There is a two-fold thing happening in my life right now. I’m taking photographs of my mam. Forever photos. She’s 88 on Monday. How much longer will she live? Who knows. Life is strange like that. We can’t predict what is going to happen. Or how long we will live. There is a sense of urgency to it too. A kind of capturing memories for when the inevitable happens. A last chance to make someone last forever. When she goes I will lose a connection, a connection to a past that I came from. That is a scary concept. To have one parent is hard, but to have none. Well it doesn’t bear thinking about. Who will I ask about the past, who will tell me the tales that she keeps hidden. So now I take photographs. Of a life once lived. A life that once danced and laughed. A life that once experienced but now sits and waits.
And the two-fold thing……. Well I’ve been researching the family tree for my mam. On the maternal side. Trying to find out, for my mam, where her grandmother and grandfather came from. And I’ve succeeded. I’ve got answers for her. Surprising answers too. My mam never knew her grandparents on her mothers side. I sense, a tale, of sadness, of rejection somewhere there. My mam is very protective of her mother, was very protective. Still is, of her memory. I sense a story there. A sad story, one which I will gently capture. Things start to make sense. Things from my childhood make sense. Injustices, betrayals, rejection. Answers, answers, answers, please. But they will come. Slowly, and gently.
I took a break recently, well a long weekend. Back to my old haunt, the Lake District. Just for a few days, recharge the batteries. Back to the same place I’ve been going to since I was 13, that’s 39 years ago. And a funny thing happened. I promised my old mam that I would try and find out a little about her mums family, trace her roots back for her, as she did not know her maternal Grandmother and didn’t even know where the family came from. I managed to get a copy of her mams birth certificate, something she hadn’t seen herself. And taking the name of her mams mam (my mams grandmother, whom she’d never met) I traced the family back to Patterdale. My great grandmother, Isabella Crosthwaite, and her siblings were born there. She lived there until she went into service and went to live in Kendal where she met my grandfather, William Nelson. Isabella’s mother and father were called George and Sarah Crosthwaite. Sarah was born in Patterdale too. How she met George I do not know but by 1856 they were married and living in the area. He worked in the old lead mines that were dotted around Patterdale. By 1871 he was blind after an accident and they were living in a cottage named Elm How at the base of Hellvellyn. I have no record of George’s death but Sarah died in 1879 and is buried in St Patrick’s church, Patterdale.
Why a funny thing then? Well like I said I have been going to the same spot in the Lake District, Eastern end of Lake Ullswater, for 39 years. Patterdale lies 10 miles away from Pooley Bridge, at the western end of Lake Ullswater. So all the time I have been going ‘up the lakes’ little did I know that my ancestors had been born and were buried just down the road.
No wonder I have loved every minute I spend up there, and continue to do so. Its in my genes.
Elm How Cottage (at the base of Hellvellyn) Patterdale.