Tuesday, 17 January 2012

All history is bunk

I'm probably misquoting Henry Ford and I am certainly taking him out of context but there is no way I can agree with his point of view. Although perhaps he is right and I just like some of the bunk! I find life, or the little details of other people's lives, endlessly fascinating. It is, to me, good to read of the life of an English lady in rural France (strictly speaking not yet history, I suppose) or about growing up in San Francisco after the war and comparing that with my own experience of growing up in England after the war. That was a time of shortages, not that we children realised there were shortages: we thought that was just how things always were. Those were the days when we would find a few odd scraps of wood and some rusty nails and build ourselves a cart. If we found we needed another nail we would go to the hardware shop and buy a single nail - and be given a paper bag in which to carry it home!

I read recently that the past informs the present, although that, perhaps, is not really relevant to my next comment. As you might know, one of my distractions is studying my family history. Although it is only during the last 200 years that it has been possible to learn much about the occupations etc of one's ancestors, even in that time one can see the truth of that old saying, like father, like son. There are some things that travel through the generations (and I don't mean like red hair). I'm talking about character traits. My wife's 2 x great grandfather was a pharmacist. His son was a keen photographer, this being in the days when being a photographer meant dealing with chemicals. I don't know about my wife's grandfather, but her father also dabbled in photography, developing and printing his own films. Am I being perhaps a little fanciful in seeing a family trait here? Well, how about an ancestor of mine back in the 17th century. He was a guardian of the poor and a magistrate. In the 20th century, two of his descendants became local councillors (one ending as mayor) and another was a trades union shop steward.

A copy of the birth certificate of my late father-in-law's step-sister has just arrived. I see that her father, my f-i-l's step-father, was a pen manufacturer and further research shows that for a while he owned a company making steel pens. This reminded me of my early schooldays when we learned to write using wooden pens into which steel nibs were inserted. Our desks had small, china inkwells in holes at the top right corner and every morning the class ink monitor would have to go round the room topping up the ink. There would also be two milk monitors to a class. In those days every school child was given a bottle of milk at school, one third of a pint. These had cardboard tops with a small tab at the side to pull them off. The monitors would fetch a crate of bottles for the class. On really cold mornings the bottles would be put on hot water pipes running along the side of the classroom to warm the milk. It was bad enough drinking cold milk but the warm milk was horrible! There would also be a straw monitor whose job was to hand out the drinking straws, although the tough guys would drink straight from the bottle if they could get away with it.

Ah, memories. History. . .

1 comment:

Stephen Hayes said...

The older I get the more vivid my childhood becomes. Why is that?