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My grandparents and me

Posted on 29 October 2011, 3:47

I was accidentally introduced to the Devon boatbuilding town of Appledore 10 years ago, because a friend has a holiday place nearby. We’ve been coming here for holidays ever since. It was only this year, after my Mum died, that I found a photograph (left above) she had taken of her parents, Tom and Eveline, on their own Appledore holiday back in August 1941. I’ve walked past the place where they’re standing without ever knowing its significance.

The buildings seen in the background of the photograph are still there, on Appledore Quay, looking straight out onto the estuary of the River Torridge as it flows briskly into the sea. This morning, in bright sunshine, Roey and I went there to take the above right picture of me on the same spot, 70 years after my Mum took her snapshot. (I’ve posted the picture at a bigger size on Flickr.)

I never knew my grandfather, as he died in 1949. It’s a shame, as he drove steam engines, which would automatically have made him a childhood hero for me. I did know my grandmother, though, as she lived until I was 11. She and Tom were close all their lives, as I think the picture shows, but now they are gone, and my Mum is also gone, so the only thing which remains from this tiny fragment of time is the image my Mum captured in the flicker of a camera’s eye.

It’s curious what you discover when you do something like this. Like my grandparents, I discovered how bright the sunlight is on Appledore Quay on a clear morning. Tom had sensibly brought a trilby with a pulled-down brim so he wouldn’t have to squint into the sun as my grandmother and I did.

But also, looking at the different directions of our shadows, it’s clear that Tom and Eveline got up much earlier than I did this morning, as the sun in their faces is from almost due east. It looks like they had just turned out of their bed and breakfast for an early morning stroll along the quay. I like the way the picture yields its secrets to those who search for them. It adds depth to an image which could so easily lose its meaning.

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Scarily, you know Appledore much better than I do. Devon is a big place…

Chorister, Tue 1 Nov, 18:39

I didn’t know that, Hilda… but I can imagine it! She was quietly intrepid, I think. Sue, I think he’s wearing a watch on a chain, although what’s attaching it to his lapel is anyone’s guess.

Simon, Sun 30 Oct, 15:44

How clever of you to find just the spot AND work out the time the photo was taken! Grandma looks quite girlish and pretty in that dress (she would have been 53) and their smiles for the camera look naturally happy. I wonder what Tom was wearing in his lapel – it’s not clear even in the larger Flickr photo. A lovely post Si – thank you!

Sue Barrow, Sat 29 Oct, 22:38

How wonderful! Did you know that Evelyn rode on Clive’s motorbike when she was in her seventies? Very adventurous, I don’t think I would now! Hilda xx

Hilda, Sat 29 Oct, 19:47

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