It’s quite fun coming across old photos of one’s younger self. Somehow, one of mine had gotten caught up in Linda’s library of stamp-albums and first-day covers that we were sorting through last week. (After Hurricane Ivan all the albums were crammed up on the ledge above the washing-machine, and she wanted to unload some of them to a visiting cousin.)
This photo was of me in Arab dress – a professional portrait from Al Sharq Studio in Jericho, when I was 25. My Lawrence of Arabia moment, set up by our hosts in what was then Jordan. Somewhere there exists a corresponding photo of Linda: not nearly as glamorous, because in most Arab countries it’s only the men who are allowed to look cool.
I have always remembered being dressed up and photographed in Middle-Eastern gear, but I’d have said it was in Tehran in the home of one of our Mercedes drivers [reported in Cattle Class to Kuwait, April 2012]. But, no, the Studio’s name and address is on the back of the photo. We must have been staying with the owner of the Studio, but I can’t recall that, or him and his family.
It’s shameful of me to forget, but there is no ingratitude in the shame. The people of the entire region and culture were so hospitable to us, that any stand-out would have been an exception – had there been one, which there wasn't.
I tend to confuse Jericho with Jerash. At the latter, we were invited by a bunch of shepherds to share their evening meal, when their workday was done. So we dumped our rucksacks with them and went for a walk. To our shame (more shame!), we didn’t get back until two minutes after sunset – and this during Ramadan, which is the Moslem month of fasting. Hugely embarrassing!
The poor men hadn’t eaten a crumb since dawn, yet couldn’t break their fast until their invited guests arrived. We washed our hands in haste and sat down around a big circular bowl of food, and had to take the first dip. Only then could the hungry ones fall to. They forgave us. It’s a wonderfully tolerant culture, at ground level -- Western propaganda to the contrary notwithstanding.
We have only a few photos from our travels together, Linda and I. I’ve never been “into” photos, and dislike posing. We have one of me lying beside the little car on a hill overlooking Istanbul, with our clothes strung around drying in the sun. And there’s one of me hitching, with Mt Ararat in the background, just before the Mercedes convoy picked us up. But after that, nothing, that I can recall; and none at all of Linda.
Nothing from Esfahan or Kuwait or Baghdad. Only the two formal snaps from Jericho. Then nothing from Baalbeck or Cairo or Cyprus – or even Mykonos, the most romantic island in the world. Nothing until our wedding in Toronto, two full years after the Al Sharq portraits.
(For our 25th Wedding Anniversary, Linda got our local newspaper to publish a photo of us at the actual wedding – she young and pretty, me smiling in my black-framed glasses, fashionable at the time. A few days later, Roger the comedian greeted me at the tennis courts with, "Hello! It’s Buddy Holly’s father!” Which is funny if you remember who Buddy Holly was and what he looked like.)
Our home is festooned with snaps of Ross at all ages and stages, and of our grand-children. That’s what happens, isn’t it? His kids love seeing snapshots of their Dad as a little boy, just as their children will be glad we kept so many snaps of them. We have a paper wall-chart where we used to mark the girls’ heights when they were smaller. The older one is above the limit, now; but we like to keep it up for old time’s sake. Nostalgia is good.
Maybe we’ll leave it to them in our Wills. There's a thought! On the wall beside my computer as I type now, there is a painting of my great-grandmother Emily, from 1847. Cousin Lucy left it to me in her Will, together with the actual locket Emily wears in the portrait. A tattered wall-chart is not quite in the same league, but it’s the best we can manage.