Family life: Granny’s archive, 60s childhood and bread and drip
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Snapshot: The rich archive of Alba’s life
This is a photograph of my granny, Alba Traversi, when she was 17, sitting in the studio of the portrait photographer Cecil Bostock in Sydney. She told me that he asked her to lower the shawl a little, but she refused. It was taken in 1935 and she had her whole life ahead of her: her husband, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren are all unknown to her as she sits there.
I live in London and one of my favourite things to do when visiting my mother in Australia is to look through all the old photo albums and hear all the stories. There are several copies of this picture and Granny’s three daughters all have one. During one of her many creative experiments, she hand-coloured some of the copies, giving herself rosy cheeks and heightening the girlishness of the image. Granny also liked knitting and weaving her own imaginative designs, including knitting me a jumper out of samoyed dog hair that was so itchy and weird I could never bring myself to wear it, but which I kept until moths destroyed it years later. There are pieces of her art scattered throughout the family, though sadly not very much of it is left – she was never a hoarder, preferring to move on to the next experience or adventure.
My granny probably didn’t think her life was particularly remarkable, but from my perspective it seems that way. Her childhood was partly spent in rural New Zealand. When her father, a self-taught mathematician, landed a job in the Australian civil service, they moved to fashionable Woolloomooloo by Sydney harbour – they lived in a block of flats with some very exotic-sounding neighbours. She became a socialite but also worked as a secretary for her father and had a few other jobs before getting married to my grandfather during the war. She went to live on an army base in the Australian desert with him, going from fashionable city girl to growing her own vegetables and milking cows. They travelled around in a campervan seeing the Australian outback into their 60s.
Unlike many people of her generation, there is a rich photographic archive of Granny’s life. I love this picture in particular because in this young girl I can not only see my granny, but also my daughter. At three years old, she has inherited the same ringlets and smile. I hope she has my granny’s adventurous, creative spirit.
Playlist: A blessed child of the 1960s
Daydream Believer by the Monkees
“Our good times start and end without dollar one to spend / but how much, baby, do we really need?”
It’s a little bit more than a year now since I turned the radio on in my car – I’m a driving instructor – to hear that Davy Jones of the Monkees had died suddenly. They played this song in his honour. And it always takes me back.
When I was seven, I never understood the meaning of Daydream Believer – it was just a joyful tune. Now it’s a poignant reminder of my perfect childhood. Easygoing, hardworking but poor parents. Endless summers: I remember our euphoria paddling up and down the gutter in the street once, when we had a burst water main (not many cars lined our roads in 1967). And we had so much freedom.
After school I would race home to enjoy the new American TV programmes – The Adventure of Champion the Wonder Horse, Casey Jones (steamin’ and a-rollin’), Flipper and Bewitched. But these were nothing compared with the crazy antics of the Monkees.
I loved them all, but especially Micky Dolenz. Janet, my best friend, always thought Davy was cute. I wanted to live in the USA – life looked really good there.
Our mums would go to work together at 4.30pm, leaving Jan and me glued to the telly. They cleaned offices and would leave us at home alone for what seemed like hours, but it probably wasn’t as my dad would soon come home from work and potter round. He always seemed to be working, fixing things in the house and on his allotment. When I think of all the issues of leaving kids on their own for even a short while now, I feel blessed to be a child of the 60s. At seven, I was 18 months older than Janet, so the responsibility and chance to be bossy was all mine!
Our families used to holiday together at holiday camps with a full-on week’s schedule of competitions. Mum liked to enter me for the fancy dress and talent shows, Dad would enter the knobbly knees contest.
My parents and Jan’s have all died in the last couple of years. The end of an era in our lives is reflected in this song. We continue our own good times. Our friendship remains strong and we are united in our past memories of a blissful childhood free of many of the constraints and complications our own children have.
We love to eat: Gran’s bread and drip
White sliced bread (preferably thick)
Serve with butterscotch Angel Delight for pudding
Spread the bread liberally with beef dripping. To avoid confrontation with the family about getting too much of the best bit, the correct balance should be two thirds dripping and one third beef jelly. Spread thickly over the bread spreading the jelly and beef bits evenly across the bread. Sprinkle liberally with salt. Top with another slice of white bread. Enjoy.
Grandad had been a trawler skipper so although working class through and through, the family were quite well off compared with others in the street and even through the austerity years of their married life some things were a given in the household. For a start, Gran and Grandad mostly lived on fish, except at the weekend and the Sunday roast.
Grandma was very particular about her Sunday beef joint. Always a hefty slab of topside and never cooked pink. In Gran’s house the meat was cooked long and slow so both the beef and the strip of fat on its edge melted in the mouth. With her buttery yellow mash, fluffy Yorkshire puds and lava-like gravy you could stand a fork in, there was nothing like it – food to put lead in my pencil, Gran used to say.
The Sunday roast was not, however, the main attraction. Just before shushing up the sticky bits of beef from the bottom of the roasting tin to make the gravy, she would almost ceremoniously empty the cooking fats into a Pyrex jug. I would watch it settle and separate, hoping that the deep brown of the jelly at the bottom – the best, most delicious bit – would be at least half and half with the fat at the top.
Bread and drip would be the much-looked-forward-to Sunday supper dish but if I was really lucky, and my sisters and cousins didn’t get in before me, the dripping might even last till Monday tea time when I would savour the salty beefy bits. I loved the way the fat coated my teeth and tongue. Heavenly. Bread and drip at Grandma’s on a Monday tea was always followed by Angel Delight – butterscotch usually.
As happens, the family grew up and people moved on; gatherings more often took place in pubs or restaurants. The huge topside of beef at home became a Christmas-only experience. As a nation we became more aware of the health issues related to red meat, and as for saturated fats … Still, even long after Grandma left us and I became a veggie, the much smaller pot of beef dripping occasionally seen in Mam’s kitchen drew my eye, especially if it had a deep layer of brown jelly.
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via Art and design: Photography | guardian.co.uk http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2013/may/04/grannys-archive-60s-childhood-bread-drip Thanks for reading Jay
Posted on May 4, 2013, in Photography News and tagged Art and design: Photography | guardian.co.uk, arts, guardian, IFTTT, info, information, journal, news, newspaper, photo, photography. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.