Old photographs.

There I am, sitting on my smiling grand-mother’s knee, looking suitably Churchillian and staring unflinchingly at the camera.

The yellowing photograph is 3″by 2″ with a white border on three sides, creased and dog-eared. What used to be called a contact print. As far as I’m aware, it’s the earliest known picture of me. I am new to the world so it would most probably have been taken in the summer of 1942. There are three of us in the frame. My grand-mother,aged 44, hair pulled back and parted down the centre who’s sitting on what could well have been the doorstep of our house in Burnley. I’m dressed in pale baby clothes, boot-eed feet sticking out in front and then, at the bottom of the picture, my uncle Ernie, or rather his head of cropped hair, the photographer having cut him off at the nose. Head tilted to one side, he’s squinting into the northern sunlight.He would have been 5 years old, a late arrival into my grandmother’s life as I was an early one into my mother’s.

There’s the sepia me again,a couple of years later,this time with my mother. I’m sitting perched outside on a downstairs window ledge , my bare legs dangling down from the sill and I’m holding onto a banjo. From the angle of the shadows, it must be about noon and although the sun is shining, I’m well wrapped up in a small, double-breasted overcoat. I’ve grown a head of blonde hair now . My young mother leans in towards me keeping me safe, one arm round the small of my back, the other hand supporting the neck of the banjo. She’s wearing a short coat, the shoulders fashionably padded. Her hair piled up luxuriantly on the top of her head. Behind us, a net-curtained window and the dark lime-stoned walls of the house.

A year or two later, perhaps I’m about three, there we are again, this time in front of studio drapes, bathed in the artificial light of a formal portrait. I’m standing on something while my mother sits. My right arm is around the back of her shoulders, my left hand is thrust into the pocket of my trousers. Dressed informally but smartly for the occasion. I’m wearing a pale-colored, knitted jumper, buttoned tight at the neck with a large, turned-over collar. We’re looking confidently and happily into the camera. My mother,looking proud and ridiculously young, still has her hair piled high,40’s style  and wears a large button ear-ring.


2 thoughts on “Old photographs.

  1. Wonderful – maybe you could have posted the photos but I can see them regardless..

    I have a treasured one of me on my great grandmothers knee, with my Mother hovering anxiously beside us, and my grandmother behind me. The four generations. My grandmother must have been younger than I am now but looked a decade older. My great grandmother serenely outlived her by several years – by dint of keeping a couple of her 13 children at home for the purpose of looking after her in her old age.

    One of them had a good job and could buy her one of the first colour TVs in Rotherham. That lady (my great auntie Joan) is now the kind of Alzheimer’s case who is sometimes discovered trying to get into Tescos for a pint of milk at 3 o’clock in the morning – bless her. She’s my Mother’s problem now.


  2. That is lovely. Jane is right, you can see the photos as you read. I have lots of old family photos and I never get tired of looking at them. They are very moving because you can travel back in time when you look into the eyes of the people in them and wonder what they are thinking.

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