Saturday, 16 December 2017

The lesson

This was the third of six short pieces of writing, with a reflective statement, which was part of the first assessment for Writing the Family Saga. This piece was to be written as non-fiction with emphasis on the characters.

Jean sat by the window overlooking the garden and the road. After watching their carriage stop at the front steps to take her husband to an appointment in Bath she returned to the letter she was writing to her daughter. Sunlight filtered through the lace curtains making patterns on the paper. It would be a pleasant day for a walk but the letter needed to be finished first if it was to catch the next post to India.

There was a knock on the door.

“Grandmama, Grandmama!”

Jean looked up from her letter writing and smiled as a small tousled haired boy ran excitedly into the room. It was time for George’s lesson.

George climbed on to the settee next to his grandmother and Eleonora placed an arm around her grandson. George practised sounding his letters – A, B, C, D etc. Today he was learning to combine sounds such as BA into words. He also slowly practised writing the letters in his book. For George, learning to read and write would allow him to write to his parents.

At the end of the lesson Jean rang the bell and Bessie arrived to take George back to the nursery.

“Jeannie is waiting for you to finish building the castle,” said Bessie.

“I hope Baby won’t knock it over,” replied George.

Jean tried not to laugh as she returned to her letter.

“George had another lesson this morning and was very attentive – I expect to have to give you a good report of his progress in my next.”

Reflective statement:
Several generations of one branch of my family were associated with India either as merchants, staff of the East India Company or in the British Army. The children of English families in India were often cared for by family in England. As a grandparent looking after grandchildren five days a week, including a grandson the same age as George, it was not difficult to see parallels in this story and life today. How families lived, including attitudes to education, is an important theme of the family saga.

Letter from Jean Mackillop (written in Bath and dated 23 October 1855) to her daughter, Eleonora Hutton, who was in India with her husband, a Captain in the Madras Army George Hutton’s notes about memories of his early life in Australia plus some family stories as he remembered them in the 1930s.

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