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My Family in Photobooths

I have had my dingo-labrador cross, Snowy Moriarty, for 6 and a half years but have only recently taken him for his first photobooth shoot. When I was a puppy raiser for the Guide Dog Association, it was much easier to slip into a booth with a pup, as they were allowed into any store or shopping complex. Smuggling a 30 kilogram dog into a forbidden area takes some guts and determination!

One has to admit posing for a camera, in a confined space, with frequent whispered admonitions to “be quiet”, “sit still” and “cooperate!” is not a dog’s favourite pass-time.

Having bravely suffered the experience in two old chemical booths, Snowy said he would not do it again unless I could find a booth that was working properly. Everyone’s a critic!! On our way home we stopped at a digital machine. He was much happier with those results!

Tim is my much adored brother-in-law, a native Dubliner, husband to my sister, Sue, and father to Penelope (above) and Calvin. He is a sparky (electrician) and in all the recent economic troubles of Ireland, he has rarely, if ever, been without work.  Why ? Timmy works hard, but better than that he gets on well with everyone and people enjoy having him around. He is a very likeable bloke, despite his desire to appear curmudgeonly. Like most Irish men (and women, now I come to think about it,) he loves a drink. Imbibing makes his, frequently incomprehensible, Irish accent, fluid, mellifluous, and colourful in a way that makes for many an amusing evening.  Yes, Tim, when you are drunk you are funny – very, very funny.

Unlike most men I know, Timo’s first thought on coming home from work is to get out with the kids to play games.  He doesn’t pause for a rest or cuppa. He adores his babies, and of course they adore him back. He cooks! Like me, he stirs the pasta with the same spoon as the sauce, which never fails to annoy my little sister. But hey, he cooks! (Or maybe that only happens when I am visiting them in Ireland? Lets wait for some comments from his sisters and wife to see…)

All up he is a top guy whose only failing is to have taken my sister so far away from Australia. I have almost forgiven him for that, due to him having given us Aussies beautiful Irish grandchildren/a nephew and a niece. Love ya Timmy! (And he says “Grrrumpf” back.)

When I was living in Leicester and my cousin Krissie was living in London, for fun, I started writing her name as Xie. I used the X the same way it is used for the “Chris” syllable, as found in the spelling Xmas.*  It is her Rock-Girl Superstar name, which fits her perfectly, because to me she is a superstar.

Xie is as optimistic and generous as her mum and has an amazing sense of humour. She loves dogs, walking, fun and being mischievous…and cigarettes. Xie adores cigarettes. (I occasionally share one or two with her, just to stop her feeling like a pariah, you understand.) She is also a fabulous mother to her 9-year-old son, Ryan, who is the baby in the pics, and a supportive and loving wife to her hubby, Tony, also pictured.

To spend time with Xie is to be entertained, to laugh and be uplifted. She is one of my most favourite people in the world, but of course from what I have just written, you didn’t already know that!

The only down side in this cousinly love affair is, that apart from a blissful 2 years in the UK, we have never lived in the same country. Even then, when we finally managed to be on the same island, we were not in the same region. We made as much time as possible to see each other, always including her sister Rachel, when we could, and had some fine adventures exploring the countryside around Leicester and cool shops and cafés in London.

These pics were taken over a relatively short period, mostly in the UK, and are in chronological order.

* As I don’t know anyone who pronounces the “t” in “Chris’mas”.

NB For those of you with an etymological bent, the spelling Xmas should be pronounced the same way you’d say Christmas. The X comes from the Greek letter Chi, which is the first letter of the Greek word Χριστός, translated as “Christ“. Xp was also a commonly used form to shorten the manual labour of producing hand written manuscripts. Wikipedia has a great article on the 1000 year-long history of this abbreviation.

Aunty Cecilie

Part of my passion for travelling came about at least in part through the fact that my mum’s sister, Cecilie, had moved to New Zealand soon after I was born. She and her husband Gregor made regular visits to Melbourne with my cousin Kristine and later with her younger sister Rachel. I was always incredibly excited that they were coming and immensely envious of their “jet-set” lifestyle, for we never flew anywhere. The free toys my cousins received in-flight were better than anything they might have brought us for presents, their stories of what happened during a flight more riveting than any others and airports were the most exotic of locations, even if you were not the one who got to go on a plane.

During one of their visits to Australia, when I was approaching the age of 15, I remember moaning on to my uncle about the fact we never went to visit them in Hamilton. He was totally unsympathetic. Why should I feel that I needed to wait until my parents had the money to bring the whole family along? He said I should come on my own. Initially I thought he was mad or joking, as I protested that my pocket-money, even if diligently saved wouldn’t be sufficient to get me there until the next century, which was then 23 years away. “Well get a job” he said,”You save up enough for the airfare and we will look after the rest”.

So I did. Three months before I turned 15 I got a weekend job at The Bake-Inn Hot Bread Kitchen in Bentleigh and just days after my 16th birthday, I took all the money I had saved, bought a ticket and flew to New Zealand. Mum and Dad gave me enough to top up my spending money to $100.00 for a one month tour of the North Island with the rellies. I still have my best souvenir, a stuffed toy kiwi made out of possum skin, that was named Rewi by Krissie.

I have lost count of how many times I have since visited Cecilie in New Zealand, my Uncle Gregor now, sadly, deceased. She always encourages me to return and is a very generous and inexhaustible host, always taking me on an adventure to places I’ve not visited previously. We once also met up in the UK to be tourists together and a very happy pair we made, too.

Like my mother and both my grandparents on her side, Cecilie has been a professional musician all her life, having trained as a pianist from her earliest years. She has a wonderfully optimistic outlook which is helped along by another very important passion in her life, which she shares with me and my mum. She is a madly dedicated, dog lover. Having recently bid farewell to one of her much-loved rescue-pooches, Mia, she last week welcomed Ellie the kelpie-cross into her life. It is my dedicated intention to get her and her new baby into a photobooth one day, my Snowy-Dawg having suffered the experience only recently. One has to admit it is not a dog’s favourite of pass-times.

This is an undated Polaroid booth pic taken several years ago, presumably in Hamilton, New Zealand.

This is my handsome little brother Richard also known as Roo.  Not to be out done by his sibling, Ros, he also adopted me as his big sister. Rich was four and a half when I first arrived at the Holbrook house in January 1987. Then he looked very much as he does in the first picture. He was a little boy, full of cheeky fun, with an infectious giggle.

As a child Roo had a fascination with money and an uncanny knack for keeping hold of it. He always seemed to have more ready cash than any of us.  One of my favourite Holbrook mementoes is a paper weight of a one pound coin which Roo bought for me from the Royal Mint. It still gives me a chuckle each time I come across it.

When Roo was about 8 or 9, we were on a cross-channel ferry on our way to his family’s cottage, when we found ourselves marooned outside the French port for many hours. A snap strike had been called and drinks were on the house.  That had the adults sorted. The kids had to make their own fun. Roo and a friend made the most of the delay by rummaging through the bottoms of all the vending and poker machines to find missed coins. They collected many, many pounds. We were all astonished at how much they’d found. A year later he hadn’t spent a penny of it! Socialist, humanist Del’s worst nightmare was that Rosie would become a nun and Roo a merchant banker. Luckily he became an engineer instead.

One of the loveliest things about Roo is that he never went through the stage of being too cool to chat.  Each time, during his teenage years, that I returned to London, I feared it would be the age when he wouldn’t want to give me a hug or have me as his big sis.  It never happened and he is, at age 29, still an adorable, cuddly boy.

In the last picture, taken in 2002, you can see a thin strand of leather around Roo’s neck. On it is a Maori bone carving that I gave him in 1996. Last time I saw him in 2007, he was still wearing it.


April 1994, Neufchâtel, France

Today I am wallowing in the joy of having yesterday received a most wonderful and extraordinary gift from the now grown up little girl in this picture. Rosie was married to her Mr (W)Right earlier this year. They have sent me, from the UK, a supremely polished, high-quality, printed and personalised book of their wedding photos. I was immensely disappointed not to have been able to attend the celebrations due to my illness, so was exceptionally chuffed to receive such a fine gift.

In a very twenty-first century move, they have both changed their surnames into a lovely amalgamation of their two original patronymics. Mr B. Wright and Ms R. Holbrook are now Mr and Mrs Holbright. Having been a long, long time ago, adopted by Rosie and re-christened Kitty Griffbrook, I now, too, will be changing my name, however Griffright (Rosie’s choice)to me has not quite the ring to it as Griffbright. (My suggestion). With my tangled mass of unruly hair having “fright” as part of my unofficial name is daunting to say the least, but I will by necessity, go with Rosie’s final decision!

This photo of me, Ros and her brother, Rich (Roo) was taken at a booth at a Leclerc supermarket in Neufchâtel on the 30 of April 1994. I was invited to stay at Del’s cottage in Normandy, on my way to Paris, before starting my nannying job. Also in our party with Del, Rosie, Roo and I, were Del’s delightful neighbours Val and her daughter Ella, with whom it is impossible not to have a great laugh. I regret that I didn’t get the two of them into a booth that day, too.

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