Sunday 21 June 2015

Father's Day | Memories of Dad

Making sandcastles with dad
My father died when I was 20, over 36 years ago. I have many memories though. What follows is a extract from a book focusing on his and my late husband's lives as they connected with mine. 

'Some of my earliest memories are of sitting on my dad’s knee with my thumb in my mouth, riding on his shoulders as we played together and being tickled so much I worried that I would wet myself. I remember searching for fairies with him at the bottom of my parents’ bed and taking a young friend back to my house even though he fell over outside his own because ‘my dad is good with sore knees’. He became the street’s unofficial doctor after that and his treatment always included funny stories as well as plasters and antiseptic. . . . . My mum told me that he laughed when as a baby I peed all down his back, and even managed a smile the time I was sick on his head after he threw me up in the air too soon after tea. I remember him patiently spending the whole of his lunch hour from the factory gently attempting to remove the saucepan that I had stuck on my head and then dancing round the living room with my feet on top of his.. . . [I]  still cherish the Valentine’s card that he sent me (anonymously) the year after the friend I walked to school with got a dozen and I got none (I only found out he sent it a decade or so ago).' (Letherby, G. 2014 He, Himself and I: reflections on inter/connected lives Nottingham: Auto/Biography Study Group p20).

Tuesday 2 June 2015

Trains, Boats and Batmobiles | Vehicles and Ceremonies

I am rather fond of trains which is lucky as they have, and continue. to feature quite significantly in my life. As a non-driving child of non-driving adventurous parents I've always travelled a lot by train. We left Liverpool, the place of all our births when I was seven and moved a number of times until settling in Cornwall four years later. For a while we lived in a flat in South Queensferry, outside of Edinburgh, overlooking the Firth of Forth railway bridge and then there was the night we spent in a railway carriage in an otherwise deserted London railway station (but that's another story). 

My first solo train journey was a trip from Falmouth to Liverpool to stay with my maternal grandmother and aunt and uncle for half term week during my O'Level year and since then I have travelled many, many thousands of miles by rail. A few years ago I was lucky enough to be able to spend some of my work time researching and writing about one of my passions. With my friend and colleague Gillian Reynolds I published a number of pieces focusing on sociological aspects of travel including a book entitled Train Tracks: work, play and politics on the railways (2005). 

After interviewing over a 100 train travellers, workers and enthusiasts (in addition to reflecting on our own experience) we were able to clearly demonstrate that trains are not just vehicles that get us from A to B but also places and spaces in their own right - where people play, work, eat, sleep, fall in love . . .. Despite delays, 'standing room only' and carriage doors that close before you're through them it seems many of us still have an affection for the train and the railway. This is reflected, we suggested, in cultural representations  from Night Mail   to Thomas the Tank Engine, from The Railway Children to Grand Central Station and so on and so on. 

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Within a ceremony a train (or other vehicle) can again be more than just something that gets everyone from A to B, not that transport isn't significant at such events. Trains* if you like them as much as I do, could play a variety of parts in your ceremony. How about a 19th or 20th  Century themed wedding or commitment ceremony that takes place on a steam train or at a railway museum  accompanied, or not, by 'British Rail' sandwiches? Or similar for a trip down memory lane focused renewal of vows ceremony. What better than a magical Harry Potter style naming ceremony, with a re-enacted journey to Hogwarts mirroring the excitement of a new life journey? In planning a funeral ceremony for a loved one, or for yourself, you might want to consider a bespoke coffin or urn or hold a memorial ceremony at the end of Platform 2. 

Just remember; your ceremony, your choice. 

* For train of course you can substitute horse pulled caravan,  London bus, Starship Enterprise, Batmobile. Need I go on?