Virginia Barton

8 June 2013: Great-Aunt, doughty withal

8 June 2013


shutterstock_114542011 (1) (800x689)Talking of the demon drink (as one does from time to time) reminded me that my great aunt had taken the pledge, and had a large medal to prove it. The presence in our wild Lakeland house, of a large stone cellar filled with empty wine bottles, may have had something to do with this.

Her Papa, my great-great I suppose, was a genial soul if his pic is anything to go by, and no doubt enjoyed a glass or two with his dinner. Genial he may have been, but it was said that he would sit in the open window, facing the drive to the house, with a loaded gun on his lap, prepared to take a pot-shot at uninvited visitors. My mother was a great creator of legends, and this just may have been one of them.

Great aunt was real enough, and a redoubtable traveller. (see “Desert Island Knapsack”.) Like many women of her era (she died in 1955 aged 90+), was self-educated, a bit of a blue-stocking and doughty withal. My eldest sister maintains she was the most influential person in her life. I can only just remember her: she stayed in the north when we came south to go to school.

The generation of my parents and their friends have always struck me as far more interesting, cultivated and committed than my own. I worry that our children and grandchildren won’t have the example of that grit, patriotism, good manners, protectiveness towards women, responsibility towards others, courage in adversity, steadfastness, godliness. I exaggerate, of course. For sure not all that generation was so startlingly blessed, and neither are the people of today totally lacking in admirable qualities.

But, but.



I suppose it has something to do with having had it comparatively easy? We haven’t, thank the Lord, been called to arms. The standard of living has slowly but steadily risen. Health and education are available to all. Huge numbers live in their own space. In most ways “We’ve never had it so good.” And yes, I am aware that the gap between rich and poor widens annually.

Could it be because we have forgotten to practise many of the virtues the previous generation took as a given?

Hey ho, another of life’s little teases. Weeding is a good antidote to brainwork. I think I’ll go and take out a few and calm down.



Incidentally, I bought a super bottle of Californian rosé, just right for this unpredictable weather, It’s called Tender Foot which is a native American name, is it not? (I have only to think of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee to start crying…)






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