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Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

Where can we live but days?

steepholm steepholm
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nu scylun hergan hefaenricaes uard
The other night I watched quite an interesting documentary on Kipling's time in Lahore with my mother [ETA I watched with my mother; Kipling wasn't with her in Lahore], which got her to thinking that she had never actually read Plain Tales from the Hills, despite owning a copy for the past fifty years. I was duly sent to fetch the book - an early twentieth-century edition, one of those with a little swastika on the spine. (These are sad days for lovers of that ancient symbol: apparently Japan's tourist board is dropping its use as a sign for Buddhist temples, because it's so often misconstrued.) Anyway, the book had a 1919 dedication to "Cady" (pronounced "Caddy") - which my mother explained had been the nickname of her own mother, Evelyn Cadman (b. 1900), when she taught at a school in Kent as a young woman. I had no idea she was ever a teacher, let alone in Kent, or that Cady was ever her nickname. So I'm jotting it down here, lest I forget. The whole dedication had a wonderfully Angel Brazilian quality, actually.

With the same motives - and not because it's intrinsically fascinating or important, here is the story of how my maternal grandparents met - which I had also never known till now.

My grandfather - a sailor, as you will remember - had been widowed and left with two very young children. So he advertised for a housekeeper, and Nell Cadman got the job. Evelyn was Nell's sister, and when she came to Wrexham to visit she and my grandfather hit it off, marrying not long after. And, a bit after that, Nell herself married my grandfather's brother (also a sailor) - which is how my mother and my aunt Ruth (Nell's daughter) came to be double-first cousins.

Anyway, I was given Cadman as a middle name, and my parents often stressed that, as well as being my grandmother's maiden name, it was that of the first (named) English poet - the inspired cowherd Caedmon, whose story is told by the Venerable Bede. I grew up thinking of Caedmon as a close cousin. Though the spelling was a bit off I put that down to the atrocious orthography of Olden Times. More troubling was the fact that Bede's man was from Whitby, while pretty much all the Cadmans in the world hailed from Wellington in Shropshire. (Here's their distribution in 1881, not so long after Evelyn's own parents were born - both Wellingtonians called Cadman, but no relation, as far as they could tell.)

It was all a bit tenuous, in truth; but it may have had some effect in persuading me to consider myself potentially a writer. As for famous Cadmans, I may have to content myself with Evelyn's Uncle Sam, whose visits from being a radio preacher in America caused such a fluster in my mother's childhood home. Whether Uncle Sam would have been content with me is a much more open question.

The quaintest such circumstance in my own family is that my mother's cousin on her father's side and her cousin on her mother's side - and thus not directly related to each other until the following happened - married identical twin brothers. (I knew both men, and yes, I learned to tell them apart.)