Tag Archives: memoirs

The First Time Ever ….. or a folkloric tale with a fantasy leitmotif

I know! I know! I told you last month that I was one step closer to  a special occasion involving  a little someone and her new friend. But here I am in September, still not ready, and still not properly dressed in purple, for our get together.  My friends and family will tell you that’s typical of me. These days I take forever to get ready for anything,  because I am easily distracted, as per my previous post where Mrs Cockalarum suddenly waylaid my attention.

And, now, thanks to a couple of queries from my lovely commenters, concerning the whereabouts of Mrs Cockalarum’s other half,  I am skipping jauntily down memory lane in search of Mr Cockalarum, almost entirely forgetful of present and future social engagements.

I can’t be sure where Mr Cockalarum is today, but I have encountered him ( or possibly his relatives) in numerous locations.  But  the first time ever I   heard him I would have been about this size i.e. pint-sized.

Mother and Child, Lautoka 1956. Churchill Park in the background.

The first time ever I remember hearing Mr Cockalarum I would have been about this size and revelling in a fantasy world  (what’s new!); that of Toad of Toad Hall.

Badger

And the first time ever I tried to record those remembrances I was in my late thirties, and living in Cairo. I typed them into our smart, new computer, and later read them as a bedtime story for my two children.

“In the half-dark of early morning I heard a rooster crow.  Dear Daughter, you said you heard a rooster crow in the summer, but I don’t remember hearing him. A rooster crow is not a normal sound for our part of Maadi. It made me wonder if one of our neighbours were fattening poultry for a special dinner.

When I was little I often heard a rooster crow in the early morning. It was a sound which belonged to my waking. In the summer, or the rainy season, a rooster would crow about 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning. I remember that time as the half-light of early morning. In the colder season, or the dry season, the crowing started at about 6 o’clock, just before the sun rose. That time always comes to my mind as the half-dark of early morning.

The other sounds, which were in my waking, for a few months of the year during the cane crushing  season, were those of the sugar cane trains.  The sugar cane trains clanged and made a ch-ch-ch chuddering sound as they prepared for work each morning. Photo by C R Auckland, August 2008 Loco no 11 entering Lautoka with a long train of approximately 45 loaded wagons.  

I hear the sound of the trains here in Maadi, too, but it is not the gentle, warming-up sound of slow, old trains which I knew as a child. Rather, it is the high speed whistle and whine of a fast, modern train. ( In fact, they are so fast we haven’t seen them, have we? Perhaps the sound we hear floats all the way from the Metro Line next to Road 9, and not from the tracks next to Kimo Market.)

Another sound of my morning, more regular than the trains or the rooster, was the call to prayer from the mosque.

Although we seem to be surrounded by mosques in Maadi, I have yet to hear an early morning call to prayer. I hear all the other calls, but not the first one. In Lautoka, I often heard the first call, and, sometimes, the evening call, but I don’t remember any of the others. Perhaps I was busy at school or swimming at the club, or playing with friends during the day. I liked the first call of the day. The mosque was on the other side of Churchill Park, catty- corner to  our house.

Home, Verona Street, Lautoka

The call floated clearly over our neighborhood. I didn’t know what was being said, but I liked the song of it; the way it wove through and over the early morning air and out to an endless beyond. Later, when I was slightly older, the call changed in tone because it was delivered through loud speakers. The sublime purity of the call was masked as it struggled with the crackles and harshness of the new technology of speakers. The change made me sad for a while.

In Maadi, the mosques have loud speakers, too. Sometimes, I wish I could hear the solitary, unaided call of the muezzin again. I miss its beauty; its resonance.
What do you hear as you wake in the morning? ” Maadi, Cairo, November, 1994.

There was no YouTube in 1994  to give my children an opportunity to hear a call to prayer similar to  the one I knew as a child. Today I found this clip.

This  took me home again to a time of great happiness and love; a time when, by and large, my small world was a friendly, welcoming place, rich in experience, and a delight to play in.

As for the elusive Mr Cockalarum; perhaps you hear him, or have heard him, in your neighborhood.

 

An Honest House: A Memoir by Cynthia Reyes

I don’t often reblog but Diane’s review expressed, so perfectly, my feelings about Cynthia’s latest memoir that I couldn’t resist. Thank you, Diane; thank you, Cynthia.

Diane Taylor

An Honest House is a rich memoir that moves through a ten-year period of Cynthia Reyes’s life. In the midst of a successful career, family life with children blooming, she and her husband move to an old farmhouse surrounded by gardens they love. It’s just north of Toronto. Against this idyllic backdrop, PTSD strikes.

An Honest House, a second memoir by Cynthia Reyes An Honest House, a second memoir by Cynthia Reyes

A car accident leaves Reyes with debilitating pain and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and its attendant depression, inability to concentrate, inability to sleep, nightmares, regimens of pain killers, difficulty walking and years of physio. The dream house becomes a prison.

In case you are thinking this is a hard luck story, it’s not. Good memoirs bring light into the world, and An Honest House beams light from every page. Bit by bit, from deepest despair to light-hearted jocularity, we accompany Cynthia Reyes as she “grows up”, to use…

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Recorded Time

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,

Memoirs of Cairo and Christchurch

Memoirs of Cairo and Christchurch

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.

Apricots on the Nile by Colette Rossant

Apricots on the Nile 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.

Eventful Years by Sir Ernest Andrews

Eventful Years by Sir Ernest Andrews

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,

My mother in her happy place.

My mother in her happy place.

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.

Like a wedding dress; a camellia at Mona Vale, another of my mother's happy places.

Like a wedding dress; a camellia at Mona Vale, another of my mother’s happy places.

© silkannthreades