Sunday, 25 July 2010

The letter K

I love the letter K. It is of course the initial letter of my surname. Whether it is a capital or lower case it always says what it is; not like Aa which doesn't know whether it is a tent or a snail! When I started school there were no clues to aid children in their learning but I like the idea of K being the kicking cur! In those days everything was done by rote. Now you have to understand why things are. Arithmetic came easy as it was obvious that 7 eight's was the same as 8 sevens, because I had memorised all the multiplication tables up to 12. The best part of having a name starting with K was that you never got picked on first to present your work to class, even when the teacher reversed the order!

Letters were however different especially when it came to spelling. I used to be quite happy spelling words that I used even the difficult ones like there and their. But getting back to K the sad thing about this letter was that there were so few words starting with K. I liked the idea that may be it was an interloper, a letter that really belonged somewhere else and was an illegal immigrant and imposed itself into English. Sadly this is not true because English is a real stew pot of so many languages that K is no worse than any other. Curiously I never liked W or Q. What a couple of unnecessary letters they are! W in English pinches a couple of U's and gives itself airs. Curiously in French it is double-V, stealing V's instead! Q on the other hand takes lots of words that could be spelt with a K, which in my mind is crime, and sides with U sounding like a W to create a pathetic list of English words. Get rid of them both I say.

Why is K so good you will ask? Well for a Kaleidoscope of reasons really. For a start it is King sized, acts like a Knight and Knits in well with other letters. It has great Kudos, you can eat it in Kale, it can jump like a Kangaroo, it can make china with Kaolin, you can stuff a cushion with Kapok, it is good in defense with Karate, you can travel on rivers in a Kayak, you can eat a Kebab. Keys will keeps you safe, when you marry you can have Kids, and all your family are your Kith and Kin. Your kids can fly a Kite, you can eat Kippers which may be cut with a Knife in the Kitchen. When you Knock on a door you can open it with a Knob. Now ladies why not colour your eyelids with Kohl? Do you want a pet? Then have a Kitten.

Now you may think I am a bit Kinky about K but with all this effort I feel quite Knackered so I will blow you a Kiss and go and have a Kip.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

My Source

For a number of years now I have been interested in family history. When I was much, much younger my family consisted of the usual connections of parents, siblings, grandparents, aunties and uncles and a plethora of cousins. I never ever thought about great grandparents although I could recall when I was quite small, and reluctant to walk far, having to trudge uphill and tiring my little spindly legs to visit a great grandmother. I have no recollection of talking to her or kissing her or even eating a slice of cake which undoubtedly was offered. Yet now so many years later I feel a little ashamed that this link to the past, my source so to speak is not clearer in my mind. There were other great-grandmothers of course and I have a photo of one on my mothers side when we visited her a little before the Second World War. She looks as old as I feel now!

But things have changed now. I can remember asking my parents a bit about their grandparents and they knew so little. I know so much more than them! It is so much easier to trace all those forebears through birth, death and marriage records, delve into their lives though census returns and even discover past deeds and misdeeds through recorded history. This amazing resource gives us a wonderful chance to glimpse into the past and relive the lives of our long gone relatives. It is sad yet uplifting to celebrate the birth of children, weep at their early deaths, watch newlyweds set up home and get frustrated when they disappear only to find that they have moved on to seek their fortunes elsewhere. There are some that have died in the Poor House and others who were on the Titanic. There are some who were convicts transported to Australia and some who achieved their 15 minutes of fame in art, music, sport, on ocean liners and in the wars.

Occasionally photographs are discovered and I must confess I fell immediately in love with the innocent allure of one of my wife's relatives who looked so beautiful when she was wed before the First World War. My own grandparents on my mother's side curiously never married, possibly the only relatives in the past who failed to do so. Apparently they managed to find the money for the marriage licence but thought it would be better spent at the pub; well the story goes!

So the past has been untangled, fascinating discoveries made and through it I am proud to have tracked much of the source of my and my wife's family. Do we go back far? Well of course we do. Either we have a direct line to Adam or to the primeval ooze but as for actual records there are but a few names from the 17th Century. In doing this research it has made me glad to be the result of these ancestors efforts and achievements, their pain and joy and despite their faults and of mine it is wonderful to have such a colourful past.

Photo of my Great Grandmother Hannah Titheridge c 1939

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Memory of Sonseeahray

For some reason I am hanging on to an old video (yes a VHS) recording of a film that impressed and inspired me in the early 1950's. I hadn't been able to find commercial DVD of it in Australia so I converted the old format to DVD later. The quality is however terrible but is suffices for the purpose of jogging my memory from time to time. It is my little time machine to take me back sixty years.
The film was one of the first westerns that showed the wild west from the Indians point of view. The film was of course “Broken Arrow” with James Stewart, Jeff Chandler and most importantly Debra Paget. Whilst it was on in the “Palace” cinema in our small country town in England I managed to see it twice. The second time I sat it through twice as it was a continuous showing cinema even though I had to endure the dreadful and forgettable second feature and of course the obligatory newsreel. In the film James Stewart saves the life of an injured Apache youth and falls in love with Sonseeahray a highly desirable Indian maiden and eventually marries her. He brokers a deal between the Apaches and the settlers for a lasting peace however some renegade whites start a fight at which Sonseeahray is killed.

Needless to say as a fifteen year old I fell in love with the Indian maiden Sonseeahray and even managed to get a clip from the film stock showing her in her ceremonial head dress as my dad knew the projectionist at the cinema. Not long after I noticed a girl at school who in my mind looked exactly like the nubile Indian maid and I was so inspired that I plucked up enough courage to approach her and told her that she looked like Debra Paget in the film. Unfortunately I got a rather negative reaction.

Now those of you whose memories are long may recall that Debra Paget starred alongside Elvis Presley in “Love Me Tender” and also featured in many other movies of the 1950”s & 1960’s. Her brown eyes in Broken Arrow reverted to their natural blue in that film.
Now the interesting part of this youthful nonsense is that many many years later I was able to link up with the girl at school who I compared with the Indian maid through the British web site “Friends Reunited” and she did remember my chat up line, and we have been corresponding ever since.

You can find a video of Debra Paget as Sonseeahray on YouTube but try as I might I can't insert the link! Just search for Debra Paget: One little, two little, three little Indians. The link is:

Photo: Promo card for the film "Broken Arrow"

Sunday, 4 July 2010

What did you do in the war? What Me?

I used to say I had a difficult childhood but that wasn't true. I only thought I did. Having been born just a few years before World War 2, I was expected to achieve a pigeon pair for my parents after my brother had been born two years previously. A girl was expected and in those days there were no tests to check to see if that might be the case. Thus I was already named Judith and proved to be a minor disappointment. I grew up to be a ‘whimp’ which clearly I was well fitted for as I whimpered a great deal in those early years. Some of the tears were quite normal but others were encouraged by my older brother who clearly thought I might steal some of the favours previously bestowed on him.
Our Dining Room table had the corners cut off so that there would be less likelihood of little heads at that height bumping into them. I didn’t realise for many years that it was all to no avail as the damage had already been done. My brother had encouraged me to climb from the chair to the tabletop then removed the chair and exited the room leaving me to find my own way down. Which I did bruising my head and this encouraged Dad to get his saw into action when my brother ‘explained’ what happened.
I wasn’t the only whimp in the street; little Barry Foster was far more expert than me. When he was upset he would go and sit in the middle of the road and cry for all to see him. Occasionally some dupe would pander to his needs and comfort him but as the trick continued he tended to cry alone for a few minutes then go back indoors. I must explain the road we lived on was rarely used by vehicles other than delivery vans and the surface was so bad nothing could travel at any more than walking speed. Almost nobody owned a car and those that did had it on chocks in the shed or under cover for the ‘duration.’ The duration was a British expression meaning for while the war lasts. Thinking about it now I think it was a wonderful word showing that we Brits were going to endure the war at whatever cost, which of course we did.
More strife came for me whenever Mum would say “Go out and play together”. Now it is true we did that occasionally but my brother thought I was a drag especially if it interfered with playing with his real friends. I would tag along behind the bigger boys and my brother would turn round and push me to the ground or into the stinging nettles to show that I was not wanted. Now please do not take pity on me all this treatment was a great hardening exercise for me. This was especially the case when Ivan from a street nearby played with me in the meadow at the bottom of our road. Ivan was in my class at school and his uncle had been stationed in Africa for part of the war and returned home with various souvenirs. One of these souvenirs was an assegai which as everyone knows is a spear with a furry tassel and a very sharp iron spear tip.
Ivan brought the spear out to play with one day probably with no one else aware of it. We each had a go and as all we did was throw it away from us, Ivan decided his next go was to throw it at me. Seeing the spear on the way I turned and ran and luckily it only hit me in the right calf. The wounded adversary, me, limped to his house where his mother attempted to tend to my wound then sent me home. My own mother was furious, ripped off the unsatisfactory dressing and applied one which was deemed more suitable. I wasn’t allowed to play with Ivan for a week or so. I had no tetanus shot, and no visit to the doctor for stitches. We were made of sterner stuff in those days.
I still have the scar, a small square white mark on my calf and for some reason I am quite proud of it. It was my war wound albeit inflicted by friendly fire, but it was more than that too. It was my rite of passage, or perhaps my hardening for the real world. From that moment on I became less of a whimp and more of an individual able to take on all comers...well, at least stand up for myself for the duration of my life and not to be surprised when a friend stabbed you in the back!

Illustration from