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Blogging about things that matter to me. Photographing things I love - Instagram @debcyork. Writing about both. Only wine and chocolate can save us… You can also find me on Twitter (@debcyork) and Facebook. If you like four-legged views, try @missbonniedog on Twitter

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Wake up and smell the....

Today, whilst traipsing around the supermarket with youngest, her eye fell upon salad cream.  She asked what it was and I was tempted to buy it just for nostalgic reasons, just for the smell.  I never really liked it but it was such a childhood memory jolt.  Egg mayonnaise was just "mashed egg".  Hardboiled eggs with salad cream.
Sense of smell.  Wouldn't it be interesting to be able to bottle our history in smells?  Not the nappies or anything like that, of course...  But not just the nice ones.  Things that genuinely jog your memory like school dinners, beaches, the fur of a pet or toasting marshmallows.
Another reason for thinking about this was finding myself in a secondary school changing room yesterday (waiting for youngest to finish gym).  Oh good grief, that smell!  Dettol, sweat, cheap perfume, it gave me quite a start when I went through the door.  I did not have a good time at secondary school and PE was a particular point of torture....
So here is the challenge for the future.  To add smells to my children's family history trove.  Not sure how to achieve this yet but anyway...
I would love to be able to experience some of the smells from my family history.  The India side would be fascinating, of course.  But what about a first smell of the ocean from someone who has been land locked for their whole life?  A whiff of gunpowder from a Napoleonic battlefield.  A dusty old country chapel with that distinctive hymn book smell.  Silver polish from a country house.
As referred to a little while back, there has been a BBC2 series called Back In Time For Dinner recently, charting the history of family food since the war.  How much better would that have been with Smellevision??!

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Face it

Last night I was listening to an episode of Lemn Sissay's Homecoming on Radio 4.  Sissay is a Mancunian of Ethiopian origin, a poet and broadcaster.  In yesterday's and the previous episode, he has been looking at the nature of home.  You will find them on the BBC Radio iPlayer.

The programmes are extremely funny but also touching.  Very heartfelt.  He was the only black person for miles around for much of his childhood in Lancashire.  This was what he was discussing last night - the first episode was recorded in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where he is descended from.

The idea which struck me in relation to this blog was his assertion that Ethiopians can recognise each other physically, by face shape and cheekbones and so on.  He wondered if this was true for other ethnicities.  And I got to thinking about my own roots (as usual! - it is obviously all about me!).

Sissay mentioned never seeing another Ethiopian in Manchester then getting to London and instantly recognising 'his people'.

So how did this work for Anglo-Indian people during British rule?  I have a strong memory of my father being very uncomfortable around Pakistani and Indian origin people in England when I was a child.  He was brought up to consider himself unlike them.  But in truth, he looked very similar of course.

For the early Anglo-Indians - Eurasians as they were called then - it must have been quite easy to recognise each other.  'Blacky White' (to quote Indian Summers) in colour.  Dressed in European style clothing.  Worshipping as Christians.

I just wonder if full blooded Indians would be able to tell if there was an Anglo Indian in their midst should those people be dressed as Indians.  Is there a face shape unique to the blend of Indian and European?

Looking at the photos I have amassed so far, I think that probably the European blood was already so diluted - by Normans, Vikings, Celts, Slavs, etc - it is not possible to identify an Anglo Indian "look" other than in colour.

Bet there were a few eventually who were blacky white with red hair or blue eyes or whatever.  What a give away, as the Monty Python boys would say.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Genetic Voting

So once again it is a while since I posted.  In the intervening period since my last missive, though, I have spent a lot of time answering questions from my children.  They are completely fascinated by the general election!  The only ones in the country who are not completely sick of the whole thing.  The idea that no one knows what will happen tomorrow or who will be in charge has totally caught their imagination.  I have answered questions on the 'first past the post' voting system, the unfairness of said system, the difference for proportional representation.  At the weekend it was questions about coalitions and who decides.  This morning we spent breakfast talking about who would be prime minister and why one should vote at all (a whole new subject!).  And what is the Queen's role (!)?  And 'does David Cameron even want to be prime minister again' [direct quote!]?

As mentioned in previous posts, I started my career in politics.  With a politics degree and a research post with a Labour MP.  I was, throughout my teens, a proper Millie Tant.  On some issues, I have definitely mellowed; on others, I have never faltered.

However, since my own children started with the questions, I have become very curious about the origins of political sensibilities.  My own parents were diametrically opposed.  My mother has never wavered in her relatively left wing principles.  My father becomes more of a walking Daily Mail the older he gets.

This morning, we had to explain to the children that we too - my husband and I - are on opposite sides of the fence.  [In fact, as we live in a Tory constituency, I was cursing the children for starting this off again.  I was hoping that my husband would forget to vote tomorrow - or my vote just won't count!]

Did my mother, as my father always claim, indoctrinate me for the Left?  Or was it simply that my father did not offer suitable arguments?  Was I genetically predisposed to sympathise with the Left?  My mother's family history of Left wing activity is very strong.  But then my memories of the Anglo Indian grandparents are all of Daily Telegraph reading, standing up for the national anthem, silence for the Queen's Speech at Christmas, disdain for socialist ideals.  They did not waver either.
Yet to me, some thing felt wrong about their views.  For one thing, I could not reconcile their innate racism with their skin colour.  The kind of ideas which I was brought up with for my mother's side just seemed so much fairer and more reasonable when I was a child.
I wonder how it was in the famous Miliband household?  Or the Kinnocks - their son is running for elections in Wales tomorrow?  If both parents believe the same thing, you must get an extra push!
Today, all we could do was to smile when the children asked how we will vote and why.  I had a rant prepared but my husband cut me off by saying that reasons are quite private!  I wait with interest to see which side my children will eventually fall on but I have a sneaky hope that my Left genes have done their work.