Monday, 14 May 2018

Being someone else

is a curious thing.
I was reading Emma Darwin's post on her blog about her new book, "This is not a book about Charles Darwin."
Her family tree is littered with names that are very familiar to many people.If you would like to read a fascinating post then I  hope this link works:

But, in a much smaller way, I do understand what the, "This is X's child, grandchild and great-grandchild" is all about.
My great-grandfather was the one who migrated to Downunder. He started his working life as a sailor. My family tree  is littered with mariners, teachers or "dominies", engineers and members of the medical profession. All of them typical Scots occupations. 
Great-grandpa migrated from Scotland of course. He became a ship's pilot and, much more importantly, a marine cartographer.  I have no idea how he learned the skills to be a marine cartographer. He was almost certainly self-taught because there was no course available for such things in this part of the world at that time. 
However he managed to learn to do it he seems to have been very, very good at  the job. 
    "Your great-grandfather was the one who mapped the river," I was told as a child, as a teen, and even as an adult.
The "river" isn't actually a river at all. It's an inlet. Navigating it is very difficult even now. They keep dredging the passage the ships need to go through. The biggest vessels dock in the "outer" harbour now.
But my great-grandfather made it possible for the ships of his day to get to the docks further up.  It made an enormous difference to the economy of the state - which was loaded with debts. He also mapped a great deal of the coastline.
Those maps were used as the basis of all other maps until computer aided technology came into being. 
So I would sometimes be introduced to people as, "This is Donald .... great-granddaughter." They were mostly maritime people - but the maritime community still plays a vital part in the economy of the state.
And then, if it wasn't great-grandpa, it might be grandpa, "This is Ben..... granddaughter."
Yes, Grandpa was the one who dressed all those important ship's captains and the governors of the state in their uniforms. He made suits for the Premiers and academic and ecclesiastical vestments for the university (there was only one university then) and the church communities. The day I had morning tea at Government House the then Governor, Sir Eric Neal, showed me how many times he had found my grandfather's signature in the visitors books...over and over again. 
Then of course we went off to the country. The Senior Cat was the school principal so we kittens were introduced as, "This is (the Senior Cat's) daughter - or son" 
We were always someone else's something, never ourselves. We were proud of our great-grandfather's achievements. We adored our grandfather and took pride in knowing that the uniform worn by the governor had been made by him. The Senior Cat is the centre of our lives and love.
But I still get, "This is (the Senior Cat's) daughter."
Years ago in England a friend did a detour on the way home from some school visits. She told the other two passengers to wait in the car and she took me into a bookshop.
    "I want you to meet a friend of mine," she told me but didn't say who it was.
When we went in she spoke to a man putting books on a shelf and said,
       "I have someone I want you to meet."
He didn't look very enthusiastic until she added, "This is not (the Senior Cat's) daughter. Cat, this is Christopher Milne."
Christopher Milne detested being Christopher Robin. We sympathised with each other and he was suddenly friendly and curious about where I had come from. H.... picked up the book she had asked him to find for her and we left with an invitation to me to, "Call in any time."
I never did manage to go back but, if I had, I would have discussed anything other than his childhood.
Being someone else's something is sometimes awkward. At least now I often get something else as well,
     "This is Cat...she's the one who writes the letters to the paper."
And, darn it all, that can be awkward too - when they disagree with what I have said.

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