As people get older – possibly around the time they start to think it’s okay to wear a fleece with a wolf on it – they find themselves taking cuttings from newspapers.
Usually the Daily Mail, because when you reach wolf-fleece maturity you may as well become bigotted and spend every other day worrying about the latest cancer risk.
You collect cuttings that relate to your home town, for example. Or the home towns of ANYONE you know. Also your interests, or the interests of ANYONE you know. Sonetime not even interests, just cuttings relating to something mentioned in passing.
My grandma was such a person. I say was, because she no longer does it lacking, as she does, the mental faculties to remember from one day to the next anything, let alone her home and interests.
We used to receive, with alarming frequency, cuttings gleaned from the Mail or, just as bad, The Mirror which my gran thought would interest us. None did.
But I found a box of cuttings today, while Carole took my mum shopping, which may well be an untapped goldmine of brilliance. Some of it was baffling and further investigation is needed – for example a TV page from a paper in the early 80s – it’s not immediately obvious why it has been kept.
Others provide nuggets of family info – for example, a relative of my grandad died by cycling into the path of an oncoming motorbike. I didn’t know that factoid before now. Tell me more, box of cuttings, tell me more.
My favourite piece, though, was ateeny story about a woman, thought to be from Bromley in Kent – my grandma’s home – who had fallen from Westminster bridge and was seen gasping for breath in the Thames. There is, as far as I know, no familial connection. If anything it’s purely been saved because of the Bromley connection.
Stapled to that cutting – which makes no mention of the woman’s name – is a tiny entry from the deaths column of, I assume, the local Bromley paper showing the death of a woman.
I assume the woman mentioned is the one who fell off the bridge. So I assume grandma knew her. Or knew of her. Or heard about her and kept the clipping for no real reason.
Or she clipped them together with a flourish as she pieced together all the evidence to link the name and the circumstance.
I have no idea.
But now I’m going to have to spend a day over at my mum’s with the box of clippings and the internet, making sense of granny’s nuggets – if the bridge woman is related, somehow, then coupled with the kamikaze cyclist my family tree has got a lot more exciting.