Sunday, June 24, 2012


This is the treasure I found a few days ago. I was relieved, because I'd been thinking about this card and wondering where exactly I'd put it for safe-keeping. I've even mentioned it once, in an earlier post.

This yellowing card means the world to me. It belonged to my paternal grandmother, who died when my father was just a boy himself. With the exception of my father's brother and sister, broken relationships took away any ties I might have had with that side of the family - my grandfather remarried, and I never knew him.

My grandmother was a woman ahead of her time. She travelled overseas, extensively, and worked her way around as a nurse on ships and in the UK. She visited impoverished countries and got off the beaten track, decades before the term 'backpacker' had been coined.

This is all I know about her, and that breast cancer took her far too early. A handful of faded black and white photos gives me an idea of what she looked like, and that's it. She is a quarter of who I am, and I would have loved to have known her.

This card came into my possession when I was in my mid-twenties, and visiting home from the UK for a decent hit of sunshine. The other day, looking at my grandmother's address on this card, it bugged me. Why hadn't I been to see this address? The building? The neighbourhood? I'd lived in London long enough - why didn't I do those things? Then I remembered - by the time I'd been given this card, J and I were no longer living in London. We'd moved to Brighton and I only went back to London for the occasional weekend to visit friends. In general, though, I'd distanced myself from London. When I returned for my final year in the UK, it simply didn't occur to me to make the journey from Brighton to see where my grandmother had lived.

A quick view on Google Maps shows me that it was an area of London I'd actually spent a decent amount of time walking around, as I'd taught in a nearby community centre. It was an area very near to where we spent our first few nights in London. I love that.

I also love the conditions of membership, inside the card - back in the days when Youth Hostel membership really was intended for those who wanted to roam the English countryside. Do not disturb cattle or sheep. Do not rob birds' nests. Be specially careful never to foul pools or streams. That last one, in particular, makes me smile. I can't for the life of me remember the conditions when I joined - nearly fifty years later - but I have a feeling they didn't include these.

This card is my very own piece of time travel.


1 comment:

  1. This is very cool. Your grandmother sounds like an extraordinary woman. I am always fascinated by those women who went adventuring well before such a thing was considered appropriate for the fairer sex. Hell, most of us never go adventuring these days. Very cool.

    Perhaps that quarter of you is more prominent than the others. I think you two might have been fast friends.