The first was a chance meeting over lunch with a man whose mother's family happened to share my surname. This is not unusual in Adelaide. Only recently, a young technician at the Apple store told me his mother was also a Hannaford but we quickly concluded that we weren't closely related and turned to fixing my iPad. However Andrew, my lunch acquaintance revealed he was a descendant of Susannah Hannaford, the matriarch of my particular family tree. Susannah was a remarkable woman. Following her husband's death, she had sailed from Devon, UK for Adelaide in 1840 in search of a brighter future for herself and her five children. Andrew had visited Hatchlands, the family home in the Adelaide Hills, where Susannah had lived for most of her remaining years. So it was clear that we were, well, kinfolk.
I found our meeting surprisingly unsettling. I came home and reread the family history book, where I discovered that Andrew's mother had contributed several interesting reminiscences and inherited some of the treasures Susannah brought from England. We are both also descended from Susannah's second son so we are indeed distant cousins. I now feel a real yearning to connect with this newly-discovered branch of my family to learn more, to cement in some way a relationship.
The second event occurred later that week, when I drove out to Elizabeth, a northern suburb of Adelaide, to a meeting at Holden. This iconic Australian car manufacturer is due to shut down production in 2017 so I was pleased to have an opportunity to visit before it closes. Hailing from a farm north of Adelaide, our family has driven on this road thousands of times even before the town of Elizabeth was established in the 1950's, although now we bypass Elizabeth on the Northern Expressway. My first teaching appointment many years ago was at Elizabeth and, for those two years, every time a ship docked with English migrants (‘ten-pound Poms’, we called them), many bound for jobs at the Holden factory, my classroom bulged with new students. So this was a real blast from my past.
Our meeting was held in the Holden boardroom, an imposing wood-paneled chamber, where so many decisions affecting the future of the motor industry and indeed the prosperity of South Australia, have been, and still are made. I wished the walls could talk. The pride with which the remaining Holden workers are carrying out their roles in the face of uncertain futures is truly inspiring. How times change. Holden was established in an era when cars were gaining popularity, public transport was losing viability and manufacturing provided so many jobs. I was filled with a kind of melancholy for an industry (and a town) built with so much optimism and promise and yet, in less than sixty years, in sharp decline.
The final event stirred a very different emotion whilst watching a rerun of QI where a boyish-looking Stephen Fry asked the panel to define the word 'Spiflicate'. I couldn't believe my ears! My mother used to threaten to spiflicate us quite regularly as children and I hadn't heard the word since. I telephoned her and we roared with laughter. Apparently her mother had used the same threat, so it was passed down through the generations. I adored imagining my mother and her siblings as children hiding out to avoid spiflication, just as we had.
Urban Dictionary defines spiflicate as: a light-hearted term for punishment (generally of a child), where that punishment is not intended to be carried out. "If you don't stop pushing your carrot sticks up your nose, Johnny, I'm going to spiflicate you".
It’s a wonderful word, but even more exhilarating is the memories it evokes.
Who'd have thought a few random events could cause such a stir! It’s not always comfortable feeling or expressing our emotions, particularly in front of others but it is human. It's a sign of maturity to accept, even welcome, our feelings rather than deny or suppress them. Or, Heaven forbid, apologise for them. We do need to manage them, but that’s another story.
I wouldn't have missed any of these emotional stirrings for the world. It reminded me of a favourite Rumi poem:
THE GUEST HOUSE
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.