“Do you come from Nottingham?” Liz asked Katherine, as we drank a welcome cup of tea during the break between puppet dog-walking sessions at the Theatre Royal’s Open Day.
”No, I was born in London”
”Which part? Liz asked with interest. “My mother came from Edmonton, although she tried to keep that hidden from everyone, a bit ashamed of her working class roots”
”They call it ‘Fitzrovia’ these days, although it’s nowhere near Fitzroy Square” Katherine said with a smile.
”My dad was born in Aberdeen” added Liz “although his family came from Inverness”
“I had a very Scottish upbringing” Lyra added, in a broad Scandanavian accent. “At the start of the war, my mother took me, with my sister, to stay with our grandmother, in Edinburgh, for three weeks, which ended up as six years. My sister complains about it to this day; I think we did ok”
This conversation was beginning to feel like a geography lesson. “We’re all made up of all sorts of nationalities” said Liz, like an advert for the Remainers. “Got any Scottish blood?” Liz asked Katherine.
”No my roots are much more Southern European” she replied. The conversation continued. I suddenly realised that while two of my grandparents came from the north, one from London, the fourth was Australian. He was an Australian serviceman who came to England to fight in the First World War. I never think of myself as having Australian heritage. I wonder why; probably because this was kept a secret for many years.
My grandfather fell in love with my grandmother; they apparently planned to marry. She had a ticket for the ‘Bride’s Boat’, for women engaged to Australian servicemen who returned home to await their fiancé. Sadly, my grandfather was quarantined, in a boat in Sydney Harbour, with Spanish Flu, where he died. What he didn’t know was that my grandmother was pregnant, something shameful in 1919s. This was something she kept secret; her sister brought my father up for the first few years of his life. My grandmother then met her husband, went out with him for two years and two weeks before the wedding told him about my father! This was a scandal of the family so perhaps why I don’t think of myself as having Australian heritage because no one talked about it. However, I have wondered what Jack Crawfurd was like, whereabouts in Australia he came from and what sort of family my relatives are. That I will never know.
However, the origin of these tea towels is equally complicated: the Map of Australia and Waltzing Matilda belong to Hilary and are ‘on loan’; I have no idea where Adelaide Zoo comes from, it is a U.T.T (Unidentified Tea Towel) but I have had it for at least 15 years!