Photographs and Memories   Leave a comment

‘Course… who’s old enough to remember Jim Croce ? Frickin’ 1973  — nearly 40 years ago.. How did THAT happen? … And yeah, it’s a song about lost love… But still, an excellent metaphor, since it’s primarily about loss… and memories…

Besides; pop songs about the death of your parents from old age and the devastation you feel, seem pretty thin on the ground.

Roynolf to Linda 3:39 PM (9 minutes ago)

“Think early afternoon would be a good idea? Let me know… I’ll make a ferry reservation for the morning..

Started going through Mom’s writing room… holy crap.. piled one on top of the other — no word of a lie — picture of Melian as a teenager with her dad Amroth… Mom’s “Uncle Herbert” indenture papers from 1890 (really shitty photocopy).. and pictures of a couple of my English “rellies”… grand-children or great-grand children, I haven’t a  clue…  not to mention all the letters stored higglety-pigglety and dozens of empty envelopes going back to the year dot… and it’s all got to be sorted.

What a freaking nightmare. But I’ve got the subject for my next blog posting!



I know not who they are, or who they belong to, or when this picture was taken. Merely, that I am in some way, related to them.

Melian and Amroth in happier days…

“National Newsline Vol. 18 No. 1 Winter 2001
CAA Looses a National Treasure

There is a gap in the Canadian Authors family. Our honorary national president, Don W. Thomson, died in Ottawa on Tuesday, January 9, 2001, just five days short of his 95th birthday. He is survived by his wife, Wanda.”

Onto the recycling heap with it.

As I gradually do my initial sort-and-pitch routine of Mom and Dad’s papers.. Wondering if I’m tossing anything of value, hopefully not…

Mom fancied herself a writer… she worked bloody hard at it, in a fits-and-starts desultory sort-of way, between raising a family in the best C of E suffocating fashion  — equal parts of misplaced English Snobbery and a diet largely comprised of lard — and disparaging everything about the colonies in the process… The story from family history how at the age of 12 – 14 (not sure now) she went to visit some dour Church of England Clergyman (this would have been I guess 1931 – 1933) with her work, to get a scholarship I think, or something like that… there’s no-one else left in the family now to ask… and he looked at what she wrote, didn’t believe she wrote it, demanded she sit there in his study and write something else, and she did.

Then he believed her.

Trouble was, in my experience, ambitions notwithstanding, my late, lamented mother was a prim and proper, not to say “tight-arsed”, Victorian version of Kurt Vonnegut’s character Kilgore Trout… lots of good ideas… (alas not quite so many as Kilgore) but precious little talent. And wouldn’t say “shit” if her mouth were full of it.

I shouldn’t be so unkind.. She so wanted to be a member of the Gentry if not the Aristocracy…  Unfortunately her father was a carpenter and joiner, and tradesmen in her books were on a par with hardened criminals.  A Newfoundland friend asked me “is your mother English?” and I replied: “Are you kidding? She’s so English she’s Anglo-Norman.”

Regina, good Irish-Catholic stock that she was, snickered appreciatively.

Mom detested Mordechai Richler, whom she knew personally, if not well, and referred to as “That ugly little Jewish guttersnipe.”

For the longest time I firmly believed our Mordechai was a dreadful writer, until I finally broke down and started reading him… What did I find but a hard-drinking, hard-bitten, hard-working, alas working-class journalist, who gave up on his religion when he caught his Mother making out with the lodger*; who had no problems using the word “shit” when appropriate, who loved his Scotch, and who loved Montreal, and despite the fun he made of it, I think, loved Quebecois culture. Three strikes against him at least if not more, as far as Ma was concerned… English Montreal was okay of course. Guess just not the Jewish… English part of it…  I finished Oh Canada Oh Quebec wherein he said all sorts of things unkind but true of both sides; I read about a third of the way through his magnum opus Barney’s Version but had to put it down at about the part where the American draft dodger was about to steal his wife and the love of his life from him.. Too close to home, except I stole my wife and the love of my life from myself.

I’ll finish Barney’s Version one day Mordechai. I promise…

Meanwhile, tut, tut… Canada’s singular man of letters, a cultural treasure if ever we had one… and my mother called him an “ugly little Jewish guttersnipe” ? … But I digress…

“Scylla my dear” said my Auntie Rian and Mom’s older sister to my twin: “Your mother was born a prude.”

“Plain Letters”
Records Management Handbook – Managing Correspondence
Federal Stock Number 7610-205-1091… Washington 1955…

Hm… Isn’t a book on filing correspondence.. It’s a book on writing correspondence… Ma needed the former, judging from the chaos I’ve discovered thus far, far more than the latter…

“RCMP win Jolie Copie Case

On July 23, 1996, the RCMP laid criminal charges of copyright infrigement against Lolie Copie Inc. of Mackay Street in Montreal. The charges were laid after more than 80 boxes of photocopied books and materials were removed from the copy shop during execution of a search warrant..”

How could that be 16 years ago already? Whatever. Out with it!

“Family Record

Entered according to Act of Parliament of Canada in the year 1870 by Thomas Churchill, in the office of the Ministry of Agriculture.


Jehiel Martin Born April 30th, 1812
Martha A Martin Born August 1st, 1826
Married Nov 6th, 1845


Thomas M.  Martin Sept. 16th, 1846
Gideon M. Martin May 21st, 1848
Peter B. Martin March 30th,  1850
Jehiel D. Martin April 6th, 1853
Alfred W. Martin April 24th, 1854
Ellen Martin April 26th, 1855
Mary Martin October 25th, 1857
William D Martin January 27th, 1859
Alice O. Martin March 20th, 1863
Marchand M Martin October 23rd, 1866


Ellen Martin December 6th, 1858
Mary Martin November 27th, 1857

I can tell from the surname they’re long-dead relatives on my Dad’s mother’s side of the family… but I’ve not the faintest clue, who any of these people were.. Nor what a document so old and so precious is doing rolled up in the bottom of a chest-of-drawers being put to ill-use as a file cabinet.. Or more properly, a waste-paper basket…

Well look at this.. A string of LED Christmas lights.. Just what I needed, as April draws near… How’d they get there? I must have put them there, but I’m damned if I remember when.

Third drawer down… the files… OMG.. the files…

“1998 Receipts”
“Air Crew Association”
“Arthritis Exercises”
“Barristers Society”
“Block Watch”
“CAA Group E-Mail”
“Can Copy”
“Can Copy”
“Canadian Writers Foundation”
“Canadian Professional Police Association”
“Canons and Regulations of the Anglican Synod of the Diocese of British Columbia”
“Cataract Surgery”
“Cemetary Index”
“Clinical Research P Sommerville”
“Coast Capital One”
“Doctor Callaghan – Geriatric Outpatient Clinic”
“Driving Test”
“Esso Home Comfort”
“Eyes – Examination, Dr. Tanda”
“Gordon Head Resident’s Association”
“Gutter Job”
“ICBC Claim”
“Income Tax 2003″
“Income Mail – Pending”
“Income Tax 2002″
“Income Tax 2001″
“Income Tax 2000″
“Income Tax 2004″
“Island Net dot com”
“Loans – Family “
“Mister Card”
“RBC /Royal Bank”
“Roy among the Rednecks”
“Search Authors”
“Sideperson Duties”
“Spitfire Press”
“Urology Treatment – Dr. McCauley”
“Voter Registration”
“Washer – Kenmore “
“World Vision “

Out with it.

but… but…

To myself: … Roynolf: Out with it. All of it! They’re dead and gone, the will’s been probated, the taxes are collected, F*** IT: When was that file cabinet drawer last opened?

To my certain knowledge, not since January 2006, and given the crisis in 2005 and the disintegration of Dad’s mind — Mom certainly never opened that drawer — probably not for a good chunk of time before that. This stuff is not valuable. Quodus Est Demonstrandum.

E-mail to the Remains of the Family.. “What of any of this do any of you want?” … no-one wants the National Geographics, which Mom subscribed to from 1959 all the way to 2004; nor the This England magazines in binders, nor The Countryman… onto the recyle pile with all of them.. A 6 foot by 3 foot bookcase-worth of crap…

Actually haven’t heard from Berúthiel.. But she’s got her own issues at the moment.

April, 1962. That National Geographic’s almost 50 years old.. A bit rough, but not too bad… And most of them are in better shape than it… subscribed to.. received, never read.. stored… out with them!

Wonder whatever happened to all the Reader’s Digests that she hung onto for as long as I can remember? Don’t think they made it past Lakefield. Those I did read, even if they were awful. Kept me from taking up smoking, though!

How am I to get all this shit to Fort Mudge Memorial Dump (AKA “Hartland Landfill”)..? I shouldn’t have unloaded my van so soon.. Well for all I knew the house was going to be on the market for another 6 months and I was getting hungry and it was eating up $100/month in insurance, not to mention the gas… then I remembered there’s people who will come and take rubbish away.. So.. To the carport and thence to oblivion. Next, the books.. Titles such as The Seth Material and You Cannot Die and Life After Life and Journeys Out of the Body and The Collected Works of Helena Blavatsky and people even shadier and more dubious than she…

The words of Henry David Thoreau resounding in my ears as I hump the old paper down to the carport, about how: “these things are more easily acquired than gotten rid of”…

… Shortly to be followed by a similar trephination of my stuff right behind it, starting with my university textbooks which I haven’t opened in  30 years or more and will never open again if I can help it. No big. I’ll have eternity in Hell to peruse them I expect…

Ma had this fixation — obsession rather — on life after death. Guess because her brother Harry Roy was killed in a training accident in Trenton Ontario in 1942. 22 years old. They were very close and she must have taken it very hard.. I found in a trunk in Halifax a letter she wrote to him after he died… hopefully it’s in the detritus of the writing room and I haven’t accidentally pitched it..

… “Life after Death” … and seeing Harry Roy in the Hereafter… to the complete exclusion of her living children, of whom none of us, she had a clue, as to who we were, preferring  rather to shoe-horn us more-or-less unsuccessfully into her wishful thinking…

“Will you have a life after death?” ask Dr. Melvin Isenglass, one of my phalanx of psychiatrists. “It would be far more useful for you to ask: “Will you have a life before death?”

Good question, Melvin. In fact, about the only useful question you ever asked me. I’m working on it, so far without much luck.

Harry Roy was such a gifted scholar and athlete he won an award, the “Victor Ludorum”; the Headmaster visited my grandfather at his home and pleaded with him not to allow Harry Roy to enlist… lest what eventually happenned, happen…

“Of what use is it?” said Miss Chomondelay (pronounced “chumley” which was at one point likely was the way it was spelled) the withered maiden sister of the village vicar; “It will only give him ambitions above his station.”

Mom also enlisted… pretty much everyone able-bodied of her generation enlisted; she was so good at her work in the WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Airforce) she was called in for an interview for a commission…

“In that interview, the officer asked me only two questions: What did my Father do for a living? And what school did I go to? And that was the end of my obtaining a commission in the Royal Air Force” she said.

The English Military never was keen on promotion on the basis of merit, merely inbreeding. A study of military history is ample proof of that.

(…I gather it’s still theoretically possible to purchase a commission  in Her Majesty’s Forces…)

Meanwhile, I opined at 16 when I first heard that story, that what Miss Chomondelay needed was to have her little village ransacked and burned to the ground, and herself gang-raped by, a squad of Japanese soldiers. Forgive the racist epithet, I was only 16, and a squad of disaffected Tommies would have done just about as well… Except I still think this…

[Another bit of family history; Miss Chomondely was related to the laird, doncha know? and would go into anybody’s house in the village, any time she pleased, because you see, they all rented their cottages from him and had no rights under law, at all… “Miss Chomondely… I didn’t hear you knock” my grandmother would say upon discovering her in her kitchen.. that’s as daring at the peasants could get.]

Where was I? Oh yes…

Mom, to her … credit?… endured Miss Chomondely’s smutty opinion, was declined for a commission, had to leave school at 14 and work as a menial servant girl for the Duke of Gloucester (I believe) — she constantly told us the story of how when the duke’s Rolls-Royce approached the village, they had to run to the village gate and open it, and curtsey as it rolled by — lived through the twin holocausts of The Great Depression and World War Two; was, in other words, and in every way, a total victim of England’s atrocious and abominable class system…

And despite all of this, never once considered, let alone questioned, her values.

“Indenture Papers” ? For the Love of Christ: Even at the end of the 19th Century, what the HELL was THAT?

I take back some of what I wrote: A determined, brilliant, complicated,  and more than a little troubled, woman. Her life was in many ways, a tour-de-force performance in denial. An absolute tour-de-force… you wouldn’t believe the 18 feet of shit and abuse I was buried under, every time I told her I wanted to become a doctor… Guess what was acceptable for her betters was certainly not acceptable for us…

And yet, when I came to check on Mom and Dad in May 2005, and opened the Fedex package that arrived for me out of the blue to discover the divorce papers therein; when I burst into tears at 45 and sobbed “I don’t want this!!” who was there to throw her arms around me and comfort me?

My mother.

I’ll conclude with a quote/tribute from just about the unlikeliest source imaginable; Neal Strauss, AKA “Style”, from his book Rules of the Game :

“To your mother and father. Feel free to blame them for everything that’s wrong with you.
But don’t forget to give them credit, for everything that’s right.”



* Think I got this listening to Jian interviewing Mordechi’s authorized biographer on “Q”


Posted March 15, 2012 by Capt. Roy Harkness in Uncategorized

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