‘Having a happy month!’
A week on, and I’m still waiting for the online publication of my piece on Jenny’s life in a national newspaper. It’s a mixture of excitement and a little frustration. Meanwhile, providing the photographs set me rummaging through biscuit tins of old negatives and began a strange line of thought.
It all started when the editor of one of the features asked for an image of Jen and me in our 20s. Cue something of a panic to find a photo by the deadline. I have plenty of photos of us together as babies and toddlers, and a few at primary school age. After that, I was convinced, nothing.
Is this rare for twins? I’m talking of course about the days before a quick selfie on your phone which costs nothing, when somebody else had to take the photo for you – and there were the costs of the film and its processing.
It makes sense that twins would have plenty of pics at a time when their family enjoys showing them off together but fewer in those teenage years when the business is all about becoming an individual. But still, to have, as I assumed, no photos of us together older than the age of eight must be highly unusual.
And talking of panic, I well remember my desperation see the pictures from that third-used 35mm film in Jen’s camera, which I discovered the week after she died. An urgency too, to go through all her scores of photographs and negatives a few weekends later and label them in case I forgot anything. Until a couple of weeks ago, I’d not looked through them since.
As for the editor’s request, I was surprised to find a photo of the two of us together taken less than two years before Jen died. I say photo, but I only had the negative but guessed correctly. On seeing the developed image, I remember the afternoon it was taken – New Year’s Day, 1995.
I cropped it to show just the two of us, but the original also has a table of half-eaten fruit cakes and crumbs from mince pies. We were at Freed and Gordon’s, friends of our grandma. Freed had been kitchen maid when grandma was cook at stately home in the 1930s. The mince pies and cake testified to her culinary skills. In keeping with their Wiltshire tradition, Freed had wished us each ‘a happy month’ on offering the first mince pie on a plate. For some reason Jenny laughed so much she dropped the pie on the floor.
In the photo, behind my slightly stiff composure, my mind is throwing up the question ‘Why a just a happy month? What about the other 11 to come?’ And as for Jenny’s giggles, I found out later she’d associated a ‘happy month’ with periods without PMT and thought it hysterical.