Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Aunt Sadie, Alice and the Easter Bunny

Last week, I picked up a copy of one -well, two- of my favourite books for 50c.  Today, I picked it up and re-read what is one of my very favourite opening passages ever:

"There is a photograph in existence of Aunt Sadie and her six children sitting round the tea-table at Alconleigh. The table is situated, as it was, is now, and ever shall be, in the hall, in front of a huge open fire of logs.  Over the chimney piece plainly visible in the photograph hangs an entrenching tool, with which, in 1915, Uncle Matthew had whacked to death eight Germans one by one as they crawled out of a dugout.It is still covered with blood and hairs, an object of fascination to us as children....There they are, held like flies in the amber of that moment - click goes the camera and on goes life... " Nancy Mitford, The Pursuit of Love

I love all things Mitford - fiction, biography, autobiography. I love them individually and as a group. I can read and re-read them and see them and hear them and forgive them their foibles.  I have been sorting out some old photos of my own family, and the opening passage of the book goes on to talk about the qualities of those frozen moments in time and their sepia-ness. 

My own old photos reminded me of the smells and the textures of my own childhood with surprising clarity.  I found an old teacup in the opshop last week, a sad reminder of what was my favourite Auntie's best teaset: the one used for Sunday afternoon tea, birthdays and get-togethers.  This teacup is well past its finest but just seeing it I can almost taste the scones and the sponge cake with icing sugar on top. I bought it and brought it home just to keep that feeling.

I have other bits and pieces, nothing valuable, but little fragments of lives.  Another Auntie's brooch - I can't really remember her face, although I know what she looked like; but I can remember the sense of her, and being given the brooch by my Uncle when she died.  It's not a valuable brooch, but there was a sense of being grown up when he gave it to me when I was about 8.

That one diamonte brooch is probably why I love vintage jewellery as I do. It reminds me of the Aunts, and great-aunts, of being taken to CWA meetings, of hanging with the cousins, and picking raspberries and real gooseberries and dress-ups. 

I remember the Uncles, too, of course; the cardigans and the sheds and the pigeons and dogs. But they seemed somehow not to be the centre of things: the women were constant motion, food and talk and movement and kids.

In my case, the colour is not so much sepia but rather that strange intense colour of slides and photos from the late 50's and early 60's, drifting into the yellowish tones and uncertain focus of the 70's snapshot.

I have continued my fascination with all things Alice and clockwork with some new pendants featuring Alice and some vintage pocketwatch faces, some Alice brooches, and I am working on some drawings of Alice, and some nursery rhymes. Given the time of year there are also some bunnies in the bathtub. I'm having some trouble with loading images, so haven't spent too much time on images which may disappear.  When I have some better photos and a more reliable way of leaving them up I will add some more.

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