Archive for the ‘Family Stories’ Category

Do you keep a diary?  Has the way you do this changed over the years?  Like most people I had schoolgirl diaries, all now lost.  As I grew older I needed a diary to keep track of appointments, etc.  I also learned to keep a journal which helped me to sort out feelings and make sense of events in my life.

In my 30s I attended a Visual Diary course with Juliet Batten, and loved the way this encouraged me to express my creativity.  When I was planning to permanently leave Auckland I made a visual diary of our last eleven weeks there.

Later I discovered The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and for years I wrote Morning Pages – stream of consciousness writing that is not intended to be read again.  This often helped me to prepare for the day ahead.

In 2006 I discovered blogging, and since then I’ve done Morning Pages only very occasionally, maybe just a few times a year.  This blog gives me an opportunity to record events in my life, and I love the way it connects me with people near and far, including some I’ve never met.  I’m careful what I write about, and avoid anything that’s very personal or that might infringe on someone else’s privacy.  I’m aware that anything I write here may be seen by anybody in the whole wide world.  It’s useful because it can be searched if I want to remind myself of some event.  My gratitude to WordPress is heartfelt for the way they’ve allowed me to make over 3,000 posts and upload thousands of photos, all free of charge.  If something happens I know these might all be lost, but I accept that.  500 of my posts about the Christchurch earthquakes and their aftermath have been deposited with the Ceismic Archive and National Archives, so these, at least, should remain for posterity.  I keep copies of photos on my p.c., and back them up, but rarely print them out.

I have a paper diary for appointments and memoranda.  There’s also a form of visual diary in the room where my computer lives.  A notice board on the wall holds an assortment of cards, tickets, clippings, etc, around the outside.

These are in chronological order and I remove an old one to make room for the next new thing.  The centre of the board holds invites, tickets, etc for future events.  This provides me with a suitable storage space and satisfies my archival instincts.

I wonder in what ways my future diary-keeping will change, and how other people store their memorabilia.

“Do you have diaries that you keep
recording thoughts overt or deep?”




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This novel tells the true story of an Australian family who were convicts and merchants.  The author is a Christchurch woman who has spent years meticulously researching her fascinating family.  Two of her Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandparents were convicts transported to New South Wales in the late 18th century.  I was interested because I also have convict ancestors, although mine went to Tasmania in the mid-19th century.

There is a wealth of historical detail, with real characters and authentic events.  As a Latin enthusiast I loved the fact that the third generation Robert Campbell was named Tertius.  Reading of life in the hulks on the Thames before transportation was particularly interesting, as was the stigma that applied years later to those who came of convict stock.

At first I found the fact the book is written in the present tense distracting, but I soon realised that it made the story flow engagingly.  The author’s notes at the end explain where she found much of the historic detail.

I was intrigued to learn that the Old Bailey proceedings from this period are available online, with verbatim trial records, and was inspired to look for my own Great-Great-Grandmother’s trial.  I found this easily, with all the witnesses’ statements.  Unfortunately there was only one sentence, a question, spoken by the prisoner.  My transported Great-Great-Grandfather was convicted in Norfolk, not at the Old Bailey, so his records may be elsewhere.

Susan mentions support from her sisters and wider family, and the book is dedicated to her grandchildren.  They must all be proud and pleased that her skills and commitment have produced such a readable and enjoyable story.

“You’ll be enthralled, I guarantee
by this Australian family.”

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Natal Narratives

Many mothers, like me, must have been feeling empathy for our Prime Minister over recent days and weeks.  My first child was born three days after her due date, and I recall several highlights of that time more than fifty years ago.

  • Being told by the hospital not to come in until my contractions were regular. If I’d obeyed she’d have been born at home.
  • Birth happened barely an hour after I’d been admitted – so different from friends’ stories of 20-30 hours labour
  • A concerned nurse saying ‘you’re not pushing, are you?’.  I couldn’t help it!
  • A nurse who offered to ‘turn on the taps’ when she wanted a urine sample.  Being young and naive I imagined this was some invasive procedure and firmly declined
  • Ten days in a single room to enjoy my new daughter.  Hard to imagine what it must be like to be sent home after just a few hours.

Our first baby at two months

I hope Jacinda’s time goes well.  What are your memories of childbirth experiences?

“The times may change but birth is still
a wonderful and special thrill.”

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I was kidnapped by Victorian Railways in Australia.  I was visitng my brother in Melbourne and he knew I loved train travel.  We were on an inner city circuit and he asked if I would like to go around again.  “Yes, please!”  Unbeknownst to us this particular train changed routes at 3pm and headed off into the hinterland.  Luckily we were able to get off, cross the tracks, and catch a train back to the city in time to retrieve our car, and get to the airport for my flight home to New Zealand.

“The train ran off a different way.
It’s lucky I got home that day.”

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Mishandled Mouse

Daughter Number One was thrilled she’d been chosen to bring the class mouse home for the holidays.  On Thursday afternoon it arrived, complete with cage and treadmill.  Daughter Number Two, a pre-schooler, was fascinated and delighted to be allowed to hold and stroke it.  An hour later the mouse was lying on the cage floor, decidedly dead.  An inquisition elicited the fact that younger daughter, feeling the mouse was a little grubby, had carefully washed it with her facecloth and cold water.

What to do?  Unthinkable for elder daughter to have to face her classmates with the news the mouse had not survived even one night in our house.  It fell to me to drive across the city to a shopping centre open late on Thursday night, and carefully choose a look-alike replacement.  Classmates need never know our family secret.

“I hate to say that in our house
we can’t be trusted with a mouse.”

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Purrfect Pair

Stephen needs new slippers, but sadly I could not persudae him to buy these ones even though they were his size.

Fluffy feet for men

You’d think he’d have been keen to have feet that matched Ziggy’s!

Ziggy’s fluffy feet

“He did not want his little piggies
to look exactly just like Ziggy’s.”

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Ruth preparing to abseil

Have you every done something that was out of the ordinary?  Some years ago I went abseiling.  I’m definitely not a sporty person, but I was attracted because the woman facilitator, Ali Watersong. was someone I knew and trusted.  She is also a psychodrama practitioner, and on the Friday evening we went to a preparatory session where we addressed the rock we were to climb, and worked through our fears.

The next morning we drove to Castle Rock in the Port Hills, and climbed up, complete with ropes, helmets, and other equipment.  It was my first experience of serious rock climbing, and it was daunting.  At the top I was overcome by emotion, remembering the rock climbing done by my father who died when I was very young.

I was gently encouraged to step off and abseil down, which I did with a tremendous feeling of achievement.  I didn’t want ever to do it again, but I’m pleased to know that I could overcome my fears and do something that took immense personal courage.

“To step off was the hardest thing
but that day I went abseiling.”

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