I found a black and white photograph at my mother’s flat some months ago. Taken in Malaysia in the early Sixties, it features a children’s blackboard, on which the words “Happy Xmas Nanna and Poppa” are neatly chalked. The blackboard was presumably a gift for my four-year-old sister – I’d have been 18 months old, born in Kuala Lumpur when my father was stationed there by the British army.
The photograph had been sent to my grandparents, living in Blackpool, anxious for news from so far away. Communication wasn’t what it is today – I doubt my parents even had a phone. My mother would have written frequent airmail letters in her terrible handwriting, but laboriously sending photographs would have been another way of “keeping in touch”.
Photos were the only real evidence of my existence, the granddaughter they had to wait a couple of years to see in the flesh. Instead, they made do with black and white snaps of a maggoty-white, mostly bald baby. I wonder whether my nanna showed these to her friends or kept them hidden in her purse? I really wasn’t the cutest.
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