The Last Furlong

Comments on the race of life.

Salute to my mother


My mother has been dead since 2002. She was an amazing woman.

She was a history lecturer. She was a wonderful lecturer. I used to go to her lectures just for fun. Everything was “humanised” in her writings and talks. She wrote books too. Other people thought she was amazing – not just her family. She was famous really.

So when I studied history, one of her ex-students, was the Rector. I remember a conversation that really hurt me. The Rector said ” Oh, you know your mother’s kind of history is outdated. She’s very old fashioned. History is a science. We don’t look at the people any more like your mother does – we look for trends and policies and social changes – SCIENTIFICALLY!”

Oh yes?

Let me assure you, dear reader, family and friends, that the reason my mother’s lectures were so riviting was that all the players in her history were real people that she brought to life. And – magically – her students were uplifted, inspired, shocked, horrified, and nurtured! The whole dusty, boring “trends, policies and social changes” came alive in her grasp.

So this morning I found a piece that reminded me of my mother. She would love it. She would have used it in a lecture that included trends and policies and social changes – and that pointed out that history is really about PEOPLE!

This Is the Reconstructed Face of a Man Who Lived 700 Years Ago

The project is about “humanising people in the past, getting beyond the scientific facts to see them as individuals with life stories and experiences”, says Robb.

“This helps us communicate our work to the public, but it also helps us imagine them ourselves as leading complex lives like we do today. That’s why putting all the data together into biographies and giving them faces is so important.”

I salute you my mother! “Old fashioned” is back!

Author: Elizabeth

I'm someone also pounding the Path, just like you.

3 thoughts on “Salute to my mother

  1. As it happens I have just returned from taking Aged Mother Dwarf to the city hospital this morning at some ungodly hour for something called a ‘cat scan’ (which surprisingly didn’t involve her taking her cat with her). Why they send OAPS, who live in the back of beyond, appointments for anytime in the morning before the buses run is beyond me…..

    Anyways Aged Mother Dwarf was training to be a history teacher when she fell pregnant with me. That put her career on ice of course, back in those unenlightened times when women were expected not to put their own ‘self development’ and ‘realising career goals’ before childcare.

    But during our childhoods she turned into one of the top ‘amateur’ genealogists in the country, and one of the very few who could have made a living at it because she, like your own mum, had always felt history was the story of people, that by learning where we come from and their stories we not only ‘touch’ them across the centuries (and I can trace my family back , documented, to 1540 something or the other) but they ‘touch’ us.

    She also liked history she could physically touch, that she could touch the same buildings as Great Great Granddad had, that the mill where he worked before and after WW1 stands still. Even now she will regale me of tales of how he’d bring home his pittance of a wage every Friday night and give it all to his wife (unlike every other husband in the village at that time I should think) , except a couple of coins for the Friendly Society -because, in those Pre-NHS days- “You had to have something”.

    After we’d all flown the nest she started working for the Local Museum cataloguing exhibits countrywide and got a OU degree in Local History. She even published a couple of books about the history of the area and it’s people and their stories.

    For all her faults, like forcing inedible 1970s Womens Weekly ‘recipes’ down our throats and, even worse, vegetables, she did instil a love of REAL History in every single one of her kids.

    After my German Mother-in-law died unexpectedly I realised that a whole chunk of family history had died with her and was lost for good. My own kids and grandkids would never know much of their own family history (The Bestes Frau In The World not having an historical bone in her once sexy body). So before Mother-in-Law had even been buried I sat grieving Father-in-Law down in front of my cell phone on ‘record’ and started to ask him questions. Fortunately Father-in-Law has never had a problem about recalling his Childhood on the run from the Soviets and the Nazi Field Police….I got hours and hours and hours of ‘tapes’….

    So I salute your Mom, my mom and all other REAL historians (ie non statisticians) and Keepers Of Family Lore everywhere.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh – lovely comment! Spot on. 😀


      • Well it wouldn’t do for me to tell Aged Mother Dwarf how grateful I am to her for imbuing me and my siblings with a love of REAL History , I’d hate for her to think that her culinary sins of my childhood were forgiven her.

        But it has , believe it or not, proved incredibly useful in everyday life, even a late 20th Century life. Can’t think of a really good example of how ‘stories’ have helped off the top of my head of course but one ‘history to touch’ example does spring to mind and is how I , in the days before Google Streetview and Satanic Navs, was rumoured to have a near supernatural ability to navigate my way around the centres of major towns and cities without ever having been there before. My trick was to go to a library before hand or a book shop and find a map of the city from , say, the C16.
        You know, the simple block print ones handdrawn by ‘Iohannes van Some Dutch Name’ or ‘Wrap thy foes in irons and molest their womenfolk’ Jones.

        Thanks to medieval city walls, nearly all towns and cities were built on the ‘cartwheel’ design and most of the churches have survived and it was a matter of minutes to memorize where St.Picknose was and the Abbey Of The Grey Boring Nuns. Where the Town Hall had been-and often still was. Add in the course of an obligatory river running around whatever ‘spokes’ and you can see how navigating a strange city on a strange night with even stranger drinks inside me held no terror.
        Even German cities bombed to the ground in WW2. The buildings may not have rebuilt but the course of the main roads remained pretty much the same.
        I always found modern road maps to be less useful for just getting the ‘lay of the land’, too complex, too much detail. But knowing Gallows Hill was outside the city wall and could be seen from the spire of St Giles de Rais on a clear day….

        Liked by 1 person

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