Friday, 5 June 2009

Memory lane...

Dominic Rivron started this meme back here. The rules are just post an old photo of yourself and write a short piece to go with it (written in the present tense). The others I have seen so far are over with the Weaver of Grass, Dick Jones and Barbara Smith (all fascinating and so different). I guess critics of blogs might say 'look at them all – so keen to talk about themselves' but most of those critics are journalists who write about themselves in columns and articles till the cows come home so I'm really not going to worry about them! At its best I think the blogosphere can work like a great big lively communal diary project... and I've always loved diaries and people (for the most part...) so I'm happy to take part. Here's my snap.



It is 1978 (I think, no date on photo) but if that's right then I am eleven and just at the end of primary school (all girls, private, quite academic, green uniforms...I'm wearing my school shoes on this picture). This photo shows me in the garden of the fourth home I have known so far (all in the north east of England though). We have moved several times since my Dad died in 1973 and at this stage I still think he died of a heart attack or something. This house is in a village called Winston in county Durham (near Barnard Castle) in half an old rectory up on a hill (near a graveyard...kind of spooky at times). I guess there's a church nearby somewhere too. By now most of the family have moved on elsewhere so at home there is only Mum and me and our new pup Ginny (an English Setter...chosen by my brother David who has fancy taste). I wanted to call this dog Purdey (after Joanna Lumley's character in 'The New Avengers') but luckily my two brothers intervened and said 'no way, Mum tell her that's stupid!' (or something along those lines). The name Ginny came from Virginia Wade because she won Wimbledon in 1977 and my Mum has always been a huge tennis fan. It was the only name we could agree on. My (half) sisters are much older than me (in fact they left home before I was born) but now neither of my brothers is at home much either – one is at uni in London and the other is already at the Quaker boarding school where I will go after the summer. I am very excited about that but have no idea what it will be like (that's another whole post...). For now I am blissfully ignorant as regards my future and I spend my time doing loads of homework because at eleven I love schoolwork with a passion and am very much top of the class. I guess I am a swot...but I'm quite a feisty one so if you dare call me that I will at least think about bashing your face in (two big brothers - I'm scared of nothing!). I also love listening to music (records and radio), playing schools, playing with the puppy and, when the weather is good, exploring all the countryside around our house. Unlike some of the other places we've lived there aren't many kids in this village (certainly none nearby) so I do quite a lot of that exploring on my own. The river Tees is just a short walk away (down a steep hill that I love to slide down) and I like to just go and sit and look at the water. In the evenings my Mum and I watch a lot of TV together ('Poldark' and 'Nationwide' spring to mind...) and we eat huge big starchy meals and a lot chocolate. Life is simple (or it seems that way to me). Boy, am I in for some surprises come the autumn...


p.s. I went way over the word limit of 200. Verbose, moi?
x

34 comments:

Sorlil said...

This is great, really like the snippet into your past, love the stories and the picture. The blissful innocence of youth, eh!

I'll get around to doing mine at some point when I can manage to dig out some old photies!

Rachel Fox said...

It is interesting. I could have kept going with details forever...like I am wearing a Snoopy watch on that picture (very prized possession!) and a Thelwell t-shirt (not quite so delightful). And that tracksuit top...I would wear that now...well, maybe a slightly bigger size.
x

McGuire said...

Nice insight into the photograph and your life at the time. It's quite tragic in a way, looking back at photos of our younger selves. But they do hold the keys to so much that happened while we existed.

Your father didn't die of a heart attack? What was it, if you don't mind?

And you went to a Quaker school? - The actualy Qaukers or am I being stupid?

Makes me feel strangely nostalgic to see this picture. Sad to see how we all grow up and grow away. Time erasers what memory can't keep.

Anyway, I don't mean to be depressing, I enjoyed this piece of autobiography.

Poetikat said...

What do you mean by "I still think dad died of a heart attack or something"?

I was watching Poldark with my Mom too.

I think Purdey would have been a good name for the dog, by the way.

You look quite content in this photo.

Kat

hope said...

First Susan wants a story in 55 words and now you request a blast from the past with 200 words. Oddly, I think yours will be the easiest to comply with. :)

I agree with the dog's name...it should reflect the dog, not what some dopey brother wants to name it. You let a little boy name a dog and you get "Spock", which is exactly what he named our first dog. Because he was the youngest. ;)

Rachel Fox said...

McGuire - where have you been? I've mentioned it loads! Only kidding...I am aware that people have their own lives too...

I did consider not mentioning my Dad at all in this post but then it is relevant - most kids would be talking about Mum and Dad at 11, wouldn't they? The details are that he killed himself in '73 but as I was only 6 I suppose it was too hard to explain (plus I imagine everyone was very upset/busy/shocked). I don't think anyone actually lied to me about how he died I just made up a scenario in my head (probably from TV) in which he collapsed onto a bed with a heart attack (or something). We didn't talk about him much as I got older (he'd always been working anyway...it wasn't like day-to-day life was so different for me with him gone) and it was only when I went to secondary school that a girl in my class said 'hey, your Dad slit his wrists, didn't he?' I think I probably said 'no' and then went to ring my Mum. It was a bit of a shock...but much worse things happen to other people, much bigger shocks.

As for the question about Quakers...I don't quite know what you mean. There are a few Quaker schools in the UK (the one I went to is closed now). They tend to be quite liberal (certainly no canings - even back in the days when other schools had that kind of punishment) and you go to meeting instead of church. Ours was a school a bit down on its luck so it took a lot of people that councils couldn't place in state schools for various reasons (special needs, mental problems, very bad behaviour...). There were also quite a lot of forces kids, a lot of kids whose parents were electricians in the middle east, stuff like that. There were very few Quakers (maybe 3 or 4). It made for an interesting mix - very poor academic record though!

That dog, by the way, lived a full and happy life!

x

Rachel Fox said...

p.s. I didn't mean to be depressing either McGuire! This was meant to be a happy post...
And Hope I quite like the idea of a dog named Spock!
x

BarbaraS said...

There's a real sense of foreboding in this post, isn't that the thing about these snapshots in time? It's a gorgeous picture, BTW, you were such a good looking 11 year old!

Rachel Fox said...

Yes, Barbara we do seem to be picking photos from key points in our lives (Weaver's starting school, your first baby, my end of primary childhood...). I don't think we are doing it on purpose...they are just times that fascinate us...where we can look and see how our lives changed quite abruptly (or were about to change in that way). Dominic's is probably the least like that so far so are we females just drama queens, do you think..? Best not answer that...

Oh and thanks for the compliment, Barbara. Very sweet of you. I've often been friends with very pretty and/or curvaceous and/or attractive girls so I never saw myself as particularly good-looking. I had the odd moment...but certainly would never have included myself in the pretty part of the venn diagram. Though saying that I didn't think about it that much.

x

Niamh B said...

We had a similar fight about the dog's name. My suggestion "Chestnut" was eventually rejected in favour of "Bart" - yep you shouldn't ask kids to name the pets really.

hope said...

"Spock" fit, if the truth be told. The poor dog was part Golden Retriever and Bassett Hound. He was built like the Hound, colored like the Retriever and barked like the hound. :)

Dominic Rivron said...

We had a dog called Titchy. I never was a fan. I was very small (5?) when my parents got it. When they said they were getting a dog I was quite excited. Mental image: labrador, alsatian, etc. When my dad turned up with a Yorkshire terrier... It just kind of, well, didn't look like a dog. I'm told I went and sat on the compost heap sulking. I never really did bond with it.

Winston - just up the road from here. Thelwell T shirt, eh? Did you have a pony?

Liz said...

Lovely pic and interesting account too, Rachel...(and cool school shoes : )) It's amazing the memories a photo can trigger... and yes 'Purdey' - loved her too...even took it upon myself to give my baby sis a Purdy hair style, much to everyone's consternation (was 12 and used blunt sissors ; ) )

Rachel Fox said...

Hi Niamh
I like both those names. It's a tough call! When we got our recent pup I did some advance research...I asked our Girl (aged 8 at the time) which girl's names she liked. She came up with Zoe (and a couple of others). Then we told her we were getting a female pup and I asked her about names for it. 'Princess' she suggested. 'Hm,' I said (playing her totally) 'what about that name Zoe you like?' She thought that was a great idea and so she was happy (it was kind of her idea), we were happy (no dog named Princess) and the name suits the dog (small, bouncey, lots of nickname potential). Sometimes I can do this parent thing. Hurray.

Dominic - the compost heap! You funny boy. As for ponies...not me. One of my brothers did the whole pony thing (still does in fact - in New Zealand where land to keep them on is cheaper!). I never fancied it (it always looked like a lot of work and I am a bit lazy) plus by the time it got to me our circumstances had changed anyway. I was happy with a dog.

Liz - yes, I loved those shoes! I think I put them by the bed the first night I had them so I could see them first thing in the morning. I've never liked high heels/stilettos but I do still quite like those wedge heels. And yes, that Purdey hair...you were obviously very creative from an early age.

x

Dick said...

Poldark and Purdey - oh, world gone by! But, alongside the innocence and charm, Barbara's so right about the sense of foreboding implicit to this picture and, I guess, to all of them. Behind the insouciance of the photos, there are forces at work that will change lives. This is proving to be a resonant and engaging meme.

Rachel Fox said...

Yes, Dick, it is engaging. Hope (over in South Carolina) has put one up just now too. I hope everybody does one at some point. (And who is everybody...why, anybody who wants to be everybody of course!).

It was Ralph Bates (as the baddie George Warleggan) who most fascinated me in Poldark, I think. I remember a scene with leeches too. Gruesome.
x

Ken Armstrong said...

How can 1978 now be so far in the past? It doesn't seem possible, really.

This is a very good post which will touch a chord with many people, I think. For me there was something oddly sensual about sitting on the dusty ground on a summer's day. It was, somehow, as if time stopped and that dusty sunny moment was marked forever in time. It's hard to express, but there's something there...

Rachel Fox said...

Is it something to do with the freedom that (most) kids still have. You want to sit on the ground - you just do it - you don't think about whether your jeans will get dirty or not. Like this morning our girl was brushing her teeth and singing ('Edelweiss' as it happens) and I thought how lovely it sounded - partly because she didn't think 'this is a silly way to sing and I might make a mess so I'll wait till I've finished my teeth'...no she felt like singing so she sang. She sings much better when she thinks no-one is listening too.

x
x

McGuire said...

Hello Rachel, I have been reading just not commenting as much of recent, busy teaching and lurging about the streets at night.

I think the melancholy was coming from me when I read about the photograph. I'm a bit of a neurotic in general.

I had no idea your father committed suicide. That is tragic but also fascinating. But I won't pry. I'm sure you've tried to investigate the 'whys' of your Fathers actions. A big shock and a big issue really.

Sounds like an interesting school, alternative education schooling, something along those lines. That will be what gives you your easy and open armed approach to your writing and understanding.

Dog is beautiful.

I'm off to walk about aimlessly in the italian sun. Not much to be done this weekend. Trying to save money for my return to Glasgow. Off for a meander...

Rachel Fox said...

You're coming back to Scotland already McGuire? That seems to have gone quickly.

There are quite a few posts about my Dad on this blog (quite a few last June when I put the book out, for example...he wrote poems too). Just put Dad in the search at the top and it should bring them all up! Something for a rainy day...

I really try not to write about it too much. I'd hate to be 'that woman who moans about her suicide Dad and it was years ago you know'...but at the same time...it did happen, it is part of our family make-up, it is a strange thing to learn to live with. Also I am quite like him (by all accounts - physically and in other ways) and yet I hardly knew him. It's a weird one. Even more so now I am a parent myself.

I don't write about my Mum much because she is still alive and doesn't really like being talked or written about. She is a private person...I am...not so much. I quite like to let it all hang out...well, maybe not quite all of it. Some comes out quite directly in poems, some comes out more disguised/altered/confused...

As for neurotic. Of course you are. As my Mum once said to me 'all the best writers have at least one nervous breakdown, dear'. I sometimes think my life is just one big long breakdown...then I think 'oh for goodness sake, stop being such a drama queen.'

x

Deborah Godin said...

You've really portrayed the innocence with an immediacy that's like a trip back in time!

Rachel Fox said...

Thanks Deborah. It's true that looking at the photo (and thinking about that house, that place) really helps a lot of it come back clearly. 31 years ago - it's outrageous!
x

apprentice said...

I find these childhood photos so poignant, all that potential in such a small frame. It is like those 7 up programmes that track a bunch of 7 year olds throughout their lives.

I used to love Poldark. And I'm interested in Quakers, many people I admire are Quakers.

Rachel Fox said...

Hi Apprentice
I did a post about some of my Quaker background (complete with poem!). It's back here.
x

Totalfeckineejit said...

I don't even know what a 'meme' is exactly ,but this is a good one.I've already read Dom's and Weaver's. I remember liking Poldark and the music always stayed with me -so much so that I recently googled what it actually is and it's apparently 'The adagio from Sparticus' if anyone is interested!Nationwide,oh yeah, and who was that presenter with the googly eyes and didn't he go off the rails drinking? Mike Barrett ,was that his name?

So shocking and sad,I am sorry Rachel, about your Dad.My dad died when I was 16 and 30 years later I still haven't sorted it out in my head,or my heart.(Complicated)I'm sure things like this often make us write(rs) even if the words are about a daffodil or nuclear war -or whatever.

Totalfeckineejit said...

OOps! And of course sparticus is spelled spartacus and the 'adagio' is 'of' spartacus -not from spartacus which of course to my puerile mind conjures up images of kirk Douglas dressed as a gladiator humming the theme tune to The Onedin Line.i really should go to bed.

Colin Will said...

This is such an interesting post Rachel. Childhood photos always seem so accepting - this is how things are - and at the same time they reflect an unbounded and (it seems to me) natural optimism. I'm totally overworked just now, so I won't join in the meme, although I think it's a good one.

Rachel Fox said...

TFE - all this talk of Poldark made me go and look up more about it. The writer Winston Graham (1908-2003) also wrote 'Marnie' that went on to be a Hitchcock film. Maybe there will have to be a Poldark post.

As for Nationwide...you mean Frank Bough? And it was drugs wasn't it? I think there a few with googly eyes...Richard Stilgoe? I just looked at wiki..and there was a Michael Barratt...I don't remember that name...might recognise the face.

And yes, the sorting out dead parents...it's a long job. Families as a whole...a lot of work. Running away to join the circus was always a good option.

Colin - glad you enjoyed this. Natural optimism...yes, I still have lots of it...I just have heaps of pessimism now too. Is that natural...yes and no.

x

The Weaver of Grass said...

Who cares about 200 words Rachel - this is absolutely lovely. You capture the innocence of your age and yet hint that you are in for something of a rude awakening. I feel I have learned quite a lot about you. This blogging "family" is great fun (and great support) I find.

Rachel Fox said...

Thanks Weaver. Just when I think I have gone too far and exposed too much or been too pathetic...you all say such lovely things and make me feel better about it all! If I could write dry and academic I would...I just can't.

As for family...take a book off a shelf and look at page 74. They say you can't choose your family...oh yeh, who says you can't?

Much love.
x

deemikay said...

I'll possibly have to attempt this... :)

Rachel Fox said...

It is a bit addictive. I considered doing a follow-up (a pic from a few years later...much less innocent for so many reasons...). Then I thought I would like to leave innocent me up online for a little while longer without annoying teenage me turning up and spoiling it all for her (again?).

Plus one can think about oneself too much.
x

deemikay said...

Actually, I think I already did this a few months back, didn't I?

Yes, save "teenage me" for another time. At the end of the Summer. :)

Rachel Fox said...

Yes you did and yes I will. Just the thought of teenage me makes me feel tired and gloomy...
x