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07 August 2009

My father always wanted a baronial hall with rushes on the floor and also an elephant. He was always singing and dancing around, and was full of charm, although not trustworthy. He had an odd set of priorities that were based on him being the most important person in the universe. Expressed numerically it would approximate this formula:
my pater = 1000000000000000.
everyone else = .0000000000000001
My parents would always laugh that "all their swans were geese," but it was no joke as the reversal of the commonly-held parental formula meant that we children had very little value.

My mother loved books but my father LOVED BOOKS, and it's because of him that I thought cutting pages to be a normal activity (he bought bazillions of old books and it was not a unique occurrence for a book to've only had its pages cut up to the point where the original purchaser stopped reading it a hundred years before).

We had every kind of car under the sun, I think, as he'd buy something very cool then leave it to rot if it developed a problem. He liked things like Lincolns, but my mother liked odd and squatty designs, so she had a Nash Metropolitan, an Austin America, and a Mayflower, and when the first Geo Metro (with a three cylinder motorbike engine) came out she was on that like a dicky on a worm.

He could teach himself how to do anything, and did. He build a boat, shod all our horses, learned book-binding, could fix up any equine malady or accident that was fixable including stiching up wounds. He'd only do as he liked, though, so if you had an urgent need it never made it onto the schedule. I suppose I inherited my ability to figure out how to do things from him.

I spent much more time around him that girls usually spend with their fathers. He had certain immutable rules: don't talk to him when he's working, don't bother him or a horse or any animal which is eating, "Don't force it" if you are trying to fit Part A onto a piece of machinery but is just as true in any other application, "English people learn by osmosis" (also don't need brakes, and so forth).

My mother had rules, too, such as if she called you were to immediately go to her without a word. Continuing to lounge on one's bed while shouting, "WHAT DO YOU WANT?" was probably a ticket to oblivion. I didn't get along with my mother, but in any case I would leave the house early in the morning and not come back in until past dark (either school + riding + working in the barn, or in summer just working in the barn + being off on the back of a horse twenty miles from home with all the dogs). I was frightened of the sound of screech owls in the dark so had to steel myself up every day to turn out all the barn lights a run furiously towards the house. I drove myself so hard I would black out frequently, and finally after years of overwork developed rheumatic fever and had to stay in bed without moving for something like six months. I'd reached my teenaged years by then, I think.

I liked to go and climb about on the roof, which no one remarked on as far as I remember. Many years later, after my marriage broke up (because I got sick) and I all of a sudden had no money, nowhere to live, etc., I housesat for various friends for months and months. Next to K+H's house lived a newly-arrived Russian family who had three children, I think 6, 5, and 2. They were actually quite taken with me, so I saw them constantly. Their parents had a different idea to child-rearing than their neighbours; leaving for the evening, they'd just lock the door, locking the children out of the house. The children would shinny up the drainpipes and frolic on the roof - or anyway they'd hang around up there. They actually seemed a lot more like real children than any of the other ones I knew.

I'm just killing time as I really would like to lie down but am waiting for the household of men to leave.

posted by - 4:54 PM

Always intriguing to see the roots of someone's life, thank you!
Ye gods! All round, just ye gods!

p.s. I reckon kids would love you as an amazing aunt figure who'd be 1000x more fun and interesting than their parents :)
I had a whole posse when I worked at Wa He Lut. Because children would pass word on to their younger siblings I'd meet five-year-olds who already not just knew who I was, but were trying to fight their way into my space.
Jesse (never seen him before in my life): Miss Kendall can I go in the Art Room?
Patrick: I know who you are. YOU'RE THE ART GIRL.
I just taught them techniques that would be useful in life - like how to silkscreen their designs onto T shirts or paper. Or how to build things out of wood using power tools. Or make video.

I remember once before I had much of a budget making an entire class of six year olds build kites out of garbage bags. They had to lay it out on the floor, measure, then cut it out with an X-acto knife and assemble the various parts. I had a whole floor of totally focussed knife-wielding anklebiters - was great.

Then we went outside and I had them thundering up and down for ages trying to get the kites into the air, and I was laughing so hard I could hardly stand up. The kites didn't fly - or at least not for the children, but it was fun anyway.
You are the original MAKER. Odd, isn't it, that those techniques useful in life might be so popular? Strange that physical and digital things made not begotten, are so much more rewarding than promises of future lucre and status (thinking lawyers and doctors and plastic surgeons). Strange that so many parents become nervous when children start to take apart appliances. Strange too how much we always loved our aunts and noncles more than any pater or mater.

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I want to ask for thoughts about improving the world -- what do people need? How can things be organised?