family and kinship

Down Smallthorne by Ann Graal


Coconut Comb Over*

In the last but one feature, I wrote about how in an era of wide choice, generally people are still quite conservative in their tastes. Whether it be clothes, TV programmes, sport or books, the mainstream elicits almost a copybook practice to consumption. This relates to us as being creatures of habit. We will tend only to change our day to day, when something forces us to; e.g. if losing a job, having children, or a mid-life crisis (or all three rolled into one). I liken it to the man who when going bald decides to comb over the exposed parts of his head. He will do this for years and years, even when he is left with only a few wispy strands drawn from the side of his ear.

But habit and routine are not necessarily a bad or delusional thing. They provide great comfort to many people; go with what you know, if ain’t broke don’t fix it, etc., are clichés that many people live by. Ann Graal’s poem, Down Smallthorne, relates the routine of ‘Aunt Maud’: “Asked where she was off to any morning,/summer, winter, wet or dry, she’d shout out,/down Smallthorne –  never spent a night away/from 4, Wharf Street.” This reminded me of Young & Wilmot’s Family and Kinship in the east end of London, in which one interviewee said: “I wouldn’t leave old Bethnal Green, I wouldn’t take a threepenny bus ride outside Bethnal Green, to go up the other end.” (more…)