Josna Rege

268. Variations, Variety, Vocab

In Britain, Family, people, storytelling, travel, Words & phrases on April 26, 2014 at 4:18 am

atoz [2014] - BANNER - 910

Visiting many different members of my family this month, I have been struck as always by their similarities, since there are traits (generosity, the gift of the gab, short fuses, long memories, hot tempers, no flies on us, worrying, not suffering fools gladly) and tastes (Nature, music, language, learning, books, word games, sweets) that most of us seem to share to some degree; yet, oh, the variations among us! Some of us love our beds while others are virtually sleepless; some of us have learned to accept the things we cannot change, while others of us still stubbornly refuse to do so, even if it means banging our heads against a wall.

My dear Auntie Rene loved her cozy bed so much that during the Second World War she refused to go to the air raid shelter with everyone else when the air raid sirens sounded: nothing and no-one would deprive her of her sleep. Mum has always tended to fall asleep early in the evening (apparently she snored through half of her first date with Dad) but to awaken before dawn, unable to get back to sleep and impatient to be up and doing. Of an evening Auntie Bette won’t answer the phone on principle, even if she is wide awake.

Mum and her two sisters shared a fierce generosity, sometimes to a fault: Auntie Rene, the soul of generosity, was a pushover because she was so soft-hearted; Mum would try to solve everyone’s problems (whether or not they wanted them solved or even thought they were problems); Aunty Bette wouldn’t—still won’t—allow anyone to put one over on her or hers: woe betide you if you cross her.

We all love music. Some of us will sing in dulcet tones; others at the tops of our voices and at the drop of a hat, much to the consternation of our children and all those around us. Uncle Len loved folk music—Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly; so does Uncle Ted, though his taste runs to the more lyrical ballads of a Burl Ives. Auntie Bette is Johnny Cash all the way; Mum, Harry Belafonte. Us cousins are the same, willing to go to great lengths to see a favorite singer or band. As a teenager, Cousin Sue braved the crowds seeking tickets for the Beatles Royal Command Performance in 1963; her strategy, as she told me, an awed 9-year-old, would be to make her way through with a pin. “What if you accidentally pricked one of the Beatles?” I asked. “I’d frame the pin,” came her swift reply. But alas, it was not to be. Cousin Lesley has always made sure that she gets tickets to see the musicians and bands she loves: too many to list, but Eric Clapton is one of her favorites. Back in 1978 my sister Sally prevailed upon Uncle Ted to drop her at the gates of the Watford Football Club in the hopes of seeing Elton John emerge after the match. Her patience was eventually rewarded. When Andrew and I lost out on tickets to a Rolling Stones concert, I wrote to Mick Jagger, with amazing results (see TMA #157, The Day Mick Jagger Called).

Variety is the spice of life. It takes all sorts to make a world. Both no less true for being clichés. We all love language, and between us, our favored vocabulary spans almost a century. Fab and brill are favorites (for some of us more than others!); and for the older generation, so is cockney rhyming slang. Insults and personal remarks are traded freely, mostly in good humor: “you’d make a better door than you would a window,” or “he was behind the door when the good looks were given out.” We’re all made of the same stuff, as Doris Lessing once wrote: variations on a theme, and for me, endlessly fascinating—and lovable.

Tell Me Another (Contents to Date)

Chronological Table of Contents

atoz [2014] - BANNER - 910

  1. I see the same themes when I visit family too. Across generations and space. Sounds like you are enjoying your visits.

    • I’m enjoying them so much, Kristin. Yes, and like you, I see the traits across generations too, although I didn’t give examples of that. We cousins have to joke about it, rather helplessly. Thank you for coming to visit and comment during the busy challenge. I’ve been trying, but haven’t even had time to reply to all the comments on my posts, let alone commenting on enough other posts. I’ve been enjoying your postcards, though.

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