Friday, April 8, 2011

How Green was my Life



My mother's family in around 1929 or 30.

I am reading a book about the 30's in my kindle. The Thirties: an intimate history by Juliet Gardner. Reading on a Kindle, of course, is a very different kind of experience.

First I had to look up the name of the author. Unlike a hard copy book, the author's name isn't staring you in the face each time you pick up a book. A very different experience. I have only read 3 percent it says. What is 3 percent? In the past, when reading a book I like, I spend a great deal of time weighing it in my hands, back and forth and flipping through the pages.

When reading a book I REALLY like, it's almost a religious act, this weighing of the book. Imagine, all this wisdom here in my hands. And you always have a sense of where you are in a book with a hard cover or paper back copy. I must admit, this feeling of awe occurred more frequently in my childhood and youth.

Indeed, last night, I thought I should re-read How Green Was my Valley. I was reading a chapter on unemployment in the 30's, and (what is her name, again) Juliet Gardner mentioned that the Welsh coal miners had unions. That's what How Green was my Valley is about, if I recall. Reading that novel was one of the great experiences of my childhood/youth. I've re-read it once since, but it wasn't the same. And I've seen the movie.

I had trouble reading the names back then. That's how young I was. HUGH was HUG to me. Bronwyn was the woman, right? She smelled nice to Hugh, that's all I remember. Of vanilla or rosemary orsomething. I was just a little girl, but I understood the power in that. Or Llewellen conveyed it to me.

When my first son was born I wanted to name him Hugh, but my husband, who has dyslexia didn't want to because he didn't know how to spell it. Then later, with the discovery of these Nicholson letters, which has led to this Flo in the City blog, where I am writing a book online, I learned that my husband's grandfather was named HUGH. If I had only known, I would have insisted.

Anyway, it's books like How Green was my Valley and Of Mice and Men that moulded my world view. This Juliet Gardner book reminds me that I have yet to read Orwell's Wiggan Pier.. or Priestley's book about his travels in England in the 1930's. I should, I guess.

I have plenty of letters from the 30's from the Nicholson collection. They touch on the Depression. I think a sister of Margaret's writes from Sarnia:"I never thought I'd see grown men begging in the street."

My family, above, was doing fine in the 30's. My grandfather had been fired from his job as Director of City Services of Montreal, by Mayor Camillien Houde, but not before he negotiated a fine pension. He was run over in 1937 by a city constable and died the next year of complications. No more pension. But that taller girl on the right: my Aunt Flo. She had been adopted, plucked from the streets of Montreal, because she spent so much time begging at my grandmother's door.

Anyway, the great thing about the Kindle is the instant gratification part of it. Amazon.com sent me a notice about this book, (actually amazon.co.uk) and I found it and downloaded it immediately. I also downloaded a book on the Reformation. Hadn't intended too but they have ONE CLICK DOWNLOAD and I accidentally clicked on the book and so I'll be learning a bit about that.