Sunday, July 25, 2010

What is Heritage, Again?

King Arthur's Round Table, somewhere in Winchester UK, not the cathedral.

I took this picture four years ago. My cousin, Sally took me to Winchester which she said was the place in England most Britons cited as 'where they would ideally like to live.' It's not too far from where she lives, in Hants.

Nice town. I bought a Leonard Cohen cd to give as a gift to another relation, because, believe it or not, I couldn't find any of his cd's in the giant record store on Atwater, which happens to be a few blocks from his childhood home.

Later in the trip, I visited Roskilde, near Copenhagen, where my brother lives, and found a dozen of his cd's in one of their little stores.

I had just decided, that year, I really like Leonard Cohen: I heard him sing Suzanne on some CBC Special, where he got some huge prize, the Governor General's prize or something and fell in love. It took me that long. (My music likes and dislikes were totally influenced by my older brother, who bought all the family records in the 60's. He, naturally, hated Cohen.)

That year, 1996, I did nothing but play Cohen's Essential cd in the car until my husband threatened to drive off the road if I played one more 'depressing' song. I did not see the man perform in Montreal at the jazz festival last year. Too expensive. I did attend a free tribute to him, on an outdoor stage instead. I almost fainted from standing up too long. But Ibought the CD of his London concert.

His tour took him to the UK and Scandinavia, I think. No US stops though. He also got a great review for his Glastonbury appearance.

Oh well, I hadn't meant to write about Cohen. Just got diverted. I have the attention span of Homer Simpson lately. Instead of blogging, I should be working on my heritage essay. I'm starting to panic. It should be child's play, but I am out of form. All I have to do is summarize about a dozen disparate essays, what usually I can do in my sleep. Of course, as a professional writer, I can only get revved up with a deadline. I still have a week to complete this essay, and that's a century in copywriter terms. I also suspect I am 'overthinking' things.

Anyway, I've run out of pictures to put up here (sure, I could take some) so I have opened my Europe trip file from 1996.

I'm trying to get my mind around 'what Heritage is' (according to the readings for my course it is something that gives our lives meaning, shapes our identity as citizens and influences our actions, practically a religion). So the follow up question has to be "Who gets to decide what heritage is, what is valued and preserved and what is left to rot?" Government bureaucrats, PhDs or 'the people'.

King Arthur may or may not have existed. Certainly the Arthur 'of legend' didn't exist by definition.

The table in the picture, which is up on a wall, is one of many kicking around the UK, according to my cousin. But the Sword in the Stone myth (which I learned was an iron age myth, the man pulls a sword out of stone, symbolic for making metal out of raw ore) is one of the key myths, not archetypal, though, if I recall my Joseph Campbell. That's the grail myth.

Now, with respect to my book, Flo in the City, about a girl coming of age in the 1910 era, the only person who has decided that the letters are important is ME. (Although the expert in Canadian family history told me they are significant.) Family letters are considered trivial. The middle class is deemed dull and boring and shallow. (Rich people are interesting as they are influential and poor people are interesting because they have suffered. Very few heritage sites illuminate what it was like to be middle class because who cares. )

Our government doesn't think my letters are important. When I first discovered the stash of letters, I tried to see if I could get government funding to put up this website (using my connections in the not for profit sector). I seem to remember I asked a key employee of Heritage Canada what to do, face to face. But there was nothing to be done. I didn't have a chance. I don't fit the profile or something. In fact, I'm pretty well the last kind of person they fund these days.
So, I transcribed the letters, set up the website myself and now I am writing this book.