Sunday, 30 October 2011

A Swedish mystery

As I'm such a fan of all things Swedish, I like to read The Local, an online newspaper that tells you Sweden's news in English (they've also just launched Norwegian and French versions). Last week they carried a story which particularly appealed to me.
Joe and Angela Avery have been coming to a cabin near Nässjö in south central Sweden every autumn for the last decade to visit Angela's cousins, the offspring of her English aunt who married a Swede. [I'm precis-ing from the article.]
     Over the years, visits to flea markets, sales, and auctions have become a standard part of the Avery's annual pilgrimages to Sweden [jealous much? Moi?].
      In August they attended an auction in Eksjö and bought a box of "knicknacks” which included a vintage camera. It was only upon examining the camera at home in England that Joe discovered it still contained a roll of film. “Luckily, I didn't open it until I had wound the film back in the camera,” he said. “Curiosity then led me to wonder if there might be any images on the film.”
      Joe found a photo lab that could develop the outdated film, even though he was doubtful that any images could be salvaged. A few days later, Joe heard that his pictures were ready to collect. "I couldn't believe it,” said Joe.
      The film had produced twelve grainy black and white images, some of which are shown in this post.
According to the photo lab, the film in the camera was manufactured between 1947 and 1952, so the images could very well be more than fifty years old.
     Joe and Angela are hoping that making the images public may elicit more clues about the pictures. They  hope members of the family depicted in the images will get in touch so they have a chance to reclaim a slice of their past.   Here's the link to the full set of 12 images:

Comments on the Local's reader forum have already offered tantalising clues as to the identity of the family, or at least to their location. Most seem to agree that they lived in southern Småland. As I'm enjoying trying to identify people in my own family's old photos at the moment, I hope that the family in these old photos will get hold of the story and identify either themselves or their forebears.
     The other day I came across someone else's family history research online and it intersected with my family -- the researcher and I have a great-great-grandfather in common (or rather, his great-great-grandfather was my great-grandmother's stepfather -- I think). The extra information I gleaned enabled me to find a photograph of the Manchester back street where my great-grandmother lived as a child (now demolished). Just to set eyes on that photo gave me a marvellous feeling, even though the street was extremely ordinary and humble.
Pickford Street, Manchester (in 1964)


Friday, 14 October 2011

Read for RNIB Day

Just a quick post about a fundraising event I feel strongly about. Here's the press release:

"1 In 3 Adults Admit To Hiding Secret Reading Passion, According To Leading Sight Loss Charity

Posted at 10:18AM Wednesday 12 Oct 2011
Almost a third (31 per cent) of UK adults are too embarrassed to admit to loving a particular book, according a new poll from the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB). In contrast, blind and partially sighted readers face a dramatically limited choice of titles - just 7 per cent of all books are available in fully accessible formats.
Released on the eve of the charity's annual fundraising appeal Read for RNIB Day, the survey reveals that more than one in three (36 per cent) of UK adults have a guilty pleasure author that they love to read in private but would not necessarily admit to reading in public. Books topping the list of guilty pleasure reads for those that admit to them are JK Rowling's Harry Potter (31 per cent) series, with The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown (28 per cent) following second, and Bridget Jones' Diary by Helen Fielding (19 per cent) third.

In stark contrast to this, new research released today by RNIB shows that just 7 per cent of books are available in formats accessible to blind and partially sighted people - braille, large print and audio books.* As it is predicted that by 2050 the number of people with sight loss in the UK will double to nearly four million, the charity's work is becoming increasingly important and in demand.

Sue Scott, who lost her sight seven years ago, said: "One day I realised that not only could I not see anymore, I couldn't read either. You don't realise it, but reading is everything and when you lose your sight you realise how important it is. From reading the newspaper or an email from a friend, to reading a private letter from the doctor or a bill you don't want others to know about. You become totally reliant on others and you lose your privacy and independence. Read for RNIB Day is a great idea and will help raise money for reading services for blind and partially sighted people, like me. It doesn't matter what the activity or challenge is, as long as its reading related and you're having fun and helping to raise money. I hope that lots of people get involved."

Mayor of London Boris Johnson admitted to his guilty literary pleasure: "When I have a spare moment to read a book, I regularly return to Ludwig Wittgenstein's great philosophical work of the 20th Century, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus."

Julian Fellowes, Oscar-winning script writer, author and Chairman of RNIB Talking Book Appeal, says: "Reading is a tremendously important part of my life and I firmly believe that it's one of the pleasures that can be enjoyed one hundred per cent by blind people, thanks to Talking Books. Please join Read for RNIB Day and read something amazing in October to help RNIB raise much-needed funds which will help even more blind and partially sighted people gain better access to reading services and equipment."

Read for RNIB Day is on 14 October and RNIB is asking everyone to get involved and do something reading-related to raise money and support its work for blind and partially sighted people. Call 0845 345 0054, visit or text read to 70007 to donate £3."

I love reading so much. It's my passion. Well, in fact it's so much a part of my life that I wouldn't even call it a passion any more. I just do it whenever I can. Last night I was reading Christos Tsiolkas' The Slap from 4am to 5.15am because I couldn't sleep. When I read that only 7% of books are available to blind and partially sighted people, I tried to imagine how I'd feel if my reading freedom was restricted to that extent. It would be terrible.
In fact my eyesight has deteriorated quite dramatically over the last couple of years and now I can't read without my glasses. This change in one of my main connections to the world has really disoriented me and  made me feel quite depressed, even though I am lucky enough to have glasses that make it all okay again. It's not the same as my lovely crisp eyesight of yore. My dad is nearly blind from glaucoma and this year I have also had 'vitreous detachment' which was quite alarming (though not really that serious, just another ageing thing -- but the slow flashes of light deep inside my eyes for a few weeks were rather disturbing). So I love my eyes and I love the things I can see with them and I have supported RNIB Day.

 Oh, my guilty reading pleasures are: Ruth Rendell, Elmore Leonard and old children's books. What are yours?

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Brooklyn Sketchbook Project finished

At last I've completed my sketchbook for the Brooklyn Sketchbook Project.
     It's on the theme of 'I Remember You' and is a sort of biography of my mother. She is lost to me now in the final stages of Alzheimer's and her personality has been stripped away by that horrible disease, but she was a very singular person with many wonderful talents and also many character traits which coloured my own childhood (and of course my whole relationship with her) and which, in turn, had been formed by her own relationship with her parents.
     Well, it's a very affectionate tribute to her but perhaps not as sugary as some people might expect. I don't really do sugary. Also, you can't really do justice to all the subtleties of a person's life in 32 small pages. I enjoyed doing it immensely and am pleased that I forced myself to step outside my comfort zone by sometimes making myself do drawing where it would have been easier to go for collage or photos.