06 January, 2015

My father's birthday

- gardening for biodiversity
in Cape Town, South Africa

The 6th of January is Twelfth Night when we take down the ornaments. I was looking thru the photograph album my mother made for me. On my first Christmas tree I see Christmas lights – but only a single ornament of silver glass beads. I see the arm of the chair in which I sat when I first read a book!

Christmas past bauble

Turquoise glass pine cone gently dusted with snow, is the only survivor I have from childhood Christmas trees.

With my father on Camps Bay beach in 1956

In 1956 when I was one year old, my father was 50. We are at the Glen Beach end of Camps Bay beach and that must be a tram shed – once was a tram running from the city behind the mountain to our beach.

My mother loved to read. Holds-upon-happiness.

Piers Brendon - Eminent Edwardians
with reminders of my father

Once I said to mother indignantly – Father’s positively Edwardian. She looked at me, Yes; he was born in 1906 when Edward was on the throne.

Dannevirke, New Zealand

My father came from Dannevirke in New Zealand. Silver filigree is his christening mug. His school prize is a beautiful leather bound, gold-tooled book. Monty Watkins went to London during the Depression. Between the two wars he took his newly minted engineering degree from a New Zealand with no prospect of work, to seek his fortune in London where my mother, and grandmother were born. There he met my mother. Kathleen could choose, shall we go to Malaysia or South Africa? This cabin trunk travelled with him, but I imagine it came from his father in turn.

Dava Sobel - Galileo's Daughter

Mama had just read Nicholas Crane’s novel, and wanted something about longitude. I am intrigued by womenandthegarden's Sister-Maria-Celeste-Italy.

The Russian Revolution 1917
with Granma's silver tea caddy leaf

In her sixties my mother taught herself to read Russian. Her life, meant that she had a simple education, raised four daughters. But her mind still sparkled, with a love of languages. When she was a teenager in Truro, a family friend - who worked with the War Graves Commission in France - married a French woman and brought her back to visit the family. My mother was the only one who could speak French to her. Led to a few months in Achicourt near Arras, polishing her French! Terryville Connecticut cabin trunk belonged to my great-grandma. It crossed the Atlantic three times, as she went to visit Dick and Charlie near Vancouver. As my mother said – we lost Uncle George. Silver tea caddy leaf was Granma's.

In 2010 Tatyana commented - The tea leaf is perfect, we [Russians] can not live without tea. And the red flowers are also very appropriate, we love the red color.

Jeremy Paxman - The English
with Cornish pixie and Dutch doll

We sisters grew up in South Africa, but we think of ourselves as English. Not from England, but English. A Cornish pixie, mending a tiny shoe. Large ginger jar comes from my grandmother’s home. The jam-jar with a silver lid also. The little wooden Dutch doll was my mother's.

Charlotte Bacon - Lost Geography
with fish and Loch Awe

A family memoir tying back to Scotland and the sea. Years ago we were enchanted by the Scottish lochs. This is Loch Awe. The fish pictures my father won in a fishy story competition. (Altho his true fishing story was about – going fishing with his uncles – my father got a fishing hook stuck in his cheek – they cut the barbs – and pulled it out – so he once told me!)

Anne Michaels - The Winter Vault
with reading bears, a jar of seashells
and stone age tools

Rescuing a temple from the Aswan Dam. ‘A story of people and nations displaced and uprooted and the myriad means by which we all seek out a place we can call home.’ Here I learnt the word petrichor that - I can smell rain coming blessing.

Pictures by Diana Studer  
of  Elephant's Eye on False Bay 

(If you mouse over teal blue text, it turns seaweed red.
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  1. such a beautiful eloquent post, I enjoy reading your writing so much, whether it be fauna and foliage or parents and daily life you take us on such a beautiful journey, I thank you for that.

  2. You have so many beautiful pieces and stories still intact. That's wonderful! I guess your father was Edwardian, and that's not a joke. :)

  3. great post, Diana, love the way you link family history with books and curios. And pathos in the beautifully expressed conclusion - those uprooted and displaced looking for a place to call home.

  4. Wow, what history! It is great to have some moments from the past generations. They often tell a story about how different life was in the past.

  5. I love all the bits of family memories and history tied together. I am trying to pull together the lost bits and stories in my family now that many are gone...

  6. Charming post, and my mother was born on the 6th January 1921

  7. An eloquent and visually beautiful post! I enjoyed the peek into your family's past with all the curios and charming historical elements tied together; I would relish an evening spent listening to your interesting stories!

  8. What fantastic photos and how much you have that links you still to your father. My mother was a great one for throwing things away and my parents moved many times in their married life. Having just resolved to get rid of stuff, I am reminded by your post that there are also things which are worth keeping!

    1. there was a third trunk with a bowed top, which I couldn't imagine a use for.
      But my father's trunk is exactly the right size to store the 6 cushions for the patio chairs,
      and my mother's trunk we use as a coffee table.

  9. Enchanting post, Diana, beautifully written and illustrated. My father was an Edwardian gentleman also born in 1906. He seemed very strict to me as I grew up in the "Children should be seen and not heard" era. He mellowed with age, living to 94. P. x

    1. I do envy the way younger generations of fathers engage with their children. My parents were always two generations older than me. But I remember hiking on the mountains with my father and his Mountain Club friend.