There is a short and moving story, written by Rudyard Kipling called ‘The Gardener.’ First published in 1925, it is the tale of Helen Turrell, a well-off respectable woman of country stock, and Michael. Though Michael is, ostensibly Helen’s nephew, she lets him call her ‘Mummy’ at bedtime, by way of a “pet-name between themselves.” Helen fears that he might reject her, when, aged ten, Michael got the idea that his civil status was “not quite regular,” but instead their bond grows tighter. Michael realises after all that there were plenty of his sort in English history.
Reading the papers over the weekend, I could not help but be reminded that this week sees the 80th anniversary of the Blitz, the German bombing campaign against Great Britain. It began late in the afternoon of 7 September 1940, when 300 German bombers flew in over London to attack the docks in the first of 57 consecutive nights of bombing and was to last 8 months.
The ancients knew that a man’s forebears play an important part in his identity. As ever, I cannot help but think that Romans were onto something here, something from which we in our hyper-individualised age of self-actualisation could do well to learn. For, not withstanding the popularity of sites such as Ancestry and Findmypast, we tend not give our forebears quite the same role in our lives today. But we should.