Saturday, February 12, 2011

History and changes....

I was listening to the news in the middle of the night - it was all about Egypt, of course, and one of the commentators was making a huge thing about "This is history in the making! We are seeing history being made!" and words of a similar ilk. And I started thinking. As one does at dark o' clock. First, that he was so young, bless him, and this was possibly the most significant event in his life so far, and secondly, that history is not just about big events.

Of course, what is happening in Egypt is of enormous significance, most especially in the lives of 82 million Egyptian people, and I just pray that they use this opportunity well, and choose peace, justice, freedom and democracy. But they are the ones making the choices, and they are an educated intelligent nation, and need to be left to decide for themselves. Things are changing all over the place, and as long as this earth keeping turning, it will continue to be so.

Change. It happens.

In the span of my lifetime, I have seen "history being made" many times. The Berlin Wall. Going up and coming down. Wars have been fought in distant places. Many things. When we think about history, we tend to think of massive events, often particularly brutal. But think back a few years - the New Year's Day tsunami. Remember that? To the people who lived through it, it was massively important, and it will shape their futures for generations to come. It is part of their history now. But to the rest of us, it has become a distant memory of a far off place.

There are concentration camp survivors who will know that their experience changed their history (and their futures) in the most savage of ways, and yet somehow they now find themselves living in a world where knowledge of those times is just found in a few history books. And in some schools here in the UK, history is being dropped as a subject. In favour of more technological modern subjects. Do NOT get me started on this one....... (I have a degree in History.)

Every day, we create our own history. Computers were invented when I was at school. By the time I was at university in the early 1970s, you could study computer science, which involved a lot of "1" and "0" in binary code, and pieces of rectangular cards with holes punched in them. Calculators. Mobile phones. Fax machines. Microwaves. Internet.

There was once an Industrial Revolution. We are probably in the Computer Revolution. Computers have changed the course of history. Our lives. Machines do the work men toiled at in the olden days. With terrifying possibilities and breathtaking speed. They have also enabled man to explore space. Well, to try to explore close bits of it in person, and further afield, oh yes, those computers are whirring away, sending back data undreamed of 20 years ago. Under our oceans. Inside the earth.

The future has endless possibilities, doesn't it. Both good and bad. And the past....

If we stop learning about the past, the future has little meaning.

But back to history being made.

Every time I take a photo, or write about my day, or sew a stitch in a quilt, or copy a recipe into my recipe book, I am creating a part of my history. My family's history. Every child's drawing gently folded and placed in a memory box, every pair of first shoes. Every wedding ring. Part of our history. Every school report kept. Scrapbooks. Diaries. Journals. Blogs.

I come from a family of adventurers, you know. My paternal grandfather who was born in Lancashire, here in the UK, ran away to sea when he was 14, then joined the British Army and went to India and fought in the Siege of Kimberley in South Africa. Somewhere along the line, he went to university in London, qualified as an engineer, started an industrial school and then when he had met and married my Granny, in South Africa, came back to England to fight in WW1 and then studied to be an optician. An interesting man.

My Moregranny, his wife, left Glasgow in Scotland as a young woman, with her mother and 2 sisters, to move to South Africa where her uncle had settled, half a world away. She trained as a teacher, and moved to the north of the country when she got married. Then back to the south when her husband died, to be near my Dad, her only child.

My maternal grandfather moved from Oxfordshire as a small child, with his family, to Cape Town, where his father founded a business which became very successful. He was sent back to the UK to school with his brother and once he had finished his education, he went to work for his father, and managed the business. He and my gran travelled widely.

My maternal Gran left Norfolk as a small child with her family, who were millers, and moved to Cape Town to a really different life in a city. After living on farms for generations, that must have been major culture shock. She, too, trained as a teacher and worked until she married and had her children.

Those great grandparents of mine made tough decisions in the late 1890s. They moved into the unknown, and who knows, there must have been fear or at least trepidation in their hearts. There was no guarantee they would ever see their homes in the UK again, or their families. They left centuries of tradition, of their histories, to start new lives. One great grandmother missed her home so badly, and never gave up dreaming of going back. She never did. They had no idea whether they would be able to build new lives in a new place. They had to work incredibly hard at it. No phones back then. Weeks or months waiting for letters. What bravery.

And now the modern day adventurers......

I married an Englishman, and moved to live in England. I crossed that ocean too. In fact, I completed the full circle my 3 sets of great grandparents and one grandfather started the century before last. My sister married a man born in Germany who moved to Switzerland as a boy and she now lives in Switzerland. She also moved hemispheres. I have a daughter who lives in New Zealand. Well, you can't get much further away can you.......

So this family has crisscrossed the oceans many times in many ways over the course of 120 years. It has been to most places in the world, given that I was married to an officer in the merchant navy and there were not many places he had not seen, believe me. And my parents and sister travelled a lot too. In fact the whole family travels as often as they can. Maybe it is genetic. Their decisions over those 120 years have altered the history of our family. (I also had a part in making one of those decisions, of course.) And it will continue to change as generations come and make decisions of their own too.

So far, to my knowledge, none of the people in my family has changed the course of global history. They have ridden the waves of a century of immense challenges, though. They have lived through the history we read about today, including 2 World Wars. I have lived through parts of it. South Africa....... many many challenges. The Cold War. The rise of terrorism round the globe. Big things. Little things. But they have written their own history books. Unique.

And just sometimes we forget that it could be the smallest of things which could have the hugest of impacts on the history of the world. Tiny seemingly insignificant things.

Like that little baby born in a stable, for instance.

Who knows who or what will change the course of history then? It could be a book. It could be one life. It could be one small idea. It could be one stroke of genius. Or madness. It could be just about anything.

Little insignificant things. Or so we may think. Big things too, like Egypt, perhaps. But our own histories are just as important in the sphere of our lives. And everything we choose to do alters how our history may read one day.

We will have to wait and see what kind of story unfolds.


Crystal said...

You have put it well, Linds! We each have our own bit of history that is so significant to where we are now.

Here's what I know about my ancestors - it's not as detailed as yours, I am sad to say -wait! I decided I will write my own post about this topic! It's rather significant in my history :) Thanks for the inspiration!

And about Egypt - it's almost surreal to me that I was there just 16 months ago! At the Museum right beside the square! I too pray that the transition will mean real change and opportunities for the people and that it will happen without violence and loss.

The Bookworm said...

Beautifully written, Linds. As a would-be archivist one of the things that inspires me is being involved in collecting and preserving so many different histories - individual stories, family history, community memories, national history - it's all there.

And it doesn't surprise me in the least that you come from a family of adventurers!

Sheila said...

Such an interesting topic Linds! Each family has a history and to some it's more important than others. I've been designated the family historian. I find it an overwhelming task sometimes. I made copies of so many of the historical photos years ago and got them into four scrapbooks for myself and my siblings. The dates and events need to be organized. It's an ongoing task. Thanks for your insight into history.

Edith said...

Neat insights...and I really enjoyed learning more of your history. Cool that your family has come full circle.

Donnetta said...

I so enjoyed reading this! It has given new life and perspective to the ordinary things of my day today. Not so ordinary now but rather...history in the making...

Your perspective is always such an encouragement and inspiration to me!