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If you have any elderly relatives still living, talk to them now about their lives and write down the information before it is too late. If you don’t, all the facts and stories about their life and times will be lost forever.

A friend who was talking from his own experience advised me to do this many years ago. How right he was. I followed his advice and sat down with Mum when she was eighty. Originally I had given her a ‘Grandparent’ book to fill in but after she completed details of her parents and brothers she said she couldn’t remember anything else. So we spent a whole afternoon completing the different sections of the book. She talked; I wrote.

Today it would be much easier by using modern technology and I am sure much more information would be gleaned in half the time. Although an afternoon appeared to be a long time, it was nowhere near long enough.

Much of what mum recounted simply served to reinforce many of the fascinating stories about her life in India that she had told me when I was a small girl. But the additional information she gave me, enabled me to complete images already implanted in my mind; simple things like the colour of her school uniform, hairstyles, fashions etc.

Unfortunately this information sat on the back burner for twelve years by which time Mum had died. How I wish I had started to write when she was still around to clarify many unanswered questions. I now find that she often contradicted herself, something I did not notice at the time.

e.g. "We never had bikes and my brothers would freewheel down the hill
from the top of the old Taj Road".

e.g. "I loved playing with my brothers and I didn’t play with my brothers;
they didn’t have time for girls"

I think these discrepancies arose purely depending on which part of her life Mum was talking about at the time.

The following account of Mum’s life is all based on true stories she related to me, many over and over again. I think it is safe to assume that most of the facts are correct, as a lot of the stories would have still been vivid in her mind during the nineteen forties and fifties, when she first started to relate them. I have simply improvised the settings and apologise if there are any glaring errors.

Pulling all this information together has made me understand Mum a lot better than perhaps I did.

Just imagine a small six year old girl, plucked from her family to spend most of her formative years in a convent; returning once a year, long distances (by the standards of the early twentieth century), often to a different home. At the age of six she left three brothers behind; twice returning from the convent to find she had a new baby brother; then as soon as she finishes school at the age of seventeen and has the opportunity to get to know all her family properly, the three oldest boys enlist in the army and move away.

Mum’s story begins in Paston Lane, Peterborough, my birthplace and also the place where my fascination with her life germinated. It seemed so exciting to me, a small girl myself in the comfort of a loving home, whose only concept of boarding school was ‘the frantic hoo ha’s’ of Anthony Buckeridge’s Jennings Goes to School or Enid Blyton’s, Mallory Towers.

I start Mum’s journey with a little information about my grandparents and the background that led me to writing her story. (click 'Next' to continue)
prev..   Go to 'My Grandparents'
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The Story of Beatrice Mary Mason. Written by F. J. Louis | Copyright © 2009