Thursday, September 3, 2009

Morris & Sebastian Fellow

It all began in England, I suppose, since the memory of my baby years is blurred by the loss of my Father and waiting for things to happen in my Mother's life. I do vaguely remember our living on a cobblestoned street in the older section of Santiago, close to Parque Forestal where my Grandfather (Pochi) used to take us for walks and buy us biscuits out of large lidded glass containers. A few other memories of going for rides on a Vespa with a family friend and going to see a Charlie Chaplin film, my Nana Raquelita and a few falshbacks of school come to me if I really try. I was very sickly as a child and began having ear infections which lasted until I was 20. I spent a great deal of time bedridden, once even having to have a blood transfusion. I remember my mother being so very very beautiful yet fragile in an unresolved way. There were always parties and visitors coming and going and it was always an interesting background. My parents were very social. The times were idealistic and there were still new frontiers.  So ofcourse my parents joined the elite intelectuals of the times in trying to fix the world. I was a born observer so all these visions were thrilling to my (unbeknownst at the time) artistic temperament.
However, my true living years began in London after my mother re-married. We sailed to England on one of the last trans-atlantics via Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro, celebrating the crossing of the Equator Carnival-style sitting on eggswith lots of heat, humidity and a feeling that there was a way opening. We stayed in Madrid for a few months with my grandmother Edith: more blurred memories of half dark rooms with open windows, churros and chocolate, the elevator employees smiling at us and the subtle hints that my grandmother was having an affair with a painter by the name of Eduardo. I so miss a portrait he painted of her looking out a window, one of the many losses in the endless moves we have made trans-continentally.
London speaks to you as soon as you arrive. Tio Daddy, as we called our new Father, rented a flat on Elsworthy Terrace and immediately set out to complete the family with an Alsatian dog we appropriately named "Sebastian Fellow of Elsworthy".

He was a brother to us for 14 years, as human as an animal can get. Living next to Primrose Hill with the old lampposts, walking to school every day passing all the tiny British shops with candied apples, sweet shops lining the streets of the borough, my Girl Guides Headquarters there too, were all ingrained in my mind by walking with my senses constantly being "given".London was six years of sensory ecstasy as my parents exposed us to as much of London and its surroundings as they could possibly cram into weekends. Tio Daddy was a busy intellectual, working on his PhD

Tio Daddy
and working for Chatham House in International Affairs. It was the '60s, the Cold War was at its heat, so we rarely saw him during the week. But he went all out for us on Saturdays and Sundays. In our racing green Morris Minor off we went to the Victoria & Albert Museum, the British Museum, daytrips to the country, picnics, visiting the Cutty Sark, looking for antiques in Portobello Market, country living with Lords and Barons. And then there were the long holidays in Cadgwith, Cornwall, Burrington and Longleat where we rented picturesque cottages and played archeologist digging in the backyards for shards of broken pottery we believed to be Medieval. We took long walks across hills and villages, mailing postcards to friends from the tiny local post offices. Oh and I mustn't forget all those appointments for Brass Rubbings, Sir Robert de Trumpet and my italic pens and my famous penmanship put to the test in a rubbings log. Once in a while the crossing of the English Channel with Old Morris in tow where Sebastian always had the seat of honor ( I mean the window seat), driving across the South of France, camping in St. Tropez and Nice, learning to swim in Monaco.


me in Monaco

Or waking up to the sound of cowbells and yogourt camping by a river on the Swiss Alps.We grew up without television, a strict rule imposed by my father until he couldn't resist the BBC's production of David Copperfield. We would rush home in the Morris before 5 to all sit and watch these precursors to Masterpiece Theatre. Slowly, he allowed us to watch Blue Peter during the week then Noddy
and our television days slowly began. Not having television was a blessing. Instead, we were given coloured pencils, books, Mekanos and plasticine a.k.a playdough so from a very young age my imagination was triggered into making things from a few random tools laid in front of me. The flat was small so we would all gather in the sunlit living room, my Mother Paula knitting, my Father Claudio writing (he went on to become a renown Sociologist), my brother Martin de-constructing something or other and then pulling his hair out unable to put them back together. Myself, always a dreamer, making matchbox chests of drawers for my miniature dolls who lived on the windowsill with a view all their own overlooking the park. I read and read and read all the Ladybird books and Enid Blyton, went to see plays like The Wind in the Willows and Treasure Island where the stage was circular. More fruits for my imagination. Ofcourse there was Sebastian Fellow, lying at our feet, wagging his tail as he looked up at us gathered in family bliss and old Morris parked on the street.
Sebastian at 14
Everyone in the family had their own creative inclinations after the rituals of weekly life. Mummy took some ceramic and jewelry making classes and then decided to self teach herself to become a cook using one sole book that she swears by Robert Carrier's Great Dishes of the World and the Larousse Gastronomique.

 I believe her first culinary gift to us were scones. She is now (and I'm not exaggerating) the BEST cook I have ever met. Martin started building go carts and towers of metal and then went on to paint and become a finish carpenter. Daddy, of course now famous with more than a dozen books published, a University Title and a world speaker in Conversazione.Without dispelling the importance of my mother, it was Tio Daddy, my father who was my greatest influence. He is full of curiosity, an endless seeker, who taught me that Art is everywhere and in everything; a face, a tree, the color green on Primrose Hill, the red post box on the corner, the painted front doors of London with their mail slats, the thin cotton black tie (Daddy's staple to this day), Sebastian's elegant ears, the way my mother set the table.

....to be continued

5 comments:

Jan said...

You should write a book my dear Connie. This post flows like poetry.. so very beautifully descriptive and colourful... a joy to read. Thank you for sharing some of your family life... I so enjoyed reading it xx

Gina2424 said...

Constanza! Very interesting stuff, well done, and I cannot wait to read more. There were a couple words I did not understand. I will email you. What a wonderful life/story.

Chrisy said...

I enjoyed very much reading this little snippet from your early life...thank you for sharing it with us...your writing is a treasure...

Martha @estudiomartita said...

What a wonderful, descriptive window into the experiences of your life. I loved reading this. It left me wanting MORE!

I have a new blog which I started about 2 months ago. Would love for you to visit. I can be found at estudiomartita.blogspot

Hope you can stop by!
Martha

Jo Archer said...

What a wonderful childhood and beautifully written!