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Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Women on the Water



What are we waiting for - let's go!
I must confess I was rather struggling to find any photographs in my collection that were vaguely relevant to this week's topic, but putting the emphasis on water, women and rowing images, I came across this little snap of my husband's grandmother Doris Newth, born 1903, sitting in a row boat, on a river somewhere in England. It's a very small snap and unfortunately I don't have the original with me, so I don't know any more details, ie. where it was taken or why, but I rather doubt that Doris was about to row away on her own. She looks relaxed, innocent and quite young, but who knows, perhaps as a child she was quite accustomed to doing that kind of thing, like the children did in those classic tales of 'Swallows and Amazons', written by Arthur Ransome, which I remember reading avidly as a child. The exciting series of children's adventures in the Lakes District were first published in 1930, and their unsupervised exploits were something that these days would surely be inconceivable - today's children are rarely left to their own devices by responsible parents, especially where water is concerned!

I have another snap of Doris relaxing with her husband Frank Olds, by a river somewhere, and the only relevance is that in the background you can see an anonymous woman, apparently punting her way past, wearing a dress and using a very long thin pole to propel her craft along. Perhaps there was a gentleman friend reclining in the boat, but if so he's hidden behind Doris and Frank, who look quite oblivious to her presence. Hopefully if she had overbalanced, Frank would have leapt to her aid.

I did but see her passing by ... or not?

Happy 100th birthday young Doris!
Doris Olds was a lovely lady who lived a long life, passing away at 101 in Hereford in 2004. She was mentally alert to the end, and no doubt if I'd seen these photos before she died and had thought to ask her, she could have told me so much more about them, and about her life experiences in general.  If only! She wasn't able to come to Australia for her daughter's wedding as a war bride in 1947, but she did visit her Australian family subsequently, on about 5 occasions, her first trip being for our wedding when she was 70, and the last when she was 95, which was pretty amazing.  She came by air, not by sea :-)

Thinking of sea voyages and women on the water in small craft in the middle of nowhere also brings to mind this photograph of Little Boat, a wooden boat so named because it only measured 29 foot from bow to stern. Nevertheless this was the vessel aboard which which my fearless sister and her husband voyaged from Darwin, Australia to Florida USA, via South Africa. He was an experienced yachtie, who had built Little Boat himself and had taught my sister how to sail after they met.  Several years later they made the return voyage with their two young daughters, who were born in the States, aboard a slightly larger boat, (Cytherea, 36 foot, from which the photograph was taken), weathering storms and wild weather, becalmings and even the occasional  whale passing beneath them, and homeschooling the girls along the way. 

Little Boat, Bay of Islands, 1994

And here are some real-life 'Swallows and Amazons' - my nieces and their friends, sailing off Pohnpei, Micronesia in 1991, en route to NZ.


Apart from this, I can only refer you back to the photograph of my own grandmother Mona Forbes in my first blog, posted under the heading Boating on the Avon, in Christchurch NZ, which I really love. Punting on the river is also popular there, but I doubt if my grandmother engaged in it herself. Her father Charles however was known to be handy with a long pole of another kind - according to his obituary, he excelled at pole-vaulting!

17 comments:

  1. That voyage from Australia to Florida in Little Boat must have been something! Whew! I'm assuming they had fair weather & calm seas for most of the trip! Talk about fearless!!!

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  2. What a wonderful set of photographs to have of Doris.

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  3. Love the way you developed the story around Doris's photo Jo. She sounds like a real treasure.

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  4. The voyages on the small boats were amazing, especially when the kids were included and homeschooled.

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  5. I really like that first photo of Doris in the boat. I think she was about to row off on an adventure. I sure hope there was no man resting in the boat the other woman is poling down the river!

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  6. Great photos. So many of those early photos seem to give the impression of people being surrounded by wide open spaces although I suspect it has to do with the lenses available then and the printing process. Modern photos always seem to be far more "full" of things.

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  7. I also loved "Swallows and Amazons" books. And yes, your sister is fearless - what a journey!

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  8. On little photo leading to so much information. But I don't envy those long distant sailors in those relatively small boats one little bit. I'd rather have something a bit more substantial under me !

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  9. I have Ransome's Coot Club on my bookshelves - a school frize from the 1950s. Just the thought of a journey in a small boat is enough for me, I'd baulk at Florida to Australia.

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  10. I may be from the US, but I adored Ransome's Swallows & Amazons; thought what perfectly wonderful parents those kids had...let them do anything without supervision! Something about boats, water....

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  11. Lovely pictures, but how nice especially to see Doris grow old gracefully. She certainly would have had some tales to tell.

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  12. The pictures of Doris are delightful --- and the story of your sis and husband, the "yachtie" crossing the ocean is such small boats is amazing. Great post.

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  13. Don't know if I'd be brave enough to sail as far as your sister and her family did but I like the idea of sleeping on the boat.

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  14. She is indeed passing by! Wonderful photo. Old people who are mentally alert even at their age fascinate me.

    Hazel

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  15. Punting in a dress -- that had to be a pretty site if she happened to fall!

    I enjoyed ALL these pictures and your recollections.

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  16. I'm thinking about the lady punting along...solo? If she had a gentleman friend reclining in her boat (skiff?), I hope he didn't expect a payoff at the end, lol.

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  17. You've found some interesting pictures to the prompt, accompanied by interesting stories. Thank you for sharing!

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