Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Dancing from a distance

There are three great stories in every family, if you just stay up talking long enough, it will all come out." - Stephen Poliakoff.

I had at least a half dozen potentially great stories, at the last count. Aside from those events I have witnessed at first hand, there are the tales and anecdotes that I pestered my maternal grandparents to repeat over and over. On the paternal side, the stories have colour and a hint of romance, yet they are born out of cold facts, recorded in official documentation. The stories are no less powerful, but they lack the levels of emotional investment that’s vital to understanding the connections between people and events. When someone is relating a family tale or offering an explanation as to why a certain event occurred, we are not just hearing the words, we are watching the expressions. We are getting something special, something that can rarely, if ever, be gleaned from passionless paperwork.

Today, I spent a little time organising some of Mags’ family photographs, most of which reside in a shoebox left by Mag’s late mother. Most of the faces are familiar or at least identifiable. But in almost all collections of family photos, there’s a minimum of one that got away.


As soon as I set eyes on this unknown character, I was thinking ‘Poliakoff’. I’m reminded of the mysterious images in his television drama, “Perfect Strangers.” Suddenly I’m asking myself who the girl is posing for, and why. I’m wondering who she grew up to be, and what stories might have emerged if, at some point we had been afforded the opportunity to stay up and talk at length.

14 comments:

  1. The answer to "what" was she up to, and without a doubt "who" she, could be posing for does makes this incredibly interesting, even for me!

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    1. Karen, if I could accurately identify her costume, that would be a good start.

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  2. So true, talking into the night brings out what broad daylight's been hiding.

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  3. What a wonderful photo! She looks a little unsure of herself.
    There are so many family members I wish I had sat down with and really talked. Of course, as a kid you just don't see the value in it, until it's too late.

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    1. As someone said to me a couple of years ago, "you do realise that we are now those same old fogies we used to avoid, as kids?"

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  4. Sometimes you just know from a Instant Glance That Many Stories are inside a person.Me Thinks she would have been a Goldmine of Tales and would have loved the telling!

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  5. I'm not sure about stories in our family - but we have loads of unknown relatives!

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    1. And therein lies the most fascinating story of all, jennyfreckles.

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  6. What a wonderful and intriguing photograph. Perhaps you should invent a story for her? I remember my mother's family telling stories about various family members all the time - they are quite vivid in my imagination. I try to do the same with my children, but they aren't so interested... so I write things down. A picture is so often worth a thousand words, however.

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    1. I had lunch with a friend recently, Christine. We are both keen on family history research, and both agreed that we should write down as much as we can, just in case future generations are curious.

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  7. Oh, I love that picture! Do you have a approximate date for it?

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    1. Vicki, I would guess at some time between the wars. Although Mags suggests that this could be her great aunt, which would definitely place it earlier.

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