Sunday, January 31, 2010

A life

I've been doing some tidying and sorting this morning and happened upon the box in which I keep my grandfather's diaries.


This box is always a huge distraction from whatever other task I should be doing at the time. I can never resist dipping into the diaries and reading a few (or many) entries. My grandfather (my mother's father) was a farmer in central west NSW and the diaries were kept (in faint pencil, usually in small Collins diaries) between 1933 and 1950. 'Diary' conjures up a record of personal feelings and emotional responses to the events of the time. These diaries are not like that. By consulting them I could tell you what the weather was like and what the rainfall was for every day across the period they cover. I could probably find for you the prices of wheat and wool. But world-shattering events such as the second world war, and personal tragedies or triumphs - births, marriages, severe illness, deaths - are recorded only by the briefest factual note.

My own birth is recorded in the following way
Cloudy. Light showers in places. Arthur Nash started shearing and Bevis [presumably a shearer] did 102. Ray [his son; my uncle who also lived on the farm] brought Jeff and Deardry Thompson out for a couple of days. Jock [my father] rang to tell us Ed [his daughter; my mother] has a Daughter. Both well. Mrs Phil Hunter up this morning.

How should I interpret this? It's nice to know I warrented a capital letter, but I hope the list of things that happened that day is in chronological rather than in order of importance. I'd hate to think my arrival was of less importance than Jeff and Deardry's visit and Bevis's shearing tally!

I love having the diaries. They depict a world of routine and hard physical work that was taken for granted and has now largely disappeared. They detail men's work - shearing, grubbing, cutting thistles, ploughing, harvesting, moving cattle and sheep and never mention the women's work on which so much depended. The family of the diaries is an extended family - unmarried siblings, children, grand-children all supported to some extent by the farm and all coming and going. And they depict a very sociable world - visitors, shared work with neighbours, frequent sporting events.

For many reasons, I'm glad my life has been different from the life of the diaries. But I do like having direct evidence that this life existed.


Rose Red said...

Oh Lyn, you are so lucky to have these diaries. Even though they may not cover events of world significance, the reflection of the lives captured within them, and the events considered important to your grandfather, are priceless. Just wonderful.

Unknown said...

Like you, I love the capital 'D'. In a world where in my experience of rural rellies, the men's zone was outside and the women's zone was inside, it's nice to see his acknowledgement of you. Albeit probably lower in his esteem than the shorn sheep numbers - after all that was what the farm depended on! Like you - a very practical person who's good at counting!! And that's a compliment!!

Sel and Poivre said...

You have such a great eye - that photo tells such a story all by itself - I love the array of colours in those well worn covers.

When our children were babies I too kept diaries of the sort you describe - full of factual detail but mine are of baby milestones or minor illness, food intake, growth rates etc. They certainly document hard and routine work, the need for which was never questioned. I wonder whether my descendants might someday find it notable there is little or no mention of what the "menfolk" in my life were up to at the time!

Gae, in Callala Bay said...

Not a diary - but a collection (probably incomplete) of the letters written by my mother's youngest brother to his eldest sister (my aunt), a few written to my mother, and one or two written to their father.

Young Rex was writing from Salvo canteens in Goulburn and later 'bloody Darwin'. Then a few letters from "AIF overseas", one from the ship, and one or two from the destination, now known to be Ambon. Then -- silence.

Rex did not return. I typed copies of all the letters, and when I can bear to I will donate the originals to the War Memorial.

Gae, in Callala Bay

Lynne said...

How wonderful to have those diaries - I think they would make interesting reading and what a keepsake for you.

DrK said...

these are fantastic! what a great read. i do suspect however that the shearing may have rated slightly higher that day. but probably not all the time :)

Cecilia said...

How amazing to have the diaries! Thanks for sharing.