It's been a long time since Granny's last post. Does anyone else find it as difficult as she does starting up again? She's been limbering up mentally for at least 24 hours, the pit in her stomach getting deeper and deeper at the prospect of finding something to say- on the one hand; or deciding where to start on the other. For here she has been gallivanting from one side of the world to the other, from south (southern hemisphere version) t0 north (ditto), from sub-tropic to tropical, soaking up early summer; and here she is returned to late-autumn-early-winter- firework-exploding-London. Less delicious in terms in climate, but full of people she loves, on the other hand, including her Beloved, just now, whose presence she rejoices in just as she mourns saying goodbye to equally beloved but irredemably Aussie Little Sister. For when will they meet again? Always the question. An Australian historian once wrote a book called 'The Tyranny of Distance'. Granny has never encountered a better way of describing how such far separation feels from one of those she loves best. It is probably - it is - naughty of her to find herself wishing one or two of other relations (she'll name no names) were that far off, rather than Little Sister. But alas, she does.
Little Sister of course may feel quite differently. And it is certainly true that she disappeared to Australia in her early twenties to get as far away as she could from a family that Granny is more than willing to admit - having spent two weeks in the company of two of its more difficult members - is not the easiest family to belong to. The pain and grief of the parents she has described before now cast long shadows over everyone; some, Little Sister for one, have learned to surmount them better than others. Granny's twin sister, the lightning conductor for all its griefs - isn't that true of most difficult families that someone plays that role? - surmounted them hardly at all. The sadness was passed down to her daughter Sad Niece; and by reflection on this holiday lain a little on Granny herself, conscious throughout how hard it was for Sad Niece to be surrounded by her mother's siblings, with only her mother missing.
She was more than conscious too that for Sad Niece, whose feelings for her aunt reflect more than a little of what she called her and her mother's love-hate relationship, the wrong twin survived the family lurgy. Granny herself could feel guilty about this if she let herself. Mostly she doesn't - what would be the point? For the duration though, the weight of twinship sat hard on her shoulders all over again. It always does sit somewhat on her shoulders; it always will; twins are physically part of each other, in death as in life, in ways it's probably hard for a non-twin to comprehend. Most of the time now Granny can and does forget the burden. Over the past two weeks, amid what was otherwise, mostly, delight, she has felt the weight again. She so wishes she could ease sad niece's sadness. But she of all people cannot. Little Sister, on the other hand, is in a better position to try and she will, she will. Lovely, beloved little sister.
Still if you have to be plunged back into family griefs, she can think of worse places than the Barrier Reef, or Sydney, one of her favourite cities on earth, come to that. Big Brother complained that the fish seen when snorkelling weren't so good as those in the Seychelles; he would. But even he admitted that the corals themselves were better than anywhere - and since these undersea gardens are what Granny herself loves best of all she was perfectly happy. As for little sister - she proved indefatigable, spending twice as long out there as anyone, and, for her efforts getting to swim with turtles. Granny saw plenty of turtles - and giant clams opening and shutting their jaws and smaller boring clams buried in rocks, but swim with turtles no. What she did see - and this was worth any other lack - was the members of her family, all different shapes and sizes, clad from head to foot in purple lycra, the suits designed to protect snorkellers and swimmers from the lethal jellyfish which start infesting these water around this time of year. She'd have gone still further than she had to for the pleasure of seeing Big Brother in such gear. Infinitely preferable she thought to his Old Etonian tie and blazer, sported for the family wedding.
Maybe her family were equally if secretly delighted - very tactful her family- to see Granny herself in the full glory of her Mastectomy Fashion swimsuit. Not least because she didn't work out till towards the end of the week how to anchor her false sponge tit within it. At times it lurked under her armpit; at other times hovered round her belly. Some of you may know Michael Ondatjee's description of his grandmother - the first woman in Sri Lanka to have a mastectomy - whose false tits similarly lurked in all the wrong parts of her anatomy and sometimes turned up in odd places round the house much to the bafflement of the family servants. The last one finally disappeared in mysterious circumstances; 'most believed it had been forgotten after a romantic assignation in Trincomalee with a man who may or may not have been in the cabinet...' Thanks to Beloved, Granny is a virtuous woman these days, she's unlikely to equal that. (She can, on the other hand, direct you urgently to the book from which that gem came, Ondatee's delightful memoir 'Running in the Family. ' A book she infinitely prefers to 'The English Patient.' But maybe that's just her.)
She and sad niece also had a lovely - even niece and aunt bonding day - out on safari with an ageing hippy guide and a nice if monochrome female Canadian judge, veering between rain forest and beaches which looked like what tourist brochures try to make beaches look like, but which in reality rarely are - miles of empty white sand, fringed with mangroves and palm trees. Idyllic. That is if you leave out of account the beginning to arrive jellyfish, meriting urgent warnings and supplies of vinegar on all paths leading out onto the inviting sands. Another version of the serpent in Eden no doubt. (But only between November and April.)
So that was the Barrier Reef. Sydney was something else; no time for that now - and anyway it was standard tourist stuff - a ride in on the Manley Ferry - towards the Opera House sailing across the sea. What was not standard was an entirely delightful lunch with another blogger, Ovagirl, the first of her blogging friends that Granny has met. Ovagirl herself has described this better than Granny could; so she will end by referring you here.
Labels: family stories