Once a town, now a city, Newport is where markontour’s parents were born and bred. They fell in love in the sixth form of Newport Grammar and fifty-six years later the three of us plus Mum’s older brother, my Uncle Malcolm, undertook a pre-Xmas tour of the haunts of their youth. Along the way I learned a thing or two about the Newport Uprising of 1839, how the snow fell so deep in 1947 that schools were closed for three blissful months, how the New Year was celebrated in the 1950s, and what constitutes a dingle.
I was feeling a little homesick the other night. It was my Dad’s 75th birthday and the family were celebrating back home, while I was across the Atlantic in New York. Worse. But then, in Freemans, I met four friendly Australian artists on a gallery tour of the USA. Every night they gather to create beautiful postcards from the day’s ticket stubs, subway maps and restaurant menus to send back home. And so, while it will be arriving closer to Xmas than 30 November, my wonderful father now has a bespoke three-quarter-centenary card winging its way back to beer town. Happy Birthday Dad!
It’s a wet holiday morning and so I’ve been browsing the bookshelves of our little narrowboat. The first one I picked up, ‘Heritage of Britain’, is shakily inscribed by my late grandma “To Ruth and Rob from Mum, 18.12.86”. But there were too many kings and queens in that volume and so I have settled instead on ‘Exploring Britain: Rivers, Lakes and Canals’. More specifically, today’s story is of the Trent, the river upon which I grew up and along whose adjacent canal markontour now floats.
My Mum and I have been promising each other we will do the family history for most of the last decade. Apps have been purchased, magazines subscribed to, even a few interviews undertaken, but the roots of the Watts/Collins family tree stubbornly refuse to extend further than the mid-nineteenth century. Thus, in an effort to stimulate greater endeavour, the markontour Matriach and I have agreed to write a monthly blog that is in some way stimulated by our geneological pursuits. Episode One starts with my Granddad singing from his armchair about a man who got a black eye from being hit with a tomato.