Tuesday, 24 September 2013

AND FAR AWAY by Melissa Campbell

AND FAR AWAY by Melissa Campbell

Melissa was another Twitter contact. I looked up her work online and I was bowled over by it and so I had no hesitation in contacting her about working together. We met at my house and she was fascinated by the old family photograph album which my late mother had created some time ago. My father died in 1953, when I was two, but there are no photographs of me and him together. He was a professional musician and played just about every instrument although he was mainly known for his fiddle playing. He played in orchestras led by Jack Payne, Jack Jackson and Jack Hylton and worked with such musicians as Hutch and Stephan Grapelli. He was also a superb arranger and had perfect pitch. There was a lovely story told to me by the singer, Lizbeth Webb, before she died. When my father was seriously ill in hospital with lung cancer, she visited him and, on this particular occasion, she was wearing earrings which little bells attached. As she bent down to kiss him goodbye, they tinkled and he said very weakly, "E Flat!". 

Anyway, Melissa and I decided to play detective and see if any of the photographs had fingerprints on. Of course, we wouldn't be able to tell if they were my father's prints or not but if there a few prints, then they might be his! Melissa dusted some powder on some of the photographs but we found nothing conclusive. She asked if she could take the album away and carry on the process. Normally, I would have refused such a request given the great value and importance of the album to my family but I knew from the short time we had spent together, that I could rely on her totally to take the greatest care of it. And so she did. She returned another day with the album but unfortunately there were hardly any prints to be found at all. Nevertheless, it was a very interesting exercise.

Also, Melissa took some shots of me talking and looking through the album and this was one of them. She gave it the title of "And Far Away" which reminded me of the James Taylor song "Long Ago and Far Away". It is a lovely photograph because some of the pictures I am looking at were taken by my father and so, in some ways, we are being photographed together at last.

I used to think that I hadn't really been affected by not having a father. I mean, if you've no memory of him then you don't feel you lack anything. However, I went on a sort of self-awareness course in 2002 and beforehand, I completed a long and detailed questionnaire and many of the questions were about my parents and, in the case of those mentioning my father, my replies were rather flippant because for me he had never really existed. On the first day, the teacher assigned to me called me into a room for an initial chat. I had never done anything like this before so I went in very much looking forward to the session. After a few minutes, the teacher put up her hand and said "This  is your father - what would you like to say to him?" and I collapsed in tears. Of course I missed him. It was an incredible realisation. 

I used to be very nostalgic but not anywhere near so much now but I am not afraid of the past either. I loved being involved in the project with Melissa and I am hoping we will do more together including some filming. She is a lovely person with a great interest in social and family history and is very easy to work with. She also is a fan of the Beatles - what's not to like?? 

"Long ago a young man sits and plays his waiting game..."

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