A peaceful-looking baby rabbit was found dead on the lawn a few hours after it had been seen gambolling there this morning. There was speculation about poison, which may be awkward for the resident dogs. I wouldn’t like to think anyone here would have put down anything lethal; and would a poisoned creature look so sublime? I removed it from the public gaze, particularly those of canine eyes.
This afternoon I read H.T. Mason’s general introduction to the Oxford University Press 1971 edition of Voltaire’s ‘Zadig’ and other stories, and the specific one pertaining to ‘Micromegas’, which is the first of the collection.
A considerable amount of retouching was required to remove blemishes from picture number 28 of the ‘through the ages’ series. Elizabeth had already improved on the original print, and sent it to me in a memory stick. After I’d spent about an hour on it the image vanished, unsaved, from my screen. I could only recover the unimproved version. So I had to do it all again. I settled for something a little less meticulous the second time round.
This photograph takes us back to 1945, and by association, beyond. It is a depiction of a street party celebrating Victory in Europe at the end of that sphere of World War Two. For anyone below the age of about 75 to imagine the jubilation of that heady, optimistic, summer is virtually impossible. Chris and I are in the centre of the front row. My chubby little brother, then not yet two, looks, as would any other toddler, as if he had no idea what was going on or why he was there. If one dressed up his grandson, James Arrondelle, in a similar outfit; took a black and white photograph of the result; and substituted it into this shot, one would hardly tell the difference.
I, on the other hand, seem to be harbouring particularly pleasant thoughts that I am not sure I ought to have. Jackie is convinced that the little girl happily holding my hand provided an early Maureen Potter experience. She smiles broadly. I try to suppress my glee.
Mum, as she always did, would have made our outfits from scratch. She continued to do this until she could afford not to. Our first Wimbledon College blazer badges were embroidered by her own hand.
It wasn’t until secondary school that most boys in those days gravitated to long trousers. (I proudly wore my first pair up to the common and ripped them whilst climbing a fence. That must have been a pecuniary disaster.) Shorts worn with long grey socks were the norm. The hose were held up by elasticated garters. One or two of those in the picture have slipped a bit. The older members of the group could probably share their parents immense relief that they were able to celebrate the end of six long years of war. That the people were able to dress up at all, albeit in a sometimes strangely fitting assortment of clothes, is a tribute to their fortitude. Garments continued to be rationed until well into the 1950s. Every consumer item we now take for granted, from food to furniture; from suits to sweets; from butter to Brylcreem; was in such short supply that each household was issued with books of stamps, and even if the money were available, if you had insufficient specific stamps there could be no purchase. As can be clearly seen here, designer clothes and trainers were a thing of the far distant future. But look at the shine on the boots and shoes.
This party took place in Carshalton, then in Surrey but now part of Greater London, in the street of Mum’s cousin Ivy Wilson, whose two children, Audrey, third from left in the back row, and Roy, second from left of the middle row, were present. These two are the link with the first Holly in our extended family.
John Richard Evans was the brother of Annie Hunter, nee Evans, my maternal grandmother. He was therefore my great uncle, and the grandfather of Audrey and Roy.
As a high wire and trapeze artist, John adopted the stage name Jack Riskit. Among the countries graced by his presence was Australia, where he met and married a young woman who was to join his act. This was Holly King, my great aunt by marriage. They were famous for a particular bit of daredevilry. I am not sure to which part of Holly’s anatomy the strong wire that she hung from was attached, but the other end was firmly held in Jack’s teeth high above the ring.
This photograph from Getty Images states that it is of Jack and Betty Riskit, so perhaps Betty was Holly’s stage name.
(This message received from my cousin, Yvonne clarifies the point, with some important additional information: ‘Holly had 2 children before they came to England and they both died. Aunty Ivy was born here but Holly disappeared (presume died but can’t find) not long after. Betty was his second wife. They bought my Dad an engraved christening cup in 1921. I still have it. I also have a pic of Jack, Holly and Betty. Apparently he got hurt at some stage and bought a small theatre which he eventually had to sell before he died. I don’t have immediately to hand but have pics. Best wishes for the New Year to you all….Yvonne)
Maybe purely by coincidence, Holly and Jack Riskit’s great great nephew, my son Sam, is now married to an Australian, Holly Knight, nee O’Neill, and living with her and their two children, Malachi and Orlaith, in Perth. My daughter-in-law strikes me as rather athletic, but I trust she will keep her feet firmly on the ground.
For our meal this evening Jackie produced perky spicy pork with peppers and mushrooms; swede mash, crisp cauliflower, and tender green beans, followed by sticky toffee pudding and custard. With mine I imbibed Kumala Winemakers’ Release pinotage merlot 2012.