Tuesday, 27 January 2009

The Great Storm

Thank you to Joocey, who updated my blogs for me while I was off the grid! To find out about The Great Storm, go to my other blog, which you will find here!

Memoirs of a Mother will continue, just as soon as I have got rid of this rotten cold!

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Stormy Weather

I'm writing this on behalf of Mademoiselle duGers, since she has not a jot of electricity, water or telecommunications. (Thanks to those infernal nasty storms that have been battering France and Spain.) Hence she has nothing with which to access her internet. Poor thing. Its a bit like the 18th Century, by all accounts, except that she does have a rather handy swimming pool to get water from, and a gas cooker to boil some water. So at least a cup of tea (albeit slightly chlorinated) is possible.

Fear not, though - I'm sure normal memoirs service shall return shortly.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

When did you first drive a car? Officially and unofficially?

We used to go into the Forestry areas regularly to “borrow” wood for the fire! We never took logs from piles, but instead took the bits that the Forestry Commission didn’t want. The wood was pine, so it burnt fast and hot, so we had to use coal as well.

I’m getting away from the point though!

We would drive up into the forests, with the dogs. We went wood hunting in all weathers, but made a dog walk out of it as well. From the age of about 12, our outings became driving lessons as well. Because the forests were empty at the weekends, and had extremely well maintained dirt roads, it was a perfect place to learn the basics of driving. Within just a few weeks, I was driving quite happily (albeit only up to 3rd gear!) through the Forestry Commission forests.

When I got to 17 (UK legal driving age), and started driving lessons I could already drive, but had never had experience on actual roads. So the basics could be skipped. My mum had actually been a driving instructor when I was a baby, so what I had learnt was the right and proper way to drive. All I needed lessons for was for confidence, and to learn the manoeuvres that would enable me to pass my test. My mum insisted that I learnt to drive in Dumfries, rather than our more local town of Castle Douglas, as it was a bigger town and had more than one zebra crossing and set of traffic lights! Castle Douglas is a pretty basic town!

I had lessons on and off for just over a year – depending on whether we could afford the lessons or not! Every day though, I drove into Dumfries where I went to school, and my dad worked. I got loads of practice.

I passed my test not long after I was 18, and got my first car a few months after that, thanks to some money left to me by an aunt. It was a banger, but I firmly believe that everyone’s first car should be a banger, because everyone knackers their first car, and I was not different!

That’s for another post though I think. Cars I have owned!

What about you? What age did you start driving and what was your first car?
NB. Photographs Not My Own Work

Friday, 16 January 2009

Have any recipes been passed down to you from family members?

My dad has an ancient, probably antique, Good Housekeeping recipe book – it is in a red cover, and is like my bible! There are loads of great recipes in there, mostly traditional, and I have taken loads of my recipes from there.

As you know, I was a chef, and still am occasionally, and still, I refer to this to check on cooking times for meats etc.

There are a few others that have been passed down to me like the Chocolate Fridge Cake, which is a recipe that was given to my mum years ago by a friend in South Africa. There’s also gingered cucumber, salmon mousse, and a lovely one that was a recipe of my dad’s cousin who died 9 years ago with coconut and jam! It’s very tasty. Most of my cooking skills were taught to me by my mum as my Grandma has never liked cooking. She was a very good cook – I have never tasted, or never liked any mashed potato but hers! Even I can’t get it that good! Grandma still cooks for herself, but only simple things as she’s getting older, her sight is getting worse, and she doesn’t like cooking with oil.

I remember when I was little, she had this really cool thing given to her by, I think, the Blind Society – whatever it’s real name is! Royal National Institute for the Blind or something. It was a little yellow thing, longer on one side, that you popped into a cup and when you had filled the cup up with boiling water is made a bleeping sound to show that it was full enough. She hardly ever used it, but I thought it was cool!

Anyway, to get back to the topic, here is a link to just some of my recipes.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Who was the oldest relative you remember as a child? What do you remember about them?

The oldest relative in my family is, and always has been, my Grandma. She’s still around, at 88, and going strong despite fracturing her hip last year.

I’ve always taken a great interest in talking to her about her life, and about her parents and what she remembers about other relatives. I’m quite keen on genealogy – I love to know how we became who we are and where we came from. I’ve got back to about the beginning of the 1800’s, and can’t get any further without consulting parish records in Devon, of all places.

Anyway, my Grandma was born in Ireland in 1920, less than two years before the civil war. Her mother was a teacher, who married an English soldier. To be fair, I don’t think he was a soldier when they married, I think he was working for Ford by that time, but even so…she was bloody brave to marry an Englishman at a time when they were hated so much.

They lived in Ireland until Grandma was about 6, and moved back to England, because her father could get a better job there.

They lived in Devon for a while, but ended up living in Portsmouth, and were living there by the outbreak of WW2. Portsmouth was one of the most bombed places in Britain, due to the fact that it has (had?) the largest Naval dockyard in the country. Grandma was evacuated out to W Sussex, to an old country house, along with the rest of the staff from her office. It was something to do with the war office. They were meant to do the fire watch every night, but ended up going to the pub instead! Who knows what would have happened if a stray incendiary had dropped and a fire had happened – “oops, sorry sir, we were in the pub”! What I want to know is why the hell did they have someone on fire watch who couldn’t see! Grandma is registered blind now, but her sight has never been good!

She met my Grandad through a friend in the office, and within six weeks they were engaged. It must have been awfully romantic at the time. It wasn’t done in haste for any other reason apart from the fact that they were in love. The war was over (anyway, the furthest overseas my Grandad went was the Isle of Wight!), and she was a good girl!

They had three children, and lived in Singapore, where my Grandad was a teacher working as a civilian within the RAF. They lived at a place called Seletar and my mum went to Changi Grammar School – this was in the 60’s. Then they moved on to Tanzania, then Malawi, then back to UK. This was how my mum met my dad, and ended up going back to live in Malawi.

Anyway, Grandma spends quite a lot of time with us, and it’s really good to get her talking about “the olden days”. It’s interesting, and I love hearing about what she got up to during the war, what it was like to live through that, and what it was like then. If we don’t ask her, there is no one else to tell us from a personal perspective. Books are all very well, but they lack the personal glimpse into another life.

Friday, 2 January 2009

How is the world today different from what it was like when you were a child?

The world today is so completely different to the one in which I grew up that it is almost unrecognisable, at least in terms of communication and travel.

Obviously, on sight, most things look much the same, but scratch just below the surface and things are completely different.

When I was growing up, life for children was very innocent. Maybe that was because of my circumstances – living an expatriate life and growing up with children only from my parents’ peer group and social strata probably created quite a protected and privileged childhood. We weren’t aware of bad things happening – life was just fun and we didn’t have to think about anything more important than the fact that it was difficult to get toys there. We didn’t even have television, so world news didn’t impinge upon our lovely, happy little world.

Now, I would say that almost everyone has a telephone, most people have mobile phones, and most people have the Internet and email, so contact is instantaneous. Everyone has a means of accessing the latest news, up to the last minute, be it on satellite TV, the internet or mobile phone access. The world has become a much smaller place than it used to be – when I was small one could write a letter, post it, it may take weeks to reach its destination, then the recipient had to reply, post and again it may take weeks to reach the recipient. Now, one writes and email, it is delivered instantly into the recipients inbox, whereupon he/she reads it and replies. It can now be done in less than five minutes.

Other areas of technology have improved as well. When I was small, the idea of a videophone was very futuristic and space age, but now with the advent of applications like Skype and MSN, it is in every day use.

My parents used to listen to music on vinyl records and on reel to reel tapes. In my life we have moved on to cassette tapes, cd’s and mp3’s, and then onto mp3 players and iPods that even show photos and videos. We didn’t even have a video player until I was about 8, and it was rare that people had them. Now, most people have dvd players, or watch films on their computers or online. We had a ZX Spectrum 16k – now we have computers with more power and space than was ever dreamt of back then. Even my mobile phone has more memory on it than our first proper pc.

Travel is also easier and cheaper than it was. When I was small it was a big thing to move overseas, or even to holiday abroad. I had friends at school in UK who had never left the country. Now, I would say that most people have been on holidays abroad, even if it’s only to France or Spain. It’s not even that big a deal to move overseas permanently, with people leaving Britain in droves.

Life for me now, is completely different to life for my parents. If there is something I want to buy for Isla that I do not have access to here, I can go online and order it. My parents couldn’t do that.

All in all, I think that technology has helped our lives in so many ways. Yes, it is a very different life, but it is better. In my opinion.

NB. Photographs Not My Own Work

Do you remember any fads from your youth? Popular hairstyles? Clothes?

Legwarmers Earmuffs Slouch Boots Snap bracelets Denim shorts with black tights
(never a good look!) Tie dye
(I still like it, but then I think I was a hippy in a past life!)
Smurfs Wacaday and Timmy Mallett

Theer were some pretty terrible hairstyles around in the 80's, when I was growing up. One of the worst was the Deirdre Barlow bubble perm (Coronation Street), especially when twinned with the massive specs and sunglasses that were so "in" then!

Some other terrible ones I remember were the mullet (obviously), the side pony tail, crimped hair and BIG hair complete with Farrah Fawcett syle flicks, although that may have been more seventies than 80's!

I missed out on a lot of the fashions, toys and programmes from the 80's because we didn't have TV in Malawi - in fact it tok a long time to learn anything from the outside world (before the days of the internet etc and the telephone was extremely expensive - we didcn't find out about the Falklands Was until it was over), so I only remember from 1986 onwards, but that's enough to know that the 80's were a completely taste free decade!

NB. Photographs Not My Own Work

Did you have family chores? What were they? Which was your least favorite?

I certainly didn’t have to do any chores when I was very small – up to 9yrs old anyway! In Malawi we had servants. Malawi had a very poor economy (it’s much worse now than it was 20 odd years ago) and most expatriates had servants. We had a garden boy and a house boy – god, it sounds so un-pc now!

Julio was the house boy/cook and he was great. He actually started as our gardener, but when we sacked the old house boy that my dad had before we arrived (I think it was after he managed to serrate all my mum’s Sabatier knives and scrubbed the Teflon coating off the sandwich toaster as well as loads of other things) Julio got promoted! My mum taught him how to cook and he was brilliant. Raymond was our gardener and he was about 7’ tall with feet about size 14 (UK size). There were servants quarters away from the house, and they lived there with their wives and children. They were paid a wage, they had a home and my mum and dad paid all of their medical bills, paid school fees for their children and paid for food and clothing. My mum also told them that if they stole from them they would be sacked, but if they were hungry or needed anything, all they had to do was ask.

Anyway, to get back to the point, I never even made my bed until I was 9 and we went back to UK! My mum would tell me to tidy my room, and Julio would step in and do it, telling my mum that I was only a little girl!!

Moving to UK was a shock to the system – suddenly I had to do things for myself! I had to learn how to make a bed, didn’t have anyone else to tidy my room, and as I got older I obviously had to do more and more things for myself! Looking back, it’s probably a good thing that we left when I was that age, otherwise I’d have become a real spoilt brat, unable to do anything! Maybe it’s why I’m still quite messy though!

When my cousin and I were about 11 and 12 we got rabbits. He was living with us during term time then as we were both weekly boarders at a nearby prep school, and his parents were overseas. We begged my mum one day if we could have a rabbit each, and to our immense surprise, she agreed! We had to clean those cages once a week, and it was a horrible job. That’s the main reason I’ve never bought Isla a rabbit – I hated the cleaning so much! NB. Photographs Not My Own Work

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Happy New Year, Bonne Année, Feliz Año, Prosit Neujahr, Gelukkige Nuwejaar, Bliadhna Mhath Ur

Have a Wonderful, Happy & Prosperous 2009!