Sunday, 30 June 2013

The family photo in the garden

My family does not tend to celebrate birthdays: we are a bit puritan. So you can imagine everyone's delight when my brother and his wife put on a highly enjoyable party this weekend for my brother’s 60th birthday. My brother is a Coronation Baby, born just after the Queen's Coronation in June 1953.

I love generational family portraits in the garden. As a family, we posses such a wedding photo from around the turn of the 20th century (1900). My bonny grandmother aged about seven is in the front row in her pretty party dress. Families, through are now increasingly aware of who they are and the passing of time and genes. Some of us are thinking about how to speak to any descendants should they exist. I was wondering whether any descendants will examine our 2013 clothing and hairstyles thinking  “How old fashioned, they look!", "What hairstyles!","Fancy, they drove there in petrol cars!", "Poor souls, they look so unaware of what happened a few years later when so and so happened...." Will someone one day think, as I tend to about Victorian photos, “That honeysuckle had its summer a hundred years ago - and it still blooms in this photo”?

I also wonder what people did at family gatherings one hundred years ago? My guess is that it may have been something not unlike what we did yesterday. First, there was a fun concert by my birthday brother who is nearing "band ready-ability" on the clarinet at the suggestion of his clarinet teacher. Scenes from his life and babyhood flashed on the TV screen behind him. This culminated with us all singing "Happy Birthday". Then came the lighting of the birthday cakes which had two "rockets" on it which exploded in spectacular style. Then the opening of presents.....

Paolo politely tasted for the first time, "Gusbourne", the Kentish sparkling wine or champagne of the vintage drunk at Prince William's wedding (vintage 2007). It is still a novelty, though in 100 years, we may be the world's leading producer. My nephew, a wine expert, was advising us on the vintage. My mother was amazed by an imaginative vintage present, a copy of "Housewife" in June 1953. She said this was rather pricey at the time - so she had not bought it. She looked as if she was catching up now.

The birthday dinner meal was in a delightful local upper room, the table laid with arrangements of cut summer flowers, sparkling confetti and flickering candles. Nouvelle cuisine food was served which was perfectly formed. The desserts were something special. Surely the English should be proud of their skills at the pudding!

I gave my brother an 1805 hand-coloured, copperplate print of Oliver's Cromwell's house in Clerkenwell. This reflects his love of English history and that his great, great grandfather was a London copperplate printer, married in St James, Clerkenwell. Hidden in the back of the print are details about our family history and the set of 2013 Coronation Anniversary stamps showing the Queen in six decades. I hope he also inserts the "photo in the garden" with a note of who we are and what we were doing in June 2013. This will help any family researchers make a reality of our lives, when we are just a "bureaucratic memory". 

That possibility rests on the younger generations. Below are my brother's daughter and his grand-daughter - who look very like sisters.

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