Rummaging in the past
I spent far too much of today in the past - a hundred years ago, in places. Apart from a very necessary outing to the supermarket, for one cannot starve while time-travelling, I attacked the old leather attaché case that has sat for the past 10 years in a corner of the room and took a really good look at what was in it.
The case belonged to my maternal grandfather - it has his initials, J.R.S, embossed in the corner. I remember he used to take it out with him when my grandmother sent him shopping - a retired headmaster, he clearly felt a string bag was beneath him and preferred to put a pound of mince into his case instead. As a small child, I found this entirely reasonable. But now it has the most incredible collection of ... stuff in it. Postcards, those tinted ones, with photos of Durban in 1906, or the tin-roofed house in Pretoria in which J.R.S intended to house his new bride when she had sailed out from Scotland to join him in the adventure of life in South Africa. Stiffly posed class groups in the schools they both worked in when young - boys in boots, boys with bare feet, boys with the faces of little old men. Photos of my mother as a toddler - one in Pretoria, the other, 6 months later, in Dunoon in 1913. Photos of my mother with her sisters at various ages, and of my grandparents gradually turning into the old people I knew. (They would be about the age I am now ...)
And letters. A letter to my father from his mother, the only one I've ever seen - she died when he was still a young man. A note scribbled on a page out of a diary, leaving all my grandmother's possessions to the daughter who never married, who looked after her till she died and then followed her only a few years later. A sheaf of testimonials to that same grandmother when she was a newly-qualified primary teacher - that's the collection of time-stained paper in the lid of the case.
A century ago the familiar locations - Dunoon, Brodick, Glasgow - were another land. That's where I've spent most of today, in the company of ghosts.