Gone …

but not forgotten.  This is an unusual image, unique among the family archive for its outward display of affection. Their emotional roles were reversed; my dad was the soft place to fall, my mother the disciplinarian. My upbringing was unbalanced – “just wait until your dad gets home” held no perils for me.

They could argue enthusiastically and, frequently, I was the subject of the disagreement. My dad was a constant voice of reason but his exasperation could, in extremis, set him afire. Ultimately though, he was always fiercely loyal to mum and I learned, too early, not to depend on anyone.

And yet, I still miss them both.


Jonathon Meades captures this generation perfectly in An Encyclopaedia of Myself :

Two world wars, economic depressions, genocidal dictators, material privations, the ominpresence of death … enduring such stuff is not propitious for the embrace of affective ostentation, for the desire to get in touch with our inner entitlements, for the infantile need to share our pain, for the comfy validation of our self-pity, for the slovenly annihilating of our restraint, for the quashing of our shame.

For the public exposure of our past, for the tortuous excuses we make 😉


  1. Heartafire · December 9, 2014

    lovely photograph from the past.

    • northumbrianlight · December 9, 2014

      Many thanks – I am struggling to place the year but I would guess the late 1950s. Dad inevitably has a cigarette in his hand – something that would ultimately prove fatal.

      • Heartafire · December 9, 2014

        so sorry, back then the dangers of smoking were not well known, a lovely and nostalgic photograph, thank you for sharing it.

  2. SwittersB · December 9, 2014

    What a family treasure and actually a profound post. I am 66, and I know this scenario so well. Thank you.

    • northumbrianlight · December 10, 2014

      Many thanks, it is by some distance my favourite photo of my parents. I don’t know who took it, when or where. My mother has put on some weight (something my arrival was blamed for 🙂 ) so it must be after I was born.

  3. LaVagabonde · December 9, 2014

    Today and the postwar era may as well have taken place on different planets. The mentalities are so very different. The public exposure of the past..horrifying concept for that generation. Recently I’ve been viewing my grandmother’s Super 8 home movies that an uncle had converted to DVD. Baseball games and birthday cakes and carols around the Christmas tree are very effective ways of covering up pain. Smile for the camera and all will be well. I’m sure this was not an easy post for you, Robin. My thoughts are with you.

    • northumbrianlight · December 10, 2014

      Many thanks Julie – I confess I find this too easy. I am developing some themes for the next magnum opus – not so much a cathartic exercise as sweet revenge. Now I can finally answer back 😉

      • LaVagabonde · December 10, 2014

        Good for you, young man.

  4. la_lasciata · December 9, 2014

    Your final phrase is … de trop: I see no tortuous excuses – only facts. It was different down here. I was born in ’43, and I doubt that Oz suffered any privations worth mentioning; but the war did cause … ahh … a certain mental state. If we can talk about it, so much the better – wouldn’t you say ?
    You would. I see that. 🙂

    • northumbrianlight · December 10, 2014

      I guess they are facts, but facts from my perspective which might suffer some distortion. At least it is my version of the truth. That extract from Jonathan Meades has been edited down to be generally acceptable/PC e.g. I have omitted references to the Blairs and Princess Diana. It is a vitriolic piece which rails against what has been lost – much of it I agree with. So maybe that generation had a better grasp on what really matters – who knows.

      • la_lasciata · December 10, 2014

        Chissà, as the Italians say … A lovely word, I think. 🙂
        We can go down into our old age thinking it might be us; but the younger generations are sure it’s them.

      • northumbrianlight · December 10, 2014

        Chissà – I had to look that one up but I will now be using it regularly 🙂
        As you say, a lovely word.

  5. Sarah Longes - Mirador Design · December 9, 2014

    I’ve had the same with my parents! Childhood with my mother was a battleground. I still have them and no matter what troubles we’ve had they’ve been an amazing support throughout my illness in adult life. That’s such a lovely image from a time when people really didn’t show their softer sides!

    • northumbrianlight · December 10, 2014

      Many thanks Sarah – the key thing to remember is that parents are always wrong and children are always right 🙂 (I suspect your parents are my age though and therefore undoubtedly right 😀 ). My mother was more than difficult – elsewhere I have compared her to Constance Winterson (Oranges are not the only fruit) – they were much the same age. The key thing is, they were both well-intentioned and only wanted to protect their offspring from the cruel world outside – they were doomed to fail.

      • Sarah Longes - Mirador Design · December 10, 2014

        My mum didn’t have the greatest childhood! I think she was desperate not to make the mistakes her own parents made. She thought she was protecting us and I know she loves us! The sad thing is that she carries a lot of guilt now. She is always trying to compensate for the things she got wrong. She can be overly protective of me now! I was very ill with my Crohn’s for many years before I was finally diagnosed and mum believed the doctors and my tutors over me. I was treated as a pariah for several years. Then I became so ill that I nearly died in her arms! I don’t think she’s ever really recovered from that. What parent would? My doctors let her down as much as me by not diagnosing the Crohn’s sooner.

      • northumbrianlight · December 10, 2014

        Your experience puts my ‘complaints’ in true perspective. Stay as strong as you are able and keep up the magnificent work with your camera.
        All the best

  6. socialbridge · December 10, 2014

    What a gorgeous photo.

    • northumbrianlight · December 10, 2014

      Many thanks – I wish I knew who took it, where and when. It is strangely natural as if they were caught off-guard … paparazziesque if such a word exists 😉

      • socialbridge · December 10, 2014

        It certainly does look natural. That’s what’s so endearing.

  7. restlessjo · December 11, 2014

    Yes, the quote resonates, and it’s a lovely way to remember them 🙂

    • northumbrianlight · December 12, 2014

      Yes, by some distance, my favourite photo of them both. I recommend Johnathan Meade’s book – not your average memoir.

  8. 2e0mca · December 12, 2014

    That’s a wonderful image.

    • northumbrianlight · December 12, 2014

      Many thanks – I wish I knew more about it – where, when and taken by who?

  9. Pingback: Steve: The Apple (Orange) of My Eye | Ramisa the Authoress

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s