In my previous post, but one, I mentioned that Sheri de Grom had nominated me to join the Travel Blog. One of the questions she asked me to consider, in relation to the nomination, was this:
“What am I working on at the moment?”
The short answer to that is, nothing much; except what is coming to life, right now, as my fingers touch the keyboard.
I am, however, reading; reading memoirs,
and preparing, in my thoughts and heart, a small post to add to my private, family history blog. Perhaps, in a few days hence, the time will be right to commit thoughts to virtual paper. I hope so, for otherwise I will be in danger of forgetting the stories that came to me whilst I sat with the old ones. As Kerry reminded us the other day; ‘Write it down, label your family treasures, be a record keeper. Do it now.’
And it is precisely because some people take serious note of advice such as Kerry’s that I am now enjoying two memoirs, written about vastly different countries, by vastly different authors, but having, in common, all the intricacies, complexity and vibrancy of family and family relationships.
The first memoir is Apricots on the Nile, A Memoir with Recipes, by Colette Rossant.
Colette Rossant’s memoir includes the years she spent, as a child, in the care of her wealthy grandparents and their large extended family, in their mansion in Garden City, Cairo. Although the Egyptian reminiscences relate mainly to the period from 1937 to 1947, the timelessness of Cairo and the equal timelessness of family events ( deaths, births, weddings, picnics, holidays, guests, gossip and weddings ) meant that my own experience of Cairo life, in the late 1990s, came flowing through me, again, deep and rich as the Nile itself.
Closer to home, is the memoir Eventful Years, by Sir Ernest Andrews, my great great uncle.
Sir Ernest, or Uncle Ernie, as my mother called him, was a Christchurch City Councillor for thirty-two years, and nine of those years he served as Mayor of Christchurch. He began his Council service in 1918 and retired in 1950. During his time in local politics, he witnessed the 1918 Flu Epidemic, the Great Depression, the 1931 Napier Earthquake, the Second World War and the Ballantynes’ fire . Eventful Years covers all these events and more, but what is not specifically mentioned is that, during his tenure as Mayor, he lived in his daughter and son-in-law’s modest, two bedroom home, with their four children and my mother. Quite a houseful! But my mother loved living in that vibrant, occasionally rambunctious, household of young and not so young; helping with the little ones whilst their mother acted as Mayoress for the widowed Sir Ernest. My mother was still living there when she married; her wedding photos were taken in the beautiful garden of that compact home,
her wedding reception was held there, and, even after her marriage, she returned to stay with the family, until my father’s family moved to Christchurch, and she was able to move in with her husband and her in-laws. Thus it was in Christchurch in those years. Though very much smaller in scale and wealth, not so very different to a similar period in a large, lively family in Cairo, at least as far as familial ties, and caring and sharing, were concerned. ( I doubt, however, that my staunch Methodist relatives indulged in poker parties as the Palacci family did! 🙂 ).
“So, as I end this stage of the family history, sketchy as of necessity it has had to be, I again place on record what I owe to a long list of brave and honourable forbears, and especially to the example and influence of a good father and a gracious mother.” (Eventful Years, Chapter X )
I would also place on record that the last time I looked, more than a year ago, this special house in our family history was still standing but it was in an area badly affected by the 2010/2011 earthquakes. I do not know if it remains today.
And, in case you are wondering, this is not the story I am planning for my family history blog. I have quite another in mind. This one is at the periphery of that one to come.
And, again, in case you are wondering why I removed the dust jackets of the memoirs, it is to acknowledge the importance of recording the outer and the inner, the cover and the contents, as can be seen in The Art of the Dust Jacket; the latest exhibition organised by our City Council funded Art Gallery in our City Council funded Central Library. ( Can I hear Uncle Ernie’s approval of these initiatives? He was not only a councillor but a writer, an educator, a printer and a publisher.)
Finally, for not much reason at all….save that it is lovely, and is the result of our City Council’s long-standing support of public gardens… a winter camellia at Mona Vale.
I’m going to buy Apricots on the Nile today!!! Thank-you.
I enjoyed it. And I enjoy reading stories that aren’t too long and books that are a nice, comfortable handful!
That’s my kind of pace, too!
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Thanks for sharing your current readings… Musings and nice words…
I loved the photos too, particularly the one of your mom.
Best wishes, Aquileana 🙂
Thank you, Aquileana. 🙂
Thank you for telling us about your current reading. Apricots on the Nile sounds especially beguiling – not that I need any more books to read – and yet…
Oh, I know that feeling……I think we all have piles of books higher than our heads that are waiting to be read!
I love the picture of your mother in her wedding dress. Is that a wisteria behind her? Gardens are definitely the happy places on earth. ❀
Blessings ~ Wendy ❀
Thank you Wendy. The plant is not a wisteria; that I do know. I have been told the name of the tree but I can’t for the life of me remember, now, which just shows I should have written down the information when I was told it! It’s a weeping ???? something. 😦
It took some time, but I finally identified why your mother looks so familiar. I had a school chum whose face and lovely smile very much resembled hers. The wedding photo is lovely. Those single strands of pearls were not only elegant, they often were family heirlooms. And the ruffles down the front of her dress complement her veil so beautifully. Does anyone wear a wedding veil any more? The last wedding I saw, all of the dresses were above the knee (including the brides) and cut, as my mother might have said, “Down to there.” I do try to avoid clucking, but I’ll admit it right here. I much prefer your mother’s portrait.
Cairo. Really? I have to ask — have you been to Alexandria? I still am filled with a terribly romantic longing to visit an Alexandria I know darned well isn’t there any more. Still… Perhaps I’ll revisit it in imagination a time or two again.
Your mention of the Napier earthquake (new to me) reminded me I just skimmed an interesting article about the recent Alaska quake, suggesting that it might be linked to New Zealand. Every scientist has a theory, of course, and I tend to read past most of them, particularly now that butter can come back on the table and coffee’s good for us. I never stopped eating butter or drinking coffee through those fussy years. Now, I find I’m justified!
I have been to Alexandria and enjoyed my visits immensely. It’s now about 16 years since I was in Egypt but I really don’t believe the essence of the country will have changed. Egypt is Egypt and always has been….I can read something like Once to Sinai https://archive.org/details/oncetosinaithefu008226mbp or Apricots on the Nile or watch a film like Cairo Time and I can say, “Yes, that’s my Egypt”. I am saddened by what is happening now but all will be well.
Your comment on my mother’s pearls stopped me in my tracks. I thought, heirloom; yes; I have my mother’s pearls and wore them on my wedding day. Then I realised that the pearls I have, and wore at my wedding, are not the ones that my mother wore on her wedding day. I wonder if she remembers where those pearls came from.
I love the photo of your mother! And the flower is beautiful too. I **wish** I had more time to read! Before the babies arrived, I used to read every night… definitely preferred books over television. Now I just pass out at the end of the day 😉
Ah, yes, I had years of little or no-reading for myself. But eventually there is time again. 🙂 There is something special about the old black and white wedding photos, isn’t there? 🙂
Yes, there is! I love them. I had my nanna’s wedding portrait up in my room for a long time. It was black and white (or rather, sepia) and someone had hand coloured it.
I look forward to reading again… books, that is 🙂
My grandparents were married about 1918. I don’t think there are any photos. 😦 There are other family photos which have been hand coloured but I don’t have them ie they belong to other family members.)
Whilst you wait to read again, I am sure you will fall in love with children’s books. And, of course, lovely cookery books.
Lovely post and I do love that camellia at the end. You are right- it is as beautiful as a wedding dress!
Thank you Joanne. The camellia actually made me think of my own very simple wedding dress but I couldn’t find a good photo of it, so I thought my mother’s dress would be more suitable to sit next to the flower.
Beautiful! I’ve been interested in Cairo forever it seems. I should check out this little ditty. : )
It’s a fascinating place and home to some great stories. Oleander Jacaranda, A Childhood Perceived by Penelope Lively is a great memoir of a child’s experience of Cairo http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/207761.Oleander_Jacaranda
Added to my Goodreads list…thanks, Gallivanta!
A wonderful post and discussion!!! We owe a great deal to those who came before us. Over the past few months, I have become more aware that we owe a great deal to those who come after. What you are doing is giving honour to your family, which is also a way to give meaning to the wider, ever growing, global community.
Clanmother, we do owe those who come after. We need to make sure they have a heritage they can cherish and grow by.
What a wonderful, happy photo of your mother in her wedding dress. 🙂
I think she probably felt very relaxed in a familiar, familial setting.
What a perfect post for me to read today as I spent the last few days organizing photos and keepsakes that have been scattered here and there throughout the house. I have often thought that these would be great tools for writing memoirs as they jog the memories of things that have happened and places we’ve been. It also brings comfort, knowing that if I had to pick things up in a hurry, those things I treasured most would be all together…waiting for rescue.
Mrs P you are wonderfully organised! I need to follow your example. I may be recording but I am NOT filing and I would have a terrible time collecting everything up if I had to.
I am not as organized as it sounds but I am doing it in phases. right now, I have almost everything of value in one spot. My overall plan is to have a way to grab these things in a quick escape. Having been in a house fire, someone else’s not mine, I know the devastation it can create and how little time there is to collect important things. For example, we had time to grab my purse and their big dogs but not their bearded dragons. They had to wait until they were rescued by firemen. My organizing is a preventative measure based on experience.
But, at least, you are doing something! Little by little, a lot will happen. Preventative measures are an excellent plan. I may have told you that, a long time ago, the office where my husband worked burned to the ground. A great deal of information was lost but, fortunately, because it was in the days of triplicate paper copies they managed to retrieve a lot of information from other offices. Still it was not a fun time. No people were hurt; thank goodness.
I had not heard about your husband’s office. How terrible it must have been…and you understand my desire to circumvent a repeat performance. 😉
I completely understand your motives.
Oh both of these books look so yummy to read! They will be put on my long list. As you know from my post this week, reading is very important to my heart. Loved this post my friend.
Our books-to-read list just gets longer and longer doesn’t it? We are fortunate to have so much choice.
I love the way your posts always seem to have multiple threads of ideas and insights, yet you manage to weave them together and make memorable connections. When I first read this, I thought, “She has so much going on in there–it could be three posts!” But the, as I re-read it, I realized the richness comes because it ISN’T 3 posts!
Kerry, you are right! It could have been three posts, and possibly more, but they did seem to fit together. There are actually many, many more connections between my life, my family’s history and Cairo/Egypt and Christchurch and that fascinates me. I am sure when my grandfather was there in WW1 he would not have imagined that his granddaughter would, one day, live there. And when I saw the dust jacket for Apricots on the Nile, the first thing that struck me was the pocket knife; I immediately thought of the little pocket knife my grandfather carried with him and the many times he used it to cut up little slices of apple for me, particularly when we were on the road.
I understand you have a family of recording, writing and documenting – your way of finding threads to follow, and photos to go with your words all end up in a beautifully woven story of life. You are truly a master of this.
The photo of your beloved mother shines and so does the lovely camellia. Unfortunately camellias do not grow here, but I adore them.
Thank you Ann-Christine; you are always such an appreciative reader. 🙂 Unfortunately, this type of camellia refuses to grow (nicely) in my garden, but they grow very well in other parts of Christchurch.
If only everyone felt the importance of keeping family history. Future generations of your family will be grateful for your work. I wish I had asked my grandmother more about her parents before her mind became so muddled. I now reside in the part of the world where they came from (Slovakia) and I feel a real connection to this place. Your Uncle Ernie sounds like a character.
I hope someone in the family will be interested. 🙂 I also hope that one day I will visit the Isle of Wight, home to the Leigh branch of our family. I believe that I will feel very connected there. I think we know, in our bodies, in our feet, when we are on family ground. It feels right/balanced. Have you been able to identify any family homes or headstones in Slovakia? Judging from his memoirs, Uncle Ernie was a character, and that rare creation, a good, modest, caring politician. 🙂
I instantly felt comfortable when I came here. It’s a physical feeling, a marked lessening of anxiety. Yes, the body knows when it’s home. I still have cousins who live in that region north of here, on ancestral land, which is actually now in the very south of Poland in the foothills of the Carpathians. The border with Slovakia is just behind their house. One of the families likes history and took me to their graveyard, but the other side of the family absolutely won’t speak of it. They think it’s odd that we’re so interested in the past.
I do hope you can visit the Isle of Wight one day.
Yes, definitely, a letting go (of something). Interesting that one side of the family doesn’t want to speak of the family history. Sometimes, family can be completely disinterested, other times I think it is because it is actually physically and mentally exhausting to try and remember. The other day, my son asked me some questions about his earlier years; after about 5 minutes I said, ” That’s enough. I am tired of remembering!” 😀
What a lovely picture of your mom and the wedding dress is beautiful. Memoirs and memories – my grandfather died a few years back and oh how I wished I’d been able to record some of his stories. I like memoirs that come in the form of letters – read a great one on the letters of American writer John Steinbeck. CND author Robertson Davies as well. Letters, personally written, really bring a person to live. Great post.
Letter memoirs, or memoirs with many personal letters, are wonderful. I guess it’s not always possible to capture all the family stories we would like to. Losing some of the stories is also part of the family history. 🙂
You’ve done it again. A beautiful and sensitive post of weaving the threads until they become the rich fabric of silk that is your life. I believe recording our own time may be the toughest writing assignment we’ll ever receive.
It may well be the toughest assignment! With reference to silk fabric, Sir Ernest has a lovely anecdote in Eventful Years where he describes how he came to possess a silk parachute. I think this was in the immediate post war years and he gave it to his daughter who was very pleased to have yards of the finest quality white silk and silken chord. I can imagine her excitement after years of rationing.
Gallivanta – Can you imagine the thrill of having such a fine fabric in your hands after all those years of doing without? Most women, during the time period you reference, in the US knew how to make lace and tatting and other decorative items for fine clothing – when they could get the material to use of course. Oh, the beauty of silk after all the years of doing without the finer things in life.
I’m also attempting to write a piece of family history but I’ve put it away for now. There’s simply too many other things going on.
I so wish I had a neighbors fence row to collect camellia’s from:) Sheri
Yes, writing family history needs quiet, concentrated time, I find. Sometimes my family history papers have been put away for years.
This all sounds like the perfect mid-winter activities to me! A beautiful – and most interesting – post.
Thank you Pauline.There are many ways to record time, record memories, and make them. With regard to making them, I am thinking of your beautiful box to book project and the family heirloom it will become. http://paulinekingblog.wordpress.com/2014/04/05/box-to-book-finished-and-given-at-last/ How is the gorgeous Siddy? And the gorgeous Orlando, of course!
Thank you for the mention of the book – I hope it will too. Thank you for asking after my little menagerie also. Every day brings changes – the puppy is in his 12th week and today tried his hand at being an alarm raiser when visitors came to the door. Orlando has decided his tail must at all times hang gracefully towards the floor and is truly discombobulated when the puppy jumps at it…………..It’s an adventure 🙂
Hmmmm….menagerie conjures up thoughts of parrots and budgies…are you game? 😀 My Jack will bark at anything if given a chance. Of course, the only time he was apparently silent was when our mail box was trashed. How he failed to hear that I do not know. (Or maybe I didn’t hear him growling?)
That seems more than a houseful that your mother used to live in. I still could not imagine how a two bed room house could fit the number of adults and children 🙂 That winter camellia is beautiful.
I think I stayed in that house once or twice myself. I was only small at the time so it seemed a reasonable size to me. And the garden was big. My own childhood home only had 2 bedrooms and I thought it was BIG. When I saw it as an adult I couldn’t believe how small it looked.
What an interesting post. Its tone feels appropriate somehow to the marvelous mess of a large family living together under one small roof, with the “familial ties and caring and sharing”. How lovely that you shared this with us, and I look forward to reading more about your family.
Thank you Cynthia. In Fiji, where I grew up, we were just a small nuclear family. We only met our wider family every couple of years. I used to love hearing my mother’s stories about her aunts and uncles and cousins; the family outings, picnics, camping trips and holiday gatherings. They were stories far removed from my day to day world. I also loved books about large families. The Five Little Peppers come to mind. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_Little_Peppers
I love the old family photos. They are like gateways into another place and time. Beautiful camellia. We lost our red one when the place was rebuilt. We had asked the contractor to dig it up with the back hoe so I could save it, but he forgot and flattened it instead. 😦
Oh no! Do you have other camellias to compensate? A painter working here, once upon a time, painted out my wall markings of the children’s heights, despite being asked NOT to touch that area. It was a big 😦 moment. Fortunately, he hadn’t put on the second coat of paint, so I managed to rescue most of the markings! Both memoirs are full of lovely old photos. Fascinating gateways, as you say, to the past.
You must be very proud of your Uncle Ernie (and a ‘Sir” none the less!) WOW. It must be so interesting reading his memoir knowing he is so closely related.
I love the photo of your mother. She is glowing with happiness 😀
Thank you Dianne. It is a lovely photo, isn’t it? And from all accounts, it was a happy time. I don’t know that I ever met Uncle Ernie; I was very young when he died, but my mother always spoke of him with great fondness and admiration.
What a fascinating little bit of family history – and you say it is on the periphery of the one to come? I very much look forward to the ones to come then!
Me too! I wonder how long it will take to get my thoughts into written form!!! Speaking of how long things take, I am reminded of your trial of the tracking app http://womanseyeview.me/2014/04/18/every-kilometre-counts/ You may be interested that Sir Ernest published the New Zealand Motorists’ Road Guides. But he didn’t only publish them; with a driver and a friend he travelled NZ by car, writing up the roads and making rough sketch-maps for the Guide Books. They were quality tested, the hard way!
What a beautiful bride your mother was, in that garden she was happy. You have an amazing family with interesting people in it! I am sure it is great to read your uncle’s book, knowing you are a relative. 🙂
I have read Eventful Years more than once. Each time I read it, I discover something new, or a piece of information, that I have overlooked. It is a small book but packed with stories. My mother has written some wonderful family stories too. And so has my grandfather. The maternal side of my family were great record keepers. Don’t you love the flowers in the bridal bouquet and on the veil? I think they probably came from a home garden. 🙂
You are right , what a lovely idea. that lst flower in your post looks also so beautiufl , perfect for a bride!
It would be a perfect flower for a bride. 🙂
memoirs / beauty / colors
Gosh, you told my story perfectly, in three words. I love it!
Interesting and what a beautiful photo of your mother. I also enjoy memoirs.
Thank you Ellen. It is one of my favourite photos of my mother. I enjoy memoirs too. The two I mentioned were both very short which I appreciated.
Such interesting history and I love the Camilla!
The camellia was a beauty to behold on the grey, rainy day I came upon it.
The winter camellia is beautiful. ‘Write it down’ is I think excellent advice, I know I often forget things my mother tells me about the family and I am sure I am going to regret that hugely in the future, so from now on I will scribble a few notes about whatever she mentions. Thank you for the timely reminder. 😉
I try hard to scribble things down or record them on my family history blog; my scribbles are very disorderly, so I don’t know how much use they will be to anyone. 😦 And each time I write down something, I realise how much more I don’t know/remember about my family!
You always share a combination of other and self. I find your images and commentary engaging.
Thank you Sally. I do love looking at the ways everything connects together in and around my life.