Catherine Jane Evans looms large in my family’s mythology. She was my great-grandmother, born in the Welsh settlement in Patagonia, in 1888. She returned Britain with her parents when she was 14; it’s said that they were defeated by floods, fever & the deaths of four of their seven children.
In 1965, to mark the centenary of the founding of the Welsh settlement, she was invited to be part of a group visiting Argentina; she met the President and was feted as a VIP wherever she went. We now have a recording of her talking about her experiences on cd.
On Boxing Day evening, I heard the voice of my great-grandmother for the first time. It sounded somewhat like that of my granny’s, who was her daughter-in-law, and I suppose that’s because they both spent formative years in Liverpool, but also travelled a good deal, so the full twang of that accent was mellowed. She had a natural, humorous way of speaking; it was only in the pauses and from the rustle of paper as she turned a page and found her place again that I realised she was reading from an already written account; otherwise her story flowed.
As she describes, aged 78 and never having flown before, getting in an aeroplane for a 24 hour flight with a group of strangers, to return to the country of her birth after 64 years, she says;
“I had made up my mind not to think of danger or fear at all.”
I won’t say that I never make new year’s resolutions; but I never tell people what they are. However, there doesn’t seem anything wrong with a quote or two to set the tone for the year ahead, and I love that this one came from my own great-grandmother, and was spoken in a voice almost familiar, gone, quite clearly in my own dining room. It echoes a Miss Marple quote I’ve had in mind all year; “We are not put into this world to avoid danger..”
Fear can be a justified instinct, protecting us from danger; equally it can hold us back. The skill is in judging the difference. In general I think I have been too carpe diem in my emotional life,and too laissez–faire in the more solid elements of life; I need to try to swap this around. If that sounds like a statement of intent, or even a resolution, then it’s not precisely; it’s more a theme, or work in progress, for the coming years.
Also on Boxing Day night, my Dad was flicking from channel to channel on the TV, and briefly settled on the film Peter and Wendy, based on Peter Pan. As she travels through a forest with the lost boys, Wendy declares;
“I won’t be the kind of mother who sits at home worrying. I want to have adventures, and kill pirates too!”
I fancy this quote framed on my wall somewhere – although I am of course interpreting killing pirates in a very metaphorical sense. Since my son has declared his intention of joining the RAF, I may need a stiff upper lip. It’s not as if, as parents, we will ever not worry about our children; but worrying won’t change anything, and I’d rather have adventures while worrying than sit at home.