30 December 2010

Reflecting on Times and Places

Whenever a new year approaches, I know that I need to spend some more time reflecting on the one that is passing, and those that have gone before.  Do you have a similar need?

Perhaps you do not feel that such reflection is a need at all.  Why do we think differently on the subject?

The above questions are ones you may wish to answer in relation to my By Any Other Name blog.  How often do you pursue a respectful exploration of identity?

When reflecting on times and places, and even identities, have you ever thought about how much the world has changed since your grandparents were born - and about what has not changed?

Here are some years to compare (with the help of Wikipedia):

1906  1909  1910  1911  1915  2009  2010

My maternal grandparents were both born in 1906.  My paternal grandparents were born 1909 and 1915.  None of my grandparents will experience 2011.  And none of us alive today yet know if we will experience that year, either.  I hope you think of this fact in terms of facing reality rather than being pessimistic!

My maternal grandparents, Harry and Dorothy, were both born in 1906, the same year as the following:

In political and intellectual life:  A.J.P. Taylor, Hannah Arendt, Leonid Brezhnev

Louise Brooks

My paternal grandfather, George, was born in 1909, the same year as the following:

In political and intellectual life:  Isaiah Berlin, C. Northcote Parkinson, Andrei Gromyko, Simone Weil

My paternal grandmother, Vera, was born in 1915, the same year as the following:

In political and intellectual life: John Profumo, Augosto Pinochet, Yitzhak Shamir

Here are some of my earlier Continual Journeys blog posts that you may wish to think about:

Here are some more of my Continual Journeys blog posts to think about:

A great deal has happened in the world, and in my own life, since I started blogging at the beginning of 2009.  What has been happening in your life?  Have you been reflecting upon what has happened and how it may have changed your outlook on life itself?

You may have noticed that I am ending my second year of blogging with a very long blog post.  This itself is part of my process of reflection.  If you have visited any of my previous blog posts, you will probably have found them to be much shorter than this one.

Here are a few more to visit:

Perhaps you find that my blogs take you on a journey of self discovery.  If you believe you need a more conducive environment for such a journey to take place, how would you describe that environment, and where might it be found?  Could it be a retreat of some sort?

A few more of my blog posts:

And some more...

A retreat can be a place for abstractions, without distractions.  How do you relate to abstractions?  Have you looked up the word on Wikipedia?

16 December 2010

Always with Me

No matter where I might be or what I may be experiencing, my ancestors are always with me.  Over the past few years, I have been developing a deeper relationship with them through explorations of family history.  You may be interested in visiting my Ancestors Within blog on this subject.

In the past few days, one more of my relatives has become an ancestor - my paternal grandmother, who was known to the world as Vera.  Even though she lived on the other side of the planet from me for the last twenty years or so, I have always felt her presence in my life.  Whenever we met again, on my visits to England, or whenever we chatted on the telephone, my grandmother was always cheerful, with a lively mind.

Vera (1915-2010)

Even on the day before she died, Vera was doing crossword puzzles.  That is something to admire in someone who reaches the age of 95.  She liked to do a crossword puzzle every day, and to watch quiz shows on television.  After a recent fall, though, many of Vera's daily routines, and her desire for continuing independence, were put to the test.

Vera loved being by the sea at Shell Island in North Wales, where the above picture was taken in 2000.  She loved a cup of tea, and watching football.  In her earlier years her team was Arsenal, probably because she lived just down the road from its ground.  She met her husband George at a dance in Devon and found out that he liked Arsenal, too.  That blossomed into a romance soon afterwards.

Growing older is a challenge for many of us.  For Vera, though, home games of Manchester United were a regular feature of her life until quite recently.  She said in 2005 that she was getting too old to go any more because whenever her team scored a goal, everyone around her would stand up.  By the time she managed to stand up, everyone else would be sitting down again.

Via and Vera, 1994

I was Vera's first grandchild.  I was the first grandchild for all four of my grandparents, none of whom were particularly religious or dogmatic in any way.  A few days ago, though, my grandmother was singing Abide with Me.  After being told that by my mother, I wondered why.  Not being a follower of a religion myself, and not being a follower of football either, I found out that the hymn is sung at FA Cup Finals.  It will be played at my grandmother's funeral.

The last time I was at a family funeral was in 1978, for Vera's husband George.  When my grandfather Harry's funeral took place, I was on a plane to Australia for the first time.  When my grandmother Dorothy died, I was in the middle of my university studies in Australia.  Dorothy had dementia, but Vera was lucky to avoid that fate.  The hymn my mother chose for her mother's funeral was the traditional English version of All Things Bright and Beautiful.

Vera as a baby

Life takes us all to the same destination at its end, whatever our beliefs about that end might be.  Vera was fortunate to have a very long journey and a relatively peaceful end.  There are many who are not so fortunate.

After George died, Vera travelled to world.  She visited relatives in Canada and then explored such places as Morocco, Egypt, and India.  Perhaps my desire to travel was inherited from her.

I will not be able to attend Vera's funeral but I plan to be at a memorial ceremony for her on Shell Island, on a sunny day in June 2011.  She always preferred warm weather to snow and ice, just like me.

Here are some YouTube videos to reflect upon:

Vera was a longtime fan of Bruce Forsyth - something from the 1970s here

Vera's hymn - Abide with Me - Sung by Harry Seacombe

Dorothy's hymn - All Things Bright and Beautiful