They can't take that away from me.

8 Dec 2017
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Pre digital cameras, when you got your prints from the chemist the packet (and much publicity) had the phrase 'because someone took a picture'. Without this record, it would be difficult to remember that we built most of that house ourselves, the five children had a super time, always larks, impromptu parties and loads of visitors. The children are in their 50's, the house and garden are under the M25, but the memories live on.

The title is a Gershwin song from the 1930's, sung by all the most famous singers in their time. I've written about memories, their importance for me, loaded on a computer with a large screen, and appearing at random. A doctor who specialises in dementia says it is a brilliant way of communicating with sufferers, who cannot cope with albums.

The whole subject of photographs came up last week - visit of eldest son, complete with USB and CD of latest family occasions, grand-daughter wedding and brother-in-law 90th birthday, plus shire horses and a breed of sheep, of which the ram could be champion of the crumpled horn. We were then glued to the screen. Friendly battles ensued on pictures which could not be dated. I did it on dresses or hair styles; son had a fool-proof method, any number plate he could put a date to.

This blog has a serious warning and a plea. My brother in law is in a bad way – he's 91, still stubbornly living at home, rapidly losing sight, hearing and mobility. I've tried over the decades to persuade him to let me see his photographs – he has been a visiting professor in many countries, and took many pictures. They are all in boxes. He has a mentally ill son, a daughter and grand-daughter. If they do not insist on getting him to name the photos where he can, his whole life will be lost, no record except, I expect, an obituary in the 'Times'.

The saying 'every picture tells a story' is very true. Our record of the bicentenary of the French Revolution in 1989 is a glorious example. We wanted to watch the fireworks - we took a champagne picnic. Could get no nearer than the 5th bridge, already about 10,000 people on it. We were pictured on the central reservation. A police car tried to cross, we all stood up and did the Mexican Wave. Afterwards, on that warm July night, it was one giant street party.

I've kept a diary for 30 years, invaluable. Records now go on Facebook. This Christmas, as well as texting and watching soaps, dig in the family photos, and play the game 'Who was that, where was that', it's fun.

The Gardener

A Moodscope member.

A Moodscope member.

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Comments

the room above the garage

Dec. 8, 2017, 6:28 a.m.

TG I love photographs! Especially older ones like this, the value even higher when there is perhaps one shot from the entire month because film and processing was expensive. I’m struck by your line about his “whole life” being lost. I get the same uneasy feeling as you. I document everything by photograph perhaps trying to record it all...but why? His photographs will remain and if unwritten or recorded his life will still be there. Just in a more mystical way. Perhaps it’s his he wants it... Thank you for the photo today. If that is you then I am cheering at the chic chignon et al! Love ratg x.

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The Gardener

Dec. 8, 2017, 9:30 a.m.

Thanks RATG. This picture is particularly poignant. It is Christmas 50 years ago - the baby 50 this year, the Red Indian obtained his PhD. It was obviously 60's by the hair-style. It begs loads of questions. I clearly remember mixing the cement for the extension, even unloading bricks, but I cannot remember what I cooked on, their would have been 2 more children, Mr G and Granny, and no sign of panic anywhere. One of the older boys will remember (and in particular they will remember a broken toy or some deficiency in the catering!)

Orangeblossom

Dec. 8, 2017, 7:40 a.m.

Thanks for blog TG. Good to hear from you again. I wonder whether you reread your diaries from the past. I have tried to word process mine but Putting pen to paper works better for me.. My other half does word process his. He has kept his diary since 2009. A useful aide memoir. A big Christmas hug.

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The Gardener

Dec. 8, 2017, 9:34 a.m.

Thanks OB, also poignant - for a long time I would re-read diaries to Mr G, warts and all. Probably one from 20 years before. Now, I often look up today's date and see what we were up to. For the last 5 years I have gradually desisted - good memory jogger for Mr G - but as he got more and more bitter he did not marvel at what we had done, where we had been often on little money, he could not accept old age and its troubles, just moaned that he could not do those things now - as if at 80+ you were the same as at 45. Hug reciprocated.

Oli

Dec. 8, 2017, 7:47 a.m.

Thank you for the post TG. This touches something quite emotional for me I think. I don't have any photos on display and I never make time to look at the ones that I have hidden away. Even thinking about them touches a sadness. I don't like this feeling, it says, "work to do." But I guess it needs doing. I've learned when I'm avoiding something.

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the room above the garage

Dec. 8, 2017, 8:24 a.m.

Oli I’m fascinated by your comment. What is it that makes you bit have any on display? Photos are an essential part of my mental health battle, a tool, they remind me that things have been ok and will again. If it hurts there must be something that gently and skilfully needs excavated. Don’t rip off the plaster, it’ll come when you’re ready. Love ratg xx.

Jul

Dec. 8, 2017, 8:58 a.m.

Hi Oli and ratg. I don't have any photos on display either. I have my favourites (of my mother and the children when they were small and a really lovely one of my husband by my bed) tucked away somewhere but not on display. Whenever I see photos of grand pianos covered in gilt framed photos, I think can't they display them somewhere else.I suppose I don't see beautiful surfaces as as places to put things on. But I imagine most people like to display photos. It's natural I think. I do love looking through old photos from time to time. They are in a huge box in the attic. Julxx

The Gardener

Dec. 8, 2017, 9:38 a.m.

Oli - I'm sorry you hide photos - our past is our past. I am reminded of Indonesia, and the port of Batavia, with marvellous Dutch built buildings. Last time we were there they were knocking them down, because they were a reminder of the hated Dutch colianilism - but it's history you can't avoid, apparently the Dutch were one of the worst exploiters - but keep what they did well. Actually going through the photos might remind you that there were good times.

Oli

Dec. 9, 2017, 8:12 a.m.

Thank you for the replies -- they got me thinking. I think I've avoided photos from a specific point, because I have not always avoided them. (Although I've never been one to have pictures on display). When my wife left she took all the photos (I agreed, and I was okay with it.) But that was the point at which I became a bit avoidant of photos in general. It's a bit more complicated than that but there's the gist of it. And the strange thing is that if not for the blog post I wasn't aware of it as an avoidance -- I'd just thought of it as an idiosyncrasy of mine.

the room above the garage

Dec. 8, 2017, 8:25 a.m.

By the way, I adore the Indian head dress and is that an after eight in your sons hand? They are a weakness for me, not happy until I feel ill!! Xx

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The Gardener

Dec. 8, 2017, 9:56 a.m.

After Eight obviously end of stocking. I never keep chocolates in the house, eat them till I'm sick, Mr G has a passion for KitKat but not chocolate in general.

Jul

Dec. 8, 2017, 8:46 a.m.

You look beautiful Gardener. Julxx

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The Gardener

Dec. 8, 2017, 9:41 a.m.

Another puzzle - how did I get time to do that hair on Christmas morning? Also remember making the blouse. Time must have been elastic in those days.

Bunnykins

Dec. 8, 2017, 9 a.m.

Such a lovely family photo x

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LP

Dec. 8, 2017, 9:07 a.m.

Hi TG, Such a wonderful photo, beautiful. My dad has been looking through old photos recently. My mother has been sorting them out, a job she's been putting off for years. Think my sister has enabled it to happen. My sister has been a great support to all of us. My daughter loves looking back at photos from when she was little. Such a lovely experience that future generations won't have. The aged curled and yellowed gloss card is part of the going back in time experience. Thank you for sharing yours TG. Sending well wishes to you and all. TG xx

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The Gardener

Dec. 8, 2017, 9:43 a.m.

Thanks LP, it is the younger generations love of family photos which has provoked the huge effort of getting them all on the computer (huge screen) and have it on random all the time - brilliant concept, introduced by eldest son.

DAVE

Dec. 8, 2017, 9:23 a.m.

I enjoy your blog Gardener, I too am an avid fan of photography, going back 50 years and more, the last 10 years there are videos 1-2 hours long of holiday trips on QM2 out of New York with QE II fish tailing Forward and Aft, port and starboard back to Southampton. Helicopter flights over ****** Rises, and Niagra Falls, (American & Canadian waterfalls). Whenever I see a family or a couple taking a photo, I have to intercede and say "In years to come, there'll be argue nets as to who took the picture".... Also if there are any young women expecting their first child, to remember not just to take pictures/videos of the face or full torso, but of their tiny little hands, as they are the parts of a baby which grow very very quickly. Thanks again Gardener. Dave X

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The Gardener

Dec. 8, 2017, 9:45 a.m.

Thanks Dave, how right you are, absolutely my sentiments xx

DAVE

Dec. 8, 2017, 9:28 a.m.

ps Ohotography is after all part of genealogy and with further research, via Salt Lake City the Mormon Geneology Centre is available to anyone at all. Dave.

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The Gardener

Dec. 8, 2017, 9:50 a.m.

Dave, I am a genealogist - I think the first time the whole of a canton has been put on a data base, some entries were in Latin, stretched my brain - in late 16th century.(120,00 people, some going back 13 generations - even, from an old charter of 1382 50 'burghers' of the town). A 'mate' struggling with Parkinsons, has 'rounded up' pictures of Football teams, mayors and priests, and he and I collaborate on historical exhibitions. As presents I do a 'circular' family tree, with cameos of all the family generations I can get round the edge

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The Gardener

Dec. 8, 2017, 10:06 a.m.

Only writing so much because should be doing church flowers but my co-arranger overslept so I'm stooging about. Title is a song of course. Another, 'Thanks for the Memorry'. Best, to me, Hermoine Gingold and Maurice Chevalier from 'Gigi'. 'Yes, I remember it well' where they argue throughout. 'You were dressed in pink - 'I was all in blue', yes, I remember it well.

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Wyvern

Dec. 8, 2017, 10:52 a.m.

I've loved today's blog and all the comments - I too am a photo fiend. I love digital as I can take dozens in a day and then spend loads of time going through and picking the best to archive. My mother was a photo fiend too and we have several albums and myriad boxes of her photos of our past and her travels to foreign parts. They are great to have and we can almost see the world through her eyes.

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The Gardener

Dec. 8, 2017, 11:27 a.m.

Wyvern, what you have said is the basis of my blog - seeing the world through your mother's eyes - thanks to my eldest son's technological ability and patience we have not lost these 'boxes and boxes' of photos - all (those we wanted to save) scanned in. Even managed g-g grandfathers glass slides from the beginning of the last century - 1920's Antibes, Nice, Andorra, Annecy - they are not 'snaps' 5 generations passing - social history - war history, an uncle, very good looking in his official photo, killed at Loos in 1917 - have his name among 20,000 others on a huge wall. Mr G's father looking with disgust at a pile of dates covered in flies in Egypt same era. And the wedding photos! Why do the people in old wedding photos look like wax-works? In my blog I spoke of the sadness of my b-in-laws photos - as a visiting professor 50 years ago he was often a 'privileged' visitor, and will have photos which will now be rarities.

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Valerie

Dec. 8, 2017, 11:58 a.m.

Gardener,when mentioning your past,why have you never mentioned that you were a model as well? Seriously,those legs,that face,that hair-how the **** did you manage to look like that with all those kids,and a babe in arms? I always run from cameras,hate how I look in them,but I confess to being pretty shallow! xx

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The Gardener

Dec. 8, 2017, 1:45 p.m.

Valerie, how flattering! No, I never was a model. I had a month at Lucie Clayton when I was 40 for a treat, terrified of the cat walk. I went straight to the mirror, pulled the skin under my ears back, the jaw line is still there. I tentatively suggested a minor face lift a few years ago - absolute furore among the family. At the wedding of the other little boy in the photo (sans head-dress) I came downstairs, and a son-in-law said straight out 'Joan Collins' still don't know whether to be flattered or insulted. Somebody said, about 20 years ago, was I a dancer, as I 'walked so beautifully'. Gob-smacked. I think riding horses a lot is probably the reason for good posture. My g-g granddaughter, 15, rides and drives shire horses. In my office, pride and joy, is a photo of her and eldest son, in tweed suits and bowler hats, that photo I will show off anywhere. She was also the picture of elegance and poise at her mother's wedding

The Gardener

Dec. 8, 2017, 1:38 p.m.

By the way - whoever chose the Bob Marley quote, thanks, it's perfect

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