In yesterday's post I received a packet from my niece. It contained a book called 'Friendship was not rationed', written by an eighty-year-old who lived in the village in Lincolnshire where I lived until I was in my early twenties. It is not well written - just a simple book about life in the village during our childhood, mainly recalling individuals, where they lived and such like.
I rather enjoyed the hour it took to read it; most of the people mentioned had been long-forgotten. The village has now become a dormitory town next to Lincoln itself and in the form it was when we were kids it no longer exists.
Also in the packet were two little poetry books - Omar Khayyam in a tiny leather-bound edition which I had bought for her father (my brother in law) in 1945 and inscribed in my hand writing inside the front cover and a tiny book of Tennyson (Lincolnshire's poet) which my niece had bought for my father around the same date.
I could not bear to have been parted from either of them and although I already have copies of both I shall treasure them unless my son wishes to have them.
I e mailed her to ask how she could near to be parted from these things and she said she was culling her book shelves and found she had absolutely 'no sense of continuity' so could easily get rid of them.
This set me thinking. Is continuity important? Maybe not these days. When I was a child I honestly don't remember a single divorced couple in our village. There were two children to my knowledge born to unmarried mothers (amid a great scandal) and I remember asking my mother if you could have a baby when you were not married - her answer was along the lines of Thora Hird in Last of the Summer Wine - Drink your Coffee! And yes, I do know the old adage that it is a wise child that knows its own father.
Please do not misunderstand me (as my son is wont to do) - I am not in any way against divorce - in my young days I am sure many couples stayed together because separating was not an option financially - children brought up in unhappy homes often suffered greatly - and these days, thank goodness, things are much better for all concerned.
But a friend told me that her grandson seemed to be the only child in his class who had the same Mum and Dad he was born with and I just wonder if this makes continuity so unimportant these days. If you have half brothers and sisters and children living in the household who are in no way related, does it make keeping track of one's ancestors more difficult, or less interesting?
I would have said that maybe it was an age thing, except in the case of my niece she is seventy years old and comes from a very stable background.
And to go back briefly to the book about my home village - the author says how the village rector 'kept the village together' - I must say that although I was brought up a Methodist, I do remember the rector and his influence. I was reading Ronald Blythe this morning and he was writing about the vicar and poet George Herbert, vicar of his parish for only three years before he died of consumption in 1633.
His view of the duties of the vicar was that he should know a bit about farming, doctoring, herbs, literature, music, art and about human behaviour and nature. He saw his job as far more than preaching on a Sunday. He saw it as going round his parish and talking to everyone, 'trying to bring something higher to their lives' than their everyday worries. He speaks of 'creeping into even the poorest cottage even though it smell never so loathsome' , listening, lending a hand and generally helping to sort out problems. I am sure he had no problems with continuity - dying so young he must have been certain that he was part of a line that went down through the ages.
I remember him well - his visits to us usually coincided with afternoon tea time. My mother was a good cook and I am pretty sure he knew it!