Sometimes when I watch shows like Who Do You Think You Are? – the celebrities featured are often looking for some sort of link back with a skill or a profession that they can relate to.
The actress Emilia Fox comes from an illustrious acting family, but was surprised to learn just how far back that acting connection went.
Masterchef judge and presenter Gregg Wallace – who was a greengrocer by trade, was pleased to discover that his illusive grandfather had also been a grocer.
I do certainly believe that certain traits are hereditary, such as creativity and invention. Not just genetically but through nurture and being surrounded by the sorts of things that stimulate and encourage these skills. Sometimes it turns out to be more of a coincidence when people discover a common link between themselves and an ancestor.
One such thing in my immediate family is creativity. I remember as a child being amazed when my Mum pulled down a hamper from her wardrobe that was full of art equipment. In my childlike innocence, had never thought of my Mum as having been an artist. To me she was Mummy, the lovely woman who loved me and looked after me, collected me from school and sometimes worked at the local building society. I was really pleased when she told me she had gone to art school and how she used to enjoy painting and drawing. I asked her why her things were all packed away – and it saddened me to hear that when we came along, she put it all away to focus on looking after us all. It is only in more recent years that she has started to get back into her art, going to watercolour lessons to get back into the swing of things.
My brother is also a talented artist, I remember him mainly drawing cars when I was little, and them being very good. My sister is also very good at drawing and painting. My Dad is also a very talented photographer. My Mum is also very handy with a sewing machine, and knitting needles as well as embroidery and cross stitch. Thankfully at least in part I am taking after her with my creative doings in my Etsy shop. My maternal grandmother also liked to do sewing – mainly tapestries. My Mum has a wonderful peacock tapestry she did some years ago and it is the one thing I have told my Mum that I would hope to get – one day when she asked me if there was anything in particular she should make a note of in her will. (I’m not the sort to go around telling my parents what I want of theirs when they are dead!)
In the course of researching my family history my uncle had sent me a package of items, photographs, certificates, documents including notes my grandmother had made about her childhood. My Mum also had a folder of poems my grandmother had written over the years. I knew she had written poetry but as a child I’d never read any of them. So I sat and read through these and was very moved. I have also written poetry over the years so was pleased that there was a connection there with my maternal grandmother and it made me wish I could have talked to her more about those sorts of things. My grandmother left school at 14 – so didn’t have as full an education, as we do today, but in reading her poetry you don’t get that impression.
One of my favourite poems of hers is about pea picking – something she used to do with her mother before she died, and then later on to earn some money (and often stash some away for a sneaky dinner.)
New Peas, New Pennies, New Shoes – (Pea Picking thoughts of Maldon)
“It’s five o’clock and time to get up,”
“Don’t wanna get up, wanna stay in bed.”
“Get up, Get up, you sleepy head,
You’ll get no new shoes lying in bed.”
She shouted again and up we got,
Hurried about and joined the lot
Of neighbours, who were ready too,
With clanking pails, baskets too,
And food enough for all the day,
Pushing prams and leading the way.
We walked for miles to the countryside,
Sleepy children, we dragged behind,
Thinking of the fun we’d miss,
This would be no day of bliss.
In the fields the grass was wet,
Even the sun wasn’t up yet!
But work to do before it was hot,
To pick the peas from the farmers plot.
A rice house to make from the stalks,
To rest in later when we’d earned our ease,
New peas, food, they tasted good,
New peas, new pennies, new shoes.
By Alice Marshall