Monday, August 25, 2008

'Being a step grandfather is a cinch'

This is one of my Dad's comments in the car on the way to Auntie E's.

'Oral History' is part of my MA - it's my option course. Part of the MA dissertation will be based on evidence gleaned from interviews with key movers and shakers in the history of dementia. That's the plan at least. Anyway one of my friends on my course for her option essay did a piece on her interviewing her granny. I thought this would be easier and so used Auntie E as a guinea pig in this regard today - husband has finally shown me how to use voice recorder properly.

Auntie E is normally a bundle of laughs but this interview, which was highly structured by me, actually got quite harrowing at times. There were of course many comic stories, but the ones which hit home were the more sad tales. Great great granny died of Typhoid at 32 - as did two of her children, leaving my great granny , the eldest, (born 1882) to bring up a family of ten. A little later a younger sister died in a fire on her street - a man was burning advertising hoardings and her Victoriana outfit just caught fire. Great granny later of course met my great grandfather who died at 29 of Type 1 diabetes - no insulin of course in those days. Fortunately she met my great-step grandfather and they later had two girls in Shropshire - one of which is Auntie E born 1921.

Anyway, the point is it wasn't as fun as I was expecting. Precisely because Auntie E wanted to present a more true picture for my sake than the normal glossy, idyllic representations we normally receive of our family's past, there were unexpected times when I felt Auntie E was being quite reticent. None of us knew that at the age of ten following rheumatic fever, Auntie E was taught at home by an 'irritable' woman for four years - effectively leaving school at ten. That her father was unemployed at the time of the depression. She doesn't particularly remember this time. That the war was the worst part of her life. And we didn't even get past 1948. Must write up the methodology.

No comments: