To me it’s obvious that I was once a lot younger than I am now. It’s harder for Offspring to imagine. I can get my head round Mother-of-witch having been young. Just. But to pop back in time to see what Great Uncle M and Great Aunt A (siblings) were like as teenagers is really weird. These lovely – but old – people strike me as so unlikely for teenagehood.
Both are dead now, but both lived to a very good old age, meaning that even Offspring knew them. Great Uncle M climbed mountains in the Lake District until he was about 100, and lived (just) in three centuries. His little sister Great Aunt A was about 98 when she died.
But here they are, aged 18 and 14, and the year is 1917 and the place is Beer on the English south coast. The whole family cycled down from somewhere near Marlowe, and they seem to have had about four weeks of holiday. (I know. This puts them in the very privileged category.)
The reason I know this much is that they wrote a holiday diary in the shape of an exercise book, each taking turns at telling what they did, and sticking postcards and tickets and other items in with the writing. There is a drawing of henbane (what were they up to?), and one of a walk. That’s the one that means I know it’s my in-law relatives we are dealing with. It’s a hill. All family outings involve hills.
It rained in Basingstoke on the way south. It would.
What surprises me the most is how young the language is. It could (almost) have been written now, and not 94 years ago. They sound so childish and carefree, those future Great Uncles and Aunts, and for that matter, the future Grandfather of the Resident IT Consultant. It’s 1917 and there is a war on. These carefree young things lost two brothers in 1916, within days of each other. (That sounds ‘OK’ when we look back from this distance, but if you put yourself in the shoes of people back then, it must have been devastating.)
During their time in Beer they do what people have always done on holiday. They eat ice cream. Expensive. They visit Stonehenge. They weigh themselves. And they write their diary. (There are rumours there are more books like this one, but we haven’t seen them.)
The handwriting is varied and interesting. Great Aunt A’s is very neat schoolgirlish and Great Uncle M’s is more ‘manly’. Their Father’s is noticeably older, and then there are all the other siblings and visiting uncles and what have you.
I wish we had it in us to write something like that. Blogging is all very well, but this exercise book is something else.
And I really must make it to Beer one day.