Tuesday, 10 June 2008

History - it's in your Genes

This could have been a rant about how tricky it is to find Jeans that fit....I could write reams on that!

Instead this is a post about the cloth from which we're cut!

Thirteen years ago I was given a holiday diary written by my Husband's Granny in the 1960's, it may have been an odd thing to have been called a 'gift'....but what an interesting present it turned out to be!

I always hated History at school, it was dry and bored me so utterly senseless, that my friend Joanna and I spent our History lessons reading Shirley Conran's 'Lace'!
We used to put our massive school bags on the desk in front of us, and hid behind them, reading the salacious parts of that literary masterpiece whilst sucking salt and vinegar crisps (we had to suck them, so that no crunching noises were detected). 
What happened to the Goldfish almost made us squeak so loudly, that we gave the game away....so we stuffed our mouths in a very unladylike fashion with more crisps.
It won't surprise you to hear that I failed History - what I learnt could have easily fitted on the back of a postage stamp....
You can imagine my lack of excitement...being given Granny's diary years later!

I thought I would speed read (out of politeness) a little before shoving it on the bookshelf and forgetting it was there....that was 13 years ago, and a lot has changed since then - including me!

On her first trip to Canada, Granny described seeing a supermarket for the first time....she sees the things we now take for granted as if she was an alien landing on earth...it amused me, the way she described a shopping trolley - as a wire cage with wheels and a plastic rod for a handle - she'd never come across one of those before either! 
Amongst these gems she wrote about her conversations with the Canadian relatives, talking of the old days, before they emigrated, talking about the family they had left behind. 
In the diary she recorded these snippets, and I began to wonder what these people (only described by their dates of birth and death) were really like.

I didn't see it at 'History' at first, I do now - a rich, antique tapestry of our family, lots of tiny stitches, lots of detail - you stand back and feel rather emotional!
Discovering tiny details, like how a couple met (in 1720), how someone got a promotion (in 1860) what they did for a living (how they were robbed - but the robber caught).

13 years - it's a long time to spend trying to find people, but I have! I have learnt the necessary detective skills to track people down amongst piles of dusty files...but that's where the dustiness ends - these notes are no longer names and dates, they are real people, real lives, happiness, success, tragedy and loss - and this is what History should be - fleshed out, made interesting. I now wonder if Miss Bainbridge had described Hitler or The Peasants Revolt in such terms I might have paid more attention....

So if your child thinks History is as dull as the proverbial ditch water - get them online, get them finding their own History....and you might be pleasantly surprised, and you are sure to be transported back in your mind's very own time machine.