Sunday, November 15, 2009

Where I'm from; at halfway.

Thanks to  Rb in the  last comments for pointing out I'm halfway through the month now.  It's not been particularly onerous, but then I don't feel that I've been challenging myself all that much, and you have all been marvellous about stopping by.  I hope it's not too onerous for you either, and my apologies for not getting around you all as much as you deserve.  So, onward.

One of the things I'd been thinking of doing this month was scanning some old family pictures which I only recently realised I had in my possession, having been telling my family for about the last 15 years that no, I hadn't got them and I didn't know where they were... (one of my nephews had scanned many of them and logged them carefully, so their absence wasn't too much of a cause for concern).  I have mixed feelings going through that kind of old stuff; it really depends on my mood.  Another blogger I know has said more than once that depression thrives on looking back, and I am aware that this is so; on the other hand I think sometimes you can put your toe into the bathwater of memory and find it's cooled down enough now for a brisk splash if not a full wallow.  And I am blessed in not having too much of a painful or difficult nature to look back on, even if I am of a nature that gets rather easily defeated and bogged down. 

So I thought I'd start with a photo from when I was about 5 I think.  It's quite an unusual one in that I am not actually scowling, most of them I am, partly the result of a somewhat serious/surly character as a child, partly from a congenital pronounced underbite barely fixed by protracted othodonic treatment in my teens. Then I thought I'd give 'Where I'm from' a go.

This idea's been around since long before I started blogging, most people have probably done it and forgotten it by now, but though I tracked down the template and kept it, I didn't get around to trying it, partly because I thought it was probably old hat to everyone, and also I suppose I felt a bit resistent to using a pro-forma.  But now I'm not so proud.  The template is here; it's worth using it but not too slavishly I think.


Where I'm from.

I am from Clarke's t-bar sandals, and a Mobo horse called Misty, from a house with many steps and landings, and a tufted red stair-carpet that my father made before I was born.

I am from a worn oval in the flagstones where the gutter had dripped forever, from flint and chalk and gravel,
from box hedges, London Pride and philadelphus, from Michaelmas daisies and from golden rod.

I am from sherry trifle, with one side without sherry because the kids didn't like it, from the kitchen door wide open to the night in summer as the great aluminium pan of raspberry jam bubbled on the stove.

For I am from self-reliance, making your own, it's what's inside that counts, from markets and from second-hand shops, Kitty Goode's and Mister Anstey's stall, and the Jewish fabric man, because bargains are more fun, from a conservative and self-effacing non-conforming.

I am from Harry who was really Henry, Marjory who was really Nelly (wishing that she wasn't...), from Uncle Jack who was Stanley, and Aunty Mary the nun, who was sometimes Philomena, from Davy who won races, and Ellen, whose father called her Rachel when she made him angry.

I am from the fields of Glastonbury and the tenements of Norwich, not really from the dull Home Counties where they raised me; from Snap the Dragon, Gasworks Hill and Colman's mustard, from Priddy Horse Fair and the Mendip Hills.

I am from green lorries with our name in red on them, from the oily yard and the smell of coal and diesel;
from men with lodges and with chapels and a longing for God, and women with inexplicable, or, rather, unexplained, sorrows, grievances and shame.

From people limited by circumstance, by hardship, fear and their own resentment.

From people of kindness and determination, of generosity and stoicism, who left things better than they found them, who liked to worship and have children, keep dogs and cats, to camp and cycle, fish and forage, to take photographs and cine films, write uncertain poetry and make truly awful puns.

I am from knowing it was safe to be ill, because Mum was a nurse and she knew what to do, and just when it was time to be better.

I am from the gateleg table, and the chairs that were too big for it, the china cupboards and the little brass gong in the hall.

I am from them and then and there, and I am from me and here and now.  And I am from knowing that it doesn't really matter where you're from.  Because that's what they showed me.



Zhoen said...

Love the photo. Balanced on a bucket holding a ball, all serious concentration.

Tried to do that meme, and it didn't fit at all.

julie said...

Yes, love the photo, Lucy. And interesting to see in conjunction with where you're from.

Crafty Green Poet said...

there's a lot of fascinating details in your 'where I'm from' piece.

herhimnbryn said...

All of that and here you are:)
Love the pic.

Barrett Bonden said...

Good stuff, Luce. Although there are plenty of references to people they are strictly objective and fit in with the idea of being defined by objects like the gateleg table. A physical boundary of sorts, unchanging and a comfort to a child. Interestingly these things do change as we grow older but still remain important. You have the enormous advantage of being further defined by your family name inscribed on oil tankers, something others (even other children) must have thought of as terrific swank and which you would have regarded as perfectly normal. I suspect the slight enormity of this must be one of those things that became more remarkable as a couple of years slipped by.

With all due deference to Plutarch I clap my hands about your attitude to being brought up in the boring Home Counties. A terrible disadvantage during middle-aged reminiscence. I loathe my West Riding origins with a passion but mine them constantly in writing and speech. Tell me, did anyone ever suggest, or did you ever imagine, you were precocious?

Rouchswalwe said...

Sugar and spice and everything nice!

rb said...

Awww that photo is lovely - very cat in the hat. Well, if you had put the bucket on your head and balanced on the ball it would have been. But that was what it made me think of.

Julia said...

Very lyrical. And I love the ball and red bucket picture, it is clearly you!

Thomas said...

Aaaaah! Isn't she just the georgeous one?

Thomas said...

Sorry. I meant gorgeous! I was overwhelmed and it sent my brain cells into a tizz.

Lucy said...

Thanks dears.

Z - it is a bit problematic; can lead to mawkishness one way or another, either through too much rosiness or too much self-pity. I was left feeling I hadn't told quite the whole story, or wondering if I'd been quite straight with myself. But I wanted to give it a try, and much of it sits OK.

BB - I still have the gateleg table! It's a nice piece of mahogany, which is a rarity now, though it needs repolishing. They weren't usually oil tankers, though I think they may have owned one, mostly they were flatbed lorries, sometime coal trucks. It was our surname they bore, but the initials were that of my Wicked Uncle Edgar, so the pride was always a little compromised, but that's another story. Yes, I was in many ways precocious, and givena hard time at school for using long words, as well as for having ancient parents, the two things being possibly not unrelated...

RB - I think I really wanted to balance on the ball, but found it impossible!

Julia - that's interesting, I feel it's so unlike my normal demeanor I even wonder if it was me, but I know it was. I was quite a little skinny thing too...

Tom - Cradle snatcher! You must have been nearly thirty when that picture was taken.

(We didn't know each other then, btw, lest anyone is worried...)

Plutarch said...

So much that is fascinating about places and people's names, even if you don't know them. They have their own own music and are full of their information. What a condensed and rich piece of autobiography. I enjoyed this post very much.
For BB's information, although I have spent much of my life in the home counties, two lengthy and influential episodes of childhood were Devon and subsequently in North Wales.

Bee said...

I'm so glad that you wrote this. It is so beautifully descriptive -- and with your inimitable and poetical stamp on it, too.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lucy,

So many memories. The gate leg table - I'm glad you still have it. I have made two replicas of that for different people.
The picture too, brings back so much. Thanks