Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Some roads not taken

(I know some people might have scanned these photos in rather than taking new photos of them lying on the carpet. But I'm ashamed to say that I've never mastered the scanner and Mr Life is busy watching "Grand Designs". Above, you see my mum as a girl.)

After the First World War, my maternal grandparents were going to go to Australia. There were very few jobs available in my grandfather's trade - he was a printer. My mother was a baby. They had booked their passage, made various arrangements - and then my grandfather's mother, who was a widow, begged them not to go. Though she'd had lots of children, several had died in infancy, one son had been killed in the war and the two others were unmarried. Therefore my mother was her only grandchild. So my grandfather said that if he could find a job in Edinburgh, they'd stay. And he did. If he hadn't, I certainly wouldn't exist.

Some years later, they moved to a new house. My mother met a girl at school who suggested that Mum should go with her to Guides at a church about a mile away from the house - which was not the nearest church. So this happened, and my mother became very friendly with a girl named Jean, and a long time later - after World War 2 - my mother and Jean's brother got married. If my mum hadn't had this conversation with the girl at school - who wasn't a particular friend - my parents would probably never have met.
Jean was my (latterly confused) aunt and her brother was my dad.

Mum and Dad on their wedding day.

Why did my father's parents live near this church? Well, when they lived previously in a flat in town, my other aunt fell and broke her arm. My grandfather, her father, decided that swimming would strengthen the arm, so they moved down beside the sea, where there was a swimming pool on the promenade. If my aunt hadn't broken her arm... .

During the war, my dad was in bomb disposal. If a bomb had gone off while he was defusing it - and it might well have done so, especially the new one that no one knew how to defuse - well... . He defused it successfully and was awarded the George Medal. Glad you didn't have shaky hands, Dad.

Meanwhile, again before their marriage, Mum was working in London, during the Blitz. I wouldn't be sitting here nearly at the end of NaBloPoMo if a bomb had landed on her.

Years later, my parents put in offers for various houses which they didn't get. Then they bought one in which they were to live for over 30 years, including my growing-up time. The one they bought, unlike those they'd hoped to buy, was in that same area near the sea. So we continued going to the same church. Some years later, Mr Life's parents started attending it also. They didn't live near this church at all, but in the small town adjoining this seaside district. An acquaintance had recommended our minister.

So if my parents had been successful in their bid for an earlier house or if Mr Life's parents hadn't had that conversation with their acquaintance.... none of our children would exist.

And if Daughter 1's Latin teacher hadn't suggested that she apply for the specific Oxford college that she, the Latin teacher, had attended, Daughter 1 wouldn't have met Son-in-Law 1 on the first day there, and then where would Grandson be?


And all of our lives are governed by these twists and turns: roads taken or not taken.


  1. I call them "thin threads".

  2. Roads taken or not taken, indeed!

  3. Your mother- beautiful. Your father - dashing. Oh so many twists and turns of fate indeed! Wonderful post!

  4. ...............which gives one hope that when things don't turn out as we'd like them to, those little irksome twists of fate can lead to persons, places and situations we like very much!
    Your mum was a stunner!

  5. Destiny, kismet, what is meant to be etc., is very curious sometimes.

  6. If you haven't read it, I think you'd enjoy Penelope Lively's Consequences. It follows the same thread as your post - that one thing follows on from another, often chance, occurrence, starting in 1935.
    I enjoyed your post also!

  7. yes your mum was a very handsome and strong looking young woman. and yes, these 'cubic centimetres of chance' (as Don Juan calls them in the Castaneda books) are awesome to reflect upon...

  8. This is so funny Isabelle -- SweetiePie and I just had this same conversation over the weekend when she was here. "What if your friend hadn't gone to the same college that TheFirstChild did. And what if you hadn't randomly visited her? And etc. Life's twists and turns are always fascinating. I Love the pictures of your Mum -- so fun to see her younger version!

  9. I think all of us have these 'forks in the road' in our past. My father wanted to go to New Zealand, my first job could have been in Bangor not Haslemere, we nearly moved to Swansea not Cardiff. All those possible other existences - must be several novels there..

  10. It's truly amazing that any of our ancestors lived long enough for us to have arrived, isn't it? I mean, they used to read by candlelight, eat rare hamburger meat, smoke cigarettes, not wear seatbelts, and I believe some of them even ran with scissors. 8-)

    I love these history posts of yours... especially the old photos, rug or not!

  11. I really enjoyed this post. I often think the same about family, and history in general.

  12. I also enjoyed this post very much. Isn't 'synchronicity' the word used for a series of events that lead up to a conclusion? All those ifs. My Dad used to say 'if only' are the two saddest words in the world, but in your story, that is not always so.

  13. I can tell that is your Mum, she was very lovely as a young woman. ( it happens to us all! )
    Timing...it's all in the timing. Some think it is preordained, some fate, some kismit or just life!
    Best wishes to your Mum and all 4 generations of your family.

  14. Or would you just have been somebody else?

  15. ...and how do you know you aren't?