps a friend wanted to capture my grandmother with a rare carefree smile.
Eighty years on, her grand-daughter is never without her small digital camera tucked in her handbag. I think Grandma Daisy would have approved of that.

Addenda - in the 12 hours since I posted this photo, my Dad has identified the car as a Wollesley Straight Six, and Mum says the photo was taken at the weekly cricket match at Sutton on the Forest where my grandpa played on the team.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Flashing back to the '50s

A self-indulgent memory post this morning. I recently acquired a new tablecloth. Well, not new new, but new to me. I believe it was a “gift from the Almighty”, as I don’t exactly have money to buy non-essentials at the moment. After I had washed out the fusty, second hand “stored too long” smell out of it, I realised what a gem I had found. Not only that, as I was ironing it, I had a full colour, 3D flashback to my childhood. The memory is only about 40 years old, but I had to smile, as it would indicate I have joined that age group where distant memories are often more vivid than yesterday’s shopping list.
The cloth is the style which has the design “cut out”, and each cut edge is stitched with a coffee coloured over-lock; delicate without being too fussy. The memory involved a small living room in a 1950s bungalow in Yorkshire, my childhood home. We had two armchairs covered in dark blue moquette, with a wooden hand rest on each wide arm. The back of the chair had an antimacassar on it – I think designed to be a Brylcreem repellent. Uncle Ernie was a barber and fond of an oil slick or two, so was Dad and my Grandpa Cyril. So the antimacassar was a barrier to a permanent greasy stain on the headrest.
For some reason, my mum had a set of tray cloths in the same design. Or perhaps it was that the tray cloths were antimacassars “surplus to requirements” as we only had two armchairs. I don’t know.
My mum did use the tray cloths with a lovely coffee set she had when her lady friends came around for a coffee afternoon. She made coffee half milk, half water, and put a glass device, like an overweight coaster in the bottom of the milk pan to stop it boiling over. The minute it rattled, you knew it was time to dart into the kitchen and turn off the gas.
I am left wondering if my love of all things 1950s resides in the happy childhood I experienced in the cute little house furnished by a couple who have now been married 53 years.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Remembering the fallen

I doubt there is a town on the S. Island that doesn't have some kind of War Memorial. In the Otago town of Oamaru, this is how the troops who fell in Palestine, Gallipoli, Montecasino, and the Pacific - to mention a few, are commemorated.
For some reason this year, commemorating those who died in the World Wars (and all the others in the 20th century), seems more poignant.
My mother served in WWII in the Observer Corps. My Aunt was a WAAF. My great Uncle served in Italy and N. Africa, another great Uncle fought in WWI and lived to the age of 101. The collective memory of these wars is dying out with my generation. Soon there won’t be many people who can say, “I was there”, or even “I remember my parents telling me stories of the war.” Holocaust survivors are dying out. Soon there will be no one to say “I was liberated by the Americans” or “I am the last of my family”.
I have pondered, what does that mean not just for the collective memory, but also for the collective responsibility that we have to remember.

Friday, 16 April 2010

A word from our sponsor

Dear Readers, This is a heads up that I have added adsense to my blog, which means that you will see some adverts on the sidebar (below the map). This is evidently a way you can make money through a blog (which isn't my intention for having one). I think this is rather funny, as I don't have a lot of visitors (average about 40 a day currently), so this is a wee experiment to see how many people might actually click on the advert.

Go on, you know you want to:-)

Thursday, 15 April 2010

A Leetle catlick 'ere and z'ere

In case you should think I am guilty of partiality with my fur kids, here is Ms Tortie sitting in her latest Happy Place, washing and watching her reflection in the window.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Ode to a bagpuss

This is the fearsome beast that came home injured last night but purred when I carried him into the house and behaved impeccably at the vet today. This is the same animal who curls up with my husband and keeps him company at the computer for hours at a time, or does a mean impersonation of a hotwater bottle.

6.9kg and still can't win a fight

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Signs and Wonders

Sign outside a Fish and Chip shop in Geraldine, New Zealand

Postbox in Eastbourne, New Zealand

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Join me for a coffee at "Steam"

Close to the Victorian Railway station in Oamaru is "Steam", which serves the best miniature Beef Bourginon pies I have ever tasted. And these characters are sitting outside every day - Scottish time travellers.........

Friday, 9 April 2010

Mainland Postboxes

On the road to Naseby, Dansey's Pass Road West

On the deer farm, Dansey's Pass East

Thursday, 8 April 2010

History back to front

This week I became the proud owner of a very old tartan coach blanket for a mere $10. Granted it had a couple of moth holes in it, but the quality and age of the fabric was unmistakable. My dad owns a blanket just like it, which belonged to his great grandfather, who was a coachman at one of Britain’s stately homes.
Having got my treasure home, I wasn’t sure what to do with it, until this evening. That is when my “history lesson in reverse” happened.
I took a mental journey back to 2001. I was on business in a country in the Arabian Gulf. Half way through an important negotiation I heard the excruciating sound of bagpipes being strangled outside. At first my brain couldn’t process sitting in 45 degrees Celsius and hearing pipes wafting through the windows. I quickly made an “Ah, the British were here, and they must have taught the local military boys to play the pipes on parade” connection. But this sat uneasily with dark skinned musicians in long flowing white robes, and for another reason that I couldn’t quite place.
This evening I decided what I was going to do with my amazing blanket – recover some large cushions that we put on the floor to sit on. The cushions were purchased in Oman, and made up a Majlis set, comprising a large oriental rug and eight heavily padded cushions. They are designed to prop against the wall, to make reclining on the floor more comfortable.
As I was happily swathing my Arab cushions in tartan, I suddenly realised I had my history back to front. The British didn’t introduce bagpipes to the Arabs; it was the other way around. The concept of a sheep skin filled with air and played in a musical register alien to the European ear was a Middle Eastern invention, most probably taken back during the Crusades or on the many trading ships of earlier centuries.
Wrapping a heavy plaid around a piece of Arab furniture made me realise how easy it is to get things the wrong way around.

For Sale, desirable hole in the ground

Who lives here, who can tell? They are cute, they look cuddly, but cor blimey, they smell!

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Living at Latitude 44 degrees below

Oamaru, N. Otago, New Zealand 44 degrees 58' Latitude South

Bordeaux and Belgrade share the same Latitude North but they don't have penguins.

Monday, 5 April 2010

51 Teapots arrested

Drunk in charge of a teabag.

N. Otago, New Zealand

Mount Cook version 1

The sun was so strong on the lake, I wasn't sure if my modest little digital camera would be able to make out Mount Cook. Just to be sure, I took the second shot with an improvised filter - my sunglasses!

Mount Cook version 2

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Baa Codes

Working animals are really remarkable; especially dogs that manage to herd deer or sheep. The former have nasty pointy things on their heads and are BIG to a dog, the others are just stupid, and how would you like to spend your day running around after thermal sweaters on legs?
Last week we stayed on a deer farm and arrived at the homestead just as the dogs arrived back after a day of worrying deer. They were vocal and wanted to tell us about their day. The other dogs we didn’t see because we were sat in a car at the time, surrounded by merino sheep. The dogs were in the ditches at either side of the road, keeping the sheep in one tight flock. We sat in the car whilst the flurry of woolly jumpers snuggled round us. Those who were tempted to eat a snack of grass on the verge were soon snapped to attention by the dog quivering in the ditch, just waiting to give the sheep “what for”.
The amusing parenthesis to this flock of sheep on a small road was the shepherd at the back with his mobile phone, chatting to the lady half a mile down the road, warning any cars about the oncoming tsunami of woolly sweaters. I think she was probably the shepherd’s mum, as there was a likeness, and she had that “Nothing fazes me, I’m a farmer’s wife” look about her.
All in a day’s work in N. Otago.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Sleek prototype hybrid

It seems the ultimate hybrid car was in fact invented in Otago, NZ. Remember, you heard it here first.

Pull up a pebble (instead of a pillow)

Just one of the wonderful encounters in the last five days. With love from the Mainland