Patterns of Our Lives
How could generations of one family keep so many secrets for so long? Heartwarming, heartbreaking, a story about love and the sacrifices made in its name . . .
Connect with Celia Micklefield here:
A multi-layered family saga from 1936 to 2009 – a story about love and the sacrifices people make in its name
Best Book Bit:
Cameras flash as I mount the steps to The Forum Exhibition Centre. A glittering crowd of city dignitaries and well-wishers waits to greet me and other celebrated Norfolk names. There’s a buzz of conversation, a sea of excited fans, arms holding up cameras and mobile phones.
‘Mrs Freeman,’ someone calls above the clamour, ‘how does it feel to be famous at your age?’
My agent hurries me along.
‘There’ll be an opportunity for questions after dinner,’ she tells the press.
But the question has lodged in my thoughts. I’ve often searched for the answer to that one. It still amazes me that all these people want to talk to me. I never sought fame. How does that make me feel?
I take hold of my agent’s arm and I’m still thinking about the journalist’s question as we enter the dining hall. The room is very grand. High ceilings and lots of chrome and glass reflecting light from massive light fittings. I couldn’t call them chandeliers; they’re too modern for that with arms that go off at unusual angles. I rather like them. I appreciate a mix of old and new, a bit like this
building and me.
There are waiters everywhere wearing livery and serious faces. But, I’m just Audrey Freeman.
How did all this happen?
Who could have guessed the impact of my paintings and bronzes of a goose playing with a baby?
Who could have foreseen the popularity of Walsingham Matilda? She’s a household name today. She’s why I’m here.
We’re moving toward the top table where there’s an ice sculpture of one of my own creations. It’s very good. I tell my agent so. The artist has captured Matilda’s expression, her way of tilting her head at you.
Matilda the goose is with her own kind now where she belongs. She was literally a flying visitor in my life who stayed for the briefest time and in that short episode changed everything. Her image will stay with me forever. I often look at the photographs I took of her.
We take our places at the top table. The waiter behind my chair looks like a schoolboy, very nervous. I smile at him and I can tell he doesn’t know whether he’s supposed to smile back. No matter. I can’t worry about that just now. The room grows noisy; voices buzz. I want to laugh at the heavy seriousness of all this ceremony. I want to tell my mother about it.
How strange to think that now.
You want to tell your mother, Audrey? Good grief, woman, get a grip.
But, even elderly women like me have those thoughts from time to time. I don’t think you ever stop thinking about your mother.
Everybody keeps old photograph albums, don’t they? With all those little black and white snaps glued inside? Pictures of your parents or grandparents sitting on a picnic rug in the park with a huge Silver Cross pram in the background. Hundreds of little photographs taken with an old box brownie in the days before digital cameras and computers and all the rest?
I will always treasure all my old albums. Family pictures are important to me. I often take them out and look at them. But I know now those small, square prints are only illusions. They are veiled images of fleeting moments exactly like the ones taken outside just now. They are like covers on a novel; they don’t tell you everything.
I have learned the truth behind the snapshots in my family album and it doesn’t matter. It isn’t a problem. When I think of my mother, it’s still the face of a young Jean Thompson that I see. There she sits in the favourite photograph I have of her, proudly posing with the silver trophy she had won for her gymnastics. Jean Thompson, with her long legs sprawled in front of her and her thighs disappearing into a pair of woolly gym knickers. She was a remarkable woman. Her story couldn’t happen today. Nor mine.