Memory Symphony—Chronicles and Interludes of the Fate of Georgian Jews

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Paddington Station resounded with the desperate cries of the bereaved ticket-holder. In vain I was given half a white first-class ticket. In vain Mr. Bullock, the guard, offered every other kind of ticket. It was not the same thing. That ticket, with the round hole, had conjured up visions of wonderful possibilities and fantastic exchanges. Sausages and Banbury cakes and Bath buns all of them magic things , I knew, would be forthcoming to no other ticket. The loss was irreparable.

Of course, he can have a ticket. At the end of one of these journeys, at Kingsbridge Road, the train ran off the line. It turned out to be an enjoyable accident, and we all got out and I was given an orange. I am afraid Mr. Bullock never saw why, although no doubt he enjoyed the riddle. I have already said that I cannot fix any line of division between the nursery and the schoolroom epochs, but before I get on to the subject of the schoolroom I will record a few things which must have belonged to the pre-schoolroom period.

One incident which stands out clearly in my mind is that of the fifty-shilling train. There were at that time in London two toy-shops called Cremer. One was in New Bond Street, No. In the window of the Regent Street shop there was a long train with people in it, and it was labelled fifty shillings. In the year it is only a small mechanical train that can be bought for fifty shillings.

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I used constantly to ask to go and look at this shop window and gaze at the fifty-shilling train, which seemed first to be miraculous for its size, and, secondly, for its price. Who in the world could have fifty shillings all at once? I never went so far as thinking it was possible to possess that train; but I used to wonder whether there were people in the world who could store up fifty shillings. We were each of us given sixpence every Saturday, but it was always spent at once, nor could I calculate or even conceive how long it would take to save enough sixpences to make fifty shillings.

One evening, when we were at Coombe, in the summer, I was sent for to the drawing-room and then told to go into the dining-room.

The Jews of Georgia: A legacy of 26 centuries

I opened the door, and there, on the floor, was the fifty-shilling train. If a fairy had flown into the room and lifted me to the ceiling I could not have thought a fact more miraculous. From that moment I knew for certain that miracles could happen and do happen, and subsequent experience has confirmed the belief.

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Toombs, the carpenter, was said to be able to mend it, and I looked forward to another miracle. He did, but in a way which was hardly satisfactory considered as a miracle, although perfect for practical usage.

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He turned on a lathe a solid funnel made of black wood, but not hollow, and he stuck it in where the funnel ought to be. I pretended [8] I was satisfied, but my private belief was that Mr. Another thing which happened when I was six years old was a visit to the Drury Lane pantomime, which was Mother Goose.

This, of course, with a transformation scene with a large fairy with moving emerald butterfly-like wings and Arthur Roberts who, when playing a trumpet, spat out all his teeth on to the floor as if they were an encumbrance, was an ecstasy beyond words. I played with dolls, but not as girls do, mothering them and dressing them. Mine were little tiny dolls, and could not be dressed or undressed, and they were used as puppets. I made them open Parliament, act plays and stories, and most frequently take the part of the French Merovingian kings.

It would ruin my health. One year in London I actually saw Queen Victoria drive to the opening of Parliament in a gilded coach with a little crown perched on her head and an ermine tippet. It was not quite a satisfactory crown, but still it was a crown, and the coach had the authentic Cinderella quality. To go back to the dolls for a moment.

These letters used to cover me with confusion and mortification before the grown-up people, as I kept it a secret that I [9] ever played with dolls, knowing it to be thought rather eccentric, and liable to be misunderstood, especially when there were other boys about, which there were. Promotion to the schoolroom meant lessons and luncheon downstairs.

My earliest recollection of her almost magical powers was when she took a lot of coloured silks and put them behind a piece of glass and said this was une vision. I was also convinced that one day I would marry her. This dream was sadly marred by the conduct of my sister Elizabeth.

Elizabeth was the eldest, Margaret the second, and Susan the third, of my sisters. I firmly believed in fairies. Elizabeth and Margaret fostered the belief by talking a great deal about their powers as fairies, and Elizabeth said she was Queen of the fairies. The schoolroom was on the floor over the nursery.


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Screams and yells startled the whole house. The cause of the crisis was explained by me through sobs. More sobs and yells. Universal indignation against Elizabeth. My paroxysm was merely increased by all the efforts everyone made to soothe me. Elizabeth was cajoled, persuaded, argued with, bribed, threatened, exhorted, blamed, anathematised, entreated, appealed to, implored, but all in vain. She would not budge from her position, which was that she was a fairy.

The drama proceeded. The moment I heard the news my tears ceased, and perfect serenity was restored. Margaret was the exciting element in the schoolroom. To which I used to retort with a battle called Bouvines, won by Philippe Auguste, in some most obscure period over one of the Plantagenet kings, and with Fontenoy. I felt them both to be poor retorts. Louiseaunt has just been here. If we went out without Margaret, Louiseaunt was sure to come that day.

Memory Symphony-Chronicles And Interludes Of The Fate Of Georgian Jews

She used to recite in English and in French, and in both languages the effect on me was a purge of pity and terror. Hugo was not yet in the schoolroom then. Lessons in London began soon after breakfast. Christie, who used to arrive in a four-wheeler, always the same one, from Kentish Town, and teach us English, Arithmetic, and Latin. Christie was like the pictures of Thackeray, with spectacles, white bandeaux, and a black gown.

During lessons she used to knit. She used to arrive with a parcel of books from the London Library, done up in a leather strap. She was the first of a long line of teachers who failed to teach me Arithmetic. During lessons she used to have a small collation, a glass of claret, and a water biscuit. She also taught other families. At Coombe the schoolroom looked out on the lawn, a long, flat lawn which went down by steps on a lower lawn, at the bottom of which we had our own gardens and where there was a summer-house.

On certain days of the week Mademoiselle Ida Henry used to come and give us music lessons. Our house was saturated with an atmosphere of music. My mother played the violin and was a fine concertina player, and almost before I could walk I had violin lessons from no less a person than Mr. Until I was three I was called Strad , and I think my mother cherished the dream that I would be a violinist, but I showed no aptitude. I was alone in London with my mother and father, one November, and I suppose about six. It had one particular little run in it which I learnt to play with one finger.

One day I played this downstairs in the drawing-room.

My mother was quite unconscious of the solecism that she was committing, and [13] pressed me to play it. Finally I hummed the tune, which satisfied both parties. Every word she ever said was treasured. One day she said to Mrs. Christie in icy tones, and this little dialogue was not destined ever to be forgotten by any of us.