Farewell Stiff Upper Lip

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

On Saturday one of our oldest customers came to our workshop because she needed a ring re-sized. It was commissioned 35 years ago by her husband and she reminded me that when the ring was made Michael and I had just started our jewellery business and were still working from home. ‘It was so cosy’, she said, ‘and my husband loved looking at all the lovely designs before deciding on our commission. He used to look forward to coming to the workshop and watching Michael at work. Although he died many years ago whenever I come to visit he seems to be here with me.’ We both shed a few tears as we slipped down memory lane.

There was a time I wouldn’t have empathised so openly. My parents didn’t approve of sentiment and in order to please them I learned to conceal whatever I felt (good or bad), truly believing that if I didn’t allow my emotions any scope they might diminish or at least become more manageable. However the opposite happened, some emotions hurt more than physical pain, and then I discovered that if I articulated what I felt (on paper and in secret) I could actually cope. So I began to write prolifically. Gushy poems (as teenagers do) alongside many many pages of fast-action stories where my plucky heroine would make the world a better place. Of course nobody ever got to read these outpourings but writing helped abscond the pain.

I’ve always felt I’ve somewhat failed in the maturity stakes. Surely being grown-up means emotion gets easier to contain? My mother rarely attaches sentiment to anything (the only old things she keeps are photographs) whereas I can’t bare to let anything go if I feel an emotional attachment. I still have the tiny leather purse my best-friend Janet gave me on my tenth birthday, just before she emigrated to the USA, and the hand-made elephant Michael gave me on my fifteenth birthday. If our last house hadn’t burned to the ground I’d still have all the gushy poems and story-filled exercise books but perhaps that disaster did me a favour. Very little survived and what I keep in store is doubly valued.

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My Parent’s Wedding Day, Brighton 1953 

At the same time my elderly customer and I were reminiscing a young bride-to-be and her fiancé arrived to collect their wedding rings. All the metals we’d used had been recycled from their own old and broken jewellery and they started to describe the store of precious memories contained in these new-made rings – treasure not of our making. Also could we extend great gran’s string of pearls so the bride could wear them on her wedding day? They already knew the pearls were made of glass but wearing them would bring another memory to the occasion and everyone knows the rhyme – Something old, Something new, Something borrowed, Something blue – only the last sentence is often forgotten, A silver sixpence in my shoe.

Silver and gold have always been valued. Metal is a solid, hold in your hand, reminder of what something is worth. Though not a coinage we use today the very fact a sixpence is made of solid silver makes it immediately desirable. But the value of sentiment is immeasurable. Even now (in their mid-eighties) my parents rarely show emotion and generally appear detached. It’s taken me a lifetime to understand that they don’t mean to be unfeeling but in their eyes sentiment is an act of self-indulgence, they prefer to show what we British like to call a stiff upper lip, but I’m finally bidding good riddance to such total self-restraint because I was born a melt-in-the heart sentimentalist.

impression of shakespeare seal

Shakespeare’s Seal

 

 

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4 Comments

Filed under Ancestry, aspirations, courage, Culture, Experience, Family, Feeling, fiction, Life, Memories, Roots, society, Tradition

4 responses to “Farewell Stiff Upper Lip

  1. Shelley

    I will not criticise as some things work for some & not for others, but I do believe you cannot treat everyone and every situation the same as they are all individual. You obviously are totally different to your parents and should be treated as such and respected for it.

    Unfortunately the ‘stiff upper lip’ has caused so many problems for people. Hiding emotions, being brave when you don’t want to be or can’t and not being true to your own nature can cause depression, anxiety and serious health issues. But that is how some people were brought up.

    I love to see, hear and feel emotion, not always easy being an empath as it can be overwhelming sometimes. I do hide the way I feel sometimes but it only causes me anguish. I totally understand you writing your feelings down. I still do if I cannot talk about them & yes it helps emormously! Be true to yourself Angie, you are a wonderful caring person. Laugh and cry and feel all the better for it.

    I love the stories of the two couples and their wedding rings. I’d’ve sniffed along with you.

    X

    • Thank you Shelley, I love mum and dad dearly but they don’t really understand why I write and consider its a rather frivolous form of time-wasting. But just recently I had one of those ‘lightbulb’ moments and determined that it’s down to me to treat creative writing seriously and not worry what anyone else thinks. Sometimes I feel my life has been spent filling in everyone else’s cracks, now’s the time to make something that is wholly mine and not be afraid of the consequences. xxx

  2. You go girl and allow yourself to be you. Hugs ps love the above xx

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