Amy Tries Again

April 13, 2011, 11:17 PM
Filed under: Miscellanea

The other night, I was at my mother’s place, rummaging through her filing cabinet in the hope that she hadn’t been so foolish as to entrust me with my own birth certificate. Sadly, it seemed she had been. It was nowhere to be found, and I now have a shiny new reissue to ward off any identity crises. I’m actually really glad I lost it, though, because it lead to me finding treasure. Treasure addressed to me! Treasure from beyond the grave!

I found an old postpak envelope. I’d been having a good old snoop through anything of interest in the cabinet, but this was particularly interesting to me because it had my name on it. My late grandmother had written a note to my mother.

Passive-aggression from BEYOOOND THE GRAAAVE!

Inside the envelope was – as predicted – treasure. The treasure consisted of a collection of theatre programs that my great-great-uncle had assembled during his travels abroad in the 1930s. I was thrilled with them, and immediately interrogated my mother, demanding that she tell me, in detail, of the life and times of a man who died when she was twelve.

I had to, you see. In front of me was evidence that I was not a mutant. Our family had a theatre gene! The more I heard about my great-great-uncle, the more I liked him.

Leonard McConachie kept a sterile public service job in the Taxation Department, but theatre was what he loved. When he got to London’s West End, I imagine he did exactly what I did when I made the journey some 75 years later. He would have wandered around, delighted at just how many shows there were to see. Such choice! Perhaps he felt embarassed at the scant selection back home in Brisbane. Perhaps it made him want to do what he could to make it just a little bit better. He loved amateur theatre, and was constantly involved with local productions. My mother isn’t sure exactly what it was he did in these productions. He wasn’t an actor – at least, that wasn’t his passion. She believes his heart lay in designing and directing. (Perhaps I am a bit of a mutant.)

This program is my favourite. Sir John Gielgud! Seriously, google this guy.

My mother knew him as Uncle Len. She’d never known her own grandfather – he’d died a few days before my grandparents wed. Uncle Len, one of his four brothers, was the understudy called up to the role.  He did a magnificent job. He organised epic, theatrical birthday celebrations, and his Easter egg hunts involved an elaborate trail of clues. He was great fun, even if he insisted that the best birthday gift for under-tens was a children’s edition of the works of Shakespeare. Sunday lunches at his precise Clayfield flat lined with books were a highlight of the week.

Leonard McConachie, my great-great-uncle.

He never married. He was very dapper. He adored the theatre. Yeah, that’s what I thought, too. Maybe he was, maybe he wasn’t. It wasn’t the sort of thing that was talked about in those days.

Uncle Len decided he’d had quite enough of the public service and retired in order to became a beachcomber. I don’t know how successful that was, but I like the idea of him pottering about on the beach, possibly with a metal detector. I guess he liked treasure, too. He eventually made his home at Tamborine Mountain, waxing lyrical about the benefits of fresh mountain air. He was involved with theatre groups until he was a very old man.

My grandmother was right not to give me his programs years ago. I wouldn’t have taken care of them. I don’t mean that in an oh-no-we’re-out-of-cigarette-papers-wait-I-have-an-idea sort of way. I would, however, probably have pronounced them awesome! and blu-tacked them to the bathroom wall or something. Now, I’m just about grown up enough to treat them as what they are – treasure.

(Mum also mentioned Uncle Len’s brother – an Uncle Morris, who came back from serving as a medic in WW1 addicted to morphine and stole all the silverware. He was a concert pianist who played for the Prince of Wales. I think I may need to go on another treasure hunt.)


2 Comments so far
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That is super wonderful. Chookas for Uncle Len.

Comment by GirlClumsy

“I am returning these for Amy – But do not give them to her”

Best. Note. Ever.

Comment by DNABeast

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