30 Jan, 2010

Family life

Posted by: admin In: Guardian

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Snapshot: An extra­ordinary coincidence

The story behind this photo contains the most extraordinary coincidence imaginable. The photo belongs to my grandmother Julia Brunskill, who is now 84. She is the young girl in the far right of the photo, brandishing what seems to be a feather duster. The ­picture was taken on Christmas Eve 1929 when my grandmother was four years old, at a well-known ­restaurant in Oxford Street, ­London. My grandmother’s grandfather, ­Edmund Kallar, was the restaurant’s manager and can be seen at the ­centre of the photo, ­sitting with Julia’s ­grandmother.

The family standing to the left of the table are the Brunskills, regular ­customers at the restaurant who were highly regarded by Edmund. That evening, after they had finished ­dinner, they were called over to Edmund’s ­table to be introduced to his family before leaving. It was a brief meeting of ­how-do-you-dos, and a few minutes ­after the photo was taken, the Brunskills left the party.

The decades passed and neither family met again, while Julia’s grandmother kept this photo among her ­numerous albums.

In 1944, my grandmother, then aged 19, met and fell in love with a man named Peter Brunskill, also aged 19. They married a few years later and ­settled in Belsize Square, ­London, ­having two children, Penny and Jonathan, who is my father.

One day, Julia and Peter started ­going through her grandmother’s photo albums. She pointed out this image, and recalled her grandmother asking who “that ghastly family” were with them in the picture.

The family was, of course, the Brunskills, and the little boy standing up on the table clutching the horn was Peter, my grandfather.

Peter died in 1983, the year after my birth. He and my grandmother were extremely in love and were such a beautiful couple. I would love to have got to know him. Jamie Brunskill

Playlist: A thank-you letter to the Fab Four

Let It Be by the Beatles

“I wake up to the sound of music/Mother Mary comes to me/Speaking words of wisdom/Let it be”

I have spent most of my childhood ­listening to a small collection of 45s left behind by my uncle, who got ­married and moved to a small village by the sea close to Venice.

It was 1978, in Milan, where I was born, and I used to spend hours in my bedroom, inserting these black “slices” into an orange portable record player, called in Italy mangiadischi, which ­literally means “record eater”. My ­favourites were three singles from the Beatles: Michelle, Let It Be and ­Yesterday. I listened to these songs every day, and knew (or at least I thought I did) the lyrics by heart.

One day, I called my mum and dad because I’d had a very good idea. I sat at my little table, got a pen and paper and started writing a letter. I wanted to write to the Beatles to make them aware of how great I thought they were and how much I enjoyed their songs, but I could barely write and needed my parents’ help. I remember my mum and dad looking at each other, then ­smiling. They said I could not write to the Beatles because they spoke a different language and wouldn’t understand what I was trying to say. I felt very disappointed: it never crossed my mind that the songs were not in Italian – I’d never thought of the ­possibility of a ­different language.

I thought about this for some time, and kept listening to the songs as I had done, now in the knowledge of the ­unknown words my mum and dad never used – words that none­theless made me feel happy inside.

A few weeks later at school, the teacher announced that we could join an English class. When I got home, I ran to my mum and told her straight away that I wanted to join that class.

One night, after I had been learning English for about a year, I called my parents again. I sat at my table with pen and paper, and this time I wanted to write a letter to the Beatles in English. It was then that I discovered another problem: the Beatles weren’t a group any longer, and wouldn’t have received my letter after all.

This is a very special month for me: I moved to the UK 11 years ago because my dream was to have a place in this country, maybe because it is where my favourite music came from. On Tuesday 12 January 2010 I was naturalised as a British citizen, which means I am now a part of this land officially and permanently. I am proud of that.

To this day, though, I haven’t ­managed to thank the Beatles for their music and the influence they had over my life. But it may be that ­embracing my new nationality, being here and writing this, is itself a good way to ­celebrate and be grateful to them. Thank you. Elisabetta Geromel Hall

We love to eat: Anne’s legendary spag bol

Ingredients: 8oz lean mince

1-2 grated carrots

2 cloves finely chopped garlic

Tin of chopped tomatoes

1 tsp sugar

Tomato paste

Dried herbs – pinch – optional

Oxo cube dissolved in a little water

Brown the mince with the carrots and garlic in a little oil. Add the chopped tomatoes, a few squirts of ­tomato paste and the sugar. Mix well. Finally, add the Oxo and herbs. Make sure it’s not too runny – you can add more liquid later. ­Simmer for at least 30 minutes.

Anne is our gran, but she doesn’t really like to be called gran, granny or nana. She likes to be called by her name: Anne. Every time she comes to look after us, she brings some of her special spag bol sauce. Mum has tried to make it, but it’s not as good. And once she put onions in it – yuck!

Mum started to get really frustrated. She’d make spag bol and say, “Is this one as good as Anne’s?” – and we had to be honest and say, nearly but not quite. Then she’d make another lot and say, “What about this one? I mean, how ­difficult can it be?” – and we’d say, well, it’s nice, but it’s still not as good as Anne’s. Anne lived in Italy for a bit when she was young and told us she was one of the first people here in the UK to eat pasta. She taught us to test if the spaghetti’s cooked by throwing it against the wall and seeing if it sticks.

One of our best friends is called Jimmy, and he is really fussy about his food. Mum tried him on fish ­fingers and peas, and he wouldn’t eat ­anything. Not one pea. She tried him on a bacon sandwich, and he wouldn’t touch that either. So then Jimmy said he liked eggy bread and he told Mum that she should cut the bread into quarters, dip them in the egg, fry in oil and serve with a dollop of ketchup. Mum did exactly what he said. He took one bite … and said he didn’t like that sort of bread. But Jimmy ate all of his spaghetti bolognese made with Anne’s legendary sauce.

Anne’s pretty cool because she plays football with us and jogs along beside us when we’re on our bikes and doesn’t mind when we imitate her swimming with her head up. We love you, Anne! Alex and Anna Craig (aged eight and seven)

We’d love to hear your stories

We will pay £25 for every Letter to, Playlist, Make do and mend, Snapshot or We love to eat we publish. Write to Family Life, The Guardian, Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU or email family@guardian.co.uk. Please include your address and phone number

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