Posts Tagged ‘Virginia Woolf’

Receding years and fatal memories. ( For seniors)

August 2, 2016


My Mother on the left, Aunt Agnes on right, her brother in the middle

Those with more receding years behind than advancing years in front, might still remember visiting Aunts and their endless talk about illnesses and ailments. As a child it made me almost sick having to accompany our parents to visit ancient Aunts. My hair would be duly roughly brushed up and my nails scraped clean. I had to wash my hands. For some reason, they were all called Aunts, even when not related. I think my parents underestimated my observation skill in detecting lies.

On top of everything else, we were forced to kiss them on arrival and again on departure. One Aunt had facial hairs sprouting, another a permanently dripping nose. I was bored shitless and had to sit still. I remember passing time staring at Aunts and listening to their litany of ailments with detailed frailties enthusiastically regaled in all its minutia. My mother told us a very old Aunt sat on a chair that held a toilet. We were strictly forbidden to stare at this. Of course we stared at nothing else. We never forgot anything to do with toilets.

We had one Aunt running a grocery shop in Eindhoven. A couple of lollies did relieve the visits somewhat, but only just. She had a very large and frightening nose. Another Aunt was better and used to send me cut-out copies of a very favourite Newspaper strip, ‘Erik de Noorsman’ or ‘Eric The Norseman.’ She was Aunt Agnes and very kind. No hairs that I remember!

It was when I turned twelve or so that those obligatory visits were finally done away with. I became stronger in my resistance but am sure it left permanent damage.
Of course, migrating to Australia when I turned fifteen, pushed all visits to Aunts permanently into the annals of our family, even though a couple of Aunts did visit us in Australia.

Seventy years later and the shoe now fits the other foot. However, even though I am still no Aunt, I have facial hair. No toilet built into my fauteuil as yet. I do consider my grandkids. I love seeing them, but leave them mainly to their own devices when here. I have taken to reading again those crime stories by Henning Mankell. I was a third down reading one, when the book just vanished. I turned the whole bedroom upside down. It got taken by someone, and I reckon the fifteen year old grandson snitched it. I am so proud if he did. Stealing books is to be encouraged. I don’t want to ask him. In fact, if the book is stolen, I will leave another Mankell (unobtrusively) again for next time.

This is what was lacking in those time long gone visits. Kids were expected to behave. Why did they not give books or toys to kids visiting aunts? Where were the uncles? I cannot remember a single uncle. Did the war claim them? Was it smoking related? Where did they go?. In jail perhaps? How odd.

It now reminds me of ‘The Book Thief.’ Life during those Aunt visit seems to have stood still. Yet, it is all so magically and reverently coming to the fore now. I read a book about the Death of a Moth and named our flower shop in Sydney’s Balmain, ‘Bloomsbury.’ Bloomsbury was a group of English writers, philosophers, intellectuals and eccentrics that included amongst many, Virginia Woolf.

The simple and inevitability of life. How wonderful.

A Room of one’s own with basic Furniture

January 6, 2013


A room of one’s own with basic furniture.

This is what most of us yearn for. A kind of space that welcomes us without criticism or mouldy remarks.  Better not to have anything in it as yet, but a chair might be considered as the basic and most essential piece of furniture to start off with.  Old furniture talks and have stories to tell especially if one is used to spending days in solitude on own thoughts and remembrances.

A mistake that many make is buying new furniture. Of course new furniture is without stories and is best left to buy for those that are either, as yet, without stories or are unable to tell worthwhile stories. Much of new furniture have such unyieldingly hard materials, nothing ever can be taken in. Or never even, harsh as this might seem, leave a story worth telling. So, the dilemma is profound here; either risk stories from others on pre-loved aged furniture or no stories at all on new furniture.

Some years ago we inherited a comfy reclining chair which we used in our first room at King’s Cross. The seating part was quite low with soft kapok filled buttoned down dark brown cushions, both the seat and the backrest. It had a movable back that with the use of a brass rod could be moved forward or backwards by fitting this supporting rod in the groves of the arm rests at the back of the chair. The further back the rod the more the recline. It would not surprise me that those that recline the furthest down have the better stories to tell. Sitting up straight doesn’t encourage story telling. The lumbar and vertebrae are compressed and this blocks vital story telling nerves, just ask Sigmund. He knew a thing about the libido of women and free association without any hindrance, but…. always on a reclining couch. We all know that no stories are more riveting than those told from women who relax horizontally, especially if accompanied by a suitable noble-man smoking a Henry Winterman.

Freud was a great cigar smoker and indeed, understood its addiction but also thought it was a great surrogate for and from masturbation. “The one great habit,” he conceded to Carl Jung, never specifying which one it was.

The type of reclining chair that we bought was the same my father had throughout the years I lived at home. He would recline in it and smoke his Douwe Egberts, while his wife cooked the evening meal. He was a pensive man inclined to stare ahead of himself as if lost in his musings. He might just have been relishing his cigarette without wanting to spoil those moments with chatter or idle doodle-talk. The chair facilitated this pastime with perfection and curling rings of smoke was the very proof of it.. The angle of recline just right and I doubt there could have been a chair that would have better fulfilled the role of a man and his cigarette. On the right hand arm rest he would have an ashtray that invariably, but not always, would tip over on the floor when we ran amok past the chair. There were so many children then, and the house was small. This would upset my mother but did nothing to unbalance the equilibrium of dad and his cigarette ensconced in the chair. He would barely notice and just continue with yet another glorious puff.

Now-a-days, any story alluding to smoking could well be frowned upon, but… it used to be normal, let me tell you. I smoked myself, but not anymore. I am so much the better for it, or am I?