Friday, June 29, 2007

Dead now of course......

Ruby told us she was born in 1924 and this is her 84th year. She tells us of this achievment with just a note of pride. There must be something in the water round here I think that promotes such longevity as she is but one of many elderly ladies who have shared their memories and photographs with Doreen and myself.

Ruby is pleased to have such an attentive audience. We are made comfortable in the window of her orderly bungalow where every flat surface is home to collections of ornaments. (It must be a nightmare to dust.) A fine long-case clock marks time across the room. It is not as warm as it should be and a fan heater roars at our ankles. Ruby wears socks over her stockings.

Doren and I hang on her every word as she recalls her first 10 years in the village of her birth; the youngest daughter of an innkeeper and farmer. I struggle to unravel names and dates and places - 'mother's' memories have become intertwined with her own and Ruby tells us with authority of events which happened 20 years before her own birth. She talks of her grandparents, probably born in the middle of the 19th century and the stories they were told by their grandparents - I hope she tells the same stories to her grandchildren. I very much like the narrative thread which crosses so many years and links so many generations. We are part of that chain today.

A quick check of the 1901 census does little to clarify matters - I find a tangled web of relationships. (Nothing has changed in this little village then.) Ruby's account has presented one somewhat simplistic picture; the census night snapshot another.

My picture, undated though probably from the late 1920s or early 30s, shows the children of Middleton School. Ruby is not in this picture, being only an infant, but her elder sister - a clever girl and talented musician - is. This sister left the sleepy hills for a nursing career in Birmingham and also formed a dance band. 'Dead now of course' says Ruby.

These four words were to become a refrain. Stories about the family, the shopkeeper, the bus driver, the lord of the manor, his son Master Wakeman and his stepson, Master Leek: all ending with the words: 'Dead now of course'. Such characters and not one of them ordinary: 'He was a great tall man - and the other one down here (she gestures with her hands), they'd have been on television today. All 'Dead now of course.'

It's a funny world where the dead now seem to outnumber the living. Ruby sits in her bungalow and watches the traffic pass on the road beyond, watches the changing seasons and the weather on the hills to the east. She's sitting with her memories which are very much alive. Of course.

13 comments:

Woozle1967 said...

How wonderful though for her to be able to share these memories with someone who is interested. There are so many things I won't be able to find out now because my Nan is no longer here.

Sorry you couldn't make Thursday - next time we're aiming for Ludlow so we will give you plenty of notice!

Faith said...

What a wonderful touching little blog. I've always listened to stories of the past from my parents and grandparents; its so interesting. Recently I was looking through a photo album from my eldest daughter's christening and thinking of all the family members who have gone to their eternal reward. We are the richer from knowing them.

Crystal Jigsaw said...

That was a lovely blog to read. Old people are so interesting, wouldn't it be wonderful if we could zap back in time just for a short while to see how people truly lived 'back then'.

My late father-in-law always had a tale to tell, he was born 1924 but he always took an interest in his own relatives and was able to relay their stories.

Crystal xx

Elizabethd said...

I'm sure that memories such as those should be written down.

Withy Brook said...

You should see if she would let you record her chat. It is History that will be lost with her being "dead now of course...." I got a deal of village info from an old lady who was born and lived here all her life, but not as much as I would have liked. Because I never recorded her I forgot lots of it.

snailbeachshepherdess said...

Aha ..do I smell a project coming on? You will end up with soooooo much information and not enough space to do it all justice! We are just teetering on the brink of book 3! But we have so much information that could never be published for many years yet! We will have to swap horror stories sometime!

Julie said...

i so enjoyed reading your blog what wonderful memories xx jep

Cait O'Connor said...

Memories are wonderful if they can be passed on for posterity, are you recording her?

UN PEU LOUFOQUE said...

I did my degree in local hsitory which involved a great deal of census work and oral history it is so important to record it all but even more important to sit and listen to it. You are incredibly lucky to have the chance and she to have such an attentive audiience.

LittleBrownDog said...

Fascinating stuff - I love listening to older people remiscing about their lives.

mutterings and meanderings said...

Sometimes memories are more alive than the present ...

Suffolkmum said...

This was great. i love listening to stories from 'the old days'. My grandmother - 94 now - lives as much among the dead as the living.

snailbeachshepherdess said...

I'm back....just to tag you for the five things to put you back on the straight and narrow when feeling a bit down!