Inspired to search my family history

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I FEEL like I have been on holiday in the last week – even though I haven’t. I just happen to have been out twice in one week without any offspring, which is a novel experience for me.

Last Thursday my mum came to stay as my dad had gone off on his travels to some faraway place on a work mission.

Being the lonely sort who doesn’t very much like just her own company, she asked if she could come and stay with us. “Of course”, I said, immediately feeling dreadfully guilty I hadn’t offered this six months ago when we knew dad’s trip was on the horizon.

In my defence, I had thought dad might have persuaded mum to go abroad too, as I knew he had secretly wanted her to go with him to the Far East.

But she has never been a great flyer and I think the prospect of flying half way round the world just for a few days did not inspire her.

Instead she opted for a long weekend in a houseful of wild and rampaging grandchildren. Her choice. I know which option I’d have gone with, but sadly I never seem to have that kind of option open to me…

She arrived on time armed with some very generous gifts including lovely flowers for me and wine to appease the other half (always a good idea!) and lots of bags of treats for my very sweet-toothed offspring.

It had been her birthday the weekend before so the kids took great delight at singing her Happy Birthday over and over again while we lit numerous amazing candle fireworks on her belated birthday cake; most of which was later consumed by the grandchildren.

That night mum and I had a well-deserved trip down memory lane as we reminisced about the past over a nice bottle of Chianti and tucked into some lovely Italian food at my favourite local restaurant.

The other half had kindly offered to hold the fort while we trundled off on our jollies. And on Saturday mum kindly returned the favour, allowing us to go out alone for what I think was the first time this year.

Weeks slip by between visits with my mum, and because of the hectic life I lead I never seem to get much time to just natter to her over the phone like we used to do in BC times (Before Children).

I miss this and I desperately miss being able to just pick up the phone to my grannies, both of whom are now dead, and tell them all my news or for them to tell me all their stories, yet again, of how they survived the Blitz or the horrors their families faced in the First World War.

I never really had the same relationship with the men folk. There was a phone advert a few years ago where the dad picks up the phone to his kid ringing from University and says to them “I’ll just get your mother.” Well I think they based that advert on my family.

Maybe it is the time of life she is at, but my mum has recently started talking a lot about her life as a young lady – when she first met my dad and the world of acting and singing she was in. Maybe it has been sparked by my eldest daughter’s interest in this business too.

When mum arrived this time she was armed with black and white pictures of her younger self playing Jocasta in Oedipus the King, which her old bridesmaid had recently dug out of the university archives. The children were really quite amazed to see granny as a teenager with Egyptian-style long black wig.

The pair of us then had great fun searching for mum on the internet. She is a bit of a dinosaur and had never really thought anything maybe out there on her, but there were the old newspaper cuttings from the time praising her brilliant performances.

Now I am seriously thinking of signing up to a specialist website to start searching for my ancestors, so inspired have I been.

And Sheffield City Council is also hoping to bring forward memories of the past to help an artist with his work to celebrate Sheffield’s Women of Steel.

Artist Martin Jennings wants people to come forward at an event in the Town Hall next Wednesday afternoon and share their wartime memories to inspire him in his work to create a figurative memorial in recognition of these women, who served their city and country by working in the steel industry and factories during World War I and World War II.

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