My mother, probably about 10 years old
The Personal Perspective of History
It’s 90 years since my mother was born and as another birthday is marked on the calendar since she left this life, I wondered how to mark the day with out being maudlin and in doing so, understand both herself and myself a little better; so I decided to look at the historical context of the year of her birth – 1926.
Today is the 90th anniversary of my mother’s birth… Another day, another anniversary, and another occasion to remember someone who has left this life.
I’m not feeling sad, nor maudlin today, yet want to both mark the occasion and expand my knowledge of a day in time and a person lived and loved.
The 2nd of January 1926 – my mother’s birthday, is, as well as a statement of date, the habit of a lifetime remembered, and so I wondered how to celebrate and commemorate this day a little differently today, given that time has polished the number of years since my mother’s entrance into this world, into the nicely rounded number of ninety.
Look at the two numbers making up the representation of 90 and they curve together softly. It is as if the sometimes jagged edges of an indomitable woman have been smoothed by the waters of time. As a number – it approaches, but falls short of century; and some time soon, no doubt, that century will declare itself, but for now, let me ponder on what was happening in the world which my mother was born into…
She was the first child of her parents, after a hastily arranged registry office marriage bought about by the fact of her conception. As a result, her catholic mother was excommunicated from the church she had been baptised into, to be re-admitted only many years later. And so my grandmother, although married as a heathen, actually had a catholic funeral.
My mother grew up as (she felt) an (unloved) only child, and in the year she was born, Great Britain’s Monarch was George V and then as now, there was a Conservative Prime Minister – Stanley Baldwin.
Other notable births in that same year of 1926 included a number of cultural icons for our time and so I have selected those that, for what ever reason, spark a latent response in me:
3 January – George Martin, producer of The Beatles. I simply cannot imagine the world without The Beatles music beating away in the background of my life.
13 January – Michael Bond, author and creator of Paddington Bear. The TV series that I watched in my own childhood made me smile at that funny bear’s marmalade antics.
14 January – Warren Mitchell, actor (died 2015). I loathed the TV series ‘Till Death Us Do Part’, but can see now how it broke a number of cultural and artistic moulds.
17 January – Moira Shearer, actress and dancer (died 2006). Gorgeous, of her time, dancer and actress.
22 February – Kenneth Williams, actor (died 1988). That unique and tortured talent who permeated so many comic layers and genres.
31 March – John Fowles, writer (died 2005). Writer of the ‘French Lieutenant’s Woman’, a beautiful book both of history and twisting imagination.
21 April – HRH Princess Elizabeth of York, later Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom and 15 other Commonwealth realms. Now Great Britain’s current sovereign.
14 May – Eric Morecambe, comedian (died 1984). ‘He’s SO corny’ my mother would say, laughing away.
15 May – Peter Shaffer, the playwright who created a play which developed into the film of ‘Mozart’, a moving and contrasting creation with layers of wanton triviality and dark emotional depth.
21 July – Bill Pertwee, actor (died 2013). An actor whose roles in Doctor Who and Worzel Gummage wove like tacking stitches through out my childhood.
17 August – George Melly, jazz singer (died 2007). His music constantly percolated through the background of my consciousness, until I was startled by the symphonic silence of his passing.
Whilst my mother cooed and poohed through her first baby year, as always the world turned and so the events of 1926 that strike a chord with me, include:
* John Logie Baird demonstrates a mechanical television system in London. My mother was a Scot and so it seems apt that her countryman created the device which soaks up so much of my time.
* The apparition of the General Strike begins in support of a major coal strike. And somehow my mother always carried the spirit of that strike within her, especially given her father’s left leaning later to become ‘independent’ political views.
* American swimmer Gertrude Ederle becomes the first woman to swim the English Channel from France to England. A female achiever braving this country’s summer seas.
* The Electricity (Supply) Act created the Central Electricity Board to set up the National Grid. And just this morning I walked past an early electricity station which proclaimed the date of 1926…
* The K2 red telephone box was introduced and how different life is without them… No queueing to speak to distant voices, no smell of pee, no where to hide on the streets – all because we all now carry our multi-tasking phone boxes (AKA mobile phones) with us every where we go.
* The first appearance of the Gill Sans sans-serif typeface, designed by Eric Gill. The letters of the alphabet took on a new form and somehow, subtly altered our perceptions of the words that they now spelt out…
As Logie Baird’s television was yet to become a household commodity, books filled the hours of my mother’s family and friends. This year was the zenith time of the authoress Agatha Christie, who published another Hercule Poirot novel ‘The Murder of Roger Ackroyd’ and also sensationally disappeared from her home for 2 weeks, having simply escaped to a hotel Harrogate.
For the romantically inclined, Georgette Heyer’s historical romance novel ‘These Old Shades’ was also published, whilst the literati were either celebrating or criticising D. H. Lawrence’s novel ‘The Plumed Serpent’. And the last but not least of my chosen literary inclinations of that year, was that A. A. Milne published the absolute children’s classic, ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’, creating the boy and the teddy bear who have continued to enrapture so many, myself, of course included.
So I’m looking at these 90 year facts and I’m enjoying my mild, selfish historical introspection. They are 90 years that shaped me and bind me to themselves in so many ways.
In amongst all this, my mother was born, part of the history of the world, of me and my family, and of my psyche. They were facts which touched us both in different measure and now I have (re)discovered more about us. From her to me and on to who knows where…
So today is an inspection and introspection of that year 90 years ago – a twist in time to tell me more, to make me more and to acknowledge the inherent inheritances of a year and of a person – made parent – made memory – made history.
And finally, from 90 years to now and I can still say: Happy Birthday Mum.
Your Sandy Bach x
PS: Did you know that a collection of my ‘Peachey Letters’ have been gathered together in to a beautiful book, exploring all the facets of my soap opera life in all its’ badness, banality and beauty? This is love seen in every aspect of the life that I live. In it you will find the dark and the light of love, in a way that will make you think, entertain you and let you know that you are not alone in life, what ever it holds for you… You can buy ‘Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life’ by Sandra Peachey, from book websites any where in the world, including on Amazon (in both Paperback and Kindle)…