It's a funny thing, but a death of someone we were close, either at the time of death or in my case in the recent past, brings out all sorts of emotions. With me this week, one emotion, has been searching through old photographs. Not for anything or anyone in particular, I'm just in a bit of a retrospective mood and its comforting to sift through some history. I came across these two today and thought I'd share them with you.
This is my father playing his banjo in the back garden of his favourite aunt in Essex. I'm not sure of the exact date but my guess is late 1940's or very early 1950's as he still has some hair remaining on his head, but, like me, was bald by 21. He's sitting under an apple tree in her garden which every member of the family had their photograph taken, next to, sitting on or climbing on, from the 1930's until the tree died in the 1970's (I think). My family have lots of photographs from her cottage called "Hopecrag" in Rickling Green as it was a favourite summer destination for the family from the North East of England before and after the Second world War. My father loved it there and remembers watching the 1000 bomber raids taking off during the war, and walking the fields with his uncle Bob, a real countryman who was born and died in the village. 4 years ago the house was demolished and now a new house sits in the garden and no longer will the family go there.
This photograph is much more recent. This is apt as it it the Avondale Garden's Silver Jubilee Street Party in 1977. I was brought up surrounded by fields, a golf course and market gardens in a tiny hamlet called South Boldon in County Durham. In fact very few maps actually show South Boldon, but it does exist and was formerly the houses along a private and gated road. My bedroom overlooked the first green of the golf course, we were that close to it. The next village was the much larger West Boldon (famous for the Boldon Book - the Durham Prince Bishops version of the Domesday Book ordered in 1183). In 1963 a cul de sac of 18 houses was built in West Boldon on what had been Harry the farmer's dairy farm fields, and named Avondale Gardens. Being new houses, they were bought by newlyweds, and as a result this was where a lot of my school friends came from.
Avondale Gardens decided (like many villages will do this year) to hold a street party, and I and my parents were invited as honorary Avondale-ites. This was possibly a ruse, as my father had a commercial printing business and so for 6 months before the big day the whole community descended to his printing works in the evening to design and print, tee shirts, banners, stickers, make bunting and so on. It was a fabulous time and I can still remember every moment of the day. And there I am as a 13 year old in the photo above, back left by the shrub (click to enlarge) next to my father in a fetching blue woolly hat. Looking towards the camera is Mrs Holcroft, and to her left her husband. They were honorary guests as they were both in their late nineties, and lived in the cottages which had once been surrounded by fields.
My parents still live in another village, East Boldon, but these days the whole area is surrounded by and being slowly consumed by the massive Tyneside conurbation. All of the market gardens have now been built on and many of the fields. The golf course is still there, but that's about it. I left that area at the age of 16 and have never returned, save to visit my parents, it is hardly recognisable now.
In both these photos, there is, I feel, a simple message; The physical aspect of life always fades, but the memory lives on.